Uncle Otto and Nicola the Greek

At an art opening last weekend, friends and I were studying the bio of one of the artists, Otto Neumann, a 20th century German expressionist, whose father was a famous professor and friend to famous intellectuals. Otto himself studied with noted artists, and married a pianist and weaver named Hilde Rothschild who. according to the bio,  "became a major force in his artistic and personal life."

Well, yes, marriage does tend to influence one’s personal life, and marriage to a Rothschild would surely have an impact on your art, because you wouldn’t have to sell any of it to pay the bills.

So when Otto finished a painting, he would stick it the attic and move on. And when he was tempted to destroy his early work, Hilde would dissuade him, which is a good thing.  Thirty years after his death, Uncle Otto, as he was known in the family, is just now being discovered, and some of his work, to my untutored eyes, is quite good. In fact, if I’d had a spare twelve or fifteen grand, I’d have taken a couple home with me.

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The Kindness of Golfers

Last Sunday, I played golf with my friend Dave and his 21-year-old son, Kevin. It was Father’s day, and Dave is one of the best fathers I know.

It was a pleasure to watch him patiently instruct Kevin, praising him for the good shots, encouraging him when they were errant. And on the drive back, to listen to Dave reminisce about vacations he’d taken with Kevin and his older brother, Ryan, while Kevin shrugged and nodded agreeably.

Dave has done everything with his sons from lifting weights and tennis to rock-climbing and camping. My wish, as I listened, was that I might some day share my own love of golf, that oddly civilized form of masochism and hope, as Dave has with his sons.

This is just my second year at the game, and I was somewhat prepared for jokes such as, "Why do they call it ‘golf’? Because all the other four-letter words are taken." What I was not prepared for was the kindness and affectionate regard with which good golfers readily offer alms to the halt, the lame and the ugly.

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Grace

It was somewhere between the Blacksburg/Earl exit in South Carolina and King’s Mountain, North Carolina, that I heard it the first time.

I was on my way to Charlotte to see my daughter, grandson and son-in-law. It was Saturday afternoon, sunny and bright, and I’d finally broken free of the traffic that had clotted I-85 since the Atlanta suburbs. The radio was on, and I heard to "Hey, 19" and the Hendrix version of "All Along the Watchtower" (the only version, in my opinion) as I used worked the SEEK button right to left.

Then it landed on a song I didn’t know:

When I am down, and oh my soul, so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until You come and sit awhile with me.

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Anger Management

It is 11 p.m. You’re exhausted and you have to get up at 4. You lie down on the bed, close your eyes and begin the languorous descent into sleep. A few minutes later, your significant other comes into the room and falls heavily onto the bed next to you.

Just a few days before, the two of you had fixed the bed – or so you thought – by tightening the bolts at each end. You did the foot, she did the head. And now, as the frame and headboard separate and the mattress and box springs slam to the floor, you discover that she didn’t really tighten those bolts after all.

You are up in a flash, raging at her for not tightening the bolts properly, raging that you are tired and need sleep and don’t have time to fix the bed, raging that nevertheless you have to fix the bed, goddammit, because she didn’t tighten the goddamn bolts.

In fact, you are not just ranting, you are throwing the mattress around and shouting and letting the rage escalate to the point where without even trying you detonate a small and decidedly non-tactical nuclear device at the epicenter of your relationship.

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