Sunday, August 19, 2007


"April is the cruelest month," whined T.S. Eliot. Maybe so, but August is not exactly Miss Congeniality either. To me, August is the Orphan Month.

By August, summer 's "short lease" groweth 'way too long for this lodger. (Besides, it was Will Shakespeare who spoke of the "short lease," Will, whose London shivers on the same latitude as Newfoundland, for pity's sake.) August doesn't really seem a child of summer, with its delights and charms, but clearly can't claim the vigor and anticipation of early fall either. Do you know what August's flower is? The poppy. That's August, all right: drowsy, dopey, drugged out. And August is (check it out) National Psoriasis Month. Let's all go out in the mid-day sun and scratch!

When I worked in Paris, August was eerie. Most of the population, rich and poor, abandoned the city to vacation the full four weeks in the mountains or at the seaside. Walking down a major boulevard, I could have been on the set of a sci-fi movie: no one strolling, shopping, no horns honking, the Metros echoing hollowly. One expected giant snails to slither out of the Bois de Boulogne at any moment, seeking revenge on escargot-loving gourmets.

And of course, for anyone who's ever been in therapy, August truly IS orphan month. All credentialed therapists, be they Jungian, Freudian, feminist or aromatic, must throw dust covers over the couch and close shop in August. Clients are left to deal with the unhealed wounds of abandonment, freshly salted, alone.

Even major league baseball, by August, is so deja-vu. The thrilling romance of spring training is long gone. Games stretch out like tired bathing suits--thirteen, fourteen, fifteen innings. Neither team can bring matters to a climax. Injuries sprout everywhere. The DL is no longer an elite club; it's homeroom. Summoned from the bush leagues, adolescents appear on field, disappear, and another lad has his brief stay in the show. You don't know any of their names, and you don't care. Not any more. It's AWGUST!

But up ahead, in the distance, cool and waiting, is October. Now there's a month!

Monday, August 6, 2007


Friday evening Nancy and I went to a concert, a fund-raiser to send a friend's friend Joseph off to theological seminary to become an Episcopal priest. Ah, you smile: a young idealist with going forth to battle the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Well, not exactly.

Joseph , though surely an idealist, is not young, and he has already had battles with the world and the devil that only a fast-on-his-feet lawyer can boast. (We'll leave the flesh alone for the nonce. ) Moreover, Joseph, a handsome bearded fellow in the high prime of life, is married and a father, and enthusiastic about both callings.

Yet now in midstream, he's turning against the career current he has long known and is breast-stroking his way toward the priesthood. That far shore must seem far indeed, and I admire his courage and dedication. But my immediate question is:

What's with lawyers?

In recent years, almost a dozen lawyers of my acquaintance have given up thriving careers and begun anew as men and women of the cloth. They've started from the ground up to pursue lives as priests, pastors, chaplains, directors of religious education and theologians. It's as if , well, not sharks, but, say, swordfish suddenly opted to swins with the dolphins.

By contrast, I've never known a single academic to leap from the walls of ivy into the churchyard. (Maybe that's because academics know that addressing a captive audience is hard enough; they may cower at the thought of preaching to a volunteer flock not under the motivation of final exams. Well, of immediate final exams. ) Nor can I think of one real estate agent who spurned a lockbox in exchange for the keys of the kingdom.

And so far as I know, restless religious don't become laywers. They do join the military (if they have been nuns), or become teachers, social workers, often therapists. But not lawyers.

My favorite trivia question is: which creature on earth is the most adaptable to the extremes of climate? The answer: the human. With the same dexterity, many people change careers and jobs a dozen times in a life span. There's something I admire about that kind of courage and imagination, even when it oversteps the bounds of reality. (I confess to relishing the true story of "The Great Imposter," a charming con-man who posed rather successfully as everything from a Navy surgeon to a prison warden without a lick of credential to his name.)

My grandfather, on the other hand, began as an engineer on the Erie Railroad when he was 19 and only stopped (grumpily) when, in his sixties, he became color blind. I grasped the podium at 22, and never let go for 35 years. Haven't decided whether that showed a lack of imagination or the presence of foolhardiness. In any case, it warmly suited me. So may the priesthood suit Joseph, formerly Esquire.