The other day I received a congratulations message from Word Press; it was the tenth anniversary of my blog; they were celebrating for me.
Ten years is a long time to keep a blog: When I started extrasimile I was 61 years old. I was living out on Long Island, in the town of Garden City, and I was teaching at City College –just starting out on my very belated profession as a teacher. When I was offered the job, teachinf Proustng was the furthest thought from my mind. I was a super and a handyman and finish carpenter and a fledgling maker of fine wooden boxes, and, oh yes, a designer of websites. I would have told you I had enough on my plate, I’m sure. But, well, I was intrigued. I had a friend I had met at the New School. I was taking a class in stone carving, (I know, I know, at heart I’m just not a specialist), and Aurelio was the teaching assistant for Philip Pavia, who, I have to think, is the greatest sculptor you never heard of. Aurelio also taught up at CCNY. For some reason he got in his head that I would make a good teacher; he was perhaps over impressed with breath of knowledge.( I used to say I could talk Plato and Proust and plumbing), He invited me up to talk to one of his classes. A few days later I received a call from someone named Carlo, asking if I’d like to teach a class; I went up to talk with him.
Now City College is a special place. The main campus of the City University of New York, it is a place with a great history of educating the tired, the poor and the huddled masses that Emma Lazarus wrote about in her poem The New Colossus.
CCNY was founded in 1847, and is located where Harlem runs into Spanish Harlem. It has enormous stone buildings that were built on top of a promontory overlooking Spanish Harlem known as Hamilton Heights. They are also quite proud of the number of Nobel Laureates that teach there—and celebrity academics like Marshall Berman and Michio Kaku. This was pretty heady stuff for a super/handyman/finish carpenter/wood craftsman/web designer. (who by the way, had a master’s degree in Library Science and an undergraduate degree in philosophy). Carlo proved receptive. He liked me, Just let me have your resume.
Rsume? Now, when a contractor hires a finish carpenter, he doesn’t ask for a resume, and when a building owner hires a super he doesn’t ask for a resume, and when someone wants to buy a jewelry box, he doesn’t need a resume. In fact the last time I’d needed a resume was when I’d finished my library science degree and was looking for a job in a library. I figured I had to come up with something fast.
I decided a professional resume writer was needed. Mr. Sullivan, a neighbor, had written my last one, and he had transformed my self-written one into a miracle of concision. But he had divorced his wife and had moved away, so I went to the yellow pages (remember+ phone books?) and called one at random. He was not encouraging, I didn’t have any experience and I had exactly one class in education. It became clear to me he wouldn’t sully his reputation with my phony resume. It was satisfying to call him back and tell him I got the job.
Which I did, thanks to Carlo (I am using only first names here because I have I not asked the people I’m writing about for their permission.) He was the director of the program, and its soul. I came to like him quite a bit, even though he could be abrasive and argumentative—but, strangely not to me. I think I in some way intimidated him. though I’m not sure why. Carlo had gone to Harvard; he was doing an important job—and he was also a talented poet, preforming long poems of his own composition at local performance spaces. Could it be that I am intimidating only to the very intelligent? Well, no false modesty here.
I no longer teach at City College. And I have Parkinson’s disease. Still my blog goes on. Ten years is one seventh of the Biblical span of life, but you can die at 12 and you can die at 112. Ten years of blob entrees. I wrote about what I thought other people would find interesting. I wrote about fly bottles; I wrote about the internet and google and the Wikipedia. I tried to keep my prose clean and snappy. Here is an example from my first entry:
Exhibit A: Ezra Pound made a terrible blunder with his life and he wrote great, perplexing poetry. It’s hard to read; you’d have to be a polyglot genius to actually pronounce the Cantos, even saying it in your head is impossible. But listen: Where the salt hay whispers to tides change—weight that with your tongue, say/ that in your mind. As good as it gets. A pale flare over marshes, where the salt hay whispers to tides change. Daedalus created wings that altered the natural order of things, and Icarus flew too close to the sun. The Wikipedia, the Internet, that awesome database Google is building…
…all the world’s information…
Welcome to ExtraSimile. Surely the sky is open to us.