Palaver's End

The final point after prolonged and idle discussion

Complete Leather-bound Encyclopedia Britannica - $30 [Craigslist Ad]

This is a classy addition to your home. Yes, the Internet has rendered physical encyclopedias superlative, but certainly not irrelevant. You cannot browse the Internet in quite the same way that you would these hallowed tomes. One artlessly clicks through the Internet; the Britannica requires a more intimate approach: a slight lick of the index finger of the left hand, a gentle press and squeeze of the page to be turned, a flip of the wrist. In this manner, every explored page becomes imprinted with the reader’s DNA. In turn, Britannica imparts its own genetic code on the reader.

If you have children, an encyclopedia at home may just be that vital catalyst for intellectual curiosity, that spark that sets a young mind on fire. It can make a difference. As a kid, I saved a long time in order to buy this set. I see the genesis of my immense scholarship in this single purchase. But for my formal education, I would nevertheless be a consummate autodidact (albeit one with the minor flaw of guileless pedantry).

I want to share the joy of owning what is arguably the greatest encyclopedia ever constructed by humanity. The set is complete and in great condition. The price is right at $30, or if you tell me you cannot afford that amount, but feel that your children would profit from this valuable resource, just name your price and this set is yours. But do it today. I depart this handsome town tomorrow on another adventure, leaving behind for the first time in 25 years this encyclopedic treasure, my constant and loyal companion. I shed my beloved Britannica; yet armed with its knowledge, consumed by its epistemological wisdom, and contented by its comfortable, declarative prose, I challenge, nay, defy, the universe to try and best me in terms of a comprehensive understanding of its and man’s machinations.

Oh, and if you need a bookcase to put it in, I have two for $15 each, or both for $25. 

This item was sold to a wonderful couple with two kids. Awesome!

My beautiful, incredibly brilliant and personable daughter, Morgane!

My beautiful, incredibly brilliant and personable daughter, Morgane!

The Cave

Because I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

—Mumford & Sons


Elis Regina e Tom Jobim


Elis Regina e Tom Jobim

Elis Regina was considered one of the most important Brazilian singers of her time. On January 19, 1982, Brazil mourned her death at the age of 36. In this Bossa Nova classic, Corcovado, she harmonizes with Tom Jobim, son of Carols Jobim.

Corcovado means “hunchback" in Portuguese. This song refers to the iconic 2,329 ft. granite peak in central Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, just west of the city center. It is known worldwide for the 125 ft statue of Jesus atop its peak, entitled Cristo Redentor or “Christ the Redeemer”.

Senator and Democratic Presidential Candidate (‘72) George McGovern, my favorite librarian and friend, Nancy Adams, and me. c.1995.

Senator and Democratic Presidential Candidate (‘72) George McGovern, my favorite librarian and friend, Nancy Adams, and me. c.1995.

Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.

—James Thurber

My Life as an Adverb: A Facebook Conversation

                             Original Caption: A Night Out in the Town

Me:  I think it’s the “ferener” in me coming out.I meant to say, “A night out on the town”.

Me:  I could have also said, “A night out about town” but you would not believe how incredibly discordant that sounds to my ears.

Me:  And there’s the simpler, equally dissonant in its convolution, “A night about town”.

Billie:  night on the town - but I like night about town best - sounds very elegant.

Me:  “Night about town” is indeed elegant, but the word “about” gives me fits. Here’s why.

“About” can be a preposition or an adverb. When it is used as a synonym for “regarding” or “concerning” it is a preposition, as in “I was thinking about you.” When describing movement in an area, or in all directions, the word “about” functions as an adverb, as in “You are now free to move about the cabin.” What a weird definition, the latter, with its quantum mechanical implications! I suspect only sub-atomic particles can truly move “about”.

I admit that it bothers me that “about” is being used in this phrase as an adverb, much less employed and quixotic than its prepositional form. But this is a small matter. My real problem with the phrase “Night about town” is more complicated than that.

An adverb modifies an adjective or another adverb. But in terms of frequency, it mostly modifies a verb. And not just any verb, but necessarily an action verb. Now, we can see that the word “about” is not modifying an adjective or another adverb. In this phrase, it modifies a verb, which is absent. We would perhaps initially suspect that this absence is due to its existence as a fragment, and not an independent clause. But look what happens when you make it one: “We enjoyed a night about town”.

This is where it gets weird. Now we have a verb: the perfectly good, ambitransitive, past tense form of the verb “to enjoy”, in its transitive form. But the important thing here is, “about” is not functioning as a modifier for the verb “to enjoy”! (Analysis: We enjoyed. How did we enjoy? About town. Nonsensical, ergo, not a modifier).

What’s really happening is that “about” is modifying a verb that is absent, and only marginally implied. I suspect that the grammatical sentence would read something like, “We enjoyed a night (walking) about town.” (Analysis: We are walking. How (where) were we walking? About town. Makes sense, ergo, a modifier).

Normally, an absentee verb is a small matter. It happens all the time. The Russians do it with their present tense form of the verb “to be”:  “Я хороший мальчик”, transliterally, “I good boy”. The Germans omit motion verbs with disturbing regularity: “Ich habe nach Hause gemusst” (I had to home). But I have to cry foul when the verb is implied, yet not in any systematic way obvious in its absence. The truth is, however, that my real problem with the phrase “Night about town” is more complicated than that.

The non-finite clause “walking about town” alone sounds weird, mostly because an article is needed to complete the adverbial aspect of “about”. Grammatically, it should read “walking about the town”. How did this phrase come to lose a definite article? Is the article implied? Who does implied articles, that is, besides Germans (“Ich bin Ausländer.”). We do it, too. We might not say “I am foreigner” but we do say “I am American,” though not as often perhaps as “I am an American.”

This suggests, by the way, why it’s false pedantry to decry JFK for uttering “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

And still, we have not arrived at the winter of my discontent. We now have the linguistically corrected sentence, “I enjoyed walking about the town.” The word “walking” in this sentence, as you already know, is a gerund, a verb that acts as a noun, and may have characteristics of both (as opposed to a participle, which is a deverbal noun, which sounds like linguistic castration to me). In this sentence, the phrase “walking about the town” acts as the nominal predicative, the object of enjoyment (Analysis: What do we enjoy?). But within the non-finite clause “walking about the town”, “walking” maintains its verbal attributes, which is why “about” is an adverb and not an adjective. So, in sum, “walking” is a noun in the whole sentence, and a verb in the predicate.

A verb AND a noun?! It reminds me of when I first discovered in Physics class that light has the characteristics of both a wave and a particle. I mean, come one! Could God not make up His mind? I am not a fan of that particular genus of existential ambivalence.

In the end, what finally made me banish “Night about town” from my phrasic lexicon was the bald impertinence of that clause to drop “walking”, a word of such broad importance that it has both nominal and verbal properties; and to irresponsibly abandon its sole adverb with nothing to modify, an adverb already suffering from the existential angst of infrequent usage and the constant embarrassment of being initially confused for his prepositional twin brother, not to mention being further maligned by an awkward definition hardly distinguishable from the peripatetic antics of a maniacal roomba. Denuded of its raison d’etre, but with heroic heart, the disconsolate adverb “about” perseveres in his Sisyphean duties, searching for a definite article for the denuded noun “town” on one side, and modifying the Janus-faced ghost “walking” on the other.          

Tanz Baby! - Ich Bin Traurig

"Ich bin traurig und irgendwie schon den ganzen Tag nicht gut drauf. Mir fliegt die Welt heut um die Ohren, und das Leben nimmt so seinen Lauf.“


The Merchant Of Venice Shylock’s Monologue

Al Pacino at his best.


The Tallis Scholars sing Thomas Tallis

Spem in alium.

Dear lord, thank you for life, for the gift of the sublime, for the ineffable magnificence of being, for the soaring awakening of the spirit.

The Lost Colony of Roanoke Island

Springs follow runs
To brooks and rills
In a land of ancient ferns

Stones made smooth
As shallow riffles melt
Their inconsistency

(Pines drum where stars
And waters meet)

And a river to the sea spills out
Of a forest into the sky
Vapors against a rising tide

The brack of bone
Against the ebb
Of a cerulean sky

(The crack of
A distant star)

A horse stands over its rider
In this moment at the edge of time
In this strand of river and sea

Where wind sweeps back
The brackish waters
Black and white

(While waves drum out the loam
To sand and spray)

And pebbles smooth
The red ebb
Of a flowing sky

The sun-dried sea grass
Brine-cured bleeding brown
Into the sandy white

(“Where is the horse gone?”
“Where is the rider?”)

Voices drown in the silt
Of this lost Arcadia
Beneath the painted signs

Lapis eyes raised
In supplication
Now house saddled crabs

(That flit and pause and weigh
Some imagined concern)

This poem won third place (and I won some serious beer money) in a poetry contest sponsored by The Independent Weekly. My poetry is most influenced by Robinson Jeffers and T.S. Eliot.