Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mother Eagle, Fly

There's a performance artist whose stage is a median under the Triboro Bridge's Manhattan ramps. His name escapes me,1 but his installations never do. He hasn't repeated himself in the 11 years I've driven under the bridge, and the slogans he spray-paints on scraps of wood, while usually inexplicable, sometimes come near to poetry.

Yesterday, his topic was Hillary Clinton. "Mother Eagle, Lead Us," one slogan said.2

Mother Eagle. Damn straight.

Hillary has vision. She flies direct to her target; she won't change in midflight because a lobbyist bought her. She has talons too. We've all read of her ruthlessness when she was Bill Clinton's health advisor at large. Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ) was still gritting his teeth when Carl Bernstein interviewed him for A Woman in Charge: "It was obviously so basic to who she is. The arrogance. The assumption that people with questions are enemies. The disdain. The hypocrisy."3

That's Hillary. People love her or hate her--and a lot of the haters would rather see her dead than President. There's also that whopping big albatross named Bill looming in the viewframe. It's clear Hillary's presidency would be a two-person team. And people who hate Hillary usually hate Bill too.

Columnist Maureen Dowd hates them both. A powerful writer, Dowd attacks Hillary relentlessly in column after column. Most are about Hillary's prickly personality. The rest are about Bill's influence and Hillary's prickly personality. Dowd hangs a string of tin cans around Hillary's neck at every possible opportunity.

Hillary learns fast. I doubt she'd repeat her controlling, secretive performance during that health-care debacle. But memories linger, and they linger too long in the case of a columnist whose vindictiveness outmatches that of even Barbara Bush.

I don't care if Hillary ever snubbed Maureen Dowd. I'd vote for Hillary in a heartbeat. It's people with elephantine memories of Bill Clinton's first term that Democrats should worry about, not Hillary herself. Elephants, after all, stand for Republicans.

1He is Otis Houston, Jr., according to The New Yorker. "The F.D.R. Drive Guy," Bryant Urstadt, July 23, 2001.
2Something like that, anyway.
3In Carl Bernstein's book "A Woman in Charge" (Knopf, 2007), quoted, among other places, at

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On the Death of Heath Ledger

The older I get the more painful I find it to hear that a young adult has died.

When a child dies, a parent dies twice. Parents don't distinguish between their own lives and that of their children. Still, even I know I would jump in front of a tiger if it would allow a child to live. I already know how I turned out. The child's future is a mystery.

Young adults are different. At the university gym where I work out, I feel sometimes as if I'm among gods. In the locker room I hide my lipid-pocked body as the young women bounce past me brash and healthy, rose tattoos on their ankles. The difference between them and children is that these young adults know who they are. They know that the best is still to come. They'll be stronger tomorrow than they are today. One morning, they rose up singing.

Young men take longer to grow. Often they're around thirty before they develop a sense of the future and the energy to plan for it--plan, that is, to build something more than a mere livelihood. It is then, when he develops the filled-out physique of maturity, that a young man can make commitments, if he ever will; it is the time when his elders become his peers.

This is where Heath Ledger was--a fully realized human being at the most beautiful time of his life. Then he spread his wings and took to the sky.