Archive for the ‘Beyond the Shoebox’ Category

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Theories of Child Development

January 31, 2019

unless

Kingdom Come

Three

My father was a reader. My father wanted the kingdom of heaven to come. He wanted it here on earth for everyone, and he believed in the possibility of it here on earth, and he wanted to understand how it could happen, and why it hadn’t happened, and why there was injustice and inequality and suffering, and what was to be done. And so he read.

He read big, bursting novels as a child, Dumas and Dickens and Balzac and Hugo, and then as a young man and for the rest of his life he read philosophers and poets and psychologists and economists and political scientists and environmentalists and anthropologists and, above all, sociologists. He read about suffering and happiness and sex and crime and education and music and war and the beginning of the world and the end of the world. He was in the middle of dozens of books when he died. Last week, on the day before we spread his ashes, I packed my father’s books into boxes, stripping out all his makeshift bookmarks, losing his place.

I found this marker within Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait. This relic from the long defunct Behavioral Science Book Club, is, as it happens, my cardboard twin, in that, judging from the date in the upper right corner, it probably came into my father’s possession within days of my birth, if not on the exact day.

We have some things in common, my cardboard twin and I, beyond both being a little over a half a century old. We both spent our life in the orbit of our father but obscured to him and him to us. With my cardboard twin and me there’s a persistent grasping, even as we begin to discolor with age, toward bringing the certainty of intellection to the unknowable mystery of the earliest years: my twin has the Theories of Childhood; I have all my cardboard markers, all these gods that came into my young hands in place of my father and long ago got stripped from whatever place they were holding. And with both of us there’s this sense of a debt, of a box forever unchecked, some part of life undone. Something is still to be delivered. Something is still to be received.

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Untitled

December 18, 2018

brothers

Played

3.

Over Thanksgiving at my mom’s house I filled up a large cardboard box with some of my father’s books, most of them thicker and heavier than bricks. On the day we left, as I struggled with the box’s ungainly size and weight down the uneven stone path to the driveway, it occurred to me that I was carrying my father, that all the tomes I vowed to read to somehow keep him alive were probably in total about as heavy as his withered body as he lay in the ICU with his eyes closed and snorted in his last breath.

The photograph at the top of this page is from our Thanksgiving visit, the first one without him. He’s in this picture, in a framed photograph on the right side of the mantle. It’s from his 90th birthday party. All his siblings were gone by the time of that party, but Paulina, the wife of his closest brother, Dave, was there. She also came to his funeral and talked about her earliest memories of my father. She would come into Manhattan to visit Dave at the apartment where he was still living with my dad and their mom, my grandma, and Paulina would wait as the two of them glowered intensely into books for their college studies at a table in the kitchen, and then, for a break, the three of them would go out into the evening and roam all over the city, stopping at every bookstore they saw, walking and talking nonstop about ideas and history and politics and art and books, books, books.

That’s me in the painting above the mantle, in the red bathrobe, attached at the shoulder to my brother and by my gaze to cartoons. My mom painted it 45 years ago. More recently, to entertain the second pair of brothers in the photograph, she created the fire glowing at the center of the photograph. She’s staring into the fire, so you can’t see her face, but her face as it was when she was a teenager, before her life caught fire, is visible in the portrait to the right of the big painting above the mantle. It’s one of the few portraits by my grandmother, who preferred to paint seascapes with no one in them. She must have wanted to capture something with the portrait of my mom, just like my mom wanted to capture something in the painting of my brother and me staring into a television, just like my wife wanted to capture something with this photo of our two sons in front of the fire, just like I want to capture something with these words about the brief fire of a human life. It plays warmly on our faces for a few moments.

(to be continued)

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Mondale-Ferraro ’84

October 18, 2018

mondale-ferraro

In the first inning of Game 4 of the 2018 American league Championship Series, Jose Altuve struck a long, hard drive toward the right field stands because doing everything well on a baseball field, including hitting baseballs long and hard, is what Jose Altuve has been put on this earth to do. Mookie Betts sprinted toward the ball and made a perfectly timed leap because doing everything well on a baseball field, including sprinting fast and leaping high, is what Mookie Betts has been put on this earth to do.

What are the rest of us on the earth to do? I don’t know, but I guess most of my limited time has been spent watching, cheering, booing, feeling powerless, feeling amazed. Also: remembering. All the things that go into being a fan.

Mookie Betts was unable to catch Jose Altuve’s drive, apparently because a fan reaching for the ball caused Betts’ glove to close up just before the ball arrived. The initial ruling on the field was that this was a case of fan interference, and this call was confirmed by the remote team in the employ of Major League Baseball that is charged with reviewing such matters. If I were an Astros fan, I’m sure I would have been incensed by the ruling. But of course I was elated by it, because rooting arbitrarily for outcomes beyond my control to go one way and not another way is apparently what I’ve been put on this earth to do.

And now, the day after, I find myself thinking about the fan who became part of the game and, by virtue of the already classic status of the game, baseball history. He’s stuck in my mind because of his cap. As has been noted (but—to my astonishment—not at all delved into, or even wondered about!) in some recaps of the incident, the fan was wearing a “Reagan-Bush ’84” campaign cap.

Had I seen this cap in my young adulthood in New York City in the 1990s on, say, a skinny fellow with bad posture at a Pavement show, I would have read the cap as irony, but my guess is that it wasn’t worn in 2018 by this Houston Astros fan in irony but rather with straightforward nostalgia or perhaps more likely (judging that he wasn’t really old enough to remember that era) as an identifier, as in, This is who I am and this is the world I want: White American men reigning without ambiguity, without challenge.

So I don’t know, fuck that guy, I guess.

In 1984, I was 16, still too young to vote, but I would have voted for Mondale and Ferraro, those hopeless losers. God, they didn’t have a chance. That’s how it goes sometimes. The pendulum swings. But I didn’t know that then. I just thought there were winners and losers, and I had a pretty good idea which side I was on. Back then the Red Sox, those seminal shapers of my identity, were in a long, long stretch of, at least as I saw it, getting hosed continuously by “the breaks,” and in fact in 1986, right smack in the middle of the presidency championed by last night’s fan—just weeks before I cast at age 18 what I assumed, growing up rooting for Carter and Mondale, was a useless first vote in a November election—the Red Sox suffered the most painful chain of breaks of all when a series of relievers allowed a lead to erode and, finally, disappear altogether on a ground ball struck by a player named Mookie.

But that’s all in the past! Now even when a reliever looks for all the world to be on the Greyhound Bus to Schiraldiville, things somehow work out. Now the Mookies are on our side, hitting long hard drives and making impossibly difficult and beautiful plays in the field and even centering bizarre controversies that end up in our favor. So if that kind of thing can turn around, maybe other things can too.

What I’m saying is that a fan may or may not be something worthwhile to be, but all us fans, at least in the land of Mondale and Ferraro and Reagan and Bush and all manner of other absurdly divided polarities, still get a chance to be a part of the action, to determine the course of this game.

What I’m saying, among other things, I guess, since I’m feeling kind of hopeful today, is: vote.

rather

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Americans

June 26, 2018

Lazer_Moishe

Last Saturday night I dreamed about my father for the first time since he died. We were at a social gathering at someone’s house and it was time to go. He and I were going to walk together to the bus stop. Most of the dream slipped away from me upon waking, but I remember the feeling of assurance that he and I would be walking together. The bus stop was far way, but he would have the strength for the walk. We would walk. We would talk. But I got hung up in that house trying to find umbrellas for both of us. When I finally got outside with two umbrellas he had gone on ahead of me into the rain.

Later that day, Sunday, I told my older son what I could remember about the dream.

“But what happened next?” he said.

“Nothing. The dream ended. It changed to another dream.”

He looked at me with his blue eyes. Earlier in the night he’d been goofing around with crossing his eyes, and when he got tired of that he started messing with my watch, pulling the dial out to stop it. But he didn’t do any of that now. He just looked straight at me like the boys in the photograph at the top of this page are looking at you.

“Maybe you’ll dream the rest of it tonight,” he said.

***

My father is the younger boy, the one on the left. He’s about the age of my younger son, who just turned four, and the other boy, his brother Dave, my uncle, is two or three years older, about the age of my older son. The clothing they’re wearing seems like it’s from some far-off place. The photo was taken in 1928 or 1929, less than a decade after my grandmother and her two oldest surviving children, my Uncle Joe and Aunt Helen, fled the Galicia region in central Europe to reunite with my grandfather in New York City, who’d fled to America a few years before.

Fled.

As is common in the stories of how families come to live in America, fled is the correct word, illustrated most vividly by the family tale of the death of a third child born in Galicia to my grandfather and grandmother. In the story, which takes place during World War I, a soldier entered the inn run by my grandmother’s family and demanded food. My grandmother was holding the baby in her arms. She said that they have no food, that the last group of soldiers coming through took it all. The soldier pressed the blade of a bayonet to her neck. She had blue eyes, my grandmother. Maybe the soldier noticed this.

“We have nothing,” she said.

The baby fell sick and died soon after. The story goes that the sickness began with the terror flowing from my grandmother’s arms into the soft, warm flesh of the baby.

It was a time and place for such stories, according to “The Jews of Galicia under Austrian-Polish Rule, 1867–1918,” by historian Piotr Wrobel:

Jews who remained in Galicia under Russian occupation [during World War I] faced a worse fate [than those who had fled to Austria]. Their status was “equalized” with the legal position of Russian Jewry. Galician Jews were removed from self-government bodies and the civil service, they could not live in the countryside nor leave their districts. Their civil rights were withdrawn and their religious sensibilities insulted. Frequently, they were accused of spying or siding with the enemy. Almost every Russian unit upon entering a city, and later the last units to depart it harassed and robbed the local Jews. Some of these events turned into regular pogroms, which lasted several days and caused the death of many Jews. Collective responsibility was enforced; Russians took hostages and executed innocent people to terrorize the civilian population. The Jews were harassed also by bandits in “no man’s land” between the fighting armies.

***

Sunday, after I woke from my dream, the sun came out and stayed out. We went for ice cream. I got a chocolate cone and finished my younger son’s chocolate cone too. After that we went to a playground. My boys played together on a structure that they pretended was a spaceship and I sat on a bench with my wife. I looked at her and at my boys and could not understand what I’d done to deserve a day like this, a life like this. After a while she and I started looking at her phone for ideas for a sign to bring to a protest march next week. But I don’t know how to put what I’m feeling into words.

***

Neither boy in this torn photograph is smiling. Dave’s chin is tucked in, his head down just slightly, so he’s looking up at the camera a little, giving his expression a tone of intensity. He’s not without some apprehension, even fear, but he also seems determined. His hand is on the outside, covering the younger boy’s hand, protecting it. The younger boy, my father, seems more open, curious. The world for him would not be something to withstand, like a blow, and then overcome, but something forever baffling and amazing.

The two boys will discover the world together. They’ll discover art and books and Bach and Handel. They’ll discover beauty. They’ll survive their impoverished childhood, as will my Uncle Joe and Aunt Helen, but two of their siblings will not (in addition to the baby who died in Galicia, another baby will die in New York City). They’ll survive the Depression. They’ll survive the suicide of their father. They’ll serve their country during World War II. They’ll find work and work hard and find love and love deeply. They’ll have children of their own. They’ll have grandchildren. They’ll grow old.

At the end of Dave’s life, my mother drove my father to see him. Dave was just about gone, unable to talk, unable to open his eyes to see his brother one last time. My father reached out and held his brother’s hand. My father hummed Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” As he hummed he began to feel something in his own hand. His brother’s hand was moving to the rhythm of the song.

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Fred C. Harris and Brendan C. Boyd

April 13, 2018

harris and boyd

Here are several things wrong with The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading, and Bubble Gum Book:

  1. The title. Good lord, what a long and difficult to remember title! I’ve been steering people toward it for many years, and for most of those years I had to look up the title every time. And that’s just when I was steering people toward it in writing. Whenever I had the ill-advised compulsion to recommend it verbally, I would get about halfway in and abandon ship. “The Great American Bubble . . . uh, the Baseball Card Trading . . . ah, fuck it, never mind.”
  2. The fact that two guys wrote it. Good literature can’t be co-authored; the medium depends too much on the singularity of voice. Somehow, however, Fred C. Harris and Brendan C. Boyd did it. The interplay of their voices seems exactly like what I imagine was the genesis of the book: two men in their late twenties cracking each other up late into the night over beers, reminding me of all the nights I got drunk and talked and laughed with my friends in the back of the International Bar near the pulsing jukebox and seemingly so far from the era of our childhood that we usually ended up talking about, just like Fred C. Harris and Brendan C. Boyd.
  3. Its lack of structure. Slapped between its covers are two longer essays in the front, one short essay in the back, and a bunch of scattered sketches in the middle. The essays are probably just fine—I don’t remember. I haven’t read them since I first read the book. On the other hand, the sketches, which take up under a hundred total pages—some pages jammed with text and the cards they’re describing, others with just a few words and asymmetrical chasms of white space, still others that are odd little thematic one-offs, such as a page with pictures of umpires backed by the word “Boo” repeated over and over, another populated by a long list of baseball nicknames—have brought me back countless times, never in any particular order. You can just open the book like the I-Ching and read any sketch and be lifted smiling out of the unstructured malaise of life. (It’s also arguably the world’s greatest book to read on the shitter.)
  4. The lack of an overarching narrative. All my favorite books—On the Road, The Catcher in the Rye, A Fan’s Notes, Jesus’ Son, The Basketball Diaries, A Mother’s Kisses—grab me and pull me through the story of a life. This book doesn’t bother with that. Why then do I love it so much?
  5. That it may have caused me to waste my life. I first read it in the late 1990s, on the recommendation of one of my International Bar cronies, Pete. I was about the same age as the authors, and their hilarious, skewering odes to the journeymen of their childhood surely had something to do with my decision, a couple years later, to stave off insanity while spending a winter in a cabin with no electricity or running water by writing about my own childhood journeymen in a notebook by the light of a kerosene lamp. It’s been nineteen years now, and I’m still writing about my journeymen. The longhairs who wrote this book did it once, got it right, and moved on with their lives. I keep trying to get it right, but the truth is no one will ever do it as good as these guys did.

* * *

In related news, I’ll be appearing alongside some great writers—Dan Epstein, Joe Bonomo, and Ricky Cobb—and will be reading from my own work and the miraculous output of Fred C. Harris and Brendan C. Boyd this coming Tuesday, April 17, at the American Writers Museum in Chicago. For more details please check out the link here.

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Louis Wilker

January 24, 2018

FOR YOU Louis ver 1[1].2

Louis Wilker, 92, of Asheville, NC, died on Sunday, January 21, 2018, at Mission St. Joseph Hospital in Asheville after a stroke.

Louis was born on the Lower East Side of New York City on February 23, 1925, the sixth and final child of Charles and Lillian Wilker, who had emigrated from Galicia, a region in the Austro-Hungarian Empire that is now a part of Poland. Three of his siblings were also born in Galicia. One sibling (name unknown) died in early childhood in Galicia, and another, Molka, died in infancy in New York City.  Louis was also preceded in death by his sister, Helen, and his brothers, Joseph and M. David.

Louis married Jenny Squires in Wilton, Connecticut, on July 4, 1964. He is survived by Jenny and by their two sons, Ian and Josh, and by their four grandchildren, Evan, Theo, Jack, and Exley.

In 1943, Louis graduated from Stuyvesant High School in New York City. The following year, he enlisted in the United States Navy, where he completed radioman school and served as a Seaman, First Class. He was awarded the American Theater Medal and the Victory Medal and received an Honorable Discharge in 1946. In 1949, he graduated cum laude with a bachelor of science in social sciences from the College of the City of New York (CCNY). Upon his graduation he was awarded membership in the Phi Beta Kappa society and won the Alvin Johnson Prize Scholarship for graduate study at the New School.

Instead of pursuing graduate studies at the New School, Louis entered the work force, working for five years as a project director in the consumer research department at Grey Advertising, where he headed up such projects as a 1955 interview-based study of the consumer brassiere market. In 1957, he began graduate studies at New York University. At NYU, he served for several years as an associate research scientist supervising a large-scale statistical-ecological study of juvenile delinquency in New York City. The project would have been the basis of his doctoral dissertation, but several years into the study, funding for the study was suspended. Louis completed all requirements for a PhD except for the dissertation.

Throughout his career as a sociologist, he used his deep understanding of sociology and his prodigious abilities as a researcher and team leader to help make society better and more just for everyone, focusing his efforts especially on helping those beset by the pronounced poverty he had experienced while growing up in the Depression on the Lower East Side. From 1970 through 1976 Louis worked as the Assistant Director of Research at the New York City Department for the Aging, where he supervised the implementation and analysis of a major social survey of the elderly living in poverty and developed techniques for assessing the needs of the elderly in these areas. From 1976 through 1980, while serving as the Director in the Performance Evaluation Program at the New York State Division of Criminal Justice, Louis supervised a research team providing recommendations in such areas as family court, juvenile corrections, and child abuse and neglect. From 1980 until his retirement in 1990, he was the Director of the Program Planning Unit for the New York City Agency for Child Development, where he led a team that researched, evaluated, analyzed, and developed agency response to state and national legislation impacting child care in New York City, most significantly providing scientific, data-driven advocacy for the Head Start program.

Louis was also a highly valued mentor to many fellow social scientists, scholars, and political activists. “He was my sociologist,” remarked Theodore D. Kemper, author of the groundbreaking sociology book A Social Interaction Theory of Emotions. As Kemper wrote in the preface to that book, which pioneered the field of the sociology of emotions, “The first definite formulation of the theory of social relationships of this book emerged for me in conversations with my friend and colleague Louis Wilker. Without the many occasions when he and I sought to obtain a clearer understanding of social psychology, this book could not have been written. I owe him a debt of deep gratitude.” A similar sentiment was expressed by his wife, Jenny, in the preface to her doctoral dissertation on the artist Honoré Daumier, Daumier’s “Histoire Ancienne”: “To Louis Wilker, for his knowledge of social theory, exceptional skills as patient and critical listener and reader, and stalwart encouragement, I dedicate this work.”

Louis played the recorder and loved to listen to classical music, most especially the music of Bach. He loved movies from the time, as an eight-year-old, he saw the original King Kong in the theater. He also enjoyed going on long walks ever since he was a child, his favorite walk from childhood onward being the one that took him from Lower Manhattan all the way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Upper East Side. At the Met, throughout his life, he liked to silently and deeply “converse” with his favorite painting, the 1660 self-portrait by Rembrandt. He continued his love of art, music, movies, and even long walks all the way to the end of his life, when he made his way up and down the hills of Asheville to get from the home he shared with Jenny all the way to the Greenlife Grocery Store to have a coffee, perhaps read a little from a massive tome on Marxist sociology or World Systems Theory, or perhaps just reflect on the beauty and mystery of life.

The family will be planning a memorial gathering in Louis’s honor in the spring so that family and friends from far away might be able to come. In lieu of sending flowers, please consider donating in Louis’s honor to one of the organizations Louis supported:

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Larry

December 9, 2016

larry

Ngai and I were working the Saturday night shift. This was in the early 1990s, before you could read things like this on the internet. Before the internet. I sat on the stool behind the counter up at the front of the store, gazing warily out the store window at the river of shitheads streaming up and down Eighth Street.

Stay away, I prayed.

I leaned against a thin vertical slat of wood in the shelves between the half pints and pints. The tops of several tacks pushed into my back. They held up photos. I knew the photos by heart at that time, thanks to all the long blank spans of time during my shifts at that liquor store, but I can’t remember them anymore.

I have to imagine myself swiveling on the stool, away from the staggering, wanting pedestrians out on Eighth Street. I look once again at those curling photos. I see photos of clerks who’d worked there before me, young men dazed, young men smiling, young men waiting like I was, a year or two or ten, for something to pull us along to somewhere else.

***

The card fragment at the top of this page, the handiwork of my younger son, is of a player named Larry. I found it on the carpeted basement floor of our condo last Saturday night while I was playing with my older son. He has several construction vehicles that he refers to as the Bob the Builder team, after a show he watches, and he likes me to pretend I’m the one called Scoop and get into dangerous situations. We do virtually the same scenario again and again. When I found this scrap of card on the carpet, I seized on it like a starving man might seize a sandwich.

When people tell parents of young children that “it all goes by so fast,” they aren’t remembering the many eternities of exhaustion and anxiety and boredom, those stretches of time that seem to slow to something beyond time altogether. But of course I know someday this will all be gone, and it will seem to have passed like nothing. I know this time with my boys is the golden era of my life, what I was always waiting for when I was waiting for my life to begin.

***

I see among the photos on the slat of wood between the half-pints and pints one of the owner, Morty, with his friend Larry.

Morty is wearing a Silver Surfer T-shirt, a clerk’s ironic tribute to Morty’s Silver-Surfer-like bald dome and to Morty’s habit of wearing any T-shirt thrown his way.

“What do I give a shit what I wear?” he would crow.

In the photo he’s got his mouth open, words pouring out. This also matches the figure on his shirt, whose agonized metallic face is open in a howl.

“I will endure!” the Silver Surfer vows.

In the photo, Morty is flanked by his friend Larry. Larry’s full head of close-cropped hair is flecked with silver. His clothes are impeccable. His mouth is closed, his chin upraised.

Both men are solid as granite.

***

It took me a few minutes, but with the sparse hints—the mention of 1976, the ERA numbers, perhaps even the word Championships, more than anything the fact that his first name was Larry, narrowing the possibilities considerably—I guessed the full identity of this Larry. Can you? That’s about as far as most internet posts go, right? Trivia lobbed forth in hopes of what? Hits? But instead of piecing together a whole, I want to dwell in the fragmentation, in that brief moment when I didn’t know who this Larry was. When Larry could be Larry, just Larry. Any Larry.

***

That Saturday night as I sat on the stool up front, gazing at the photos between the half-pints and pints, Ngai was in the back of the store, leaning on the edge of Morty’s desk. He was flicking open a gravity knife and closing it and flicking it open again.

The phone behind the cash register rang. I picked it up.

“Eighth Street,” I said.

“Josh, Lar.”

“Larry!”

“Listen. I want you to bring me up two rolls of quarters.”

“Quarters? Quarter-pints, you mean?”

In the back of the store, Ngai turned the blade of his knife back and forth, looking at it.

Or maybe this wasn’t the time when he was into gravity knives. Maybe this was when he got really into origami. Maybe he was holding a tiny paper flamingo in his hands, turning it back and forth. Who can remember?

***

Last week my wife and I decided to subscribe to the Sunday New York Times. I had been reading some stuff about how now more than ever there should be an effort to support journalism. I don’t hold to the illusion that we’ll be getting more than fragments of the world in the New York Times, but at least it’s a start, a way to expand my general habit of randomly absorbing fakery and mongering and trivia.

“To abandon facts is to abandon freedom,” wrote Yale history professor Timothy Snyder last week. “If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”

So this past Sunday morning I got up with my youngest son at around six in the morning and for the next couple of hours kept looking out the window to try to see whether our newspaper had arrived. I didn’t want someone to swipe it. Nowadays who knows what people will do?

***

Eventually Ngai looked up at me, wondering what was being asked of me through the phone. The Saturday night shift at the liquor store was all about weathering volatile requests.

“Larry?” I said. “You still there?”

“This motherfucker,” Larry finally said.

“Let me talk to him,” Ngai said.

“I know he’s the one,” Larry said. “Quarters, Joshua, you hear me? Two rolls of quarters, one for each hand. I’m gonna cave this cocksucker’s head in.”

***

Maybe I’ll leave the story there, with Larry asking me to deliver him two rolls of quarters, with me years later holding my youngest son and peering out the window on the lookout for a newspaper thief and thinking of Larry. That’s what had happened so many years before to Larry. Someone had started stealing his New York Times. That Saturday night when he called the store he had decided who the perpetrator was and had decided what he was going to do to the perpetrator.

Why of all things does that story stick with me, the one when he called up and asked me to deliver him ballast for his fists?

The world is always falling apart, and we’re powerless to stop this, but it has always been pleasing to me in my powerlessness to imagine Larry, solid as granite, roaring out of his apartment in his bathrobe to catch a newspaper thief red-handed. It’s pleasing to me to imagine him with those rolls of quarters in his large hands.

You’re in for it now, motherfucker, I like to think.

***

The last time I saw Larry was at Morty’s memorial. That was a few years ago. He came to the memorial with Ngai. It was at the apartment of one of the former clerks. There were photos all over the walls, some of them the same as the photos that had been tacked up at the store. I’ve mentioned this before a while back, but Larry started crying as he looked at a photo of Morty.

“I miss you, you old fuck,” Larry said.

When the memorial was over Ngai and Larry left together. I can’t remember the details of that memorial that well, but I think Larry was having a little trouble walking, and Ngai was helping him. Years earlier, Ngai had been the one who’d been able to calm Larry down, to convince him that he shouldn’t use two rolls of quarters to cave in the newspaper thief’s face. So maybe that’s where I’ll leave this story, with Larry leaning on Ngai as both move slowly out of the memorial, out of sight.

Everything will be reduced to fragments, and then it will disappear. How are you holding it together?