The governor and the glove

Received photo and following email from Ted Ganchiff, a friend in Chicago:

Yes. That is now ex-Governor Blagojevich holding my glove. I took the photo myself.

I took a train back from a physical in the north suburbs. On the train, I read that the now-Unhonorable Rod Blagojevich would be holding his final news conference outside his home, just an hour after the first impeachment in Illinois history and months of global head-shaking at how this man could have behaved so immorally.

Having lazily waved off the opportunity to experience the inspiration and hope of Obama’s recent acceptance speech just minutes from my home, I decided I would certainly not miss out on the grand finale of the soul-crushing Gubernatorial tragedy. Where I had missed serving witness to the culmination of a bold dream, I would avenge the mistake by serving witness to the death of a twisted and sad nightmare. A fair trade.

I walked from the train stop to his home, and found it besieged by news vans and klieg lights through which I soon delivered myself within arm’s reach of the man. It reminded me of sneaking to the front row of a general admission concert. I took off my right glove, and began snapping photos with my iPhone.

As the conference progressed through its predictable blather, a surprising thing happened. Rod Blagojevich began shaking hands, coming into the crowd as if campaigning for a position, instead of being voted out of one.

I would not participate in the banality. I would not shake the criminal’s hand, though my own hand was gloveless and shake-ready. So I backed off, evading him like a running back evades a linebacker, but in slow motion.

And in the process, I unknowingly dropped my damn glove.

He bent down, then stood as if addressing the citizens who had once been his to lead. “Did someone drop a glove?” I took a picture of him, holding up the glove, because it seemed such a hypocritical thing for him to do – as if he was the sort of civil person who just goes around picking up people’s gloves, out of the kindness of his heart.

My hand was really cold, so I started patting my coat pocket for my glove, and had the paralyzing thought: “Damn – that might be my glove.” I went up to him – his arm was relaxed now, at his side, but he had the glove tight, holding it as if it were his own. I knew he had stolen before – the Senate seat, medical care from needy children – so I was very much on guard. I bought that glove in Manhattan from a street vendor, perhaps a thief as well. Replacement was not a likely option.

Certain as I was about the identity of the glove, I felt, too, a creeping sense of uncertainty. As the now ex-Governor has said before the state Senate just hours before, “Have you proven a crime? Have you truly PROVEN a crime?” This man had fallen so low, and I was faced with accusing him yet again of wanting to possess that which was not his. But my glove was an icon of his civility – was it impossible to envision him in front of the court, testifying, “Would a man who returns the glove of a stranger steal so much from so many?” Could I play a part in his acquittal, by leaving him with evidence of his benevolence?

I had read on the train that his security detail had been stripped away with his governorship. I am a small man, but he is too, and I wondered if the physical struggle would go my way. But so many cameras! I would not be able to escape cleanly. And I could not say with absolute certainty that the glove was mine.

Be calm, I told myself. Convict, then punish. I taxed myself to play judge and jury all at once. I had heard him say, “Did someone drop a glove?” which suggested that he had found it. But perhaps this was a figure of speech? Like him, I work at home, and am not always quick on the uptake of new turns of phrases. A joke, perhaps it was a joke that I failed to understand? The setup had happened too fast, the klieg lights and media crush had been too disorienting. I could not hold court in this place.

Court, I thought, clawing my way through the logic. Evidence. OJ Simpson. The glove itself! Exhibit A was right before me – and it was more incriminating than any wiretap.

I took a step towards him, stood just off his right cheek, so close we could have embraced. I stooped, dropping my head, my eyes closing in to meet the glove, looking like a man trying to read a street address in the dark, if the address were a few inches from an indicted ex-governor’s crotch.

I rose. I have never felt the satisfaction of identifying a lost glove clutched by a global villain during a major press event. But I can tell you it was powerful.

We were now face to face, and our eyes met. He, who had fallen so far and stood as an example of the greed of our times, had become a worldwide whipping boy, had schemed to sell the soul of the nation. Me, a man who had suddenly found himself with only one glove. In a way, and for a moment, we were equals.

I raised my hand, but not in anger. I had learned a lifetime’s worth of lessons in an instant. There would be no violence, no accusations. There had been enough suffering.

I tapped his shoulder.

“I think that’s my glove.”

He squared his shoulders to mine. He, too, was learning from this moment. But would it be enough?

“Is this yours?”

I knew the answer to his question, and so did he, but we both knew a much larger question had been asked. And while I could not be his teacher for what was to come, I could give him one answer, one answer of which I was absolutely and completely certain.


This was the first time I had ever felt that I did not take a glove – but instead, that a glove was given.

I didn’t turn to look back, as I walked away, but I knew. I knew he was watching, this man who had said too much, and only now, too late, was throttling his speech. “Wait!” he wanted to cry out. “Please, wait!”

But he and I had come too far, and, perhaps, had come together too late. He did not speak. I stayed my course.

In China, a glove might symbolize hope and renewal, but this was not China – this was Ravenswood. The night was cold, but my hand and heart were warm.

Congrats to Danielle Trussoni



RIP John Updike

Here he discusses "A & P."

The sheer, possibly suspicious abundance of his output conspired with my indifference toward adultery in New England to prevent me from investigating much of his work while he lived, but I never would have described him, as someone once claimed his friends did, as "a penis with a thesaurus," because that's just cruel. That work of his which did manage to attract my interest was solid, even masterful ("A & P") -- or highly entertaining (Witches of Eastwick). The Rabbit books and The Centaur have been nagging me for years. Maybe I'll put aside my prejudice and tackle at least one of those. Or maybe one of his fans could enlighten me on what I've been missing. Clearly a lot of folks were ga-ga over him.

I'm sorry for his death, but if there's a silver lining, it's that this sad event should approximately double the available annual slots for publishing stories and poems.

It took 20 seasons, but...

...the Workshop was finally mentioned on The Simpsons. Thanks to the eagled-eyed T-Bone for catching this. It must have been a real slow day at the Press-Citizen. This incident joins 24's suspiciously named character "Ethan Kanin" as the Fox Network's second recent 'shop reference (note that link there, written by the lovely Lila Byock). Dunno what's up with that. Is Rupert Murdoch writing a novel?

Experiment in free beauty

I had never seen this story before, but it's apparently famous and the writer won a Pulitzer for it. What would happen if you took one of the world's greatest violinists, dressed him like a street musician, and had him play a D.C. Metro station at rush hour, on a $3.5 million Stradivarius, for 45 minutes? Probably not what you think.


101 Sub-genres?

Writers often have technique in mind when browsing for new books. Still, it's odd to come across a book-market where different literary techniques are browsable. It seems somehow respectful of literature that with a click the shelves will re-arrange themselves to bring together Time's Arrow, First Light, and Being Dead. At the same time, thematic pigeonholes such as:

Family & Friendship : family, general
Family & Friendship : sisters
Human Qualities & Behavior : loneliness
Literary Genres & Types of Novels : psychological realism

seem unlikely to lead to the purchase of Easter Parade.

I guess I'm intrigued because I like to imagine a very eccentric bookstore with all manner of odd shelves, some helpful, like an idiosyncratic seminar on novels that take place in 24 hours or in Hollywood; other shelves not so helpful, such as one that collected together various fictions that take place primarily or completely in the dark.


Hypergrammatical myth mars history

In wry NYT op-ed called "Oaf of Office," psychologist Steve Pinker identifies and chides Chief Justice Roberts' fussy split-verb copy editing of the U.S. Constitution.
In his legal opinions, Chief Justice Roberts has altered quotations to conform to his notions of grammaticality, as when he excised the “ain’t” from Bob Dylan’s line “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” On Tuesday his inner copy editor overrode any instincts toward strict constructionism and unilaterally amended the Constitution by moving the adverb “faithfully” away from the verb.


Coupla warmups


President hearts Marilynne Robinson

The Plunge alerted me to this article on Obama and the books he admires -- one of which is Gilead.

Inaugural Metaphors

I've been thinking about this US Airways thing as a timely metaphor. Over the last eight years we've gotten used to tough situations yielding inevitably horrible results. Here was yer another all but inevitably horrible situation--something so ready to grimly punctuate all the other economy economy economy economy fuck fuck fuck news reporting--and it turned out about as well as it could have. Turns out this Captain Sullenberger is a serious badass.

Competence is a wonderful thing. We'd forgotten that and now we all remember. But this is also what Tolkien called a eucatastrophe-- a sudden turn of events for the better, or really, the best. A piece that has been in the story all along has come to the fore, and it will save us.

I hope. I've adjusted my expectations of the future so that now I'd be happy just to have grandchildren living life in the relative comfort I've so far been afforded. I want them to have decent schools, a physically safe environment, readily available drinking water. It seems like such a low bar, doesn't it? I want to wish them more than that.

I worry by my nature. What I need to worry about and what I don't is a taxonomy subject to a constant negotiation in my mind. It goes between two parts of me, one willing to be the rube and the other not. Each argues its case to a fault. But I'm ready for the rube to be right more often.


Earth Goat turns four

I just realized that this blog turned four years old on January 12. That's pretty old for a blog, no?

Thanks to all the contributors and commenters over the years. A lot of hilarious and inspiring stuff has been written here. It's been a real pleasure to have a place where we can all stay in touch when the spirit moves us. And how about a shout out to the Blogfather -- Pete -- whose terrific Babies Are Fireproof was the template and inspiration.

Things have quieted down. The election warped our focus, and summers bring us close to flatlining. Lots of people have their own blogs now, and Facebooking has replaced a lot of the stuff we used to do here, but many workshop blogs have come and gone, and we're still kicking. Not to get all sentimental, but that says something really good about the IWW classes of 2003 and 2004.

Some stats:

* 976 original posts, one of which cracked 100 comments
* Several blips in the media early on
* 203,076 visits
* 109 visits per day average

We are now preparing for our descent into Year 5. Please return your tray tables and chairs to their former upright, locked positions. I know you have a choice in blogs, and I'd like to thank you for choosing Earth Goat. I hope to see you again in the future.


Art where you least expect it

My friend Dave Kendall is an artist from my hometown in Indiana. When I say artist, I mean almost everything he does somehow relates to art, even, in this case, getting a haircut. The man literally lives inside his artistic vision. He's a real inspiration. He's also a painter, photographer, and filmmaker. You can see more of his work at the eydart gallery in Indianapolis.

Here's a drawing:


More Than Half of American Adults Read Fiction

When is the parade?

I feel like this story comes out every few months. Well, here's some good news for a change.

Now how long before Grendel posts some dispiriting link about how 90% of Dutch adults read fiction and 10% publish?

Chimpanzee ridin' on a Segway

Chimpanzee ridin' on a Segway.

(Safety helmet tip to gwarbot.)


Our superhero president

As if we needed more proof... The issue "Amazing Spider-Man #583" qualifies as a guaranteed future collector's item if anything ever did. On sale Jan. 14.

By the way, anyone ever read Alan Moore's Watchmen? It was my X-mas gift to myself -- it arrived two days ago. So far I'm just trying to sort out the dramatis personae, who have surprisingly been introduced sort of textually, and not through character-driven action as expected...


Wait for it

I was wondering when this piece would get written.

Good thing Boog does such a great job of getting past the inevitably recurrent "but seriously, publishing is fucked and this time we really mean it" trope. He navigates pretty quickly to the more interesting question: who might benefit from a genuine shakeup of the industry? He suggests--rightly, I think--that it will be independents working from a model of low advances, high royalties and modest print runs.

That's not to say the road is clear for the indies. Just last summer the knell was ringing for them, what with the PGW bankruptcy and the postal hike. But I hope he's right. Every time I hear news of a humongous advance--for Joe the Plumber or whoever-- my imagination is drowned in a quantity of quantities: next year's backrooms and the stacked returns (and/or remainders), the money itself and, most personally, the legions of more worthy writers who could have been buoyed by some small fraction of it.


Millionth word on its way

The Economist is skeptical about calculations that English is about to become the first million-word language, because nobody agrees on the criteria. But there seems to be little doubt that it is the world's biggest language, partly due to its complete lack of regulation. So be sure to use it for Good, not Evil.

(Aside: Having the Oxford American College Dictionary and American Thesaurus of Current English ($14.99) on the iPhone is, to this word-worker, itself worth the ridiculous toy's price. No more being all eh, fuck it, I don't really need to know what cunctation and prognathous mean because I can't be arsed to haul out one of the many cumbersome dead-pressed-tree volumes that clutter house and weigh down backpack. Takes me five seconds to look up a word, anywhere I am, and it's totally speeding up my trip through Infinite Jest. (The complete OED is not yet available as an app. Emphasis on yet.))