Brian Keaney

Month: February, 2012

The best sentence ever written (by me)

While paying far too much for drinks at a swanky bar with a friend and his girlfriend a few nights ago, we discussed their upcoming trip to the land of aloha.  The lovely doctor is to serve as the maid of honor at a wedding, and I offered to help her with her speech, so long as she didn’t want it to be mushy.  Sentimental I can probably handle, but when I thought I was going to have to say something at my own sister’s wedding I debated whether I should open with a quotation from The Godfather or one from The Princess Bride.  Needless to say, I’m never going to be a romance novelist.

In the course of conversation, and partly to prove that I am at least a decent writer who won’t completely screw up the speech, I told them that the opening line to one of my graduate school admission essays was the best sentence I’ve ever written.

I have what I like to call a homo-non-sexual crush on the lead singer on U2, Bono.

Not only did that essay get me into grad school, and thus later admitted into the Fellowship of Educated Men, but it also had nothing to do with Bono.  I’m simply used Bono, who I really do admire, as a jumping off point to discuss a book for which he gave an endorsement on the dust jacket.  As any reader of this blog knows, it is not an uncommon for me to open with something completely unrelated to the body of the text.

One of the reasons I enjoy the sentence as much as I do is that I think it works as well spoken as it does on the page.  I’d like to hope that when the admissions officer in Cambridge read it he was taken a bit aback, or at least found it somewhat original in a sea of papers written by prospective students far smarter than I am.

When I trot it out with friends in bars, it is almost always good for a laugh.  Part of the reason is that it also has a cadence when spoken that I think it lacks in print, which only adds to it. Mark Twain, whose worst sentence was undeniable better than the best of my best, made this point to a reporter who interviewed him thusly:

The moment “talk” is put into print you recognize that it is not what it was when you heard it; you perceive that an immense something has disappeared from it. That is its soul. You have nothing but a dead carcass left on your hands.

In the grand scheme of things my sentence is perhaps little more than, as Mr. Twain put it, “pure twaddle.”  That my sentence has life both in print and on the tongue, I hope, gives it something that ol’ Sam Clemens would be proud of.


Arctic Omegle

“What color is your underwear?”

I was not expecting such a question, and especially not one from such a cherubic little voice.  While it immediately pulled me back from the day dream I was in, the giggles and the maternal chastisement that immediately followed the question let me know that this child was not making a pass at me.

“Who said I was wearing any,” I called back.  The little kid succeeded in shocking me, which I am sure was her intent, and I’m pretty sure my response affected the same result in her.  I think we both also got a chuckle from the encounter as well.

Our brief conversation took place as we passed each other yesterday afternoon on a chairlift shuttling skiers between two peaks.  I had been thinking earlier in the day, while chatting up some fellow skiers in the gondola, that the lifts are much like Omegle, the web service that connects two strangers for a brief web chat.   I only tried Omegle once or twice to see what it was all about after watching the below video, but was much less impressed with the quality of people I found on the other end and did not return.


Maybe it is just because I am so shy, but I find that I almost never have a silent ride up to the summit, even on days like today when I am skiing solo.  During one gondola ride today I was explaining how YES worked, where I  teach a lesson to some city kids in the morning and have the afternoon free to ski by myself.  “That’s very admirable,” my fellow rider told me.

I thought about his comment for the next few runs, and then even on the bus ride back to Boston.  I don’t volunteer with YES or any other organization to earn anyone’s admiration, although I do strive to live a life that is admirable.  It also made me question whether or not I even want to tell people in the future that I volunteer with the group.  Just as I try not to drop the H-bomb, I don’t want people on the lifts to think that I am bragging, and I would be perfectly happy for my left hand to not know what my right hand was doing.

I came to the conclusion that because I think the mission of YES is important enough that it should be spread – especially among those who know what gliding down a mountain on a pair of planks can do for the psyche, and who might be in a position to help – that  I’ll continue to tell people if it naturally comes up in conversation.  Besides, like on Omegle, chances are I will never see them again, and so the impression  that they will walk, erm, ski, away with, is that of the organization, not of me.