Brian Keaney

Tag: Midnight in Paris

Perchance to dream

A couple years ago I made a concerted effort to read all the books I was supposed to read in high school.  I was never a big fan of homework, and I got by all right simply by paying attention in class.  I don’t know that in four years I ever read an entire book in any class, but English was always one of my better subjects.  I’ve since come to learn to love to read, but one book I have not yet finished is The Great Gatsby.  I’ve picked it up once or twice, and even though I think I would enjoy it I’ve never made it all the way through.

Particularly after seeing Tom Hiddleston’s performance in Midnight in Paris this summer, I think I would also really enjoy the company of F. Scott Fitzgerald.   Seeing the lifestyles they led in 1920s Paris makes me wonder what his definition of “rich” is, but I have come to discover the great truth in his statement that the very rich are different from you and me.  Then again, not only am I glad that I am unlike the very rich, I also take a small amount of satisfaction in that I am different from most other people.

This winter I am volunteering with a great organization that teaches kids they can literally conquer mountains.  Youth Enrichment Services takes inner city kids to ski resorts across New England and teaches them to ski or snowboard.  While I don’t ski nearly as much as I would like to, I am on my K2s enough to know that rarely do you see someone with skin darker than mine on a chairlift.  Giving low-income, largely minority children the same opportunity I had as a kid growing up to feel the rush of racing down a mountain is better than that rush itself.

After breaking the fast with Senator Paul.

Last weekend I was in New Hampshire learning how to become a ski instructor (and inviting myself to breakfast with a United States Senator – but that’s another post) and, unlike other training trips where they stayed in a chalet, we were being housed in a local hotel.  It was nice enough, but particularly after a couple locals got a little too familiar at the bar across the street, my fellow volunteers all decided it was time to return to their rooms and crash.  Seeing as there were several hours left in Saturday night, not to mention several prime socialable hours in Sunday morning, I was not ready to retire.

In a hotel with little to do, however, I had to content myself watching the 4th quarter of an NFC game I was only partially interested in, reading a couple articles I’d been saving on my phone, and then turning out the lights well before midnight.  It was the earliest I’d been to bed in some time, and it resulted in the most sleep I’ve gotten in a while.

Each night when I go to bed it almost feels like a personal failure.  I don’t like it at all.  My tasks list never gets any shorter, and even if I was caught up there would still be plenty to do.  I’ve got a stack of books I want to read.  There are a million places I’ve never been, countless movies I’ve never seen, billions of people I’ve never met.  Not only do I not know anything about any number of subjects, there are fields of study that I don’t even know exist.  People are suffering all over the world and crying out for help, yet I am expected to spend a third of my life unconscious.

How, with all that is out there, can I possibly spend any more time than I have to asleep?  I fight it each night, even long after I have ceased being productive.  I click around in Quicken, as if I am suddenly going to gain some magical new insight into my finances by looking at the same graph 10 times.  I’ll check the same dozen websites as if anyone is awake and updating them at 2 a.m.  I search in vain for anything worthwhile to watch on TV.  I’ll do whatever it takes to avoid turning out the lights until finally, out of sheep boredom more often than not, I submit to the downturn in my circadian rhythm and close my eyes.

A few hours later I am battling the alarm clock and starting all over again.  The pile of books only grows, the to do list only gets longer, and my ignorance only decreases but slightly.  No matter what dreams may come, there is still plenty more left to do before I shuffle off this mortal coil.  I will sleep when I’m dead.

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Sir, I disagree

I saw some football players running in the rain tonight, no doubt training for the upcoming season.  I have high hopes that this is the year the program will turn around, what with a new coach and new athletic facilities, and it was good to see them out as a team getting in shape.  By the looks of several of them without shirts on, this was not their first run of the summer.  In an entirely non-homosexual (and, more importantly, non-pedophile) way, I was quite pleased to see them.

I’m also hoping that a combination of a better team, a better stadium, and Friday night games will put more rear ends in the seats, particularly those of students.  I’d love to see as many or more students at Stone Park as I saw at Needham High’s gym for basketball games last year.

During those games I, and many around me, did more than chuckle when one or two of them would yell “Sir, I disagree,” at a bad call.  They were using the most respectful possible language, but the sentiment underneath it was the undoubtedly the same as mine when what I yelled at a ref was enough to cause a Franciscan priest – who, it should be noted, daily prayed “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace” – to resort to physical violence.  It was funny because we all knew that when those kids called the ref “sir,” they really meant, “you asshat.”

I don’t know why I was thinking of this, but I did when Brian Keaney the writer mentioned today that his barber calls him “sir.” In a blog post that mentions the riots that ripped apart large chunks of Britain in the past few days, he writes

Nobody in London can talk about anything else. Western power is draining down the economic plughole but that’s too large a concept for people to really come to terms with. But a bunch of thugs in hoodies kicking in shop fronts and helping themselves to phones and watches – that’s something that everyone has an opinion about.

To the older Brian Keaney I must say, “sir, I respectfully disagree.”  Obviously I am far too removed from the barbershops of London to know what the local scuttlebutt is, so it is with his assessment of the first world that I take issue.  Sure, the Mexican standoff the Congress engaged in with our economy resembles a bloody Tarantino film more than, say, the filibuster of Mr. Smith (not to mention left our representatives looking unworthy of the venerable institution in which they serve).

Sure, the markets collapsed when one of the same companies that did such a bang up job determining the relative safety of mortgage securities determined that the Isle of Man posed less of a threat than US T-bonds (though, in a delicious irony, may have made them even safer).  Sure, we are still rebuilding a country we broke when we went to war based on lies, a war that has left us broke and up to our eyeballs in debt.

Still, I don’t see anyone rushing for the exits.  How many of those shopkeepers who had their livelihoods destroyed by some skunk smoking hoodlums are going to moving to Syria, or Egypt, or Tunisia?  How many of those who are privileged enough (in the same way that 56 men were privileged enough to put their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor on the line) to be making positive changes in the Arab Spring would give their left arm to get a visa to live in Greece or Portugal or another country dealing with a debt crisis of their own making?  Hell, even if Hollywood has given up, the nonsense they produce is still filling up theaters better than anything coming from Bollywood.

We know that history did not end with the fall of the Berlin Wall.  That said, western states admittedly do not today hold the same power – diplomatic, military, economic, social, or otherwise – they did in the post-war period, just as NBC News and the New York Times do not hold the same power or influence they did in the pre-Twitter era.  Times change, and the world along with it.

This thought was hammered home last night when I finally got across the street to see Midnight in Paris. What I wouldn’t give to spend a night drinking at a Parisian cafe with Hemingway (who, unlike The Most Interesting Man in the World, I would have to battle the irresistible urge to thank should he punch me in the face) while Cole Porter played in the corner. As Picasso’s mistress illustrated so beautifully, however, there is no such thing as a Golden Age.

[Rather than give this blog entry yet another sharp right turn into a new topic, I’ll simply add apropos of Midnight in Paris that I watched Out Cold on TV again tonight.   It had even more Casablanca homages – right down to the white dinner jacket – than I had remembered, but for the first time I noticed that it had several actors who had minor roles in The Office.  I really hope David Koechner isn’t such a creep in real life.  I think I might like him if he was normal. Also, it took seeing Owen Wilson in a Woody Allen film to see the similarities between them.]

No, the type, way, and amount of power the president or the prime minster wields today is not the same as it was when the elder Brian Keaney was my age.  It won’t be the same when I am his age.  I don’t expect to find an empty basin when I get there, however.

My life is very different today than it was when I spent nights sitting in the bird’s nest rooting for the Cards.  Even at the outset of the China Century I wouldn’t trade those days for all of their tea, however.  With that in mind, I do not hesitate for a moment to say that whatever my personal or nation’s problems may be, no matter how severe the  setbacks we face are, I have no doubt that our best days are ahead of us.

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