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"Many Years Later": Great First Lines

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The Parks Department in my nice little town in southern California trucks in snow from the nearby San Gabriel Mountains to Memorial Park on Foothill Boulevard for our kids to play in. They dump two large mounds of snow—one for big kids, one for the little ones—onto the grass so that California children, growing up in this warm-blooded paradise of ours, can know what snow is like.

So on a beautiful, sunny, mid-70s Saturday afternoon, I took Calder to play in the snow…and discover ice. Which got me thinking about one of my favorite first lines in all of literature:

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

That first line by Gabriel García Márquez from ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE sets the stage for his great novel of time-displacement and intergenerational fantasia perfectly.

Which got me thinking about Great First Lines in Literature.

(Anything to keep my mind off the GOP Tax Reform monstrosity, Mike Flynn, and what’s in the White House)

Some of these first lines come from all-time favorite novels of mine:

“The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.” —Samuel Beckett, MURPHY

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” —George Orwell, 1984

“Stupidity is not my strong point.” – Paul Valery, MONSIEUR TESTE

“I am an American, Chicago born—Chicago, that somber city—and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.” —Saul Bellow, THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.” —Vladimir Nabokov, LOLITA

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” —Leo Tolstoy, ANNA KARENINA

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” —J. D. Salinger, THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

“This is the saddest story I have ever heard.” —Ford Madox Ford, THE GOOD SOLDIER

“I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man.” —Fyodor Dostoyevsky, NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND

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Post-Thanksgiving Thanks

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“Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday,” she said firmly, “because it’s not about buying presents or patriotism or somebody’s religion or drinking large amounts of alcohol. It’s just about family.” – a character in my forthcoming novel WHEN I GOT OUT


The Tiny Goddess and I got out of the country for Thanksgiving on a temporary vacation from Trumpland.

We came back to the fiasco of GOP “Tax Reform” -- boosting the super-rich and their heirs, and sticking it to the middle class, the poor, the sick, graduate students, Puerto Rico (!) and even school teachers. It’s “cartoonishly evil,” just as the Editorial Board of The New York Times said. And “Pocahontas” again. Maybe we should have stayed away.

We went with the family to the TG’s Sister’s fabulous place in Querataro, Mexico.
I’ve blogged before about the wonders of the Centro Historico section of Queretaro (http://peterseth.com/blog/243-queretaro-the-best-kept-secret-in-mexico.html), and everything I wrote before still applies.  When you are a UNESCO World Heritage site, change is frowned upon. In fact, it’s illegal.

Out of the country, in this bewitching, serene setting, I had a chance to pause, appreciate my micro-life, and be thankful for the blessings in my life, great and small.

*My family: my two “blondies” – my wife and my grandson. My son and my daughter. My incredible Daughter-in-Law. My brother. My extended family, especially my Sister-in-Law, the amazing hostess/designer/magician/force-of-nature. And a few great friends.

“Think where man's glory
Most begins and ends
And say my glory was
That I had such friends.” – W.B. Yeats, The Municipal Gallery Revisted

*Work that I love.

*My health.

*Security. A home I love, going on twenty-eight years.

*A good dog.

*A convertible.

*Music, all the time, whenever I want. (Great live music in LA. Always the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and sometimes the Los Angeles Opera.)

*Yoga, four times a week.

*Two Trader Joe’s nearby.

*The Dodgers. (76 days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.)

And –

I’m very grateful that Robert Mueller and his team are on the job.

I’m grateful for all the Resisters – the people of MoveOn and Indivisible. All the activists. Act Blue and Working Families and all the organizations who fill my inbox every day, asking for donations. Inside and outside the Democratic Party.

I’m grateful for the work of Paul Krugman, Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid, Lawrence O’Donnell, Charles Blow, Gail Collins, Robert Reich, and countless other writers and journalists (with a special nod to in-the-line-of-fire CNN) for keeping alive the fight against Trump and the GOP.

And I’m cautiously grateful for the results of this year’s Election Day. Perhaps in 2018, the Good America that I believe exists will rise up and turn against the GOP. For good.







Fighting Words for the Age of Trump

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It’s hard to concentrate on anything besides what Trump and the Republicans are doing and saying:

*Tax “reform” that’s a giveaway to their rich corporate and individual donor/owners and will bust a huge hole in the deficit, which will only be closable by enormous cuts in entitlement programs (effectively ending the New Deal, a long-sought, right-wing wet dream). As economic adviser Gary Cohn said, “The most excited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan.” Duh.

*Trump bumbling around the world, dancing with dictators and sucking up to Putin while he calls long-time American public servants “hacks”

*The ex-Eli Lilly executive/Big Pharma lobbyist – Alex Azar -- who has just been raised from the Swamp to be new Health and Human Services secretary

*Roy Moore, the pedophile GOP candidate from Alabama, the one who’s really, really Christian

*Trump packing the courts with highly unqualified, young right-wing ideologues (and McConnell jamming them through)

*Trumpworld in suspense, waiting for the next indictment: Michael Flynn or his son? … Jared or Donald Jr.?

As Stephen Sondheim said in a different context, “Every day, a little death.”

There was some hope on Election Day: good results in Virginia, New Jersey, and in pockets all across the country. But let’s see what happens in 2018. The Democrats will be fighting a lot of money, gerrymandering, and a lot of voter suppression. And we don’t know what Russia, Trump’s ally, has planned for us.

It’s hard to stay positive, and yet what choice have we? I focus on my little life: working on this draft of WHEN I GOT OUT and taking care of my family, especially my exquisite grandson Calder.

And I try to take courage from the fighting words of others:

“I believe that we are lost here in America, but I believe we shall be found.” – Thomas Wolfe, YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN

“Of all the varieties of virtues, liberalism is the most beloved.” -- Aristotle

“Most of the things worth doing in the world have been declared impossible before they were done.” – Louis Brandeis

“That which the fascists hate, above all else, is intelligence.” – Miguel de Unamuno

“I believe that all men, black, brown, and white, are brothers.” – W.E.B. DuBois

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” – Samuel Johnson

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” – George Orwell

“My experience has been that the people who talk the loudest about morality are the people who possess the least amount of it.” – James Carville

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is, the search for a superior justification for selfishness.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

“What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise.” – Barbara Jordan

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