Sunday, September 13, 2015

Happy 46, you old fart!

A shout-out to my long-time buddy Dr. Stephen doCarmo, who turns 46 on September 12. It's September 13 here in Korea as I write this, but it's still early on Saturday in the States.

Steve apparently prefers not to be called "Steve," but that's what I've called him all these years, and I may be the only person who gets away with doing that. He's a bigwig at his college, now, where he works as an English prof (Steve's Ph.D. is in modern American lit); he also manages, among other things, Bucks County Community College's honors program. At this point, it's safe to say he's an old veteran. On the side, he composes and performs alternative music, and has even produced some CDs of his work. A man of many talents, he.

Steve and I rarely see eye-to-eye when it comes to politics. He's way to the left; I'm a moderate who, to liberals, seems deeply conservative, despite my protestations to the contrary. I also can't say that I have much appreciation for Steve's field of study, given how saturated it is with postmodernism, poststructuralism, and other noisome aspects of critical theory.

Yet despite the deep philosophical divide between us, Steve and I remain great friends. When I was living by myself in Front Royal, Virginia, Steve would come over almost every Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we'd chow down on homemade food. His contributions to the feast—he'd bring over a huge plastic bag of goodies—varied from the sublime to the ridiculous: he once whipped out a nasty, sickeningly sweet Scandinavian cheese that neither of us could finish, but he also got me hooked on Idris, a British brand of so-called "fiery ginger beer." Along with Northern Neck ginger ale (which my buddy Mike introduced me to years ago), Idris is one of my absolute favorite brands of ginger-based potable.

The good professor recently became the proud owner of his own house—something I'll probably never be as long as I live in Korea, where real estate is a nightmare, and the money to buy big almost always comes from one's rich parents. So he's back to enjoying the suburban pleasures of mowing his lawn, unclogging his rain gutters, dealing with pests and wayward pets, and paying a lovely, lovely mortgage. I admit I envy him.

Steve is an entertaining writer. He blogs, occasionally, at Up the Flagpole—which I suspect comes from the slang expression "piss up a flagpole," i.e., to engage in a vain, useless, or ineffective activity. His leftism is on full, proud display there, but despite my frequent disagreements with his blog's content, I can't deny that Steve is a sharp and talented prose stylist. His unpublished(?) novel The Shaker is a fun, fascinating, and sometimes frustrating read. (Frustration is good: it means you're emotionally engaged with the text.) Steve has a singular sense of humor that often comes through in his emails: for example, he cynically refers to Christmas and Easter as "Cursemas" and "Beaster."

Yet another quirk: he's also a fairly dedicated meditator, although I still have no idea what style or tradition of meditation he engages in.

Life crunches ever forward; Steve's hair gets grayer and grayer, and his Rate My Professors rating climbs higher and higher. I think Steve once told me he'd rather be a full-time musician than a full-time prof, but I don't think he's unhappy with his day job. And since we're now talking about happiness, the state that occupies the most exalted position in the Aristotelian hierarchy: I wish Steve the happiest of birthdays, and many more to come.

Happy Birfday, man.


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