Friday, December 28, 2007

Sunday, February 12, 2006: The Tenth Day I Knew Andrew

This is the text of an email message I sent to a friend, describing the tenth day I knew Andrew, Sunday, February 12, 2006.


I can remember half waking up every 45 minutes or so during the night Saturday night. I am sure this was because one or the other of us needed to shift during the night. Most of the time we each seemed to sleep on one or the other of our sides, but several times I remember lying sort of on my back, half resting on the back of the sofa and half resting on the seat of the sofa. Andrew was on his stomach, with more than half of his body on top of me each time that occurred. We seemed to sleep all right, despite the close quarters. It seemed to me that Andrew's legs and arms were always around me or over me or under me. I liked that.

Apparently we woke up first, because there were no sounds from anyone else in the apartment when we woke. Andrew is cleanshaven, but he has a heavy beard--I could feel the stubble against me as he rubbed his cheek and jaw against my own cheeks and against my neck. I loved that sensation. We stayed under the covers and nestled against each other until we heard sounds of someone rousing. Then Andrew jumped out of bed, and extended his hand to me for me to use to rouse myself. I think he jumped out of bed so quickly in order that his roommates not know that we shared the same sofa throughout the night. The first thing he did after getting up, Silvio, was put the bedding away. Only then did he take me into the kitchen and hug me and kiss me on the forehead and keep me close to him, with one arm always around me, while the coffee brewed.

Andrew made pancakes for breakfast, as I learned he does every Sunday. His roommates seemed to be pretty mellow Sunday morning, and no one really did much of anything all morning.

After lunch, we all went outside and played in the snow. We actually had a snowball fight, and Andrew actually laid down and rolled around in the snow like a kid! Then Andrew and I went over to Union Station for a while. We had coffee and talked about the party and the people I had met. We talked about J, who Andrew assured me I would grow to adore. I think I will hold that thought in abeyance for now.

I asked him about several things: why did he not tell me he was fluent in German and French (answer: the subject never came up); why did he not tell me that he played the piano (answer: the subject never came up); what did he think about his roommates blabbing to everyone at school about us (it probably was only Thomas, and not the other two, and that he did not really care since he did not believe that Thomas meant to be mean-spirited in any way--and I am not sure I am in agreement with that, Silvio); and, of course, I had to ask him the big one--did he mean it last night when he told me he loved me right before we went to sleep (answer: "I was never more serious in my life").

I told Andrew how much I loved sleeping with him, and I told him that I had never slept in the same bed with anyone since I was six or seven years old. I asked him whether he had ever slept in the same bed with anyone else, and he said "no, never, not even as a child".

I told him that I wished I could stay tonight, too, and he said "I thought you WERE going to stay tonight". I told him that I was not sure what he had meant when he had told me to bring clothes for a couple of days, and that somehow I had assumed that he was inviting me over only for Saturday night. "No, I was hoping you would stay tonight, too" he said, and I said that I would, happily.

Then we went back to Andrew's place, and he cooked, and I helped him. He cooked for hours. He cooked a ham, three chickens, a pot roast, and he prepared tons of different vegetables for steaming, putting them in plastic bags for use throughout the week. He made mashed potatoes, with real potatoes, and he prepared cod in a cream-pepper sauce as a starter course for the evening meal. I learned that he always prepares all sorts of extra stuff on Sunday evenings so that he and his housemates always have something available to eat if they need something between meals during the week. He is a very good cook.

After dinner, Andrew's father called him, and that was the phone call I briefly told you about. Andrew went into the kitchen to talk to his father and after a few minutes Andrew motioned for me to come into the kitchen and join him. He was still on the phone, and he and his dad (and his mom, too) talked for another 20 minutes or so. I sat on a chair, and Andrew sat on a stool right next to and above me, rubbing my neck and head and looking at me, while he talked on the phone. Several times he grimaced at me while he was listening to his dad.

When the call ended, Andrew looked at me and said "Bad Day At Blackrock". I asked him what was up. Andrew said his father never had the foggiest notion that he and I would ever become anything other than friends--friends, simply friends. The very idea that anything else might occur apparently never crossed his father's mind. His father, Andrew said, expressed satisfaction that Andrew now had a "reliable"--whatever that is--gay person to talk to. "It is just like having a cousin, a real member of the family, in the same town" according to Andrew's father.

Andrew said he was now glad he had not said anything to his dad about his personal feelings about me when they had talked on Friday night, and he asked me whether I had talked to my dad again. I said no, I had not, not since Friday night. "Well, you better not say anything to him, not just quite yet. I get the notion that neither of our dads ever contemplated that anything other than a friendship could result from our meeting. Cousin Josh."

"What should we do?" I asked Andrew. "I don't think we do anything, at least not right now" was Andrew's response. "The only thing I ask is that, if you DO tell your father, please let me know so that I can tell MY father before he hears about it from YOUR father. OK?"

I told Andrew I would not say anything to my dad without letting him know first, and I asked him whether he thought his father suspected anything was going on between us. "No, I don't think so" said Andrew. "However, if he starts calling on the house phone, instead of my cell phone, then that means he is fishing for information, including fishing for information from my roommates, if necessary. That will be the dead giveaway that he thinks something's up. However, my mom would let me know if he thought something was going on, and she would probably key me in first. If she starts calling me every day, and asking me all sorts of open-ended questions, including questions about you, then that will be a signal that something's up on the home front."

"Do you think our parents are going to be a problem now?" I asked.

"I can only speak about my parents, but no, I don't think so. However, they would need to be skillfully prepared to learn that what they thought was a mere friendship was something more. With some time and some thought, I could do that" said Andrew.

"The only problem with my parents is that I need them to pay for law school" I said. "Law school isn't exactly cheap."

"Would they hold that over your head?" asked Andrew. "No, I don't think so" I answered. "But I can't be 100% certain."

"Well, for now, I think it is all for the best that we leave them in ignorant bliss" said Andrew.

And that was it on that issue, Silvio.

I stayed the night with Andrew again, and we slept together on the same sofa again. Andrew asked me if I wanted him to put all of the sofa cushions on the floor and make a larger sleeping space so that we could have more room. "No" I said. "This will be all the room we need. In fact, it is more than ample room. I want us to sleep as close together as we possibly can."

"Then maybe we should just sleep on the ironing board" Andrew said, and I had to laugh.

On Sunday night, I only remember half-waking two or three times, so we're obviously accommodating ourselves to sleeping together. It was heaven.

The downside was leaving on Monday morning. It left me with a feeling of total and utter emptiness, like the death of a loved one.

In my first class Monday morning, I totaled up the number of consecutive hours Andrew and I had spent together from early Saturday morning until early Monday morning. The total was 49 hours. I was not out of his presence for more than a few minutes at a time during that entire period, and I don't think I was ever happier.


The following day, Monday, February 13, 2006, I nearly ruined everything.

I totally acted up, and in hindsight I am surprised that Andrew did not dump me that very day. That was the beginning of a terrible week for Andrew and me, one of three really, really bad weeks Andrew and I suffered through (and all three weeks were because of me and me alone, thankfully—and all three really bad weeks were never consecutive weeks, or any friendship between us would never have survived).

I could not even talk about Monday, February 13, 2006, until three days later, when I finally told a friend, in detail, what had happened. I was only able to provide him with a précis of what happened on Monday, and I was only able to do that in the wee, wee hours of Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.


Thank you, Silvio, for the good advice. I get over-eager, as you know. I guess it is premature to plan for the weeks of March 5 and 12, especially since I am not entirely confident that I will not have driven Andrew away permanently by Thursday of this week, which is only tomorrow now, isn't it?

As I told you, I worry that I drive Andrew nuts and that I go for too much too quickly, and that it is all just too much for him. I am ready to declare undying love and shout it from the rooftops; he is now comfortable touching me and kissing me and sleeping in the same bed with me as long as we don't take "the next, irrevocable step".

As I told you, I also fear that I am 'grasping" at him--or, as I said to you last week, that I have or will become "clingy" around him. I always want more and more from him until I get everything from him, and I do not think I will be satisfied until we are, figuratively, paired and living together and bound to each other for life.

But, Silvio, sometimes when I just "go for it", it works out, like when I took the initiative to kiss him for the first time. If I had waited for him to make the move, I would still be waiting. But once I kissed him, long and deep, he was happy to kiss me, and he is happy to kiss me now, and to hold me, with great strength and with great tenderness, and to kiss me, over and over, as much as I need it.

So, I am conflicted, as you see. And I do not understand, Silvio, why I should NEVER tell Andrew that I am only happy when I am with him. Since that is true, I think he should know that fact. Please explain to me why--above all other things and "whatever I do"--I should never tell him that. I don't understand. I think honesty and directness should always be the general policy, unless overridden by other, more critical factors.

Yesterday (Monday) was a total disaster--an utter train wreck of a day. I can hardly bear to think about it.

I took your advice, Silvio, and I told Andrew that I needed a day off from him. I told him as soon as I saw him, which was only minutes after I finished talking with you--and the only reason I did that, Silvio, was because you said he would appreciate the maturity that act demonstrated.

Unfortunately, I horribly misplayed my scene, and made a complete mess of it. Then I compounded my error throughout the remainder of the afternoon and evening, and totally destroyed the coming three-day weekend, for which Andrew had apparently been making tentative plans.

Then, in the middle of the night last night, I called Andrew and I begged him to come to me because I could not sleep. I couldn't sleep because of everything that had happened yesterday, and I couldn't sleep because the previous two nights I had slept with Andrew and I could not bear to sleep alone last night.

All in all, yesterday was a complete debacle, in all possible ways. Not that it could make matters any worse, but I did not even handle the Valentine's Day thing right. Yesterday was just a total meltdown all the way around. I will tell you about it when I can achieve some distance from it.

I fear that yesterday (Monday) was the beginning of the end. And I am not confident that the damage was repaired today (Tuesday).

To make matters worse, I am sitting here, in the middle of the night, trying very hard not to call Andrew again and repeat the events of last night.

Saturday, February 11, 2006: The Ninth Day I Knew Andrew

This is the text of an email message I sent to a friend at 4:44 p.m. on Saturday, February 11, 2006, the ninth day I knew Andrew. I sent this message on Andrew’s computer.


How did I luck out and meet such a wonderful guy? I could pinch myself 24 hours a day. And thank my Dad! And thank Andrew's Dad, too!

Silvio, Andrew is SUCH a beautiful person. I think he is the nicest person I have ever met. He is entirely selfless, and looks out for the concerns of others before he looks out for himself. His instincts are so kind and generous and human I can hardly believe it.

I told Andrew today that I thought he handled me Thursday night, when I went off on him, in the perfect way. I asked him what he was thinking that night. He said he knew I was unhappy about his flippant remark, but he did not have an opportunity to apologize before his roommates came home. He said that's why he tried to get me out of the house as soon as possible after dinner was cleared up. I asked him if he had been mad at me, too, and he said no, he had not been mad at all. He was telling me the truth, Silvio.

We are back from the library, and all of us are puttering around Andrew's place right now. I did not realize this until today, but all of Andrew's roommates are also going to the same birthday party tonight.

This morning, when we were showering after basketball, I could not help myself, and stared at Andrew the entire time, despite the fact that there were eight other guys in the shower besides Andrew and me. It was all I could do to keep from going to him and touching him all over, despite the presence of his three roommates and five other guys, all more or less strangers to me. The locker facilities were far less spacious than at American, and there really was no opportunity for Andrew to make constant eye contact with me as we dressed, as he does with me when we are over at American.

Nevertheless, when we walked over to the library after basketball, we walked shoulder-to-shoulder the entire time, with our books slung over our backs. I thought it was incredibly erotic. We did the same on the way home.

I talked to my Dad last night, and he asked about Andrew. All he really knew, until last night, was that I had called and met Andrew over a week ago, as he had asked. I told my Dad last night that Andrew and I got along well, and that we were becoming friends, and that we were spending time together, and that he was right in his belief that Andrew would make a suitable friend for me and that he would be a nice person to know. I did not tell him anything beyond that.

I asked Andrew about his call to his Dad. He said that he had told his Dad pretty much the same thing. I asked Andrew whether he had told his Dad that we were now officially "dating", and he said "no", but that he had told his Dad that he liked me. I asked him "Did you tell your Dad that you liked me, or that you LIKED me?" and he said "I said that I liked you, and left it at that".

I learned today that our Spring Breaks do NOT coincide. Andrew's Spring Break is the week of March 5 and my Spring Break is the week of March 12. Before I met Andrew, I had planned to go home during Spring Break, but now I don't think I will. I will stay here.

I asked Andrew what he was going to do during Spring Break. He said the same thing: he had planned to go home, but that now he thought he would stay in DC.

I told him that, if our Spring Breaks coincided, I would want to take him home to meet my folks. He said the same thing.

I wish it would snow! There is hardly any snow, and I hope the lack of snow does not affect Andrew's plan for me to spend the night at his place!

Thank you, Silvio, for your Valentine's Day gift advice. I am going to follow your suggestion to the letter.

Andrew has been thinking about Valentine's Day, too! How do I know that? This afternoon he said "Why don't we go see 'Brokeback Mountain' on Valentine's Day?"

Have fun at your play reading tonight!


Twelve minutes later, at 4:56 p.m., I sent this email message.


My roommates will be gone during my Spring Break.

I just learned that Andrew's roommates will be gone during their Spring Break.

That will be a full two weeks for us to be together and to be alone.

How do I tell Andrew that I want him to come and stay with me, and sleep in my bed, during my Spring Break, and that I want to come and stay with him, and sleep in his bed, during his Spring Break?


This email message describes the birthday party Andrew took me to on the evening of Saturday, February 11, 2006.


I am really glad I went to Saturday's party. I learned a great deal.

Andrew's roommates drove in a separate car--one of his roommates also has a car--and Andrew and I drove alone.

On the way, he told me that if I was bored at the party, just to tell him and no one would be offended if we were the first to leave. He also said that no one would be offended if I just wanted to watch a basketball game on television, as there would, no doubt, be others who wanted to watch basketball games, including himself.

He said the party would be boring, nothing but a bunch of law students talking about their prospective careers and classes and professors and such. He said I might meet three of his closest friends if they showed up and, as it happened, all three showed up and I did meet all three of them.

In the car I asked him whether anyone at the party knew we were dating, and he said no. I asked him whether he had told anyone at school that we were dating, and he said no. I asked him "Now, really, what do your roommates think is going on between us" and he said all his roommates knew is that we were friends, introduced because our fathers were friends, and that anything beyond that was mere presumption on their parts.

"I think they are presuming" I said. He responded "Well, that's up to them."

I asked him about his three special friends, and he told me about them.

One was D, a Jewish guy from Scarsdale, unmarried, straight, Penn graduate, very smart, very nice, very quiet. Andrew said D knew he was gay because he had told D.

Another was C, a Chinese-American from Boston, Columbia graduate, engaged to an MBA student, very funny, very outgoing. Andrew said he had never told C he was gay and did not know whether C knew or not.

The third was the interesting one, Silvio. She is J, from Los Angeles, Stanford graduate, unmarried, very tall, very attractive, very talkative. Andrew said he had never told J he was gay and did not know whether J knew or not, but he suspected that she did.

After Andrew introduced me to most of the people at the party, J was the one who took me aside and monopolized the early part of my evening.

"So, YOU'RE the hot little number Andrew is dating? I heard all about you. I heard that you two study together in our library. I heard you are headed to law school. How did you two meet?" These were J's first words to me.

When she paused to come up for air, I told her that how we met was a complicated story and, having been admitted to one of the finest law schools in the country, I preferred not to be called a "hot little number". I asked her how she "heard all about me".

"Oh, everyone at school is talking. You two were seen in the library, and someone asked Thomas who you were. [Thomas was one of Andrew's roommates.] That's why there are so many people at the party tonight. Perfect attendance--everyone who was invited is here. I have never seen that happen before. These people came to see you."

I said sarcastically that I was enormously flattered, and then J went on and on about how she thought Andrew had recently died: "He stopped answering my emails, he stopped returning my phone calls and I wondered what was going on, as we generally talk several times a day. Then I learned about YOU. YOU'RE the reason why I have lost my best companion."

By this point I was trying to move away from J, and she said "Oh, please, DON'T read this the wrong way. I am GLAD you are seeing Andrew. You're a real doll. I just never thought of him as wanting to BE with someone. I was startled when I heard the news. I can't believe that he didn't tell me."

Then she asked me again how we met--J is persistent--and I told her, as briefly as possible, how we met. Then J wanted to know where I was from, about my family, where I have studied and positively everything else about me, including my favorite brand of toothpaste, and she was just getting warmed up with her questionnaire when Andrew rescued me and took me off to another room.

I whispered to him "Everyone here knows we are gay and dating each other" and he said that that was not true, and that no one had a clue. Silvio, I said "No, Andrew, you are wrong. They all know. Apparently everyone at school is talking because we were seen in your library, plus one of your roommates blabbed."

Andrew said "I really don't care what people think, Joshua. Does it bother you that people have jumped to conclusions about us?" I said "No. It doesn't bother me at all. I'm actually happy that they all think we are together. I just wanted you to know."

"Well, I would not waste time worrying about it. I truly don't think anyone cares" was Andrew's response, and he took me to get some food.

Well, who soon cornered me again? J. The hostess, whose name was P, asked Andrew to help her with something, and when he departed J moved right in on me again.

"Now, I want to hear all about this" was her first missile.

"All about what?" I responded.

"You and Andrew".

"What do you want to know? There isn't much to tell" I said, trying to blow her off.

"Aren't you dating?" was her nosy response.

I borrowed Andrew's words: "We're friends, and we're getting to know each other. That's all."

"Oh, COME ON!" was J's outburst. "Andrew totally disappears from view--everyone thinks he has been abducted by aliens--and then he pops up with you. His roommates say that he sees you every day, all day, and that he sees you every night, all night, and that you come over to their apartment, and that you will be spending the entire weekend there this weekend. And you are telling me that nothing is going on?"

"I don't see Andrew all night. I never have, not even once" I told her.

"Do you love him?" she asked.

At this point, Silvio, I utterly could not believe this girl, and in frustration I was looking around for Andrew in order to go to him.

I spotted him across the room and started to move in his direction, and J stopped me. "Look at him" she said. "Look at him."

"I'm looking at him" I said.

J continued "Isn't he the most dazzling man you have ever seen? Honestly? Have you ever seen a more dazzling man? And isn't dazzling the most appropriate word to describe him?"

It was hard to argue with that, Silvio, and I told her "Yes, Andrew is pretty dazzling".

"Now look at him" she said again.


"Did you just see him smile? Doesn't that smile make you want to fall to your knees? Look at how he stands--he has the line of a dancer. Have you noticed how graceful he is? How he holds his head and laughs?" If it had not already been clear, Silvio, it was now--J likes Andrew.

"Yes" I said, "Andrew is pretty special".

"THAT IS MY POINT!" said J. "Do you know what a prize you have there? He is truly special. He is the most special person I have ever met. He is probably the most special person you have ever met. Do you know what a prize you have there?" she repeated.

"Well, yes, Andrew is pretty special" I repeated.

"Then you must be good to him, or you will have me to deal with! If you are not good to him, I will come get you! And you do NOT want to tangle with me!" After hearing J's threat, I had to acknowledge, to myself, that I definitely would not want to tangle with this girl.

However, she went on.

"Now, do you know how to handle him?" she asked.

"Handle him?" I said.

"Yes. Andrew requires special handling. Do you know how to do that?"

"I'm not sure what you mean" I said.

"Andrew can be very remote. He can be very reserved. He can be very self-contained. He is a great observer and a great analyzer. However, he does not always participate in life. Sometimes I think he observes life more than participates in life. He is a classic case of still waters running deep. Beneath that remote exterior--and 'remote' is the best word-- is a very passionate and a very sensitive and a very generous man. Do you know how to deal with that?" she asked me.

What could I say, Silvio, other than "I don't know".

"Good. That's what I'm here for! I'm going to tell you how to deal with Andrew" volunteered J.

First, according to J, Andrew had to be intellectually engaged at all times. If he was not intellectually engaged, J said, Andrew would wilt. J said that Schopenhauer's dictum that "most people would rather be dead than bored" genuinely applied to Andrew. "Your primary job", decreed J, "is to keep Andrew intellectually engaged. Can you do that?"

What a question, Silvio. How can anyone answer such a question? In exasperation, I told her that "I am not mentally retarded. I have been admitted to the most prestigious schools. I think that I can keep Andrew intellectually engaged."

"Good" was J's response. "You need to share some of Andrew's interests as well as introduce him to some interests of your own. What are your interests?"

"Well, most of all history and politics, and anything connected to history and politics" was my answer.

"Oh, wonderful!" screeched J. "Those are interests you both share. What else?"

"I mean, just the standard stuff--that's what I'm interested in" I moaned.

"Well, we'll talk about this particular point more in depth at another time" J said. "I can give you lots of tips."

"Second, you need to know how to deal with his remoteness, both for your sake and for his" J went on. "This is very important. You must be very persistent, but also very gentle. That is the only way for you to get him to open up to you. It is very hard for Andrew to open up to others. I fear that you will find this to be a very frustrating experience unless you couple dogged persistence with saintly gentleness."

"And how do YOU get Andrew to open up?" I asked, trying to turn the tables on her.

"Oh, I start an argument! That is my own favored technique. I will throw out a ridiculous proposition--one I know he will not agree with--and let him respond. As he responds, I will throw out other stuff on other topics, and before I know it, he has totally opened up. That is the technique I have found works best."

"So, you want me to start lots of arguments?" I asked.

"Intellectual arguments. On politics, art, music, culture, history, lexicography, theater, philosophy, religion, economics, animal husbandry. Anything. Andrew cannot resist an intellectual argument. If there is one thing I want you to remember, of all things I am telling you tonight, please remember this: ANDREW CANNOT RESIST AN INTELLECTUAL ARGUMENT. You will find this piece of advice to be a lifesaver!"

J went on: "Personally, I generally throw out some left-wing opinion that I know will drive him nuts--BECAUSE HE IS A RABID RIGHT-WING REPUBLICAN!--and then let him go to town. That is an absolutely fail-safe way to get him started. Guaranteed."

"Well, I'm a Republican, too" I said.

"The point I am making is that this is a way of dealing with him if you think he is being remote. Don't you get frustrated sometimes because of how remote he is?" J asked.

And, Silvio, I told her, honestly, "Not really. I thought he was remote for about the first fifteen minutes after we met, but then I thought he opened up pretty wholeheartedly. Maybe I'm wrong."

"Well, then, the only thing I can say is that if he's opened up to you, he must love you an awful lot" J said.

Silvio, right then Andrew came up to us. He had heard J's last remark.

Without any rancor, without any bitterness, without any irony, Andrew said "J, I opened up to Joshua immediately. I opened up to Joshua more than to any person in my life outside of my family. Joshua knew more about me after the first afternoon and evening we spent together than most other people I have known for ten years or more."

Then, Silvio, Andrew placed his hand on the back of my neck and continued to talk. "Joshua thinks I am slow-moving and slow to show affection, but Joshua does not think that I am not open with him. At least I don't think so. I have said things to Joshua I have never said to another living soul. I have been surprised how open I have been with Joshua, especially because I am also nervous when I am with him, which makes me naturally want to clam up. I have fought that tendency, successfully, every day since I met him."

"You are nervous when you are with me?" I asked.

"Yes, of course" Andrew said.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because you are so beautiful" Andrew answered. [It is Andrew who is the beautiful one in our household, not me.]

Silvio, Andrew said this with J no more than two feet away from him.

He continued "J, we'll all get together and have lunch some time. Then you can get to know Joshua. However, let me take Joshua over to C and L, who he has not had a chance to talk to yet."

And with that Andrew effected my escape from this fiercely meddling girl and he remained at my side until evening's end.

The rest of the party was, by comparison, unremarkable. However, I learned several things about Andrew that I had not previously known.

I learned that Andrew speaks and reads and writes fluent German--his German is perfect and is apparently as good as his English. He also is quite fluent in French.

I learned that he gets all "A"s in law school. I learned that he is considered to be as bright as any law student could possibly be. I learned that his writing skills are considered to be formidable.

I learned that he is extremely religious--and prefers to attend High Roman Catholic Service despite the fact that he is a Presbyterian (and on most Sundays he will attend both a High Roman Catholic Service as well as a Presbyterian service).

I learned that he plays the piano remarkably well.

In sum, the party was a very interesting experience, and I am glad that he invited me to go and I am glad I went, despite the irritating and near-obnoxious J.

We talked in the car on the way back to Andrew's place, more or less going over everything that happened at the party.

Andrew's roommates left the party at the same time we did, and we all arrived back home at roughly the same time.

When we got back, it was about 12:30 a.m., and Andrew's roommates went to bed shortly thereafter. They shut the doors of the two bedrooms, which Andrew said had never happened before--apparently they always leave the bedroom doors open.

He laid out our bedding on the two sofas in their living room. The sofas are across the room from each other, about 15 feet apart.

He said he was going to change into his sleep gear, and I told him I always sleep in the altogether. He said I could not do that at his place because of the other people in the household and he asked me "Did you not, truly, bring any sleep gear?" I said "no" and Andrew said he would get me some of his.

And then he brought out two identical sets of sleep gear: thick all-cotton white long-sleeve poor-boy shirts with open necks, no buttons, and flannel lounge pants, dark blue, plaid, with a single stripe of green among the blue. "You have to wear these, because of the other people, plus it will be cold tonight" Andrew said. I told him I had no problem wearing the sleep gear.

Silvio, because they have no blinds on any of their windows, and because of the street lights right outside the living room window, it was very light in the living room, even after the lights had been turned off.

Both of us got into the sleep gear while watching each other and then both of us stood in the middle of the living room, neither of us making a move over to the sofas.

I decided to seize the initiative, and I went up to Andrew and I touched him and I put my mouth next to his and I started to kiss him.

Next I did something I had wanted to do since the day I met Andrew: I started playing with his beautiful hair with my right hand, while I kissed him and touched his waist with my left hand.

After a minute or two, I put both of my hands around his neck, and REALLY kissed him, and played with his hair with BOTH of my hands.

When I did that, Andrew put his hands around my waist, and then around my lower back, and kept them there. He was holding me against him, and holding me up as well, and kissing me.

Then he would kiss my neck and my ears and my eyes and my brows and my cheeks and my lips again, and I would do the same to him. He was holding me right against him, and holding me up, and I was supporting myself around his neck. We kissed like this for about half an hour.

[I wanted to do more than just kiss, and I made a gesture in that direction, but Andrew did not go with me.]

"I'm not ready for this yet. I can't do this yet. This is a step I can't take. Please don't get mad at me. This is just a step I am not ready to take. Please forgive me, but I can't do this."

I stood up and put my hands on his waist and I looked right into his eyes and I asked him "When will you be ready? When will you be ready, Andrew?"

His answer, Silvio, was "soon".

"When is 'soon'?" I asked. "When is 'soon'? A year from now, a month from now, a week from now?"

His answer, Silvio, was "Between a week and a month from now." And that's all he said.

So we kissed some more, perhaps for another 20 minutes.

Then Andrew said "It's 1:30. We have to go to bed. The guys will be getting up early tomorrow, and we will have to get up at the same time."

So we each picked a sofa, Silvio, and went to our respective sides of the room, just like boxers.

And we each went to bed, and we each laid there, looking at each other across the room. We were too far apart to talk easily, because we had to be quiet so as not to wake Andrew's roommates. So I just looked at Andrew, and he looked at me.

After 15 minutes, I crossed the room, climbed over him, got between him and the back of the sofa, pulled back the covers and climbed in. He turned to face me, and I said "This is how we sleep from now on" and I put my arms around him and he put his arms around me and I put my leg between his legs and he put his leg between my legs, so we had four interlocking legs against each other. I kissed him, he kissed me, and I said "Go to sleep now. I love you."

"I love you, too" he told me.

We kissed some more, and I told him again that I loved him and he told me again that he loved me.

"Will you be able to sleep like this?" Andrew asked me. "Yes, of course" I answered. "This is how we will always sleep."

And both of us quickly fell asleep.

Friday, February 10, 2006: The Eighth Day I Knew Andrew

One of the problems I encountered—a problem I created for myself—was that I was seeking advice from a friend, and this friend’s advice, however well-meaning, was not applicable in dealing with someone like Andrew. It took me a couple of months, however, to figure this out.

This email message recaps what happened on Friday, February 10, 2006, the eighth day I knew Andrew.

One item of background information is necessary for this message to make sense: a major snowstorm was projected to hit the Washington metropolitan area that weekend.


Silvio, I should not have talked to you right before I saw Andrew today. It emboldened me to ask some very blunt questions.

He was so glad to see me today, it was amazing--his eyes were so perky, and his face was absolutely glowing. I feared he might be tired after last night's discussion, or even tired of me, but he was not.

He had not even driven a block when I started to ask him the most personal questions. He did not have much of a reaction to my questions at first . . .

[I omit here the personal things we talked about. Andrew was quiet and attentive, but also very soft-spoken and terse but gravely serious in his words. A few minutes into our talk, Andrew pulled the car over and parked on the street and turned the motor off.]

Then Andrew asked "Is there anything else you want to talk about?" and I said "no".

Then he started the engine and started driving again.

He was quiet for a few minutes, and then he asked me whether I minded if we did things differently today--and because of the weather coming. He said "How about this? We put off "Brokeback Mountain" until next week. We go to Arlington and see the Edward R. Murrow movie. Then we go to a barbecue place I know nearby. Then we go to a food store nearby and lay in stuff in case there's a storm. I always buy the food in Arlington because the stores are better there. Does all this sound too boring?"

I told him that it sounded fine to me. So he took me to see "Good Night And Good Luck", which was not very long. We held hands during the entire movie, Silvio--on HIS initiative. Then, at the barbecue place, we sat next to each other at the table, not across from each other, and Andrew put his calf against my calf the entire time at the restaurant.

I had more fun at the food store than at the movie or at the restaurant, Silvio, because it was so much fun shopping with him. It was sheer and unadulterated joy. Andrew was so funny at the food store, telling me who in his household liked what, and what he had to do to keep everyone happy. Silvio, he bought MOUNTAINS of food, explaining that all four of them had "healthy appetites" and explaining that he had not been to the store since he had met me--"exactly a week now", he said.

Then he took me back to his place to put away all the food. His roommates were out, and while he was putting stuff away he turned to me and said "Joshua, if you get mad at me again while you are here, you are going to have to hide it. The other guys were very uncomfortable last night during dinner, and this is their home, their refuge, and they cannot be uncomfortable here. They knew something was wrong last night--they could tell that relations were icy--and we can't subject them to that. Not in their own home. If you get mad again when you are here, you just can't show it. It will create an impossible situation for everyone. Do you understand what I mean?"

I told him I did understand and, further, Silvio, I used your recommended line: that I liked him so very much, and that I wanted this to work out so very much, that it was driving me crazy. And, of course, all of this was entirely true.

"Well, we have to be unobtrusive when we're here, stay out of everyone's way, not make waves" said Andrew. "Last night, there were some definite ground swells."

I told him nothing similar would ever happen again.

"So, what's your schedule for tomorrow, then?" Andrew asked.

I said "Nothing, except for tomorrow night's birthday party."

"Well, then, let's do this: I will come get you tomorrow morning at 7:30--too early?--and bring you over here for breakfast. Then we will play basketball with the guys in the morning, and study in the library in the afternoon. We'll have dinner, and go to the birthday party. Then you'll stay here tomorrow night because of the snow. We'll each sleep on one of the sofas. Bring clothes for a couple of days in case the snow is really bad. What do you think of all this?"

I was feeling cheeky, Silvio, and said "I'd rather sleep with you, Andrew, in your bed. There's room enough."

His answer, Silvio, was "I'm not sure what Paul would think about all that, but I think it is better that we sleep on the sofas in the living room, at least for now." (Paul is the roommate who shares a bedroom with Andrew.)

I told him, Silvio, that I could not wait to sleep in the same room with him, and that I found the very thought exciting.

"It's just sofas in a living room. Don't get carried away" said Andrew.

And then he took me home, Silvio, and we made it an early night. Andrew said he had to call his father, because he had not really talked to him since he had met me.

"Are you going to talk to him about me?" I asked. "Yes, of course" was Andrew's reply. "What are you going to say?" I asked. Andrew said "I don't know, but I'm sure he wants to know what's going on. Don't you think your dad wants to know what's going on?" I told Andrew that my dad had called me nine times in the last week, but that I had not returned his calls and just sent him a couple of quick mail messages. "Then I think you had better call him, just to let him know you’re OK" said Andrew. I told Andrew I would call my dad tonight.

Then it was time for me to get out of the car, Silvio, and Andrew took my hand and gently kissed it and I got out of the car.

So, tomorrow night will be very interesting--my first night at Andrew's place, the first of many, many nights, I hope.

Now I going to call my dad. Good he is in the Central Time Zone.

Thursday, February 9, 2006: The Seventh Day I Knew Andrew

Andrew has always driven me nuts, and sometimes I am surprised that I have not driven him away.

We had an endless series of “tiffs” (the term Andrew always uses) the first ten weeks we knew each other, and then the tiffs miraculously stopped. Andrew and I have not had a “tiff” since April 2006.

I was responsible for all of these tiffs, because I was too immature to deal with what was happening at the time and because I knew that I would never again meet another guy like Andrew, even if I were to live to be 100 years old. This knowledge made me frantic, if not panicked, at the time these events were occurring.

My emotions only settled down when I became certifiably confident that Andrew indeed liked me as much as I liked him. It took me almost three months, however, to come to this conclusion.

When I read the old email messages I sent to a friend at the time of the events described in these messages, I cringe.

I was a different person at the time, even though these events happened less than two years ago.

The following is the complete text of an email message I sent to a friend of mine at 5:14 p.m. on Thursday, February 9, 2006, the seventh day I knew Andrew. I was over at Andrew’s apartment at the time, and I was using Andrew’s computer while he was preparing dinner


Silvio, I am over at Andrew's right now.

I see from the website that the reading is Saturday night.

The play sounds interesting and I asked Andrew whether he wanted to go. He said he has to go to a birthday party Saturday night for one of his classmates. He said he was going to ask me tomorrow whether I wanted to go to the party. We are talking right now whether I should go to the birthday party with him.

Stay tuned.


My friend and I exchanged a few email messages over the next half hour, until I sent this message at 5:48 p.m.


God, I am acting like a jerk.

I asked Andrew, with reference to the party, how he was going to introduce me if I went.

"I was going to introduce you as the King Of Belgium--unless that would imperil your security", he said. "Don't forget your orb and scepter."

I went into a little outburst, Silvio. I am so ashamed. "That's not what I mean", I said. "I mean, what will these people think? Will they think we are friends, or FRIENDS? What are you going to say to them?"

"I'm not going to say anything to them", he said.

"Then what will they think?", I asked.

He answered "I have no idea. They can think anything they want."

I practically shouted at him, Silvio, "Well, are we dating, or not?"

I did not like his answer: "Well, I have not thought about assigning a verb to it yet, but I guess I would like to think so. What are your thoughts?"

Silvio, I hated that "assigning a verb" reference, and I repeated it back sarcastically, and just then two of Andrew's roommates walked in the front door, back from school.

Now we are both being silent.

Stay tuned.


Later that night, after I returned home, I received this email message from my friend and confidant.


I hate to say it, Joshua, but introducing each other as "friends" at this point makes total sense. Although I cannot condone Andrew's sarcasm (or yours), I have to say I agree with his point.

If I were you, I'd apologize for the outburst, explain that you really like him and you're a little on edge because you want this to work out. Tell him that he can refer to you however he wishes, and that what is important right now is that you continue spending time together and getting to know each other.


This is my email response, sent at 2:11 a.m. that morning.


I am such an asshole.

I don’t think I should be permitted to go out in public, Silvio.

I arrived at Andrew's house a little before 12:45 today, and I rang, and no one was in. Two minutes after I got there, Andrew arrived, back from class. Outside his house, on the street, he put his hand on the back of my neck, and held it there for a few seconds. He always appears happy to see me, but today he appeared particularly happy to see me.

We went in, had lunch, and stayed in the apartment all afternoon. We talked, we studied, we joked, we listened to "Jenufa" (at my request), Andrew prepared dinner, but he did not touch me again.

Then I had my little episode I already passed on to you, and dinner was a very quiet one. After dinner, I sat down at Andrew's computer while he cleaned up in the kitchen. I did not even offer to help him wash dishes--because I was still furious at him. I am such an asshole!

When he was done, he came into the living room and stood behind me and put his hand on my neck, in exactly the same way he put his hand on my neck in front of the house at midday, and said "Let's go to the library" in a very, very quiet voice. He was almost inaudible. I didn't move, and he said, again, "Let's go to the library" in a very, very quiet voice.

I rose and got my stuff together, and went out with him.

As soon as we got outside, he stood right next to me and put his right arm around my shoulder and kept it there, and said to me, "So, are we dating or not?"

I was still irritated at him about that "assigning a verb" remark and I said, "Oh, are you ready to assign a verb now?"

"I'll let you pick one. OK?" was his response.

All I could think of to say, Silvio, was "I can't think of a good one", to which Andrew responded, "Well, let's stick with 'dating' then until you come up with a better one. OK?"

I nodded, and we walked down the street. Until we got to the corner, he kept his right arm around my shoulder.

Andrew didn't take me to the library, however--he took me to Union Station, and we went and got coffee and talked.

After we sat down, the first thing he said to me was "Maybe you need a day off tomorrow."

"You mean a day off from you?" I asked. "Yes" he responded.

That really ticked me off, Silvio, and I snapped "I don't need a day off. Do you?"

"No" was Andrew's answer, but he added "I don't want you to get mad at me, Joshua, just because you think things should be moving along a little faster. I am only 25, you are only 22, and we have lots and lots of time ahead of us. Let's take things nice and slow. I need to take things nice and slow. Go with me on this."

I told Andrew I could "go with him on this" as long as I knew he really liked me. I told him, Silvio, that what I really needed to know was what he thought of me.

Silvio, do you know what Andrew told me? He said "Joshua, you already know what I think of you. You have known what I think of you since fifteen minutes after we met."

That's not what I wanted to hear, Silvio, so I said "That being . . .?"

"That I like you very much. That I want to get to know you. That I want to spend time with you. That I look forward all day to the time I get to be with you. That I wonder if you're the person who is meant to be my partner in life."

That absolutely made me melt, Silvio, but I was still in my asshole mode, so I said "Then why did it take so long for you to say all this?"

What I said must have pressed Andrew's buttons, because he burst out "Take so long? Take so long? Joshua, I haven't even known you a week! How can you say this is taking so long? And besides, you know all this already! I'm not telling you anything you don't already know! Admit it--I didn't say anything you didn't already know. Am I right?"

And, Silvio, I said "Yes. You are right. I knew all that already."

"So why are you making an issue of this? Why in the world are you making such an issue out of nothing?" is what Andrew said.

"Because I need to be told! That's why!" was my response.

So, do you know what Andrew said, Silvio? He said "Let me repeat: Joshua, I like you very much; I look forward to getting to know you; I like spending time with you; I look forward all day to the time we spend together. Is that good enough?"

My response was "You left out the part whether I'm the person meant to be your partner in life."

"We'll get to that in time. OK?" was Andrew's response. "OK" I said.

By this time we were laughing, and Andrew said "OK. You need occasional reinforcement. I can see that. That's fine. I can give reinforcement. It's no problem. And, from now on, whenever you get like this, I shall just assume that you need some reinforcement. Reinforcement is not going to be a problem."

"We'll see" I said skeptically.

"Yes, you'll see" he said.

"And I want you to touch me more!" I blurted out. "That will be no problem" said Andrew. "It will be a pleasure, I assure you."

Then, Silvio, we had a very important talk about friends.

[At this point, I went into a very tedious discussion about how I compartmentalized my friends into four groups. I do not include that tedious discussion here.]

I explained to Andrew that each group was compartmentalized, and for a reason, and that each set of friends gave me something important, but that no one set of friends gave me everything I needed in a friendship.

I explained to Andrew how each group provides for a discrete set of my needs, but that no single group was capable of providing for more than one set of my needs at a time. I explained to Andrew that this is why I had not introduced him to anyone I know yet.

My friends from groups one through three I would only want to introduce to Andrew once we (Andrew and I) are firmly together, and not until (otherwise, these people have no need to know I am seeing Andrew). My friends from group four I would definitely NOT want to introduce to Andrew because they would try to take him away from me--and I told him exactly that!

I asked Andrew "Do you understand this? Does this make sense to you?"

Do you know what he said to me, Silvio? He said "Yes. I already knew all that."

"How could you know all that?" I asked him.

"Because of things you said, indirectly, and because of things I gathered" he answered. "Plus, I remember how my friendships were segregated when I was a senior in college. You will find out that all that will change in law school."

I told him how surprised I was that he seemed so keen and so pleased to introduce me, so naturally, to his roommates and to his parents' friends and to all of his friends and acquaintances at school. I remarked, especially, upon how many persons he had introduced me to at the library last night, and how he had introduced me so naturally.

I pointed out to him, however, that when he introduced me by saying "This is my friend, Joshua", a connotation could be derived from that introduction, and that he could avoid that connotation by simply saying "This is Joshua".

Do you what he said to me, Silvio? He said "I don't think anyone interpreted my introduction that way. And, if so, I don't care. But tell me, how do you want me to introduce you? It's up to you. Just tell me. Do you want me to go with that King-Of-Belgium thing?"

I answered him, Silvio, by saying "I want you to introduce me however you want."

"Then I'm going to stick with 'This is my friend, Joshua' and leave it at that" said Andrew. "Anytime you want me to change it, just let me know."

Isn't he sweet?

So, we got a lot of issues hashed out--my issues, I mean--so now I should not have to worry about so many things: worry about introducing Andrew to my roommates, or worry about being a heel for not introducing him to my friends, or worry about how things are moving along between us (as long as he is genuine about offering me "reinforcement" frequently).

I never thought of myself as the "clingy" type before, Silvio, but I can see in myself "clingy" characteristics in my dealings with Andrew today. I hope they are short-term, and will pass, and I hope they are the result of my need for a bit of "reinforcement", as Andrew calls it.

One of the problems, if that is the right word, is that Andrew is so smart that he assumes that everyone else picks up what he picks up and, consequently, that there is no need to articulate the bloody obvious. Sometimes I think I need a little articulation of the bloody obvious.

Once everything seemed settled, Andrew said to me "Since you've been such a good boy, I think I'll have to get you some ice cream."

So we went to another place to get ice cream, and sat down.

What was the first thing Andrew said to me as soon as we sat down? "So, do you need a day off tomorrow?"

"No" I cried.

"Then let's go see 'Brokeback Mountain' tomorrow. Have you seen it?" he asked.

I have already seen the film, Silvio, but I lied and said no. Silvio, Andrew knew that I was not telling him the truth, and, without saying anything more, he said "Well, then let's see something you haven't already seen. What else would you like to see?"

"I would like to see 'Brokeback Mountain' WITH YOU" I said.

"OK. Then we will. But if you change your mind, and you want to see something else, just let me know" was his response.


"OK. What about Saturday? The birthday party? Is that on, or not?"

Silvio, I fell back on my standard response: "What would you like me to do?"

"Well, I would like you to come" said Andrew.

"Then I will come" I said.

"As the King Of Belgium?"

"No, as Joshua."

"Then I guess you can skip the orb and scepter bit."

Silvio, I think that means that your play reading is off the schedule for Saturday night. Sorry.

So Andrew walked me back to his place and, before I got into my car, he hugged me. He had never hugged me before. He put his right arm around my upper back and neck, and he put his left arm around my lower back and waist, and he hugged me, tight and hard. Then he pulled back, put both of his hands on my waist, and asked "So, we are dating, right? I just want to make sure that I have my terminology down."

"Yes, we are dating" I answered.

"Good" he said. "So, you will call me tomorrow shortly after 2:00 and let me know what time you want to get together and what time I should come get you?"

"Yes, I will" I said.

"Unless you need a day off."

"No, I don't need a day off."

So, there were no lingering after-effects of my little outburst, Silvio, and when I got home I had already been sent an email message containing numerous definitions, from several different dictionaries, of the word "dating".

Now, reflecting upon all of this, I realize now that Andrew handled me very well, didn't he? He did not get mad at me, he tried to be funny, he listened to me, and he did his best to address my concerns--and he did it all in the most charming possible manner.

God, I am lucky. And, God, I am such an asshole!


Thirty-five minutes later, at 2:46 a.m., I sent my final email message of the day.


Silvio, you hit it on the nose: I really like him and I am on edge because I want this to work out. I could not have said that better myself.

I did not apologize to Andrew, but things worked out OK, as I wrote in my other message, sent just a few minutes ago.

The only reason things worked out OK is because Andrew is more mature than I am. In hindsight, I think he handled the situation beautifully.

You were already in bed, I am sure, when I got home, or I would have called you.

Thank you for your advice, which is greatly appreciated. I truly am a jerk.

Do gay guys give Valentine gifts?

Christmas, Come And Gone

Our Christmas in Oklahoma was a good one.

It was good to see everybody again. It had been a while since I had seen my aunts and uncles, and they were all glad to see me. They have always taken an interest in me, and we have always kept in touch.

We did not really do much. We watched bowl games on Saturday and Sunday nights, and again on Wednesday night.

On Christmas Day, the house was full. There were fourteen people in all, and we had to use both tables for Christmas dinner, one in the dining room and one in the kitchen. It worked out well.

My aunt and uncle from Dallas spent Christmas week with my folks, and they are good company. My aunt is very vivacious and very funny, and she kept us in stitches much of the time.

Andrew and I returned late yesterday afternoon, and we are both back at work today. We have to work on Monday, too, but we will probably leave our offices early on New Year’s Eve.

The holidays are almost over.

This weekend, Andrew and I will get to spend time with his brothers, but we will all be busy. On Saturday, we will all help Andrew’s parents get things ready for a family function on Sunday, when many of Andrew’s mother’s relatives will be guests for the day. That event, and preparing for it, will pretty much take up the weekend.

This means that New Year’s Day will be our only real holiday day together this year.

After that, it will be back to the grind.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Have A Holly Jolly Christmas

Christmas is almost here, and I am getting both excited and apprehensive.

On Saturday, Andrew and I fly to Oklahoma, where we will visit with my family for five days. This will be the longest visit Andrew and I have made to Oklahoma, and we will be, primarily, housebound—unless the temperature outside miraculously shoots up to 70 degrees.

My aunt and uncle from Dallas will be staying with my parents, too, during most of our stay, and I wonder whether there will be too many people cooped up in a standard-size split-level house.

Furthermore, in honor of Andrew’s and my presence, my mother will be hosting Christmas dinner this year, which means that three additional sets of aunts and uncles will be present on Christmas Day.

None of my aunts and uncles has met Andrew, although they are all familiar with Andrew’s mother’s family and although they have all heard about Andrew in great detail. They are all dying to meet him, including my uncle who is a Baptist minister.

The question is: will Andrew and I be able to cope?

More particularly, will Andrew be able to cope?

I remember my first weekend in Minnesota, Easter weekend 2006. That weekend was not a success, for me or anyone else, and I am surprised I was ever allowed back into Andrew’s family home. Without Andrew at my side, I would never have been able to make it through that weekend.

I think things will work out all right, but I also worry that everyone will be bored out of his or her mind. What will we do to pass the time?

My brother will watch ESPN all day, so I do not worry about him. Even at mealtimes, he will take his plate of food and go downstairs to the family room and eat in front of the television, watching SportsCenter. He will even do that on Christmas Day, during Christmas dinner, if my mother allows it.

I do not worry about my sister, either, because she—like all high school girls—has her own agenda to keep her busy. Further, she loves Christmas and she loves to help cook Christmas dinner and she loves Christmas Day and all the traditions it entails. This is the one time each year she enjoys spending time in the kitchen.

What I worry about is what my parents and Andrew and I will do to occupy our time. I have been thinking about this conundrum. Maybe we should play canasta all day, every day, so that Andrew and my parents may learn to become comfortable in each other’s presence. And maybe we should not.

Tomorrow night, Andrew’s brothers will arrive home for Christmas, and tomorrow night we will all have a preliminary Christmas celebration. I think Andrew’s mother is planning to prepare prime rib.

Saturday morning, Andrew’s brothers will take us to the airport. I can already see Andrew's father hugging Andrew tightly, not wanting to let go, and Andrew’s mother trying to hold back tears, not wanting to leave Andrew's embrace, as we prepare to leave the house.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Arthur Schlesinger

When academic reputations collapse, they implode quickly, instantly, irrevocably. It is not a pretty sight.

For some reason, Andrew and I have been reading about Arthur Schlesinger the last couple of nights, probably because Schlesinger’s journals have recently been published posthumously, and we have come across several reviews of them in newspapers, magazines and history journals.

Schlesinger was not an historian, precisely, although he certainly thought of himself as one. He also was not a scholar, nor a thinker, nor a philosopher, nor a writer.

What exactly, then, was Schlesinger?

Andrew calls him “a careerist in search of a career”, a phrase I rather like.

Myself, I think I will identify Schlesinger merely as “a second-rate mind in search of first-rate social contacts”, which is how his reputation, post-1980, may be most accurately described.

What Schlesinger himself wanted to be, most of all, was a celebrity, and he achieved this, even if only in a very small way, although he was ridiculed at least in as many quarters as he was lauded in others.

My first acquaintance with Schlesinger’s work was in a college history course. One of the assigned texts was Schlesinger’s only lasting book, “The Age Of Jackson”, an examination of Jacksonian Democracy in America.

In truth, “The Age Of Jackson” has very little to do with the Jacksonian Era. It is, instead, a rather transparent justification of FDR’s New Deal. As such, it is not particularly original or insightful, and not distinguished in the least, but it is also not particularly offensive.

After my college class was done with the Jacksonian Era, and done with the Schlesinger book, and done with the other texts, and after we had turned in our papers, and moved on to the next subject, I asked my professor why he had assigned us the Schlesinger book.

“Because it is a classic, and everyone must know it” was his very reasonable answer. “But it’s not any good” was my rejoinder, to which he replied “No, it is not any good in the least. But, nevertheless, it must be your job to know it, because everyone else knows it.”

For Schlesinger’s writing, it was all down hill from there, at least in terms of the quality of his work. Admittedly, his writing style remained consistent—flowery, like something borrowed from a 19th-Century women’s magazine—but the thoughts expressed therein were simply variations, in one form or another, of his first book, and these thoughts became weaker and increasingly tiresome—and increasingly incredulous—with age and overuse.

If Tennessee Williams wrote nothing but rewrites of “A Streetcar Named Desired” after that play’s 1947 success, Arthur Schlesinger wrote nothing but rewrites of “The Age Of Jackson” after that book’s 1946 success. In the cases of both writers, success came too early, was never to be repeated, at least on the same dizzying level, and surely prevented them from striking out in new directions.

If Schlesinger had not enjoyed such success with his first book—he won every possible book award before the age of 30—he might have turned into an acceptable academic and historian. However, success must have come too soon for him to handle it well, and he spent the rest of his life seeking limelight and notoriety, always trying to affix himself to one power source or another. With the passing of the years, his grasping nature became increasingly farcical and painful to witness, the subject of harsh scorn.

Schlesinger was not a researcher—he never even attained a Ph.D.—and he was not a satisfactory or even a reliable chronicler. What he was was an opinion-issuer, offering the same bromides and clichés, all derived from the 1940’s, no matter the topic, no matter the issue, no matter the year, beginning in the immediate post-War period and ending only with his death earlier this year. Reading Schlesinger’s books, churned out over a sixty-year period, is akin to having breakfast every morning, for sixty years, sitting across the breakfast table from Eleanor Roosevelt: never-ending polemics, frozen in a time warp, served up by a most unpleasant face.

Thank heaven the old fool is gone at last—and yet remnants of Schlesinger’s career continue to haunt us. Even in death, he has become the idiot who refuses to go away.

It was recently announced that the New York Public Library had purchased Schlesinger’s personal papers—at a cost in the “high six figures, low seven figures”—with, in part, proceeds from the sale to a WalMart heiress of Asher B. Durand’s painting, “Kindred Spirits”. What a deplorable disposition of public assets all the way around!

According to academic librarians, the New York Public Library paid many times the fair market value of Schlesinger’s remaining papers, the most valuable of which have already been promised to Harvard University. In truth, the papers purchased by the New York Public Library may very well have no value at all. Numerous academic libraries took well-publicized passes on the papers while the papers were pedaled around the university universe by the Schlesinger Estate.

Of more importance than Schlesinger’s personal papers, however, is the critical reaction to Schlesinger’s “Journals: 1952-2000”, recently issued to coincide with what would have been Schlesinger’s 90th birthday. What is astonishing is that even the positive reviews have been, perhaps unintentionally, entirely back-handed.

An historian I do not admire, Douglas Brinckley, writing in the Los Angeles Times, offers what is clearly intended to be a favorable review of Schlesinger’s journals—but nonetheless Brinckley leaves anything but a favorable impression of Schlesinger and his work.

“I eat the best meals I can get, drink Jack Daniel’s, smoke Havana cigars and prepare to enjoy life while it is still possible” is supposed to be a charming anecdote, at least until the reader comes across this later revelation: “As late as 1987, in fact, when Schlesinger was a household name, he writes of struggling to survive in the fast-buck Manhattan social whirl where he was often the toast of the town, lamenting that he was ‘perennially broke’ and unable to possess a savings account”.

British reviewer, Professor William Rubinstein, in an obscure British quarterly, in a review that is clearly intended to be highly laudatory, offers the following: “He came of age under Franklin D. Roosevelt, for whom, in effect, he was still voting until he died, seventy years after Roosevelt's New Deal.” Few persons would consider that statement to be a complimentary description of a purportedly serious man.

Rubinstein continues: “After [RFK’s] assassination, Schlesinger's life consisted of Waiting For Godot, of seeking to find yet another new White Knight of American liberalism. Rather pathetically, in his journals he reports hopefully on every successive leading Democratic Presidential candidate down to Al Gore, always expecting great things but always finding only their deficiencies.”

Finally, Rubinstein sums up his subject with this less-than-ringing endorsement—“Schlesinger was certainly a clever man, but perhaps not a wise one”—before concluding his review with the revelation that he always feared asking Schlesinger uncomfortable questions because he needed (and received) a dust jacket endorsement from Schlesinger for his own book, “The Myth Of Rescue”. The principle of “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” is evidently alive and well in academia, flourishing even across vast oceans.

In discussing Schlesinger’s journals, an unexpected source, The New Yorker, is most dismissive of all. Its header, “While Schlesinger Partied, Liberalism Burned” says everything that need be said. It is a damning indictment.

“The political creed that he embodied—modern, post-New Deal liberalism—declined and fell during the period covered by the last six hundred pages of the “Journals,” and Schlesinger never seems to understand why, or even that it is happening at all.
As a consequence, his political judgment—as opposed to his policy views—fails him again and again. In 1972, he couldn’t believe that McGovern would lose to the hated Nixon in a landslide.”

The New Yorker writer continues: “Throughout the years of liberal eclipse, Schlesinger expresses a kind of irritable surprise that events keep taking the wrong turn, that the public refuses to do the obvious, right thing, and that Presidents fail to live up to the Kennedy standard. He worships the Kennedy memory ever more ardently as years go by. He wonders why new generations of politicians don’t turn to him for advice. And he keeps up an incredible social schedule.”

The New Yorker writer was only too willing to address Schlesinger’s deficiencies as a human being—“It’s possible, even if you agree with almost every position Schlesinger held, to find the smugness and complacency not just annoying but fatal”—before ending with a zinger: “Reviewers have suggested that the Schlesinger “Journals” are a sort of cross between the memoirs of George Kennan and the diaries of Andy Warhol. I would add that this combination is part of the sad story they tell, of a political creed in its decadence.” Ouch! It is difficult to find more stinging words than these.

Andrew and I have no intention to buy and read Schlesinger’s “Journals”. If we thought they might somehow be amusing, we very well might do so. However, Schlesinger is a deadly writer, taking himself with deadly seriousness as he utters the most commonplace sentiments in breathless tones meant to suggest eternal significance.

A few years ago, Andrew read Volume I of Schlesinger’s projected two-volume autobiography, “A Life In The 20th Century: Innocent Beginnings, 1917-1950”. (Schlesinger did not live to complete Volume II of his autobiography; his “Journals”, therefore, are intended to supplement Volume I of his autobiography.)

Andrew read Volume I of the Schlesinger autobiography one summer while he was home from college. He said that the book had been more or less what he had expected it to be: a memoir whose primary purpose had been the settling of old scores.

Andrew further said that one trait stood out in the autobiography, above all Schlesinger’s other traits: Schlesinger had been indescribably middlebrow. According to Andrew, Schlesinger’s life was surely the most middlebrow life ever lived. Schlesinger was a man with middlebrow intellect, with middlebrow outlooks, with middlebrow attitudes, with fatally middlebrow, if not philistine, tastes.

And yet the man fancied himself to be an intellectual, of all absurd things! Such a person is, by definition, nothing so much as a damn fool.

Arthur Schlesinger . . .careerist . . .polemic . . .middlebrow.

What a ridiculous combination! And what a ridiculous man!

"False History Gets Made All Day, Any Day"

Has there ever been a more odious “historian” than Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.? Or a more unctuous one?

Thank God his reputation died long before he did, so that he lived to witness the death of his own life’s work. Has anyone ever been more deserving of such a cruel fate?

Tonight Andrew and I read a skewering of Arthur Schlesinger that had both of us on the floor, laughing uncontrollably.

Its wit is so sly that a reader merely skimming the text could easily be forgiven for mistaking it as a tribute to its subject.

It is so polite, so civil, so restrained, so elegiac in tone that one hardly recognizes until the very end that, with every word, the victim has been eviscerated beyond any potential rehabilitation.


I always regretted that we didn’t become friends, because the thousands who succeeded in doing so found friendship with Arthur Schlesinger very rewarding. For one thing, to behold him — listen to him, observe him, read him — was to co-exist with a miracle of sorts. It is an awful pity, as one reflects on it, that nature is given to endowing the wrong men with extraordinary productivity. If you laid out the published works of John Kenneth Galbraith and of Arthur Meier Schlesinger Jr., the line of books would reach from Galbraith’s house in Cambridge to Schlesinger’s old house in Cambridge.

A week or two back, Schlesinger acknowledged to someone that he wasn’t quite on a par with his old self, his old self having been just fine until about age 86, three years ago, after which the decline began. He walked more slowly and, he said, his speech was not as fluent as usual.

Any reduction in his productivity must have been shattering to him, as to his many clients, beginning with Clio, the muse of history, which he served so diligently beginning with his first all-star history, The Age of Jackson, and going up to his last book, published a couple of years ago, deploring President Bush for one thing and another.

Schlesinger wrote serious studies, of the age not only of Jackson but also of Roosevelt and of Kennedy, for whom his enthusiasm was uncontainable. Arthur proceeded to write not one but three books on John F. Kennedy, whom he venerated. He lived with the risk entailed in following so uncritically the careers of his favorites. Professor Sidney Hook dismissed one of his Kennedy books as the work of a "court historian." Schlesinger minded the derogation not at all, so much did he cherish public controversy which cast him as maintaining the walls of the fortresses that protected his idols.

He was, I record regretfully, not very deft at close-up political infighting. I say this as the survivor of a half-dozen encounters designed, by Arthur, to kill, which failed. In one of them he hurled a sarcasm, saying of me, “He has a facility for rhetoric which I envy, as well as a wit which I seek clumsily and vainly to emulate.” I thought that so amusing, I copied the words exactly on the jacket of my next book as though they were a great, generous compliment. If you see what I mean about Arthur’s awkwardness in combat of this kind, he actually sued me and my publisher, drawing much attention to his careless use of sarcastic praise, and, of course, to my wit.

But we kept on bumping into each other with less than mortal exchanges, and I had to endure my wife’s huge affection for him, which unhappily did not quite effect a personal rapprochement. He died in New York on February 27, after being struck by a heart attack at dinner in a restaurant, and I think back on the lunch we shared after the funeral of Murray Kempton, and of the sheer jolliness of the great and productive historian when he didn’t feel that his gods were being profaned.

There is no honor payable to an American historian that he did not earn. One of his books got the National Book Award and a Pulitzer. Meanwhile he entertained himself by writing movie criticism, and hordes of others by writing essays on every subject that interested him, including what it is in society that creates history. He was a liberal partisan, but he did not turn a blind eye to transgressions by accommodationist liberals who permitted themselves to follow the Communist Party line. He was devastating in his expulsion of them from his movement, which he served more diligently than perhaps any other human being in modern history


Oh, what I would have given to have written that last line!

It contains far more brevity and wit—and far more accuracy—than anything Schlesinger, in a lifetime far too long and far too prolific, managed to fabricate.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"This Scepter'd Isle"

Andrew and I are done with our Christmas shopping.

Most of our gifts we ordered online on Friday and Saturday nights, and tonight we hit a few stores to pick up the small number of gifts we did not buy online. One of the stores we visited tonight was a toy store, where we bought Andrew’s nephew’s gifts.

The gifts we ordered online will be delivered to Andrew’s parents’ house. The gifts should arrive this week, and we will wrap them this coming weekend. We are having them delivered to Andrew’s parents’ house because we are not home during the week, whereas Andrew’s mother generally is. She will not mind signing for and accepting the packages.

This weekend Andrew and I will also package and ship my family’s gifts to Oklahoma. Even though Andrew and I will arrive in Oklahoma on the afternoon of December 22, we think we will be better off shipping the gifts in advance rather than attempting to take them with us on the plane.

Andrew’s middle brother has been preparing preliminary plans for a trip next year to occur during the last two weeks of August, and of course he wants us to accompany him. Tonight he sent us a proposed itinerary for a trip to Southern England for that time period.

Andrew and I will not be able to go anywhere until the last two weeks of August, but he and I have earmarked that two-week period as the ideal time for us to go somewhere. That time is ideal for us because I plan to leave my current job two weeks before law school begins. Andrew’s brother is aware of our tentative schedule.

Tonight the outline he sent to us was a prospective itinerary for sixteen days in Southern England.

Andrew’s brother likes the idea of traveling in the English countryside next August. London may be hot in late summer, and English air-conditioning is not up to American standards, in hotels or theaters or museums. Further, there is not much going on in London in August except for the Proms, and we all got more than our fill of The Royal Albert Hall last summer.

His idea is for us to rent a car upon landing at Heathrow and to tour Southern England for sixteen days and nights, beginning in the Southeast and proceeding all the way over to Southwestern-most England before making our way back to London.

His proposed itinerary is:

DAY ONE—From Heathrow, drive straight to Canterbury and spend the day exploring the town of Canterbury and Canterbury Cathedral. Spend the night in Canterbury.

DAY TWO—Drive to Rye, and spend the day exploring the town of Rye. Spend the night in Rye.

DAY THREE—Drive to Arundel, and spend the day exploring the town of Arundel and Arundel Castle. Spend the night in Arundel.

DAY FOUR—Drive to Chichester, and spend the day exploring the town of Chichester and Chichester Cathedral. Spend the night in Chichester.

DAY FIVE—Drive to Salisbury, and spend the day exploring the town of Salisbury and Salisbury Cathedral. Spend the night in Salisbury.

DAY SIX—Drive to Plymouth, routing ourselves through Wessex and Dartmoor, stopping en route to explore Stonehenge and the village of Widecombe In The Moor. Spend the night in Plymouth.

DAY SEVEN—Spend the day exploring Plymouth. Spend a second night in Plymouth.

DAY EIGHT—Drive to Saint Ives, stopping en route to explore the village of Looe, Mount Saint Michaels and Land’s End, the westernmost point in England. Spend the night in Saint Ives.

DAY NINE—Spend the day exploring Saint Ives. Spend a second night in Saint Ives.

DAY TEN—Drive to Lynmouth, routing ourselves through The West Country, stopping en route to explore the villages of Launceton, Holsworthy and Bideford, and stopping en route to explore the town of Barnstaple. Spend the night in Lynmouth.

DAY ELEVEN—Drive to Bath, routing ourselves through The North Devon Coast, Exmoor National Park and Cheddar Gorge, stopping en route to explore the village of Glastonbury and Glastonbury Abbey. Spend the night in Bath.

DAY TWELVE—Spend the day exploring Bath. Spend a second night in Bath.

DAY THIRTEEN—Spend the day exploring nearby Bristol. Spend a third night in Bath.

DAY FOURTEEN—Drive to Stratford-Upon-Avon, routing ourselves through The Cotswolds, stopping en route to explore The Cotswold villages of Broadway and Stow-On-The-Wold. Spend the night in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

DAY FIFTEEN—Spend the day exploring Stratford-Upon-Avon. Spend a second night in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

DAY SIXTEEN—Drive to Oxford, stopping en route to see Churchill’s grave at Bladon. Spend the day exploring Oxford. Spend the night in Oxford, and drive straight to Heathrow the following morning.

This itinerary sounds pretty good to me, since I have never visited any of these places.

However, Andrew and his brother have already seen almost everything on the list at one time or another, and I hate for them to have to go back to these places solely on my account. Indeed, six of the destinations on the list Andrew and his brother have already visited more than once: Canterbury, Rye, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Bath and Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Andrew says that all of these destinations are worth another look, and that he would love to go back and visit each and every single place on this list again. In fact, Andrew says that he and his brother did not devote enough time to see everything in Chichester, Plymouth, Saint Ives, Bristol and Oxford when they visited those places before.

Andrew’s brother told us tonight that he can prepare an alternative sightseeing schedule for Scotland instead, or a sightseeing plan including attractions in both Southern England and Northern England. Andrew told him to wait, so that we could talk about it at Christmas, and make tentative plans then. As for me, it really does not make much difference where we go, because any place in Britain outside of London will be completely new to me.

One thing seems clear, however: Andrew’s brother has a case of England fever! Excepting 2006, he and Andrew have been to Great Britain at least once a year since 2000, and he is eager to return yet again. This is because he loves England more than he loves France or Germany or Italy. He loves the English countryside, and he loves English churches, and he loves the historic English country houses, and he loves English historical attractions of all kinds.

One thing Andrew asked me tonight was whether I wanted to go back to Britain or whether I preferred to go somewhere else. I asked Andrew what HE wanted to do, and he said that it made absolutely no difference to him where we went, except that we should keep in mind that we would be wise to avoid Europe’s largest cities during the month of August, given that the weather may be hot and given that air-conditioning is not as widespread or as effective in Europe as it is here.

I would love to go to all of those places on Andrew’s brother’s list, if Andrew and his brother can stand visiting them again.

It gives us something to think about.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Goldberg Variations

The onset of cold weather truly does have me down, because I know that the present spell of cold weather is just a harbinger of what we will have to face for the next four months.

For the first time in my life, I can understand why people hunger for a warm place like Florida in the winter.

Andrew knew what to do, however, to get me out of my doldrums: a toasty apartment, lots of warm food and some Bach. And Andrew’s prescription was perfect. We cooked food tonight that made our apartment practically tropical, and we listened to Bach while we cooked.

We started things off with chicken noodle soup from a package—Sicilian chicken noodle soup from an Alessi mix, which actually is quite good—and then we truly got to work.

We cooked macaroni on the stove, and we boiled chicken in herbs on the stove, and Andrew made homemade stewed tomatoes on the stove (with green peppers, onions and dill). When the macaroni was done, we prepared a very sharp version of macaroni-and-cheese and put that into the oven to bake. Then we cooked butternut squash on the stove, in butter and spices, and we steamed lima beans. Before we knew it, the apartment was so warm that I finally warmed up for the first time since this morning’s commute. By the time the food was ready, I was fine, and we had a lovely dinner. I told Andrew that I wanted to have the same foods for dinner Friday night, when we will have his parents over for dinner in order to do gift-planning for Christmas. He said that was fine with him.

A couple of hours after dinner, we heated up the oven again and made some gingerbread, which we are going to eat before we go to bed. It has been a lovely evening.

The Bach we have listened to all night has been Gustav Leonhardt’s 1953 recording of the Goldberg Variations on the Vanguard Classics label. We listened to it four times.

This is the earliest of three recordings of the Goldberg Variations that Leonhardt has made, and it has a freshness and directness that are very appealing. It is the Goldberg of a young man, and I think this performance holds up very well. The sound is amazing for a mono recording from 1953. No allowances in the least need be made for the quality of the recorded sound.

The harpsichord in use does not have a pleasant sound—it sounds tinny and scratchy. The quality of the harpsichord sound soon becomes irrelevant, however, because harpsichords have no dynamic range and because the particular harpsichord in use on this recording has virtually no coloristic possibilities. Perversely, this limitation makes it easier to focus purely on the music and the quality of Bach’s invention.

For me, Bach is unassailable. No other composer’s music is so perfect, so logical, so expressive, so profound, with so wide a range of emotion. I could listen to Bach, and nothing but Bach, and be perfectly content.

The 1953 Vanguard recording is famous because it was one of the first recordings that signaled the arrival of the original-performance-practice movement that arose shortly after World War II. Many scholars consider Leonhardt’s 1953 Goldberg Variations to be the first “authentic” recording of this great work.

I would not want to give up hearing the Goldberg Variations played on the piano, and I would not want to give up hearing the Goldberg Variations played in a more “personalized”, even Romantic, way. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the Leonhardt performance very much, and I can understand why this recording is still in print over half a century after its initial release.

I think we will have to keep this disc in the player for the rest of the week.

A Move To Taormina?

We just reached our high temperature for the day—a balmy 12 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill of 1 degree Fahrenheit—and snow is in the forecast for tonight and, especially, tomorrow afternoon.

As for me, I still have not warmed up from this morning’s commute.

Is there any way Andrew and I can move to Taormina?

Monday, December 3, 2007


Andrew and I had a fun weekend in Washington.

We stayed with Andrew’s friend, Paul, one of Andrew’s law school roommates. Paul was an excellent host.

Paul lives in Bethesda. He met us at the airport, which was totally unnecessary, and we all took the subway to Bethesda. We had dinner out Friday night and returned to Paul’s apartment, where we sat up talking until 1:00 a.m.

Saturday was a museum day. We started at The National Gallery Of Art and we viewed the Edward Hopper exhibition first thing. Although practically every major Hopper canvas was part of the exhibition, we all found the exhibition to be very disappointing. Hopper had a very narrow range. After viewing about eight Hopper paintings, I found the paintings to be positively irritating. He was a “niche” painter, and worked very well within his chosen niche, but he was not a universal artist capable of painting anything.

Most of the best-known paintings were at the end of the exhibition, and it was a mistake to place the more interesting paintings at the end. Exhibition-goers were tired by then, and devoted less time to examining the late paintings than examining the early, lesser works. This is always a problem when exhibitions are organized around a chronological theme.

Andrew pointed out that comprehensive exhibitions work best when organized around a non-chronological theme, especially for artists who get better and better with age. The comprehensive Caspar David Friedrich exhibition we attended in Hamburg last year was a good example of an exhibition that rigorously avoided chronology. With 140 Friedrich paintings in the exhibition, the displays were organized around various themes, resulting in great masterpieces being present in each room from first to last. Viewer attention never waned.

The Hopper paintings I liked best were the Cape Cod painting with the collie, the filling station painting, and the painting of a sailing party. All three paintings were from 1939 and 1940. “Night Hawks”, from 1942, was nowhere near as fascinating in person as I had expected. In person, that painting was overshadowed by several other paintings in the same room, which surprised me. Although “Night Hawks” may be the quintessential Hopper painting, it is not the best.

Midway through the exhibition, we sat through an inane 15-minute film about Hopper, narrated by Steve Martin, who sounded as if he had marbles in his mouth. We could not keep ourselves from giggling, and we laughed uncontrollably throughout the film.

All in all, the Hopper exhibition was very disappointing.

From The National Gallery we walked across the Mall to the Air And Space Museum. The Air and Space Museum is a great museum, and we had a great time ambling through the displays. It is easy to understand why this museum is so popular. The displays are wonderful, the use of space is wonderful, the organization of the museum is wonderful, and the items on display are wonderful. The museum was full of families, and they clearly were having a ball, parents and kids alike. It lent the museum a joyous, festive atmosphere. We had a ball, too.

We ate lunch in the Air And Space Museum, and we stayed until 3:00 p.m., when we returned to The National Gallery Of Art to view the J.M.W. Turner exhibition.

I was diffident about seeing more Turner paintings, since I had had my fill of Turner in London. However, four rooms into the exhibition, we began seeing some of the giant and historic marine paintings, and from that point forward I began to get hooked, at least on the marine paintings. We had not seen any Turner naval paintings from The Napoleonic Wars while we were in London, and several of these paintings were stupendous (a couple of them were actually loaned from Tate Britain, but they had not been on display at Tate Britain during our visit there).

One of the naval paintings from The Napoleonic Wars was the largest work Turner ever painted. It was a magnificent and beautiful painting, but even better were two other paintings that were slightly smaller: a painting of Copenhagen Harbor, representing the aftermath of the British Navy’s capture of the Danish Fleet so that it would not fall into the hands of the French Navy; and a painting of The Battle Of Trafalgar, representing the moment immediately after Admiral Lord Nelson had been mortally wounded. These were stirring canvases, and I am very glad that we went to see this exhibition.

We all liked the marine paintings so much that, when we had completed our tour of the exhibition, we went back to the entrance and went through the exhibition a second time.

I am still diffident about most Turner paintings. His landscapes do not do much for me, and I think his history paintings are unsuccessful, and the Venice paintings do not appeal to me at all. However, I liked a few of his watercolors on display in Washington, especially a watercolor of The Tower Of London painted from The Thames.

I was surprised that one Turner painting I had seen in September looked completely different ten weeks later. “Norwich Castle, Sunrise” had fascinated me in London. It did not fascinate me at all in Washington. Andrew said the difference was in how the painting was lighted. In London, the painting had been lighted indirectly, and the colors emerged vividly from across the room and from a direct, close-up view of the painting. In Washington, the painting was lighted with a spotlight, and the spotlight somehow drained the painting of its color and richness.

When we were finished with the Turner paintings, we went back to Paul’s apartment. On the way, we stopped at a food store, because Andrew planned to do some cooking Saturday night for Paul. Andrew had been the house cook during the three years he and Paul and two other roommates had shared an apartment on Capitol Hill, and Paul had grown accustomed to Andrew’s cooking and he has missed it since law school ended.

While Andrew cooked, we all watched the Big Twelve Championship Game. All three of us wanted to watch the game, but Andrew and Paul would have insisted upon watching the game anyway, even if they truly had not wanted to, because they knew how much the game meant to me.

The Sooners whipped Missouri, 38-17, in what truly was not much of a challenge. The Sooners jumped out to an early lead, but Missouri tied things up late in the first half, 14-14. The second half was all Oklahoma. Missouri, entering the game ranked number one in the nation, did not even look like it belonged on the same field as the Sooners.

Andrew cooked up a storm while we watched the game. Paul only has one oven in his kitchen, and Andrew used the oven to roast two stuffed chickens. On the stove, Andrew cooked a pot roast on one back burner, boiled chicken on another back burner, and he used the two front burners to make Wiener Schnitzel and hot Viennese potato salad, which we ate for dinner. Paul loves all of these foods, and for the rest of the week he will be able to choose pot roast, roasted chicken or boiled chicken for his dinner.

On Sunday, we went to the Holocaust Museum. None of us had ever visited the Holocaust Museum, despite years of living in Washington.

The Holocaust Museum is not so much a museum as a history center. It takes viewers on a photographic and video journey from the late 1920’s to the end of World War II, telling the story of the destruction of Europe’s Jewish population. The displays involved photographs and short film clips, but very little else.

All three of us have read so many histories about the events portrayed in the museum that we did not come across anything we had not already encountered countless times before. We were disappointed that we did not discover something new.

It took us almost three hours to go through the four levels of permanent displays. We examined every single exhibit and we stopped and watched every single film.

When we were done, all three of us decided that the museum should be torn down and rebuilt from scratch. It is a lousy, lousy museum. It may be the worst museum I have ever visited.

The building is a very bad building, poorly designed and constructed of cheap materials inside and out. The exhibition spaces are poorly designed, the exhibitions do not flow coherently and logically from one to another, and the passageways for visitors are far too narrow. The cramped presentation areas are positively irritating because there is so much wasted space in the building, space that should have been devoted to the exhibition areas.

Further, traffic flow into the building is fatally deficient. Visitors approaching the building are corralled into a waiting line along the side of the building. Once inside the building, visitors must submit themselves to an airport-style security screening and are then corralled to a bank of elevators, where they must take a slow elevator to the top of the building and proceed downward through the building from there.

This means that, before visitors even gain entrance to a meaningful part of the building, they have already surmounted three exhausting visitor lines: outside the front door, inside the front door, and at the elevator bank inside the entrance. I have never seen such a ridiculous scheme to enter a public building in my life. As Andrew said to Paul and me while we were waiting in line, “It’s easier to break into a Federal Court House than to get into this building”.

None of this would be important if the exhibits had been better. However, the exhibits were amateur, which made the whole experience very unpleasant. Before visiting the museum, I had anticipated that visitors would be extremely moved throughout the whole museum experience. Instead, people appeared to be bored out of their minds and were simply strolling through the exhibits as if they could not get out of the building quickly enough. I understood exactly how they felt.

This was the second totally inept American history museum Andrew and I had visited in not much more than a month (we, along with Andrew’s brothers, had visited the Ellis Island immigration museum over Columbus Day). The Ellis Island immigration museum is an embarrassment for all Americans, and so is the Holocaust Museum. As a nation, we should be ashamed, collectively, that we cannot present history better than this.

Why cannot Americans do history museums at an acceptable standard? Is it some national character flaw? Is something missing in the American psyche? Or are we simply not producing competent curators?

When Andrew and I were in London in September, we had visited The Imperial War Museum. We only spent one afternoon at the IWM, but it was clear, entering the main rotunda, that this was a museum that totally had its act together.

We spent that afternoon viewing a handful of paintings in the art galleries and visiting a special exhibition, “The Children’s War”, which examined the events of World War II from the perspectives of children. We did not visit any other portion of the IWM during our visit, including the IWM Holocaust exhibit.

However, “The Children’s War” was a case study in how a history exhibition should be organized and presented. It was informative, scholarly, entertaining and attractive. It was organized coherently and designed beautifully. The “presentation” was at the highest possible level of artistry and taste. It was everything the Holocaust Museum in Washington was not.

Apparently it IS possible to organize an excellent Holocaust exhibition. In 2005, Andrew and his middle brother had spent ten full days exploring the entire Imperial War Museum, from soup to nuts, and during this time they had visited the Holocaust exhibition at the IWM. The Holocaust exhibition at the IWM occupies two floors of the giant IWM building, and it took Andrew and his brother four hours alone simply to get through the first floor of the Holocaust exhibition. They were so moved (and disturbed) by what they had seen on the first floor that they had to leave the museum and return on another day in order to view the second floor of the Holocaust exhibition (which took them another four hours to get through).

According to Andrew, the Holocaust exhibition at the IWM is the best Holocaust exhibition he has ever seen, even better than similar exhibitions at the Invalides in Paris or at Vienna’s Imperial War Museum. In addition to photographs and films, which it has aplenty, London’s IWM has countless artifacts and mementoes that survived the destruction of the war. These items enrich and supplement the photographs and films on display at the IWM, all of which were vastly superior to those on display in Washington.

Perhaps at some point in time the Holocaust Museum in Washington will get its act together, and completely redesign its interior spaces and install exhibits worthy of its subject. As it is now, the museum is irredeemably cheap and inartful. Andrew says it is a bargain-basement version of the IWM Holocaust exhibit, and a dumbed-down bargain-basement version to boot, clearly devised for an audience of morons.

After we finished the Holocaust Museum, we walked around the Mall for a couple of hours, even though it was quite cold by Washington standards. We walked around The Washington Monument and we walked over to The World War II Memorial, which looks uncomfortably close to an Albert Speer creation. The whole thing gave us the creeps. Even the ridiculously-oversized eagles looked as if they had been borrowed from Hitler’s reviewing stand at Nuremberg! All three of us were appalled.

After wandering around the World War II abomination for a while, we walked over to The Lincoln Memorial, which is genuinely a beautiful, dignified and noble place. The Lincoln Memorial is my favorite Washington monument, and it was good to see it again. It cleansed us of our discomfort over the World War II monstrosity.

From The Lincoln Memorial, we walked to the Smithsonian Museum Of American Art. It was a very, very long walk and we were freezing by the time we arrived.

At the museum, we viewed only one exhibition, the exhibition about Spain and its ties to the U.S. during the Revolutionary Period. The exhibition was mostly paintings, all of which were portraits. There were a few historic documents on display, too, but it was primarily an exhibition of portraits. Before visiting the exhibition, we somehow had the notion that the exhibition would include historic and military artifacts, too, but it was almost solely a portrait exhibition. We were not disappointed, however, to see such a fine assortment of historic portraits.

The most famous paintings on display were Duplessis’s legendary portrait of Benjamin Franklin and Goya’s full-length portrait of Ferdinand VII, who was unmistakably portrayed as the madman he unmistakably was. It is an eerie and chilling portrait.

The exhibition was not particularly large, and it took us little more than an hour to view the portraits to our satisfaction. It was a nice exhibition, all in all, and I am glad we had an opportunity to view it.

From the Smithsonian Museum Of American Art, we went to get a bite to eat, after which it was time for us to head to the airport.

It was good seeing Paul again, and it was fun spending 48 hours in Washington. However, returning to Washington for the first time in 18 months simply reminded me why I never liked Washington in the first place. It is an odd, almost artificial city. It is the most transient city in the U.S., and there is something oddly impersonal and even uncomfortable about the place. Shorn of its museums and monuments, there would be nothing worth seeing there except the two giant cathedrals and the Dulles Airport terminal.

Given the weather in Minneapolis, Andrew and I had anticipated a delayed flight for our trip home. We need not have worried, because our flight departed Washington six minutes earlier than scheduled and landed in Minneapolis eight minutes earlier than scheduled.

Andrew had kept an eye on the Minneapolis weather while we were in Washington. Andrew had been concerned about the snow, knowing that he would not be in town to remove his parents’ snowfall. It snowed about six inches in all over the weekend, but Andrew’s father had no trouble removing the snow because Andrew’s brothers had affixed the snow shovel to his tractor over Thanksgiving week. Andrew’s father was able to clear the driveway with no trouble, but he did have to shovel the front walkway and sidewalk.

Tonight Andrew’s mother is having us over for dinner. She wants to hear about the art exhibitions we visited in Washington. Moreover, she and Andrew’s father want to see Andrew and me, because they have not seen us since the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

It sounds like we will be having pot roast. I can go for that.