My Rosemary and I had daily breaksfast in bed with the NYTimes and the Vancouver Sun for at least 22 years. In spite of not having her with me now (she died Dec 9 2020) I keep the tradition, and at the very least I am accompanied by Niño and Niña, my two orange and white cats.
One of the high points of the week is the pragmatic discourse in the Times between the lefty Gail Collins and the more conservative Bret Stephens in The Conversation on the editorial page. They are kind to each other.
Back in 1965 when I was beginning my two-year stint as a conscript of the Argentine Navy I stayed for a while in the home of a teacher friend of my mother, Mrs. Sullivan. Her eldest son, John was doing his service in the army. One day we talked about the world. I told him that everything was either black or white. I told him I had principles. Previewing “situation ethics” before they became fashionable years later, John said, “No Alex the world is gray.” I now see his point and how pragmatism is missing in this 21st century of extreme polarization.
I have a Peronist friend in Buenos Aires who does not read Julio Cortázar (he was a lefty) or Jorge Luís Borges (Argentines from the left call him a facho for his right-wing views) because both authors disliked Perón.
Today I found this lovely essay by Mario Vargas Llosa (now seen as a right-wing kind of man) on having interviewed James Baldwin without having read any of his books. The essay reads as an apology (in both meanings of the word). Here it is in Spanish.
Furthermore Mario Vargas Llosa, who in his youth was a lefty, wrote the most beautiful obituary on his former lefty friend Cortázar here (unfortunately in Spanish) proving that differences of opinion do not have to end friendships.
La Trompeta de Deyá - Vargas Llosa's obituary of Julio Cortázar
In today’s The Conversation, Stephens writes:
Fully agree. Social Media has created the phenomenon of Together Alone, to borrow the name of an old Crowded House album. Only it’s the wrong kind of togetherness and the wrong kind of aloneness.
The old togetherness taught people how to negotiate differences in communities they hadn’t chosen for themselves. And the old aloneness often entailed long periods of engaged solitude like reading a novel or gardening or building a model ship. But the new togetherness allows us to select the communities to which we belong, mostly with people who like what we like, hate what we hate, and never challenge our assumptions. And the new aloneness often means scrolling among endless internet distractions without ever focusing on anything in particular. The result is that we now live in a world where people know neither how to be together nor how to be alone. It is the ultimate recipe for unhappiness and bad behaviour.
This 21st century has been called The Age of Communication. I would amend it to The Age of Miscommunication.
My long departed journalist friend, Mark Budgen, who for many years represented for me stability and pragmatism years ago stopped with an unusual blow/excuse when I called him up on my then only landline. He said, “Alex I cannot talk to you. I am monitoring a fax.”
Since then here are less creative excuses I have heard when I call friends and family in a recent past and recently:
1. "Alex why do you call me every time that I am about to go to a zoom meeting?"
2. I called a couple at different hours of the afternoon and evening, some years ago. And every time the reply was, “We are about to have supper.”
3. Garbage is usually collected in the early morning. A friend upon calling him said, “Sorry, Alex, I have to go to take out the garbage.”
4. “I cannot talk to you right now, I am on my horse.”
5. An Argentine couple that lives in Burnaby, when I call them I get the distinct impression that I am somehow preventing them from removing themselves from a Netflix film. I don’t call them anymore.
6. “Sorry, Alex, we are about to leave for the supermarket.”
7. From San Diego, “Sorry Alex, we are looking at houses we might buy.”
8. “I have an important call on the other line. I will call you later.” They invariably do not.
9. From Guadalajara, "Sorry Alex, we are about to buy tomatos."
I can come to these conclusions:
1. I am persona non grata.
2. I am paranoid.
3. I have a strong telephone body odor.
4. Or Bret Stephens is right.
I have been told to text, "Is it ok if I call you in an hour?"