Reading an article by David Remnick,
editor of ‘The New Yorker’
he was born in Paterson, New Jersey
the same place as Philip Roth,
the novelist whose biography Remnick was profiling,
as was Ginsberg,
the man who wrote “Howl’
that poem that still echoes down the decades.
the same place too
as William Carlos Williams,
the man who wrote ‘the red wheelbarrow’
and wait for it,
the comedic partner of Bud Abbot
whose films split our sides
in the fun house of the fifties;
what do they have in the water of Paterson, New Jersey,
that so many famous people
grew up there;
it must be quite a place
I was streaking ahead and then she put down that word. It was on a ‘double word’ score.
Hey! That’s NOT a word! I said.
Yes, it is. I was just reading about it in ‘Body and Soul’ [ a supplement in our Sunday newspaper].
And she bent across and showed me.
What does it mean?
It’s something we used to do as schoolgirls, she chuckled. And she told me.
I was flabbergasted. The secret life of schoolgirls, I thought. Wonder of wonders.
Okay, I said. There are 4000 new words in our language each year so why couldn’t that be one of them?
You know what happiness is? he said.
Contentment? I suggested.
Not even close, he said through the burnished orange of this late autumn afternoon.
Come on, he said. You know better that that.
Then what? I asked.
It’s not true what they say about cats, you know. That old proverb about curiosity killed the cat. It’s to stop you changing lanes.
You’re beginning to sound like a zen poet, I said. Like Li Po.
Become like a cat, he said. Go out into the world, cat-curious. You can never NOT be happy if you’re finding out things.
do you agree?
where is happiness found for you?
what is the chief impediment for happiness, do you think?