Archive for work-life

Happy to help

Leonard Bernstein died thirty years ago today. I always think of Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg on this anniversary. I wrote this ten years ago:

Twice in the last week I have helped to prevent a calamity from befalling a colleague. One colleague was irritated and the other was infuriated to receive my editorial help, though they each requested it. Both will come out “smelling like a rose” (to use an expression my Dad has always loved and that I now love, too).

In my last couple of years in book publishing back in the early 1990s, I spent more than half of my time, it seemed, addressing legal matters: Making sure that my authors weren’t going to get the company I worked for, Prometheus Books Inc., sued for defamation, libel, invasion of privacy, copyright infringement, and the like. Although I did not become an editor so that I could act as an ersatz lawyer, I did enjoy the role, especially because I got to talk to a REAL lawyer, and a great one, Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg, a lot.

Stefan provided his services for free, because he liked the books we published. He was a wonderful and brilliant and eclectic man, who reached the highest levels of accomplishment as a musical conductor and mathematician and teacher before starting his career in Law. I didn’t know he’d been a conductor until I called him one afternoon regarding a lawsuit. Leonard Bernstein had died the day before, and for some reason I brought that up with Stefan. “I was his assistant conductor for a year,” he said. “This sounds more impressive than it was. My main job was to have a cigarette lit and ready for Lenny when he came offstage.”

Back to my point: Because of Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg, many of my authors *didn’t* besmirch their reputations and *didn’t* get their butts sued. To a person, they were unhappy receiving the help they received, because they believed they didn’t need it. They all asked: What could go wrong?

A calamity is smaller than a comma when it’s born.

Remembering Stefan – and remembering my mentor Paul Kurtz, the difficult boss who introduced me to him – fills me with gratitude. Some very gifted people have shared their time with me.

#WorldMentalHealthDay

God bless Aly Raisman.

A gift for friendship …

I’ve certainly been the lucky recipient of John‘s. Many have.

I remember the moment well: I was lounging in bed on a Saturday night, drinking red wine and reading some escapist nonfiction, when the telephone rang.

It was a young friend, a guy half my age, and he was in crisis.

He and his girlfriend had moved in with her parents to save money. He was calling to report that they’d just broken up.

“Damn, dude,” I said. “Where are you right now?”

He was still in the room with her. There was nowhere else to go.

“You can’t stay there,” I said. “Come to my place.”

He was just one of the wards to take up residence in the suburban rehab facility of penance and partying I call the Home for Wayward Men.

Many check in, serve their time, and move on. Some return for more deeply-seated therapy, higher dosages of medication.

Others drop in regularly while on business trips. One blows in once a year like a disheveled desert tumble weed rolling down Interstate-15.

Most are younger than me, one older. Sometimes they arrive in twos.

What they all have in common is that they need a place to go, to escape crumbling relationships or just the suck of everyday life.

The door is always open.

I live alone, my wife resides in another state. I have time and space to lend my ailing droogies a helping hand.

I have no clue what they do in their room once the door is closed. One is like a messy teenager, leaving the place a disaster zone of plastic swizzle sticks, hairballs and oily orphaned socks each time he leaves.

No matter. I just hazmat the joint and await the next checkin.

Meanwhile, I keep two chairs in the living room, one facing the other. One guest and I refer to them as the Sultan’s Chairs. …

Read ‘The Home for Wayward Men’ to the end.

Students

Yesterday and today I have been viewing short videos that students in my three summer classes made about their projects. This has been the first time I have seen their faces or, for most of them, heard their voices. It has been an emotional experience.

God bless Linda Tirado

… who was shot in the face by a cop in Minneapolis last night. She lost an eye.

Linda’s a truly wonderful writer. Her book Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America needs to be read by everyone and then read again. Her twitter-feed is incandescent and is the only reason, really, I’m still on that platform. I admire this badass without reservation.