Monday, November 29, 2004

this WILL get better, right?

you know how when you're madly in love you say things that you think are so profound and universal that they must speak to all of mankind? how when you read your old love letters you want to shoot yourself in the head at the puerile melodrama?

once, early on, but after i'd fallen completely in love with b i wrote her a love note in which i compared my inevitable loss of her to the sentiment expressed by churchill when his wife died: "the light in my life went out forever." that's pretty bad.

allowing that the comparison of a breakup with a girlfriend to the the death of a spouse is over the top, what i also said to her many times, that i may never get over her, may turn out to be true. it has lasted a year and a half which is approximately a year and five months longer than i thought when we finally pulled the plug.

had another blood-rush-out-of-my-head moment today. a friend told me she's getting married in january.

besides being broken up for a year and a half, (1) i've known for a year that she was so in love with a new man that she and he had each met the other's parents and had talked about marriage. (2) i've known for about six months that she had bought a house with him. (3) earlier this month in a blood-rush moment i saw her with what i thought was a wedding band on her finger. i guess it wasn't, but it was apparently a matter of when not if.

so today i hear what i already know and i almost faint. ever since, all day, i've been in a fog.

i am NOT going to let this blog morph from a war blog into a proust blog into a breakup blog. i WON'T, goddamn it.

what the fuck is the matter with me? 49 years old, divorced DOS and i've felt like a love lorn teenager for a year and a half???

b, your kisses were like the sweetest wine, i shan't be able to go on without you, my love is like a river overflowing its banks.

oh jeezus, somebody give me a gun.

-benjamin harris

Saturday, November 27, 2004

"i thought then of all that i had been told about swann's love for odette, of the way in which swann had been tricked all his life."

i have written here previously of how much i have learned about my relationship with b from having read the section in remembrance of things past called "swann in love."

i have also previously acknowledged what was very painful for me to acknowledge, that i am jealous of, and therefore still in love with b.

there is more though to my pain. there is the additional quote from proust above, that is also applicable. "swann in love" concluded with his marriage to odette and it bothered me because of the obvious suggestion that i had made the wrong decision.

i don't know how proust is going to wrap up the swann/odette subplot--i am only a little over half done with the book--but here in volume two is the judgment above and more in like vein. swann also dies in volume two.

"the lift-boy swore to me with the sincerity of most false witnesses..."

"the wife had a round face like certain flowers of the ranunculus family, and a large vegetable growth at the corner of her eye. and the generations of mankind preserving their characteristics like a family of identical growth...protruded below the eye of the son...the wife and son, blessed with a vegetable nature, listened composedly."

"for theories and schools, like microbes and corpuscles, devour one another and by their warfare ensure the continuity of life."

"we ought never to lose our tempers with people who, when we find them at fault, begin to snigger. they do so not because they are laughing at us, but because they are afraid of our displeasure. let us show all pity and tenderness to those who laugh." taking away the condescending "pity," this is a very subtle thing to understand and a very spiritually generous thing for proust to write.
"there is however an inanimate object which is capable of a power of exasperation to which no human being will ever attain: to wit, a piano."

"for it is necessary that even those who are right, like francoise, should be wrong also, so that justice may be made an impossible thing."

"...there is a world of difference between real grief...which literally crushes the life out of one for years if not forever, when one has lost the person one loves--and that other kind of grief, transitory when all is said...which passes as quickly as it has been slow in coming, which we do not experience until long after the event because in order to feel it we need first to 'understand' the event; grief such as so many people feel..."

"in front of strangers--among whom we must always reckon the one to whom we lie the most because he is the one whose contempt would be most painful to us: ourselves--..."

"this indolence seemed to the mistress to be actually an additional gift, being the opposite of hard work which she regarded as the lot of people devoid of genius."

"after a certain age, and even if we develop in quite different ways, the more we become ourselves, the more our family traits are accentuated."

"calmed by...confrontation..."

"jealousy belonging to that family of morbid doubts which are eliminated by the vigour of an affirmation far more surely than by its probability."

"it is human to seek out what hurts us and then at once to seek to get rid of it. statements that are capable of so relieving us seem all to readily true; we are not inclined to cavil at a sedative that works."

Monday, November 22, 2004


"if i had an arse of a camel
and i had the wings of a crow
i'd fly over old trafford tomorrow
and shit on the bastards below."

"hello, hello
we are the city boys
hello, hello
we are the city boys
and if you are a man u twat
surrender or you'll die
we all follow the city."

i saw my shrink on saturday and confessed my latest sins. he opined that i was "rebellious" and "a maverick."

i think my loyalty to man city has got legs. i sense that they have fans like me, those who, if they ever went to personal therapy, would get kicked out for being "too difficult."

the city half of the manchester derby is in march. i think i'll go. and "if i die in the kippax street, whoa-oh woah-oh; if i die in the kippax street, there'll be ten red bastards at my feet, whoa-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh."

-benjamin harris


kill two birds with one stone.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

the rice appointment is bad, but typical.

there has never been any purpose to bush's life. he was (1) the accidental governor, then (2) the accidental president, then (3) the accidental war president.

wanting the administration to speak with one voice on foreign policy is good but when you have nothing to say it is meaningless.

this administration will continue with a reactive, ad hoc foreign policy where the only quality that matters in the president's men and women is loyalty to the president.

-benjamin harris

Sunday, November 14, 2004


in the poorest, most lawless area of the city the poorest, most lawless part is known as "the triangle," a roughly accurate geographical description of the enclosure of three major streets.

a man was found shot dead in his car, balled up on the passenger's seat. his long blonde hair had been caught in the passenger door when it was shut. his blood had flowed down from the passenger seat and out the lower door jam and had trickled into a small puddle on the pavement. one of the man's pants pockets was turned inside out and his wallet and any id were gone. it was clear that the murder had happened somewhere else and the car driven to the location where it was found.

the police ran the tag number and cross-referenced the registered owner with missing person reports and discovered that the victim was a man from the suburbs, who had had a cocaine problem but had been clean for awhile.

speaking to his live-in girlfriend they discovered that the man had gone on a bender the previous night, was jonesing, and had gone to the triangle three or four times to get rocks. there was a well-known drug hole in the parking lot of an abandoned gas station a couple of blocks from where the car had been found.

that's all the police had. no info at all on a suspect. the lead detective was barry donlan. per protocal he and his team did an "area canvass" of the triangle, meaning they went door-to-door and stopped people on the streets and asked for information.

door-to-door canvasses don't work well in the triangle. there aren't a whole lot of doors to knock on and citizen-pedestrians are chary to cooperate with the police because of their own experiences, or anticipated untoward consequences from executives and their salesmen in the local pharmacological trade. barry's assurances to them that he was not investigating, nor would he arrest anyone for their own involvement in, the drug business did not win confidence.

so after two or three days of "i ain't know nothins" barry set upon economic sanctions. he brought a folding chair with him to the drug hole, took it out of his car and set it down right in the middle of the old gas station's parking lot.

as motorists drove up and asked for drugs--"are you holding?"--in the local patois barry approached their vehicles and said, "hello sir, i'm det. donlan, would you like to sign my DARE petition?," DARE being the acronym for a county anti-drug program. the motorists quickly departed and thus the gas station drug hole once again became abandoned property.

the local merchants were put off.

"i'll leave as soon as someone talks to me," barry said. cooperation was not immediately forthcoming but eventually barry's sanctions worked. after a couple of days a local dealer known as "happy knot" took barry aside and, gesturing with his head, said that he had heard that the gentleman standing across the street had done the robbery and murder. "the cracker bumped the jack and jit shot him."

barry waited a prudent amount of time before turning to see the suspect and by that time he was gone.

anytime a murder happens in this area of town the homicide detectives, who handle the murder investigations for many of the smaller municipalities, turn to the local beat officers to help them. these are officers who work the streets every day, sometimes they've grown up there. when they're good, they are proactive. they get to know the people in their districts, they talk to the kids on the streets, they know the families and the dealers and the users. they are like anthropologists. if you need to know what's going on there you have to go to one of these experts.

in this area of town there was only one anthropologist-cop who mattered, "charley." that's how he was known to other cops, that's how he was known in the triangle.

barry had called on charley immediately after being assigned the case. now that he had a nickname for the suspect he called on charley again.

"jit" is a very common streetname in poor african-american neighborhoods, similar to "black" or red." that didn't really narrow the pool of suspects down very much but with the added physical description--height, weight, age, skin-tone, hair style--charley was quickly able to identify the guy. knowing that this jit lived with his grandfather, charley drove up to the house and made inquires. jit was not at home. "tell him to call me, " said charley.

a day or two later charley saw jit walking not far from his grandfather's house. jit avoided eye contact. charley parked his car and got out. "come here," he said.

jit stopped and kept his eyes down. "some homicide detectives want to talk to you about the white guy who got shot in the hole last week. now jit, don't make me run after you. i'm fat and i just ate. i promise you you won't be hurt, i'll take you down there myself. are you ready to go?"

jit asked if he could go to the house and tell his grandfather and charley said ok. charley waited outside and a few minutes later jit came out and got in the back of charley's car.

in interrogating jit, barry used a common and effective police technique. building on what he knew, he deduced what would be probable and presented that to jit as a certainty. barry knew the car had been moved, he knew that the victim hadn't driven it there after being shot. he plausibly believed that the killer had driven the car there. all of those were near certainties and if they were then the killer would know he was the driver of the car too and would know that it was possible that his fingerprints were in or on the car.

that's the part barry lied about. he told jit they had found his prints in the car. this is a long-established, legal, perfectly proper thing to do by the police. it is not considered coercion, which can get a confession thrown out, the theory being, if the suspect was NOT in the car he would immediately deny it and dismiss the possibility that his prints were there.

it's a zero-sum game. if you, as the cop, are wrong, then you've lost all credibility with the suspect. you can't get caught bluffing.

barry was right. after denying involvement, barry hit him with the prints bluff and jit put his head down and confessed on tape. at trial he was convicted as charged of first degree murder and armed robbery.

-benjamin harris

Saturday, November 13, 2004

great things happen at notre dame.

less commonly, great things happen to notre dame, especially in notre dame stadium.

just now, university of pittsburgh quarterback tyler palko threw for five touchdown passes to beat the irish. that's the most td passes ever completed against notre dame, at home or away.

anthony davis' five rushing touchdowns, the boston college field goal that broke lou holtz' heart, tony dorsett's marvelous running, legends are born at notre dame, and one was born just now.

tyler palko walks among giants tonight.

-benjamin harris

headline to an op-ed piece by daniel sneider of the san jose mercury news, reprinted yesterday in the miami herald.

the text was not as hopeful as the headline. the chatter turned out to be from think-tank intelligentsia types not administration officials, but combined with the newsweek mini-article several weeks ago and the presumed emboldenment that the election gave bush, it raises hope.

bush has got four years to mark his 43rd presidency with a legacy. bush is a legacy. he should now be proactive in creating one for himself. that will require boldness, clarity, and "the vision thing."

the opportunity is there. on september 11, 2001 the united states was losing more lives to a foreign attack on its own soil than it had ever lost before.

saddam hussein, who had tried to assasinate george h.w. bush, who had gassed his own people, and those of iran, and who had been close to acquiring a nuclear weapon in the '90's was in power in iraq.

the taliban, the most ruthless, mad regime since pol pot's khmer rouge was in control in afghanistan and giving safe haven to osama bin laden and al qaeda.

libya and muhammar qadaffi were refusing to cooperate with wmd inspectors.

today, saddam hussein is in prison and his regime ousted. the hopeful among us look forward to free elections in iraq in january.

in afganistan, the taliban has been utterly routed and free and fair elections--more problem-free than those in florida in 2000--have already taken place.

after regime change took place in iraq, qadaffi opened up libya to weapons inspectors.

al qaeda has been sufficiently "degraded" that it has been unable to mount any attacks against high-profile and impossible-to-defend events such as the athens olympics and the u.s. presidential election.

the bushies are right that islamic terrorism cannot survive without state sponsorship. john kerry and the democrats are wrong that it could be eradicated by police action as an organized crime problem.

to secure america and his place in history, bush should act on his beliefs. he should bomb iran's nuclear facilities and remove that threat. he should force regime change in iran, syria and saudi arabia, et al.

will he?

there is psychology and genetics to contend with here. bush may feel emboldened by the election but the sense here is that he has had about his fill of war. the iraqi war was draining in every sense: of time, of american lives, of american money and, as a consequence of all those, of the president's will.

this is a president who has never wanted to work hard. he got into yale because he was his dad's son; he made his money because he was his dad's son; became governor of texas because he was
his dad's son; he became president because he was his dad's son.

given his personal history, can you imagine a more perfect job for bush than the presidency as it appeared to be in 2000? how easy. he would inherit a booming economy and a country at peace, its old soviet enemy having imploded. he could win the thing, not work too hard and one up his more gravitas-charged brother and dispel his own manque label.

now he has one-upped his dad and gotten reelected. is a person with this history likely to seize an opportunity for greatness? did 9/11 transform him and enable him to become a transformational president for all of us? not promising.

then there's the genetic handicap. bush41 famously lacked "the vision thing." in one of his books on bush43, bob woodward relates a time when, on the eve of the iraqi war, he asked bush how his thoughts of history's judgment were weighing on him. bush replied with something like, "history? who cares, we'll all be dead then."

if saddam hussein had not invaded kuwait at a time when western leaders were gathered in aspen, colorado the gulf war may not have happened. bush41's instincts were to waver and vacillate. margaret thatcher saw this and told him "this is no time to go woolly in the knees, george." i literally searched through woodward's books for bush43's thinking that led to the start of the iraqi war. there was none. he just got carried along by events. he did not shape events.

bush43 prides himself on his "instincts" in evaluating people and situations. that is a lazy man's excuse for not wanting to think too much. it was his gut that told him that vladimir "poot-poot"putin was a good guy, that led him to announce in the oval office, with poot-poot looking down in embarrassment that he had "looked this man in the eye" and found a kindred soul in the ex-kgb apparatchik.

there is much reason to doubt that a man such as this will do the things necessary to defeat the islamic threat. if bush has been transformed and is to become transforming we should know shortly. there is no better time to force events than now.

-benjamin harris

Thursday, November 11, 2004


take pitt getting the points against the notre dame "fighting potato eaters."


-nail in the coffin

-tip of the iceberg

Friday, November 05, 2004

for two years this was a war blog. it's turning into a proust blog. more proust-isms:

"the translator was capable only of a mediocre book, if that book had been published as his original work. offered as a translation, it seems a masterpiece."

i have praised previously in the highest degree the translation i'm reading of remembrance... by moncrieff and kilmartin. the above fits them perfectly.

"but it is all the same a pleasant thing, and one which is perhaps exclusively french, that what is fine in all equity of judgments, what is admirable to the mind and the heart, should be first of all attractive to the eyes..."

"Like stockbrokers, doctors employ the first person singular." this was the concluding sentence in a paragraph about overhearing two men talk and hearing the doctor say about his chosen remedy, "i should prefer glycerine."

"how many they are in our memories, how many more we have forgotten--those faces of girls and young women, all different, on which we have superimposed a certain charm and a frenzied desire to see them again only because at the last moment they eluded us!"

on the same topic of the above, a girl who abruptly cancelled a dinner engagement with proust: "i began to sob. i shiverred, not only because the room was cold, but because a distinct lowering of brought about by a certain kind of tears..."

this could be said of b, who i wrote about earlier tonight: "she to whom one gives everything is so quickly replaced by another that one is surprised to find oneself giving all that one has afresh at every moment, without any hope of future reward."

-benjamin harris

in college tackle football tomorrow take the university of pittsburgh "panthers" getting the points against the syracuse "orange."

in english football on sunday take the manchester city "overpaid underachievers" to beat the manchester united "yankees."

-benjamin harris
a few days ago i read the folllowing in remembrance of things past, that love and its inverse, jealousy, are still there,

"...until time has enabled one to regain one's
composure and to learn one's successor's
name without wilting."

i smiled when i read that because i knew that when i learned the name of b's new love i would still wilt. and, of course, i was angry at her and myself.

i realized today how jealous of and in love with her i still am because i saw her with a wedding band on and felt the blood rush out of my head. i had not known. although i knew that she had bought a house with him.

it has been a year and a half since our breakup and it's still there. i have never had this before. in that year and a half i have told myself that i was not in love with or jealous of her, i have written it but as i was doing those things i was also aware that if i had been put under hypnosis my deepest soul would have acknowledged what my conscious was only dimly aware of and in denial about.

i have less jealousy in me than any person i know. i suppose the converse of that must also be true, that i have less love in me. but though i have been willing to admit to myself and others that i have many other faults, temper, pride, a mean streak, i have never been able or willing to admit to anyone that i am jealous.

i think that must be because of my feeling of abandonment by my brother, and surrogate father, mike when i was a teenager. i loved him more than he loved me and at an unconscious level i think maybe i decided i wasn't going to let that happen again.

i've been married twice, in love three more times, and in all cases but this one with b, i was the one to have broken it off. to be more accurate, i was the one who, by infidelity, caused the relationships to end. there's a difference there. the one is direct and active, the other is passive aggressive.

maybe that's not entirely true. this one, with b, i tried to break off more than once but she balked and i remained. even the final breakup was a completely mutual decision. but i was still in love with her and i've never gotten over it.

she was in love with me too for a short while after the break up but within two months had fallen in love with her now husband. that that "bothered" me is self-evident but does so on so many levels, some of them completely unrelated to a proper definition of love/jealousy that a complete discussion of the subject is, as they say, "beyond the scope" of this writing. but that i was not in love with the others when the break occurred and was still in love with b when it did, is correct.

it's incongrous to me, but quite typical i'm sure in the psychology of these things, that i should still be in love/jealousy and still know (1) that the break up was occasioned by my refusal to marry and have a family with her (2) that marriage would never have worked out between b and me. i was too old and exhausted from two failed marriages to embark on number 3. (3) most importantly, i had my children, long away from their majority, and it was just not possible for me to start a family with b when i had one already. (4) i have never sought contact with her, much less a reconciliation, since the break up. in fact i have rebuffed repeated efforts by her to stay in touch.

(5) too, i came to see so many faults in b in the last year's death throes that i had serious doubts about whether i could stay with this new person i was discovering. it was so disconcerting, literally at times breathtakingly so, that i wondered after the breakup and now, whether i ever really knew her all that well.

when i first met b, as her supervisor, i did not trust her. as a supervisor one becomes attuned to faux respect and friendship. i was so suspicious of her on this score that i documented every interaction we had so that she could not later say that i had not adequately supervised her (a complaint that has been made of me). but once our relationship started that all ended and i NEVER, with anyone else felt more secure and more loved.

so even with all of the five above--all truly true--i guess it is the last, the feeling, that trumps them collectively.

i am a difficult, eccentric, "enigmatic,"--in one of my friend's words--man. i have always run up against situations, with women or in male friendships, where i was being myself and insouciantly thought i was being completely transparent, only for one of those people to say something that startled me at their misunderstanding. it's not necessarily that what they said was negative or critical, it was just such a completely incomplete understanding of me that i was taken aback and, as is my wont, i withdrew.

for a person like that, the way that b told me that she loved me was the most powerful thing that had ever been said to me:

"you told me never to say this, so i won't. i'll
write it. i love you benjamin harris, whoever
and whatever you are, i love you."

the blood rushed out of my brain on that occasion also.

i know the distinction, made by nietzsche and others, between the mind and emotions and the sometime irreconcilability of the two.

proust has also greatly helped me with the central point of remembrance that our memories are not of one life with different stages but really of completely different lives, of different people, ours and the others we "know." i am still in love with the b i knew from august 10, 2001-august 9, 2002. that is a different person than who b is now, and has been for the last two years. i am haunted by the thought that even that person was a chimera, that i really never knew b. but i am still in love with that person and i still grieve the loss.

but damn, even understanding all of tha i still would have "thought" that i wouldn't be so vulnerable to the feelings i had today.

and i still don't know his name.

-benjamin harris