Friday, February 23, 2007


How cool would it be to have a Vatican passport?

Not that I have an abiding interest in the Catholic church or anything. I'm just saying. Imagine the possibilities.

Besides the fact that it's the world's smallest country, the Vatican also has the distinction of being virtually impregnable. Nobody really knows what goes on behind those doors. (I'm not sure which doors, exactly, but there must be some doors there.)

So this means you could sit on a plane on some trans-atlantic flight and casually whip out that Vatican passport and let the good times roll. The person sitting next to you is bound to say something, right? I mean, shit, how many people have actually ever even seen a Vatican passport? So you can sit there, pretending to be checking your pages, your stamps, your expiry date, whatever, and the person sitting next to you might say:

"Wow, I've never seen one of those before."

"Yeah, not many people have," you can say. Smiling patiently.

"Do you live there, or work there, or..."

Then you pause. You nod deeply. You look out the window (if you have a window seat), or stare vaguely towards the front of the cabin (if you have an aisle seat), and you say: "I can't really say..."

Then you pause, slightly, before stating:

"I'm sorry. My head's, well, in the clouds, so to speak. Things just haven't been the same there since dad passed away a few years back..."

Then you head off for the bathroom, excusing yourself profusely, leaving your seatmate to wonder if you are, in fact, what he suspects you are -- the illilegitmate son (or daughter) of John Paul II.

These are the kinds of things I think about at night. Others count sheep; I imagine being the pope John Paul's bastard son, and flaunting my passport in the process. Sue me.

I also wonder:

Can you order a pizza from the Vatican? Would they deliver it up to your room?

These are the important questions in life.


Whenever a reporter on CNN is reporting live, from the White House, it's always late at night, and they're always a good, I don't know, forty, fifty, a hundred feet from the front entrance. If not further. (I've never been good with distances.)

But I watched Robin Oakely (the European Editor on CNN) the other day, and he was reporting from 10 Downing Street, in England, the home of the British P.M., Tony Blair, and I swear he was not more than five, ten feet from the front of the main door.

And here's the thing.

It is a door.

A black door marked with a gold 10 on the front.

The type of door that looks as if you could just wander in off the street, knock politely, and wait for the maid to answer. The type of door that looks ready-built for visitors strolling by for a cuppa tea with the big guy.

I'm sure that's not the case. There must be a shitload of security, fences, or landmines that lead to that door. But I'm calling it as I see it. And I swear, the other day Mr.Oakley was saying Blair-is-pulling-the-troops-out-of-Iraq-bla-bla-bla, and the door opened, and this yuppiesh-thirtyish-stockbrokerish dude came trotting out carrying his briefcase, waving a hand good-bye and laughing as if he just let off the biggest whoopee-cushion joke of his career. And the door slowly swung shut. And, get this, there was a single, solitary, bored-looking bobby standing, almost slouching, by the door. Yawning.

Somebody get them Brits another alarm system, is what I'm thinking.


Oliver Stone ends his brilliant film J.F.K. with this epigraph: "To the young, in whose spirit the search for truth marches on."

I saw the film when I was young -- younger than young, in fact, just-turned sixteen, but I never quite got what he was saying.

To a gent of eighty-five, me, at thirty-one, might still be considered young, I suppose, but most of my co-workers are much younger than me, and my students are often born in years that I swear just clicked by a day or two ago. I'll ask students when they were born, and they'll say "1993" or "1995" and I'm like: "Are you on crack? That's impossible! That was only --" And then I stop, and do the math -- which takes a while, me being mathematically dyslexic -- and I'll realize that they're right. They're young.

So what was Stone getting at, with that rather odd, generic dedication?

I'm starting to realize that Stone was right in another case as well, in his introduction to his novel A Child's Night Dream, which he wrote at nineteen and revised, then published, thirty years later. So much about aging is maintenance, he says. Now I kind of-sort-of get it. The daily grind of living often leaves our adolsecent dreams and ideals somewhere tucked away in the basement of our souls. We forget what we once stood for, hoped for, lived for. We have to fight for the audacity of our younger selves, and hope that it can emerge once again.

Watching my students, I see a lot of hope, and curiosity, and integrity, and intent. They want to know things. They want to be things. They believe that that's possible. They haven't been scorched by the ugliness of unwarranted, unjustified cynicism.

Maybe that's what Stone was getting at.

I'm not sure.

But it's a hell of an idealistic movie, J.F.K. is.

"Let justice be done though the heavens fall!" Costner yells from courthouse steps at one point.

I loved that line at sixteen.

I love it now, almost sixteen years later.

I hope that means something.

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