years ago in Alabama, I was enrolled in a summer kindergarten class
taught by Mrs. Peggy McDowell. She had remodeled the large basement of
her house to serve as a classroom for a dozen or so children from my
We learned about numbers and letters there. We drew and painted and
made things from clay. We played games in her yard. After afternoon
milk and cookies, we pulled out cots and took naps.
When we graduated from Mrs. McDowell’s kindergarten, it was an
actual graduation. With our parents watching, we donned caps and gowns
and walked across the patio to proudly accept rolled diplomas from our
teacher. She played Elgar’s traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” on a
portable record player, and today I can’t hear that song without
getting misty-eyed at the memory. I remember feeling for the first time
in my life that I was marking an important milestone, even if I
couldn’t have put it in those words at that age.
Thirty-six years ago today, my fellow kindergarteners and I followed
Mrs. McDowell up the stairs to the house where she lived with her
family. These stairs were usually forbidden, and even though we had
permission to climb them, we were quiet as mice. Once upstairs, we sat
cross-legged on the carpeted floor of her den. And on a large
black-and-white TV set, we watched in wonder as a man in a spacesuit
bounced across the surface of the moon.
That night after dinner I looked up at the moon from my backyard. I
thought about the men bouncing around up there, and wondered what they
had for dinner. It was a warm, humid night in Alabama. Were they cold
up there? Crickets chirped all around me. What did it sound like on the
moon? I wondered what we looked like to the astronauts. I wondered
about the universe and my place in it as I never had before.
Not counting my parents, Mrs. McDowell was my first teacher. In many ways, she was the most important one I ever had.
In Alabama, a state that has never put education high on its list of
priorities, she devoted 22 years of her life to nurturing hundreds,
maybe thousands of children. With love and imagination, she made sure
they got off to a good start.
Peggy Bailey McDowell died this week, and her family laid her to rest in the small town where I was born.
Today we commemorate the moon landing, as we should. But in my heart
and every action I take, I'm honoring an amazing and generous teacher
named Mrs. McDowell. She showed young children that they could dream of
the moon on a summer day. And she gave us the tools and encouragement
to live in the wonderful world that spins below it.
Thank you, Mrs. McDowell. I'll never stop looking up. Promise.
It doesn’t hurt anybody. It’s something I love to do, and it doesn’t
hurt anybody. And the world probably doesn’t need any more songs, but I
need more songs. It’s satisfying and lovely to do. I feel better, and
as a band—I think I can speak for everyone—we feel better making
something that wasn’t there ten minutes ago. Whatever spirit there is
in the universe, I think that puts you closer to it. The act of
creation, you know, it’s a very powerful thing, and very gratifying. I
wish it on everyone. I wish everyone could enjoy making something that
wasn’t there before.
Here's a sharp and cogent conversation at The House Next Door about a movie that really didn't make sense to me until I moved here: David Lynch's Mulholland Drive.
This surrealistic noir captures an eerie something about this place no other film does. Lynch's work is almost always creepy in some way, but this one gets under my skin because the terrain, both physical and emotional, is at once alien and uneasily familiar. Whenever I think about the city and the people driven to be here, these sharply contrasting images of Naomi Watts always come to mind.
Times Square @ midnight
Central Park, near Columbus Circle
Bluegrass Jam at Off the Wagon, Greenwich Village
Central Park from the Rooftop Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Just before an afternoon rainstorm at Union Square
9/11 kitsch at a Times Square tourist trap
Free drink coupons and other nourishment on Virgin America, flying west at 34,000 feet
Clarkblog is three years old. That's more than 700 posts, 500+ comments, and over 100,000 hits, most of them intentional. With these stats in hand, Clarkblog has officially outlived 99.9999999 percent of all blogs on the planet. Or, um, something like that.
To celebrate, I'm unhooking the blog from its Internet pipes and taking it to New York City. We'll be back in June.