Art critic Peter Schjeldahl once compared looking at Edvard Munch’s paintings to “listening to an album of a certain blues or rock song that, once upon a time, changed my life. I can’t hear the songs, as I can’t see the Munch images, without recalling earlier states of my soul, as if to listen or to look were, beyond nostalgia, an exercise in autobiography. Each song, each image, reminds me of myself.”

I was thinking about this around 4 a.m. on a recent Saturday morning as I walked back to the Hotel Munch after an evening out in Oslo. I’d met some lovely people who’d taken me to a country music club to listen to a band called the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, and then to a rock club where a heavy metal cover band played… More…

 

When it comes to leisure, the public face of this summer will not be built of Caribbean cruises and European jaunts and August-long seaside rentals, but of state parks and neighbors’ pools. Many people will still enjoy the former, but the latter feels a lot less conspicuous, and that’s a collective self-image we feel we should put forward right now.

It is therefore an especially appropriate time to eschew a decadent trip on the order of, say, an African safari. Its closer and (relatively) more affordable alternative? The American drive-thru safari. It was with a talent for such recession-inspired creativity (Carpool! Eat at home! Don’t go to Africa!) that I recently found myself at the gates of Wild Safari in Jackson, New Jersey — a member of the Six Flags family of amusements that claims to be the… More…

 

What are poets doing to lessen their carbon footprint? — Lisa G., St. Louis, Missouri

Dean Young’s “Whale Watch” captures the sentiment of many poets regarding the Earth’s environmental condition, no matter what our political persuasions:

…You may want to fall to your knees and beg forgiveness without knowing precisely for what. You may have a hole in your heart. You may solve the equation but behind it lurks another equation. You may never get what you want and feel like you’re already a ghost and a failed ghost at that, unable to walk through walls…

All poets can vary along on a continuum — from Green Peace supporters who have converted to veganism, to monster truck drivers who don’t recycle — but the current environmental crisis has, I believe, made all poets feel a little guilty every… More…

Right before the girls in the house started peeing in each other’s shampoo bottles, we went on a wilderness retreat. It was not a good time at the group home where I was working. We were understaffed and the house was, for the moment anyway, filled with the kind of teen girls who possessed enough misdirected rage and disinterest in self-preservation to pee in their roommates’ shampoo bottles.

I did not want to go on a trip to the mountains with these girls. On my 60-hour shifts I had been on enough trips with them — to the YMCA, and the grocery store — to know that this trip would not go well. Managers of both places we frequented wanted to expel us — the grocery store for run-of-the-mill shoplifting and the Y because the girls had repeatedly stolen cigarette butts out of the outdoor ashtrays and tried to smoke… More…

Every July when I was a child, my parents would pack their bags and go on vacation. My sister and I were left home with our grandparents. We played dodge ball and drank bug juice in the grungy day-camp nearby, and spent the rest of our time drawing with chalk on the driveway and vegetating in front of the TV. It was adults, not children, who had the exciting lives then — and no one questioned our parents’ right to fly off for a month to France or Italy, Bermuda, Mexico, or Guadeloupe. We enjoyed staying with our grandparents, who allowed us to eat cookies for breakfast and stay up to watch The Tonight Show, but what we liked most was the expectation of our parents’ return. It wasn’t that we missed them — such a thing never occurred to us — but we looked forward to the souvenirs they… More…