Sunday, May 24, 2020

My Life in 50 Objects: The Ring

             The ring sat among other rings in a cotton-lined box on a crowded counter in the gift shop. The shop was just a couple of blocks from campus, near the corner of Xenia Avenue, the main street in Yellow Springs, set back from the sidewalk behind a zigzag paved path amid bushes and flowers. The door tinkled from an overhead bell when Connie and I entered.
            Connie was my hallmate, another East Coaster, from Long Island, and it was just a few weeks after we’d arrived for our first year at Antioch College. On this warm day, we’d gone exploring, and here we were in an overstuffed gift shop, looking, just looking.
            The shop had a mixture of goods: scarves, vases, rings, earrings, tea boxes. I gravitated toward a ring. It had a green stone, mottled like the surface of a brain, in a round silver setting surrounded by a moat lined with a faint braid, further surrounded by 16 silver knobs, and its silver band was incised by curlicues. I tried it on, and it fit. Then I asked how much it cost.
            “Six dollars,” said the proprietor, a woman on the other side of middle-age with frizzy graying brown hair. Too much. (The equivalent of $51 today.) I put the ring back. That was too much. Connie came over and rummaged through the box of rings, while I wandered over to the tea table. There was a black and orange tin labeled Constant Comment, with orange rind and spices. That sounded tasty. I bought a tin. Back at our dorm, I noticed that Connie was wearing the ring I had tried on and wanted.
            The next day I went back to the gift shop and looked for the ring. The one with curlicues on the band was gone, but there was another one, almost the same except the silver band was plain. I paid the six dollars—and I still wear the ring, almost 60 years later.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

SOLTuesday: The Supreme Court

            Because of the pandemic, the Supreme Court has taken the unprecedented step of holding arguments via telephone, and also letting those arguments be heard by the public via C-SPAN. (Ordinarily, one can attend Supreme Court sessions, but maybe only about 100 people or so are let in to the Washington, D.C., courtroom.) Today the cases being heard were about the subpoenas served on Trump by both House committees and by the New York City D.A.’s office.
            I knew these arguments would be the subject of news reports, and since I had the chance, I wanted to be able to listen in myself and get my own sense of what was going on. So I had my TV on just after 10 a.m.
            It was fascinating. First the president’s lawyers and then the solicitor general, representing the government, made their arguments in about five minutes. Then, starting with Chief Justice Roberts and then going by seniority (Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh—that sequence is now indelibly in my mind), each justice had five minutes to ask questions and have the attorneys respond. Roberts must have had a timer, because when five minutes was up, he called the next justice, even if the attorney was in the middle of responding.
            The justices, of course, are supposed to be nonpartisan, but we know the general political leaning of almost every one of them. So it was instructive to see a conservative judge ask a question from the more liberal side, and realize that the justice was giving the president’s lawyer the opportunity to make the points that the conservative justice wanted to hear. Sometimes, if a lawyer was stopped in the middle of answering a question because a justice’s time was up, the next justice would follow up to get the lawyer to finish his (and all of the lawyers were men) point.
            In the cases concerning the congressional subpoenas, there were lots of questions comparing this case to both the lawsuits against Clinton and the Watergate hearings into Nixon. Trump’s lawyers often talked about having to protect future presidents from political “harassment,” but one could argue that the case against Trump is already the third, and the one against Clinton was just as much if not more harassment than the case against Trump.
            It wasn’t easy to see which way the justices were leaning, though I sense that their decision will be on as narrow grounds as possible.
            If you have any chance at all, do try to listen to these arguments on C-SPAN, either on TV or laptop or phone. They only last until around 1 p.m. If you have teenage children, ask them to listen for a while as well. It may seem boring or hard to follow, but the process is part of our government, and rarely has it been so readily available to the general public.
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