Robert Pinsky  

       New Year’s Day at 7 a.m. is an excellent time for driving to Boston’s famously inaccessible Logan Airport, on the island of East Boston. The three of us–Biz, the 20-year-old daughter, came straight from her party, skipping sleep altogether–glided swiftly over the usually clotted expressway and through the nearly abandoned bottleneck of the Callahan Tunnel.
       This unnatural efficiency allows plenty of time for sitting around at the airport, tormented by the Big Brother monitors that blare CNN Lite at us, too loud too ignore, though most victims in the departure lounge stoically (or docilely?) try their best. Biz squints through the window at the morning glare: Ice on the runway, she mutters, and you know the pilot is drunk on Jan. 1.
       The second-most trite material for stand-up comedy (after television) is air travel. The euphemistic jargon (it’s not an airplane, it’s “equipment”; the tiny candy bar that comes with the chilly bread and no-taste chicken salad is the Fun Size), the physical indignities, the transparent condescension, all point to one terrible thought. Namely, no matter what these companies tell their passengers, they don’t really care about us. If they did, they wouldn’t let these grinning hophead employees of Ted Turner scream at us, for example. Do they care about our safety any more than they do about our comfort? We are protected from death only by the fact that it is bad for business. Something to wisecrack about.
       In Los Angles, meanwhile, it has been raining, it is raining and, according to the long-range forecast, it will be raining. But contrasted with the New England winter that is just getting into full lip-chapping, ear-wounding, car-punishing swing, the muggy drizzle in Los Angeles looks pretty good.
       My answering machine and e-mail contain responses to yesterday’s Ugly Ornament pictures (Biz gets credit as photographer). The immediate family concentrates on quibbles: I lied about helping to put away the Christmas ornaments, I got a couple of the names slightly wrong, I had the wrong daughter buying that first, ugly bird on San Pablo Avenue. Well, tough–it isn’t exactly the victors who write the history, it’s the writers, pal. And speaking of victors, with Ellen’s winning entry of last week, I am the only one who has never won the contest–more pathetic than the Red Sox or Cubs. So I distort a little.
       All losses are restored and sorrows end when we get to see and hold Samuel Eli Pinsky-Dickson, the main man behind this pilgrimage. It’s my writer’s prerogative to mention the banal information that he has two teeth (lower), stands free of support for seconds at a time and (I guess this puts him at the Airedale stage of development) responds to his name, a skill his mother tests by saying to him, “Hello, Henry” and “Hello, Cyril” and “Hello, Bruce,” with no response until she says, “Hello, Sam”–and then he chortles and waves his arms as though dozens of clowns were pouring out of a teeny car.
       Plus, as I have pointed out before, he makes me young, by nomenclature: I am a young grandfather, pretty much the last context in which I get that particular adjective. In this way, Sam counteracts a process I call Yoda-fication (verb, “to Yodify”): the tendency for young poets and graduate students to treat one like a small, wizened, infinitely wise and infinitely harmless little creature, long out of the fray. There is a related concept, Zaydification, but that is another story.