Ever since I was still only a little kid, I’ve always been quite the compulsive bookworm. When my parents, Mary Anne and I used to go back and forth to northeastern Pennsylvania regularly to visit relatives, I spent each entire trip reading billboards and other signs along the way. I can still remember being quite mesmerized over what Cutty Sark could possibly have meant. Whenever I ate or drank something I paid quite an inordinate amount of attention to abbreviations like oz. and lb. on the labels. In school I developed quite a reputation for having won virtually every spelling bee in Queens and Suffolk County. I was the kind of kid whom my teachers, on standardized tests, always gave credit for having been around five years above the average reading level for my age range. I can remember having read, at St. Gabriel’s and the local East Elmhurst Public Library, books and stories like “The Five Chinese Brothers”, “Skeeter Chariot High In the Sky” and the collected works of Dr. Seuss. I first heard of Edward Lear at St. Gabriel’s, when I read his “There Was an Old Man With a Beard..” poem. In the sixth grade, Brother Thomas made my classmates and me read, among other literary works, Steven Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage”, and Edward Arlington Robinson’s “Richard Corey” and “Miniver Cheevey”. Throughout my days at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School and Farmingdale College, I was exposed to F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Shakespeare, Keats, Yeats, Blake, Joyce and countless other writers. The Beatles, and other singers and bands from their era, have always been my musical favorites. The songs of the 1960’s reflect quite a lot of classic literary influence. Joan Baez’ “So We’ll Go No More A-Roving” is based on Byron’s poem. Yoko Ono’s “Who Has Seen the Wind” is based on Christina Rossetti’s poem. The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus” and Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” come right out of Lewis Carroll. I’ve heard that Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” was derived from an old medieval or Elizabethan poem. As with my taste in show business and pop culture, I tend to be a bit of a literary snob. The majority of the writers who really interest me are from the distant past. Because of my pathological aversion to change-I’m ever the stick in the mud-my reaction to someone’s “We need another Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost” would be quite a resounding “Whatever good would that do? We already have the real Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost”. When someone else has nothing to do he may eat, read the sports page. or watch television. When I have nothing to do I read the collected works of the Brownings, Brontes or Shelleys, or some other classic author. Right now I’m reading Jane Austen’s “Mansfield Park”. I have to be careful though. Once I tried to read seventy five pages James Joyce’s “Ulysses” over the course of a day. I got an unbearable migraine that lasted for three days. I always have to laugh when I’m in a book store and see books by and about everyone from Tim Conway to Suzanne Somers. I enjoy all kinds of reading material, ranging from biography to poems, novels, philosophy and theology. Because of my having always been smitten with the humanities, people often take it for granted that I majored in theology and philosophy in school. As a lay Carmelite I really have to keep up with developments in Sanjuanist and Teresian theology. Sometimes I feel as if I don’t fit in very well with a lot of the people I’m expected to associate with but you never know when my interest in classic literature can come in quite handy. On New Year’s Eve Steve an I went to a party in the neighborhood. Although everyone else there, unlike me, was married with children and enjoyed sports, I ended up getting into a really interesting conversation, with a guy named Kirk, about the collected works of Flannery O’Connor. Not many people could have kept up with someone who wanted to talk about her.