Augmenting the 55th Class Report Submission

the author in 1945

Once we get past 75, the best measures of who we are might be which books populate the shelves, which New Yorker cartoons are displayed on the refrigerator (or lovingly tucked away in manila folders), what music we hum in the shower, and which single malt Scotch we favor. We seem to spend more mental cycles on what happens next than formerly. And of course print is ever smaller and folk do mumble so...

My ambivalence about Class Reports (and about Harvard in general) is undiminished after all these years. While I enjoy the exercise of writing submissions, and I read the thing cover-to-cover when it arrives, I marvel at how few of my classmates I knew then, and how little my life's trajectory seems like what they report. We are a cohort, to be sure (Born During the War), but disparity seems our prime commonality.

Every five years (at least since our 40th) I've made web pages to augment my brief print submissions to the Class Report, but I've had no indication that anybody has noticed. Does that matter? Well, no. I write those pages mostly for the discoveries I make as I try to piece together a coherent summary of my doings and interests. The blog ( likewise: sure, I'd like to have readers and interlocutors, but I'm not inclined to beat the bushes for them. And as for the Facebook and Twitter, faugh!

I was quite surprised to find myself attending the 50th, and finding that I enjoyed the conversations I had with classmates, mostly people I met for the first time, and probably will never encounter again. My freshman roommates are long dead, and Jan Broek '64 is the only Harvard person I see with any regularity (and of course my spouse Elizabeth Root Blackmer '65, who turns up every morning as she has done for 55 years...).

The backstory information I generated for the 50th covers those years pretty well, and since 2015 the main things to add are a few pointers to specific photographic activities: Full-Frontal Spiritual Manifestations and Pop-Up Photography Show, July 2019 and a link to the just-completed eleventh Blurb book Elevenses.

Both of us participated in an online photography workshop with Andy Ilachinski, and the material I put together for it makes a good summary of the directions of my photographic life.

In other activities, after the 2016 election Betsy decided to do something non-partisan, un-controversial, and indubitably good for the world: she started picking up roadside trash. I joined the effort after a week or so, and we've been at it ever since, now covering more than 20 miles of road on our peninsula. We affect bright vests and grabber sticks, are out scouring the verge several days a week (sometimes 10 miles, mostly more like 5), and donate the deposit cans and bottles (5 cents, 15 if the bottle is large) to the town's recycling center. We've become quite notorious, and people wave and stop to thank us, and summer tourists wonder if somebody is paying us to do the work. In two years of counting, we're well past 80,000 cigarette butts (consider for a moment the mentality that counts cigarette butts...), and well beyond the inclination to blame. It feels good to be doing it, and I claim that I can eat whatever I like because of the exercise.