Response to the young narrator's question, "Are you lost, daddy?" in Ring Lardner's humorous novel The Young Immigrunts:

The lease said about my and my fathers trip from the Bureau of Manhattan to our new home the soonest mended. In some way ether I or he got balled up on the grand concorpse and next thing you know we was thretning to swoop down on Pittsfield.

Are you lost daddy I arsked tenderly.

Shut up he explained.

Sometimes quoted as an example of a writer breaking the rules of "good" writing in order to produce better writing. In this case (though of course to dissect humor is to kill it), the father's growing frustration at the misadventures he suffers while moving his family East is more effectively conveyed by the use of a mild and reasonable word like "explained" with a jaw-grinding expression of anger that is anything but an explanation.

Pottery class was hard. Much harder than I expected; I mean really, the lump of clay goes on the potter’s wheel, you shape it into a ball and then a bowl, and you’re done. Right? Ha. It takes an incredible amount of strength and concentration to center the clay on the wheel. You bend over it, wet hands holding the ball, pushing it down on the center of the wheel. Your knees are pushing your elbows in, helping to brace your hands against the revolving lump of clay. If it is not properly centered, the pot or bowl that you try to make will wobble and fall apart, refusing to be created. It takes time and practice and strong, steady hands to get it right. It’s not a pretty, satisfying, peaceful activity, not at first, not the way it looks when Demi Moore plays with the wheel in Ghost.

So I eventually managed. I made a few fledgling pots, little ones, not good for much more than giving to Mom for Christmas and saying, ‘Look what I made!’ They weren’t even done yet—once the greenware has dried a bit, the potter puts it back on the wheel to trim it. The lip of the bowl must be trimmed, the base thinned down. Then it will sit on the shelf for another few days before going into the kiln, after which it receives a coat of glaze, and then it's fired again. It’s a long process. Did I mention one needs patience?

I like art. I like crafty stuff—photo albums and home-made cards and all sorts of knitting and quilting and weaving. Actual art, drawing and painting and pottery and the like, are harder. Periodically I take classes and try new things—as a teacher, it is a good thing for me to be on the student end, to be frustrated when my projects don’t turn out as well as I wanted them to. I need to not be the expert. I need to keep in touch with how hard it is to learn things, things that you’re not necessarily good at. So I take these community classes, and I become a beginner again.

So. I’ve managed to create a little bowl, and my teacher is using it to show the class how to trim the lip and the base. She’s made hundreds of thousands of these, much better than mine. There are lovely, shapely half-finished pots of hers over on the counter but no, she’s using mine for the example. Fine. I’ll have at least one that is done right.

She puts it on the wheel. We all gather 'round. She trims the top. She flips the bowl over and is demonstrating how to push on the bottom and gauge the thickness, to see how much should be cut away. She pushes right through the clay on my little bowl, breaking it.

“Oh, shit,” she apologized.

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