Thinking Makes It So: Eating humble pie with a side of dirt

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By Kelly LeVan

I have quilted myself a biography of poet Joe Fazio (1929-2007), stitching together little URL-patches of minutia.According to one poetry site, he lived in Beverly Hills, Calif. According to another, he resided in Connecticut.He seems to have been very Republican – at least, someone named Joe Fazio declared in a published letter that anyone who ever voted for a pro-abortion candidate was going to Hell.He produced the movies “The Keeper” (2001) and “Firestorm Rising” (2001). He owned a bakery in Missouri and an Italian restaurant in West Virginia. He worked as an attorney in Michigan while operating ham radios in Perth, Australia. He also served as chief operating officer at a nonprofit called Mommy’s Light in Exton, Pa.In his free time, Fazio enjoyed the movie “Me & Will” on VHS with his wife.I found the greatest excitement at Squidoo.com, a site that invites viewers to “share your knowledge and passion with the world.” Fazio appeared to have obeyed, and uploaded such masterpieces as “The Shadow of You” and “Do You ee Think About Me?” as well as – deep breath – a link to his own website.I believed, for one glorious night, that because of the poems, this was the Joe Fazio I’ve been looking for: Poemhunter.com’s favorite son, the poet who ranks a full 242 spots above T.S. Eliot on the site’s “Top 500 Poets” list.I also believed he might not be dead.Fazio, that is: I’m pretty sure about Eliot.Anyhow, in order to substantiate my fantasy, I had to accept that his name was not Joe Fazio, but in fact Joseph James Breunig the 3rd, born June 26, 1958, who graduated from Deering High School in the top 10 percent of his class, amongst other accomplishments.Here’s the pudding: Breunig includes both names in his Squidoo page, along with several poems I recognize from Fazio’s Poemhunter canon.Here’s the non-pudding: Breunig has his own Poemhunter page as well, where not one of the 81 poems overlaps those on the Fazio page, and not one of them sounds at all like a Fazio poem.These poems give me dust and sweat and God. They evoke metaphors.They utterly lack that sincere, puppy-dogginess of Fazio’s “best of,” that quality that moved Victoria Stillman so deeply and touched Carolyn Zukerman enormously, according to their posted comments.Further, I wrote to Breunig and he wrote me back with the following:“I am not Joe Fazio; nor do I personally know him.”I have read and reread his reply. I don’t see any ambiguity.Luckily, I’ve enjoyed more success with my other, unrelated research into a topic of current interest, at least to me: naked mole rats.A thespian pal of mine recently sent me a photo of one – a prototype, really, with a body like a cocktail weenie and huge, geeky buck teeth. I immediately forwarded the photo to several of my closest friends, most of whom wrote back, “Gross. Why did you send me this?” or some variation thereof.However, one of them, an environmental scientist, already knew all about naked mole rats. One of her professors, she said, was obsessed with them, fascinated by the evolution and social structure of these hairless mammals who look to be – speaking of metaphors – in dire need of a bris.Most of the naked mole rat-related literature celebrates the rats’ selflessness. They live in colonies, like ants or bees, with a queen, an elite harem of males and a large group of celibate workers. Zoologists call this system “eusocial,” meaning “truly social.”The “sand puppies,” as naked mole rats are called in their native Africa, readily share food with one another, much the way viewers on Squidoo share their personal lives.As with many other communal living situations, there is a lot of dirt. Naked mole rats live underground, rarely peeping up with their tiny, nearly blind eyes and spending most of their time tunneling for tasty tubers.An article posted on the National Zoo’s website reports that because the animals rely so little on their eyes, they move as quickly backward as forward – a handy skill in a dark world populated by hungry snakes.The same article claims 25 percent of a mole rat’s muscle mass is devoted to closing its jaw. Humans devote 1 percent of our muscles to such a task, but then we rarely gnaw through dirt, roots and rocks in order to survive.My favorite naked mole rat fact: In any given colony, scientists find a few fat, lazy mole rats that have a bad case of wanderlust. It is these selfish, indolent members who strike out on their own and eventually stake out new colonies.Of course, this only reminds me of my recent failure – for although I have no urge to recolonize anything, I’ve certainly struck out with Joe Fazio.

Please send VHS recommendations to Kelly at laeditor@lamonitor.com.