The writer becomes pen pals with an ornery old poet, Hayden Carruth:
“For most of his life, the beard was cropped and average — it was an unserious beard. But by the time I met him in 2003, it was the broad, white beard of a poet in exile, grown out in his desolate corner of America, a nothing-town near Syracuse called Munnsville. ‘The kids call it Funs-ville,’ he told me. Walking into his rickety red house, I said something like, ‘What a nice house’ — to be polite. ‘Hayden tried to commit suicide in this house,’ his wife, Joe-Anne, shot out reflexively.
“‘No, I didn’t,’ Hayden said, barely turning his head from the picture window. ‘Yes, you did,’ Joe-Anne shouted. She nagged him. They bickered a while. Then he raised his voice, interrupted her and settled it: ‘The pills were in the house,’ Hayden said, ‘but I did it in the car.'”
I was calling Sleets because I wanted to talk to the man who invented the high five. I’d first read about him in 2007 in a press release from National High Five Day, a group that was trying to establish a holiday for convivial palm-slapping on the third Thursday in April. Apparently, Sleets had been reluctantly put in touch with the holiday’s founders, and he explained that his father, Lamont Sleets Sr., served in Vietnam in the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry — a unit nicknamed The Five. The men of The Five often gathered at the Sleets home when Lamont Jr. was a toddler. They’d blow through the front door doing their signature greeting: arm straight up, five fingers spread, grunting “Five.” Lamont Jr. loved to jump up and slap his tiny palms against their larger ones. “Hi, Five!” he’d yell, unable to keep all their names straight.
The science of same-sex pairings in the wild.