At an unsteady clip

31 July 2013 § 2 Comments

30 July

I just—snippets of grass cling yet to my legs yet—finished a rite of passage (or of something): using the string clipper.  After scoffing at the power of two silly strings to tame an overgrown hedge, I discovered that they can actually cut rocks.  String clippers needed for quarry venture?  String clippers as violent weapons?  This lawnish beast, akin to some sort of mostly-ossified snake of gigantic proportions, retains yet a lethal ability.  It launched otherwise innocent pieces of lawn at my legs, stinging my skin and engendering definite dislike.  It is my fault, or that of flailing inexperience, that the garden boasts bald patches and uneven clipping.  The affair would have passed without incident until, nearing the end of my verdant serpentine violent path, I unearthed (ungrassed?) a tortoise hiding in a tiny gully.  (String clippers as animal control?)  I didn’t lift it out and luckily did not pulverise its shell, nor even touch it, and I hope it’s alive.  It may have crawled into the hollow to die, an old and wizened creature, wise enough or sad enough to distance itself from its tortoise-community (if such a thing exists) and end its days peacefully.  Under the bellicose caterwauling of the string clipper.


Social tree climber

19 July 2013 § 1 Comment

18 July

A few months ago, in a kindhearted effort to assist me in my then-nonexistent job crusade (it is more than a hunt), my mother sent me a newspaper clipping of three jobs that she spotted in the classifieds.  One concerned something dull that I’ve forgotten; one concerned an editing job at the newspaper here; and one was for a tree climber.  The editing job was of no interest, naturally, but the tree climbing job was a stellar idea.  What luck, I thought to myself, to have such a mother who will inform me of this sort of opportunity—and one (the same one) who has both provided proper preparation for and instilled in me a great excitement for this kind of occupation.

I'm Peter Pan!

I’m Peter Pan!

Ready to answer the advertisement, I felt my spirits fall as I realised that 1) a stress fracture and corresponding boot prevented me from accepting the job right then (although it had not prevented me from climbing trees—but that is a long, tortuous story), 2) I was still in Durham, and 3) one qualification listed was “Class A” tree climber.  Mystified, I filed the advertisement away.  I have since learned that I narrowly missed attending a great tree climbing workshop in rural Oregon, where I could have gained certification.

Real man rappelling.

Real man rappelling.


Then, in today’s newspaper (which I now read, er, glance at in an unashamedly desultory manner), I spotted something about tree-climbing.  Clearly I missed that fun, but regret is a bourgeois sentiment, so I’ll stick to my own trees.  The search for that news bit yielded an article about a 535-pound bear that cannot climb a tree (so what exactly does it spend its time doing?) and an ominous explanation of how “billions of cicadas” are poised to overrun the East.  Strangely, no evidence of this phenomenon has arisen as yet.

The image of that bear's soul.  (Deyrolle; The New York Times)

The image of that bear’s soul. Also foreshadowing. (Deyrolle; The New York Times)

Several confessions are in order.  First, I made several inappropriate comments in the last post.  Such abysmal punnery should never be thought, much less broadcast.  Nevertheless, it is unnecessary to issue an apology; it was all in good pun.  Second, today I laughed when a strange radio malfunction that resembled skipping mauled Diane Rehm’s voice, if you can imagine such an effect.  I really like Diane Rehm.  She cannot help her voice.  And I cannot help laughing.  Third, some distant promise of literary concerns comprising this endeavour has become, indeed, distant.

Present remedy.  A writer who takes no nonsense.  Also a writer who would pay no mind to the expectations of others.  Whatever they were.  Then he went and drank strong coffee from a bowl.  Packing up his poles, he and fellow strong-silent man hike seven hours to fish in ice cold water.

"It's a fine crowd you're with, Brett."

“It’s a fine crowd you’re with, Brett.”

If you have not guessed the current subject, let the sun also rise upon your mind.  One of my favourite bits from this book, which I found an impressive work that manages to contain love, hate, desire, adventures in various countries, musings on America and Europe, the war, bull-fighting, a long fishing trip, reflections on college, enough alcohol to drown the old man in the sea, travel stories, American newspaper culture in Paris, English expatriate culture in Paris, and Greek bewildered culture in Paris, whilst retaining a decidedly unhurried air, runs thusly:

[Bill, who is tight, and Jacob, who is the narrator, have been chatting whilst in search of dinner.  Bill cannot give up his insistence that they retrace their steps and procure a treasure from a taxidermist’s shop that they have passed; Jacob is discouraging this desire.]

Party animals.  Deyrolle taxidermy shop in Paris.

Party animals!  Deyrolle taxidermy shop in Paris.

“Here’s a taxidermist’s,” Bill said. “Want to buy anything? Nice stuffed dog?”
“Come on,” I said. “You’re pie-eyed.”
“Pretty nice stuffed dogs,” Bill said.  “Certainly brighten up your flat.”
“Come on.”
“Just one stuffed dog.  I can take ’em or leave ’em alone.  But listen, Jake.  Just one           stuffed dog.”
“Come on.”
“Mean everything in the world to you after you bought it.  Simple exchange of                    values.  You give them money.  They give you a stuffed dog.”
“We’ll get one on the way back.”
“All right.  Have it your own way.  Road to hell paved with unbought stuffed dogs.              Not my fault.”

Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson in Deyrolle in Midnight in Paris

Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson in Deyrolle in Midnight in Paris

Another great passage comes about when Jake goes to Spain on his fishing trip and Bill explains Irony—“They’re mad about it in New York”—to him.  It’s a rather long passage and not quite as funny if you don’t know about the bore of a character that Robert Cohn is or the shades of character that Bill and Jake know in each other.

Sometimes, Hemingway throws out a few aphorisms, just enough to remind one that he and Fitzgerald were roughly of the same generation.  “We go too long without sleep in these fiestas.  I’m going to start now and get plenty of sleep.  Damn bad thing not to get sleep.  Makes you frightfully nervy.”  Hear, hear.  Perpetual insomniac?  Perpetually frightfully nervy.

One last bit.  “You can never tell whether a Spanish waiter will thank you.  Everything is on such a clear financial basis in France.  It is the simplest country to live in.  No one makes things complicated by being your friend for any obscure reason.  If you want people to like you you only have to spend a little money.”  Perhaps this is accurate as concerns France.  Perhaps, too, for Spain—but, with proper Hemingway behaviour, my memories of Spain are limited to gallivanting through the city and its green parks for a few hours, dancing and drinking for several more, [sleep should be here], and floating in a ghostly manner through the Prado, shadowy-eyed with my friends.

[Aside.  A fire ravaged Deyrolle a few years ago; thus the burned bear.  For further reading, peruse this.]

Coda.  If he had sparked a fad diet, it would have been called Slimmingway.  Let your manliness destroy every ounce of fat on your body.  Whether a morning swim across the English Channel, a twenty-four hour fishing trip with red wine as your only sustenance, or a week’s worth of unrestrained fiesta in Pamplona, let your endurance beat all earthly (and heavenly, for that matter) desires into submission.

I found luncheon.

I found luncheon.

But of course Hemingway would never engage in such profane activities.  He and his characters enjoyed proper food and had far too much respect for themselves to do otherwise.

And don't forget to charm the lady.

And don’t forget to charm the lady.

Edit: I found the tree climbing article but cannot read it, since I have just forsworn newspapers.

Water you doing?

18 July 2013 § Leave a comment

18 July

As you can sea, torrential rainfall transformed Kingsport into a lake yesterday.  From our noble perch on the mountain, we remain unbothered by the flash flood downtown.  Who knows what the commoners are doing?  I shore don’t know.

Wade in the water . . .

Wade in the water . . .

God done troubled the water.  This reminds me of when my class was in South Africa, and our dear professor, alias Colonel Sanders, sang it often during our two-day road trip from Durban to Cape Town.  He wouldn’t stop pooling around.

In a good temper

14 July 2013 § Leave a comment

13 July

Lately, I’ve been enjoying Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, and although András Schiff* has my complete devotion, Glenn Gould has also captured my ears.  If you do not know what he looks like, cure your ignorance immediately; he has a fascinating face.  He looks like someone who would have enthralled people when he spoke and left them to vacillate in agony over whether they would rather hear him speak or play.

A bestseller!

A bestseller.

Actually, probably no one had trouble with that one.


Both, simultaneously.

Pure speculation, of course.

Horowitz also had a fantastic face.  He is another favourite, along with his fellow countryman, Rachmaninov.  How lovely when composers also play widely.  For further reading and listening (and real explanations, rather than the narrow range of adjectives with which I’ve peppered my scanty list), this article is a good place to start.  Horowitz agrees.

Russians have the best sense of humour. And really the best sense of everything.

Russians have the best sense of humour.  And really the best sense of everything.

There is a good radio program of Schiff discussing and playing the Well-Tempered Clavier.  (Inspiration to throw away the dreary workbooks?  I would if I could play more than the simplest Chopin preludes and mazurkas.)  I’ve attended a concert of his only once, in October of my freshman year, when he played Mendelssohn and Schumann.  I remember where I was sitting, mostly because Page is so uncomfortable that no person could ever forget where he has sat during a performance there.  It was magnificent, though, and one of those times when I was happy to be at a concert alone.  Talking can cloud the music and distract the mind, and without others, one can dispense with words.


Precisely.  (Horowitz noch einmal)

*And Rubinstein.  Obviously.  It is sad that my generation will never hear him in person.

I agree.  But here is a face by which to remember me!

Tak. But here is a face by which to remember me!

Navalny and the feudal regime

12 July 2013 § Leave a comment

12 July

I found a snippet of Navalny‘s court speech in the Wall Street Journal several days ago, and now the full version.  Here is his blog that has made him famous as an anti-corruption and super-anti-Putin activist.

He looks stronger than his captors . . .

He looks stronger than his captors . . .

In the future: Russian Spring?!  Or . . . Navalny for president.

In other news, Russians are having too much fun and should withdraw into seclusion more often.  No further defence is necessary; he’s a Russian Orthodox Patriarch.

Patriarch Kirill, having fun during the morning candle dance.

Patriarch Kirill, having fun during the morning candle dance.

Also: why typewriters are high-security tools.  I’ve been using one to type my secrets for months.  Note to Snowden: if you stay in Russia long enough, you’re going to be snowed in.

The retreat of Napoleon from Russia, 3 November 1812 (Victor Adam, mid-19th century hand-coloured lithograph)

The retreat of Napoleon from Russia, 3 November 1812 (Victor Adam, mid-19th century hand-coloured lithograph)

Or snowed out?


12 July 2013 § Leave a comment

11 July

*Mental adventures.  Or just maddening adventures that make one restless.  Or perhaps ventures undertaken when one is mad.  This word was born into the world without drawing attention to itself in an earlier post.  The Augustans were (are?—are there any in the present day?!) fairly solid madventurers.  The explication of this requires an entire post, methinks.

Whilst imposing order upon my newspaper archive, listening to Folk Alley (find it in this radio smorgasbord), I heard a song about chocolate mending a broken heart.  Lie!  This is a lie, this is a lie.  Chocolate does not fix problems.  Chocolate is necessary for a rich life, though, and you should listen to Leon Redbone’s “At the Chocolate Bon Bon Ball.”

His photograph accompanies the encyclopedia entry of "leer."  See also: human repelling

His photograph accompanies the encyclopedia entry of “leer.” See also: human repelling.

(Aside: this radio station has just played the Tom Dooley song—so morbid, but so invigorating somehow—and has thus gained a faithful listener.)

Poor Laura Foster.  Little did she contemplate the nearness of love and death.

Poor Laura Foster. Little did she contemplate the nearness of love and death.

Also, Heidi made a chocolate cake last night (I was the official stirrer and taste-tester), which partly explains the several references to chocolate today.  Partly.

Sigh. If only I could bake with only Valhrona.

Sigh.  If only I could bake with Valhrona always.

This time tomorrow, reckon I’ll be down in a lonesome valley . . . reading a book, though.  If a killing is to befall me, I would rather wait until the time when it would count as assassination rather than murder.

The morning report

11 July 2013 § Leave a comment

11 July

Gives you the long and the short.  Not a tale I distort.

“Meth lab found at Kingsport motel.”

“Kingsport man faces attempted murder charge.”

“Opening statements heard in murder trial.”

[In a handwriting-like typeset that nearly induced tears] “Wedding, cheating wife help disrupt South’s efforts.”  (Y’all, only the most breaking news from 1863 for us.  So breaking, in fact, that the full article is published only in the print edition.  This may cause subscriptions to skyrocket.)

“Grant aims to fight area’s ranking as America’s 10th most overweight.”  Yes, the Bristol/Kingsport area has a serious eating disorder, distinguished mostly by an inability to stop eating.  Luckily, we now have a (General) Grant who will wage war against this ranking!  (And who doesn’t love General Grant?)  Apparently, $7500 will actually make people walk.  It must be a mysterious process, but I have no doubt about its efficacy.  Benefits: I will feel less inclined to scream in disbelief/terror when running errands.  Drawbacks: during a mass kidnapping, I will have a much narrower margin of escape-victory over most of the town.  Walkers (see also: The Walking Dead) will receive tracking logs and “goal setting devices” (also known variously as refrigerator locks and self-control).  Those who walk the prescribed amount receive prizes at the end of two months.  Rumour has it that these prizes are chocolate cake!

This rather strengthens my resolve never to read the Kingsport Times-News.  Where are the front-page photographs of people walking along the greenbelt and the latest botanical happenings?*  I confess myself gravely disappointed.

*Edit: after flipping to the article about the meth lab, I found a photograph of two children cycling on the greenbelt.  Sigh of relief.

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for July, 2013 at aixpatriate.