Social tree climber
19 July 2013 § 1 Comment
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]
“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.”
“Just one stuffed dog. I can take ’em or leave ’em alone. But listen, Jake. Just one stuffed dog.”
“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.”
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.
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.
Edit: I found the tree climbing article but cannot read it, since I have just forsworn newspapers.