Saturday, February 11, 2017

Bread and butter

It’s a good thing I don’t write for a living.  You know, those people who say, “I sit down to write at 7 AM and don’t stop until 5 PM” – they write for a living.  There is nothing to focus the mind like needing to earn your daily bread.  I am only writing here tonight because I am putting off doing the FAFSA and collecting my aunt’s tax documents and working on some statistical analysis that I don’t want to do.  And this isn’t even really writing, so much as it is relaying some recent conversations.

One night my husband asked me if I wanted to go out to see a movie. But that night I was feeling vulnerable, as I do half the time now, and wanted to stay home.
Me:   Let’s just watch something at home tonight.

Husband:  Okay.  Want to watch Blood Devil of the Amazon?

* * * * * *

One morning at breakfast, I read the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution to my husband, because that’s morning reading material now.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

My husband pointed out that the meaning of the word “unreasonable” is undefined.

Me:   It’s the job of judges to interpret the meaning.  We still have legally appointed judges.

Husband:  Who do you think butters their bread?  We need to start taking sandwiches to those judges.

Me:  But what kind of sandwiches? If we took, say, watercress sandwiches, it could backfire.

Actually I have been writing quite a bit – to my senators and representative, and even to one judge.  Fat lot of good it will do, but my writing has always been about self-expression, not results. Or earning daily bread. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

First lines: January 2017 edition

St custard's

I only finished four books this month. 

Book 1
I may have found a solution to the Wife Problem.  As with so many scientific breakthroughs, the answer was obvious in retrospect.  But had it not been for a series of unscheduled events, it is unlikely I would have discovered it.

Book 2
On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, about half way between Marseilles and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rose-colored hotel.  Deferential palms cool its flushed façade, and before it stretches a short dazzling beach.

Book 3
Stella Montgomery lay hidden behind the ferns in the conservatory of the Hotel Majestic, flat on the mossy tiles, tracing a path through the Amazon jungle in a small, damp atlas.  She skirted around a vague outcrop of some kind – possibly mildew – and continued upriver.
Stella wiped some water drops off the map and read,…. Serpents forty feet long and capable of swallowing considerable quadrupeds, such as hares, goats, deer &c.  There was a picture of such a serpent in the margin. Stella studied it wistfully.  It looked large enough to swallow an elephant, and had a hungry expression.  A serpent of that size could swallow a person, an Aunt for example, as easy as your hand.  Several Aunts, probably.  It looked sufficiently hungry.  The people who lived in the Amazon jungle would not be bothered by Aunts.
            After eating, they lie torpid for several weeks.  Stella imagined the enormous serpent sleeping off a dinner of three Aunts.  Aunt Condolence for starters, Aunt Temperance for next, and then Aunt Deliverance for pudding.  There would be three big lumps in the sleeping serpent.

Book 4
 ‘O.K. Come In’
This is me e.g. nigel molesworth the curse of st custard’s which is the skool i am at.  It is utterly wet and weedy as i shall (i hope) make clear but of course that is the same with all skools.
            e.g. they are nothing but kanes, lat. french, geog. hist. algy, geom, headmasters, skool dogs, skool sossages, my bro molesworth 2 and MASTERS everywhere.
            The only good things about skool are the BOYS wiz who are noble brave fearless etc. although you hav various swots, bulies, cissies, milksops greedy guts and oiks with whom I am forced to mingle hem-hem.
            In fact any skool is a bit of a shambles
                        AS YOU WILL SEE.

And here are the titles/authors.

Book 1
The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion
I read this for book club.  There were many humorous moments. My favorite scene was when two characters are in a ritzy scarf shop and judge which scarf goes with which of their colleagues and friends.  But I couldn’t shake the idea that I shouldn’t be laughing, given the situation. 

Book 2
Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
For book discussion at the women’s retreat.  The discussion was one of the few good parts of the retreat for me.  I can’t say that I liked this book tremendously, but I am glad I read it.  Fitzgerald’s prose is excellent. He uses words like “autochthonous.”  The narrative viewpoints were interesting to me.  It turns out that rich Americans running around Europe in the 1930s have problems, too.  Big problems.  My alternate title for this book is “White People Frolic on the Beach In France and Annoy Each Other.” 

Book 3
Withering by Sea, by Judith Rossell (children’s lit)
This book has Three Horrible Aunts, a wicked magician, children with special powers, and educated cats.  It was pleasant to read children’s literature.

Down With Skool! by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle
This book!  My father spent a large part of his childhood at a British boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayas.  The stories he told us of his time at Woodstock School are borne out in this orthographically challenged exposé of St. Custard’s, the boarding school where one Nigel Molesworth attends.  I suppose not many could tolerate reading this book: every other word is misspelled and the punctuation is atrocious.  But I find it highly amusing and makes me think fondly of my Dad.  The drawings by Ronald Searle are brilliant.  This book is hard to obtain – I had to send to Britain for it.  If you want to read it you will have to come over and look at my copy.  Reading it will not edify you. As any fule kno.

Masters:  Know the Enemy

What have you all been reading lately?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Do not try this while driving

I was driving Younger Daughter home from somewhere when she started singing reverently, “Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.”  It was reverent because she was singing the tune of “Amazing Grace.”  So, in fact, it was anything but reverent.

I thought, “You’d better not let The Church Lady hear you singing that.”  And then I thought, “But wait, this could be a good thing.”  A good irreverent hymn sing is something I need right now.

As we sat in traffic, we belted out, “There was a farmer had a dog, and Bingo was his name-o!” to the tune of “Joy to the World.” 

It turns out this is a challenging intellectual exercise.  The brain says, “Nooo way.  These words do not go with this tune,” especially when the meter does not fit.  

Here is our singlist (it was a long drive home):

Lyrics                                                              Tune
Old MacDonald                                            Amazing Grace
Bingo (B-I-NGO)                                            Joy to the World
Ring Around the Rosie                                Silent Night
Farmer in the Dell                                       The Star Spangled Banner
Itsy Bitsy Spider                                           O Holy Night
Row, Row, Row your Boat                           God Bless America
Take Me Out to the Ball Game                  Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates

We had to sing “merrily” five times in order to make it fit into “God Bless America”.

One could have a discussion on whether God is blessing America right now, but God blessed us because we made it home without crashing, despite the driver devoting most of her brain power to singing disparate lyrics to the wrong tunes.  It felt good.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Go and Do Likewise

My father, portraying Galileo, in a short play he wrote
as part of the science curriculum for the
Baltimore School for the Arts
Four years ago today, my father died.  In actuality, his personality and physicality were lost to us for several years before that, to Parkinson’s with Lewy body dementia. 

I mourn my father today especially because he would know What To Do.  He would be able to face the future with integrity, with intelligence, with strategy, and with humor.  He had done so many times in his life. 

Throughout his life, he stood up for what is right.  He paid for that – at one point, because of his honesty, his army superiors punished him by sending him away from his stateside army post to an overseas post. In the 1960s he and my mother were in the thick of the civil rights movement. They both paid for that by being harassed by members of their own church.  My father paid for it by being forced out of his job.  As a result he found another job in another city.  

When we were moving (I was about 4 years old) my parents sold their house to the first African-American family to move to the neighborhood.  The neighbors offered him a bribe to not sell the house.  He refused.  The payment for that was that the neighbors put up confederate flags in their yards.  The neighborhood children also bullied his son, my older brother.  We moved to Baltimore and my parents moved to a neighborhood consisting of Orthodox Jews, African-Americans, and us. He was our neighborhood’s Shabbas goy.  Years later he worked on a process to safely destroy chemical weapons.   In the midst of all that, he worked a full-time job as a chemical engineer managing chemical plants.  He served his church and the broader church extensively.  He raised three children and was a loyal husband.

Throughout his life he remained intellectually curious and always wanting to learn more.  He would take a decisive stand on issues, but was not afraid to revise his opinion if he learned something to change his mind.

If he were alive and well today he would be joyful, argumentative, optimistic, funny, and active as much as is possible for any citizen.

Go and do likewise.