“I like him.”

Excerpt from Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut, © 1982:

Haitians speak Creole, a French dialect which has only a present tense. I have lived in Haiti with my brother for the past six months, so I can speak it some. Felix and I are innkeepers now. We have bought the Grand Hotel Oloffson, a gingerbread palace at the base of a cliff in Port au Prince.

Imagine a language with only a present tense. Our headwaiter, Hippolyte Paul De Mille, who claims to be eighty and have fifty-nine descendants, asked me about my father.

“Is he dead?” he asked in Creole.

“He is dead,” I agreed. There could be no argument about that.

“What does he do?” he said.

“He paints,” I said.

“I like him,” he said.

There is something very appealing to me about a culture which ignores time.

As I get older, time seems to become less and less important.  I’m still a child playing on my grandfather’s floor, I’m already an old(er) man drawing his last breath, and here I sit, right now, at the keyboard; somehow and it’s all the same thing.

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Magic

I was downtown today in the middle of running some errands when my eye caught my left hand, and I noticed I wasn’t wearing my wedding ring.

I was crushed. I don’t always wear my wedding ring, but I make a point of always wearing it when I leave the house. I stretched out my fingers and looked again: Nope, not there.

I stopped for a cup of coffee with my parents, and a glint caught my eye. The ring was on my finger!  I stretched out my fingers and looked again: Yes, it was there. I spun it around and around. It was real, and it was there on my finger.

I was dumbfounded.

I can think of only two explanations: either I somehow stared directly at my hand and overlooked the ring, or I am a wizard.

I consider both explanations to be equally plausible.

*#%^!

Excerpt from Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut, ©1990:

There are no dirty words in this book, except for “hell” and “God,” in case someone is fearing that an innocent child might see 1. The expression I will use here and there for the end of the Vietnam War, for example, will be: “when the excrement hit the air-conditioning.”

Perhaps the only precept taught me by Grandfather Wills that I have honored all my adult life is that profanity and obscenity entitle people who don’t want unpleasant information to close their eyes and ears to you.

I believe that is true.

If your oncologist, for example, said to you, “You have a *#%^! tumor, we’re going to cut that *#%^! right on out of there,” I think you’d ask to see credentials before proceeding.

 

Last, First

There have been a lot of comedians who played characters with their same first name but a different last name- Bob Newhart played Bob Hartley, Lucille Ball played Lucy Ricardo, Andy Griffith played Andy Taylor, and so on- but only a handful of actors have played characters with their own first and last names.

This is my list so far, and I’m sure I missed a few.  Feel free to add your own in the comments:

  1. Jerry Seinfeld (Seinfeld)
  2. Drew Carey (The Drew Carey Show)
  3. Wil Wheaton (The Big Bang Theory)

The Aroma of Pine

Excerpted from A Journey For Our Times, the autobiography of Harrison E. Salisbury, © 1983:

In the bay window where the Christmas tree stood, stiff lace curtains hung. Father had had candles on his tree since childhood in Mazomanie, and he had them as long as we celebrated Christmas at 107 Royalston, small candles of red, white, blue, green and yellow affixed to the branches with snap holders.

The tree was lighted at evening. Mother presided over a pail of water. Dad, matches in hand, climbed a stepladder and lighted the candles, one by one, until the tree sparkled with captured stars. Almost immediately the aroma of pine filled the room as the candles warmed the needles. Janet and I sat beside the tree in delight edged by fear communicated by Mother. Dad seemed oblivious of the moment, his gray-blue eyes distant, a smile on his face such as I never saw at other times. Mother hovered beside the water pail, nervously calculating the distance between herself and the tree, an exercise in emotional geometry. Hardly were the candles lighted than she said: “Perce– that’s enough, don’t you think?” Dad would stare at the tree. He was years away from the present. God knows what thoughts were passing through his mind. He would not answer. Possibly he did not hear. He sat and watched the play of lights, the reflected image on the plate-glass window. Three or four minutes passed. Mother spoke again: “Really, Percy, I think we’d better put them out. They’re beginning to burn down.” Soon, very quickly, she would stride to the tree and begin to snuff out the candles, and Dad, with reluctance that slowed every muscle in his body, rose and helped at the task. Christmas was over.

I just love the way he writes.  This is a book to read slowly, so every line is savored.

Rankings

The lead story in today’s paper was about a shoving match between a County Commissioner and an old lady.  The commissioner apologized.

Below that was a story about the filing dates for the upcoming school-board elections, and a picture of a priest putting ashes on a man’s forehead.

Below the fold, at the very bottom of the page, was the story of a gunman in Florida killing seventeen high school students.

“My country, tears of thee…”  ~Lawrence Ferlinghetti