Elizabeth Smart is back in the news. You will remember her as the fragile blonde teen, stolen from her bed in 2002 and held captive for nine months. Today she is a composed and articulate 21-year-old testifying against her kidnapper.
Terry and I had a sort of date night at home recently. It had been a busy week, and we got to spend all of a Saturday together, beginning at the Hitching Lot and ending with steaks grilling on the hibachi outside. I made some wonderful, crispy oven potatoes from “Cooks Illustrated” and broccoli with hollandaise sauce.
Stand back, Spiderman. Back off, Batman. Comic books have a new hero with unexpected powers, and he isn’t even imaginary. He’s Bertrand Arthur William, the Third Earl Russell. To most Americans, Bertrand Russell is notorious for being an outspoken atheist long before the current crop of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and others.
On the gray, weathered boards of a modest, one-car garage on Columbus’ north side, Josh Meador left a telltale sign. Eighty years later, it remains: “Joshua Meador March 12, 1929,” roughly scribed in white paint on an interior wall. Facing it, from the opposite side, is an impromptu painting of mountains and clouds, in the same pigment.
Churches have gotten so enthusiastic about taking care of their elderly (not elders) that some of the “old folks” are running around with their tongues hanging out, trying to keep up with the social schedule. I was talking to someone the other day who was going to a church covered-dish supper for their “Over Fifty” group. She and her husband were taking enough food to feed at least 15. Whether they are “Fifty, Sixty, or Seventy Plus,” “Senior Class,” or “Keenagers,” they are busy.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. “They,” however, are so often wrong. I truly believe we only get smarter with age. Time improves many things; wine, some cheeses, and (in my opinion) brain power.
You may have noticed the color of the trees and shrubs beginning to change. It won’t be long until there are brilliant red, orange and yellow leaves blanketing the floor of the landscape. From the reds of the maple, dogwood, sweetgum and oak trees to the yellows of the ginkgo, sugar maple, poplar, elm — and even some crepe myrtles — the colors should be spectacular.
Probably you have never seen a seahorse in the wild. Even Dr. Helen Scales, who is a scuba diver and marine biologist, has only seen them a few times. The first one she saw, after many dives of looking, was “like glimpsing a unicorn trotting through my garden.” But everyone knows what a seahorse looks like, a fantastic looking creature that sparks curiosity, and it is a hit at aquariums or in oceanic picture books. Scales has satisfied many facets of the curiosity about seahorses in her book “Poseidon’s Steed: The Story of Seahorses, from Myth to Reality” (Gotham Books).
Can you hear it? Can you smell it? Can you see it? I can — fall. My Blackberry sounded at 4:18 Tuesday afternoon. I set it several weeks ago to remind me that I could end my self-imposed summer hibernation and celebrate the autumnal equinox, the beginning of fall.
In many ways, houses are like women. Their names are usually feminine, inspired by flowers, or influenced by languages more romantic than ours. Even those that bear a family surname sound more genteel when the word “manor” or “mansion” is added.
I catered a luncheon for 90 recently, and the preparations went swimmingly for the most part. As is true to form for me I was totally organized for the first three days of cooking, and then I tend to sort of fall apart the last 24 hours. So, the afternoon prior to the event I had to run out to the grocery store for a couple of items I had left off of the previous list. I did the unthinkable: I went to the store without a list!
If you have never heard of Harvey Kurtzman, you have seen his work; for instance, his cover logo for MAD Magazine is one of the most easily recognized of trademarks. Kurtzman was with MAD from the beginning, and it is perhaps what he is most famous for, but he did plenty else, and it isn’t exaggeration to say that if Kurtzman hadn’t put out such prodigious and respected (and funny) work, we might not have had R. Crumb or Art Spiegelman, or Monty Python or the Simpsons.
For some of us it is not easy to get out of bed in the mornings, and some days make it seem hardly worth the effort. The other day I staggered to the kitchen intent on fixing myself a bowl of cereal with some raspberries for breakfast. I had a new box of cereal. I never expected it to be difficult to open.
The doldrums of summer will soon dissipate, perhaps not in temperature ... yet. But, certainly the early rush of autumn activities is here to shake up our languor.
James Joyce’s “Ulysses” has had two big strikes against its reputation ever since it was published in 1922. One is that it is a dirty book. This is a false and silly charge. Long ago the courts decided that it could be imported into the U.S. because it is not obscene, and anyone looking for stimulation by searching for the “good parts” is in for frustration. The other strike is that it is a difficult book. This charge is more accurate. “Ulysses” is certainly not a novel that is as accessible as “Gone with the Wind,” for instance.
This week, Columbus reached out to characters, hysterical and frightened, chic and social, both on-stage and off. The Tennessee Williams Tribute and Tour of Victorian Homes presented a wealth of plays, lectures, tours, luncheons and elegant evenings.
You can bet that Bill Streever likes cold better than you do. After all, standing in his swimming shorts in wind, rain and a chill of 51 degrees, he plunges into the 35-degree water of Prudhoe Bay, 300 miles above the Arctic Circle, for five minutes.
At last week’s charrette, one of the questions posed to us was a form of “what would you like to have in Columbus that you don’t already have?” Among various responses was this one: “A good breakfast place.”
Recently I was talking with a friend from Jackson who told me she was keeping her pre-school grandson. He had taken her cell phone when he went outside to play. When she got after him about it, he protested that he had to have it in order to call for help if he got kidnapped.
The ninth day, of the ninth month, of the ninth year of the century. This cosmic repetition makes an ordinary Wednesday seem somehow quite important. It is as if the calendar is telling us something of great significance. “Pay attention!” it says. “I am repeating this for a reason.”
2. A Southern favorite: Rick Bragg to speak in Fayette ENTERTAINMENT