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.”
Given his druthers, Southern Cruisers Car Club member Jimmy Terry of West Point would probably spend all his days bringing old cars back to life, transforming them inside and out into the powerful, gleaming machines they once were.
In 1784, the Empress of China, an American ship bearing American ginseng, sailed to China for trade. It was the first time the new nation had tried such trade, and the Americans did not know what to expect, for instance, in what they might be served at dinners. It was all well if they ate with the British or Portuguese who were already trading there, but dining with the Chinese would have been a problem.
Perfect Portland. That’s what my family calls it, this beautiful jewel of a city on the edge of our continent. I am here visiting my family. My sister, Victoria, and her husband, Rich, were transferred here. In the term “upwardly mobile,” the emphasis is on “mobile.” Mother followed a few years later to be with her only grandchild, Gillian. My mother’s generation reproduced.
My recurring dream has been recurring. Surprisingly, I’ve found that it’s a pretty common dream, a fact that gives me some comfort as to the state of my mental health. There are three variations all centered around my college days: I can’t find my classroom; have lost my class schedule; or a professor drops a three-page final exam on my desk that I have not prepared for and have no hope of passing.
It is one of the shibboleths of evolution that the blind forces which change genes and change creatures have no aim or direction. Our hands and the wings of bats may be wonderfully engineered biological machines, and may arise from the same basic limb design, but it is wrong to think that evolutionary forces set out to build up progressively so that hands and wings could emerge with their current efficient designs.