Sunday, April 12, 2015
Sunday Sundries, 46
1. AOTW: I am at Starbucks on Tuesday afternoon. A couch is open, so I sling my backpack on it so I won't have to hold it while I'm in line; also, of course, the backpack "reserves" the couch. In an adjacent easy chair sits the AOTW. "My" couch has in front of it a little table--a coffee table (!)--for couch-sitters to use. Otherwise, there's no place to rest a coffee cup. There is also an identical little table next to the AOTW'S chair, and I see that his coffee cup is on it; he's working on his laptop, which he holds in his ... lap (duh). When I return from the counter with my coffee, I see he has slid "my" table over by him and is using it as a footrest. I stare, stare, stare. He doesn't look up. I go off to find a chair no one is using and employ it for a coffee table until the AOTW eventually leaves.
2. This week I finished Saul Bellow's 1959 novel, Henderson the Rain King, which I read as part of my preparation for a review I'm going to write of a new Bellow biography. I liked the novel a lot more than I thought I was going to--even though, of course, it's more than a bit un-PC these days. Bellow had never been to Africa at the time he wrote the book, but that didn't dissuade him. It's the story of Henderson, a (white) man with an unsettled marriage who goes to Africa with a friend to explore a bit. He ends up destroying one village's water supply (he was trying to help them; didn't work out), and then lands in another village where he earns the title "Rain King" by some complications I'll not get into. The King befriends him and takes him below his "palace" to see a wild lion he keeps there. He gets Henderson to enter the room with him, to "interface" with the lion; soon, they are going there every day--though Henderson remains terrified. Then, the King's life goes south, and ...
Near the end, Henderson says, "Whatever gains I ever made were always due to love and nothing else" (Lib of Amer ed., 412). Works for me ...
3. This week I also finished The Last Days of George Armstrong Custer by Thom Hatch (2015). Hatch is a Custer authority, and I reviewed his previous book ( Glorious War, 2013), a history of Custer's achievements (considerable achievements, by the way) in the Civil War. This latest work is full of Hatch's unbelievable research (he seems to know all about the man--and the Last Stand), but it's somewhat tarnished by Hatch's self-regard ("This book is the next best thing to having been there," he says (2), a claim that's a little odd because unless you were a Cheyenne or a Sioux, it wasn't really all that good a place to have been) and by his resolute advocacy for Custer, who Hatch believes has been slandered by history, a slander that occurred because of a military ass-covering in the aftermath of the battle. Hatch heaps praise on Custer--"just following orders" being a refrain to explain some of the Boy General's more egregious campaigns.
Still, I've been a Custer-freak (or freakette, compared with Hatch) since boyhood when my parents bought me Quentin Reynolds' Custer's Last Stand, a 1951 YA biography of Autie (his family nickname) that I read, oh, a score of times--at least (I still have my copy). I've been to the battlefield a couple of times, have visited his hometown (New Rumley, Ohio) several times, his later home (Monroe, Mich.), and other sites. Custer's a complex character who has no 21st-century friend more devoted than Thom Hatch.
4. Old Man Moment #1: On Wednesday, I was walking along Main Street in Hudson. I was carrying (carelessly, apparently) an unopened umbrella. Without my noticing, the hooked handle hooked a sidewalk sign, and I suddenly found myself no longer moving forward but being jerked back.
5. Two times this week I came across the word lollygag. The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang says its origin is unknown--but it means to dally, dawdle; the volume dates the expression to 1869. The OED also says its origin is unknown (and offers no speculation)--but the OED found an earlier reference--a quotation in the Aug., 1862 issue of Harper's Magazine.
6. I recently posted about my worries this year about vertigo (a new "friend" of mine) and riding my bicycle. Well, last evening, I rode around and around the parking lot of the funeral home next door and experienced no vertigo whatsoever. Ride on!
7. Old Man Moment #2: Today I cleaned (and hooked up a new propane tank to) our outdoor grill. I decided to check the automatic ignition. Nothing. Damn, I thought, I'm going to have to light it manually this year, I guess. (It's fairly old: we bought it in the early 1990s.) Then I remembered something: I hadn't turned the gas valve to ON. Duh. Did it. Worked fine.
So it goes ...