I said that “Patriotism” is a way of saying “Women and children first.” And that no one can force a man to feel this way. Instead he must embrace it freely. I want to tell about one such man. He wore no uniform and no one knows his name, or where he came from; all we know is what he did. In my home town sixty years ago when I was a child, my mother and father used to take me and my brothers and sisters out to Swope Park on Sunday afternoons. It was a wonderful place for kids, with picnic grounds and lakes and a zoo. But a railroad line cut straight through it. One Sunday afternoon a young married couple were crossing these tracks. She apparently did not watch her step, for she managed to catch her foot in the frog of a switch to a siding and could not pull it free. Her husband stopped to help her. But try as they might they could not get her foot loose. While they were working at it, a tramp showed up, walking the ties. He joined the husband in trying to pull the young woman’s foot loose. No luck — Out of sight around the curve a train whistled. Perhaps there would have been time to run and flag it down, perhaps not. In any case both men went right ahead trying to pull her free … and the train hit them. The wife was killed, the husband was mortally injured and died later, the tramp was killed — and testimony showed that neither man made the slightest effort to save himself. The husband’s behavior was heroic … but what we expect of a husband toward his wife: his right, and his proud privilege, to die for his woman. But what of this nameless stranger? Up to the very last second he could have jumped clear. He did not. He was still trying to save this woman he had never seen before in his life, right up to the very instant the train killed him. And that’s all we’ll ever know about him.
This is how a man dies. This is how a man … lives!
- Robert Heinlein Wikiquote – From an address he made to a naval academy in 1988.
Once upon a time not so long ago, in fact a few, or several, or some weeks ago just before we were ordered to shelter in our abodes because a deadly virus was encroaching upon the world and getting closer to home, I paid a visit to the local library. And, boy, am I glad I did because I checked out two interesting books. Did I read them? Well true confession: in parts. Both books are a series of short stories each by its own author, and the one I’m going to talk about now is by a very famous science fiction writer of the past, who wrote the novel “Stranger in a Strange Land.” A book I’ve never read but would like to. Short stories seemed more manageable. So the short story I am finishing now, is about someone’s house that mysteriously and tragically went up in flames and it turns out the perpetrator was a person who practiced witchcraft, or black magic, making it more difficult to fix the problem. The architect who’s hired to do so is an honorable and thoughtful man. Anyway, the truth of the matter is that I stopped in the middle of this story, and have no idea if what I told you is really what happened, or if I just made it up. I think they call that meta diction or metafiction, or something like that. Anyway, I will tell you what’s absolutely true – The title is “Magic Inc.” and in this story good people travel around on magic carpets to get from one place to the next. I also know gnomes, yes, gnomes, were hired to rebuild the house that bunted down, but since the gnomes were only four feet tall they were subject to verbal abuse, and a spanking if they dared to cross Mrs. Jennings the proprietor of the burnt house. Mrs. Jennings is just a little bit evil. Well, I think I will finish this story without looking back, as I’m fascinated with all the magic that unfolds within its narrative. My urgency to get back to it stems from the fact that the library just opened up in phase two of the sheltering in place process and they informed me that they renewed the books, but that they will be due July 21. Plenty of time!
As I look back at the strangeness of this invasive virus that has disrupted everyone’s life I can’t help but think that we are now living in sci fI times, and it truly feels like we are strangers in a strange land, and what we could really use is an army of gnomes to get us back on course, and maybe a few magic carpets to get to places we can only imagine these days, going to in our dreams. I highly recommend that you read “Magic inc” so you can tell me what happens in the beginning. Happy magic carpet flying! And watch out for bad witches.
P.S. Follow the link and read more about the author of “Magic Inc.” and “Stranger in a Strange Land.”
Did you know that French paleontologists have discovered massive footprints left by three gigantic long necked sauropods, in a location called Castelbouc Cave? According to Science News these sauropods walked along the seaside 168 million years ago. The discovery was made by Jean-David Moreau and his colleagues who descended 500 meters into the natural cave, where they’ve studied these five-toed herbivore tracks measuring 1.25 meters in length. The footprints were actually found on the roof of the cave. Imagine the immensity of these creatures that lived in the mid Jurassic era. The scientists work out of the Université Bourgogne Franche-Compté in Dijon, France.
Paraphrased in my own words, the information was taken from, “This paleontologist goes spelunking for dino prints” by John Pickrell
Science News / June 6, 2020
So much sadness in the world. People dying alone, or on their cell phone, through a hospital window saying goodbye to a loved one. Or not saying goodbye from a bed in the projects, or a castle on the rock, like Mont San Michel. Too much misery.
The tsunami was coming our way. But who would have thought what happened in Italy could come here. Puzzling they had such a first class health system, but people were chosen to live or die like a basket of apples, the rotten ones were thrown out. We were better than this, or so we thought. For it came to our doorstep and the Big Apple held on as long as possible but it was too late. Crash! Beds full to the brim and nurses and aides and doctors rushed to the rescue, in Louisiana and other places where people of color became the main victims of their own poverty. No health education or welfare. Horrific and swept under the rug, dead bodies left to rot in a truck at a mortuary, in Brooklyn. Hard to believe.
Some people say it’s a hoax.
Everything put on hold, at the center of the press and pushed out the arrest for the lynching two months ago of Ahmaud Arbery, out for a jog in his hometown in the middle of the day shot and killed in cold blood, by a man and son with links to the local sheriff. How are black to live day to day without putting up a guard. Impossible. Injust. But no one cares about the black boys whose lives are ruined, since the day they set foot on this soil.
More law issues permeate the news as our corrupt government frees a lying accomplice to a crime flirting with the Russians. What does it matter?
There is a silver lining to all of this madness. Some have never been so happy in their everyday productive lives. The skies are clear, the roads are empty. But people are unemployed. The worst since 1939.
What will happen now that we are flattening the curve? Hospitalizations decline, even though the deaths continue to fluctuate, and the cases rise. We don’t know who’s infected. We treat others like banshees as we cross their paths. All we can do is say “Hi!”
What will tomorrow bring?
“New Clothes and Old Clothes” from “The New Book of Days” by Eleanor Farjeon, captures the way I feel about old clothes. There are some pieces of clothing I really love and can’t part with. I may or may not wear them, but keep them for their colors, the feel of the fabric, or some memory attached to an event or time. It may be something I wore over and over again – the threads so bare, the collar so frayed. The intangibility of the passing of that time is what matters most to me.
Eleanor says, “In May, older clothes are kinder to you then new ones.”
I rather like New Clothes,
They make me feel so fine,
Yet, I am not quite Me,
The clothes are not quite mine.
I really love Old Clothes,
They make me feel so free,
I know that they are mine,
For I feel just like Me.
When the pandemic began to effect my life, seriously I was reading “Living” by Annie Dillard, an excellent writer, but the story got to be so dreary, I picked up Willa Cather’s book “The Professor’s House.” I knew I could count on Willa to give me some sense of redemption – not in the self-centered way, but rather in the universal sense. Now I’m reading a book my daughter recommended to me a few years ago. It’s called “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot. I didn’t know it, (and maybe I still don’t know much) but Henrietta Lacks was the person whose cells, called the HeLa cells, revolutionized the advancement of medical research, especially for cancer. Everyone is supposed to have heard of these, but few knew how scientists got their hands on them, or at least it wasn’t published readily, so Rebecca thought it time to reveal the story of the person from whom they borrowed these cells. She dug into family history, and Henrietta Lack’s daughter, Deborah became a source for the story. Rebecca quotes Deborah, in the first chapter:
I always have thought it was strange, if our mother cells done so much for medicine, how come her family can’t afford to see a doctor? Don’t make no sense. People got rich off my mother without us even knowing about them takin her cells, now we don’t get a dime. I used to get so mad about that to where it made me sick and I had to take pills. But I don’t got it in me no more to fight. I just want to know who my mother was.
A friend of mine, interested in reading Don Quijote de la Mancha, wondered if anyone wanted to join her in the quest. Being a good friend, I said “Yes!” In the vein of a true masochist I delved into the pages of this very old book, and reintroduced myself to the genius of Miguel de Cervantes – to his complex use of the Spanish language and natural wit to recreate the dreamy character, Don Quijote de la Mancha.
I remember the story fairly well. DQ, off on a mission to reconstruct his life as a knight in shining armor, is in reality the opposite from what he conjures in his mind – a middle aged decrepit old man who has gone mad reading too much literature: stories like “El Mio Cid” and “Amadís de Gaula,” depicting heroes of the Spanish Medieval Age. Don Quijote emulates everything about these characters, and aims to be like them.
In chapter two, Don Quijote, departs from his humble abode to travel under the heat and dryness of the day. Cervantes satirically wrote: (my own translation) “The sun ardently beat down forcefully, enough to melt the brains of anyone, if they had them at all.” In his travels, DQ comes upon a castle, and of course he arrives wondering why he is not received with regal pomp, and circumstance. In search of a place to rest his head he’s greeted by the keeper using words reminiscent of the piqued sarcasm of Cervantes, and paints a picture of life that is far from luxurious: “the beds of your honor will always be hard rocks and your hours of sleep, forever wakeful.” It’s a warning of the worst to come, for the knight-errant who just began his journey, carries only visions of grandeur in his head.
DQ continues his journey in Chapter 3, riding his skinny horse named Rocinante, on the look out for his fairly unkempt princess, Dulcinea. Soon he meets his fat and faithful side kick, his ‘escudero’ Sancho Panza. Sancho is a faithful companion. Traveling with Quijote throughout the story, Sancho tries to convince his lord of Reality, but the hopeless Don Quijote insists on dreaming the impossible dream.
My friend and I soon concurred that perhaps we wouldn’t read the WHOLE book, in one fell swoop, for we have much else to do, but we’ll honor Cervantes in creating this great masterpiece, and plan to return to the story, in some shape and form, for to abandon Don Quijote is to abandon the truth he sought. So like Sancho Panza, we will in spirit accompany Don Quijote through his journey, to pursue the impossible dream, for it’s the journey of all of us, and aren’t we all together, in this quest?
Before it goes out like a lamb, it’s time to talk about the month of March. Looking back in history we’ll remember this month, in 2020, as the time when the Coronavirus grew exponentially in the U.S.A. Not that we weren’t forewarned, by the explosion taking place in Europe, preceded by China, and Iran, etc., etc.. in previous weeks. Covid-19’s here to stay for a long time; forty five days until we see a peak, eighteen months before life goes back to normal, if it ever does. In the long haul a positive outcome to this situation can be found within ourselves; find ways to beat it psychologically, remain optimistic, and use it to be more creative and productive in our personal lives. Take up painting, the piano, reading novels, writing as much as we can. How can we reach out, and help others, and bring them into our lives? What special talents do we have that we can share? There are certainly people living in a more precarious habitat, in which I’m living. Selfishly I hope I don’t catch the virus, or be a carrier and less selfishly, pass it on to someone else. So, where do we go from here? The answer seems to be nowhere, nothing versus something, and now being never. What is true is we are all vulnerable. No-one is exempt.
Back to March. What do we know about this third month of the calendar year, which during Roman Times was the first, and not the third of the year? A month named after the god of war, called Mars. Special days in particular yearn to be celebrated. Such as St. Patrick’s day, on the 17th, especially by the Irish, but even if you haven’t an ounce of Irish in your blood, you’re always welcome to partake in Irish generosity.
On the 15th of March, back in Roman Times, an old woman warned Julius Caesar, “Beware the Ides of March.” Against his wife’s best wishes Caesar ignored the oracle and ventured out into the Roman forum only to be assassinated, and find moments before he fell to his death that his best friend had betrayed him; thus the famous quote “Et tu Brutus?” The circumstance is a reminder to follow the wisdom of Shakespeare spoken in one of his plays “Love all, trust a few, and do wrong to no-one.” And, in the wake of the Corona19, to listen to the oracle; Stay home, protect yourselves, and others.
Since I am a curious person, who seeks novelty in all things possible to brush away the the sins of idleness, and boredom, I have a trivia fact for March. Does anyone know what September, October, November and December stand for? I found this out the other day through a post by the Farmer’s Almanac. The meaning of the prefixes of these months in latin follow suit with March being the first month of the year, for Sept means seven, Octo, eight, Nove, nine, and Dece, ten. So whatever happened to January and February? There is an answer, but at this moment, I can only say; “I do not know it.” Just like there are answers surrounding the mysteries of the Coronavirus, but for now uncertainty reigns, and only time will tell.