Wednesday, December 26, 2018

u.s.a. 12.26.2018 (don’t fence me in)

today I saw:

american flag
caught up in a tree
still
in trumplandia



can’t get out
can’t get in
still
in trumplandia



rhyme-reason out
breathe in
still
in trumplandia



gotta laugh
gotta cry
still
in trumplandia




Sunday, December 16, 2018

putting the ‘tree’ back in christmas

For the first time in years and years, I have a Christmas tree in the house, a legitimate tree standing tall in the corner of what could be the dining room if I ever actually dined which I don’t, I just kind of eat, but that aside, there the tree is in the dining room peeking into the living room through the archway all decked out, aglow with tiny lights, a perfectly shaped tree, a balsam fir bought at the farmers market, thirty bucks and tied atop the car, brought home, I had to go out and buy a stand but everything else just came up out of the basement and out of these boxes I’ve had for years and years.

My sister took this picture. I cropped it so I am not in it, only Josie and the tree.

Luckily one of my sisters was visiting so I had help stringing lights, hanging ornaments. Her visit also meant a lot of new house stuff got done like painting some walls, hanging some pictures, fixing the doorbell. We got pumpkin shakes at Beef-A-Roo and went to Tuba Christmas. We didn’t get to Ex-Voto, an exhibit by ceramicist Scott Leipski, but somehow the ornaments on my Christmas tree kept reminding me that this exhibit was out there, still going, so late this week I went over to the library and down the stairs to the renovated lower level where Ex-Voto is on display.

Ex-Voto by Scott Leipski.

As you can see, it is rows of clay tiles, each tile with a hand stretching out, holding an object: a figurine, an iron, a fish, a whatnot.


Here’s an explanation from a sign on the wall:
An ex-voto is a votive or offering. Each offering in this series is meant to remind viewers of the sweetness of youth …
Colors may run, the sign says, like memories.


I like this idea of offerings. Back home I see a tree full of offerings.

Ye Olde One-eared Christmas Mouse From Sweet Days Gone By.

The Head Of An Old Pez Candy Dispenser From Too Long Ago.

Now killing a tree and dressing it up, waxing poetic about it, all to celebrate life and its offerings, seems slightly ironic, so eminently human. As I was told, my tree grew up just a bit south of here, not far from Lake Michigan (near Gladstone, where, coincidentally, Leipski resides), and no doubt my tree had some pretty good years and now gets to participate in a celebration of sorts, but there is no denying that its future is no greater than that of being thrown on a heap of other dead trees, left to rot; or being fed to a wood chipper, spread around; or maybe being stuck out in the yard festooned with bread crumbs and crackers for gluttonous birds and squirrels to peck at and quarrel over. All in its sweet youth.

An online search of “history of christmas tree” leads to a lot of reading (some select links below), but I find no definitive story of why we have decorated trees in our homes in December. Rather, I find many stories, varied stories, kind of growing and everchanging stories, like the limbs of a tree intertwining, the stories, the traditions, they all start somewhere, with a seed, of course, and growing up my family always had a tree decorated much like the one I have now so now I have a tree decorated like the trees we had then.

My favorite snippet from the online search is from History.com.
But, as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.

It is not surprising that, like many other festive Christmas customs, the tree was adopted so late in America. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. The pilgrims’s second governor, William Bradford, wrote that he tried hard to stamp out “pagan mockery” of the observance, penalizing any frivolity. The influential Oliver Cromwell preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.” In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy.
Well thank goodness for immigrants. Just imagine how pinched and sour we all would be with only New England Puritans for ancestors.

My parents rued the day these ornaments that stick out their tongues entered their childrens’ lives. Well, maybe. After all, seems to me they brought them home.

Some sites give sole credit to the Germans for getting the Christmas tree established in America, while others suggest various other ideas, including the influence of an 1848 engraving of Queen Victoria and family gathered around a brightly lit tree (brightly lit with candles, no less) that appeared in a London paper and got picked up by others, spreading like a clever tweet. Apparently by this time Americans were through with rebelling against the Crown; rather, hey, if the Queen is doing it, so must we! Bring on the trees!

What I do not understand is how all Christmas trees, lit with these candles, did not go up in flames and burn houses down. That might have put an end to the frivolity.

So. Anyway. In my Christmas, the tree is back.

Trees should be full of birds, old and new.

My tree drinks a lot of water, and, like life, has a lot to offer.

ūüéĄ

whychristmas.com explains trees
christianitytoday.com explains trees
britannica.com explains trees

Sunday, December 9, 2018

bayberry candles, they go with the season

At the farmers market yesterday a fellow vendor mentioned to me a book by Eric Sloane that includes a passage about bayberry candles. I looked up Eric Sloane this morning (I did not know who he was) and found he was an American painter, writer, and quasi historian who lived from 1905 to 1985. The bayberry passage I found is just a couple of paragraphs in “The Seasons of America Past,” first published in 1958.
Bayberry candles were made during late autumn, when the berries were ripest. The bayberries were thrown into a pot of boiling water, and their fat rose to the top and became a superior candle wax. Bayberry candles burned slowly; they didn’t bend or melt during summer heat, and yielded a fine incense, particularly when the candle was snuffed. So prized were bayberry candles that the gathering of berries before autumn in America once brought a fifteen-shilling fine.

The silver-gray bayberries of scented bayberry, known in England as the “tallow shrub,” were for many years sent overseas as Christmas souvenirs from the New World. In the 1700’s, the bayberry was more Christmasy than holly (which represents the thorns and blood of the
crucifixion rather than the birth of Christ). The burning of a bayberry candle at Christmas was as traditional in America as the burning of a yule log in England. “A bayberry candle burned to the socket,” an old verse goes, “brings luck to the house and gold to the pocket.” Children seldom went to bed on Christmas night without the magic charm of a bayberry candle, and the perfume of the snuffed bayberry candle was part of that magic night.
The mention of Christmas and that little ditty about sockets and pockets and gold makes Sloane’s depiction of bayberry candles and their place in our colonial history markedly different from Alice Morse Earle’s, but of course Sloane was writing some 60 years later and I have not had time to check out his sources and do not know if he cites any. He may just be a hopeless romantic remembering some old ad copy from his youth. But a nice illustration accompanies the passage, and it seems there are many illustrations throughout the book, which would probably make a nice Christmas present for somebody on your list.

As the Christmas decor begins to emerge, with bayberry wax candle.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

circle walk

Last Sunday we headed out and it was milder than I expected and I had the camera with me so if you are wondering what kind of walk you can take starting from South Marquette with a little dog in tow (or vice versa), here we go.

Just a few blocks from home, heading for the intersection with the stoplight so we can cross U.S. 41 safely and walk along the lake.

On the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, looking back across the highway.

There’s Lake Superior.

I cropped together three pictures, which maybe wasn’t the best idea, but there’s the old ore dock on the left and the power plant on the right.

Back on the trail, we cross over a creek.

We meet a snowman.

Ahead, we see developments: a hotel and a luxury apartment building. To our left (and what you can’t see) are new townhomes. Jutting out into the lake is the ore dock.

An old mysterious building.

We could have stopped for fresh fish, but it being Sunday, I guess not.

We turned left, hiked up a block, were downtown.

We walked a long block past stores and stuff and turned left, hiked down a skip and a jump, were at The Commons, where the farmers market is.

Jiminy, are we going up again? As we pass the court house.

Via a bridge we cross over the highway to get back to the neighborhood and luckily this bridge does not scare Josie or me. These are the houses the backs of which we saw earlier, from across the highway. At least one of them is a Sears house built a hundred or so years ago. I am guessing this neighborhood is rife with homes from Sears.

We turn right, are on my street, stop to take a picture.

We did not spit on the sidewalk.

And then we were home.

Saturday, yesterday, we took the same walk but in reverse. The only thing of note was the big, long boat alongside the power plant.

When on the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, it seems appropriate to see one of these boats that hauls raw materials such as iron ore or coal across the Great Lakes.

This boat seemed particularly long.

Seen from the mouth of the creek.

Is the whole world tilted or am I?


The circle walk is Blemhuber → Champion → Genesee → Iron Ore Heritage Trail → Washington → Third → Fisher → Champion → Blemhuber. And/or vice versa.


Sunday, November 25, 2018

black friday, mussy ball, and the story of the bookcase and the dictionary

On Black Friday I went to the Main Street Antique Mall in Ishpeming and came home with a bookcase and a dictionary.

The bookcase was exactly what I wanted, and the dictionary was, well, as the bookcase was being used to display items, it had to be cleared off before I could take it home and David, the proprietor, who is always good for a jaw, preferred to clear it himself which I understood as there were items of glass and china, and while he did the clearing we gabbed, and there are three shelves to the bookcase, and then the top, and it is three feet long and has a separate, curved end piece making it overall about four feet long, and it is very solid, dark wood with a polish, more than three feet tall, and there are a few little details that give it a kind of classic, library-ish look. Only on the bottom shelf, the last to be cleared, were books displayed, and by the time David got to them I figured I should look them over because now, of course, I had plenty of room for books, and the first book David removed and placed on a chair in front of me was a ratty, tattered 1924 dictionary. The last thing I needed. But what a find! I snatched it up. The deep reddish cover with gold lettering was creased and warped and coming unglued. It was frayed, splayed, well-played. I began flipping through it. It was marvelously pliable and surprisingly holding together, despite a torn, loose, missing page or two, and there were all the usual and unusual words,
“ … thoroughly up-to-date … hundreds of the new technical terms, new war words, and old military expressions revived by the Great War—”.
Of course, the last thing I needed was an old raggedy dictionary with new war words circa 1924, but I checked the price, written in pencil on the frontispiece, and it was $3, so maybe, and David was still piling books on the chair, saying something about books from our childhood, something about “Dragnet,” and flipping now toward the back of the dictionary I saw “Glossary of Base Ball Terms.”
Laced the ball, batted it very hard.
Lamps, eyes of the batter.
I told David that I had to have this dictionary, there are base ball terms from 1924, and it seems to be only $3, and he looked at the frontispiece and said yes, take it.


Perusing the dictionary now, I see there are many sections including one devoted to automobile terms, one with golf terms, “Christian Names of Men and Women,” “American Casualties in the World War”; and there is a section on grammar, and one on the history of the English language (and now I get mental flashes of words as immigrants, migrants, moving, flowing, traveling, intermingling, coming together from different lands, rolling off different tongues, traversing different times to become one language that is ever-changing, growing, shrinking), and, at last, I find the Table of Contents which includes “Language of Flowers,” “Language of Gems,” “Nicknames of Famous People” (quick—who was known as “The Wasp of Twickenham”?), “Famous Characters of Fiction”—it goes on and on, all
“Profusely Illustrated with 16 Full Page Color Plates, Four Pages of Drawings and 32 Pages of Half-tones from Photographs.”


The dictionary weighs at least a couple of pounds, is a few inches thick, measures something like five by seven, and obviously is so much more than words. Once owned by Anna Karlovic and Mary Karlovic, they, or someone, circled several words in pencil including “rosy,” “ring,” “rope,” “rear,” “romp,” “pray,” and “Fahrenheit.” Both “pear” and “peat” are underlined. And amid the “S”es they, or someone, tucked a clipping of a magazine photo of a woman in a snazzy outfit.


And then there are those base ball terms. As David cleared the last books from my new bookcase (which, he told me, as we were carrying it out, once belonged to a woman who never married, had a little dog, was a corporate secretary working downstate, came home to Ishpeming when she retired, lived a good long life, died, left some of her estate to UPAWS), I shared with him a 1924 base ball term that to me seemed particularly useful, that might come in handy on certain days, those days when, you know, nothing seems to go right, everything seems to go wrong, and it’s all just a big fat mess. The term is
Mussy ball, a game which is full of blunders.
(The answer: Alexander Pope, “The Wasp of Twickenham.”)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

newspaper delivery

As many know, I have a long history with that current enemy of the people, the newspaper, and in particular its home delivery. As a child, two newspapers arrived daily at the end of my parents’ driveway. In the morning it was the Chicago Tribune. I can still see my dad in his leather slippers and blue plaid robe, with some odd jacket completing the ensemble, strolling down the drive, stooping to get the paper, and, a bit later there he is again, tucked neatly into a suit and tie, sitting at the breakfast table, sipping coffee, perusing the sports pages. In the afternoon it was the Chicago Daily News. Then it folded.

As an adult, if in the appropriate circumstance, I too had the paper delivered. For a time I also delivered it—the Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, the Columbia Missourian. I enjoyed the job, did it well, and I cherish the memories of being about at 3 a.m., plowing through snowstorms, seeing the sunrise, gaining the ability to throw a rolled or bagged newspaper and hit my mark, playing a route against the clock, learning a new route, a new neighborhood, and the camaraderie of all sorts of us in the garage. And one morning there was that slight thrill of delivering a newspaper that contained a story I had written—in the sports pages—and in 1984, well, more than one paper I tossed up on a porch contained some jubilant or devastating story about the Cubs, and here I was, delivering it in the aftermath of my own jubilance or devastation.

So no surprise that one of the joys of being back in a city is having a paper delivered right to my door. It has been placed every day inside the storm door, so, yes—right to my door. That the person doing this seems to enjoy the work, well, what more?

newspaper delivery
Neither Josie nor I drew the smiley face in the snow.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

three snippets of moving

Among my dad’s stuff, which I was going through several years ago after he died, I found this snippet.


I pinned the snippet to a scrap of bulletin board, adorned it with my first-made beeswax ornaments, and hung it by the door of my home in Sand River. I put it by the door again when I moved out to Pelkie. The other day, when the movers had just about finished packing their truck, I wandered around my old empty cabin snapping photos of what remained, just so’s I’d know what was still there, and there it was.


There are four small bookcases simply made, of wood with a dark stain, easy to move, exceedingly functional. Each is about 26 inches wide, two feet tall and a foot deep. They line up nicely side-by-side and can also be stacked. They have been in the family for years. My earliest memory of them is when they were side-by-side, stacked four-square, in the basement of the house I grew up in. The basement was small but finished with different rooms and areas. My dad had an office and a bathroom; the washer and dryer and a utility sink were tucked around a corner back by the furnace; there was a long narrow room with a workbench, a freezer, storage for stuff like paint and hammers and rags (and sometimes hamsters, gerbils and mice), and also in that room was a funny little door that led to a crawlspace. A short hall divided these rooms and areas—the hall ended at a door that led outside to where our garbage cans were kept—and it was in this hall that the bookcases held court, holding some old books, flotsam and jetsam, and old newspapers bound for recycling. It must have been when my parents moved to a co-op apartment, in the mid-1990s, that I inherited them. At the cabin, I lined up three at the edge of the loft to keep me from catapulting into the living room (though this did not stop Elliott), and now here, one night, I saw that they could go many places, they could go anywhere, they could go everywhere—indeed, they should be everywhere; there are not enough of them. I have always called them the “Artist Bookcases,” because I thought that was their name. But then I checked the sticker on the back of one. It says “Aristo-Bilt.” So I guess I was close. And I guess Mid-century is my style. I always thought it was just My Parents’ Old Stuff.

Three of the four bookcases Formerly Known as Artist.


I was pretty tired one night and kind of wondering why-o-why I had done this whole moving thing. I was missing the deer. I was watching the nightly news—my one free station! one more than before!—and California was in flames, again, and people were mourning the latest mass shooting, again (also in California), and I was willing my Aristo-Bilt Artist Bookcases to miraculously multiply so I could just finish arranging things, get things unpacked, when my sister called. From California. (Hey! My cell phone works here! A proverbial blessing! Or curse?) At some point she asked if I had a good book to read, something to sit down and relax with, to obliterate everything for a while, and I said no, I haven’t been to the library yet. But later, heading up to bed, I looked at a shelf of books I had unpacked and thought what a dope I am. I am surrounded by good books. This shelf held mostly books my father had, or that his father had had. They are in a bookcase which once was in my childhood bedroom. As far as I know, it is not an Aristo-Bilt bookcase, but I should check.

My sister made the fish vase, my nephew made the other vase, I made the candle, and the elephant was Grandpappy’s.

This bookcase, too, has been hauled around many places. I pulled out a book at random, a slim volume, “Leaves of Grass,” published 1921. I took it upstairs. Once abed, I opened it at random, read a bit, skipped ahead, read some more, Josie sawed bones, the world slipped away, and soon I was reading “Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun.” I lingered over this line—
Give me solitude, give me Nature, give me again O Nature your primal sanities!
—and I thought about that line. Then I continued and arrived here—
Keep your splendid silent sun,
Keep your woods, O Nature, and the quiet places by the woods.
Keep your fields of clover and timothy, and your corn-fields and orchards,
Keep the blossoming buckwheat fields where the Ninth-month bees hum;
Give me faces and streets—give me these phantoms incessant and endless along the trottoirs!
The next morning walking Josie, we saw people out shoveling those trottoirs. Later, when a neighbor took it upon theirself to snowblow the walk in front of our house, Josie had a good bark.


View from a deck, today, just before dawn.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

change of address

If you had told me at the start of the farmers market season that right after the end of the season, meaning the traditional season, for the market these days continues each Saturday right up until the Saturday before Christmas rather than ending the last Saturday of October; if you had told me then that I would be packing up now to move to Marquette, well, I might have said, “Wow. How did that happen?”

At times it seems as if it happened without my even thinking about it, even though I can tell you I thought about it—a lot—and can retrace the process, the careful steps, I took to get here as well as all the mind-numbing, number-crunching, age-gnashing angst that accompanied the calm. Plus, I am very aware of the background, the various things over the past few years that now look suspiciously like: indicators.

“Yes,” the people in white lab coats in front of their dials and screens say as they watch, take notes, purse their lips, “Hmmmm.” A slight smile. A “tsk” here, a “tsk” there. These people know which way the wind blows, how the sand shifts, how the plot develops, and they now lean back in their swivel chairs, rocking, saying: “Phew. At last. There she goes.”

And so here I am, almost, today being the last day of packing, but soon, tomorrow: Blemhuber Avenue, Marquette, Michigan, a house called “The Marion.” So named by Sears, the once-maker of houses that arrived in kits by train from Chicago for buyers to put together piece by piece, this house in particular circa 1939, though whether this is truly the story of this house or not must yet be fully investigated as, so far, it is just what I think based on the bit I know. Still, I do not hesitate to write to my mom:
Dear Mom, I now live in a house that bears your name. Thank you.

It was either June or July when I noticed a house for sale in Marquette on one of those online real estate sites that I was looking at once in a while for fun, I thought, but also in contemplation of potential possibilities. I perceived the house as affordable, and it was just a block or so from Lake Superior, in a neighborhood I perceived as consisting of larger, more expensive homes. One day, after delivering candles to the co-op, Josie and I parked by the house, walked over to the lake, walked around the neighborhood. I saw interesting houses, small houses, medium-size houses, older houses, some new additions, front porches, a few people sitting out on front porches. Subsequent visits and walks showed me people of all ages and even more homes of various vintage, various character, and the truth of the matter was this: walking around this neighborhood I felt right at home, which can be a dangerous thing, for feelings are sometimes misleading, but, having lived out in the woods now for several years, one thing I was increasingly missing was this ability to walk around a neighborhood seeing, in a sense, other people’s lives and being, in a sense, part of it all.

And see there they are, those people in their lab coats, pushing a few buttons, pulling a few levers. How I wish they’d get off their butts and help me pack.

Soon I developed and preceded with a plan, and the plan came to fruition, albeit a bit sooner than I expected. For I did not buy that house I first saw online, and neither did I buy a house in that neighborhood. The house I did buy is a few blocks more from the lake, has neither a garage nor a fireplace, both of which I thought I wanted, and I have issues with the windows and the bathroom not to mention the walls, which are plaster and some of them “textured” and that just seems weird, but I took care of that with paint; But—

You can see the lake from the middle of the street and, I’ve just discovered, with the leaves off the trees from a spot on the back deck. There are big old trees: oak, maple, basswood. The neighborhood is close to downtown, has its own little commercial district with a store that, I’m told, has the best cookies and great popcorn, and the houses are interesting and varied and some, including mine, have front porches. Still –

It was shortly after the inspection, during which time the nervous potential home-owner-to-be perhaps comes to discover: Well, lady, I hate to tell ya but there’s this big hole in the roof and water in the basement and rats in the walls; but, also, potentially: Great little house. Looks like a Sears home. Simple design, well put together. Still –

You have this time to back out of the deal if you want. There is an Andy Griffith Show episode, the one where Barney tries his hand at real estate, and he comes up with this great scheme of putting the Tinkers in the Evers’ house, the Evers in the Chances’ house, the Chances in the Taylors’ house, and then the Taylors—Aunt Bee and Andy and Opie—can go to the Tinkers’ house, which Aunt Bee has always thought was so lovely. But—

In the end, despite Barney’s busting a gut, everyone stays put. What it comes down to is the fact that everyone is actually just fine where they are and moving seems nothing more than trading one set of problems for another. But—

You discover the house you’re moving to has your mother’s name on it. It’s The Marion. Your Marion may not have the fireplace, but it is, as the ad copy says, “ … like home—its lines are familiar and substantial. And good news!—expenses have been curbed by eliminating all unnecessary details. There’s nothing elaborate or fussy about this cozy, informal house—it’s just plain comfortable—and quite roomy, too … ” and, anyway, you’re moving, that’s it, and those people in the lab coats can just sit back and smile. Phew.

sears house

But—how will Josie adjust to city life? Well, we were there Halloween night and he didn’t much mind the trick-or-treaters, just seemed to want to figure out how to get in on this gambit of walking up to a house, getting treats tossed at you. How will I re-adjust? We’ll see. All I know right now is that Josie and I are moving into five rooms and a bath (such luxury!) with a basement and a shed and an old haunted homestead in a marvelous backyard that slopes down to what I can only call fenced-in, thoughtful wildness with a set of swings and a short bridge from nowhere to nowhere, more like a platform, really, perched up on a side slope where I can stand and look out over the lowlands, proclaim Hear ye! hear ye! all ye chippies and rabbits! I proclaim Josie, the best of all dogs, to be Lord of these Lowlands, and he shall you obey, from now through all eternity! and those scampering chippies and rabbits will giggle with glee.

A view over the backyard.

For better or worse, I have been longing to return to a community, to live in a neighborhood with sidewalks for walking, people for greeting, and, for Josie, dog butts to sniff. I have been longing to walk to a library, to stores, to shops, a bakery!; and then there’s the lake. And then there’s the lopping of 158 miles off my weekly commute to the farmers market. But—

We will miss the deer, the yips of coyotes, the murmur of the river, the fields of pristine snow.

Where the heck are the deer?

---

Meanwhile, new chapters have been added to the wax book:
A Candle’s Chemical History
Arsenic in Old Candles

Sunday, October 21, 2018

arsenic in the garden

Although Thursday the temperature tickled the underside of 65 degrees, and it was sunny, plenty of wind, this morning Saturday’s snow remains on the ground.

Watching last night’s ballgame, Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, Dodgers at Brewers, Los Angeles v. Milwaukee, and inexplicably rooting for the Brewers. Perhaps it is a Midwestern thing. Perhaps it is the old, bald-headed catcher. Perhaps it is Lorenzo Cain. Perhaps it is the manager’s somewhat unorthodox manner of managing. Perhaps it is admiration for the way the Brewers overcame the Cubs, took the division away from them in a hastily scheduled last game and never looked back. And the way their fans boo that Manny Machado. If L.A. goes forward? OK. And it’s nice to have that option.

Nearing the end of Dr. Granville’s autobiography and another interest and achievement is presented: spas. He toured Germany to explore its mineral baths, their healing powers, and produced a comprehensive work on the subject, a two-volume tome, “The Spas of Germany” (1837). This was followed in 1841 by a three-volume set, “The Spas of England and Sea-bathing Places.” The Wikipedia entry for Bournemouth, England, credits Granville with putting the town on the map, so to speak, by promoting its healthful possibilities. Prior to embarking on his “career as a medical hydrographer,” Granville conducted research at the British Museum.
I looked round the great reading-room of the British Museum, that garden of literature, into which once entered you luxuriously sit before a well-appointed desk, ready to collect and treasure up into your memorandum book whatever knowledge you can gather from the thousands of volumes within your own reach, or from any other which you desire to have brought to you by prompt attendants from the many inner halls of that gigantic library. Here you can pick and choose, transcribe and collect, whatever can help you in the prosecution of any projected work you may happen to be engaged in …
This reminded me of the Internet, or the World Wide Web, if we still call it that—do we? Though I guess without the ads. Unless they were embedded like weeds in the garden or slipped to you surreptitiously by an attendant, a little note along with your book of knowledge saying Eat at Joe’s. Was it really so different back then? Is it really so different now?

Bournemouth. Invalid’s Walk.

Having stuck with Granville all this time and while watching the ballgame and, at the same time, exploring what this desktop field of wildflowers has to offer, I spot and quickly pick “Arsenicated Candles: Report of the Committee of the Westminster Medical Society on Arsenicated Candles,” a report Granville was involved with. I will read it later.

p.s. go dodgers!

Monday, October 15, 2018

lettin’ it snow; hold the alkaline water, please

Whatever it’s doing wherever you are, right here right now it is snowing. Or at least it was earlier. A snowy morn. Not the first of the season—we had a dusting, as they say, a couple of Fridays ago. Not that it was as dry as dust; just the opposite. Rather wet. So maybe more like a sprinkling or a frosting, which makes me think of cake, or a cinnamon roll. Wouldn’t that be good right about now.


But I am tired, having gotten up earlier than usual. Dr. Granville was calling. I don’t know what it is with that man. But he wanted me to finish his chapter in the wax book, so I did, and I am thinking I will give him more chapters, perhaps sprinkle some Granville stories throughout, like the one about the Turkish dress and the one I read recently about Morrison’s Pills—I had put his autobiography down a month or more ago, it is so long and can be, at times, tedious, but I picked it up again when I realized his was the next chapter in Wax ., and so I plodded on, meaning to finish, and a couple of his stories just cracked me up again, and when I searched online to learn more about Morrison’s Pills (which may also be Morison’s Pills, I have not yet flushed out that inconsistency) what I read reminded me of something someone just told me about alkaline water, which is what you should be drinking to avoid cancer, in case you didn’t know. “Who says?” I asked. She shrugged. “The people selling alkaline water?” I suggested. “Yes,” she said, “I guess so.”

Alkaline water, Morrison’s Pills, that firewater that Aunt Bee drank to cure all that ailed her and that made her the life of the afternoon ladies’ church group … Will the wonders of this world never cease?


Granville’s story of Mr. Morrison, which takes place in 1817, is rather long, but that is Granville’s way. For background, Granville worked at placing himself among the more elevated members of society and was successful at it and prided himself on many of his acquaintances, colleagues, and admiring patients. But he knew there were other ways to get there. The Morrison way, shall we say. Now, take it away, A. B.!
Yet, after all, a ball with a great crowd and the elite of the society of Paris may always be collected by any one who has a long purse and a great wish to spend its contents. I need only refer, for an illustration of my opinion, to the triumphant success achieved in that line by the renowned inventor of “Morrison’s Pills.” This gentleman, who in the course of a few years, both in America and England, had amassed a fabulous fortune, and whose celebrity in London was at the time I speak of in its zenith, took it into his head to visit the French capital, and once in it, to wish to be introduced into the grand monde. The question was, how to accomplish this? He had only his immense wealth to recommend him; neither title, nor rank, nor any ostensible public employment to distinguish him. He was in despair, when a wag, well acquainted with the fantasies of Paris, suggested to him that he possessed the very best title for general acceptation, for he was a millionaire. “Let it be but made known through the morning papers that Monsieur Morrison, ‘un millionnaire Anglo-Am√©ricain,’ had arrived in Paris, and in one day your name will be in the mouth of everybody. You next— ” “Oh! I see,” interrupted Mr. Morrison. “Yes! yes! I next send out cards to all the grandees in Paris, dukes and duchesses, and noblemen of every degree, generals, admirals, ministers, and their ladies, savants, poets, literary characters, senators, and deputies—‘Monsieur and Madame Morrison request the honour of M. or N. (duke or duchess) at ten o’clock—but where am I to receive them?” Mr. Morrison interrupted himself, “That is the question!”

“There is no difficulty about that,” said the friendly counsellor. “Are you prepared to spend five thousand francs for the hire of a splendidly furnished hotel for three days, and three thousand more for the hire of a suitable retinue of attendants, all dressed en habit noir et bien blanchis, together with about twenty-five thousand francs more for refreshments, besides handsome fees to the principal signori of the Italian Opera and of the Op√©ra Comique with their conductors—in fact, are you ready and willing to spend fifty thousand francs on a f√™te qui fera √©rpoque, as we Parisians say?”

“Quite ready,” was the reply, “and delighted.” Accordingly the announcement of the arrival of Monsieur and Madame Morrison was inserted in all the morning and evening papers, and a grand hotel, entre cour et jardin, belonging to a nobleman, and well known for its splendid furniture and choice collection of pictures, was hired in the Faubourg St.-Germain for three days, at the cost of five thousand francs. Two thousand francs additional were stipulated for the large retinue of clever and imposing servants in full evening dress, quite plain, as Mr. Morrison, in his character of a semi-United States man, could not have displayed liveries without an anachronism.

All the other preparations were made in proportion by the kind friend, and the cards sent out as arranged. Mr. and Mrs. Morrison knew very well that time must be given for people to accept invitations from a stranger, and that the intended guests would consult among themselves as to the propriety of accepting the invitation. He had therefore fixed on the evening of a distant day in the following week, and most assuredly the interval was a period of no little perplexity to most of the invited.

“But who is this Mr. Morrison?” asked a great lady of her own kind doctor, well known in the world. “Indeed, madame, I could not tell you, except that he is said to be a millionaire!” “Ma ch√™re,” inquired the husband of la Marquise de D., “do you mean to go?” “Certainly,” she replied; “the Duchesse de B. is going, and assures me everybody will be there!”

In another great family all hesitation was done away with by an assurance that at the English Embassy Mr. Morrison was considered as a most clever as well as an exceedingly wealthy merchant. And so everybody determined to accept. They replied accordingly, and sure enough never did the quiet and silent streets of the aristocratic quartier of Paris present such an unprecedented and tremendous mass of smart carriages as conveyed the élite of the élite of the high and fashionable society of Paris to the brilliant assembly of Mr. and Mrs. Morrison, both of whom did the honours of the evening admirably, especially the lady, who appeared perfectly qualified for her position, being both a handsome and a ladylike woman.

At one o’clock in the morning a magnificent supper was served, following a most delightful concert, in which the best and united talents of the Italian and French operas achieved great success. At dawn of day the company began to disperse, and as each guest stepped into his or her carriage, he or she received a splendid enamelled card, with an inscription in French, which the increasing daylight enabled the curious to read—“M. Morrison remercie, and begs to recommend the never-failing vegetable pills sold at the Hygeian Temple, City Road, London.”
Whether the use of Morrison’s Pills ever actually helped anyone, I don’t know, but their overuse reportedly did cause some to expire.

a.b. granville


No, no alkaline water for me, thank you. Just a cinnamon roll.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

back to the river

There is nothing quite so beautiful as a cool and cloudy autumn day with a slight mist rising.


A picture of two-legged Josie is rare.


Fact is, I love the colors and textures of autumn. I love the diminishment of light. I love the curling of edges.


Down by the river, there is much to see. It feels like a private world with a constant, ongoing existence, no need for that which is beyond—no need for me—and I would say a self-contained world but it is not contained, it has no borders, no gates, no walls, no dams, there is nothing to stop it from flowing on and on and blowing and going as far as it can, as far as it wants; it is just so many things, leaves and rocks and water, grains of sand, that happen to be here at this moment, as am I.


Josie sticks his nose in a turtle’s face.


I lay my hand on the turtle’s back.


After a summer away from the river due to a plague of mosquitoes and a ravaged path piled high with fallen and drifted branches and trees, it is nice to be back.


And then it’s home for snacks.


Wax . update. All the outlines for logical chapter sequence are out the window as they seem to have no influence. The candelilla wax story now follows the bayberry wax story, which I suppose makes sense in some way but just not in a way I had planned. In rewriting the candelilla story, my mind made a new connection:
So often the results of an Internet search feel like being thrown into a 1970’s shiny new, slick, generic, boring behemoth of a suburban shopping mall that traps you inside until you are lost and confused, standing there glassy-eyed staring at this candy-colored map that tells you “You are here,” a little dot amid all the crap, and all the good stuff—the museums, libraries, antique shops, resale shops, and just plain old quirky shops—are all downtown, where everybody’s afraid to go and the bus no longer runs.
I also spent a morning watching videos of candelilleros. [Extracción de Candelilla - UM Palomas (4:59) 2013 Jairo Ferniza; Candelilleros de Cuatro Ciénegas (13:32) 2012 Lorenzo A. López Barbosa; and Extracción de cera de candelilla de alta calidad (8:15) 2016 conaforgob (National Forestry Commission) are just a few.] And with the use of subtitles, I trimmed unwieldy chapter titles. Voilà!