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-Américain,’ 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 Opéra Comique with their conductors—in fact, are you ready and willing to spend fifty thousand francs on a fête qui fera érpoque, 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 chêre,” 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!