[lit-ideas] Hereabouts

  • From: david ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 11 Oct 2015 11:20:55 -0700

I hope I don’t sound terse; this week I was attacked by one of the many
versions of arthritis, possibly gout, which visitor rather took the fizz out
hereabouts. I expect to be back to a more vigorous version of my self by the
time of our next knees-up.

In the night I re-read “Jeeves and the Yule Tide Spirit” and finally looked up
Bobby Wickam’s chief virtue, “espèglerie,” which is French for banter or
good-humored teasing.

Bring some when you drop by, if it’s in stock chez vous.

The chickens have been Victorian children; I have seen but not heard them
beyond, as I lay in bed, hearing someone shout, “I LAID AN EGG. I SAID, ‘I
LAID AN EGG.’” Which was followed by the usual complete lack of response from
the rest of the flock. To judge by body language alone—sometimes you can see
both the crower and the crowees from the bedroom window—broadcast excitement
fom the one is greeted by annoyed muttering from the others. It doesn’t seem
to matter that the casting changes, with the lead and members of the chorus
swapping roles.
Whether the chickens commented on my retreat to the interior—both physical and
mental—is lost to history. They certainly noticed me pushing a frame from room
to room and I imagine the strangeness of my movement was the occasion for some
commentary, an imagining that extends the domestic and interior reactions of
both cats and dog, but a historian cannot venture beyond what his sources
allow. I will not simply make things up.

Wit and research provided limited distraction from the pain of the thing, so I
learned that Napoleon’s older brother ended up living in New Jersey, that
Gaugin’s name has some sort of root in walnut growing, and that Benjamin
Harrison’s successful campaign for the White House involved handing out hard
cider to those who said they would support the “log cabin” candidate. The fact
that Harrison actually lived in a mansion was deemed less important, by those
running the campaign, than the opportunity to draw a contrast with Van Buren’s
love of fine wine and French cuisine. Harrison, you’ll remember, caught a
chill while giving a very long inauguration speech—some put it at 1 hour and
forty five minutes, some two hours-- and died soon after his first presidential
acts. About Education, one website, and the University of Virginia’s Miller
Center, another, disagree over whether the term “booze” emerged from Harrion's
campaign. The story in contention is that Harrison’s supporters actually
handed out not just cider but whiskey, produced by a distiller named E.C. BOOZ.

I took a narcotic pill (more than a few years out-of-date but possibly still
potent) and fell into a dream. I was chatting with God, who turned out to be
an unusually large chicken. “Why,” I asked, “am I in such pain?’
“Well,” said God who, like our own chickens, had a London accent. “It’s a
matter of contrast. To understand something fully you must understand its
opposite, right?”
“So we’ll fully understand life when we’re dead?”
“And when I finally get to have a shower, it will be a delight?”
“And the Puritans were Purines incarnate?”
“Well now, guv, that’s where you lose me.”
“The web says I’m to give up mackeral and meat, booze and just about
everything, except low-fat cheese and vegetables.”
“You want to take some of that with a pinch of salt.”
“On the leaves or the cheese?”

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon

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