[lit-ideas] Hereabouts

  • From: David Ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 26 Jul 2015 11:51:39 -0700

Fogey that I am, I still say, "Marks and Sparks." Started in Leeds by a
Belarusian Jew and Yorkshireman, Marks and Spencer was a fixture in the high
streets of my childhood. A mile short of "hip," they used to sell only
well-made British goods, which were tagged, "St. Michael," a brand honoring
Michael Marks, the Jew. Now M and S sells food in Paris and Hong Kong, owns
Brooks Brothers in America, labels its pajamas, "M and S." They're made in

The chickens woke me near dawn, singing in Gaelic. I don't know if you're
acquainted with narrative song in that language, but the chief characteristic
is--in my limited experience--umpteen verses. "Here we are at the raising of
Charlie's standard," a singer will begin, and then you settle in, "here come
the Mac Whoopsies dressed in their fine colors, the Mac Whistlers making an
impression, Ben and the Clachans, yon Hamish the policeman from high up yonder,
Traveller and his rider..." You get the picture. To my ear gaelic singing
sounds like the Muslim call to prayer and chanting the Torah, which gives you
some idea exactly how musically ignorant I am. Anyway, the question of the
(drowsy) moment was, " why would chickens do this?" Appenzeller's gone broody,
so she could be excluded from the plot. Cheddar couldn't be to blame because
she now never starts anything. When I lure them towards home of an evening she
hangs way back, to avoid being pecked. So, Watson, we conclude it must have
been the other three who came up with the notion that a long narrative song
would be the best way to achieve some aim. But what? I rose, put my boots on,
investigated whether the water was empty. No. The other water? No. Was
there some other source of discomfort which might need to be remedied? A
predator perhaps, making a demonstration to which singing or dancing was, in
fowl view, the right kind of defense? As Sherlock Holmes may have said, "When
you've eliminated all other possibilities, investigate the food container."
Bingo: dust was clogging the fall of chunky bits. I cleared the blockage and
they crowded round. When they'd eaten a fill, they burst into a version of,
"Danny Boy," "The food, the food is falling, from layer to layer and down the
'luminum side. Oh god, oh god..."

Our washing machine died. The new beast has three notable characteristics: one,
it looks like it has been involved in a baseball steroid scandal with increased
size all round; two, its light panel...well if I write that in the late sixties
you could have sold tickets to a "son et lumiere," with lawn chairs lined
across the room to watch what it does, you get the picture; three, I'm thinking
the machine may have sent South Korea details of our smalls. The last
statement is speculation but the brochure says the machine has the ability to
confess in the manner of Catholics, faults to its creator. I'm thinking it may
not stop at that point. Into the info stream might go details of sweat band
content, DNA of those who did said sweating, explicit scent pictures of farm
sites visited while on vacation. There's probably a good deal to be learned
from changes in our drainage.

Ecstatic dancing and joy are next semester's seminar topic. Barbara Ehrenreich
suggests that humans put a good deal of early energy into practicing this
activity as defense against predators. If you rehearse as a group, waving
sticks and all moving together, then when the troupe is attacked, you may
convince the predator that you are in fact a many-headed and armed thing.
"Look," says the Other, crouched ready to pounce, "they're all doing Texas
line-dancing... must be one helluva beast. I'll look for something more
vulnerable!" Maybe I should let the gun lobby know that dancing could suffice?

David Ritchie,
To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: