I've often aimed to be surprising, and missed. This time I think I might manage. My tactic will be to give you some quite irrelevant background as a kind of a build-up, and then whack you at the peroration point. So here goes.
The result of our trip to Salt Lake City is that "neither daughter qualified for nationals"; that would be the top news story of the day, but that's hardly news. Highland dance is nothing if not predictable. Julia should perhaps have had a medal, but circumstances conspired against her and though she danced very well, she was always seventh-ish which, among sixteen solid contenders, is good. Emily ended up in exactly the same spot she finished last year--fifth in her age group--but by an entirely different route. Having been injured for most of the year, she competed for the first time two weeks ago. In the first dance at regionals, I was shocked; she looked awful. And then the old Emily emerged, fifth place, fourth, place, third place, fifth place; somehow this added up to fifth place overall. You'd have thought it would add up to more but no, that's the glory and weirdness of highland dance. What all this means is we don't have to go the National Championship in Denver, which is something of a relief.Some of you will remember the last time the regional championship was in Salt Lake City. I wrote of a Hunter Thompson experience in a "Mayan" restaurant, which was owned by the fellow who owns the Utah Jazz. (Anybody who associates jazz with Utah, is bound, you say to be a bit weird about the ears, especially when it comes to Mayan food.) Well this time we had fabulous Mexican food and margaritas to match. No divers in Speedos to report. Instead I can claim that there is civilization in Utah and suggest you spread the word! We even had dessert beer called, "Polygamy Porter." The label reads, "Why stop at just one?" And the small label on the neck added, "Take some home to the wives." Clearly there are people enjoying said state.The competition was held in Salt Lake City's Masonic Temple. I was curious what status masons had among Mormons. To judge by the art of the walls, as time went by the relationship varied. In some periods the masons were able to afford quite good works; in other periods, they bought or commisioned complete rubbish. While our competition was going on, the masonic ladies were having an afternoon tea and sale of hats. Apparently one of the masonic persons, or possibly two, or possibly a couple--I wasn't able to find out more than the fact that they were "very theatrical, and belly danced until they were eighty five"--died and left their hat collection to the masons. Arrayed on tables therefore was a collection of hats, for both males and females. When you have as little hair as I do, you have to take an interest in hats and thus, having eyed hats at numerous estate sales, I was in a position to spot a very fine triple beaver from several yards away.Though the ladies knew what they had when it came to women's hats, they hadn't a clue about men's headwear, pricing a J.C. Penn-ay the same as a triple beaver. I bought Julia a rather lovely 1940's thing with a veil, and I bought myself a triple beaver, which I have yet to learn how to wear, (I am going to ask the spirit of Harry Truman for advice)...for seven dollars.
And now to the peroration. For many a year now, Julia has been bending my ear about Terry Pratchett. You would have thought anyone from Hay on Wye, as he is, would be something of a writer, what with all the bookshops and so on, but the times I have tried to like the fellow, he struck me as a Douglas Adams wannabe. No longer. I recommend to you, "Monstrous Regiment," but not in book form. Get the book on tape and enjoy the accents and--for the military buffs-- the references to kicking him in the "meat and two veg" and advice on how to train a "Rupert." If there's a bit of a wait at your local library, you could try the only other Pratchett novel I've heard (I've not yet succeeded in reading one), "The Wee Free Men," which has a fabulously-named character, Not-as-big-as-Medium-Sized-Jock-but- bigger-than-Wee-Jock-Jock.
Carry on. David Ritchie, Portland, Oregon