Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gone to Texas.

My brother arrives tomorrow at the wheel of a 33 foot motorhome, belonging to my second cousin Charlotte and her pal, Ruth. Charlotte (and presumably Ruth) are retired full bird Army colonels. They earned Vietnam service ribbons. They have many friends and former colleagues.

Charlotte called a month ago, asking me to help drive her from Richmond to San Antonio. Not a good health year for her, she said. She is in her eighties. Charlotte and Ruth (who broke her hip last winter)spend the summers at the family homestead in Vermont. They winter in San Antonio. I have not been feeling  perky lately, so I called my brother to help. He did agree: I want everyone to remember that. Our mission is to get The Ladies there. Neil texted me today: "Call me Toby"; The Brass still have their bark, used as necessary on the help, i.e., Neil. There are two cats and a sloppily cleaned reeking cat box in the RV. On the bright side, Neil saw DC while they were attending a women's war memorial gathering, dedication; he offered few details. Neil, to walk off some energy, walked 6 miles around the District, and saw JFK's grave. Charlotte and Ruth included him in a tour of the Rose Garden at the White House; I asked if they toured the veg plot. "No".

The next stop after Richmond I have been told of is Montgomery, Alabama. Never been there. Neil mentioned eating mudbugs in Louisiana, get some decent boudin ; I'm up for that.We pass right under the BBQ capital of Texas, Lockhart, on the way to San Antone. Once there, TexMex cuisine. New cities, different skies. I have not seen Neil in 11 months. I am looking forward to this trip, cats, colonels, and all.

Photo: My brother, in my mother's arms.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012

English Garden Tour:transit and arrival. Day 1 in London.

Of all the big, truly bigsprawlingstinking, rightonthecusp of whoknowswhatnext cities of the world  we've been to,London is the most fun . Great people mover underground. Tiny jewel like stamp shops cheek to jowl with bold be-flagged tourist traps. A city on the edge: a vehicle incident, ripples pass through the system. Three jolts,and yer sitting, maybe in the dark.  It all works, mostly.  Great suits, bespoke or not.  Cheers.

July 3. Fuddruckers "restaurant" (booth, really) at Dulles has elk, ostrich (in season), and boar 'burgers. My elk was dry. Get "Premium Economy" seats on Virgin Atlantic. Six inches extra space is worth it. Decent swag. Much booze, little sleep. Entertaining this sheep w/ Isle of Man TT documentary. Hit Heathrow ground feet running.Turn on 'phone: it screeches WHEREAREYOU?ADJUSTTIME! and curls into a digital fetal ball. It is a.m.;can't check in 'til the p.m. Mill around mill until luggage catches up.London is packed, more than usual. London festival, Jubilee, Olympics coming up. We score tickets for  Buckingham Palace tour, including special jewelry.  Queen's paintings, GORGEOUS, could spend weeks gawping. Wee Rubens: works on a small scale, pleasant seasonal vignettes. Canalettos.  Jewel display was a mosh pit: Chinese have an entirely different sense of personal space than RR. Late lunch, dim sum at Grand Imperial. Spot of window shopping; we saw loads of Queen stuff, "Stay Calm" paraphenalia. I can see where we get the "Yay us" attitude. Must confess to buying a Clockwork Orange shirt, a walking copyright violation I'm sure. Dinner at the hotel: salmon; bangers and mash; lemon tart; Guiness draft. Drinks at the ReUnion bar: Bailey's for her, a French 75 for him. 

To bed.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Two dispatches from encounters between Mars and Venus.

After applying all over the South Shore of MA, RR walked into his town's library and enquired if he could put his application in. Right place at right time, a rarity in his life: someone was leaving, and he was in. RR, newly minted "Junior Library Assistant", is answering the phone.
"Good morning, Tufts Library, how may I help you?"
Two beats of silence.
"Oh, a man!"
"How may I direct your call?"
I knew this would pop up; just a matter of when . Small town libraries were traditionally staffed by local women; men were custodians, box movers or couriers. I got used to it. Colleagues groused about their husbands at break time, relating droll domestic anecdotes. SOP: keep 23 year old mouth shut, finish the smoke and get back upstairs.

Flash forward twenty + years. RR is now "Young Adult Services Coordinator'; ie, admin. He has a nice office on coordinator's row at the headquarters of a largish regional library system in another commonwealth.It is earning a rep as one of the best and most progressive libraries in the country. He is  happy to be there. His colleague next door, headquarters branch librarian, has the sweet spot, a corner office. RR's door is open. He is rabbiting away on policy,developing training, or most fun, buying books.
"Scott? What's distaff?"
"I beg your pardon, M---?"
"What is distaff?"
Rather than screeching back and forth like fishwives, RR gets up and walks the several paces to his colleague's office.
"You are, M---.  It is an old word sometimes used to refer to women. It could be hand held or mounted on a spinning wheel,if memory serves; traditionally used by women.Wherever did you come across that word?"
Survey forms had comment/question areas, and patrons (now customers) would  use them to suggest titles, etc.
"Someone on this comment sheet said 'The mysteries are taking a turn to the distaff side'."
"Ah. Forward that comment to A--.The commenter feels we are buying too many mysteries either by women or featuring women sleuths."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Twenty-eight boxes of books.

I transported twenty eight boxes of books when I moved from Massachusetts to Virginia. Not the 12 bottle booze boxes.They were Baker & Taylor, library jobber, boxes; easily twice the volume of  liquor boxes. Once here, I was able to unpack and shelve all of them; my one bedroom apartment in Weymouth  did not have the room.Such is the curse of an inveterate  bibiliophile and packrat. A colleague at my new employer sneered at her father's collection of  books, calling it "macho trophy collecting", like game. I held my tongue.

I did not stop buying books: my employer has excellent book sales, and, for a Southern city, Richmond has decent bookstores. Plus the mom n' pop store at the beach is excellent. Several years into my residence here, it became apparent a weed of the collection would be necessary. First back in the boxes were graduate school titles: esoteric stuff on information theory,outdated selection guides for mid-sized libraries, and similar books. Easy. Then to undergrad and personal interest titles.Science fiction anthologies and novels; most of the Hemingway and Fitzgerald titles; years of the World Radio and Television Handbook; an entire duplicate run of Wodehouse; etc.,and other books which if I wanted to read again, a decent public library would own . I even got rid of my Edmund Spenser. My mistake; we'll get to that in a minute.Not going into the discard boxes were gifts from family and friends; history, ancient,aviation,nautical; books owned by family members; and books I felt I could not do without (Twain; all of Hunter Thompson; Anthony Burgess; Paul Theroux; Pynchon; various editions of Moby Dick; ditto Walden and other Throreau titles; plus English Romantic prose and poetry). My grandfather owned maybe five books; I inherited one. I have several of my father's books as well as several bins of gun books (under the eaves) which he used in his business and to write his book. Very specialized stuff; none went. I donated eight boxes to my local library. I do not want to speculate on their fate.

The other night I thought, "hmmm, nothing to read", an absurd statement in this house; " I will read my Spenser anthology.". Wrong answer, RR: gone. Worse, the local library does not own any Spenser. My employer owns it, but they are 47 miles away. Libraries  have given up the 'core collection', archival concept, and have traded it in for the bookstore model, which to me is the emperor's new clothes. We have to be relevant, reduce runs of shelving to shorter cases that display like a bookstore, blahblahblah.Swell if  you want to concentrate on the NY Times bestseller rubbish; not so great for book dorks like me. There may be an answer, from an unexpected source.

I bought the missus a Nook for our anniversary, set up a wireless network , and she immediately began loading it up (very fast downloads, I must say) for reading on our trip. Very convenient, though there is not a wide selection for nonfiction readers. There are ways around that. An observation on our e-reader. Books, no matter how many pages, all look the same on it (and, presumably, other brands). Which gets me to the physicality of reading. I have a Signet Classics edition from 1960 (cover price .50) of Kidnapped . Nice dense, still white pages, and here it is: the book has a scent. It is a scent which, when I read it (again and again), impels me to snuffle the pages. That scent transports me back to the days of reading under the covers with a flashlight after lights out. The damndest thing....The weight of a book, a real book, is a comfort to me. With an e-reader, Moby Dick has the same heft as the very thin A Coney Island of the Mind. Not always a bad thing:  I can schlepp a bunch of books on e-reader much easier than I can a box of books.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The days were just packed

Missus and I were recently back in England. Linda saw an ad for a trip to visit English gardens, guided by a local garden expert. She is the avid gardener; I dig as directed. It is a savage hobby, uprooting perfectly happy plants that are not satisfactory, and replacing them . Any excuse to revisit GB will suffice for RR; so we went. I'll supply details in future posts; for today, I will concentrate on what for me was an all too brief high point.

When the trip had been booked, I contacted Lorenzo da Ponte, author of  the "Tone Deaf" blog, whom we met two years ago on a less hectic tour. E-mail serves and volleys commenced; for various reasons there was one opportunity to get together. Little is always better than none, so had to settle for little time.

We got to see LdaP and signora, got to see Hereford cathedral, and spend some quiet time before we had to bustle back to Cheltenham. Lorenzo and missus were very kind to us. I am a curious person, and enjoyed scoping out a portion of L da P's books, and once again was amazed at Mrs. LdaP's reading quantity. Even saw a title for future reference as we say in the library biz: a bio of Pepys which won the Whitbread Prize when it was called the Whitbread prize. Another instance of inspiration from L da P. I thank him and the missus for their hospitality and patience.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Where was I?

I go away for a bit, and they move all the furniture.

There are two kinds of cardiologists: plumbers and electricians. Plumbers do stents, valve jobs, etc. Electricians do pacemakers.I had a stress test with the plumber, and passed it. Two weeks later I get a call for the electrician cardio minions saying cryptically, "there was something 'anomalous' in the last report your pacemaker transmitted, we need you to come in.". Medtronic, who makes the pacemaker/defib I have, had sent me a letter months ago saying there was a prob with the leads, but not to fret Mr. RR as yours is a two lead unit, and while not swell, was not a real problem. This time there was a problem. The heightened impedance meant that a lead was fractured, or was going to fracture. Action must be taken. But we can't do it where it was originally done, we need a better equipped facility in Northern Virginia, or Richmond. A full blown operating theater because what we are going to do, Mr. RR, is use a laser to cut the leads and any calcification off the surface of your heart, pop in new leads, and Bob's yer uncle. Uhuh. That's what they did. I had never had 'real' anesthesia, and that is where the problems cropped up. I was sick for days from it. Then the swelling was too much on the site, according to the nursepracticioner, and various medical personnel had to visit me to poke and prod it. This passed, and all is back to ha,ha normal now.

So here I are, whutinhell am I going to write about? Can't seem to get going on anything. Read Robert Hughes' Rome , I enjoyed it. I had never read any of his books before, and had seen only brief segments of his program on modern art.Hughes obviously loves Rome, and is dismayed to see what traffic and tourism has done to the city.I'm reading a new translation of Magic Mountain; it flows more smoothly than the old one which I have read several times; heck, this is the second time I have read this translation. Why do I do that, return to titles I've read several times?

On a sadder note, I read in The Guardian the other day of the death of Paul Fussell, a critic whose work I enjoy.I've read his Great War and Modern Memory and his Abroad several times.Those two books are on my top forty list, highly recommended. His cogent cant cutting voice will be missed.

Missus and I have another trip planned. I am leery of it, but missus wanted to go, so I go. It is a guided tour of English gardens and we will be there just before the Olympics start. Swell. A while ago, my sister in law,the arch conservative who surpasses the general conservative notion of believing coming out of the trees was a bad idea,does not believe we came out of the trees. She enjoys baiting me on various and sundry topics, while I strive to not rise to the bait. This time she asked, "Are you top dog in the house, RR"? I saw where this was going, omysistersandbrothers. "Nah", sez I, "I'm the junkyard dog.". And I am . If missus wants to go to England with all those athletic supporters and people painted in their national colors running around loose, we'll go. I'll find a nice quiet local, and sample some good English beer. We're going to stay in Cheltenham a few nights, Holst's house is there, and England has a good transportation system.So we shall see what we shall see.