J.D. in Slumberland

How often do you have nightmares? I don’t have them often.

Yet it’s 4:04 a.m. and I was just awakened by a dream in which I was screaming, screaming at a formless darkness in our television room, a shape that could only have been an intruder, a burglar, a possible murderer.


I’ve been reading classic comic strips lately:

Little Nemo was written and drawn by Winsor McKay from 1905 to 1914. Its premise is that each night Morpheus, the king of the Slumberland, sends one of his minions to summon a young boy (Little Nemo) to his realm. The minion leads Nemo through strange and wonderful landscapes — a forest of giant mushrooms, a land of walking beds, a garden filled with monstrous vegetables — until finally something terrible happens — the giant mushrooms collapse at the touch of a finger! &mdash and Nemo wakes and falls out of bed screaming.

The stories are macabre and fantastic, the art a beautiful blend of art nouveau and art deco (traditionally, the division between these two periods is considered to be the start of World War I).

I showed Harrison some Little Nemo strips last night, though I altered the stories a bit. The illustrations seemed fantastic enough to fill his brain with wonder; I was afraid that the actual text of the strip might push the wonder into horror. (Harrison is a sensitive child.) After the Gingeriches had gone home, I read more of the strips before bed.

Well.

I was worried that Little Nemo might give Harrison nightmares — and maybe it did — but I should have been worried about myself.


Last night I dreamt that we had returned home from an evening out. Kris went to let the cats out and said, “Huh. Well, I guess somebody stole your bike.” My heart sunk. I’d had my bike chained up in the backyard, but sure enough, somebody had cut the chain and taken the bike. They’d left the front wheel, though, as they’d apparently bent the rim during the theft.

Then I noticed that I’d left the shed door open. Again, my heart sunk. When I checked, the shed was nearly empty. The thieves had stolen almost everything: the camping equipment, the empty CD cases (our CDs reside in binders, so we keep the cases in the shed), my old computer gaming magazines, the Christmas supplies.

“What about the house?” I thought. I ran to the library. One of the computers was missing. I went to the back of the house to check on the larder and on the television room. But when I entered the television room, I was startled to find a formless black shape, a menacing presence: the thief! I screamed! The figure came toward me with a knife! I screamed!

And then I awoke. Fortunately, I wasn’t actually screaming.

I rarely have nightmares. Maybe Little Nemo is more potent than I had suspected.


Little Nemo is worthy of its own weblog entry. Many of these classic comic strips are wonderful, and I want to share them with my friends. Unfortunately, most of my friends would find them uninteresting. I think it’d be wonderful if one or more of these old strips were reprinted alongside the modern comic strips in today’s newspapers.

Comments

On 27 July 2003 (07:42 PM),
dowingba said:

Hopefully it’ll replace Cathy.

On 28 July 2003 (12:50 AM),
Dana said:

There is no Ming but Max, and Middleton is his prophet…

I mean, really. How can you not like this guy and this guy? Geez, but Sam Jones looks like a dope in comparison, doesn’t he? Max von Sydow was brilliant casting. But Sam Jones as Flash? And making him a Football Player? Groan.

On 28 July 2003 (12:42 PM),
Joel said:

I’ve never read Little Nemo, but the art really reminds me of the illustrations for the original editions of L. Frank Baum’s works. I suppose they would fit into that Art Deco/Nouveau period?

On 28 July 2003 (01:54 PM),
Dana said:

There’s an issue of Promethea that’s done in this style as a conscious throwback/homage to Little Nemo. Little Margie and Promethea visit the Sun King, who is going to be marrying the Moon soon. But he’s lost the ring, so Margie and Promethea go about looking for it, eventually discovering that the ring wasn’t lost at all, but…

Well, I don’t want to ruin it in the off chance someone out there is going to pick it up and read it.

On 16 May 2005 (01:30 PM),
Peter M said:

Little Nemo vs new, smaller comic strips

Nemo actually was reprinted in smaller form in the 1930s and 1940s, and again in the 1960s, very briefly alongside othe comics, but it can’t really be appreciated in abreviated form, and the full-page format is even less plausible in today’s comics sections then it was back in the 1960s.

The many fans of Little Nemo among modern strip creators are Patrick McDonnell, Gary Trudeau, and Bill Watterson.

A full-size reprint edition of the early strips is due out this fall.

Roadside Weeds of Canby, Oregon

Previously I lamented that, while strolling down country lanes, I could not identify the weeds and trees and flowers before me; they all had names, I was sure, but what those names might be remained a mystery.

Warren recommended I pick up a copy of Helen Gilkey’s Handbook of Northwestern Plants. Powell’s had several used copies for under $10, and the taxonomic classification system for identifying the weeds was keen, but Kris found a book better suited to our needs: Northwest Weeds: The Ugly and Beautiful Villains of Fields, Gardens, and Roadsides.

Northwest Weeds is not nearly as comprehensive as Gilkey’s textbook, but it has the distinct advantage of having many (~250) color photographs whereas Gilkey’s book has only line drawings. The color photographs are a tremendous aid in identifying weeds.

Armed with the new book and a digital camera, I set out to identify the roadside weeds within a quarter mile radius of Custom Box Service. After a week of exploration, I’d learned a number of weeds.

The following photographs are low-quality digital images (it’s difficult to get close using a camera without a macro lens — plus my digital camera doesn’t allow me to adjust the aperture, so depth-of-field is bothersome). The text description for each plant is taken directly from Northwest Weeds.

 
[photo of Queen Anne's Lace]
Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), of the parsley family (aka umbels). Queen Anne’s Lace resembles the carrot, as well it should since it is the wild carrot. It is an erect biennial, up to four feet tall, with lace-like, multi-compound leaves. The plants are usually coarsely hairy. The carrot-like roots taste like their cultivated cousins but become woody, bitter and tough as the plant ages. The minute, white flowers grow in a flat-topped inflorescence, technically a compound umbel because it contains small umbels within a large umbel. The central flower is usually pinkish purple. Leaves immediately below the inflorescence are small but pinnately divided. Short bristles envelope the mature fruits. When it blooms in late summer, Queen Anne’s Lace is one of the most common and conspicuous weeds along roadsides in the Pacific Northwest. It thrives primarily in waste areas but invades meadows and pastures. It is native of Eurasia.
 
 
 
[photo of Himalayan Blackberry]
Himalayan Blackberry (Rubus procerus), of the rose family. Himalayan blackberry is an introduced species that has become a weed of the worst kind. [Editor’s note: I disagree; I love blackberries! Look for a discussion of “what is a weed” at the end of this page. Update: Er, I forgot to add that section; I’ll add it later.] Himalayan blackberry is a weak-stemmed shrub that may grow erect, but more frequently clambers and spreads over other plants, crushing and smothering them. Its vicious, flattened spines hold tenaciously. The leaves are palmately compound, typically with five large, oval, toothed leaflets. Even the leaf and leaflet stalks have spines. The white to pale pink flowers, about one inch across, blossom throughout the season. This Eurasian blackberry is now widespread west of the Cascades, less common in northern Idaho and northwestern Montana.
 
 
 
[photo of Evergreen Blackberry]
Evergreen Blackberry (Rubus laciniatus), of the rose family. Evergreen blackberry is less abundant and less aggressive than its somewhat larger cousin, but a noxious weed, nevertheless. It is distinguished from the Himalayan blackberry by the leaves, which also have five leaflets, but are sharply and irregularly incised and toothed. The fruits look much alike, but those of the evergreen blackberry are generally considered more desirable. This species is a European cultivated variety that ran wild. Its range is similar to that of the Himalayan blackberry.
 
 
 
[photo of Canada Thistle]
Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense), of the sunflower family. This aggressive perennial weed spreads from deep rhizomes to form dense and persistent populations. The rather thin stems are two to five feet tall and branch at the top to produce numerous inch wide heads with spiny involucral bracts. The leaves are pinnately lobed with weak spines along the margins and wooly hair on the lower surface. The plants are unisexual. Male heads produce pollen and female heads produce numerous seeds that drift on the wind. The flowers in both cases are pale lavender to deep purple, the male heads tending to be more showy. This noxious weed was introduced from Eurasia to the United States and southern Canada, where it invades fields, pastures, and various waste areas. It is difficult to eradicate, but will eventually die if kept cut back.
 
 
 
[photo of Bull Thistle]
Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare), of the sunflower family. The bull thistle is a coarse, branched biennial, generally between two and three feet tall. The leaves are pinnately divided, the lobes spine-tipped. The spines extend downward from the leaves along prominent ridges of the stem. White woolly hair more or less covers the stems. Minute stiff hairs make the upper surface of the leaves rough to the touch. Heads are about two inches wide, and very showy with their numerous, enlarged, purple disc flowers. A vicious spine tips each overlapping, shingle-like, involucral bract. In spite of the spines, horses consider the heads a delicacy because the bases of the tubular disc flowers contain a large amount of sugary nectar. They nip the heads off, and chew them very carefully. The seeds are a choice food source for some birds, such as the goldfinch. This native of Eurasia has established itself throughout North America. Like most thistles, the seeds ride the wind beneath a parachute-like pappus, finding their way to waste areas, roadsides, fields, and pastures.
 
 
 
[photo of Hedge Bindweed]
Hedge Bindweed (Convolvulus sepium), of the morning-glory family. This perennial grows from rhizomes into widely branched stems that twine and climb, forming hedge-like growths over various objects or other vegetation. [Editor’s note: around Canby, the stuff just spreads like groundcover in the gravel ditches at the side of the road.] The Latin name describes its growth habit: convolvere means to twine and sepi is a fence; it twines over fences forming hedges. The leaves are shaped like arrowheads, complete with a sharp point. The showy flowers are very large, up to three inches long. The white or, occasionally, pink petals are fused and resemble a trumpet. The sepals are hidden by two large leafy bracts growing from the base of the flower. This introduced species is a difficult weed, especially in moist, waste and unkempt areas in urban centers. It also infests waterfalls and marshes, where it often smothers other plants. [Editor’s note: Maybe it’s not hedge bindweed I’ve found; my weed grows in dry places, not in moist ones.]
 
 
 
[photo of Prickly Lettuce]
Prickly Lettuce (Latuca serriola), of the sunflower family. [Editor’s note: This plant gave me fits! Dana suggested it might be a milkweed, for reasons that will become apparent, and I was stuck on that for a long time.] The bitter and abundant milky juice of this annual or biennial herb is responsible for the generic term Lactuca, Latin for milk. Not surprisingly, some people erroneously refer to this plant as milkweed. The plants are two to four feet tall, with leafy stems and a starchy taproot. The leaves are pinnately divided or sometimes only toothed. They calsp the stem and have ear-like lobes. Prickles cover the leaf teeth, the lower surface of the midvein, and the lower half of the stem, thus the common name. Numerous narrow heads grow on thin branches near the stem tip. The involucral bracts are very uneven in length and surround six to eighteen lemon-yellow ray flowers. The rays are about 1/3 inch long and finely toothed at the tip. The seeds are teardrop shaped but have a long thread-like crown which bears the parachute-like pappus. This European native now grows over much of North America. It is a common weed of waste places, roadsides, gardens, and cultivated fields, especially in stands of alfalfa. The parachute-like pappus enables the seeds to drift on the wind. Prickly lettuce varies toward cultivated lettuce (Lactuca sativa 
 
[photo of Red Clover] Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), of the pea family. This is a coarse, deep-rooted and very persistent perennial. It is regularly cultivated as a crop and often escapes into fields, pastures, and waste areas, and is common along roadsides. The rather large leaflets with pale chevrons and the large heads of red flowers identify this weed. It is a pleasant weed that was introduced from Europe for cultivation.
 
 
 
[photo of Crab Grass]
Crab Grass (Digitaria sanguinalis), of the grass family. This annual weed spreads horizontally, crab-like, over the ground in a near circular pattern. Each spreading stem terminates in three to five finger-like branches. The spikelets are more or less pressed against these branches. The generic term is derived from the Latin digitus, relating to this digitate or finger-like appearance. Originally native of Europe, this grass has now become a cosmopolitan weed. A closely related species of crabgrass, Digitaria ischaemum, separable only by technical characteristics, is also an introduced wide-ranging weed in North America.
 
 
 
[photo of Cigarette box]
Marlboro Cigarettes (Cancerus marlboros), of the cigarette family. This noxious weed can be found along the roadsides of every state in the Pacific Northwest. Though typically only butts can be found, whole cigarettes can sometimes be discovered. On rare occasions, a discarded box may be found. Though toxic when lit, cigarettes are harmless in their unlit state. Children may be allowed to collect butts from the side of the road and to emulate smoking by chomping them between their teeth. A box of collected butts can be traded for a comic book or for a particularly valuable trading card.
 
 
 
[photo of Wild Oats]
Wild Oats (Avena fatua), of the grass family. This wild cereal closely resembles oats but has a long twisted, bristle-like appendage (awn) borne on the back of one of the bracts, the lemma, which encloses the grain. This awn can lodge in the mouth or throat of an animal and cause infection. The awn also assists in planting the seed (grain); when it absorbs moisture, it uncoils, screwing itself and the seed into soft soil of cultivated fields. It may then lie dormant for up to 75 years [emphasis added] before germinating. The seeds are also harvested and sown with domestic grains. Wild oats is a tall (two to four foot) annual with large, widely spaced, pendulous grains. Introduced from Europe, it is now widely established in North America and is very difficult to eradicate from cultivated fields.
 
 
 
[photo of Pigweed]
Pigweed (aka Redroot) (Amaranthus retroflexus), of the amaranth family. Of the several species of Amaranthus that grow as weeds in the Northwest, the most widespread is pigweed. This is an erect annual, one to three feet tall, with long-stemmed, egg-shaped or lance-shaped leaves. The thick taproot is red, which the common name suggests. The minute flowers are individually surrounded by three spiny bracts and are densely clustered in several cone-shaped spikes. Thousands of flowers may grow on each plant, each producing a single seed. Pigweed is a pernicious weed of cultivated fields [Editor’s note: I’ll say! Oh, how I hated hoeing this stuff as a child], waste areas, and gardens. The spininess of the floral bracts makes it an extremely unpleasant plant to deal with, especially when the bracts are dry. The generic name, Amaranthus, refers to the rigid persistence of these bracts. Pigweed is a native of tropical America.
 
 
 
[photo of Jointed Charlock]
Jointed Charlock (Raphanus raphanistrum), of the mutard family. The common name of this species means jointed graceful compartment, and describes the characteristic fruit. At maturity, the fruits are about two inches long, and strongly joined between several seeds. Eventually the fruit breaks crosswise into units, each containing a single seed. The showy flowers vary in color from yellow to white, often with purplish stripes. The petals are about an inch long, including the base. This native of Eurasia has been sparingly introduced into the Northwest. It grows most frequently in moist waste areas and in cultivated fields.
 
 
 
[photo of Hairy Vetch]
Hairy Vetch (Vicia villosa), of the pea family. This typical vetch is a weak-stemmed annual or short-lived perennial that clambers over other vegetation, using tendrils to hold itself up. Soft hairs cover the stems, leaves, and sepals. The leaves are pinnately compound with numerous narrow leaflets about 3/4 inch long. The tendrils have several long branches. The reddish-purple flowers, each slightly more than 1/2 inch long, are crowded in narrow, elongate clusters. The inch long pods are reputed to be poisonous. This attractive European transplant provides a nearly continuous display of color, commonly growing along roadsides, fence rows, and other disturbed areas.
 
 
 
[photo of Oxeye Daisy]
Oxeye Daisy (chrysanthemum leucanthemum), of the sunflower family. [Editor’s note: surprisingly, I could only locate this single sad flower to photograph. I don’t know where all of the daisies are hiding!] This perennial herb spreads by rhizomes. The stems are rather thing, one to two feet tall, and typically branch above to produce two or more attractive flower heads. The leaves are generally pinnately lobed or divided, the lower ones have rather long stalks, the upper ones are stalkless and clasp the stems. The heads are about two inches across have narrow bracts with brown, papery margins. The rays (fifteen to thirty per head) are pure white and the central disc flowers are yellow. This plant was probably introduced from Europe as an ornamental, then escaped cultivation to become on of our most common roadside weeds. It frequently invades fields and meadows where it competes aggressively, especially under grazing pressure, to form dense and expansive populations. The species is now widespread in the Northwest and continues to increase its range.
 
 

There are many more, of course, and I’ll add them to the list as I’m able to photograph and cross-reference them in Northwest Weeds.

Who knew weeds could be so fun?

Comments


On 27 July 2003 (08:42 AM),
Joel said:

Who hasn’t, on occasion, felt a bit like a Hairy Vetch? Weak-stemmed, short-lived, laboriously clambering over our fellow plants with limp trembling tendrils.
The preceding was written at work, shortly after I nearly destroyed a specimen.



On 27 July 2003 (09:03 AM),
Aimee said:

Side Note: JD! You’re reading Captain Blood: Bloody brilliant, arrrgh! I found that my understanding of Cromwellian and subsequent monarchies was full o’ holes at the onset of the novel. But, now as we’ve set sail on the Spanish Main, reading has been smooth waters … Let’s rap about this titan of Previously Unbeknownst to Me Literature …

The field guide to weeds – Now that’s a different story …



On 27 July 2003 (07:47 PM),
dowingba said:

We have those Cancerus Marlboros here too! Except they’re red. I looked it up, thinking it’d simply be called “red marlboros” or “poison marlboros”; but much to my dismay, they were called “Cancerus du Maurier”! There’s also a slightly rarer variety called “Cancerus Player’s Light”. Who comes up with these names?



On 28 July 2003 (05:36 AM),
Paul said:

JD,

Be careful with the blackberries! There be poison oak entwined within! I know all too well.

Paul



On 22 August 2004 (01:39 PM),
Karen said:

I have very tall, 10′-14′ weeds growing near my birdfeeder. Large leaves, 3-5 lobes each. The “flower” stems run out about 4 inches but never acutally flower. The little buds turn into stickers. Any idea what these are???

Famous First Lines

The following block of text contains twenty-four famous first lines from novels. Or, more precisely, first lines from famous (and semi-famous) novels, novels that I’ve read in the past decade.

Most of you have some idea of what I like to read. I’ve simply scanned my fiction section, have pulled down some of my favorites, and have reproduced their opening lines below. Some are well-known. Others are relatively obscure. How many of them can you name? (Please google only as a last resort.)

  1. This is not a conventional cookbook.
  2. I have never begun a novel with more misgiving.
  3. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
  4. My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and I was born.
  5. Call me Ishmael.
  6. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
  7. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
  8. The idea of eternal return is a mysterious one, and Nietzsche has often perplexed other philosophers with it: to think that everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum!
  9. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
  10. She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks into the distance.
  11. Jewel and I came up from the field, following the path in single file.
  12. It seems increasingly likely that I really will undertake the expedition that has been preoccupying my imagination for some days.
  13. The British are frequently criticized by other nations for their dislike of change, and indeed we love England for those aspects of nature and life which change the least.
  14. In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.
  15. Except for the Marabar Caves — and they are twenty miles off — the city of Chandrapore presents nothing extraordinary.
  16. The schoolmaster was leaving the village, and everybody seemed sorry.
  17. The primroses were over.
  18. The music-room in the Governor’s House at Port Mahon, a tall, handsome, pillared octagon, was filled with the triumphant first movement of Locatelli’s C-major quartet.
  19. For a long time I used to go to be early.
  20. Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again.
  21. At the first gesture of morning, flies began stirring.
  22. Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler’s pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die.
  23. You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.
  24. “Sleep well, dear.”

Too difficult? If so, what are some of your favorite first lines?

Maybe in the future I’ll do this with my science fiction and fantasy novels. Somehow, I suspect their first lines are more revealing: “When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced�” — difficult, that.

Comments

On 12 July 2003 (12:28 PM),
Aimee said:

JD …

I was looking at your “like to read” link and noticed that you listed Nine Parts of Desire as a book group re-read … I was under the impression that at the time I chose the book it had just been published??? Did Powell’s play me false? Or, are you thinking of a different book? Clarify, please … Books are an obsession, aren’t they?

1. The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook?
4. Angle of Repose?
5. Duh.
6. P&P? Other Austen? Or perhaps Dickens?

That’s as far as I’ve gotten using memory and process of elimination. You must publish a key or offer a prize, my good man!

Yours,

On 12 July 2003 (12:37 PM),
J.D. said:

Now it’s a contest!

As per Aimee’s suggestion, I will offer a prize.

The first person to post, in the comments, the correct book and author for all twenty-four of these first lines will receive a lovely book of their own.

No guarantees as to the title (it’ll probably depend on the person; if Jeremy G. wins, he’s not going to want Proust, for example, and if Dana wins the book’s going to be some sort of speculative fiction), but it’ll likely be a book I hold in high esteem.

Post your guesses in the comments section. It’s a group-participation thing, where each guess builds on the ones before. Can you get all twenty-four?

On 12 July 2003 (01:16 PM),
Joel said:

How about we stipulate (honor code, of course) no Googling? Research to be done, at the most, in a library?

On 12 July 2003 (04:11 PM),
Joel said:

Okay, here goes.
1) Thai Food by David Thompson
2) No Fucking Clue by J. Gingerich
3) Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
4) Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
5) Moby Dick (Or, “The Whiteness of the Whale and How it is Pale”) by Herman Melville
6) David Copperfield by Darle’s Chickens
7) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
8) The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
9) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
10) The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
11) As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
12) The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishigiro
13) Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and friends
14) A Farewell to Arms by Earnest Hemingway
15) Passage to India by E.M. Forster
16) Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
17) Watership Down by Richard Adams
18) Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
19) Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
20) Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
21) Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
22) Fight Club by Chuck Pahlaniuk
23) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
24) The Sailor Who Fell From Grace Into the Sea by Yukio Mishima

Congratulations, JD, this may be the first time in history that a weblog has made someone leave work early in order to go stalking around the library muttering “Tyler… Gun in my Face… FIGHT CLUB!”

On 12 July 2003 (04:38 PM),
Aimee said:

In three hours time, too … Your effort is utterly impressive, Love.

Yours,

On 13 July 2003 (10:56 AM),
Rich said:

Congrats, Joel. The real question is who many you answered off the top of your head.

My 3 favorite opening lines:

1. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

2. Amerigo Bonasera sat in New York Criminal Court Number 3 and waited for justice; vengence on the men who had so cruelly hurt his daughter, who had tried to dishonor her.

3. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all the David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like getting into it, if you want to know the truth.

On 13 July 2003 (03:52 PM),
J.D. said:

Sorry for the delay responding; I’ve been out clamdigging. More on that later.

Joel is close, but he hasn’t quite won the prize. The race is on!

I must say I’m impressed with how close Joel has come, though. I’ll bet his methodology consisted of the following: look at J.D.’s recently read list, and the list of book group books, and that should do the trick. For the most part, it did.

I’m particularly impressed that he managed the Kundera, the Ondaatje, the Hemingway, and the Mishima.

Which books are wrong? Only the first two. The first book isn’t a cookbook, it’s a novel. The second book is a potential book club selection in the future. It’s one of Nick’s favorite books. There have been two film versions, though the most recent movie has some gross miscalculations…

Rich, you’ve got some good choices there, too. Your first is 1984, and I suspect your third is Catcher in the Rye, but I’m not sure of that. I don’t know the second. Except for the New York bit, it sounds Kafka-esque. The quote sounds damn familiar, though.

Your choices remind me that I left one of my very favorite books:

“When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.”

The line isn’t really that great, the book is one of my favorites…

On 13 July 2003 (06:16 PM),
Rich said:

j.d. – you are right on the two you listed. as for the 2nd one, it’s from a book that was made into a movie, and in the movie, that same character (Amerigo Bonasera) speaks the opening line of the movie: “I believe in America…”

your quote is from one of my favorite lawyer books of all time.

On 14 July 2003 (08:22 AM),
joel said:

Rich- That’s “Godfather”, right?
JD- Aimee and I only knew eight of them right off. You’re right, most of the rest I got off this very blog. A few others I remember chatting with you recently. I long to break into the reading room and scurry about, ripping books off the shelves and glancing at the first page before tossing them aside (A vision that patrons of the Mult. Co. Pub. Lib. were recently treated to). But, then again, if someone else winds up the victor, I ‘spose I’ll just have to borrow the book in question, eh?

On 14 July 2003 (08:45 AM),
J. Gingerich said:

Joel,

Thanks for the credit, but as of yet I have not completed my first novel. However, I have a very good real life basis for one at my work.

-jeremy

On 14 July 2003 (10:30 AM),
Rich said:

Joel – yep, the Godfather it is.

let me explain why i like it so much.

“Amerigo Bonasera sat in New York Criminal Court Number 3 and waited for justice; vengence on the men who had so cruelly hurt his daughter, who had tried to dishonor her.”

“Amerigo Bonasera…”
The first word in the book is the same Italian name from which the word “America” derived. (Amerigo Vespucci), so you have the linking of Italian and American cultures foreshadowed.

“…sat in New York Criminal Court Number 3…”
I don’t know if this is a clunky plot device or an elegant way of demonstrating that this book will take place in the NYC area, the American cradle of the flood of Italian immigrants, but I like it however you think it. Mostly, I like the almost clinical way in which he describes the location of the court, which is very much the style of large portions of the novel. Mario Puzo spends a lot of time going over the real and fictional histories of the various Mafia families that have roles in the book, sometimes in meticulous detail. He also spends a lot of time describing the way all characters look physically, and he reiterates that description often in the book.

“…and waited for justice;…”
By saying that he was *waiting* for justice, it implies that he was not going to get it, but that instead he was just sitting and waiting within the government buraeucracy, and would have to go elsewhere to get it.

“…vengence on the men who had so cruelly hurt his daughter…”
The way that “justice” and “vengence” are arranged so that they butt up against each other is fantastic. To Amerigo, and many like him, justice and vengence are the same thing. That is why they turn to Don Corleone and his world, since the courts and the police do not dole out vengence that appeases that baser side of the heart, but instead a non-emotional and impassionate justice. But since he “believes in America,” he first tries this route, and when he doesn’t get vengence, he goes to the Godfather. And he gets it. Immediately, and fully.

“…who had tried to dishonor her.”
The concept of honor and old-fashioned values plays a large role in the Godfather series, but yet it is juxtaposed againt the fact that the main characters and criminals and murderers. Sex is a main element of the book, though downplayed in the movie. The movie producer who found a horse in his bed (Jack Woltz), the prodigal godson Hollywood entertainer (Johnny Fontaine), and the hothead emotional son (Santino Corleone) all have sex lives that are described in great detail in the book, all for a purpose.

that might be a bit too analytical for some people’s tastes, and for all I know Mario Puzo wrote that sentence in 3 seconds, but to me it is a classic.

On 14 July 2003 (10:44 PM),
Andrew Parker said:

I can’t believe that no one got Debt to Pleasure *or* The Razor’s Edge, which may just be numbers one and two in my own favorites list. Too bad that other Lanchester and Maugham works aren’t all as worthy.

On 14 July 2003 (10:51 PM),
Andrew Parker said:

And with that inspiration, my present numbers three and four:

Sauti the storyteller told this tale to his friend Saunaka in the Naimisha Forest.

Hughes got it wrong, in one important detail.

On 15 July 2003 (08:37 AM),
Joel said:

Hey, Andrew, I just finished reading Flashman a few days ago. Definitely a good time, and an interesting antidote to the Patrick O’Brian that I love so much. I wish I’d read it back when we were hammering the Taliban.

On 02 April 2005 (03:46 PM),
Jess said:

XCELLENT

On 02 April 2005 (03:46 PM),
Jess said:

XCELLENT

On the Naming of Things

I’m still not sleeping well. Kris thinks my sleep problems come from not following my friends’ advice. I think my sleep problems come from her waking me when I’m asleep.

Tuesday night I fell asleep at nine and was dozing contentedly when Kris woke me an hour later. Yesterday I came home from work and fell asleep, and I would have slept straight through until morning except that, when she got home at seven, Kris threw open the blinds and she opened the window, which let in both the noise from the street and the hotter outside air. Ugh. And then she wonders why I’m so groggy the rest of the evening.

I’m so tired that I’ve been falling asleep at work. That’s a feat. My office chair is hardly comfortable, and reclines maybe fifteen degrees. Try to sleep in that. It’s not easy.

This morning I felt myself falling asleep again, so, to thwart Somnus, I took a little walk (yes, without my knee brace).

Proust, in Swann’s Way (you knew I was going to tie this to Proust, didn’t you?), spends pages describing his daily walks through the French countryside. (The title of the book itself — Swann’s Way — refers to the most common walk he made.) With a typical eye for detail, he describes the wide plains through which he travels, the plants he passes (especially his beloved hawthorn), the people he sees, the steeples he can discern from churches of distant towns.

My walks, that autumn, were all the more delightful because I used to take them after long hours spent over a book. When I was tired of reading, after a whole morning in the house, I would throw my plaid across my shoulders and set out; my body, which in a long spell of enforced immobility had stored up an accumulation of vital energy, was now obliged, like a spinning-top wound and let go, to spend this in every direction. The walls of houses, the Tanonsville hedge, the trees of Roussainville wood, the bushes gainst which Montjouvain leaned its back, all must bear the blows of my walking-stick or umbrella, must hear my shouts of happiness!

Reading about all his walking has made me want to do some of my own.

I’ve been telling myself for a decade that I ought to take walks during the day, to amble down these country roads. I’ve never done it.

Even the short walk I made today was quite nice. The experience was sensual: the chirping of the birds, the whirring of the grasshoppers, the buzzing and thrumming of the power lines; the sweet smell of the tree for which I have no name (more on this in a moment), the dry, dusty odor of the wheat; the sharp heat of the mid-morning sun burning my skin, the crunch of the gravel beneath my feet; the tiny spots of color from blossoms amidst the dry, brown grass.

The field across from Custom Box, just last year filled with lush strawberries, has become a lake of yellow dandelions; it almost seems like some intelligence has planted them in uniform patterns. Down the road there is a twent-foot wide east-west corridor that is a sort of superhighway for insects. The air is thick with them, especially the honey bees, and they zip along wavering straight lines on their insect agendas.

Though I enjoyed my stroll, I found myself overwhelmed — as often happens when I’m in nature — by the fact that I did not have names for many of the things around me.

Those dandelions: are they really dandelions? And what of those flowers I call daisies? They’re not really daisies, are they? They’re weeds. And what about that low, delicate blossom on the ground cover beneath the neighbor’s mailbox? What is that called? And the purple, globular bloom on the tangly weed? The other purple flower?

What about the various weedy grasses? The tufty stuff, what is that? The tall, spike stuff: surely that has a name, too. Some of the grasses are still green. Some are quite brown. What are they called?

The neighbors have a tree — a cedar? — with a sweet, musky scent that cries FOREST. What is it? And what are the tall evergreens behind it?

Why don’t I know the names of the plants that grow just outside my back door?

Kris knows the names of all the flowers she plants in her garden at home, and I’ve learned a few — clematis, verbena, foxglove, alium, hydrangea — but what of the native plants, even the weeds, that are so profuse out here in the country? What are they called? Who would know? How would I learn? Did I know at one time? Did Mom and Dad teach me the name of the tall, rubbery weed with the lacy top, the weed we used to break in half and laugh at the white milky blood which oozed from its stalk?

How can I really say that I’m living in my environment if I cannot even name the things which surround me?

I’m lost.

Comments

On 10 July 2003 (11:37 AM),
J.D. said:

Nick, who is keen to walk to my office to comment on my entries, but will not post his wisdom for all to share, thought that this bit from “Romeo and Juliet” was apt (though it took me a while to find because I thought it was from “Hamlet”):

Juliet.
‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;–
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part

Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title:–Romeo, doff thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

Nice, eh?

He also reminded me to enjoy the experience of walking despite the fact I lack the vocabulary to describe it.



On 10 July 2003 (11:54 AM),
Tiffany said:

http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/


On 10 July 2003 (12:43 PM),
Dana said:

If I had to guess from your description, I’d say the weed that you’d split open to expose it’s milky sap is probably a variety of Milkweed. 🙂



On 10 July 2003 (04:12 PM),
Kris said:

Dear Husband,

Darkness is for sleepin’; daylight is for fixin’ dinner, doin’ chores, snugglin’ with your sweetie, playin’ with the cats, watchin’ baseball and generally bein’ AWAKE! Naps are the devil’s spawn…. (evil laugh here…)



On 10 July 2003 (04:13 PM),
Mom said:

I’m not sure I know the names of a lot of the plants, especially weeds, that grow around here. When I was a kid in Utah, we had a lot of cat tails and snake grass, and they were fun to play with, but I don’t think we have either one around here. I know the names of a lot of flowers and a few of the plants that grow here in the Northwest but Steve knew a lot of the latin names from when he worked at Mitsch Nursery. He liked to impress me by reciting them while showing them to me when I first got to know him. I’m not sure that we ever really knew the names of local weeds — a weed was a weed was a weed. So your guess on that score is as good as mine, J.D.


On 11 July 2004 (11:35 AM),
Coleen said:

J.D., I think you’re ready to become a bit of a naturalist! It’s a wonderful thing to hike and know the mysteries that each plant provides. I would suggest that you take a class from Judy Siegel, an herbalist and educator, in Aurora.

Before kid number two, I went to a couple of Judy’s classes, offered in her home. There you learn about all the “weeds,” many of which are actually herbs used to treat a variety of ailments. (I remember having homemade Elderberry Wine after one class and learning how to make it!) I still have her booklet, “Dancing With the Weeds: A Guide to Using Wild Plants Respectfully for Food, Medicine, Tools and Ceremony.”

I just loved her classes but found that I had no time being a new teacher and a new mom. One of these days I am going to continue to learn from her. If her number still works and she’s still in Aurora, you might want to give her a call to find out more information: 503-981-4818.

125

Good news from the recovery front: yesterday I confessed to my physical therapist that I hadn’t worn the brace much for the past week. He sighed and scolded, but when Kevin had me walk around the office to observe my gait, he seemed impressed.

Apparently I’m only able to get by without my brace because my quad has recovered strength relatively quickly; I’ve been faithful about doing my exercises. I’m still at high risk for re-injury, and it’d be better if I wore my brace, especially during situations in which I have little control of my environment (around children, in crowds, etc.), but Kevin seems to think that, for the most part, I’ll do fine without it.

Kevin also introduced me to several new exercises yesterday which, when combined with the batch of new exercises he introduced last Thursday, means that I have an almost entirely new regimen compared to a week ago. Awesome! Unless one has been through this, one cannot realize how tedious the same exercises become when repeated day-in and day-out.

When we measured my range of motion at the beginning of the session, I was able to obtain 125 degrees of flexion without assistance. Rock on!


I started to read Swann’s Way yesterday. Perhaps not co-incidentally I managed to take in 125 pages.

I love it.

I love Proust’s long, convoluted sentences and paragraphs, his introspective nature, his obsession with details. I love his philosophy, his perception, his ability to capture the inner life and to put it into print.

Some favorite bits:

  • “The fault I find with our journalism is that it forces us to take an interest in some fresh triviality or other every day, whereas only three or four books in a lifetime give us anything that is of real importance.” Proust argues, in a pre-MTV world, that journalism leads to short attention spans, glosses over stories, attempts to pare the complex to just a few sentences. His method, obviously, is the reverse: he sometimes focuses on mere seconds, devoting eight pages to the moments during which one awakes, for example.
  • “Perhaps the immobility of the things that surround us is forced upon them by our conviction that they are themselves, and not anything else, and by the immobility of our conceptions of them.” How zen is that? This is similar to the social personality passage about which I raved previously.
  • “I became at once a man, and did what all we grown men do when face to face with suffering and injustice: I preferred not to see them.”
  • “The wall of the staircase, up which I had watched the light of his candle gradually climb, was long ago demolished. And in myself, too, many things have perished which, I imagined, would last for ever, and new structures have arisen, giving birth to new sorrows and new joys which in those days I could not have foreseen, just as now the old are difficult of comprehension.”
  • Young Marcel is fascinated by the theater, though he’s never seen a performance. He’s obsessed with the actors and actresses, and, with his friends, he rates them and ranks them according to their greatness. (A kindred spirit!)
  • “[I stood] still on that spot, before that steeple, for hours on end, motionless, trying to remember, feeling deep within myself a tract of soil reclaimed from the waters of Lethe slowly drying until the buildings rise on it again.”
  • There’s a portion of the novel—Proust’s thesis, really—which is very similar to my favorite segment from Amelie.

There are many other wonderful bits; I’ve marked up my book with heavy underlining, and I’ve scribbled notes throughout the margins.

I had started to worry that few people were going to complete Swann’s Way in time for book group, had become defensive because of the aspersions cast upon the book by my fellow readers, but now that I’ve actually begun to read it, I no longer care what the others think; if they are unable to appreciate the Swann’s Way, or are unwilling to even try to read it, it is their loss and not mine.

Perhaps, though, I could offer the other book group members some advice. First, remember that much of this is meant to be—and is— funny. It’s not all serious. Secondly, as I told Aimee, it helps to worry less about “getting” every little detail, helps to be unconcerned with the plot and the characters; one is better served by plowing headlong through the text, allowing oneself to be surrounded by Proust’s words, overwhelmed by mood and atmosphere.

From the introduction to the edition I’m reading (emphasis mine):

One of the publishers to whom Swann’s Way was submitted sent it back with the words: “I cannot understand why a gentleman would employ thirty pages to describe how he turns and returns on his bed before going to sleep.” Since that time many would-be readers have doubtless laid the volume down with a similar reflection but the loss has been theirs alone. Proust knew with uncommon exactness what it was he was about; he has a purpose in everything that he does, and even what appear to be digressions of inordinate length actually occupy a carefully proportioned and predetermined place in a structure whose architecture can only be understood when one stands off and regards it as a whole. The first rule for reading him is, therefore, complete submission…

Yes, this is a book I love. I’ve already decided that I will continue, read the second volume, Within a Budding Grove.

I wonder: what authors move others to this level of passion? What books inspire this degree of adoration in my friends? Is it common to find a writer whose internal monlogue so resembles one’s own?

Comments

On 09 July 2003 (09:35 AM),
Rich said:

From the Irony Department:

i love the fact that you believe that proust thinks the way you do, you discuss how proust advocates that “journalism leads to short attention spans, glosses over stories, attempts to pare the complex to just a few sentences,” and then one of the links on the side of your page is to “USA Today.” classic stuff.

i went to a lecture several years ago where the topic of media came up, and the moderator had a deep aversion to the USA Today. to this day, i remember a quote about those who read it: “If your idea of a newspaper is the USA Today, you’re not even trying.” it was such an elitist smackdown that i felt offended, yet i know he was right. that doesn’t stop me from buying it and reading it over lunch twice a week, but i rationalize it by saying i only read the Sports section, for which it is a good paper.

which reminds me of another quote from a journalism class i attended in college. a professor said that it was “America’s dirty little secret” that the very large majority of newspaper sales in this country, outside of the Sunday paper, are driven by the Sports section. for proof of this, he said that when you see a newspaper lying around in some public place (a mall food court, or on a bus, or a fast food place, etc.), odds are that when you pick it up and look through it, the Sports section is missing. what would Proust say about that?

On 09 July 2003 (09:54 AM),
J.D. said:

Rich, it’s even worse: I only read the headlines at the USA Today site. How’s that for the antithesis of Proust? 🙂

Of course I attempt to rationalize this by explaining that I read Harper’s, etc., and that I listen to NPR, and from these sources get longer, extended news coverage, and that USA Today is just a stopgap measure.

The truth is: I don’t pay much attention to news except in the broadest sense. I admire Pam’s intentional ignorance of current events, but am unable to allow myself to join her completely. So, I get my news from the USA Today web site headlines!

(It’s almost worse than news sometimes.)

On 09 July 2003 (11:13 AM),
Dana said:

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then
I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
— Walt Whitman

A smattering of media outlets I peruse:

On 09 July 2003 (11:35 AM),
J.D. said:

Nice quote, Dana! 🙂

In siutations such as these (in which I aspire to a certain height but fall short), I console myself by responding:

  1. You do the same thing.”
  2. “Just because it’s my ideal, doesn’t mean I’m able to live it.”
  3. “At least I’m not a hypocrite.” (i.e. claiming to be something which I am not — mostly I aspire to certain states rather than claiming to obtain them)
  4. And, my favorite: “I am complex.”

Actually, I think it’s a good thing to hold ideals to which they aspire but which they never attain. A striving for excellence is a good thing.

On 09 July 2003 (12:38 PM),
Rich said:

striving for excellence is a great thing, agreed. the problem comes when you stop actively striving and simply contemplate/dream of that ideal (as Perry Farrell said in “Jane Says” — “Jane says ‘I’m going away to spain when i get my money saved, I’m gonna start tomorrow'”).

the other problem comes when you are striving for someone else’s ideal. if i strived to stop reading the USA Today because some talking head told me that it’s non-intellectual and instead buy the Wall Street Journal simply to show off, and yet was really unhappy missing some pie chart about how many football fields it would take to get from the earth to the moon, i should just admit what i like and damn those who disagree.

On 09 July 2003 (01:07 PM),
Tammy said:

Ok this is going to sound very simplistic to most of you but I’m ready to make a confession. My favorite author of all time is L.M.Montgomery. I see all you intellectuals scaratching your heads and wondering who she is! Ok I’ll tell you. She is the author of the Anne of Green Gables series.
She is also the author of such books as “The Golden Girl”, “Kilmeny of the Orchard” and Tales of Avonlea”. You talk about a book that is all marked up it’s my copy of the first two books of Anne of Green Gables. Now if you only know the story through the movies then you really don’t know the story. Annes most profound thoughts are left in the book. In Montgomerys character, Anne Shirley, I find a person so similar to myself and my outlook on life that it’s rather frightening. I love and adore her writings. So there. I’ve confessed. It’s like Rich says above,“…I should just admit what i like and d*** those who disagree.”

On 09 July 2003 (01:19 PM),
J.D. said:

My favorite author of all time is L.M. Montgomery.

This is nothing to be ashamed of; I think most of us are familiar with Anne of Green Gables.

I’ve never read any of Montgomery’s books, but at least once a year I watch the film versions of Green Gables and Avonlea with Kris. They’re great fun.

The second paragraph alone is enough to make me want to read the Anne of Green Gables:

There are plenty of people in Avonlea and out of it, who can attend closely to their neighbor’s business by dint of neglecting their own; but Mrs. Rachel Lynde was one of those capable creatures who can manage their own concerns and those of other folks into the bargain. She was a notable housewife; her work was always done and well done; she “ran” the Sewing Circle, helped run the Sunday-school, and was the strongest prop of the Church Aid Society and Foreign Missions Auxiliary. Yet with all this Mrs. Rachel found abundant time to sit for hours at her kitchen window, knitting “cotton warp” quilts–she had knitted sixteen of them, as Avonlea housekeepers were wont to tell in awed voices–and keeping a sharp eye on the main road that crossed the hollow and wound up the steep red hill beyond. Since Avonlea occupied a little triangular peninsula jutting out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence with water on two sides of it, anybody who went out of it or into it had to pass over that hill road and so run the unseen gauntlet of Mrs. Rachel’s all-seeing eye.

Don’t be ashamed, Tammy!

On 09 July 2003 (01:45 PM),
Tammy said:

Ahhhh! Just reading that excerpt makes me want to pull out my books and read them again! Um um um!!!

On 09 July 2003 (03:15 PM),
Tiffany said:

I am a fan of Anne also. I am just about always reading one of the series (since I read more then one book at a time). Anne is a cherished friend.

On 09 July 2003 (06:49 PM),
Tammy said:

Then, as Anne would say, we must be “kindred spirits”!

Independence Day

[photo of Dad's last Independence Day]

This photo seems like a run-of-the mill snapshot, doesn’t it?

Not to me.

To me, this photograph is loaded with meaning, so much meaning I don’t even know where to begin (though I know where to end).

This is a photograph, taken late in the afternoon of Independence Day 1995, showing Jeff and me playing croquet. Dad is walking over to sit on the porch. He has only seventeen more days to live.

Notable elements in this photograph:

The house
This is the house in which my father was raised (and Aunt Virginia, too). It is Grandma’s House (or, less often, Grandpa’s House). My grandparents moved here in the late 1940s, and every picture I have of my father as a child shows him someplace on this property. The house is just a quarter mile from Custom Box Service, which itself is housed in the trailer house where I was raised. This is the house where we’d meet all our cousins, ride on Grandpa’s tractor, tromp back to the woods, pick corn and blueberries and flowers. This is the house where I learned to play Scrabble, where I used Bible tracts to learn to read. This is the house with the big chest freezer on the back porch, stocked with Popsicles. This is the house where the pantry was filled with canned fruit, the pantry which smelled rich and thick and musty. This is the house where we gathered and sang as Grandma died. This is Grandma’s House. I grew up here.
The tree
Between the house and the croquet players stands a flowering plum. When I was a child, this was my favorite tree. Every other tree I knew had green leaves, but this tree’s leaves were red. It was also a relatively young tree, and though its branches were tightly bunched at the trunk, it was easy for me to climb. It’s the first tree I ever climbed. Later, when I was a bit taller, the oak tree in the back yard became my tree of choice. It was stouter, with more room to maneuver. In the uncropped version of this photo, the oak peers over the rooftop in the upper left corner.
The barn (and outbuildings)
Also in the ucropped version of this photo, one can see the barn looming in the upper right corner. In the photo as shown, only the woodshed is visible, behind me (and my lovely plaid Costco shirt), to the right of the house. I don’t know if Grandpa built these outbuildings (Virginia, do you know?). Regardless, they were the playhouses of my youth. In the barn, we’d torment the cows, play with the tools, or climb to the hay loft where we’d burrow in the bales or walk across the strange slatted floor. We’d help Grandpa split firewood from the woodshed or, across the wall, we’d watch the indicator for the electric fence buzz on and off. Bzzzt. Bzzzt. One of the outbuildings we actually called a playhouse, and it was furnished with a little table and chairs and plates and glasses, etc. (Only recently did I learn that it was a good thing we didn’t play with everything in the playhouse — Grandpa stored his blasting equipment there!)
The Geo Storm
Just to Jeff’s right my Geo Storm is visible. I had a love-hate relationship with that vehicle. It drove well, it’s true, and it took a tremendous amount of abuse. But the seat made my back sore, and the car was always dirty, no matter how hard I tried to clean it. The back seat was uncomfortable for passengers. When the Storm was totaled in December 2000, I wasn’t sad for long; the joy of my new Ford Focus masked any sorrow. Now, though, I miss the blue beast, especially its manual transmission. Oh, how I hate automatics…
Jeff and J.D.
There we are: playing croquet. I’m kicking Jeff’s ass! We both look rather chunky; we each weigh over two hundred pounds. Three years later I will have dropped forty pounds. Five years later, Jeff will have done the same. Today, in 2003, we’re both back up over two hundred pounds.
Snickers
Behind us, stretched on the lawn, is an orange and white cat named Snickers. Snickers and my cat, Toto, are littermates, though Snickers is possessed of a much sweeter temperament. Snickers is just over a year old in this photograph, and not yet Mom’s devoted baby. They’d bond later…
Dad
This was Dad’s last Independence Day. The last year of his life. The last month. This was one of his bad days. He didn’t feel well. He couldn’t eat much. The cancer inside of him had won the battle and was now overwhelming his last defenses. He’d once weighed 240, but when this photograph was taken he probably weighed 180. Maybe 160. (His weight-loss is due both to the cancer and to the macrobiotic diet.) Here he’s walked from the back of the house to sit on the front steps and watch us play croquet. He won’t say much. He’ll simply spend twenty minutes watching his sons hit balls with mallets. It’s the last time in his life he’ll do anything of that sort. Over the next seventeen days, he’ll spend a lot of time in the hospital, undergoing various cancer treatments. He’ll also sleep a lot. Two weeks from this day, on the eighteenth, he’ll sit with me in his office and without a hint of hope for the future he’ll outline those things that he absolutely wants me to know above all others about the business (he’s especially worried about collecting on past-due accounts, doesn’t think any of us are ready to do that). All animosity between us is gone. We’re free of it. Three days after that meeting, seventeen days after this photograph was taken, he’ll be dead. I’ll be making sales calls in Salem and Tash will call and tell me to come back to the shop immediately: Dad’s in trouble. I drive fast, but when I get to the office, things seem better. Mom and Dad are at the hospital and he’s under observation. Jeff and I get together with Joel and Sabino and Roger to play games, the first of a planned series of game nights. I make fajitas for dinner. The fajitas are sizzling on the stove when Mom calls, crying, and tells me that we’d better get to the hospital right now. It’s rush hour. Jeff drives from Canby to North Portland as quicky as possible, but when we get there, he’s gone. It’s 6:00 p.m. on 21 July 1995, just ten days before his fiftieth birthday.

This is the last photograph I have of Dad before his death. It may not look like much, but it’s packed with meaning.

Comments

On 03 July 2003 (01:02 PM),
Dana said:

The back seat was uncomfortable for passengers

That’s an understatement. But hey, if Harlan Ellison will pitch for a car company, they can’t be all bad, right? 🙂

On 03 July 2003 (03:56 PM),
Nikchick said:

Maybe it’s just the stress of the last couple of weeks catching up with me, but this entry made me cry.

I’m so sorry about your dad, J.D. We were out of touch for the entirety of his illness and he died years before we got back in contact. I’ve always been sentimental about your dad, I was star-struck as a kid: he was an *inventor* (which in my mind was a cool as if someone told me they’d taken the game Mouse Trap and made it their job for real).

I guess I’m not entirely used to the idea of him not being out there somewhere.

On 03 July 2003 (03:57 PM),
jeremyw said:

jd, thanks for explaining all the hidden meaning and memories. makes me want to dig out some of my old photos and explore the past.

On 03 July 2003 (04:12 PM),
Tiffany said:

Hi Jd,
That was wonderful.
I often wish that Kris and I had one house to grow up in so that we felt that connection to a place. I used to feel that way about my Grandparents� houses.
I made the mistake of driving past me Grandpa�s house (Mom�s Dad) when I learned to drive, some 4 years after his death. It ruined some of the memories, the house was no longer yellow and the morning glories had been removed from the front fence. Some of my best memories are watching Road Runner cartoon on Saturdays before anyone else woke up while smelling those flowers.
My dad and aunts are in the processes of cleaning out me Grandma�s house (Dad�s Mom). If I can avoid it I will never go back to her house, I do not want to see the changes. The giant cactus has been removed from the front because it was to close to the driveway. The downstairs bathroom has been repainted. This is the bathroom that had huge flowered wallpaper with gold foil my whole life. The front bedroom that was a bright Kelly green has also been repainted. I always thought both were ugly, but do not want to see it any other way.
If you or brothers can help it, never let go of that house.

On 03 July 2003 (09:24 PM),
Virginia said:

Sometime either the 2nd or 3rd of July, Stan and I were at Steve’s place for a back yard BBQ. I can still see him out under the oak tree in the back yard fixing sliced onions on the grill. AT dark we also watched a coon come out and eat dog food out of the wood shed. When we first got to his place that night there was a note on the door. He had gone to the hospital to get a IV of platelets. He would be home in a little while. I marvel at how brave he was.

The oak tree in the back yard was one mom had planted. She found it in a clump of flowers she had bought at a nursery. It was only about 3″ high. She planted it and watered it with loving care but us kids always new the secret of its fast and hardy growth. She planted it right on the spot where the out house had stood. The tree is about 43 years old.

The old play house and other buildings were on the place when Dad bought it. Dad bought 2 places together. The Riecer place and the Gates place.
Custom Box Service is on the Gates Place and Grandpa’s house is on the Riecer place. There used to be a house and barn where CBS is now but we burnt the house down a few years later, and years later the barn. It was years because Stan and I used to park in front of that barn.

I remember the night we burned the house Norm would have been about 11 or 12, old enough that he thought it was big stuff to be able to help light the house on fire and he wouldn’t get out of the house right away. He finally stepped out the front door and off the porch and just a few minutes later the porch roof collapsed.

I remember a little room off of the dinning room of the Gates house. There was an old man living there and he would sit at a writting desk in that little room. I often wished I had little room with a writting desk, I would sit and write lots of stories. (But I guess I’ll let Tammy be the story writer)

My brothers and I were close. I remember going with Norman on his first date with Janice. She was my very good friend and he was nervous, so he wanted me with him. He took her home from churh (Sweet Home) and we stopped at the Dairy Queen. She must have been nervous too, because she hung onto my hand very tightly on the way home.

I had the greatest brothers!!!!!!

On 03 July 2003 (10:46 PM),
Tammy said:

Oh my goodness JD. It’s enough to make one weep! I remember sitting in the hospital roon after your dad died but thats really all I remember. I remeber Nick being there but for some reason I don’t remember you boys.

And that smell in Grandmas fruit room. Who can forget it. Every once in a while I will get a smell of it in my shed in the fall when all the apples are ripe. And many times my front hall smells like the Zion church. I think it’s all the wood in there. It has to be because theres nothing else in there; wood closet doors, outside door, and pocket door.

And those Bible tracts grandma always had. How scarey were they? Everybody ended up going to hell in them, until you turned the last page and then someone had listened to the preachers revival sermon and made it to heaven. Maybe this helped foster your love of cartoons too. Remember how they were all written like cartoons?

And the zapping of those lights in Grandpas shop! how fascinating was that? I can’t tell you the times I got shocked on grandpas fences! You’d think I’d have learned from one time to the next!

But try as I will I do not remember pop cycles in the chest freezer. She must have saved all those for when you boys came to visit! I do remember the eclair cookies! Every time I spent the night she stocked up on those! I could eat the entire pack without blinking an eye. To this day I love htose cookies but you can hardly find them. The nearestthing to them are pinwheels and they’re not nearly as soft a marshmellow as the eclair ones were.

Your entry reminds me of part of a poem I memorized as a girl. It comes from a very old book calledThe Rosary. It goes like this:

“Oh memories that bless and burn; Oh barren gain and bitter loss! I count each bead until the end, and there – a cross!

On 04 July 2003 (12:30 PM),
tony said:

as sad as some of it was, that was really great. thanks for sharing all of that with us, because youre right, at first glance the average guy doesnt see anything in that picture but just a lush backyard.

On 04 July 2003 (06:51 PM),
Tammy said:

Actually thats the front yard. 🙂 (Not that it matters)

On 05 July 2003 (12:31 PM),
Aimee said:

Perhaps it’s already been said: Beautiful, JD. Thank you.

On 06 July 2003 (07:18 PM),
Scott said:

I have always been a fan of your writing, from “California” (I still like the rooftop scene) to the poem about a sawbuck, ionesco and hemingway, and then today’s entry. I’d really like to see you create “your” novel. The one hidden deep. But then again, maybe your weblog is your novel.