Archive for the ‘Vacation!’ Category

Gotham Diary:
25 November 2011

Friday, November 25th, 2011

What was I thinking, bringing Madame Bovary on vacation? When I finished Part II, yesterday afternoon, I felt a chill that I haven’t yet been able to shake off. (I had forgotten all about Hippolyte’s club foot, and never before seen through the pharmacist Homais’s diabolical proposal that Charles attempt a “cure.”) I’m finding it impossible to laugh at Emma Bovary, for all her faults — impossible to keep her at a comic distance. The absence of any “good” characters is what reders the limitations of Flaubert’s figures so queasily all-too-human.

It is possible that the ebook experience is making Dangerous Ambition seem to be a worse book than it really is, and I’d rather not talk about it. All I can think of is bluestockings on fainting couches, wondering if “he’s the one” or if “life can go on,” or just “taffeta draperies!” The literary achievements of Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson are cursorily name-checked, explored only for evidence of states of mind customarily found in Harlequin romances. It’s hard to know which of Susan Hertog’s subjects would have hated the book more; then again, I’m not sure that either of them would have disapproved. Other times, other attitudes toward purple.

When the weather finally turned warmer, Rebecca carried her typewriter onto the broad balcony overlooking the communal garden. Moving in accord with the rhythms of nature, inspired by the push of slender shoots through the thawing soil, she worked like a demon to complete her work.

If you ask me, it’s a book written for Emma Bovary.


At the other end of the scale, there’s this — just let your eyes run over it, without trying to make any sense of it.

The centrality of judgment to aesthetic experience remains controversial. For Kant, Clement Greenberg, and others, it seems like there can be no such thing as an aesthetic experience without judgment, while Nietzsche and others suggest the contrary. I think the former camp is ultimately right on this, which is why I treat aesthetic categories as both discursive evaluations (“cute” as something we say, a very particular way of communicating a very particular kind of pleasure) and as objective styles (cuteness as a commodity aesthetic, as a sensuous/formal quality of objects), and try to pay close attention to the relation between them. At the same time, I don’t agree that aesthetic experience/judgment is necessarily synonymous with conviction. Or reverence, or idealization.

That’s Stanford English Professor Sianne Ngai, talking about “cute,” “zany,” and “interesting” — three “non-cathartic feelings that index situations of suspended agency.” The link at Brainiac looked promising, so I clicked through, only to land in a thicket of Theory. I have long since regarded the relationship between Kant and a certain type of intellectual disposition as analogous to that between alcohol and Native Americans; reading Ngai, I wonder if Theory isn’t the intellectual equivalent of a sexual preference, inexplicable (and possibly disgusting) to anyone otherwise orientated. At the same time, it’s a fashion for wordplay that comes and goes; in the middle ages, there was Scholasticism, a similarly ludic enterprise. When I was a child, I was entranced by the glamour of systems. (One of these days, I’ve got to see what I can recall of the Bureaucracy of Me — that’s what I’d call it now — that I spent hours devising as a teenager, in lieu of undergoing a normal puberty.) Then I realized that systems are attractive to people who have nothing left to learn. At the risk of sounding ad hominem, I remind you that Kant died insane, Nietzsche was crackers long before he died, and Greenberg was a thug. These guys are going to tell me something about the pleasure of beauty? What could anyone who never left the fine old town of Königsberg know about beauty? Only what he made up in his own head, is what. Thanks, but no thanks.

If you really want to learn something about what people mean when they call something cute, then devise a cognitive test or two. Or drag in a scanner and see what fMRI has to say. Do those parts of the brain that light up when presented with sadistic urges also fire, as Ngai suggests they will, at the sound of “cute”? Let’s not diddle in our armchairs about power and agency; let’s have a look, or at any rate the best look that we can have at the moment. Ngai’s system assumes as a matter of course that everyone is capable of making the same discursive evaluation expressive of a very particular kind of pleasure, an assumption that, to me, is utter nonsense.

(Notwithstanding my Google Reader, by the way, the Globe appears to have dumped the “Brainiac” moniker, which is a shame.)

Gotham Diary:
Giving Thanks
24 November 2011

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

At breakfast this morning, a Danish gentleman told me, in lightly-accented English, that he had only just learned that today is “a holiday for you.” “That’s why we’re here,” I said. “You’ll get to experience the meal — the turkey and trimmings — but you’ll be spared the rest of it.” The ‘rest of it’ is the folly of bringing a lot of people who have “history” and “issues” with each other together, on one special day, for the sake of playing “Family.”

But that’s not, in fact, why we’re here. We’re here, actually, to avoid the meal. Neither Kathleen nor I can look back on years of horrible Thanksgiving holidays. Dull they might sometimes have been, but never actually unpleasant. (Except, arguably, during my adolescence, when I was militantly unpleasant to everyone.) What seduced us into bailing for Thanksgiving, ten years or so ago, was the difficulty of deciding whether to have our own dinner for eight or ten (once, in our country house, we seated sixteen), or whether to accept an invitation to partake of someone else’s feast, and, if so, which one. We share a deep dislike of the traditional Thanksgiving menu — all of it. (Except for cranberries, which we enjoy throughout the colder months.) A good turkey is like a walking dog — impressive, but absolutely a lot less delicious than a good chicken.

Which reminds me of the experience that Kathleen and I had, in 2003, of Thanksgiving at Taillevent, the celebrated restaurant in Paris. Read the story here; it won’t take long. I was telling it to Ray Soleil the other day — for one reason or another, he had never heard it before — and he quickly showed me that I hadn’t understood what was going on before my very eyes! The big table with only two diners! (What big table, you ask! It’s proof that I didn’t understand the story when I wrote it down, two years later! Surely the strangest part of the story — two people seated at a table for eight, in perhaps the most exclusive eatery in town — got left out of my account because it didn’t seem integral!) An entire turkey, from which only a few slices of breast were removed! Well, said Ray — and I couldn’t believe that this had never occurred to Kathleen or to me — the older guy had clearly invited his family, or some other group of intimates, to meet his new girlfriend, and had decided to egg the lark (so to speak) by offering a custom-devised American Thanksgiving menu to his French relations. Being French, they stood him up, presumably too late for him to cancel the shindig. What bravado it must have called for, to go on with the show! No wonder the waiter who murmured, “Non, monsieur, he is not American,” seemed so shocked.  

Aside from that dinner, and an opulent lunch at La Grande Cascade in the Bois de Boulogne that also yielded some amusing anecdotes, Paris did not have much to offer in the month of November beyond some very gloomy weather, and the idea of spending Thanksgivings in Paris was dropped. For a few years, we went to Dorado Beach, in Puerto Rico, and then, in 2006, after that resort was turned into a golf condominium, we came here, and we have come back every year save one.

I give thanks for the love and companionship of my wife, for the luck of having a lovely family and many wonderful friends, and, if not for good health, exactly, then for the medical resources that allow me to simulate it. I give thanks for a mind that has given me more pleasure, and made the world a more interesting place for me, year after year. I give thanks for all of that every day, and today as well.

Today, I offer special thanks that I don’t have to eat turkey.


So, at lunch (fried chicken), there were these attractive ladies of a certain age (plus ten) sitting at the next table, over Kathleen’s shoulder. There was something about the one who wasn’t wearing a floppy hat that caught my eye. Then held it. The hair above her forehead had been colored in bands. A little “natural” (brown, but certainly just as dyed as the rest) and then a little “blonde.” Bands about a half-inch wide receded from her brow. When I finally managed to get Kathleen to take a look (without gaping), I was shocked to hear that this is a style that Kathleen has seen in the magazines lately, but not in person. So it must be very, very stylish. It is also very, very ridiculous, and I call it the “Ruth Madoff.”


You will pity me when I say that I was doing laundry on Thanksgiving, but don’t; the laundry room here is quiet and very cold. There was nobody but me, and plenty of room to lay out the Pléiade edition of Flaubert’s Oevre I (dont Madame Bovary), so that I could go back and forth. I’m not reading everything in the original, but just the passages (of which there are plenty) that strike my curiosity. How did Flaubert say that? Sometimes — rarely; let’s get real — I think that Lydia Davis might have handled things better, but mostly I’m just quietly amused by the difference between the two languages, and in one instance I stumbled upon an utterly untranslatable joke.

Charles Bovary, the dolt, has jumped on Rodolph Boulanger’s offer of a horse for exercise.

“Why won’t you accept Monsieur Boulanger’s suggestions? He’s being so gracious.”

She looked cross, contemplated a dozen excuses, and finally declared that it might seem strange.

“Well, I really don’t care!” said Charles, turning on his heel. “Health comes first. You’re quite wrong.”

“Well, how do you expect me to go riding, if I don’t have a riding habit?”

“You must order one,” he answered.

The riding habit decided her.

Of course it would. Although Emma’s carnal attraction to Rodolphe is quite genuine, it is the offer of a new suit of clothes — it would be a pair of Christian Louboutins in our day, or really any old bag from Hermès — that induces her to cross an otherwise well-policed border between propriety and im-. Emma’s a material girl, all right — in two ways at once. Flaubert’s mockery is both delicious and stunningly cruel; we can see, perhaps, why the initial installments of the book in the Revue de Paris prompted the public prosecutor to seek prior restraint. The information that it was the offer of a riding habit that decided Emma Bovary to put herself in the path of almost certain adultery is a secret that nobody really has the right to know, not, certainly, in the real world. There is a tremendous violation of privacy here. That’s what novels are for, you might say. And, if you did, you might begin to understand why there was so much resistance, in the Nineteenth Century, to the reading of novels. I had to know what “riding habit” was in French, and here’s the great joke: it’s amazone.

L’amazone la décida.

I have no idea if Flaubert’s term was facetious or slangy, or if it is really what equestrians of the day ordinarily called a riding habit for women. I’ll look into that later. But presumably the term was readily comprehensible when the book was published; Flaubert didn’t expect readers to tap their neighbors and ask “what’s an amazone, eh?” The joke is that Amazons are, if not virgins, then certainly women who prefer to avoid the company of men. An ironic vestment for Emma Bovary! And an untranslatable  bon mot.

Gotham Diary:
And Westward Flows the Thames
23 November 2011

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

From Susan Hertog’s Dangerous Ambition, a dual biography of Rebecca West (née Cicely Fairfield, it turns out) and Dorothy Thompson:

The family took pleasure in ascending the terrace overlooking the valley above the Thames, which flowed westward toward Windsor.

(The terrace is in Richmond.) At other points in the same chapter, two buildings, one of them a “stately home,” are decribed as “Georgian colonial.” Neither of these points, the flow of the Thames or the architectural style of Uppark, is really integral to the telling of Hertog’s braided tales. That’s precisely why the editorial staff at Ballantine ought to have done its job, if there is an editorial staff at Ballantine. It is very hard for me to imagine how any educated man or woman could be capable of covering the lives of foreign correspondents such as West and Thompson intelligenttly without knowing, in the way that one knows that the sun rises in the east, which way the Thames flows. As for “Georgian colonial,” the term betrays a firghtful provinciality as well as a lack of interest in architecture. Note to Ballantine: The Thames flows east, from the direction of Windsor, and there are no “Georgian colonials” in England.

Other than that, the book is breezily readable.

Gotham Diary:
Rather Rotten
22 November 2011

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

That may be the most beautiful cloud that I have ever seen or shall ever see.

Reading the digest of the Times that is served here with breakfast every morning, I found myself thinking about the body politic — actually thinking, and not just feeling queasily hopeless. Then I put down the paper and picked up Steegmuller/Flaubert. From Turkey, Flaubert wrote to his friend, Louis Bouilhet,

From time to time, in a town, I open a newspaper. Things seem to be going at a dizzy rate. We are dancing not on a volcano but on the rather rotten seat of a latrine.

That’s it, exactly, and everyone is waiting for the rotten seat to give way. Who will fall in? Who will grab an edge and clamber to safety? Nobody knows? Will the environment and the economy conspire to collapse simultaneously? Probably not, but at every turn, as we make our way from the unsustainable present to whatever future awaits us, it will be difficult to distinguish the momentous from the trivial. The only certainty is that, given the global nature of the mess, no one will arrive in the promised land before anybody else. Or perhaps the only certainty is that many people will have a lot less to lose than others. At the moment, dancing is about the only thing that makes sense.

One thing that makes no sense whatever is the Occupy movement in its current configuration. Occupy Wall Street? This ranks somewhere with the Children’s Crusade for naive nonsense. In a word: occupy Washington instead! That’s where the laws are made, after all, that, among other things, permit Wall Street and other markets to do what they do. That’s where tax policy is decided. Occupy the statehouses (as seems to have had some effect in Wisconsin). Occupy the town hall! Better yet, run for election! Create a new political party! Read The New Yorker.

I haven’t said much — it’s possible that I haven’t said anything — about the Occupy movement, because I haven’t seen much in it beyond a dreary replay of late-Sixties fatuousness. (I was there.) A lot of noise, a lot of quite juvenile provocation, and a disheartening glimpse into the persistent social rift that separates families who produce police officers from those who turn out graduate students (a rift that, I’m sure,  tears a good many families apart). Absolutely nothing in the way of a program. An atmosphere of profound fecklessness. Too depressing to think about really. Don’t the protestors at Zuccoti Park know the first thing about how things work? It seems that they don’t.  

What is to be done? What is to be fixed? What needs to be replaced? These are the questions that immobilize us now, because too many of us believe that the time for fixing things has irrecoverably passed. Do we find a more fuel efficient family car, or do we abandon the idea of family cars altogether, and scramble to provide public transport? Do we attempt to reconcile the libertarian and communitarian impulses that have brought political life to a standstill? Or do we give up on the idea of fashioning a “unum” from the “plures”?  

Gotham Diary:
Signature Malfunction
21 November 2011

Monday, November 21st, 2011

What an unpleasant surprise: there I was, reading along in Jeremy Black’s George III: America’s Last King, only to find that page 48 was followed by page 81. So, I discovered upon inspection, was page 112 — the first page 112. There I was, right in the middle of George III’s (apparently shambolic) coronation, when suddenly it became 1765, and Rockingham has just come upon the scene. I had no choice but to put the book down. Most of the political drama of the reign occurs on those missing pages! And George III was going to be my big read on this trip, my one-book-that-would-take-the-entire-vacation-to-get-through. Piffle!

So much for “the book will always be there.” As there is no ebook edition of Professor Black’s tome, I’ve downloaded John Lewis Gaddis’s biography of George Kennan onto the iPad, and Susan Hartog’s Dangerous Ambition: Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson onto the smartphone. These are books that I very nearly bought in paper, as I’m sure I shall do if either one of them is any good. I’ve admired Kennan all my life — a short book of his, the title of which I forget, appeared on a summer reading list at a very early age; and I’ve been curious about Thompson ever since reading Ethan Mordden’s The Guest List, which I did a year ago, in the very room I’m writing in now, come to think of it.


The book that I read on the flight down was Elif Batuman’s The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them. It’s a disgrace that I hadn’t read this book before, when it came out, about a hundred years ago (2010), but I got to it at last, and I don’t know when I’ve laughed so hard at 28,000 feet. From now on, I am going to read everything that Batuman publishes as it appears, no matter what I’m in the middle of. What’s most striking — and this says a lot more about literary convention c 2000 CE than it does about Batuman — is her candor about how come she’s so smart: she’s done a lot of hard work. She has gone to good schools, yes; but having put learning, not fun, at the center of her life, she has acquired a great deal of it, some of it from “adventures,” but most of it from books. That’s the other thing that’s striking, almost shocking, about Batuman: her claim that you can learn a lot from reading books! What a concept!

Regular readers will be aware of my low opinion of American education, higher and otherwise; The Possessed is something of an antidote. Take those “adventures.” It is very sporting of Batuman to apprise the reader of the grants that she put together in order to spend time in Moscow, Petersburg, Samarkand, Tashkent, and elsewhere. In the hands of almost any other writer I can think of, these travels would be passed off as escapades, rip-offs of the system, occasions for drinking and whoring, with any actual learning swept to the sidelines, no matter how much of it there might have been. The point would have been to entertain the reader with naughty extracurricular frolics and odes to shirking reading lists, because who on earth would want to read about the somewhat dreary and very strange “classes” that Batuman took in Uzbek literature?

Maybe — awful thought — it’s that Batuman is a girl, and girls can be serious about these things. That may indeed what we have come to. If so, at least Batuman is there to save us, to remind us that scholarship is not the exclusive preserve of deluded Casaubons.


After breakfast this morning, I wrote to my friend Eric:  At the bookshop the other day, I picked up yet another nyrb reprint that I’d never heard of before. As it happens, I’m reading Lydia Davis’s translation of Madame Bovary, now out in paper, and the last time that I read the novel it was in Francis Steegmuller’s translation, so Flaubert and Madame Bovary: A Double Portrait, which Steegmuller published in 1939, was clearly something that I ought to look into. There are three parts, the outer ones by Steegmuller, with ample extracts from Flaubert’s correspondence. They’re called “Romanticism” and “Realism,” respectively. In between: “The Purge,” which is nothing but a selection of extracts from Flaubert’s letters to his mother and to his friend Louis Bouilhet, and from Flaubert’s travel notes, as well as bits from Maxime Du Camp’s “literary souvenirs” of the two friends’ trip to the Middle East in 1850. Many of the extracts are quite racy; there is even a rather voluptuous account of some male belly dancers (so to speak) in Cairo. In 1939, the book must have seem ultra-sophisticated, if easy to read. If you have not encountered this material before (especially Flaubert’s notes), I urge you to do so. I think that you will be greatly amused — which is to say, entertained and edified all at once. Never has “orientalism” looked so charmingly naive, or naively charming, on the page. 

According to Mohammedan law, full and complete ablution is indispensable following certain bodily acts. When a husband leaves the women’s apartments, for example he must entirely submerge himself — in a pool, in a river, anywhere, so long as his head is momentarily under water. When he emerges, he raises his hands to heaven and says: “O Lord, I render thee thanks for the joys thou hast given me, and I pray thee to lead in holy ways the child dthat may be born, O my God, make me blind in the presence of unlawlful women!”

 Very often, standing on my boat at daybreak, I have seen fellahin run to the Nile, strip off their clothing, and plunge into the river. At such moments my sailors would laugh and call out to the bathers pleasantries which were, to put it mildly, indelicate.

That’s Du Camp, not Flaubert; Flaubert would not have shaped the anecdote so carefully.

Looking over this letter, I think that I would change the last word to “judiciously.” Du Camp’s account has a tidy, after-dinner character that makes me smile, reminding me, now that I think of it, of a funny note that Steegmuller extracts from Flaubert’s letter to Bouilhet of 5 June 1850 (you have to know that Pierre Corneille, the great playwright of the Seventeenth Century, is Rouen’s most celebrated son):

Tomorrow is the sixth — the birthday of Corneille! What a session at the Rouen Academy! What speeches! The fine costume of those gentlemen: white ties, pomp, sound traditions! A brief report on agriculture!



I’ve just had a note from Amazon. Another copy of George III is on the way, at no charge. No need to send back the defective copy. Which means that I’ve got to throw it away! Yes, throw a book away! I don’t think that I’ve ever done that. But I can’t see leaving the book lying around, either, to trap the unwary. I may just abandon it in the hotel room, with a small note tucked inside. The housemaids will decide….

Gotham Diary:
19 November 2011

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

In the middle of dinner last night, I was startled by the sudden presence of a friendly stranger who wanted to shake our hands and who was wearing, I eventually observed, a chef’s blouse. He wasn’t really a stranger; Kathleen remembered greetings on past visits. But because it is impossible to turn my head to see anything, I quite often don’t see people I’m talking to, especially waitstaff. If I nod at someone in passing, to say “good morning,” I carry away only the dimmest impressions of physiognomy, and those are soon forgotten. To fix someone’s face in my mind, I’d have to come to a complete stop, raise my head as I can do only when I’m not walking, and stare — an odd thing to do. But perhaps I ought to consider it, because this year, for some reason (it’s my fifth visit, although it feels totally umpteenth), the people in passing aren’t just saying “good morning” or “good afternoon.” They’re saying “Welcome back! Good to see you again!” People who at first blush appear to be fellow guests say this. As we get closer to Thanksgiving, I won’t be surprised if some actual guests do hail me with welcome/again cheer. I’ll have to take care not to ask them for another glass of pinot grigio.

The impression that I have been coming to the Buccaneer Inn all my life is very strong. Weirdly strong. To some extent, the hotel embodies everything familiar and agreeable from resort hotels that I’ve visited since childhood. It is “low-key,” very comfortable but not opulent; lively but not noisy. There is a vague sense of campus life; it’s possible that I would have done better in college if college hadn’t reminded me of a resort hotel. (A very Spartan resort, not at all “low-key” — although everything that I read about Princeton suggests that “low-key” is exactly the right term for undergraduate life at that university.) A small battalion of maids and groundskeepers and “people behind the desk” keep the hotel purring along smoothly, as though we were aboard a permanently-moored Cunarder from the old days. That comparison is apt, because just as the luxury liner (basically a mail coach/Chinatown bus with a thin crust of fancy staterooms on the top decks) was done in by the cruise ship (a packed stadium without a game but with much more comprehensive refreshments), so the resort hotel has been challenged by the casino. There are casinos in St Croix, but there is no gambling at the Buccaneer. That’s why the airlines put up their flight crews here.

But still, the Buccaneer is a specific place, with its own topography. And that topography is really quite unusual; at least, I’ve never been anywhere like it. The main building of the hotel, along with a string of outbuildings one of which contains the room that we’ve stayed in twice before, stands on the ridge of a foothill, hard by the sea. At the bottom of the slope, there are more accommodations and an open-air restaurant that can be used as a hall for occasions. (There is also a pro shop, serving the golf course that winds around the hill, near the entry gate; I just noticed it for the first time the other day. I knew there had to be one somewhere.) There is Up Here and Down There.

Walking up the hill is arduous, no matter what shape you’re in, and there’s no way to avoid a bit of climbing every day, because breakfast is served Up Here but midday meals, whether at the restaurant by the water or at the “grotto” by the swimming pool at the other end of the property, are available only Down There. No matter where you stay, you have to climb for or from breakfast or lunch. You can call the front desk to have a van give you a lift, but an important part of synching with the “low-key” ambiance involves stout self-reliance when it comes to getting around. (Except for golfers, of course.)

Maybe all that hill-climbing over the years has simply driven memories of earlier visits to other resort hotels to ground. (Now I really wish I’d brought along Proust.)

The self-portait in the photograph above was entirely unintentional. I was actually thinking that I ought to swipe the iPad into displaying something. It never occurred to me that I was shooting a glass, darkly.

Oh! PS! We rescued the suitcase with the craft materials in it from our aforementioned abandonment. Turned out that it was being held under my name, not Kathleen’s, even though there was nothing about the luggage tag that mentioned me. I was, apparently, the man in the traveling party. Cherchez l’homme. Anyway, it all worked out very nicely. Thanks for the good wishes.

Gotham Diary:
18 November 2011

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Here’s a view that changes only if I frame it differently.

Kathleen was so worn out by wondering if she’d get me here in one piece that we left a piece of luggage at the airport yesterday; retrieving it has not been an easy business, so far. It wasn’t that I was particularly difficult in transit, but rather the possibility that at any moment I might just melt down. On the flight from Miami to St Croix, which was a lot smoother than the flight from New York, Kathleen even played Sheherazade, quizzing me about the career of, of all people, Joan Crawford.

I’m puzzling over the remains of the past couple of days with forensic interest. We have the corpus delecti right here, in the entries that I wrote (and in a few letters as well). In some ways, my bitching and moaning about having to leave home, board a plane, disrupt my routines were same old same old. But it turned out that many aspects of the crisis were new, in positive ways.

Most noticeably, the crisis was extremely compressed. It was a matter of two and a half days. Until Monday morning, I simply blocked my anxiety center’s access to the coming trip. It had plenty of other things to worry about, and I concentrated on those. (And how did I manage that, for the first time ever? It occurs to me that, just as my arthritis and most of my other complaints are the result of my immune system’s not having enough in the way of genuine pathogens to fight, so my grandson is a magnificent magnet for all my free-floating anxiety, whenever he is not actually present. [And I believe that my anxiousness, like my immune system, must have been hard-wired by the time I went to school.])

Second, and even more interestingly, the more rational parts of my brain, if I may speak in what seems like such an antiquated way, were preparing for the trip in very sensible ways. I knew that on Monday, I would go to the storage unit to pick up my lightweight shirts. On Tuesday, I would get a haircut. On Wednesday, I would go to Crawford Doyle in search of fresh reading matter for the trip. (Also: when we came home from Fire Island, I put all of those adapters and cables and thingummies that you need when you travel in one drawer, knowing that I’d be needing them in nine weeks.)

The result of these two developments was that the shock of packing, once I acknowledged that it was time to get ready to go, devastated me on Monday, but that was all right, because, even if I felt terrible, I had set up a plan and didn’t have to think about what to do. I was miserable, almost seasick, for two days, but you wouldn’t have known it from my preparations. By the time I climbed into the car to go to LaGuardia, everything was in order, and I was at least completely neutral about what was going on.

The third thing that was new was the manner in which I got over my dread of taking a vacation. At Crawford Doyle, I bought Diane Keaton’s memoir, Then Again. I thought that it would be fun to read, and indeed it was, just a few hours later, when I ought to have been doing other things. Instead, I was Gchatting with Ms NOLA about bulimia, adoption, and how some people, beautiful as they are when you, get to be much better looking when they’re older. We didn’t chat for long, because I really did have to be doing other things, but it occurred to me that I could do most of those other things while watching Annie Hall.

Annie Hall is far from my favorite Woody Allen movie. I don’t dislike it, but it seems preliminary to me, which Manhattan, practically his next picture, most certainly does not. (Neither does Interiors, the intervening film; but Interiors turns out to be the first of a clutch of beautifully bleak movies that Allen has made over the years; Another Woman is my favorite, while Match Point is actually thrilling. While unmistakeably the work of Woody Allen, these titles seem to me to stand to one side of his typical output, which amounts to a response, not an homage, to the great European filmmakers of the mid-Twentieth Century. Manhattan is the first fully-formed mainstream Woody Allen movie.) The good thing about my watching other Allen films much more often is that Annie Hall is always fresh, which it really ought to be; it’s actually rather delicate — fragile. This is partly because Diane Keaton is, effectively, a child actress, younger in a way than Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver. Oh, she may have been biologically close to thirty, but she was barely halfway to the mature greatness, the all-American comic mastery of The Family Stone and Something’s Gotta Give. When Annie Hall was over, I had to watch Morning Glory (Keaton’s second film with Rachel McAdams, whom she mentions very favorably in her memoir). I couldn’t believe how much more than was to Diane Keaton in Morning Glory, even though it’s a supporting role, than there is in Annie Hall. That’s because Annie Hall is, of course, Woody Allen’s fantasy. Colleen Peck is a real bitch. (Albeit a real bitch with a heart of gold and a crackerjack sense of the absurd.)

By the time Morning Glory was over, I had not only packed, but done all the ironing as well. which meant that I had a supply of pressed handkerchiefs to take to St Croix.  I had organized all of the last minute (bathroom) packing on the dining table, along with books, electronics, and even the beach towel that I’ve been using as a blanket lately. (I used the beach towel to wrap up the Klipsch iPod player and the iPad keyboard deck.) When we finally went to be at 11:30, I was ready to go. We were up at 5:30, in the car at six, and at the airport by 6:30. We arrived here at about 4:30 yesterday afternoon (Atlantic Time), and Kathleen took a nap right away. It was only when she woke up, before dinner, that we missed her second suitcase, a small purple roller filled with craft items mostly. Wish us luck on that one.

Vacation Note:
Happy Thanksgiving
25 November 2010

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, all! Christmas is a month away.

In an unexpected treat, Cruzan guitarist Steve Katz will be playing at the Terrace Bar this evening, before dinner. I have never heard a more accomplished musician. I vividly remember waking up to his being much, more more than a lounge musician (not that all the people who play at the Terrace Bar aren’t truly excellent): one night, on our first visit to the Buccaneer, I realized that I was hearing one of John Dowland’s laments, exquisitely played. It was late, and the bar was almost empty — Steve was sneaking in something from his classical repertoire. We went over to speak to him after his set. This year, he came over to us.

The weather is magnificent for a second consecutive day; there is not a cloud in the sky at the moment, and St Thomas and St John ride the horizon like ghost battleships. The breeze is cool and dry, leaves lapping over the surf and the reassuring sound of distant tennis.

I’d love to report that I’m relaxed, but the relaxation portion of this vacation ended days ago. I’m boiling over with plans for regular life.

Housekeeping Note:
Wednesday already?
24 November 2010

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Happy as I’ll be to return home, I wish that we were staying a few more days. It seems as though we just unpacked! And why is that? We’ve done nothing but the same thing, day after day, since we got here. We’ve had breakfast; then we’ve read (feeds, in my case — but no more until I’m back in New York) until lunch. After lunch, more reading (or, in Kathleen’s case, stitching; Monday, she did a bit of lawyering). One day, we walked on the beach; on all the others, Kathleen took a pre-dinner nap. Then dinner, all but one nights in the bar. A bottle of wine. Back in the room, I’ve been sleepy earlier each night, turning it at the amazing hour of 9:30 New York time.

A most unexpected pleasure: “reading” The Ambassadors on the iPad. I put it in quotes because I began with Book Third, and have not committed to reading straight from there.

Change: Scale and Choice (I)
23 November 2010

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Re-reading The Keep this morning, I reached the scene (Chapter 6) in which Danny, the fictitious protagonist — he’s a fiction within Jennifer Egan’s fiction — encounters the baroness in the eponymous tower. The baroness, who appears to be a maiden at a distance, gradually ageing as Danny gets closer, spouts a lot of clever, snobby insults, which Danny, being the good “number two” that he is, takes in stride. “The oldest thing in your family closet is a tennis racket from 1955, whereas I have a thirteenth-century sarcophagus in my basement.” The put-down seems terribly familiar. By now, the stock European conviction that Americans are unsocialized savages seems itself to date from the thirteenth century, as does the Wildean waspishness. It’s no surprise that the baroness turns out to be a fabulous creature. She’s expansively unreal.

So are the underpinnings of her orgulous attitude. In the scheme of things — but I ought to tell you that, for me, the scheme of things is about 170,000 years in length. I read somewhere that human beings have been human beings — vulgo, we’ve been us — for about that long; and I’m sticking with it. Let’s not trouble our little heads with the age of the planet, or the dating of the earliest fossils, or the millions of years — millions — that were spent by dinosaurs romping and pillaging. Let’s leave “Lucy” and her toolkit out of it. It’s enough to ponder the figure, in the lower six digits, within which the number of years of actual history — written records of one kind or another — shrivels almost to invisibility: the low four figures. It’s a stretch to say that there are more than three thousand years of human history. By history, I mean the sense that things change on a linear, irreversible scale.

Bishop Ussher famously dated creation to 4004 BC; he worked it out, one supposes, from the proliferation of genealogies laid down in the Hebrew Bible. I suspect that even the most scientific minds, when they’re out of the laboratory anyway, settle on a six-thousand year time-frame for human affairs: it’s what we know. We infer a good deal about what happened earlier; carbon dating has allowed us to place cave paintings in France and arrowheads in America on a time-line. But we don’t really know anything about the people who made those paintings — I like to think that they were sportive adolescents, without a spiritual thought in their heads — or who crossed the Bering Strait so that those arrowheads could be manufactured in what would much, much later, when the experience had passed completely out of mythology, be called “The New World.” The way in which we know about prehistoric human beings is qualitatively different, and distinctly less vivid, from our imaginative access to the lives of our oldest writers, among them the poet of the Song of Deborah (Judges 5). However archaic its style and patchy its narrative, we know what the Song of Deborah is all about.

We — mankind, human beings; what will be the next term? — face a barrage of challenges in our time, many of them old challenges that we’ve only just awakened to. We’ve imposed huge burdens on our notions of a just society, which, as recently as two hundred years ago, had nothing to say about universal health care. Two hundred years! How does that relate to a hundred and seventy thousand? It doesn’t; we can’t make it. But we’ve got to learn how. We are not going to deal with the problems that face us in an intelligent way until we grasp the scale of our past: how long it has taken us to get here, but how rapidly the pace of change has increased. Again, everyone is aware that things change faster today than they used to do. (There is actually a growing chorus of observers who point out that the pace appears to have slackened, and that this is a sign of decadence or benightedness.) But compared to what? To life forty or fifty years ago, when today’s boomers were children? To fans of popular culture who think back to the early days of the movies? To students of the Industrial Revolution, which begins in earnest at some point in the middle of the Eighteenth Century (not quite three hundred years ago). If you consider the pace of change on my time scale, and we play the game of stretching it onto the scale of a minute, then everything happens — now together with the reference points from which we gauge all change — within a second or two.

We need to change the way things change. That’s what I’ll take up in the second part of this rumination.

Vacation Note:
Evening on the Patio

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Monday. <sigh> It’s not so much that vacation is just about halfway over; it’s Monday. Kathleen is going to have to work today: read a document and then participate in a conference call. And I’ve got lots of things to do as well. (The difference is that no one will mind very much if I don’t do any of them; but I’ve internalized my self-employment to a grueling pitch.) I’d like to compile a Daily Office for tomorrow, if only because I’ve come across a lot of interesting things. At the same time, I’d rather not work. I’d certainly rather not think about the WiFi connection.

As part of the packing process, I decided not to bring many books. Aside from Jennifer Egan’s oeuvre (I do love it, but — work), I brought along the Ethan Mordden book that I was talking about the other day and that I really ought to write up while it’s fresh in my mind (work), and Alan Riding’s book about the arts under the Occupation, And the Show Went On. Now that’s a fun vacation read, eh? The first chapter gets things off to a depressing start. Riding writes about the failure of France’s political class between the wars in a way that makes it sound frighteningly reminiscent of what’s happening in the United States today; and then there’s his description of Paris as a site for “elite divertimento”:

The majority of Parisians were poor, but they had long been evicted from the elegant heart of Paris by Baron Haussmann’s drastic urban redesign a half century earlier. This “new” Paris was the favored arena of elitist divertimento, drawing minor royalty, aristocrats and millionaires to buy art, to race their horces in the Bois de Boulogne, to hear Richard Strauss conduct Der Rosenkavailier at the Paris Opera, to party in the latest Chanel and Schiaparelli designs.

That sounds awfully familiar, too. For “Haussmann’s redesign,” read “Robert Wagner’s determination to banish industry from New York City.” (That’s why the naked city, when it woke up, clutched at that filmiest of vestments, “the financial industry.”)

Anyway, I figured that I’d just download books to the iPad if I needed more to read, and notwithstanding connectivity issues, that proved to be a good idea. I bought and blazed my way through the new Cynthia Ozick novel, Foreign Bodies. (This made me want to download The Ambassadors, an old favorite, but I haven’t gotten round to that yet.) Then, yesterday at lunch, our favorite waiter  (she knew what I’d be ordering when we walked in on Thursday) mentioned a book that she’s finding very funny, Bitter Is the New Black, by Jen Lancaster, so I downloaded it then and there, as much as a party trick as with any intention of actually reading it. It is funny, and I wonder why I’ve never heard of it before. Lancaster writes of herself in almost grotesquely unflattering terms — but that’s what dealing with a world of incompetent boobies will do to you. The book remained funny even after Kathleen remarked that Lancaster’s diatribes sound just like mine.

During the night, I woke several times to howling winds and rain. The weather this morning is partly sunny but clearly unsettled. I’m going to step outside to the patio and read feeds. (The iPad, by the way, works perfectly well outside, as long as I’m not sitting in the sun, which, believe you me, I never am.)

Vacation Note:
Settled In

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

We had a spot rain yesterday. Actually, it came down in torrents for about ten minutes. Later in the afternoon, gusts of wind would whirl through, making me feel somewhat chilled, even though it is nowhere near cold here.

At lunch, a fortysomething fellow stopped at our table and asked if we were the So-and-so’s. When we told him that we weren’t, and who we were, he explained his asking. No sooner had he arrived with his family the day before, than the front desk called to say that the car was ready to take them all into town. It seems that another party of the same name — So-and-so — was staying at the hotel. This sort of mixup had occurred on earlier visits, which, it just so happened, coincided with ours — Mr So-and-so remembered that I wore a neck brace a few years ago! — so he thought that maybe we were the other So-and-so’s. A recent family trip to the Waldorf-Astoria and all the sights of Gotham was described. I handed over a card and asked to be allowed to take the So-and-so’s on a tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art next them they’re in town. “Is that what you do?” he asked.

What was going through both of our minds during this conversation was another amusing coincidence: “So-and-so” happens to be the name of a doubly-fictional creation, a character in a notoriously celebrated espionage thriller who does not, in fact, exist. Having been mistaken for “So-and-So” was the very opposite of rotten luck.

When Kathleen woke up from her afternoon nap, and we decided that neither of us was up for a walk on the beach — gawd, we’re tired — I read three stories from Emerald City aloud. Immersing myself in Jennifer Egan’s writing puts me in a very strange place. Egan reminds me of the whip-smart girls from private Catholic schools who always seemed to know ten times more about how the world works than anyone else, all the while conducting unexceptionably virginal lives. In Egan’s books, people can be very, very bad without ever breaking a law, or even driving over the speed limit — and that’s the point. So many of her characters seem to be looking for a line of sin that won’t get them in trouble with the police. It’s not that they do bad things that happen to be sins, but that they look for sins, sins that won’t too badly inconvenience their living arrangements. In short, Egan makes most students of evil look incredibly naive.

I’ve been reading Foreign Bodies on the iPad. In the Times digest that the hotel distributes every morning, I saw that it’s the subject of today’s book review. I think I’ll wait to finish the book before seeing what Thomas Mallon has to say.

Housekeeping Note:
Learning Curve

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

At breakfast, this morning, the Air Force people were holding a meeting in the bar — a space that is nothing like a bar during daylight hours. By day, it’s a covered terrace, open arches giving out onto the Caribbean, with here and there some rattan chairs and tables. It was fairly clear from what could be overheard in passing that the unit’s work is medical in nature; one could also surmise that a recent exercise was being evaluated. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the tone was that of your run-of-the-mill middle-management powwow, but the military character of the gathering seemed to have been left back in the room, on coat-hangers.

I’m going to spare you all the things that we’re learning about WiFi connections and iPads and whatnot, not because I really want to spare you, but because I know all to well what that sort of thing reads like in a week or so, not to mention a year later. It reads like something that a toddler hollers for while holding on to the crib railing. When the child has been gratified, everyone wants to forget the hollering — the little one most of all. That would be me.

Since nothing whatsoever has happened since I struggled to upload the previous entry, late last night (when the learning curve is always steepest), I have nothing to report save that Cynthia Ozick’s Foreign Bodies is at least this good: you loathe the narrator’s brother immediately upon reading two or three sentences of a scolding missive that he sends her, not ten pages into the book. Marvin Nachtigall will be instantly recognizable to anyone of a certain age who grew up on the East Coast. He’s exploits the unsocialized manners of his Jewish-immigrant forebears to make his worldly success obnoxiously clear. He knows better; his rudeness is a calculated pretense. That’s what makes it loathsome. Foreign Bodies also has going for it the Ambassadors puzzle: how will this novel turn out to be like/unlike the most accessible of Henry James’s grand finale trio?

As soon as a staff person brings round a patio chair that I can sit on — the stylish new lounge chairs proved to be dreadfully hard on my backside — I shall join Kathleen outside. She is embroidering an alphabet book for Will. I brought some stitching, too, but I haven’t felt moved to pick it up yet. I do hope that we’ll feel up to taking a walk this afternoon. In other prospects, I lined up an interesting clutch of links for Monday’s Daily Office. Step one, so to speak. We’ll see.

Vacation Note:
Comme ci, comme ça

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Just to have something on hand that I don’t have to read if I don’t want to, I’ve downloaded Emma onto the iPad. Also Cynthia Ozick’s Foreign Bodies, a new book that the Times compares to The Ambassadors but that sounds to me, on the basis of three pages, like something that Elaine Dundy’s sterner, better-schooled older sister might have made of The Dud Avocado. As for Emma, I almost packed a slim leatherette Collins edition, printed on onion skin in tiny print; but I forgot. The next time I read Emma, whenever that happens, will be the eighth. Much as I adore it, I notice that I’m fonder and fonder of Persuasion. And I really ought to re-read Northanger Abbey, which I haven’t read since my teens.

Dinner was a bit raucous. There was a contingent of Air Force servicemen — we think that some were officers, and we overheard at least one man remark that he had been a medic in the same unit for seventeen years — and we realized that we don’t know much about the Air Force, except that it turns out airline pilots. We know that the hotel bivouacs the occasional airline crew, but a crowd of men and women in uniform — somewhere between twelve and twenty — was a bit of a surprise. As we worked our way through a bottle of cabernet, the new arrivals filtered back into the bar in shorts and polo shirts that would have made them look like everyone else if they hadn’t — the men, anyway — been tonsured (too much hair to be stylish; too little to be civilian). The youngest person in the party had to be thirty, and a few of the seniors had clearly seen fifty. They were a genial crowd, even if they were much louder than the Buccaneer’s regulars (and I’m referring only to speaking voices here). But it took a moment, as we walked in, to realize that these people in uniform were not armed, and not about to frisk us or take away our water bottles.

We meant to take a walk on the beach this afternoon, but neither of us was up to it: we could do no more than sit outside on our little patio and read. I glanced over about fourteen hundred feeds during the course of the day. After the nth sighting of the same headline, I had to tell Kathleen about Professor Bilal of NYU, the filmmaker (?) who has “implanted” a camera in the back of his head. Aghast, Kathleen simply repeated what I’d said in the interrogative mood. It’s so NYU: the students are worried about their privacy, but nobody questions Dr Bilal’s right to mutilate himself in the name of art.

Kathleen got a call from a partner this afternoon, and it’s now definite that she’ll be working on Monday and Tuesday. She expected as much, but still. Assuming that the connection problems really do straighten themselves out, Kathleen’s working may shame me into producing a Daily Office or two. Meanwhile, I am reading Jennifer Egan’s stories, and taking lots of notes. But, d’you know what? I’m on vacation, it seems, and not at all in the mood to work. (In the alternative, I’m so old that two days of travel rubbled my ways and means.) Ethan Mordden’s Guest List was almost demoralizingly agreeable — why can’t every book be like that? My guess is that Foreign Bodies won’t be. But I’m looking forward to it just the same, and, come to think of it, now I know why God invented bed time.

Housekeeping Note: Let's have a hand

Saturday, January 30th, 2010


For over five years, I have never taken a real vacation from The Daily Blague. I don’t know what the longest break between entries is, but I had the idea from fairly early on that “daily” means “every day” — or at least every week day. I think that I’ve earned a rest.

Letting the site just sit without fresh copy for a week would be unthinkable, though. Very kindly, my good friend Jean Ruaud (Mnémoglyphes) has come to my aid, and agreed to guest-edit The Daily Blague while I take a break. Jean will open the windows wide and let in some fresh air. I want you all to breathe deeply. And whenever you feel moved to advise Jean of a typographical error or the like, I hope that you will observe the guidelines that I have set forth here. I will leave it to Jean to provide an email address; corrective comments will be expunged.

Let’s have a hand for Jean Ruaud!

Vacation Note: Partay

Friday, November 28th, 2008


We had a bit of fun last night. Multiple bottles of Cabernet sauvignon were consumed, and not just by me, either.

It all began when we went up to listen to Steve Katz, the really gifted guitarist whom we always look forward to hearing, play what the hotel’s daily bulletin called “Flamingo Music.” We thought we’d listen to him for a while before going in to dinner, which we’d booked for 8:30.

Or rather it all began when the singer called Malcolm and the Roy Davis Band, the jazz trio that followed Steve in the lounge, dedicated a song to us, possibly because we were actually paying attention. And what do you suppose the song was? One that I’ve always wanted to hear sung: “Stella By Starlight.” It’s usually an instrumental. Of course, I caught very few of the words. But it was great fun. I was glad that I’d dressed up: in my coat and tie I felt very grown-up. (A pathetic illusion in more ways than one!)

The second fun thing was not being able to remember Dexter Gordon’s name. What prompted this was the trio’s performance of “Willow Weep For Me,” an old song that seems to be very popular down here — everyone but the classical flutist seemed to play it at some point or other. “Willow Weep For Me” happens to be the one song on the Dexter Gordon compilation, “Ballads,” that Kathleen always used to ask me to skip, in pre-Nano days, because it has a (misleading) bump-and-grind introduction.

Anyway, we couldn’t remember Dexter Gordon’s name. All we could remember was the name of another (somewhat greater) saxophonist, Lester Young. “Lester” put “Dexter” entirely beyond the reach of our ageing brains and squarely within senior moment territory. I had to go to the computer in the lobby, which guests are asked to use sparingly, to refresh my memory. Searching the song title at Amazon did the trick very quickly.

The third fun thing was the Tomato Surprise. So to speak. As I wrote the other day, another wedding party has descended upon the Buccaneer, this one quite a bit larger than last week’s. But who was the bride, and who was the groom? The waitstaff didn’t seem to know, and no happy couple stood out as obvious candidates. So, toward the end of dinner, I walked up to an authoritative-looking gentleman, a few years older than I am I think, who was standing alongside the really lengthy table — it must have seated forty — that ran along the inner arcade. I asked him if he could clear up our ignorance and point out the happy pair. This was the moment of the Tomato Surprise, because when he said that he was the groom, I felt as if I’d sat on one.

That explained the size of the party: between them, he and his very attractive and wholly age-appropriate bride could count fourteen grandchildren among the guests. Eh comment! 

Vacation Note: What did I tell you?

Thursday, November 27th, 2008


We’re staying another day. We’ll on Saturday and go straight to New York. Via San Juan, but without leaving the airport. Kathleen is in heaven. I ought to have suggested this sooner: we got the last two seats on the plane.

And I wrote all the postcards that I’m going to write.

Vacation Note: Paradise

Thursday, November 27th, 2008


Just so you know what paradise looks like.

This is our last full day here. Tomorrow evening, we fly to San Juan. (That’s the current plan, anyway; our vacation endgames are notoriously open to rearrangement.) There, we will spend the night in one of the big hotels in Isla Verde, on the Atlantic, only minutes from the airport. On Saturday, we’ll return to New York. (That’s the plan, anyway.)  

It has been a very simple vacation — or so I think of it. It has been simple for us. A battalion of housemaids, gardeners, cooks and servers has made simplicity possible. We’ve had to do little more than show up for meals. Kathleen has alternated needlework with a rather comprehensive history of the West Indies (full of treaties and other diplomatic complications). I have read several books and re-read two others (taking notes in the latter case). If I haven’t spent as much time studying Nederlands as I might have done, I’ve been very thorough about my lessons. We have walked most days, either along Beauregard Beach or out on the headlands. In the early days, we watched a few DVDs, but for the most part we have spent evenings quietly and gone to sleep early.

Kathleen never made it into Christiansted, and I haven’t written any postcards.

In our room above the beach, the pounding of the surf has been audible at all times, even with the door shut and over the air-conditioning’s low groan. I’ve spent a positively boyish amount of time watching the waves wash grains of sand and small rocks back and forth across the strand, trying to grasp the millennia during which all this beauty transpired without anybody to see it. Then I think of how long it took human beings to see the beauty in it.

And I’ve thought of all the messages that I have tucked in bottles, just like the one that you are reading, even before the InterSea was discovered! I think of all of everyone’s messages, bobbing about out there — and of the many more that have sunk forever to the bottom, as unlikely to be retrieved as if they’d fallen into the Mindanao Trench. Is it not amazing that any are ever read!

Vacation Note: El-eat

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Very grand accommodations: not ours!

The terrorist attacks on Americans and Britons in Mumbai have made it hard for me to work up even a modicum of Thanksgiving spirit. Sorry — I forgot to mention that I’d been reading about all the passengers stuck at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok — among them the mother of a friend. The two incidents are utterly different in one respect: the Thai protests have little or no international dimension. And yet perhaps for that very reason they trouble me more. I’ve been watching Thai democracy founder for a few months now, and what bothers me the most is that I’m on the protestors’ side: my instincts, too, are to disenfranchise uneducated, semi-feudalized rural voters. I’ve wanted to disenfranchise rural American voters ever since I lived in Texas, in the 1970s.

I say “wanted.” I didn’t say that I thought it would be a good idea. Clearly it would be best to bring rural Thai voters into some kind of cultural synch with their educated urban countrymen. But what if they don’t want that? What if, like so many Americans, they’d rather reality television?

My democratic impulses, obviously, are a lot more head than heart at the moment. So it’s a good thing that the most problematic of American holidays (in my book) will find me at a table for two with Kathleen, far from home, eating anything on the menu that isn’t a turkey dinner.

Vacation Note: Thanksgiving Joke

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008


John Smith received a parrot as an early Christmas gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird’s mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity.

John tried and tried to change the bird’s attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to ‘clean up’ the bird’s vocabulary. Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back.

John shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder. John, in desperation, threw up his hands, grabbed the bird and shoved him in the freezer.

For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute.

Fearing that he’d hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the door to the freezer.

The parrot calmly stepped out onto John’s outstretched arms and said “I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I’m sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior.”

John was stunned at the change in the bird’s attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird continued …. “May I inquire as to what the turkey did?” (Thanks, Fossil Darling)