Three encounters this week in another city in another state:
(1) At a store: A clerk asked, “May I help you?” I answered, “Nail clippers, please.” The clerk said, “For your nails?”
(2) At a restaurant: When the four of us sat down in the excellent Italian restaurant, the server poured iced water into all the glasses except mine and went away. A companion caught his eye. He came. She pointed to my glass. “Does that glass need water?” he asked. Feeling invisible, I turned the glass upside down to show him.
(3) At a party. I asked the bartender to put some lime into my drink. He lifted a piece of lime and holding it about a foot above the glass squeezed the juice. “To aerate the citrus?” I asked.
Anticipating Halloween. What frightens us? As a child I was afraid of the statue of the armed, uniformed soldier at the courthouse. I hurried by it. As an adult, I felt eerie walking among the statues of the soldiers in action at the Korean War Monument. I am not afraid of soldiers in uniform, just statues of them.
Around the town. It is good to realize a new season: to walk to the library on a cool, breezy, cloudy day in long pants and long sleeved shirt, knowing that as the day grew darker a light jacket might be in order because of the breeze from the north; to walk by yards awaiting their first raking; to notice fully turned dogwood trees, half-colored maple and sumac trees; to chat with a clerk, who said that all the humidity of the summer was worth having this time of year to arrive; to see quotations about autumn on the chalkboard outside the coffee shop; to breathe dry air accented by the smell of leaves fallen.
The library was, as usual, quiet. Before I walked upstairs to read newspapers and periodicals, I noticed a young father and daughter putting together a puzzle in the children’s area. Upstairs in the reference area were two community college students involved in quiet work. The two rows of computers were occupied, and one of the librarians was quietly offering help. I read last week’s local paper. The front page featured a prominent citizen who was sentenced to Federal prison for tax violations. There were seven marriages and ten divorces. The local football team easily beat its opponent. The police reports were usual violations. I read the paper of the larger town in the county and looked through the daily Raleigh paper. For the first time in many years I looked through Reader’s Digest and enjoyed the humor sections. It’s good to read humor that doesn’t rely on sex for its effects.
Reading. Fiction. Margaret Maron, Hard Row (2007). I like to read mysteries for the setting and characters more than for the plot. Maron sets her novels east of Raleigh, places I recognize. The novel concerns abuses of undocumented Mexican farm workers and the murder of the farm owner. Is the murder retaliation that occurs from abusive treatment, or it is the revenge of the “woman scorned”? The farm on which the abuses occurred is contrasted with small farms, owned and operated by local residents. There is a discussion of the place of organic farming in the economy. There are viable presentations of Southern characters and contemporary family relationships. Maron skillfully uses quotations from a book on farming from 1890 as introductory chapter quotations. It is a timely and well-done novel.
Reading. Poetry. A.R. Ammons, Tape for the Turn of the Year (1965). I enjoyed the book-length poem even more than I did when I first read it in 1977. Written with typewriter on adding machine tape, the poem records observations and thoughts of the speaker from December 6 through January 10, 1963-4. There are philosophic musings on reality, poetry, ethical behavior; observations of animals, primarily birds; recordings of quotidian concerns, such as Christmas shopping, visiting friends and relatives, meals, weather reports, elephant jokes; references to mythology, such as Odysseus, the Muse, Sisyphus. In 11 Dec. is one of the most beautiful love poems in the language. In 14 Dec. and 22 Dec. are eloquent prayers. Particularly fun are references to Frost’s “Birches” and parodies of the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer.
Reading Celebration for Halloween. I will read several pieces in honor of the upcoming celebration of Halloween. My reading will include Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” M. R. James’s “Casting the Runes” and “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad,” Robert Frost’s “The Witch of Coos,” and James Whitcomb Riley’s “Little Orphant Annie.” I may read again Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw.” I’ll read through several selections from a good blog I follow, “Freaky Folk Tales.” The blogger travels through England and collects ghost stories; they are well done.
This Week’s Reading. I’ll return to Steinbeck. Next on the list, The Moon Is Down. I’ll re-read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which I taught only once, in the late 1970’s. This will be my first reading since then. Perhaps I’ll start Stephen E. Ambrose’s Nothing Like It in the World, about the building of the transcontinental railroad.
Thank you for reading. I hope your week will be good.