Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday commute lix: it'll keep

It isn't that it's late,
it's that we aren't going
to get through all that
there was in that play to-
night. The word for now
is what's germane, and
it's gorgeous.


Let our dearest darling Springtime muses mature just a little more

The stampede to proclaim Spring, like
its reprise to lament Fall, year after
year, has commenced in earnest and can
not now, I suppose, be redirected to 
the drowning of chrysalises. Very well,
so long as this puerile hedonism takes
no interest in worldwide viticulture,
knocked in many regions at once into a
cocked hat of premature budbreak, hor-
rific exposure to frost, and devastat-
ingly brief maturation on the vine, at
best - not a cost to the palate, so 
much as to hundreds of millions of pray-
erful man hours of pruning, diligent
winter vine maintenance, and summer-
time canopy control, in entire regions
dependent upon a stable crop; so that,
the sultry dawn you may wish for the
Rhine is all it may take to wring hail 
upon the ripening reds of Otago. And in
the grape one speaks of no more than
one fruit; we hear, Georgia has fruit-
set now of her peaches. Peaches in May?

Not that the exaltation of semi-nudity
has to endure the dormancy Nature pre-
fers for growing things. Look now, Nar-
cissus. The pond may vanish.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Suppose it were Friday lviii: expediency of the shirtless neighbour

In bypass interventions, it is famously customary for there to be a shopping about for vascular fragments which might be lifted from here, to be placed over there, to restore the feedback loop of the underlying engine to a kind of continuously impartial distribution. I do not care to think of this as Scarlett O'Hara's slicing about among the curtains, to craft a dress to impress Rhett, so I wouldn't put it in those terms. But the window can suffer its indulgence of this raid with incongruous strains, said to be temporary, such that as one may favour the recipient limb, the donor groin may spontaneously command equal empathy, and restoring one's step is not the simple matter one may have supposed.

In Virginia we are spared any presumption of level terrain, our pavement being much more percolative and receptive to vegetal propagation than, say, the sidewalks of San Francisco; so that what we might yield in variation of incline we more than recapture in unpredictability of surface. For this reason the shirtless neighbor really comes into his own as a support, where the ordinary set of crutches would be futile, to say nothing of inhumane to our burrowing populations, and the billowing shirt might only mislead as to the proximity of the stabilising frame. A solid bannister, if you will, for what really is a churning sort of foundation for the stride. 

The otherwise unthinkable hauling on of our 501's, molded over time to en-tirely lither femoral geometries, is likewise assisted by the shirtless neighbour, by example. A little practice in the milder sun of March is very well judged, and naturally gives way to the restorative nap.    

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Who has the task to domicile an English dog?

I have sent an English dog out for showing, with a handler involved in his breeding; and I have sent one out for rustication with his breeder during a move of residence. I have never before sent an English dog to the care of others while I've been in hospital. The return of the English dog under such circumstances is a game change.

It does not fail to resemble awaiting the arrival of a new puppy in a fa-miliar line, such as my English dog Whit is, the nephew of my first, Geordie. It is certain, that the adjustment is to be welcomed and yet will have been, underestimated.

Of all things about this page, the one that should be the most obvious is that it has no métier and only the essayist's diverse if not random tug to put things into words which, more and more, we like to think of pictorially. This can seem grandiose, arising from an ordinary life, but from this side there is an element of the lark to offer mitigation.

Within two or three hours of this mug of coffee, I will incur the return to my house of an English dog, to resume residency with me in all that his station implies. Cus-tom and practice in accommodation have been well rehearsed, and I will not need to show him where his water is. Indeed, I will not need to tell him he is home; he will have scented it distinctly, from every other farm in this placid, rolling neighborhood of pastures and ponds, from six miles away. With that perception he will be quickened to accelerate his progress by any means possible; and I will have followed him home.

It is with his sense of possessing this domain that he affords not merely that anchor, but that spark of domicile, be it ever so out of place, which gives me this home. I do not object to a provenance so innocently bestowed, that it should be so unperfected without him. There is no inversion in the necessary chain of care and authority in this unusual kind of recompense. I have the task, he has the gift.

Adventures in precautions

        Is it possible

        to be so armed
        against dark 
        as to inhabit
        light already?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

All along the California coast, is the little café

I acquired from my father a willing-
ness to read the same noir detective
writer, over and over, when I was a
boy. Ross MacDonald was an enormous-
ly popular writer of what Greene
had called, entertainments, albeit
in the latter's case at an unpar-
donably respectable level of lit-
erary and moral bite. Of course,
this genre was one of the prin-
cipal vertebrae if not the back-
bone of American cinema, in which
medium it still has appeal to the
young. But what I enjoyed in the
writings of MacDonald was his cap-
acity to revive for me the com-
paratively undeveloped California
of my parents' youth and my four
grandparents' wintertime settle-
ment, in which the isolated road-
side café figured both hopefully
and forlornly as an inevitable
place of meeting, rather like a
blog between hamlets too distant
to know each other's existence.

The seaside café has always stood
out, for me, as a category of dining
establishment able to claim exemp-
tion from restaurant characteristics,
for being primarily a shelter, in an
inherently romantic seascape. To this
day, of course, I retain my favourites
in my olfactories and in the creak of
my chair upon the tile or wooden floor.
They were not about being fed. They
were about what a relais is really
about. They were about being relieved
of travel, being drawn inside; about
being recomposed in being still.

Now that I am spending days and
nights after surgery involving a
leg, being still, elevating it and
doing my best to be quiet, the iso-
lation of the noir café settles in-
to me as another inherent element 
of this aedicular, littoral shelter
between progress and past, much
as a blog between footfalls, paused
in its stride. The time offers re-
cuperation, whose necessity I can
not dispute, but at no immediate or
conscious gain in replenishment.
I am sheltered, but not fed. I am
indispensably but unconstructively
interrupted, the café seeming to
have liberated me of more than my
driving jacket.

There is sometimes a sorry 
grandiosity in this, of tone, 
an incidental, not of predicate.
Even suspended, I know the pur-
pose in my journey here, but in
this café, I can cite its prin-
ciples without feeling much sight
of its resumption. I have given
such signals as I've been able,
of the vitality of a trajectory
for which I hold, in normal times,
a keen if not relentless attach-
ment, and for which the page's
immense readership is almost in-
fallibly nonparticipatory, but 
incredibly, gratifyingly atten-

I'm a pursuer from an unforgotten, 
undeveloped California, whose 
detective work continues, not for
a fugitive but for a rightful heir,
not of mine, but of his own being.

Bastiaan van Gaalen
Carlotta Manaigo, photography
L'Officiel Hommes Italia©
Spring/Summer, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Terestchenko in sitù

The most capable photographer
of places, active today and 
known to me, is also one of
the very most cultivated men-
talities upon which this page
leans for restoration of fo-
cus. A valuation of terroir 
in all of its formative, sus-
taining aspects is inveterate-
ly supported by resort to his
photography; and this strikes
home, as the signature he has
given himself from a cosmopol-
itan inheritance, breadth of
curiosity, and way of life.

It was far from foretold, in his absorption of the manners of a gentleman, that he would direct even them, too, toward his investigation of the genius of place. I draw the inference from his work that we see demonstrated in Henry James, that assets such as affection, reticence, and deference are truly our most powerful instruments of observation; that the foundation of all consolation of learning is the humane temperament. 
This view of a terrace in the Basque town of Guéthary, although only of built works, could not have been made without those gifts, and we refresh our heart in looking upon their discovery.

                                And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement
      from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

T.S. Eliot
Four Quartets
  Burnt Norton
Harcourt, 1971©

ii  Matthias Lauridsen
    photographer unknown

Monday, March 19, 2012

At one of those blogs the other day, which grant a safe haven

At one of those blogs, the other day, which grant a safe haven for gastro-nomic discourse in public, I found myself stumbling in as the discussion was centering on just how far to go with hopes for a decent poached egg at Claridge's. Oh, you can't know how this conundrum lifted me from that post-operative haze under which I still labour, sometimes all but knotted in my sheets in torments for a slice of seaside sourdough, dappled in Normandy butter and plums. The hiatus was almost as salutary as if I had gone ahead with Mrs David's recommendation, of coddling my eggs in caramelised carrots and béchamel; before reluctantly rotating to another page in sitù, to read of Rick Santorum.

Little, indeed, had I been able to perceive the prosody in the Spring our politics have been enjoying, as one of alimentary escalation in lusciousness with every passing day, one rival's taunt of another's palate deficiencies resulting in ripostes of ever loftier Lucullan lunacy for the next news cycle. Surely we can all remember the day, before this campaign commenced, when the panicked piling on of super-fluous ingredients had not yet so robed the shimmering yolk of satisfaction in surfeits of amour propre? But there we are: a spot of debauchery infallibly tracks with our higher reachings of rectitude, at the hedonistic breakfast table of our politics.

Now that the season has exploited the South for all its enthusiasms for these tendencies, it's natural to wonder how genuinely crazier our candidates can get, even at a convention which promises to be a cockfight. It's enough to restore us by two's to our sheets, to rusticate in the fresh and local underlying ingredients of everyday nourishment, just to weather the culinary heights of a politics of battling foams. Who knew, for example, that the campaign for compulsory childbirth would escalate into one against adoption, only thence to condemn intercourse? How can we fall between so many stools, with a single vile body? 

Possibly it does not beg too much forbearance of our reader, to propose that all of this fanciful flight to lusciousness is really a way of our leadership's distract-ing our attention from the china, as the acuity of whose bluity calls out for nourishing clarity, and truer expositions of the ingredients of our day. But this is china inherited, not shopped for, and it seems that as much as they want it, they do not care for it. Feasts of thrills proliferate, for paper plates of entertainment, the china in the sideboard empty in a bacchanale of vanity. 

Elizabeth David
Provincial French Cooking
Penguin Twentieth Century Classics
Penguin, 1999©

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Laß uns menslich sein"

Let us be human.

Ludwig Wittgenstein
Culture and Value
G.H. von Wright, editor
op. cit.