Nov 27, 2010

The Most Recent Strange Peregrination

of F. S. Whinkla

. . . being an honest recollection of events as they occurred on the last leg of his return journey to Kleadrap from Dallas, Texas after wandering several months in and around the Orient.

Part I

It was my third day on the road since leaving Dallas and I must have been somewhere east of the Rocky Mountains, maybe Colorado, or western Kansas. I remember checking out of a Holiday Inn Express around eight that morning because George Stephanopoulos was signing off when I turned in my room key. I’d eaten the complementary breakfast, treating myself to a plate (actually a bowl) of biscuits and gravy, and two, or was it three? hard boiled eggs, as well as four sausage patties balanced on an English muffin slathered in butter and scrambled eggs. Since then I had been driving north on highway 335 listening to Mojo Nixon, remembering Chapel Hill, and speculating on what might have become of Skid Roper. I must have been driving four or five hours because I was hungry, despite the less than customary breakfast I had consumed, and Mojo was beginning to sound like a voice of reason, and the gas gauge was near zero. I have a difficult time admitting this, but I simply don’t remember where I exited the highway to look for a place to eat and fill the gas tank, but that’s what I evidently did. I don’t have a receipt, but I do recall getting gas outside a little museum in the center of town. The museum was closed, only open on weekends, but the gas pump worked and accepted my Discover Card without complaint. As the tank filled I remember being somewhat mesmerized by what looked like a Calder mobile dancing in the wind across the street. A few hundred yards further up the street I stopped at a small store and bought a plastic tub of vanilla yogurt and a cardboard cup of what turned out to be horrible coffee (I tossed it into the weeds a few minutes later). For some reason I asked the young man at the cash register if there was a hotel or motel nearby. He told me the nearest place was either twenty miles south, or thirty-five miles west. Then he mentioned, if I was really tired, there was a sort of bed and breakfast place a few miles out of town, and without my asking gave directions.

to be continued

Nov 20, 2010

The Sanctity of Silence

(Whinkla will have to wait)

Strange Interlude

It was five-forty in the evening and I was preparing a salad for dinner. My wife was not feeling well and had gone to the bedroom to rest. It was dark outside which made the kitchen seem that much warmer, at least visually. I was probably philosophizing about the state of things when suddenly I became aware I was no longer tearing lettuce leaves. My hands were still poised above the bowl but as motionless as stone. A flush of seemingly limitless tranquility had overwhelmed me. Only my eyes seemed capable of movement. I had become a snapshot of myself. There was absolute silence all around. I listened. Nothing, I could hear nothing. The refrigerator was between cycles. The one, non-digital clock must have already ticked away the previous minute. The water pump was silent. No sound came from the highway a hundred yards away. No barking dogs. Trees silent in the non-wind. For a moment I thought perhaps I had been struck deaf, so overwhelming was the lack of sound. It seemed something immensely denser than silence had filled the kitchen, the air was not vibrating with the myriad frequencies it usually carries, but sucking them in, creating, how can I describe it, a numbing vacuum. I didn’t move, nor want to, for to do so might shatter the sanctity of the moment.

Perhaps the clock finally ticked, or the refrigerator needed to cool itself, but just as suddenly as I had been enclosed in a cloak of unaccountable bliss, it ended. My fingers began to move again and I tore a lettuce leaf in half with a deafening sound.

Nov 16, 2010

I just found out that Whinkla returned from Asia over a month ago! Why he didn’t call, or come by and pick up the packages he had mailed, before yesterday, I have no idea. He was quite excited and blurted out dozens of intriguing hints about his unbelievable adventures. “They’ll make you think ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ was nothing more than a collection of articles from the Wall Street Journal,” he said.

We talked and shared a bottle of 1974 Charles Krug, Lot F-1 Cabernet and he eventually thanked me for taking care of the numerous boxes and envelopes he had sent from various parts of the world. Then, as he was about to leave he said he simply had to tell me about something that had happened on his drive home from Dallas, Texas. He sat down again and related how he’d flown in a vintage Harlow PJC-5 from a dirt runway in Bejiaoxiang, a small village outside Ya’an in Sichuan province, to Hong Kong, then on to Tokyo, and then to Dalles. “There,” he said, “I decided to rent a car and drive back to Kleadrap . . . to reacquainted myself with the great beating heart of the American west after six months abroad.” I thought I was going to have to open a second bottle, perhaps a pre 1980 Reserve Beringer, or was that a ‘third’ bottle? but instead Whinkla stood up and took a sheaf of wrinkled papers from his briefcase and handed it to me. “Make for a good bedtime read,” he said.

I accepted the wad of paper he handed me as if I was accepting the holy grail and he pulled a large net bag from an inside pocket in his jacket and began to stuff in the packages I had accumulated over the past few months. “I’ll try to get back next weekend, if you think you’ll be home,” he said, “and I promise you hours, perhaps days, of unbelievable entertainment.” “I’ll be here,” I said, and helped him carry the unweildly bag to his bicycle. I watched for a polite time as he wobbled down the road and then went back inside where I opened a second bottle of wine, or was that a ‘third’?

An hour or so later I was comfortable, and comfortably in bed, and after adjusting the bedside lamp unfurled Whinkla’s bundle of papers. The first thing I noticed was that the arrogant S.O.B had opened with something in what I suppose is Chinese. I respect that he speaks, at last count, fourteen languages, but I still wince whenever I encounter words and phrases I don’t understand. Like when I read Pound or Joyce. At least Burton was discrete with his esoteric verbal knowledge.

Well, rather than paraphrase Whinkla I’ll simply retype his document, though I have had to excise more than a third of it for even I wasn’t all that interested in the colour of the crone’s teeth or toenails, or the exact texture of the molding of the bathroom lintel in the Gaudi bathroom.

Next post will be the words of Whinkla without introduction or explanation.

May 23, 2010

Not My Mother's May

Waiting for Warmer Weather

So, the keepers of meteorological records and other arcana say April was the warmest on record, globally, and yet we in the Portland, Oregon area experienced the coldest April on record, and there was measurable rain on all but four or five days. The wind has been from the north, northwest for weeks smelling of moose and muskeg and seems as cold as a triple dose of menthol. After an hour or two outside I feel inclined to look for facial cuts. Looks as if T. S Eliot was right. Now it is May 22nd and I can detect little or no difference from April, regarding the weather. I have to admit the garden is quite green, though damp, and many plants seem to be languishing, twiddling their roots to pass the time as they wait for a splash of sunshine to start photosynthesis again. This is not the magical May I remember.

My mother's May was filled with sunlight, nodding flowers, winging, singing thrush and wrens chattering in the hedgerows. Once in a while magnificent white cumulus clouds would drift across the blue sky and bless us with a short refreshing shower. May was a time for tea outdoors, sipped beneath the budding canopy of a flowering tree, shrub or rose. There were pleasant riverside walks to search for frogs, dragon and damsel flies, water striders, and denizens of the grassy riverbank, though I never encountered Ratty or Mole, and never glimpsed a frog or toad dressed in a waistcoat. Perhaps, as we neared town, we would stop for an ice-cream cone at a gaily painted bank-side wagon, then stroll home through ferns and freshly-leafed trees to the sound of older boys playing cricket or soccer on the green that bordered the wood. There were fresh peas to be filched and eaten while crouched between the vegetable rows in the communal garden up the street. (My peas, alas, are only a few inches high) I wonder if the gardeners whom I luckily never encountered, ever wondered about the yield from some of their plants?

It was usually pleasant most of May, as it should be, not drear and drippy day after day after day like this. [In my garden people come and go, talking of rain, and wind, and even snow.] I am anxious to mothball my parka and wool garments for the year and walk about in cotton shorts and sandals. I suppose I can whine on until June and continue to make the best of it.

May 23: Woke to 40 degrees and rain: must be time to plant tomatoes.

Mar 29, 2010

Email Out of Nowhere

The following message was waiting for me when I opened my email this morning:

Larry, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined finding a teahouse in this remote corner of the world. Not a teahouse in the Japanese tradition to be sure, but a public place that serves a variety of teas. The incongruity of this place reminds me of the opening scene in Meredith Monk’s film “Book of Days”. I am astonished this place exists, but thankfully so. And there is Internet access as you can see if you are reading this! And the keyboard is in English, though a lot of the keys have strange characters inked in.

I’ll have to hurry as the generator is only fired up once a day for about an hour and it’s only because I am such a unique visitor that the young locals have allowed me a few minutes of their time at the machine. The toothless elders simply sit and stare in disbelief. Luckily I type very quickly which amazes everyone even though what I type must look like gibberish to them. The owner of this out of the way café tells me he went to school for three years in Santa Cruz, California, in the eighties, hence the name: The Sticky Wicket. He has already shown me a much-thumbed picture of himself standing on a California beach somewhere with his wife, who is from Whittier, California (haven’t met her yet). Who would have guessed? His is the first English I’ve heard spoken in several months and it almost sounds foreign to me. Anyway, after several grueling days of cross-country travel I am euphorically sipping a cup of black tea, my first in several weeks! Fortunately I have grown accustomed to Yak milk, and local honey is available. Dawa, the owner, admits he sells far more Yak butter tea than anything else.

I am down to my last pencil nub and make my journal entries on flimsy scraps of paper I manage to buy or beg along the way. Can you imagine what might happen if I pulled a sparkling white ream of 8 ½ x 11, 20 pound bond from my rucksack right now? Very little, probably. Only Dawa might be impressed.

I started out from Rangpur with at least a dozen number two pencils but gave many away, and others were apparently stolen. Will write if I find sufficient paper and an envelope, or just a sheet of paper large enough to fold into an envelope. Remember those thin, blue-paper aerogrammes we once used? My watercolours are almost exhausted so I make few sketches.

Well, the local lads look rather anxious for their turn at the machine and I need to refill my cup so I’d better sign off. Just wanted to let you know I am still alive. I have much to tell you.

Ciyarsa, (or something like that)


Ps I may stay here a few days, or weeks if the weather holds, and if I do I’m sure I’ll be able to email you again before moving on. Nights are still chilly. Dawa has a large photo of a place called Mt. Emei in Sichuan Province, China on the wall above his tea collection. Looks like an interesting destination.

Mar 19, 2010

A Postcard from Whinkla

It’s been several weeks since I received the package Whinkla sent from Yadong and I was relieved to receive a postcard this morning, though I note it was postmarked almost five months ago from what appears to be the town of Lachune. I can’t find the town on any map and Google has no listings, but perhaps I am misreading the name. Here’s the text:


On my way again. Will probably send my completed journals for safekeeping. They grow heavy in my rucksack. I do hope the package I sent earlier arrived safely – OK to open. Climbed several lesser summits in the mount Kabru area, solo, during a ten day trex (stopped short of summits out of respect). Have regained strength and will begin walking north toward China/Mongolia tomorrow via Yumthang valley if possible. Lots of Rhody’s. Wish you were here.


Going to America

The Mauretania II

Length: 772 feet (235.8 m)
Beam: 89 feet (27.2 m)
Tonnage: 35,738 gross tons
Engines: Steam turbines turning two propellers.
Service speed: 23 knots
Passengers: Originally 1,360 people, reduced to 1,127 people during 1962 overhaul.

Going to America, or, Remembering Myself at Nine

It must have been April, and I was nine, and the only entry I had made in my little red diary, a Christmas gift, said simply: “Going to America”. From what scanty records I have somehow managed to save I can determine we were approved for travel to the United States on March 24, 1952. Then on April 26th my father took 100 pounds from a bank account [probably provided by my grandparents] for travel purposes, and on May 6 we were officially admitted into the country at New York.

Of our departure from England I remember little. A word or phrase caught accidentally in my young mental net. My father mentioning at the railroad station the hammer he had stored within reach, (I now use it) in case he was asked to open the trunk or trunks in which we had packed our meager lives. I think I remember feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square in London (I have a picture) though I don’t know whether we spent the night in London (very unlikely) or if we were simply waiting for our train to leave for Southampton. I don’t remember boarding the Mauritania, though I do remember a lot about the ship itself. If it had not been dismantled for scrap in 1965 I think I might even be able to find my way around its decks today, fifty-eight years later. I remember being given two or three of those colouful paper coils, streamers, that I happily and dutifully unfurled as the boat slipped quietly from its English berth. I most likely waved, but to who I can’t imagine. Of our stops in Le Harve, France, and Cork, Ireland, I have no memory. Asleep perhaps. Of the weeklong voyage there is much I remember, but I will keep those memories to myself for the moment.

I don’t remember passing the Statue of Liberty, or docking and disembarking in New York. I vaguely remember my mother and father, my two sisters and myself being driven by my father’s brother, Ronald, up the Hudson River to his apartment in Dobbs Ferry, New York. It’s a little strange, but although this would have been the first time in an automobile, [we may have been driven to the train station in Stourport in a cab] my memories of the ride are questionable. I remember my uncle, as he jockeyed his car back and forth, back and forth into a curbside parking spot saying: “This is where I get my daily exercise”. [Strange the things our minds decide to retain.] My uncle’s apartment was on the second or third floor, perhaps higher, and I remember how I immediately asked my cousin Judy to take me up and down in the elevator, many times. I had never been in an elevator before and thought it very posh, very exciting. After staying a day, perhaps longer, we continued our journey toward Pasadena, California where my father’s parents lived.

I do not remember getting on the train in New York City, nor anything of the trip to Chicago where we changed to another train, the Super Chief. My mother told me years later how a Negro porter (this was 1952) had taken a fancy to us and doted on us the entire way, [this was most probable the Chicago to Pasadena leg of the journey]. Perhaps we were the only children under his charge, or maybe our curious English accents intrigued him, but whatever the reason he apparently took very good care of us during the journey.

My first real memory, after Chicago, is when we stopped in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We got off the train to eat, and stretch our legs but the only thing I remember is the Indians. In my memory they lined the platform, dressed in colourful feathers, shiny beads, silver and turquoise jewelry, the type of dress tourists were expecting, especially those arriving from foreign countries. English boys knew a lot about the American West, all garnered from Hollywood movies and reading western comic books. I was most likely mesmerized by their presence.

So what did my sisters and I do for three, four, or five days on the train? Did we read or colour books? Play “I Spy”? I must have spent considerable time simply looking out the windows, or running up and down the aisles, delighting in the windy and noisy vestibule between cars. Why don’t I remember vast amber fields of grain, or at least newly plowed fields almost as large as England, as we traveled through the Midwest? I can’t recall noticing the deserts of the southwest? I don’t even remember going to the bathroom, or eating, and only once do I have just a hint of memory about walking to the dining car.

My next real memory is of looking out the window at a boulder-strewn, ruddy-coloured mountain side with patches of snow lingering in the shade of large rocks and under the gnarly, widely spaced firs.

I have no other memories until our arrival in Pasadena. I remember the train had slowed and buildings lined each side of the track and then, suddenly, the train was crossing what I later determined was Colorado Boulevard. I got a quick glance down that magical avenue and was astonished at the lines of shiny automobiles and the towering palm trees. Palm trees. Trees I had only read about in books of fantasy, or perhaps seen pictured in a magazine or encyclopedia. Then, just as suddenly the view was blocked by buildings once again until, a moment later, the train arrived at the station in Pasadena, California.

I don’t remember getting off the train, or what must have been the short ride with my grandparents to their home on Hudson Avenue. Had I questioned my parents when they were alive I could have filled in much of my early life, which must now, and forever, remain unknown.

Feb 27, 2010

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

I just returned from a 2600 mile, unintended, ‘road trip’ to Southern California and, while most of what I observed and heard caught my attention, one thing stood out above everything else: the lack of hitchhikers. Doesn’t seem like hitchhiking is a popular form of transportation anymore, except in an emergency, but from the age of 15, until I joined the Air Force at 18, I hitchhiked thousands of miles. In my junior and senior years in high school I skipped classes on numerous occasions to hitchhike fifty plus miles, round trip, to various beach hangouts or, more likely, Bertrand Smith’s Acres of Books in Long Beach, California. On many nights I would hitchhike to coffee houses in Hollywood, or Pasadena, or, more often, to either Bob Hare’s Insomniac Book and Art Fair coffee house in Hermosa Beach, or the Venice West Café further up the coast. I would arrive home very early in the morning, often having had to change my route several times because of lack of traffic, and miss another day of school. And yes, I had many interesting encounters along the way, many of which I may explore here in future posts.

But the greatest hitchhiking adventures were the summer trips to fish streams whose waters were as clear as a vacuum and climb crystalline white granite mountains in the High Sierra, and then, sunburned and sinewy and full of poetry, move on to San Francisco and North Beach. In retrospect I understand now why my mother was so upset when I set off on these journeys. I don’t know how I would have reacted if either of my sons, when they were sixteen or seventeen, had told me they were going to be gone for a couple of months hitch-hiking around the country to unknown destinations, and not be in touch, other than for a very occasional post card. Thankfully I never had to confront that situation. But back to our recent trip. We traveled Interstate 5, highway 99 (How the terrain, no, the landscape has changed since I thumbed my way up and down this highway in the late fifties. How I have changed since I thumbed my way up and down this highway in the late fifties) and numerous roads both in the Los Angeles area and other towns, large and small, along the way. I saw no hitchhikers, not one, not one.

Aren’t there curious, dissatisfied, disillusioned, young dreamers in the country anymore? What happened to the rucksack revolution? Where are the Zen lunatics drunk on Basho and Li Po living these days? Where the angel-headed hipsters? Why don’t I see people hitchhiking the highways with tattered, dog-eared copies of Whitman, Rimbaud, Coleridge, Blake, Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, Corso, etc. weighing down their army surplus backpacks? Where are the romantic, would-be poets with scribbled poems stuffed in their penniless pockets? Doesn’t anyone hitchhike sixty miles to be checkmated in a game of chess with a coffee drinking, pipe-smoking Scandinavian immigrant anymore?

Alas, 2600 miles without a hitchhiker in sight. I might as well have been looking for an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Where have all the flowers gone?

Feb 1, 2010

A Wink from Whinkla

A recent e-Mail from an elderly woman in Caddo, Oklahoma, asked the whereabouts of F. S. Whinkla, and I had to respond I hadn't heard from him for over a year. My last contact was in early January of 2009 when I received a handmade card postmarked Taktshang, Bhutan. On the front was a watercolour sketch of what I presume is a mountain monastery (that’s it at the top of this post), and on the other side a cryptic note: “Further Along”. I kept the card, but put all thoughts of Whinkla out of my mind, knowing that when, or if he felt a need to communicate, he will.

Coincidence? Today I received a fat manila envelope covered with exotic stamps and cryptic markings postmarked, I think, Yadong, Tibet, and my address is in the unmistakable purple scrawl of F. S. Whinkla. I am as excited and as frightened as a five year old contemplating his first day of school.

Jan 30, 2010

Wish I Could Say More about Stay More

In every book, magazine, newspaper, or product package, in fact every printed word, are numerous references to people, places, or events that lead to other people, places, and events that lead to even more people, places, . . .well, you get the idea. But it is impossible to pursue them all because, like an old tree, the branches bifurcate time and time again until the original trunk that spawned the thread is only a dim memory. Eventually one has to say, “enough, I’ve traveled so far along this twig it’s lost any semblance to its parent, I think I’ll back up and try another branch, one with more girth.” But, these peregrinations do make for an interesting, exciting journey, and often lead into areas one would not otherwise have entered.

That’s how I became aware of Donald Harington. I forget what it was I was looking for when I read he had died (November 7, 2009), and that many considered him America’s greatest unrecognized novelist. I had never heard of him, so of course my interest was aroused. I had to get my hands on one of his books and quickly succeeded with “Farther Along”.

“Farther Along” was definitely different from the hundreds of other novels I had read, but like T. C. Boyle, and a few other contemporary authors, an entertaining read. I am now in the enjoyable process of reading his other twelve (I think) novels that feature, in one way or another, the mythic Ozark mountain town of Stay More. His novels are, if not unique, definitely a departure from the dry fodder we are usually offered and deserve far more attention.

Jan 15, 2010

Frida by Frida - Some Thoughts

I’ve only read about 1/3 of the book so my comments and reflections may change, though that seems unlikely. For anyone interested in Frida Kaho, her life and work, this is a book that should be read. I can think of no better way to attempt to understand a person than through their uncensored, unabridged letters, journals, notes, etc. I was immediately devastated by the loneliness and aloneness permeating her letters. The earliest note is dated November 30, 1922 and the last is written on March 13, 1954. Almost from the beginning her letters seem to be a cry for recognition, a yearning, a terrible need to be acknowledged, accepted, touched in some way. Her letters invariably end with heartfelt expressions of love, and pleas for response. Here, as a teenager, the deep, unrequited love she felt for Alejandro Arias that led to so much disappointment and despair sends shudders down my spine. If only I had had a girlfriend as passionately devoted to me at seventeen!

And as if polio wasn’t enough the accident, at eighteen, changed her life dramatically. I don’t think she ever recovered physically or, more importantly, emotionally.

This is a tragic yet poignant story: yet one overflowing with inspiration for the flagging spirit. How she persevered through such travails is beyond the comprehension of those of us who have lead relatively uneventful lives, lives without major trauma, physical or otherwise. Many among us do suffer, perhaps more than Frida, yet somehow manage to build useful, meaningful and productive lives. The human spirit is more resilient than we are willing to give it credit for. That Frida never (rarely) lashed out at God, the tram driver, practicing doctors, unfaithful friends, life itself, or anyone or anything else during her troubling life impresses me. Most of us are quick to blame something or someone else for our troubles; it’s easier that way.

It’s hard for me to imagine spending week after week on my back encased in plaster, unable to move much more than a finger or an eyelash while friends danced and traveled and sipped coffee at a neighborhood cafe. And then with what I can only refer to as a sort of stoic resolve enduring the numerous operations, hoping each time for improvement, only to find the procedures had had little success. And there is the emotional harm inflicted by her philandering husband Diego Rivera - more than many of us could or would accept.

That she endured her life until the age of 47 is in itself worth honoring, and then to have produced so many remarkable paintings. . .

Frida wrote in her diary, a few days before her death, which may have been a suicide:

"Espero alegre la salida – y espero no volver jamás."

“I wait for a happy exit – and I hope never to return.”

Frida Kahlo

Jan 14, 2010

Perchance to Read

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.

Jorge Luis Borges

Like most people I read for a variety of reasons. I read for information because I am curious about everything, from astronomy to zoology, though I admit I often don’t fully understand everything I read, especially in the sciences. I do not read political, economic, or so called ‘self-help’ books. At times I get mired down in books on religion and philosophy but eventually manage to move on for a time to other subjects.

I read for pleasure, though much of what I place in that category may not resonate with others. I enjoy books by or about writers and artists, even scholarly tomes filled with details and the minutiae of their lives and work. I just received 32 back issues of Paeiduma, a journal devoted to the study of Ezra Pound and his circle and I have been happily reading my way through them whenever I have a free moment.

My bedside table is stacked with books I am in the process of reading, and I skip back and forth as my mood dictates. Here’s what I’m enjoying now:

Zen in English Literature – R. H. Blyth (I first read this around 1975 as a 33 year old drop-out, and I can say I find it as interesting now as it was then.)

Notes From an Italian Garden – Joan Marble (after reading ‘A Year in Provence’ by Peter Mayle, and all of Frances Mayes’ books I have been loosing myself in the countryside of various Mediterranean countries whenever I can.)

Mogollon Diary No. 2 – Bill Rakocy

Paideuma Volume 11, #1

Frida by Frida - Raquel Tibol (more on this later)

The Cockroaches of Stay More, and Butterfly Weed – Donald Harington (I didn’t become aware of this author until a few days after his death on November 7th of last year. Now I fear the day when I close his last book.)

Tooth and Claw – T. C. Boyle (Almost always a pleasure to read.)

Apache – Will Comfort

Wah-To-Yah and the Taos Trail – Lewis Garrard

The Legend of Semimaru - Blind Musician of Japan - Susan Matisoff

Numerous magazines including: Wine Spectator, Audubon, Garden Design, Architectural Digest, The English Garden, Smithsonian, Nature Conservancy, Art In America, and Artnews.

Upstairs I keep a shelf for new arrivals - books I keep at arms length for the present, averting my gaze whenever I pass by. It looks like I need to add another shelf.

Jan 13, 2010

Bathtub Baudelaire

When you have a library of several thousand volumes scattered throughout seven rooms and an outbuilding sometimes a book ‘goes missing’. Over the years many of my books have disappeared, often following visits from friends and family. I suppose the feeling was: "with so many books how can he notice?" Well, I did and do notice, and while I once felt rather violated (especially since in most instances I would have gladly given the book away if asked) I’ve reached a point, an age, where the loss of books is less traumatic. Of course there were instances (usually after a reorganization) when I thought a volume had been ‘borrowed’, only to later discover it tucked in an unexpected place. A case in point occurred today, and it was a pleasant surprise. Today I decided I no longer needed several feet of watercolour instructional books, and that the space could be put to better use housing T. C. Boyle, Robertson Davies, Donald Harington, Pound, Lewis, and Camus. Imagine my surprise, as I packed books into boxes to be taken to the library for their annual sale, when I discovered my tattered, rubber-banded paperback copy of Baudelaire’s ‘The Mirror of Art’! I had looked for this book several times during the past twenty years, always without success, and although I never considered it a book someone had ‘borrowed’ I was at a loss to explain its whereabouts. All those years it was waiting, shelved between books on human anatomy and Etruscan tomb paintings.

I remember the last time I was reading it, and the joy it brought me. I was lying in the bathtub after a miserable day spent planting trees in driving rain at near freezing temperatures, in actuality I was probably hypothermic. With the water nearly as hot as my water heater could manage I submerged myself, waiting for my body temperature to return to normal, and, being one of those persons who cannot spend more than a few moments without something to read at hand, I was reading ‘the Mirror of Art’. I was transported to a time and place a long way from the fiberglass tub. I look forward to bedtime, and the opportunity to continue the book from where I left off. Whether Baudelaire will bring the same joy I recall from so many years ago is something I can only hope for. If not, I have Beckett and Joyce, and several biographies to frolic with.

Now, if I could only rid myself of this persistent cold and sinus infection.