gall and gumption

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy Dogs

That's what they've been since my Dad has been back. Here you can see each doing her favorite thing, though one thing you can't get from a picture is the noise that she makes while she's in this position. These coquettish moans:

Misha's idea of a good time that doesn't involve the car pretty much consists of this:

Sweetie's completely over her depression (combination of smoke alarm at the underground cave and my cell phone). Also she has learned that when a bunch of dogs are running around together and wrestling it isn't necessarily a fight.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Close Thing

My scattered extended family is all a little rattled today. If you look at a map of Jamaica you will see that Kingston Harbor is bounded to the east by a long narrow peninsula. It's called the Palisadoes Peninsula "Palisadoes" for short, which is what we also called the airport before it was named for Norman Manley, and the city of Port Royal was at the very end of it (half of Port Royal sank into the sea in the earthquake of 1692). The airport is out near the end of it. At the point where the peninsula attaches to the mainland is a roundabout. Because of the crash, police had stopped all traffic to Palisadoes. My cousin got to the barricade on her way out to pick up her son, who was arriving on that flight. The plane landed but for some reason couldn't stop and would have shot right off the end of the runway into the sea except it got stopped by a sort of embankment. The water is warm, of course, and it's also quite shallow--I doubt that right there it's even as much as five feet deep. So probably if they had skidded right into it they would have been all right too. But still, this was quite as bad as it needed to be.

Niko Hurley, who was travelling from San Francisco and connected in Miami, told the Observer that the lights in the plane went out, the overhead bin opened and luggage fell onto his head.

"We smelt fuel and realised that some people were injured and we began to help them out of the plane because we weren't sure if there was a bomb or something," he said.

His mother, Bambi Fowles, who was on her way to pick up her son, cried as she told the Observer that she heard about the accident when she got to the Harbour View roundabout and saw that it was blocked by police.

"I begged and begged the policeman to let me through," she said, her voice cracking. "I'm just so relieved because I feared the worst."

My Dad gave me my first driving lesson on a stretch of tarmac that runs parallel to the runway out there. I was eleven and we were waiting for someone's flight that was delayed. The site is also near where we used to go in my father's first boat, a little old wooden powerboat that he had bought used when I was about seven; we'd pile everybody into it (including my cousin Bambi) and go creeping through the mangrove that grows all along there--there's actually a gap in it along the airport waterfront)--the water was shallow and clear and clean, not like now, and my Dad and my uncles would swim among the roots and pick oysters off them for us to eat. That was how I first ate fresh oysters, small and gritty and tasty. Beyond the airport on the way to Port Royal was a forgotten graveyard that my parents, my brother, and I used to visit when I was very small. We'd drive out there on a Sunday morning usually. Almost everyone buried in it had died of yellow fever in the 18th and 19th century. They were soldiers and people who for one reason or another were associated with the garrison. I suppose someone must have figured out that the reason so many were dying was because they were posted to a garrison on the edge of, literally, a fever swamp. But that might have been one of those things where the interested parties thought it was worth the risk. During slavery days the planters liked having lots of soldiers around in case of insurrections. Reading the gravestones was extra entertainment; what we really went there for was to pick and eat sea grapes, which grew abundantly there. My mind roams along that Palisadoes shore, place of so many memories for me, because right now I miss the places and I think of my cousin Bambi and all of her extended family on her mother's side; we were all just sort of the family when I was growing up; we all played together, spent nights sometimes six of us crowded into a bed (sleeping crossways) chatting and laughing and just being kids way into the night; later, in my last few years I remember how being picked up after school was this major undertaking as the driver would sort of do this tour of Kingston picking up the various children from the various schools, and then the car, practically bursting from the sheer numbers of us, would then go to my father's office where we'd sort of wait to be redistributed to our various houses. And I remember how just decent they all are, of their simple dogged loyalty and unfailing kindness and gentleness to one another. I can call up the images of them as children, all of them, their faces as they were then, and I can remember outings and adventures and sometimes just long boring visits to the country, where some of them lived, and I cannot remember among the whole gang of ten or twelve of them a single unkind act or word. Bambi and I more than made up for the deficit in bitchiness though, and we spread it around liberally. And what was the result? Nothing but a lot of time wasted between me and her, quarelling and misunderstanding each other, only to learn at last that neither of us is quite what the other thought we were. Now we can talk; we share that Jamaican childhood and all the family memories from that time, not all of them as pleasant as all our messing about in boats. We don't so much explain as compare notes. I have really only two or three people I can do this with about that period of my life. So this all came close to home, and I wish I wasn't quite so far from them just now.

How did that happen? Well, some of us just have to leave home without knowing if we'll ever really get back or how. To quote the Stanley Brothers, it's "the price I have paid, to live and to learn."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow Days

I took a long walk with Sweetie late in the day yesterday, part of the way along Long Branch and the snow on the rocks with the water flowing black between them was just somehow very moving. I think it's an image that Kurosawa likes, too; it seems to turn up a lot in his films. I wonder what it is about water, stones, snow? We walked all the way to New Hampshire Ave below where it crosses University and then took the long long way back. The few people that were out seemed to share the same spirit of adventure and novelty I was feeling. Everybody seemed extra nice.

More of same today, took another long walk in the middle of the day, except that now Sweetie is heartily fed up with snow. There's a field near here where I let her run off leash and when she ran into it her feet couldn't touch the ground--the snow was over my knees--so she was very annoyed. The thing Sweetie hates most of all on earth ls Losing Control of the Situation. She would take these standing leaps straight up into the air to get out of it, leap-plunge. It looked funny as hell but she was not amused. After that she just wanted to get home, anybody's house would do--she kept dashing up onto people's porches which is what she does when she's out and it's raining very hard. Every snowbank was a negotiation. We've lived here for four years and this is the biggest snowfall we've seen. She didn't seem to have an opinion about snow one way or the other in all these years, but now she has apparently made up her mind that she doesn't like it. I don't expect that to change, unfortunately.

Misha went out with my Dad yesterday only to take a dump. This was the first of two outings with this purpose, and it was a failure because she refused to uh, "perform" in the snow and dragged him all over the neighborhood looking for somewhere where there was no snow, just maybe some grass and leaves which is what she likes. She is one of those dogs (usually female) who always have to make a big to-do whenever they poop. Pace up and down and find the right spot, get into position and then sort of shimmy back and forth back and forth until their mysterious and complex criteria for the Ideal Poop Experience are all met. And that's when conditions are favorable, which they weren't yesterday. There was snow all over everything. She gave up altogether after what for her is a long long walk. Dragged my Dad home, he was wet, cold, and annoyed as all hell. And then he had to go out with her again maybe an hour later when she couldn't hold it in any more and didn't care where she went. That was Misha and the Great Outdoors.

The Mysterious West: Be the Life of the Party!

The text below the "image" on the box says "with Drink Recipe Suggestions" and "Enhance Any Drink with Mr. Penis Ice."

Seriously now. Admit it. I live near the Mother Lode, the Source, of Occidental Mystery. You would have to prove to me, with pictures, that you live near a dollar store that can beat this one. A couple nights ago after work I took my dog for a walk and we walked by it, just to stand and look at the windows. The word that comes to mind to describe the overall effect is "frantic."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Possible Proof of the Essential Benignity of the Universe #384

A Man Named Poonanny.

Juke joint full of smoke,
Men lined up around the walls
Every time she bend over
You can see it all.
Let's go baby,
You got a hole in your drawers.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Ramming Home the Fruitful Tidings

From this morning's Guardian story announcing the winner of the Literary Review's bad sex in fiction award:

The American winner of the Prix Goncourt, Jonathan Littell, has added another feather to his cap. His novel, The Kindly Ones, was tonight announced as the winner of the Literary Review's 2009 bax[sic] sex in fiction award.

The Kindly Ones, which tells the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of one of the executioners, beat off stiff competition from a stellar shortlist that included entries from Philip Roth, John Banville, Paul Theroux and the literary rock star Nick Cave.[emphasis added--ed.]