SF Chronicle Headlines/ And, the Tenth Most Gorgeous Day So Far …

There’s a huge bag of Bumper Crop Organic Soil Builder in the trunk of my car, am just waiting for hubby to get home from work to help me unload it.

Yes, hubby had to spend another Saturday in the office, though, being that this is St. Patrick’s day, did entertain slight suspicion that dear man might have disappeared to a bar somewhere to watch the day’s NCAA basketball games šŸ™‚

Anyway, weather gorgeous, am so in love with this day that in spite of getting a $25 parking ticket this morning in Burlingame — was with Dearest Mum in Copenhagen, and missed the meter man by ONE minute; in fact, saw him writing the ticket as was crossing the street but he pulled away just as self began to give chase (am convinced these people have highly developed sixth sense that tells them when irate car owners are bearing down) — am still in a relatively good mood, and am calmly reading the papers.

Dropped Dearest Mum off at SFO after breakfast in Copenhagen; at this very moment her plane is ascending the deep blue sky and heading towards Las Vegas. Advised Mum to buy People magazine and get all the latest gossip on Brad and Angelina.

The Chronicle I’m reading is two days old, but who cares. On page A5 (next to fetching picture of sarong-clad Singapore Airlines stewardess) is the headline CHIQUITA TO PAY FINE FOR HIRING TERROR GROUP IN COLOMBIA. Directly in front of me are five yellow bananas, with the Safeway sticky still on. Quick check: am relieved to see sticky says Del Monte. And, furthermore, tiny letters encircling Del Monte logo say these bananas are from Ecuador, not Colombia.

It seems Chiquita hired the Colombian terrorist group “for protection in a volatile farming region.” Paid the terrorists $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004. Now they have to pay US government a fine of $25 million. That’ll teach them!



The article begins as follows:

The president of the leading Southern Baptist seminary has incurred sharp attacks from both the left and right by suggesting that a biological basis for homosexuality may be proven and that prenatal treatment to reverse gay orientation would be biblically justified.

Anyway, the rest of the article is too stupid to quote further. Remarks were uttered by the Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., who Chronicle describes as “one of the country’s pre-eminent evangelical leaders.” Amazing, I have never heard of this personage before. How could he have survived so long under the radar?

Sage remark was endorsed by “prominent Roman Catholic thinker,” the Rev. Joseph Fessio (WHO???), “provost of Ave Maria University in Naples, FLA and editor of Ignatius Press.”

“Same-sex activity is considered disordered,” Fessio said. “If there are ways of detecting diseases or disorders of children in the womb and a way of treating them that respected the dignity of the child and mother, it would be a wonderful advancement of science.”

‘Nuff said.

Like a Scene From “Silence of the Lambs”

Finished reading Dear Nell yesterday, am now beginning new collection, Adam Haslett’s You Are Not A Stranger Here (Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday, 2002). Browsing the web to find out more about said author (who — pardon me, but a lot of things tend to go over my head in the course of conducting my daily life, and would hate not finding out if Haslett had won, say, a Pulitzer or Pen/ Faulkner), find that Jonathan Franzen selected the book I am now holding in my hands as only the second selection of the Today Show’s Book Club. (When was there ever such a thing? Oh, aha, see that yes, there is such a thing, as current selection is called Green with Envy, written by one Shira Boss. Subtitle: Why Keeping up with the Joneses is Keeping Us in Debt. Definitely, this book club does not have the impact of Oprah.)

All right, back to the book I’m reading. In Story # 5, “War’s End” (set in, I think, Scotland, as there is mention of “Saint Andrews”, “golf”; have no idea why story is called what it is, when none of the characters seem to be suffering from war stress and seem far too young to have experienced World War I, World War II, Vietnam, or any of the smaller foreign wars: Somalia, Croatia, etc.), a young couple have arrived at St. Andrews where the wife, a graduate student, is hoping to do some research.

See from further browsing the web that this city is a lovely, old one, is the “focus for the national cult of St. Andrew,” and that “it became in the middle ages a religious centre of major importance.” Set on a promontory overlooking the sea, has many old buildings, a prestigious university (Didn’t one of Diana’s boys study there?).

Husband in the story, Paul, has been diagnosed with depression. Has quit his job (as a high school teacher), does nothing but lie in bed all day, follow his wife about. But, as story begins, Paul seems to have formulated vague resolve with regards to “the dark face of the cliffs.” Conversation between this man and his wife, Ellen, is heartbreaking, full of helpless silences. Next day, Paul heads alone to the cliffs. While standing over water, thinks, It is better this way.

Just as reader is preparing for the worst, voice intrudes (on us and Paul): ” ‘Scuse me, dear, could you give me a hand?” Voice turns out to belong to little old lady with a pet dog (Could author be channeling Chekhov? How very cheeky of him, then, to make the lady with the pet dog old, rather than young and fetching!)

Paul, now inexplicably drawn to lady with pet dog, follows her to her house at “the end of a cobbled street.” House has a strangely disturbing smell, “something close. A rotting.” Lady is preternaturally friendly, offers him tea, remarks on his eyebags. Invites him back to lunch next day.

Paul, still not knowing why he does so, returns for lunch (potatoes and rosemary lamb, “fresh from the abbatoir”–!). Smells the same rot. Lady leads him to a back room, which author describes thus:

Running along the far side of the room, completely obscuring the windows, is a wall of clear plastic gallon buckets filled with what appears to be petroleum jelly. They’ve been arranged in a single row and stacked from floor to ceiling. Along the adjacent wall stands a metal clothes rack on wheels holding twenty or more identical blue track suits. A side-board across from this is laid with dishes of lamb, potatoes, and string beans. Mrs. McLaggan stands in the middle of the room under another naked lightbulb. At the center is a table set for two.

The low ceiling, the electric light, the pale brown walls, the strange provisions all give the room the feel of a way station on some forgotten trade route, or a bunker yet to hear news of the war’s end.

Has Mr. Haslett (who, at the time this book was published was still in Yale Law School) been unduly influenced by that Jonathan Demme movie, Silence of the Lambs? Or Jeepers Creepers? Don’t know about you, dear blog reader, but when self is introduced (along with main protagonist) into a house that stinks of rotting flesh, and is asked to partake of meat in a room with plastic gallon buckets of “what appears to be petroleum jelly”, I’m thinking, ick-ily, of body parts, rendered fat and other such morbid things.

But, not to worry! Source of smell is readily explained: there is another occupant in the house, a young boy, whose “face and neck are red and crusted with dry skin.” Leprosy, I think immediately. No, only psoriasis.

At end of story, Paul writes his wife a note at train station: I’ve been a burden long enough.

Then, instead of throwing himself under wheels of approaching train, unaccountably runs back to old lady’s stinky house, goes to the psoriasis victim’s bedroom, sits down and asks if the boy, Albert, would like to hear a story.

Albert nods. It is not thanks Paul sees in his expression but forgiveness.

“Tell me about the kings.”

End of story. What the hell was that???

This story was first published in BOMB Magazine, to which I once subscribed. I have read some interesting stories in said magazine, but if self were reading this after purchasing said magazine, might feel inclined to ask for my money back . . .

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