Another From Rinker Buck

Somewhere a few pages ago, Rinker Buck mentions that he is part Irish.

The Sentence of the Day is from The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey (Was reading this in Cork and the irony was rich: She was reading about of all things mules while listening to mostly cello music in a fabulous Irish city).

A rumination on the memory of Buck’s Dear Departed Dad:

Buck’s Dad: You’re not quitting. You just keep going . . .

Buck, years later: The idea that I could be doing quite a lot by not doing anything at all, just by not quitting, was quite beyond me at the time, but I did feel that night that I had the pioneer spirit.

Very wise, Mr. Buck.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: Rinker Buck

“I cannot enjoy my life unless I am overactive, or find a challenge that makes me ebullient.”

— Rinker Buck, The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

Self bought five books on this trip: five big, fat books. What was she thinking?

When she arrived in Cork, two days ago, she found that the platform exit was down a long cement ramp.

Of course, it was easy to roll two suitcases down a ramp.

What self completely failed to appreciate was that, if there is a downhill, there must be an uphill.

She decided to tackle this uphill ramp by finding the right attitude. That is, by sucking it up. About a quarter of the way, she stopped dead and had a most inconvenient thought: I will need a crane.

Then, an older woman in a black pantsuit turned and said, “Come on, give me the bags.” Self was all like, No! These are my bags! These are my punishment!

But the woman decided to pretend self was not protesting, and reached for the bigger of her suitcases.

All the way up the ramp self apologized. At the top, she reached for her big suitcase, absolutely dying with shame. The woman said, matter-of-factly, “I knew you’d never make it up that ramp.”

Meanwhile, it occurs to self that she cannot handle both these bags by herself when she needs to be off and on trains. Constantly.

But, since self has no choice, she decides that an attitude of cheerful denial is the best policy. After all, it’s always worked for her before.

The reason she knows it’s worked for her before is: she has never let go of the notion that suitcases, no matter how heavy, are no big deal. There is terrible disconnect here, but the importance of this notion, this notion of self-punishment followed by absolute self-reliance, is obviously something vital to self’s personality. Why, she has no idea. As vital notions go, this one’s pretty bruising.

Last year, she remembers being helped onto a London bus by the driver himself (No San Francisco MUNI driver would ever relinquish the steering wheel of a bus to help a batty woman. Self’s just saying) He reached down and grabbed her suitcase. After, he said: “I tell you, it must be really nice to leave home knowing you’ve brought all your books with you.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Mules and How They Saved America

Did dear blog readers know that George Washington was a mule breeder? No? He sired out his mules (especially one very prolific mule named Royal Jack, a gift of the King of Spain to America, in 1785)

from Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, p. 36:

  • Mules have a slightly larger cranial cavity than horses, and thus larger brains, and are more intelligent and judgmental. Mules also possess, from their donkey side, a more feral, self-preservationist nature, and intensely dislike putting themselves in danger . . .  Two related feral traits of mules — a keen sense of smell and acute hearing — made them legendary on frontier farms and the overland trails, at least to men sensitive enough to understand them.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading: A Friend’s Memoir

The friend is Kathleen J. Burkhalter, and her memoir is called The Greatest of These Is Love: Selections From Kathleen’s Celebration of Daily Life, edited by David Bell

  • It takes courage to begin writing because to write is to reveal. When you live in a critical environment, it is hard to write authentically. Even to begin writing is an act of bravery. But on the other hand, writing is a form of liberation. Like singers who sing, or composers who make music, or artists who paint, the use of one’s talent is an essential element of being happy.

— p. 116, The Greatest of These Is Love, vol. III

Kathleen Joaquin Burkhalter was born in Augusta, Georgia and grew up in Baguio, Mountain Province, in the Philippines. Her mother was from plantation families in Pampanga and Marinduque, and her father was from a colonial Georgia family. Kathleen would proudly say, “I am 100% Filipino and 100% American.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

In Honor of International Women’s Day

Books that rocked self’s world:

  • Break It Down, by Lydia Davis
  • Empty Chairs, by Liu Xia
  • The Charm Buyers, by Lillian Howan
  • Yes (A screenplay), by Sally Potter
  • The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
  • Night Willow, by Luisa Igloria
  • Palayok: Philippine Food Through Time, by Doreen Fernandez
  • The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
  • Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill
  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  • After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
  • Memories Flow In Our Veins: Forty Years of Women’s Writings from Calyx, edited by the Calyx Editorial Collective
  • The Infernal Devices Trilogy, by Cassandra Clare
  • Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
  • Going Home to a Landscape: a Filipino Women’s Anthology, edited by Virginia Cerenio and Marianne Villanueva

The Conversion of the Iroquois

Montcalm and Wolfe is filled with references to the Iroquois. What happened to them? They were a mighty player in the French/British battles, with a capital city named Onondaga. And now they’ve just disappeared?

Self is suddenly consumed with curiosity.

An energetic French missionary named Fr. Piquet was particularly successful in converting them.

  • “The nature of the spiritual instruction bestowed by Piquet and his fellow-priests may be partly inferred from the words of a proselyte warrior, who declared with enthusiasm that he had learned from the Sulpitian missionary that the King of France was the eldest son of the wife of Jesus Christ.”

Since the Iroquois seem to have vanished, self has to assume that their conversion was simply a prelude to their — er, complete loss of agency, and eventual disappearance from the historical record.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Sentence of the Day: from Moving to Mars, by Tom Kizzia (The New Yorker, 20 April 2015)

In the Mauna Loa dome, crew members simply roll their eyes when Binsted’s far-flung volunteer assistants do something lame, like expecting an immediate response to an e-mail sent when everyone is still asleep, because the sender forgot that eMars, like Hawaii, is not on daylight-saving time.

Stay tuned.

WSJ Bookshelf: 24 January 2017

William F. Bynum begins a review of Is It All In Your Head? by Suzanne O’Sullivan with this amazing paragraph:

Over a century ago, Alice James (1848 – 1892), sister of the novelist Henry and the psychologist and philosopher William, spent her life going from doctor to doctor with vague symptoms, tiredness and pains most prominent among them. Like Henry, she eventually gravitated to England, where she was happier, because “the god Holiday (was) worshipped so perpetually and effectually.” There at last she got a definite diagnosis: breast cancer. Although it was her death sentence, she was ecstatic, recording in her diary: “Ever since I have been ill, I have longed and longed for some palpable disease, no matter how conventionally dreadful a label it might have.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG

Self really does not like the title of this novel.

Maybe because it turns something ugly into something lyrical.

There’s not even the faintest bit of lyricism or poetry in murder. Self thinks Truman Capote skirted a very fine line in In Cold Blood. But, by God, he did it.

In The Executioner’s Song, despite heroic efforts by Norman Mailer to turn Gary Gilmore, murderer and misogynist and also self-pitying whiner into a kind of American anti-hero (Why even bother), self reaches p. 366 (not even halfway; this is a 1,000-page book) and Gary Gilmore is still nothing more than a murderer/misogynist/self-pitying whiner.

Nevertheless!

Here she is. This sentence is not half-bad. In fact, it’s pretty funny:

If you were asleep, and the alarm went off, and you were under such tension you thought it was a fire siren, and saw imaginary flames and leaped out of a high window into eternity, well, it hardly mattered then whether your normal label had been psychopathic, manic, melancholic, or obsessive-compulsive, you could be sure to be called psychotic as you went through the window.

Mailer speaks truth.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Magellan Without Elcano

Ferdinand Magellan set out from Seville with five ships in 1519.

Two years later, he was dead on a Philippine island.

Why does he get credit for the “first circumnavigation of the globe”?

If it weren’t for Juan Sebastian Elcano, who completed the circle, there would be no circumnavigation.

Self thinks the return leg was just as important — no, more — than the first leg.

Magellan set out with five ships and 270 men. Stocked to the gills, supported by experienced crew. Two years later, it was left to Elcano to return a demoralized crew back to Spain. He did it in one year, with one ship, the Victoria, which sailed from the Philippines to Borneo, across the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope, north along the west coast of Africa, finally reaching Spain on 6 September 1522, with 18 of the original 270 men.

Now, that’s a journey. That’s epic.

Three years later, Elcano went on another expedition, but this time he was not so lucky. According to Wikipedia, Elcano died while on the Loaisa expedition to claim the East Indies on behalf of Charles I of Spain.  The cause of death was malnutrition.

Stay tuned.

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