The Médoc Peninsula features a gravelly soil, which the winter wind, coming off the Atlantic Ocean, flings into the swells of rolling lowlands. Salt and grit, then, imbue themselves into the vine. The summer sun cooks the salt and grit after long, soaking rains drench the soil and the vines. The vines while away the summer by sucking everything that might be considered a nutrient into itself, the sun, the wind, and the sucking clasping hands together in a common effort to cause pollens of every sort of weed to be infused into the grapes, which are trampled and pressed, dumped into great vats to be left to the ravages of yeast consuming the sugars, then stored in wooden barrels in musty basements.
A discussion concerning the restrictions on property ownership devolves into a rock common to two property lines and then devolves further into this song of praise:
That night I imagined her body, in its full glory, without even trying to stop the image from coming into my consciousness. Hers was the body of a mother who had not yet given birth; every curve was designed for life, to receive life, to bear life, to feed life, to hold life upon her hip while life frolicked about her ankles. She was radiant, her body, without the burden or obfuscation of those clouds, those clothes, a shining light, a bursting dawn, a dawn and light which I always saw from her smile and in her eyes, but here, in the imagination of my mind, the source of light a sunshine not seen with the eyes of a man; it was seen by the eyes of God. I reached out to touch her body, but I did not know the touch of a woman, and my mind could not imagine what sensation light from heaven would give.
Sometimes great ideas are completely without context. You can have this one:
TV Melodrama, 10 pm, Wednesday, ABC (I think).
A high-powered lawyer, on his way home from his posh Manhattan offices, driving his Mercedes E-class too fast after a few too many drinks, strikes a young boy playing ball in the street, paralyzing him for life. Utterly distraught, he seeks to redeem himself by using his lawyer powers to wander the country, interceding where he can…
Each episode features our redemption-seeking hero wrestling the keys away from someone he knows is about to make a terrible mistake, handing the would-be perpetrator a pre-paid phone, and the catch phrase, “I’ve already paid to get you home.” On the phone is the Uber app, already active.
Now that the lawyer is one step closer to redemption, we hear the tagline of this television melodrama: “Ron Darby is…The Breathalyzer.”
Alta Vista did not, as is commonly thought, simply fold or become absorbed into a larger tech company. It morphed, with offices in New York, into an independent research company, mostly for hire by firms looking for a competitive edge against a rival firm. Alta Vista became AltVista. First Vice-President for Account Analysis Robert Hughes turned the knob on his office door at 8:55 am, as he did every morning, whether the train was early or late, entering, throwing his laptop case on the couch, pressing the brew button on his Keurig machine, and staring out his window down into the city, where he could just see the corner of Madison Square Park until his cup of coffee was brewed.
“French Roast,” he said. “So this is what the pavement in France tastes like.”
He took the cup from the machine and sipped, lifting his eyes to gaze out the window, thinking how many people were scurrying to be at work on time, as if it mattered, but they should have made allowance for time, like he did, so that at least appearances were kept up. Look at them, he mused to himself. The wealth of the nations, scurrying to push history forward, one cog at a time, until the cog comes around again, and then…” He couldn’t bear to finish the thought. He began another thought. They’re only me, just five minutes behind. I’m only five minutes ahead, so I’ll see it close down upon me just before they see it close down upon them. He lifted his cup to take another sip. At least I have a nice house…
At that moment, whether by the stimulating power of coffee, or by a change in the light reflecting from inside the window, VP Hughes became aware of another person in his office, someone behind him, sitting on the couch. Startled, he spun. “Oh, hello!” he started, then, “Oh, good lord…” A robot was sitting on his couch. Continue reading “The Unwelcome Thrust of Progress (Part 1)”→
“How do you become an adviser to the King?” I asked.
“Blood relationships, on the one hand,” he said. “And financial relationships, on the other hand. The same way one becomes king to begin with.”
I stopped short again. “This is not what we were taught as children.”
“Again, I ask you,” he said. “Are you yet a child?”
“No,” I sighed. “I suppose not. But please allow me—”
He recommenced walking. The King, I had been taught, had, before all remembrances and histories, appeared in the midst of the city, a direct descendant of God. He never died, because he was not mortal, like us, and he never made mistakes. He renewed himself from time-to-time, usually to renew his youth and vigor, but sometimes to renew his political ideas, and we all rejoiced these occasions by remembering his enthronement at the very founding of The City.
My father’s dead eyes pierced me from deep within somewhere. I grew angry.
“Advisers are chosen,” said Lily’s uncle, “according to a formula which states that, for each ability lacking in daily life, an ability is added for court diplomacy.”
“Rejects, dimwits, and nincompoops,” I said. I was beginning to see that the palace was shrinking. “Game pieces for other people to move.”
“Ah!” exclaimed Lily’s uncle, “You cannot omit the cleverest piece of all, who moves himself: the power broker.”
“Who is that?” I asked.
“One who is among those who are disguised as rejects, dimwits and nincompoops.”
The strange bottle was beginning to work its magic, like a falling stone. I began to feel dizzy. I noticed that Lily’s Uncle was laughing at nothing, and he couldn’t stop.
We struggled together up the hill. I was thankful that I had delivered over my hide. Shur-qa-hil burped and spit, and he cursed, “By God! I despise that wretched wine of my aristocratic, pompous, brother! It has made me weak, like some fat king of the west!” He put his hands on his knees and heaved a great cough. I thought he was going be relieved of a burden, but he recovered himself. Was I supposed to laugh?
“Laugh, little boy!” he roared, then he himself laughed. “We shall make a fine pair, stumbling through the barbarian hordes as one of their own!” He began to sing, like a fire consuming dry brush in the spring:
“Bertram?” the vicar peeked around the door, scanning each hospital bed for his quarry. “Bertram?” Three beds were empty; the fourth held a sleeping figure. Bertram was laid out on his back, angled by the cruelty of hospital beds, and propped into that unnatural sleep by a drip of some sort and hot pillows. A third time the vicar called, venturing nearer the bed, “Betram?”
Bertram’s eyes came open, looking upward into the white of the ceiling. He scanned. The vicar drew near to him and sat down. The rustle of the vicar’s jacket pulled Bertram’s eyes away from the ceiling and toward the vicar. “Vicar!” he tried to exclaim, but phlegm blocked the greeting so that the vicar was greeted by an exuberant, thick cough.
“Lois told me you broke your hip.”
“Darnedest thing, Vicar,” laughed Bertram. “I was walking to turn off the lamp—you know where the lamp is—we run the cord for the lamp under the carpet there. Well, I tripped over the cord, fell down, and I heard my hip go ‘snap.’”
The vicar nodded. The nurse came tumbling in, saying, “His hip broke, then he fell.” The vicar nodded again.
“Lily,” the beer made me say, “is making things happen to me.”
“Lily,” said her uncle, “Lily is a catalyst.”
“A catalyst,” he said. “Your character is responding to her, and you are unfamiliar with the response because it is visceral and you cannot control it; it must feel similar to that day of the battle for your city.”
“Yes,” I said, pondering. “Come to think of it, it does.” I pulled my feet up under my chair. “It is a thrill to look at her—to put my eyes upon her—to imagine her figure—”
“Tut!” he interrupted, laughing. “Speak carefully, O Nathet! You have a habit of speaking too colorfully.”
“Surely,” I said, shaking my head, looking directly at him from under my own brow, “surely we must be able to speak to each other colorfully if we are to be companions upon the highways.”
He laughed, saying, “Indeed, and we must be able to speak colorfully upon the wilderness roads and when we are lost, as well! Do continue.”
“It is a thrill, as I was saying, to imagine her figure; it is not as though she hides her figure, even though the outward effort is there, using the dark clothing as a cloud, but her figure is so clearly evident,” I said, “that the imagination is forced to work in that particular direction.”
He said nothing, but he fingered his cup.
“And she’s such a mystery,” I continued. “A mystery. She has treasured up knowledge in music, especially, but she is able to speak music. Speak music. When she talks, it is the same as a song—not the music, as in the melody—it is the artistry, the wisdom, the poetry—the words, and she walks those words. I see those words in her figure, and it is music when she moves it.”
He continued looking at his cup without a comment.
“When I left my home that day, I had decided to leave for the sake of leaving. Now I desire to leave, even more earnestly, not to leave but to find something.”
“Then to return?” he asked.
“Then to return,” I said.
“For her?” he asked.
“It is a mystery,” I returned. “I don’t know what I will find.”
An army had broken through from the east two years ago. They did not destroy crops or buildings. They did murder people. They murdered brutally the leaders of the people. I had never heard this. Perhaps it was said to me, but I could not hear. Now I could hear because I was going into this country. Was it not the King’s country? Certainly! No?
An army returns through the same country, wounded. Both are wounded, both the country and the army. The people are wounded to the point of survival. They have no leaders. Ordered leadership, no. Natural leadership, perhaps. Natural leadership brings envy and unrest. Hordes follow natural leadership. The people are not merely a horde; they are a bloodthirsty horde. A natural leader gives them a sharp point. No, not a sharp point. A natural leader gives them a blunt weapon. No, not a blunt weapon. What is a weapon that tears with a powerful grip, tears flesh? Teeth. A people wounded to the point of survival sees their attacker with his back turned, unsuspecting. A natural leader gives the people a taste of blood, and they drink their own death. This is a people dead. This is a people which did not survive its wounding. For two years this people has torn at itself, tasting blood, having now an insatiable hunger for blood, and more than blood, for fire, for everything destructive. These people have become barbarians. They had ample property, treasuries of wealth, ample stores of food; crops and buildings had been spared by this king from the east, with a far smaller population to support. They had no need for ordered leadership to live easily. And so each to his own, without allegiance to anyone or any principles. Their wrath certainly had spread beyond the countryside beneath the mountains.
These people were the King’s own people; these people are my people. These people swarm the roads and passes of all the land between the city and the North country.