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February 2018
Vol. VIII, No. 303

February 2018

The Chilly Isometrics of Winter

“Venus & Mars,” panel painting by Sandro Botticelli, c. 1485, The National Gallery, London.

“Venus & Mars,” panel painting by Sandro Botticelli, c. 1485, The National Gallery, London.

Elizabeth Boleman-Herring: Our discontent. It is the winter of. This February, we gather togethernear pot-bellied stove and/or glowing screen—to warm our hands at analog and virtual sources. Our writers, in fingerless gloves, have not ceased scribbling, nor typing; banking their coals. We lead off with an essay on a diversity of bridges, by Dr. Skip Eisiminger. Diana Farr Louis then takes us back to mid-century Long Island, and Farr family dinners of yore. There follows a slight memory of visits to the old South Carolina home place, by me. Then, William A. Balk, Jr. meditates on a septuagenarian son’s serving as the speaking memory of his nonagenarian mother. Helen Noakes, from San Francisco, brings us back to our shared political present imperfect; and Dr. Guy McPherson (as well) attends to what might make for an authentically lived life, c. 2018. Alexander Billinis discusses precious haberdashery old and new. Jean Carroll Nolan has a Valentine for us, of passion and poetry. Tim Bayer sends his own Valentine to a woman who is very much an Emily. J. Allyn Rosser parses a poem by Claire Bateman. And Ross Konikoff serves up dessert: Love on East 13th Street.

The Arkadiko Bridge in Mycenae, the oldest surviving bridge that can still be used (between 1300 and 1200 BC).

The Arkadiko Bridge in Mycenae (between 1300 and 1200 BC).

Skip the B.S.

“From Strangler Figs to Flyovers: Bridges,” By Skip Eisiminger

CLEMSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—February 2018—A folk tale of dubious origin is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It seems that two families now scattered across the Carolinas had often fought over rights to the sparse game these foothills offered. But a tornado pushed a towering oak across the Cavern River that formerly had taken the better part of an hour to cross. Once some of the limbs and roots were lopped off, that fallen tree made a serviceable bridge to better hunting grounds for both families. With more frequent contact during the berry-picking season, the women made new friends of old rivals, and soon a few of the men joined them. Several years later, a wall of water following a hurricane that had parked itself near Table Rock washed the natural bridge away, and the feuding picked up where it had left off. (Read more . . .)

The whole Farr clan in 1962: we seven siblings (three with spouses) plus our Italian cousin Anna Paola with her husband Checco. We had gathered for Dad’s 70th birthday.

The whole Farr clan in 1962.

Eating Well Is The Best Revenge

“Tell Me What You Ate,” By Diana Farr Louis

ATHENS Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—February 2018—This Epiphany, instead of watching young men all over Greece plunge into icy waters all over Greece to fetch the crosses thrown by priests, I found myself riveted by a paragraph from an article in The Guardian excerpted from the introduction to an intriguing book by Laura Shapiro: What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories. The questions Shaipiro poses challenged me and sent the memory wheels spinning in all directions. Tell me what you ate when you were a child,” writes Shapiro, “and whether the memory cheers you up or not. Tell me if you cook, and who taught you, and why you don’t cook more often, or less often, or better. Please, keep talking. Show me a recipe you prepared once and will never make again. Tell me about the people you cook for, and the people you eat with, and what you think about them. And what you feel about them. And if you wish somebody else were there instead. Keep talking, and pretty soon, unlike Brillat-Savarin, I won’t have to tell you what you are. You’ll be telling me.” (Read more . . .)

(Third from Right) Lon Schenault Boleman, Age 73.

Lon Schenault Boleman, Age 73.

By Way of Being

“The Jot’em Down Store, Townville SC,By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

PENDLETON South Carolina(Weekly Hubris)—February 2018—In the 1970s, following the deaths of my Aunt Willie Sue, my grandfather, and my father, which came like winter rapids, all in the course of a year, my mother and her surviving sister, Inez, sold their old family home place in Upcountry South Carolina. Neither sister could bear to enter it, so I went in, for fifteen minutes, and took out the one thing I could carry: my grandfather’s 19th-century traveling trunk, which was the size of a carry-on bag, made of unvarnished wood, lined with delicately-patterned paper, and full of family papers. At the very bottom of it, I found, were my great-grandfather’s Civil War uniform buttons and a string—literally, a plain string—of Indian trade beads. On the wall, I didn’t notice Great-grandfather Smith’s framed Civil War commission; it and all else in the place was sold, part and parcel. The next time I saw the house, in the 1990s, I was back in South Carolina nursing my mother through her final illness. (Read more . . .)

“Mére et fils.”

Mére et fils.

Epicurus’ Porch

“Lost and Found,” By William A. Balk, Jr.

ELKO South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—February 2018—“I can’t understand! Start at the beginning! I can’t understand a thing that’s going on!” We were in the middle of watching one of the evening news programs on television, my 93-year-old mother and I. She has stoically faced the growing effects of dementia over the last several years, and other physical ailments have brought her to being bed-bound for the last year. It is not unusual that events as portrayed on television leave her desperately confused and asking for explanation. As her caregiver, I usually attempt to summarize the baffling news story for her. The point at which I start is simply to concur with the accuracy of her observation—the story makes absolutely no sense at all to me, either, and I find that an honest response is best. The rest is simply to describe the high points of the story, and that usually suffices. (Read more . . .)

Speaking up; standing strong.

Speaking up; standing strong.

Waking Point

“Broken Places,” By Helen Noakes

SAN FRANCISCO California—(Weekly Hubris)—February 2018—It’s no revelation to say that the United States is in the midst of an immense crisis. Our Constitution, our laws of proper conduct, and our integrity are under siege, leading many of us to reconsider our self-image as a largely decent nation with a conscience. In short, our idealized view of ourselves has shattered, forcing us to take a close and unpleasant look at what lies beneath the mask we’ve been happy to wear and advertise for years. I confess that I am appalled at the acceptance and approval of grossly predatory and bigoted behavior by our nation’s leaders which some in our country exhibit. And, I was frightened by it. was. (Read more . . .)

“Passport Photo,” 1953, by Saul Steinberg. Fingerprint on paper. Originally published in “Steinberg, The Passport,” 1954

“Passport Photo,” 1953, by Saul Steinberg.

Going Dark

“In Pursuit of The Authentic Life, or Not,” By Guy McPherson

SAN ANTONIO Belize—(Weekly Hubris)—February 2018—I’m often accused—or credited, depending on one’s perspective—of leading an authentic life. As nearly as I can tell, the accusation or accolade refers to the following definition from Merriam and Webster: true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character. Fundamentally, aren’t we all true to our personality, spirit, and character? How could we act otherwise, in the absence of multiple personalities? I have concluded that we’ve been captured by the culture in which we’re immersed. We are unable to escape without killing ourselves, and yet the culture is killing us. (Read more . . .)

Leather jackets old, and new: (L) At Smederevo Fortress, Serbia, 2011; ® at Buda Castle, Budapest, 2012.

Leather jackets old, and new.

Roaming East Roman

“A Tale of Two Jackets,” By Alexander Billinis

CLEMSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—February 2018—My beloved leather jacket, though retired now due to over-wear and an unfortunate encounter with uncovered rebar in Serbia, has a great story behind it. It begins in the autumn of 2007, near the end of my two-year sojourn in Greece. My wife, son, and I were living in Athens, but finding any excuse to travel outside the capital. A colleague at my bank’s London office told me about a trade conference going on in Istanbul, and suggested that I angle for permission to go. Though I had exhausted most of my political capital, both with my boss in Athens as well as the powers that be in London, I was all too willing to skate out onto even thinner ice with Management for the opportunity to visit Turkey . . . on the bank’s dime. (Read more . . .)

“Tristan and Isolde (Death),” by Rogelio de Egusquiza y Barrena (1845 –1915).

“Tristan and Isolde (Death),” by Rogelio de Egusquiza y Barrena.

More Light

“Tough Love,” By Jean Carroll Nolan

SEASIDE California—(Weekly Hubris)—February 2018—As I write, it is almost February, and all the shelves that only a month ago were filled with red and green candles and papers and cards are now jammed with red and white and pink expressions of love. Hearts and candy abound. Valentine cards can be found for everyone from grandchildren to pets. Googling the holiday expenditure is sobering. We learn from ABC news that in 2017, Valentine’s Day spending on jewelry, flowers, and other goodies was expected to top 18.2 billion dollars, a figure surely equal to the GNP of a small nation here or there. As celebrated in 21st-century America, this feast of a martyr and saint is, like the Christmas holiday that precedes it, fairly well wrapped up in consumerism. (Read more . . .)

Serendipity.

Serendipity.

Won Over By Reality

“She’s Not An Emily,” By Tim Bayer

BRIGHTON New York(Weekly Hubris)—February 2018—It took 20 years and a series of chance events. Adjacent cubicles. Adjacent streets. An overheard comment. Then, 20 years passed me by, unaware that Cupid had targeted me. Sometimes you just get lucky. Serendipity. For me, it was an Emily. In 1987, Emily and I worked in the same company. At the time, Emily was engaged, and I was dating someone. Worth noting is that one of Emily’s closest friends, Liz, worked in a cubicle adjacent to mine. Also worth noting is that Liz and I lived in the same subdivision, just two streets apart. (Read more . . .)

Poet J. Allyn Rosser. (Photo: Ernest Hillbert.)

Poet J. Allyn Rosser.

Speculative Friction

“Unearthing The Sky,” By Claire Bateman

GREENVILLE South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—February 2018—“Somehow, Sunday seems an appropriate day to present this poem by Claire Bateman,” writes poet J. Allyn Rosser, in Best American Poetry 2017, “a fine and under-recognized poet from Greenville, South Carolina, with eight books to her name: Scape (2016); Coronology (2010); Lea(2005); Clumsy (2003); Friction(1998)At the Funeral of the Ether (1998);  and The Bicycle Slow Race (1991). “We often hear the word quirky applied to contemporary poets (just glance at five random blurbs, you’re sure to find quirky), but perhaps no one writing today inhabits the word quite as fully as Bateman. The premises of her poems are apparently beamed into the atmosphere at a slant from another, logically slippery dimension—yet once you step inside, life there seems more cogent, more comprehensible, more carefully thought out than the one you’re turning her pages in. (Read more . . .)

My favorite trumpet player. (Photo: Ross Konikoff.)

My favorite trumpet player.

West Side Stories

“Love on East 13th Street: Part I,” By Ross Konikoff

MANHATTAN New York—(Weekly Hubris)—February 2018—I needed money, a vacation, and a drink, but not in that order. What I had was a low-rent plaster cave on the dodgy end of West 52nd Street, a tired dinner jacket, a warm coat, and a hot trumpet. I pulled on the last three and left for work. As I closed in on the joint, I spotted a neat little dish, elegantly dressed, but unsteady on her feet, standing outside the front door of The Cat Club down on East 13th. Something about it didn’t look right, so I drifted over. She had the face of an angel and you could tell with one look that she was a real solid girl who’d spent too much money in some other dive, waiting for some Merrill Lynch office Lothario, drowning in privilege, who had no intention of showing. As I got closer, she looked up and tried to smile, but I wasn’t buying it. (Read more . . .)

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