Jingle Bells

Farmyard in Winter, Jean-Francois Miller, 1868

Dashing through the lack of snow, in a hundred horsepower Prius we go, laughing all the way, over the cornfields we go. Bells on instrument clusters ring, making our spirits bright. O what fun it is to ride and sing a Prius song tonight. Jingle bells, gas pump bells, there are so many bells on the way! O what fun it is to ride a hundred horsepower Prius tonight and get 50 MPG too.

We drove to Ann Arbor today, a trip that we’ve made more often than I can count. On this road trip, like on so many other of our recent such trips, we listened to an audio book. It helps to break the monotony, making the miles pass by faster. As is our want, we chose a destination themed book. Since we were headed to Ann Arbor, I searched for a local author and found whole catalogs chock full of them, but it was an NPR article that steered us to Harry Dolan and his 2006 murder-mystery, “Bad Things Happen.”

Who knew that this once sweet little burg had become such a den of crime. Peppered with local references, its mysterious protagonist tries to navigate the literary world as the editor for a crime story magazine. All goes well until the bodies begin to pile up. The book opens with a version of that old saw, a friend will help you move, but only a really good friend will help you move a body.

This story is not exactly great literature, which only makes you wonder at the quality of the stories that are talked about and that the magazine rejects, but it did help make the trip go by. We are about three-quarters of the way through, so we don’t know how it ends, but we did learn that if the Ann Arbor police are after you, your best bet for escape is US-23 to Toledo. I am reminded of Hunter S. Thompson’s advice, “Drive as fast as possible towards the nearest state line.”

Secularly pictured is a manger. It’s dark interior shows some farm animals, but not its depths. With days until Christmas, there is plenty of time for a nativity.

A Cathedral for Books

NYC Public Library Reading Room

We visited the New York City public library reading room on our last trip to the Big Apple. It’s a huge space and beautifully appointed. We didn’t stop there for long, because we were on our way uptown. We tried to be quiet, but the continuous stream of tourists like us had to be a distraction to the much fewer actual readers in the room. When we were there the sun was trying to poke out from behind the clouds, bringing extra light in through its large windows.

Officially known as the Rose Main Reading Room, this Beaux-Arts decorated room has recently reopened after undergoing an extensive renovation. It closed for two-and-a-half years, when a large chunk of its very ornate ceiling came crashing down, fortunately in the middle of the night. The initial restoration plan called for a major redesign, but protests shelved that idea. I’m glad for this, because some things are better left unchanged.

Anne noticed the curved sculpture of the room’s reading chairs. The library sells a miniature version of their iconic reading room chairs for $30. It would be nice to spend an autumn Saturday afternoon sitting there and lose yourself in a book. 

NYC Public Library Reading Room Chairs

Perfect Match

Cabin Seagull

I attended my first book club meeting today. The book was the Jodi Picoult mystery, “Perfect Match”.  This novel is about sexual abuse from pedophile priests. It would be a major understatement to say that this subject matter was uncomfortable. Still, with the resignation this week of Cardinal McCarrick, it is a timely topic. For me, this story dredged up memories of my term as a juror, in a statutory rape case. It has been five and a half years. The jury unanimously acquitted the defendant, even though he confessed. I still believe what the prosecutor said that something happened, but “something” is a long way from beyond a reasonable doubt. In the book, the protagonist is a woman district attorney, who specializes in prosecuting child molestation cases. The fervor that this character brings to her work belies the ambivalence that me and the other eleven jurors felt towards the state’s case, but then we were in the real world.   

In a Fog

Manitoulin Creeping out of the Fog

I awoke in a fog this morning, literally. Overnight, both Canada and Round Island had disappeared and the lake boats that ply the shipping channel in-between them were tooting their fog horns. The forecast called for the fog to last most of the day, but by late morning the island reappeared and then so did Canada, but looking out across the lake the fog persisted. By this time a new squadron of down bound freighters were tooting at each other. Actually, this being the weekend, they were probably trying to ward off pleasure craft lost in their own fog and could see each other plainly on radar. The Manitoulin was the first to appear and with its large white superstructure, it made a dramatic appearance, floating ghostly white above the fog bank, with its darker hull effectively hidden from view.

Eventually, the rest of the fog burned off and it became a rather nice beach day. Bubs and Harry came down to the beach, at least as far as Bill’s Adirondack chairs. Anne went for a dip and not a moment after she had been commended by the neighbors for bravely venturing out into the water, her mother admonished her for being out to far. I waded out to her rescue and we moved up the beach, into shore, around behind some pine trees and out of mother’s sight. We spent the better part of the afternoon visiting with Brigid, Chris, Lisa and her kids.

We are going to join them in a book club this summer, at least for one round. The book is “Perfect Match”, Jodi Picoult’s 2002 novel about pedophile priests, child sexual abuse and murder. You can’t forget about murder. Not my usual cup of tea, but I’m still game to try it. I ordered the book from Amazon, but up here my Prime membership’s free two-day delivery stretches into four. I ordered the paperback version and not the Kindle, because first it was cheaper and second, others who wouldn’t use Kindle might want to read the book too. Purchase of the paperback come with limited electronic access to the book. This is designed to tie you over until the delivery is made. I’m sure that the text is budgeted for two-day delivery, so it will likely run out before the book is delivered. What if it doesn’t? What does that say about my reading ability?  

American Dipper

American Dipper

The most unusual feature of this rather dull colored little bird is that it walks underwater, à la those old deep-sea divers with the big brass helmets, canvas body suit, weighted belt and lead shoes. It does have strange feet, so it might be able to grip the bottom, but I suspect that it has a way to regulate its buoyancy, so that it sinks to the bottom, but still has enough oxygen to hold its breath.

We (being Dave, Anne and I) drove to Ann Arbor. Dan, since he had been in Saint Louis little over 24 hours, wanted to stay a little longer and catch up with his friends. He’ll join us at the cabin later. It is hot here too and there is no AC at Chez Harry’s, but for a night we can make do. I have a fan, Dave has the basement and Anne is home. It’s all good. Harry and Jane fixed dinner and we all dined on the back deck. It was a lovely evening for dining out, sort of speak.

We listened to “Big Sky” by A. B. Guthrie Jr. The third in our trifecta of audio books with a Montana theme. This one is set in the 1830s and follows two boys who journey west from Kentucky. They both want to be mountain men and halfway through, both have managed to keep their hair. One disturbing aspect of the novel is its pervasive use of the N-word. Now, there is not an African-American character in the whole book (another disturbing feature), but I still wonder at the use of this now hateful word. The book was written fifty years ago and employs plenty of other colloquial words and phraseology, but I still stutter at each utterance of this word, even when it is spoken by a white speaker about themselves. Still, it is an interesting story that most closely traces our travels than any of the other audio books that we have listened to.

PS – It is now already much cooler than before.

Steinbeck

Cypress Point Lettuce

“All in all it was a good firm-grounded family, permanent and successfully planted in Salinas Valley, not poorer than many and not richer than many either. It was a well-balanced family with its conservatives and its radicals, its dreamers and its realists.” – East of Eden

Dad, Anne and I went to the Steinbeck Center in Salinas. We had been before, with Jackie and the boys, but this was Dad’s first visit. We all enjoyed our visit. 

It is a modest museum, as befits a local boy who did well. Steinbeck grew up in Salinas and all of his most famous books borrow heavy from the environs. After he had grown, he moved to Monterey for a while, where he was when success found him. After that he was a man of the world, but at least in his writings, he always came home again.

Steinbeck Mural