On An Old Footpath

Cricket was America’s primary sport before the Civil War you know, says a thick, low, but golden voice. My British friend. Looking delightedly down at my from his 6’4 height, his wizened face crinkles deeper with laughter. This fact he does not let me forget. A few minutes later. You know what America’s primary sport was before the Civil War? Cricket, I answer. More laughter. You’re learning!, he shouts happily. His laugh is a half cackle.

Jack’s thick forearms protrude from usually rolled up sleeves. Very meaty hands belie his non-labor past. He’s RAF through and through, thirty-seven years a pilot and instructor. When I look at his towering frame, easy movements, overall angularity, an angularity cased in thick muscle, I think of the Vikings. His village of Scalby is minutes from the eastern coast on the North Sea. The Vikings surely landed there centuries ago. There is no pure Englishman, just like there is no pure anything else. I imagine Viking blood in this most English of Englishmen.

On an old footpath, I ask him to pose. He leans against the post of the fence, and breaks out a model-worthy pose: hand behind his head, looking off into the distance, one foot crossing over the other. He had instinctively placed his 6’4, 66-year-old body in the position of a sultry female. I snap the photo. What?! You got that? He asks uncontrollably. Delete that! He laugh cackles. I snap again. This one shows his face exploding, in laughter. Yep, I reply. I got that! He then slips into a more socially-acceptable pose, a normal smile, the sultriness has disappeared. I capture that too.

Jack claims Yorkshire is the center of the universe. I’ve crossed the ocean to investigate his claim, and to enjoy this gem of a man. Today we walk along the North Sea, heading south. The sea is on our left. On our right, the countryside, a monochromatic quilt of green shades, and some yellow, pleasantly shaped as squares, dotted with sheep and cows, sewn together with tidy rows of stone walls and lines of shrubs, laid over undulating hills as far as the eye can see. It is friendly and a bit hard to believe. It is soft and kind looking. A blue sky forms the top layer of my vision.

Back in Jack’s blue convertible, he speeds down a winding narrow road. I enjoy the wind and the sun. Finally I ask, what is the name of this road? His full head of flax-colored hair flaps about in the wind. At 66, he really should be happy to have hair. Name?, there is no name, he responds. Trees of a medium height push in on both sides of the road, and the road veers up and to the right, rounding a curve I can’t see around. How in the world do they get their mail here, I shout? The wind carries his answer away, something about areas and numbers. The sun overhead is tremendous; a heat wave for those in Scarborough, Yorkshire. 65 degrees!

We pull into the driveway of his old brick house in Scalby, his hometown – the one surely occupied by Vikings in an age long past – and walk the forty feet to town center. We enter a flower-bejeweled, yet rustic, restaurant. In addition to the ubiquitous fish and chips, Jack declares I must try green mushy peas. So I do. Surprisingly not bad and yes, actually good. After discussing religion and politics at great length, I ask him the most important of questions: what do you associate with the American accent? But before I continue, ask yourself the reverse question, what do you associate with the British accent? Properness, is it not? Properness, manners, rule-following. (Their imperial past belies this but that is a post for another day.) I was delighted at his answer: The Wild West. In his British mind, Americans are rebels; he refers to me as being from the colonies. Thus my accent implies the opposite of what his does: improperness, no manners, rule breaking. Seems American to me!

So, The Wild West has met Yorkshire. And they became fast friends.

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How To Do Justice

How to do justice to a new land, an old land, 1,000 pages of history, and a man who brings it all alive?

I give up!

I just returned from England, a land new to me, but yet one of the oldest, I’m nearing the end of a 1,000 page book entitled “The English and their History”, and Jack – my sweet dear beautiful friend Jack – has just emailed me from Changi, Singapore. (The Brits do get around, you know?) He is retracing the steps he took there when he was a young airman in the RAF decades ago – he said he walked probably 10 miles today looking for places he remembered – there’s not much left, save Biggin Hill.

In my book, I just read about Tony Blair. Very recent history. I’m nearing the end.

I’ll end with a photo or two from “the mother country”, England, and the intent to write more.

 

Parlay

Parlay: Turn an initial stake or winnings from a previous bet into (a greater amount) by gambling.

Source: “How the Empire developed after 1815 — primarily as a means to protect British commercial investment and exploitation — and how a small island parlayed an early industrial revolution, supported by large domestic reserves of coal, into one of the largest and most successful empires, commerical, financial and governmental, the world has ever seen, is the primary story of Dawson’s book.

Source of the source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15793661-unfinished-empire

A Train of Consciousness

He’s so pretty. Small but pretty. Every day I see him on the train and wonder if he feels bad about being small.

Leonardo DiCaprio, but far more handsome. That’s what he looks like. Glasses, black rimmed, and relatively introverted.

I have yet been able to tell if he has a ring on his left hand. Probably. He’s sitting across from me, a little off to the right, beyond a metal and air barrier.

He’s got a wonderful blue suit on. Classy snazzy. Someone dresses him well. Maybe him?

The gentleman on my right flips through papers, stapled together in the upper left, and with lines double spaced. The papers sit in an open brief case on his lap. His hair is receding. Professor. English Professor? That’s my guess. Very long lines, his fingers. Looks like a distant cousin of John Cleese.

My right finger hurts. I’m getting old. I can see it curve further towards my middle finger over the months. My real aging, meaning the noticeable kind, started when I was 34. Pretty certain it’s down hill after this. Can we reverse the hill?

The deaf people are below me. They used to throw me off. Because, you see, they make sounds, which they can not hear, while they “talk”. And by talk of course I mean sign. They sign with the greatest animation; they are the same as you and me! A life filled with vibrancy, but no audio. They are all African American.

The wheels squeak. Train stops. I’m supposed to be writing my questions for the new doc I meet tomorrow. A new doc. Never thought I’d say those words. Why do I see so many docs? They just take my money and make me cry and the pain I came in the door with I leave with.

I can see my sneakers stick out over the railing; I’m in the upstairs of the double-decker train, last car, end of a long day at work, the gym, the night is here.

I’m going to go write my questions for the doc. Maybe she will heal me! A far younger version of myself would have thrown a wad of paper at the blue-suited man of perfection. Maybe another day.

My Soul Arises Indignant

“My soul arises indignant at the avaricious and immoral turpitude which so vile a conduct displays” so thundered James Jackson right after Alexander Hamilton released his “Report on Public Credit”. Did you know finances could be so heart-pounding, moral, and well thunderous? I didn’t. Mr. Jackson also invoked “rapacious wolves” in one sentence. Modern day politicians have a thing or two to learn: their vocabularies are tiny, and one tenth as interesting as their forebears.

But what is “turpitude”? I am told: depravity, wickedness. And “rapacious”? Aggressively greedy or grasping. The first word just makes me think turpentine. I imagine I just demonstrated the smallness of my own vocabulary.

I am making great progress in “Alexander Hamilton” by Chernow, but terrible progress in writing about it. What can I say? Chernow has definitely taken a side, and he did that practically from page one. Yes, the author has an opinion and it is that Hamilton is a spectacular human being. Currently I’m prone to agree. But let’s consider my evidence: all of one book where the author’s personal persuasion is relatively clear.

I’ll close on this interesting note. “For Hamilton, Madison’s apostasy was a painful personal betrayal. [Madison fought parts of “Report on Public Credit”.] … This falling-out was to be more than personal, for the rift between Hamilton and Madison precipitated the start of the two-party system in America.” Who knew?