Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Play ball!

Somebody named Zooey Deschanel sang the U.S. National Anthem before the fourth game of the World Series the other day. (Great Series, by the way.) Many people were angered that she went for a softer, dare I say gentler, version than the jingoistic bombastia usually presented at these moments. Zooey, according to her critics, must be deeply unpatriotic. (Her version, unfortunately and bizarrely, has been pulled from YouTube and every other source I can think of.)

The dispute reminded me of the greatest triumphalist performance of a National Anthem I’ve ever heard.

Of course, Mireille had much better material to work with. Truly blood-thirsty stuff. The real deal. And it was the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, not the opening of a baseball game.

At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve always wished our anthem was “America the Beautiful.”

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea! 

It’s a tune a normal person can sing. (I’ve always especially loved “purple mountains majesty.”) But I suppose it is sort of unpatriotic in its emphasis on beauty and grace. No rockets. And that very suspicious brotherhood stuff. All the same, let’s hand it off to Keb’ Mo’.

Friday, October 21, 2011

When I was studying English and American Lit eons ago, we could trace over eras shifting tastes for Fielding v. Richardson. Or Fitzgerald v. Hemingway. Or name your two favorite natural rivals.

My own taste has lately shifted strongly toward Billie Holiday v. her only real competition. But Ta-Nehisi Coates posted this on his blog yesterday. Isn’t Ella, here with a Duke Ellington-led trio, about as good as it gets?

Monday, October 17, 2011

A truth fundamental

Sweet B, crunching away in the back seat as we drive along: “Out and about is good for apples.”

Here we go

New York Times:

Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Poster boy results

I forgot to note that this event, superbly organized by committed volunteers, went off like clockwork, and despite very heavy rains early in the morning, made a fair amount of money for its cause. I had been planning to do my duty and shuffle through it, but had managed to step in a hole dodging a car on a morning run. I strained a ligament or tendon or something having to do with my left great toe. (And it is a great toe—handsome, intelligent, good-humored, and almost always trustworthy. Not like that skiving,  paunchy and intellectually dishonest right one.) That got me on the gimp and off the hook. H and A, however, were in town, and they each won their age groups. Next year, with someone else’s phiz on the poster, maybe I can stay healthy we’ll attempt a trifecta.

Monday, October 10, 2011

We’ll try to remember, lovey

Sweet B, saying goodbye to grandparents Sunday afternoon: “Drive safely. And don’t spit in the car ... Ever!”

Le Chemin de la Mâture

Still thoroughly dysfunctional, I grabbed onto A’s ice-axe loop and he pulled me up the remarkable Chemin de la Mâture (usually translated “way of the masts,” though I think “mast path” or “mast road” is more idiomatic). This is a trail essentially blown and carved out of a cliff face so the 18th century French navy could roll masts for King Louis' navy down from high forests. That’s the Chemin, about a fifth of the way down from the top of the photo. Hardly looks like something you could walk across, does it? The chasm off to the right is known as les Gorges d’Enfer, (gorge or gorges of Hell).

It’s not quite so bad once you’re on it.

But, partly due to my whimpering and whining, we got a late start, and hit the cliff in full, direct sun. Dragging and moaning, I steamed my way slowly up. I don’t remember ever feeling so awful in the hills.

We were, in fact, about 90 percent of the way along the Chemin proper. Afterward, things got cooler and easier as we carried on to complete a loop back to the road.

This is a view of the ridge A had walked over the day before.

The Chemin de la Mâture is a famous and interesting walk and we enjoyed it—A thoroughly and I provisionally. As usual, and despite my turtle’s pace up, we were much faster than the books and signs suggested, so we were sitting in the local cafe when our chauffeur drove by on her way to collect us at the trailhead, and we waved her in for a beer. It was good.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Un. Seulement.

The cold that had begun to take hold of my breathing apparatus during the walk up to the Col de Pétragème really knocked me for a loop, and I spent most of the next day dozing, blowing my nose, and moaning loudly for sympathy. The sleek and healthy A headed over the ridge on the GR10 and had a great and eventful solo walk to Borce. We all drove over late in the day to pick him up “near the bridge” to Estaut, across the N134 and the Gave d'Aspe. In Borce, we parked and I staggered dopily around looking for same. I finally came upon a local and asked where the bridge was. He directed me  back to the one at the turn-off from the main road.

This didn't seem right to me. The map clearly showed a bridge from roughly the center of the the village. “C’est là peut-être un autre pont?

“Non,” he declared, holding up his right thumb. “Un.” Thumb wave. “Seulement.”

Well, at least he’d understood what I was trying to say. And he seemed pretty sure. But I wasn’t convinced. Maybe it was just a pedestrian bridge?

“Pour marcher à Etsaut....”

“Non, non.” Shaking the thumb at me. “Un. Seulement.”

“Pas un autre?” Moving two fingers to indicate walking. “Peut être....”

NON, NON, NON.” Fed up with this cloddish, mouth-breathing American and his execrable French. “UN.” Thumb thrust in my face. “SEULEMENT.”

We moved haltingly to a plan B, eventually found A strolling toward the café in Estaut for a well-deserved beer, and discovered, naturally, that there is, indeed, a second bridge across road and river.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Col de Pétragème

This was an odd one, in a way. We had planned to walk to the Cabane d’Ansabère, then head south and east past the Lac d’Ansabère, and up and over the ridge into Spain. Then we’d head down to the lake of Ibón de Acherito for lunch. But we’d gotten a ride from one of our party to the trailhead (a good thing—I’m not complaining!) and I had miscalculated the time I told the driver when to return for us. “Miscalculated” is an understatement. I had somehow applied my arithmetical genius so precisely that the car would have been waiting two hours for us to return. This had partly sunk in when I made this first video, so I talk about just getting to the ridge. But I still thought we’d at least be heading toward the Ibón de Acherito.

Which, in the event, we didn’t.

At this stage, I was still thinking east. But no matter your ultimate destination, it is a lovely walk.

By the time we reached the Cabane, I’d not only decided that we should head toward the Col de Pétragème to the west, but that we should probably not shoot for anything beyond the col and the Spanish border.

 I, in fact, wasn’t sure I’d even get that far. I’d developed a bear of a cold (this must have cause the problem with my arithmetic, don’t you think? Why not!?). I wasn’t moving especially well and we agreed A, young and very fit ...

... should move on ahead, as I staggered along behind, trying to keep him in sight.

But I did make it. This is the col, with the trail continuing down to Spain’s Hecho Valley.

In celebration, I savored an elegant meal. As all hillwalkers know, nothing beats a profoundly melted Nestle’s Crunch bar.

We eased our way back down to the Cabane, now confident that we had a little time in hand.


We even had a few minutes to cool off in a pool of the stream back at the Pont Massousa. I was fried.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

“Ah-choo” ...

... expressed one of sweet B’s grandmothers.

B, playing on the kitchen floor: Bless you, Deen.

Grandmother, gratified: Thank you, B.

B, reabsorbed in play: You’re welcome, Sweetie.