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In the spirit of the day:

“Would you like some more……syrup!”  was one of a number of catch-phrases culled from Monty Python, SCTV, Firesign Theatre and the like that my college roommate and I used constantly.   We had  virtually nothing in common except our senses of humor:  He was a skinny little Jewish liberal from Jersey who did drugs moderately often and listened to the Doors all the time, and I, well, you already have some idea of what I was like.

We got along beautifully.

Greetings, my fellow port-swillers! Having arrived home safe and sound from my latest excursion, I have a few observations to brighten your Friday:

*** First of all, in case any of my readers were unaware of it before, let me make this abundantly clear: I HATE FLYING!!!! HATE IT! HATE IT! HATE IT! I know my harping on this subject again is going to promote snickers among certain ex-Harrier pilots and Aunt Dahlia-like huntresses, but they can go to the devil. We took off from Dulles Tuesday morning on the back side of that nor-easter that rolled up the coast this week, and jeezum-crow did we pitch and toss about! Up, down, sideways. Jerk, bounce, drop, shudder. And once we leveled out, we kept heaving about on the jet stream that was hitting us on the flank. Scared the absolute bejaysus out of me, I can assure you, and probably took about six or eight months off my life-span. On the other hand, my muscles were positively ripped by the time we landed, what with being tensed to the max for almost two hours.

So how did I handle it? Well, Father M would be pleased to know that I said four decades of the Rosary during the climb out, which was the worst of it. (I don’t actually have a rosary, but as Father S of my parish pointed out once, we all do have ten fingers, so there’s no excuse for not keeping track.) And I must say that this certainly helped me keep hold of myself. Not that I let go of the arm-rest the entire trip, but at least I stopped trembling.

*** What is the story with the toll system around Chicago’s highways? It seems that there is another booth every couple hundred yards, each one nicking you for 80 cents. The only reason I could think of why they should nickel and dime you in this way instead of charging higher fees with fewer tollbooths is that it is a make-work for the union. Or is that being too cynical?

*** I seem to have a singular talent for choosing hotels within a block or two of active railroads, thereby subjecting myself to hearing train horns every hour on the hour all night long. Mrs. R says I need to start researching this more carefully if I ever expect to get any sleep, and I begin to think she is about right.

*** I love driving across the Midwestern prairie. So wide open. Such lovely vistas. When I was a boy sitting out in the pre-dawn in the Texas Hill Country on hunting expeditions, I used to see a light or two twinkling way off in the distance and muse about what it must be like standing under that light, and what where I was sitting must look like from way over there. It set up a very satisfactory imaginative link between me and that far place. I mention this because I found myself doing the same thing with the various copses, windmills, barns and silos that dotted the landscape as I drove along. Again, very satisfying.

*** I also love driving in the Midwest because there is relatively little traffic and other drivers tend to be quite polite and considerate. The only aggressive driver I saw the whole time had Virginia plates. When I spotted them as he came bombing by, I burst out laughing. Sic Semper Floor-It-Us!

*** This may fall into the “You are such a geek!”¹ category, but I took my Francis Parkman along with me on this trip and, as it happened, spent a lot of my off time reading all about LaSalle, Fr. Hennepin and the trials and tribulations they and their followers suffered at Starving Rock and other points up and down the Illinois River Valley. So imagine my delight yesterday morning when I found myself driving through that very area. I didn’t have time to stop because I had to get back to O’Hare, but what fun it was to see all the place names and recognize their historical significance. (Well, I thought it was fun.)

*** I took a Telemann CD (among others) along with me for the long drive. Do you associate certain pieces of musick with certain places, people or events? I do. And now I think I am going to forever associate Telemann’s Alster Echo Suite with this drive.

Was ist das, you ask? Well, it’s a deliberately silly and raucous piece of musick. Here’s a nifty YouTube version (which, however, I believe leaves a dance or two out, but you get the flavor):

The very excellent recording I have also contains Telemann’s delightful concerto “The Frogs”, which I will also associate with open prairie and river bluffs in the morning mist.

Yes, perhaps I am a geek.

¹ Spot the quote.


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October 2008