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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, I’ve nothing much to say at the moment about the continuing gubmint crisis except to quote the late, great, Kenneth Mars as Inspector Kemp in “Young Frankenstein”:  “A ri-ott ist un ugly tink!….Und I tink it ist just aboutt time dot vee had voooooooooon!!!”

Anyhoo,  after a hiatus of a couple years now, I recently started rereading the Patrick O’Brian Aubrey/Maturin series.  On the one hand, it has been a sufficiently long time that I am finding the books to be fresh and fresh and discovering things that I had not noticed before – the true mark of good liddashur.   On the other, I am purposely either skimming or skipping all the Stephen/Diana bits and noticing that my enjoyment doesn’t suffer at all, at all for it.  The Mothe claims – with some justice, I think – that Diana Villiers is an absolutely unbelievable character, the product of male fantasy rayther that the representation of any real woman.  And frankly, I’m getting a bit long in the tooth to want to waste much energy dealing with their tortuous relationship.

MauritiusAny go, at the moment I am just finishing up The Mauritius Command, one of my favorites, and it got me thinking about an oddity.

There are many, many pieces of musick with which I associate persons, places and things in my personal experience, either because of my circumstances when I first became acquainted with said pieces, or else because hearing them stirred some personal memory.  As an example of the former, when listening to Schumann’s 4th Symphony, I always think of the cover design on the 8-track tape copy of the piece owned by the Old Gentleman because I first became acquainted with it as we drove down to the Gulf Coast in our old ’72 Ford Country Squire station-wagon.  (And don’t I just date myself here?)  As an example of the latter, the Cold Genius’s tribute to Cupid, “Great Love, I know thee now: Eldest of the gods art thou..” from Act II of Purcell’s King Arthur, which I didn’t first hear until I was away at college in Connecticut, always reminds me of staring up into the pre-dawn heavens on Flagstaff Hill in Bexar County while deer hunting in my misspent toot.

On the other hand, so far as I can recollect, none of the books I’ve read carry with them such associations.   Except this one.

The first time I read The Mauritius Command was in an extremely cheesy hotel some few blocks off the Strip in Las Vegas in ’94 or ’95.  At the last minute, my then boss asked me to sub for him on a panel at the annual Federal Communications Bar Association convention being held there.  (My topic was the FCC requirements surrounding contests and giveaways held by radio and teevee broadcast stations.   Oh, yeah?  You try making that sound interesting….)

Being young and foolish, I asked our secretary to make all the travel arrangements.  As it was a last minute thing, all the major hotels were booked up already, so she had to go fishing for alternate options.  Of course, in those days there was no such thing as the Innertoobs, so this fishing was more or less of the blind-folded variety.  Nonetheless, I was quite pleased when she told me she had booked a flight and a room and that all was well.

My first intimation that there might be a problem came when I told the Vegas cabbie where I wanted to go.

“Really?” he said.

Uh, oh.

As we drove into town, he started to warm to his subject.  “Stay off the streets around there after dark,” he advised.  “And if you want a hooker, don’t go to the ones on the sidewalks.  Not only will they give you diseases, they’ll pick your pocket, too.”

Um…thanks.  I guess.

Anyhoo, I was so buffaloed by the cabbie’s warnings – reenforced when I clapped eyes on the place – that I took his advice and stayed firmly behind my locked door when not actually over at the convention center giving my spiel.   The only time I ventured out was to visit the “snack bar” in the hotel lobby to grab a couple eight-dollar chili dogs for my dinner.  Otherwise, I kept myself barricaded in my room….reading The Mauritius Command.

I think part of the association had to do with Geoffrey Hunt’s cover art.  From my balcony, I could look across the courtyard (where a pair of newlyweds were getting themselves photographed in a gazebo) to the desert and the mountains in the distance.  As evening fell, the light on the hills began to match closely the light on the book’s front.

Somehow, the association cemented itself in my braims.  Even now, every time I pick up this book, I still think of that view out over Vegas to the desolation beyond in the evening glow.  And even at a vast remove, I can still taste those chili dogs, too.


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October 2013