Walking on a sandy spit I came around a bend to find a huge salt pond. It had small islands of waving reeds, a few white boats in the far distance and the enormous dusk horizon was banded with stripes of green, mauve and violet. What shocked me though was the dozen or so figures I saw out on the pond. It looked like they were walking on the water.

Of course I realized that it was illusion, that the water was so shallow and so still it only seemed to be supporting them. They were actually digging for hard shell clams with their feet, carrying wire buckets and small metal rakes. For a second though, under that gigantic horizon, it had seemed entirely possible.

Gentle Ben

Reading a bio of Franklin and realizing how much an avatar he was of a rising class and the central American type – the small industrious businessman, interested in every aspect of life, full of energy and practical knowledge. The man who came into existence with the daily newspaper and the novel.

Less than a hundred years later the type has degenerated into Flaubert’s Monsieur Homais.

Today’s Ben Franklin: the exterminator, Tom Delay.

Sartor Restartus

Carlyle isn’t read enough, and with a prose-style like this, he sure as hell should be.

“Ach, mein Lieber!” said he once, at midnight, when we had returned from the Coffee-house in rather earnest talk, “it is a true sublimity to dwell here. These fringes of lamplight, struggling up through smoke and thousand-fold exhalation, some fathoms into the ancient reign of Night, what thinks Bootes of them, as he leads his Hunting-Dogs over the Zenith in their leash of sidereal fire? That stifled hum of Midnight, when Traffic has lain down to rest; and the chariot-wheels of Vanity, still rolling here and there through distant streets, are bearing her to Halls roofed in, and lighted to the due pitch for her; and only Vice and Misery, to prowl or to moan like nightbirds, are abroad: that hum, I say, like the stertorous, unquiet slumber of sick Life, is heard in Heaven! Oh, under that hideous coverlet of vapors, and putrefactions, and unimaginable gases, what a Fermenting-vat lies simmering and hid! The joyful and the sorrowful are there; men are dying there, men are being born; men are praying,–on the other side of a brick partition, men are cursing; and around them all is the vast, void Night. The proud Grandee still lingers in his perfumed saloons, or reposes within damask curtains; Wretchedness cowers into buckle-beds, or shivers hunger-stricken into its lair of straw: in obscure cellars, Rouge-et-Noir languidly emits its voice-of-destiny to haggard hungry Villains; while Councillors of State sit plotting, and playing their high chess-game, whereof the pawns are Men. The Lover whispers his mistress that the coach is ready; and she, full of hope and fear, glides down, to fly with him over the borders: the Thief, still more silently, sets to his picklocks and crowbars, or lurks in wait till the watchmen first snore in their boxes. Gay mansions, with supper-rooms and dancing-rooms, are full of light and music and high-swelling hearts; but, in the Condemned Cells, the pulse of life beats tremulous and faint, and bloodshot eyes look out through the darkness, which is around and within, for the light of a stern last morning. Six men are to be hanged on the morrow: comes no hammering from the Rabenstein?–their gallows must even now be o’ building. Upwards of five hundred thousand two-legged animals without feathers lie round us, in horizontal position; their heads all in nightcaps, and full of the foolishest dreams. Riot cries aloud, and staggers and swaggers in his rank dens of shame; and the Mother, with streaming hair, kneels over her pallid dying infant, whose cracked lips only her tears now moisten.– All these heaped and huddled together, with nothing but a little carpentry and masonry between them;–crammed in, like salted fish in their barrel;–or weltering, shall I say, like an Egyptian pitcher of tamed vipers, each struggling to get its head above the others: such work goes on under that smoke-counterpane!–But I, mein Werther sit above it all; I am alone with the stars.”