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HEAVY METAL TEENAGER is back in the woods!! (First spotting in over a year. He looked older, but his long locks remain golden, abundant; his bangs still hang to the frames of his thick, thick glasses; and his t-shirt game is still on point.)
“At some well-chosen moment Melville took out the book whose publication they had both been awaiting and handed his friend an inscribed copy of Moby-Dick, the first presentation copy. In no other way could Hawthorne have had a copy so soon, one that he had read by the fifteenth or sixteenth, in time to have written a letter Melville received on the sixteenth. Here, in the dining room, Hawthorne for the first time saw the extraordinary dedication and tribute to his genius – the first book anyone had dedicated to him. Never demonstrative, he was profoundly moved… .”
A polar bear appears to knock on the door of a wooden cabin – as onlookers peer out at their surprise guest. The inquisitive bear had been drawn to the lodge by the smell of food – and looked as if he was inviting himself to dinner, The pictures were taken by Terry Allen, a 72-year-old retired professor in Manitoba, Canada. Another curious animal joined the bear to prowl around the Seal River Lodge. But luckily the nosy bears were content to play in the snow and peer through windows rather than cause trouble.
Post first hot yoga class! Feel like Odysseus returning home all “I went through some stuff” (heat, so much downward facing dog, sea monsters) … and finding out that for the rest of the world it’s been an hour and a half.
The novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was written by a brunette named Anita Loos. She wrote the first bit of it on a train, traveling from New York to California where she worked as a screenwriter. It was 1924. Loos was in her mid 30s, with dozens of movies to her credit, including a string of comedies for Douglas Fairbanks, then one of cinema’s biggest stars. (This work, she said, consisted mostly of “finding new things for Doug to jump off.”) The story—more of a sketch really—that Loos jotted on her pad started as a joke, an affectionate jab at her friend H.L. Mencken and his taste in women. (The “affectionate jab” was a Loos specialty. So, it has to be said, was the “unaffectionate jab.”)
— I wrote about the marvelous Anita Loos for Scratch Magazine’s Hollywood issue. Read it here. (Lots of other great stuff in the issue — subscribe, subscribe!)
The Whale… If you read a recent front page story of the San Francisco Chronicle, you would have read about a female humpback whale who had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her mouth. A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farallon Islands (outside the Golden Gate) and radioed an environmental group for help. Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her. They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her. When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed them gently around as she was thanking them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives. The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth said her eyes were following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.
There was a beautiful dude on the trail this morning—-just wowza-so. I passed him as he was doing some weeding in the rock garden (? Asheville!); he smiled, I smiled, he went jogging off. Later I realized that (1) I was wearing my retainer and (2) my hat was on backwards.
Also: The woods are so ugly and blear right now they have almost circled back around to being pretty.
I sat next to a nice man on the plane ride from Charlotte to Asheville last night — maybe mid 50s, cheerful avuncular manner, cheap bulky suit that looked a size too big. (Suits that are too big are weirdly endearing.) We were having a nice chat about college basketball and ‘Dr. Who’ and where we’d each been traveling. and then he asked about my book and I gave him my normal description (novel, Arctic quest, baka baka), and then returned the conversation to, I don’t know, ‘Agent Carter’ or something like that. But he kept wanting to talk about the book, truly, I think out of a wish to be a polite seat companion and not a secret desire to play the part of a MALEVOLENT DEMON but after a while I wasn’t sure. He’d ask about different plot elements and I would tell him and then he’d give this considering “well, huh, I guess that could be okay” shrug. (He likes Vince Flynn novels, which I haven’t read, and described a couple of their plots.) I was pretty hot because we were too packed in our seats for me to take off my coat, and hungry, and it was night and so dark on the plane (very few reading lights on) and dark outside except for the lights of the towns we were flying over. So this went on for a while: him asking a question about the book, my skittish answer, his “huh …”— followed by an unconvinced shrug—“well, have you thought of having a plane crash with a nuclear bomb on it instead … remember when that happened in Greenland?” I started to feel trapped by the window and then, as he kept circling back and NOT ACCEPTING MY OFFERS TO TALK ABOUT THE HOBBIT MOVIE OR THE ACC’S CHANCES THIS YEAR OR REALLY ANYTHING ELSE HE MIGHT WANT TO TALK ABOUT INSTEAD, I WOULD EVEN RATHER HAVE AN ANTI-VAX DEBATE THAN DO THIS, I started to see him as this looming manifestation of Writerly Doubt that had come to sit so close beside me that I could feel every shift in his weight. It doesn’t always come at you as an enemy, apparently, but as an amiable businessman dude in a shiny too-big suit and a red tie who had good luck catching all his standbys that day and believes that “huh, maybe there could be, I don’t know, a medallion?” in your book.