(Linda): I think it is a rather disrespectful title.
(Alf): You think?
(Linda): For sure! To begin with, you aren't even going to write this journal; Paul has that job. It won't be your turn until the balloon festival is over, and by that time we'll be on our way to Beijing for Chinese New Year. Then you can bore everyone with all that stuff about dusty old saints and stupid inventors and weird songwriters.
(Alf): Gee ... I didn't know you felt that strongly about my little "fillers".
(Linda): I don't. But my sister in Chicago does. I don't think she wants to meet you; just because of that crap. Anyway, forget it ... and, what's with the title?
(Alf): I thought it was catchy ... sort of like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."
(Alf): OK! OK! Let's just forget it. I'll only write a little tiny something about Annie's arrival and then I'll keep my mouth shut until I see you in Geneva.
(Linda): Good! Look, Alf, leave the next dozen or so days to Paul. I want to know how the balloon is flying and what everybody is doing. I don't give a shit about St. What's-Her-Face or any of those dumb NEWNES things.
(Alf): All right!
(Linda): Oh…is Ellie going to do a kid's journal?
(Alf): I think so. Patty said she'd help her with it.
(Linda): With her little drawings?
(Alf): I guess.
(Linda): THAT will be interesting.
Dear reader, as you must have gathered from above, my part of this journal will be "mercifully" short. In fact, by tomorrow it will be out of the way completely.
Weathered readers know that I like to start the day with NEWNES. Today that man is particularly pleased to offer you a couple people who also spent their lives working with literary minutiae:
The events on this day in history were a mixed bag of interest:
This next one will probably trigger something in Anna Scherbakova's memory: the man with book at the cemetery…the same man at the bus stop…again on the subway…once more near St. Isaac's Cathedral.
Oh tireless veteran reader, are you ready for an epistle? Maybe a rather long footnote? Regardless, it follows smartly upon this bewildering tale of a young person's short and wasted life.
Wesccott gives us a girl to whom all of us can look at with near total disbelief:
At thirteen years of age, because she would not worship Apollo, Priscilla was beaten with sticks, sprinkled with boiling oil, put on the rack and torn with pincers, starved, placed in the fire, and thrown to lions, which caressed her. She still lived; so she was beheaded. No doubt some imperial officials really enjoyed this sort of thing.
Now the promised missive from your Web Proprietor (as you'll see, this is rather a change of gears for me):
Many bible grumblers think that young Priscilla actually lived and died long before the third century; that she was a classmate of a yet to be famous world-class meddler and malcontent. [We'll loop back to this shortly]
Yes, Priscilla's little 13th birthday party was one twisted chamber of horrors. Oddly enough, just a few houses away, another Apollo skeptic chanced to glance out of his window at just the right time; and with one blink of his eye he caught and calculated the cost of the commotion going on up the street. His light bulb flashed a warning: down this road lies a lye pit. Wisely capping his pen, Jesus swiftly boxed up all those tedious paragraphs about having false Gods. Though, much later on, some ghastly-misjudged resurrection of this dubious theme tragically caused him to be tacked onto crossed timbers; but that is a detour well told elsewhere.
Nonetheless, many biblical scholars have moaned about why young Priscilla went down the avenues of boiling oil, starvation and lions. Surely, with just one simple genuflection in the right direction her big day could have been nicely rounded out with blowing out the candles, cutting the cake and a few gushing "thanks" for the heaped up gifts. So why did she yawn widely and check her nails when all others were pulling at their forelocks and averting their eyes just as the bust of Apollo was wheeled out for worship? A lot of hindsight traces Priscilla's mulish manners to that curious gap in Christ's life.
Not to take the icing off Christ's own thirteen candle birthday cake ... BUT ... remember, even little Miss Mary Perfect had trouble with the young Jesus. Though he made a big name for himself during his grouchy years, little has been written about what the lad was up to during his troubled teens. Did anyone ever write about the time that he turned someone's glass of perfectly good wine into a goblet of duck piss…back in the days when he was just learning that he could perform miracles? No! You don't hear about those things, do you? And, how about the man with 20-20 vision who one day, right out of the blue, just walked into a lamppost? Well, of course, only after being smote blind by a bolt from the sky! But, do Mathew, Mark, Luke or John point a finger at the kid who was snickering behind the shrub that day? Of course not! And, what about his school-bully period…when other kids had to cough up their lunch money so that you-know-who could spend a leisurely afternoon with Mary Magdalene.
Priscilla rightfully must have felt, during those awkward growing up years, that she was the one who deserved a spot in the Holy Trinity ... not that kid down the street ... the one who was always tiptoeing around the really big theological issues ... the one who was more interested in amazing his friends by juggling infirmities between the lame, the halt, the blind and the odd leper.
No, it was up to Priscilla to take a stand….to put her foot down…to draw the line.
And, see where it got her! A pre-puberty roll of the head was her final birthday present.
(Alf, shifting gears again):
As I type this, daughter Annie is somewhere in the air between SEATAC and FLL. Tomorrow we'll both be on AF #95 to CDG; one change of planes later and we'll be in Geneva.
The 1500-pound ostrich stretched out before him on the bathroom floor. There was no doubt about it. The big bird was quite dead.
(Linda): What are you talking about???
(Alf): I thought that some fiction would make a nice change of pace.
(Linda): From what?
(Alf): From my normal "fillers". Obviously, you can't abide NEWNES! The saints you mock. And you've only shown a little interest in the Herald Trib. And, I thought ...
(Linda): GET ON THE PLANE! I'll see you in Switzerland.
Before boarding, Annie and I had about an hour to waste at Miami International. While flipping through the January, 2000 issue of Esquire, my receptive eye singled out this relevant gem from Esquire's 1999 Dubious Achievements Awards:
HAIKU OF THE YEAR
"After John Kennedy Jr.'s fatal plane crash, Kathie Lee Gifford said:"
"I will never look
the same way again."
Uncomfortably moved by her poetry, I later poked around the bottom of the seat pocket. Yes, it was there: right next to the airsick bag ... and, about as inviting.
But, both of our Air France flights ... the Miami to Paris one, and our connection to Geneva ... were thoroughly uneventful. All of those troublesome thrills so graphically hinted at by the in-flight laminated card remained unreal.
Annie and I are in Geneva now: at the Hotel d'Angleterre. Patty and Ellie; Paul and Denise ... all of them ... should be arriving soon. Unless, of course, they found that helpful in-flight laminated card more useful than expected. Gee, then our earlier search for a replacement screwmaid would seem pretty pale by comparison, wouldn't it?
Up next: Paul's Château d'Oex Journal