After London in September
The familiar path is the comfortable way. Of course, there is a big trade off with boredom when going down that silly road. So, rather than head back to Europe for more clean air ballooning and wholesome hiking, Linda and I are going to Asia for some unusual license. Sadly, my NEWNES and THE TIMES are happiest with murmurs about dying popes and the birthdays of obscure composers. You know, serious stuff. This time I want to pepper the mornings of our travel days with a splash or two from some worthier and saltier souls. "Worthier?" Well, I don't want anyone dying on crosses, wearing hair shirts or wringing hands in front of the lions. The Church of England's Liturgical Calendar, with its stained glass saints, is not the tool that I shall wish for when I need to know if this Friday falls on the 8th. No, it had better be a list that pulls me toward more clay footed men; fellows who gave the world not only their wretched life ...but, also ones who went out of it with color, sparks and maybe some trickery or other sleight of hand. Glenway Wescott's, A Calendar of Saints for Unbelievers, is the "Gideon" for this trip. Simeon, just below, comes from the top layer of this Whitman's Sampler Box of dubious saints:
At thirty-two, having tried a variety of shocking ascetic exercises, the Syrian Simeon thought of the mode of life which made him famous, as a means of keeping his soul perpetually alert. The first pillar on which he lived was only nine feet high; at intervals he had it heightened; the last, on which he died, was sixty feet high and three feet in diameter. It is uncertain whether he learned to sleep without lying down, or got along without sleep. He seemed to pray without stopping from sundown until nine o'clock the next morning. He did not eat at all during Lent. The nomads of the Near East came in throngs; he preached twice a day and judged their differences, in the Arabian manner; and whole tribes, shouting his praises, seemed to be converted. He died at seventy. The writers of his time compared him to a blazing candle on an enormous stone candlestick.
Matsu has been bugging me all week ... ever since he found out that I was going to Bangkok. He has seen many pictures of the place ... and his French mistress, Elisabeth of Vault-de-Lugny, has told him wondrous tales of what happens there at night in its dark and steamy corners. And, of course, he is still a little pissed at me for leaving him home when I went on my last trip. The fact that he had not prepared himself physically for walking in the hills of northern Italy didn't take the edge off his miff ... he figured that it was his right to go wherever I went; and that I'd carry him if the going got tough. I suppose this explains his odd behavior.
For the past three days he has had his nose in my old issues of National Geographic. I don't know what he is searching for; maybe for something about bears in Thailand. This may be a "roots" sort of thing with him. I don't know.
And, today he insisted upon packing his suitcase and parking it right by the front door. I told him that we weren't leaving until Friday ... three days away. He just smiled. Perhaps he thinks that I'll try to skip out without him in the middle of the night. This morning, over coffee, I mentioned that Linda was going to be traveling with us for the next few weeks. This seemed to please him, as he is quite fond of her. They enjoyed each other's company when we were traveling in Russia earlier this summer.
That little bear is so funny.
Today's saint for the day seems selfish, don't you think:
A noble Roman widow who joined a woman's auxiliary branch of the Order of St. Basil and worked among the people. She was dying of cancer, but did not want to die because it meant leaving another nun named Benedetta. St. Peter appeared to her and promised that she would have to be separated from her friend for only a month; so she passed away contentedly. St. Peter kept his promise; Benedetta did die at the end of the month.
Perhaps I have made a mistake. These saints are rather boring, stupid or petty. I was hoping for some clever behavior. Mary Frances seems just too typical of the lot.
Before Mary Frances' birth, her mother was assured by St. Francis Jerome, the famous preacher, and by St. John Joseph of the Cross, the friar who never changed his clothes, that she was pregnant with a saint. The saint's father, however, expected her to make a good match, and beat her and starved her for refusing an aristocratic suitor. Finally the Franciscans persuaded him to allow her to join their Third Order. For three years she lived here and there as a sewing-woman; then she returned home. But after her mother died, she could not stay with her religious father, and went into domestic service in a merchant's house. The merchant's wife, jealous and suspicious, complained to the archbishop, who put a notoriously severe director in charge of the holy maid's conscience; but he did not, or could not, find any fault in her.
In her old age she became a sort of uncrowned queen of Naples, both the masses and the clergy taking her advice.
NEWNES seems to have come up with some rough justice here:
But, then it falls back on the prosaic with:
Before we leave for Asia the day after tomorrow I'll try to find some better ways to brighten the calendar. Unless you are happy with questions and doubts about the lives and deaths of people who stare at you from holy cards. Are you?
Justina of Padua
Good God! How many saints a day do we have floating in and out of calendars? Birth! Death! Now canonized! That makes everything times three if we count the whole lot. See!!
NEWNES drones on where others leave off:
Then it jumps to a secular, but equally inspirational, note:
Tomorrow afternoon our journey begins. Eight hours on Delta: the time it takes to fly from Fort Lauderdale to Seattle with one stop somewhere on the way.
I am not packed yet.
Linda has yet to start packing.
Matsu has been packed for three days.
Pelagia the Penitent
Obviously, the Grim Reaper thinks this entire bit I'm doing about the saints is very funny. You see, the first leg of today's trip across the USA was made uneventful in an eventful sort of way. Thanks to HIM.
Our flight from Fort Lauderdale was welcomed at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport with fire trucks. Big yellow pump engines doused the whole plane with thousands of gallons of water before Captain Bob was able to bring Delta 365 to a slippery stop. But there was no fireball, no disrupted serving carts, no ruptured fuselage, no spilled drinks, no torn aluminum, no shifting carry-ons, no shards of steel, no stuck call buttons and no screams in the dark. Aside from the water it was a normal flight. But, had the Reaper not been amused might there not have been a grim team from Boeing-Seattle dispatched to Dallas?
The Four Seasons is a very nice hotel.
Linda likes it, too.
Also, of note, according to NEWNES:
Though most Norwegians and Americans know all about Leif Erickson and his great discovery, the good works of St. Denis don't leap to mind when we hear the pious clutch their heads and mumble his name in prayer. Let Glenway Wescott shine a light on this shadowy stained glass window.
Denis is believed to be identical with Dionysius the Areopagite, the first Bishop of Athens whom St. Paul converted. Pope St. Clement I sent him to France, with some assistant missionaries. They settled on an island in the Seine, perhaps the Ile-de-la-Cite or the Ile-St.-Louis. There Denis was beheaded; and his body stood up, took his head in his hands, and went as far as Montmartre, accompanied by singing angels.
The great mystical and scholastic works known as the Areopagite's are now ascribed to an unknown genius of the fourth or fifth century. St. Gregory of Tours, the first French historian, denies that the first Bishop of Paris was St. Paul's convert, and dates his mission and martyrdom two centuries later.
In any case, he is the patron-saint of France, and is invoked against headaches.
I wonder why saints never made it on to faces of Tarot Cards? Yes, that is a question. Do you have the answer?
Tonight my friend Tilman welcomed us into her house for dinner.
Res Ipsa Loquitur.
Ara and Linda meet at the pylon.
During his ordeal in the torture-chamber, Euplius kept annoying those who were doing the work by reading out appropriate passages of scripture. So they hung the book around his neck and cut off his head.
NEWNES truly amazes me with:
Five hundred eighty-one years later in:
probably bored all the participants.
This afternoon Linda and I shall fly to Hong Kong; with a change of planes at Tokyo.
Glenway Wescott offers up a rather odd couple for today's inspirations:
Amico and Amelio
Amico and Amelio, or Amyas and Amylion, were two French boys who met in Italy and loved each other dearly. Having been baptized by the pope, they returned to France and lived at the court of Charlemagne. Amico caught leprosy, and Amelio had a vision according to which, if he cut his children's head off and sprinkled his friend's body with the blood, he would get well. Amelio then followed the heavenly instructions; Amico did get well; and the children were restored to life - no one knows how - but they always had a red scar around their necks. The extreme friends died together in battle, and in the vicinity of Milan they are honoured as holy martyrs - no one knows why.
PRAGUE - Science must be "cleansed of bourgeoise pseudo-science," the official Communist newspaper "Rude Pravo" said today [Oct.11]. The paper said the students in Czechoslovakia's reformed universities, which reopened today, would get their science and art leavened with doctrines of Marx and Lenin"
Serving Hollanders NEWNES notes:
The 11th lingered on and on. And then the 12th came and went. Hours and hours on the plane.
We reached The Peninsula Hong Kong just after 11PM.
Photos in transit:
Up next: My Hong Kong Journal
Here are some selected links for the entire trip: