Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Nigel Doughty, Great Light Hunter

Alexander de Maubry
2 Trottingham Court
Hackbridge, Surrey
UK                                                                                                                                           12 July, '74                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          


Dearest Alex,

Forgive my haste but I must get to the meat of my story straightaway. It is starting to rain here and soon they will come for me. 
As you know, few things arouse my passion as does big game hunting. I have been called cold, even ruthless, by certain Club members but it could only be true passion that would pull me halfway round 
the globe to this damned red clay region. And that, old friend, would be the passion of the hunt!

I had been outsmarted in Shanghai and bloody careless in Benares, but by God, it would not happen here! I had hastened all the way to Georgia in America to hunt and slay the fierce Raisin Bagel.

To appreciate the challenge, one must first consider the catch. The Raisin Bagel, at first glance, appears like its close cousin, the Common Rye Bagel. They are the same size and texture and both are rather cinnamon-like in color. But there all similarity ends.

The Raisin is much more elusive, lurking in mucky places or hiding near larger game. You will recall, Alex, I bagged my first Raisin found cooling off with a herd of huge Bialys. Though small in stature, the Bagel is a born fighter and the Raisin especially can be ferocious when cornered. To approach one bare-handed is asking to be burned. Most chaps never get that close, however. Bagels can hear even small people in the next room and will quickly fade away. Stealth is called for. Stealth and a large helping of patience. The best rewards come to those who wait and it is true also with the wily Bagel. 

But I digress. Shortly after my diminutive man-servant, Seymour, and I arrived in Atlanta, we began hearing promising reports. Hikers had recently spotted a trail of caraway seeds in a suburban park. And later, people reported smelling onions and chives near an ethnic deli. It all sounded quite extraordinary and with rising excitement we hailed a cab and hurried to the area.

After scouting the lay of the land, Seymour and I began our own sleuthing expedition. With eyes wide open and following our noses, we slowly made our way through fen and forest. No garbage can or trash bin was left unchecked. Finally, by mid afternoon the trail had led us to a posh Georgian manor house nestled amongst Dogwood trees. Looking all about, we quickly deduced that no one was home. Seymour, alert as ever, noticed a side door ajar. Mind you, I’m not one to enter homes uninvited but dammit man, this was possibly my last chance to nab a Raisin Bagel. We snuck inside.

I motioned for Seymour to check the back side of the home for more clues. I parked myself behind a china cabinet in the hallway and waited and waited.  After an hour of that nonsense, I thought about chucking it all. Suddenly, trusty Seymour, rounded the corner quite out of breath. He had spotted fresh tracks on the terrace and there was still cream-cheese on them. We were closing in. Silently, we dropped to our bellies and inched our way down the hall to the parlor sofa. Crouching behind it, I ever so careful peeked round and nearly dropped my monocle. There on the dining room table, close by the preserves, sat the largest bag of Bagels I had ever seen. Heat shimmered off the brown expanse of paper. The aroma was quite overpowering. My heart pounded. Sweat rolled off me. Could it be possible! Might there be one or more Raisins nestled among the Garlics and Pumpernickels?

While relishing the possibility, I flashed on old Freddy Dinsmore, asleep by the fire back at the Gastronome Club. Freddy had hunted all his life; nothing could elude him for long. Fearless Freddy you called him. He was the only one of us to ever bring down the nocturnal Cheese Blintz. One night, in his cups, he confessed how he had lied, how one trophy had always eluded him. He had never bagged a Raisin Bagel. Now here was I with perhaps a whole bag of them not fifteen feet away. Poor old Freddy!

Enough! It was time for action. I motioned for Seymour to circle downwind the bag while I tried a ploy the natives sometimes use. On my signal, Seymour began whispering in Yiddish from behind the pantry door. Instantly, the bag seemed to move round in that direction, as if listening.

That was it! No time to dally! Go! In a wink I charged, knocking over a parlor chair in the process. Reaching the table's edge, I grabbed the still warm bag before any wee beastie could escape. Quickly glancing inside, I spotted a beautiful cinnamon Raisin hiding on the bottom. I raised my fork high and brought it down again and again!

Seymour entered the dining room smiling broadly. Then holding up our prize, I announced,  “What say old fella’ to some hot Bagel and a smear?”

Warmest regards,

Your devoted pal Nigel

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Mr. Gaston Is Not In Today

Yesterday was the first day of my hoped for weekly “Day of No Thing”, twenty-four hours of self-imposed solitude. With the world pushing in on all sides and society making increasingly restrictive demands, a period of time-out became necessary, even longed for. Instead of giving in to commercial culture’s seductive demands, I allowed myself the luxury of not leaving the house all day except perhaps to enjoy a cup of tea in the back yard. 

Marked more by what I did not accomplish than what I did, I found myself with blessed very little to do. No yard work, no house work, no bill paying or cooking. No phone calls, instant messages, e-mails or texts. No lunch dates, neighbor visits, television, Facebook or even answering the door. In this state of suspended world engagement, showers, shaving and dental hygiene became unnecessary.

That is not to say I descended into stinky slothfulness because I continued to make my bed and wash the food bowl. And, of course, I attended to my two feline friends because not to do so would have marked me a cruel unfeeling oaf.

I read and wrote, drew and painted, listened to music and enjoyed the excellent pastime of staring into space. Joining the cats in an afternoon siesta did not cause the least bit of guilt.                          
In this blissful way, I passed the day in contentment with a full belly and rested brain. 

But oddly, by day’s end I had not physically recharged and lay exhausted like a beached whale. One could only conclude that some type of exercise is the fuel for physical stamina. Right then I decided that next week I will change my routine and add some exercise. I will pick up my socks or perhaps walk to the mail box.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Time My Father Invented Air-Conditioning

My 2018 Captain Marvel 16 month calendar just informed me that today, June 21, is the first official day of summer. Yeah right! Those of us who live in the Sunbaked State know better. What we call summer first arrives in these parts with the buzz of Cicadas and the low hum of countless air-conditioning units. And that would be sometime in May, depending on how close you live to the Coast.

Sitting in the cool comfort of this climate controlled home, it’s hard to remember a time without the miracle of air-conditioning. But such a time indeed existed in the sweltering Florida summers of my youth.

We lived in an old rental house with few amenities and although public buildings and people of means enjoyed air-conditioning, we did not. Window-fans, wet towels and sweating were the methods we employed to make living a bit more tolerable. But sleeping in such hot and humid conditions became nigh impossible. Waking from nights of fitful sleep, I often discovered sheets and pillowcases as wet from sweat as I was. Something obviously had to be done.

That’s when my resourceful father decided to put his inventive abilities to good use. He was, after all, a drop-out from Rutgers University’s Correspondence School of Engineering. Looking around with keen eye and mind, he hit on an idea to use three things we already possessed; window-fans, water and an abundance of Spanish moss hanging from backyard trees.

As my sister and I watched in silent amusement, Dad affixed sturdy metal racks to the backs of each window-fan. Onto the racks he draped several layers of fresh Spanish moss after first removing any little bug critters lurking therein. Finally with everything in place, he let hoses trickle water down over the moss and turned on the fans.

To our amazement and perhaps also to Dad’s, the contraptions worked. Air that the fans sucked into the house was cooler by several degrees, just enough to make living more pleasant and sleeping more peaceful.

Dad’s cool invention never caught on but for a short time in 1956 his ‘air-conditioners’ were more important to us than the ones built by that other Florida inventor, John Gorrie.