Monday, January 27, 2020

Uncut Gems, Unexplored Treasures

There has been considerable buzz about the new Adam Sandler film, "Uncut Gems," due to appear on screens large and small this week.

Part of the interest is the story's setting: New York's diamond market--a world largely unknown to all but those who work and live in it.

Reading about "Uncut Gems" reminded us at once of another story set in that insulated community: "Florentine Finish," a novel by Cornelius Hirschberg.

"Florentine Finish" was published in 1963, which means you're unlikely to find it on any bookstore's shelves, and probably not in most libraries, and we're not giving our copy away, but there are those online book search services that seem able to turn up anything. And so, if you're looking for an off-beat mystery (Hirschberg's book won an Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America) we would push you to seek out "Florentine Finish."

And enjoy "Uncut Gems," as well.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Catching Up

It seems that January 25 went by while we were otherwise engaged, and it is a date notable for several reasons, not least the birthday of a petite, pretty niece.

But for Scots, it is, of course, Robbie Burns Day, and we regret not being present when the dirk was plunged into the haggis, the atholl brose was poured, and someone recited "A Man's a Man for a' That." We will make up for this by downing a tumbler of Scotch and playing recordings of Rufus Harley, only known jazz bagpiper.

January 25 is also the day marked on the Christian calendar for the conversion of St. Paul, one of the great dramatic moments in ancient history, when Paul, then Saul, was struck down on the road to Damascus by a light "above the brightness of the sun." Paul went on to write some of the most beautiful words collected in the Bible, along with a few some wish he hadn't written, or had ascribed to him.

As Dave Garroway used to say, Peace.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

On Going Viral

We have found that "going viral" has a less desirable meaning. This occurred to us while reclining in the paramedics' limo en route to the ER.

The background music was not the best choice: tuned to All-Country, All-the-Time, they were playing "I'm Heading for the Last Roundup."

Still, it was comforting to be rolled into a hospital bed, even though it was designed for someone the size of Danny DeVito, and once all those IVs went to work--Martinis in one, sangre de toro in the other--the road to rude good health was reopened.

Our conclusion: Next New Year's, we will resolve not to get sick.

Unless it's a simple hangover. We can handle that.

--Slap Maxwell, back for the Super Bowl.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020


Epiphany was Dirk Rinehart's favorite season in the Christian calendar. And it does seem a lovely, gentle time--those days following Christmas and New Year's.

We have just ended the Epiphany octave, but there are so many memories and customs attached to it. The usual memory, of course, or the inherited memory, is of the Magi, traveling to Bethlehem, following the Star. "Star of wonder, star of light..." How many years in which three male members of the church choir, or two members and the priest, would sing "We Three Kings of Orient Are," playing the parts of Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar.

"A cold coming we had of it" begins T.S. Eliot's "Journey of the Magi," but those five opening lines are not Eliot's--he took them from a 1622 sermon by Lancelot Andrewes. And there is a later, often funny, "Journey of the Magi," by Paul William Roberts in which the Toronto journalist and a profane taxi driver follow the astrologers' route from Tehran to Bethlehem.

This is also the time of Janus, the two-headed god who sees both forward and backward, at the hinge of time.

Good reading at this time: "The Four Wise Men," by the mystical Michel Tournier, and--most appropriate--"Twelfth Night," one of Shakespeare's most charming romantic comedies, written to conclude the Court's Yuletide celebrations 420 years ago.

James Joyce wrote often of epiphanies, as they may appear in daily life. In Joyce's world, the word, though it is derived from the Greek verb "to reveal," seems more to mean an enlightenment, an awareness, an understanding--perhaps a gentle revelation.

May we experience many epiphanies this year.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Hangover Helper

That's what the world needs now. Hangover Helper, in a box like Hamburger Helper. Stir a spoonful of the miracle powder into a tumbler of sparkling water, drink at down, and at once those vicious after effects of New Year's Eve celebrating are gone. No more the feeling of someone using a jackhammer on your skull, no more the queasy stomach that has turned your complexion green, no more the remorse and embarrassment (Did I really sing that song? Did I really do that dance?)

Sadly, there is not yet a clinically proven remedy for a hangover. But there are several suggestions. Gabrielle Hamilton recommends steak tartare and Champagne. Vancouver's Salvador Deli offered a hangover special, a combination egg salad-tuna salad sandwich. A friend believed in the curative power of a large bowl of clam chowder. We have heeded the advice of many on this matter, from Jack Webster to Kingsley Amis.

But perhaps the best guide is "Floyd on Hangovers," a compact book by the clever British chef Keith Floyd, who writes, in the introduction, that he is accustomed "to waking up in San Francisco, Bangkok or Sydney feeling sick and tired of waking up sick and tired."

And so, Floyd compiled several cures, from the quick hit (The Bullshot: beef consommé, Worcestershire sauce, dash of Tabasco, hot horseradish, one shot of vodka, juice of one lemon, one egg yolk, salt and pepper, and heaps of crushed ice. Swallow in one gulp) to a five-day detoxification program, which includes playing Elvis's "Blue Suede Shoes" at breakfast.

But all of this may be too much, as you stare bleakly at the day and try to regain comprehension. In which case, you may be comforted by these words of Jack Wasserman: "It's better to have a few mornings after than never to have a night before."

Monday, December 30, 2019

Lost: Two Decades

Okay, where did those last twenty years go?


Reward if you can recover them.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Greetings, All

In a small city's otherwise deserted radio station a deejay and his operator get ready to play "The Christmas Song" for the nine hundred and ninety-ninth time. Across town a reporter sifts thru the wire copy, tries to ignore the mainly bad news, is pleased that Marshawn Lynch is returning to the Seahawks, and wonders if he'll still have a job next week. An emergency ward doctor moves from cubicle to white-curtained cubicle, and knows another fifty patients are being triaged in the waiting room. A nurse, in the middle of her fourth 14-hour shift, responds to another bell. A 911 operator reaches for her cold carton of coffee in between panicked calls. A highways worker studies avalanche reports. A bus driver pulls on a Santa Claus toque and grins at his rowdy late night riders. A priest adjusts her robe and prepares for her third service in twenty-four hours. A ninety-year-old in a nursing home dozes in his wheelchair and dreams of Christmases past.

Greetings, all.