THE MAN WHO ASKED TO BE KILLED * INCORRIGIBLE * THE YEARBOOK  THEMANnewcover15APRIL152  

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ANNAPOLIS IN LATE SUMMER

 

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Four days a week I go to a gym, and three days a week I take a long walk. For readers of The Man Who Asked to Be Killed, the scenes above and those immediately below are from the road Buddy drove along to reach Mac’s house. I invented the road that Mac lived on, however. While two real roads run left off the one I walk along, neither suited the needs of the story.

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All of the scenes above are along Bay Head Road, six miles from the Naval Academy in the historic center of Annapolis.

Three scenes below are from the nature trail at Woods Landing and the last, of hibiscus, is in Todd’s garden.

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GRAND CANYON DINING: FIGS WRAPPED IN BACON AND MOUNTAIN LIONS IN THE SHADOWS

 

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Todd and I had never heard of figs wrapped in bacon until thirty-some years ago, reading aloud Canadian author Robertson Davies’ Tempest-Tost (1951). In the book a patron of a small town theatrical group has figs wrapped in bacon as a savory. We tried it on our anniversary, liked it, and made figs wrapped in bacon a part of our celebrations of anniversaries or New Year’s Eves for a number of years. It fell by the wayside after my surprise heart attack the year I turned fifty (bacon, you know…). We’d never seen figs wrapped in bacon on a menu or even heard of it other than that one mention in Tempest-Tost. So imagine our surprise when we sat down for dinner in the dining room of the Grand Canyon Lodge, at the North Rim, and there among the hors d’oeuvre offerings was figs wrapped in bacon. We ordered it, of course. “Seeing this on the menu is interesting,” I said to the waiter. “Probably not many people order it?” “Quite a few do,” he replied dismissively, perhaps hoping to head off being told what was interesting about it. But he didn’t get away without learning of the reference in Davies’ book. (If he’d been particularly handsome, he might have been kept standing there, with his little pad and pen, while I embellished on the facts. Authors do that, you know, make much of nothing.)

Our second night at the Lodge I ordered a steak (one of the best I’ve eaten) and drank Coke or Pepsi with it, something I only permit myself on special occasions or away from home. A woman at the next table ate figs wrapped in bacon, I noticed. So perhaps the waiter hadn’t been only trying to get away when he said quite a few people ordered it.

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I’d been to the Grand Canyon once before, as a teenager with a church group. But God made it snow on us, a pack of L.A. boys with nothing more than light sweaters. We’d expected to swim at the bottom, as the boys had on their Spring break trip a year earlier. This wasn’t the first time that I concluded God wasn’t necessarily good, could in fact be a pain in the ass. Looking back on it, I wonder how our troop leaders had been so goddamn dumb as to not realize—or educate themselves—as to how cold it can be at the Grand Canyon in March. But we are talking about people who believed a whole parcel of nonsense, whose natures probably didn’t run to pursuing facts.

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The South Rim is ten miles from the North, as the crow flies. Driving, it’s two-hundred miles. A beautiful drive: Kaibab Forest, Vermillion Cliffs, Glen Canyon (pictured just below), Painted Desert, and several view spots along the South Rim as you progress toward the lodges.

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After my second steak of the trip (be still my irregularly beating heart), we strolled on the path that extends for fourteen miles along the South Rim. In the shadows ahead, what appeared to be a dog-sized rodent (low head, humped body, long tale) hopped over the wall from somewhere in the depth of the canyon, crossed the path, and disappeared into the parking lot of one of the three lodges on the South Rim. Behind it came a second critter, this one clearly a very large cat, not crouching as the first had been we realized. We turned around. Into the dark, with flesh-eating animals coming up from the canyon, I do not venture. A moment later a mule deer hopped over the wall, crossed the path, and began eating labelled specimens in a native-plants garden. At the Bright Angel Lodge coffee shop, where we retreated for desert, a waiter told us we’d seen mountain lions.

Did I mention the stars? We happened to both be awake around 3:30 a.m., so ventured out and lay on benches gazing at the Milky Way, a rare spectacle for city dwellers.

The Grand Canyon—as long as you don’t go with a church group with the intent of further Christianizing Native Americans, you’ll have a good time. To say that “Grand” is an understatement is itself quite an understatement.

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MURIEL SPARK NOVELS

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On Goodreads I posted the question, “Who writes like Barbara Pym, one of my favorite authors?” A friend replied that I should try Muriel Spark’s A Far Cry from Kensington. There began my reading of Spark, an author who had escaped me, though she was twice short-listed for the Booker Prize and in 2008 included by The Times as among Britain’s top 50 writers since 1945. (READ MORE AT latelastnightbooks.com)

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A TASTE OF NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST AND NYT BESTSELLER BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK BY BEN FOUNTAIN

BILLYLYNN'SLONG2“…[G]iven the masculine standard America has set for itself it is interesting how few actually qualify. Why we fight, yo, who is this we? Here in the chicken hawk nation of blowhards and bluffers, Bravo always has the ace of bloods up its sleeve.”

19-year-old American soldier Billy Lynn, stateside from Iraq on a two-week promotional tour because his company—Bravo Squad—made the news for its heroism, is essentially prostituted for patriotism on Thanksgiving Day as part of the halftime show at a Dallas Cowboys football game. Tomorrow, Bravo will be re-deployed to Iraq. Continue reading

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Sublime by Artist Will Bullas

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I received this engaging post card, which contains no information re the artist, but tracked it, I believe, to Will Bullas, http://www.willbullas.com/

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My Poseidon Adventure

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A few months before our September 1972 wedding, I and my living-together fiancée (my ex-wife of a few decades now, a soul mate to whom I’m sure I’d still be married if I were straight) smoked a joint and went to see the Poseidon Adventure. The movie was an agonizing two hours of anxiety for me. At the time we lived in the Santa Ana apartment complex where Lance Loud, of the reality TV program An American Family, stayed while working construction—the Lance Loud who came out to his family during the program, a revelation I didn’t want to talk about.

I’d begun to allow the men in my fantasies to have sex with other men. I even had a fantasy in which, instead of getting married and starting law school wherever, I moved to Phoenix and began some other kind of life. Or I lived in Seattle, my life mysterious to my parents and siblings who knew only that I had a successful job, an apartment, a car—all things hard to come by in my post-college, half-assed grad student days.

A more intelligent, courageous–less goofy–young man might have seen, in his irrational, trembling terror over a ship turned upside down by a tidal wave in a mere film, a message, a foretelling of what he was about to do to his wife and himself. But all my energy went into trying to be “normal,” never mind that in a weak moment I could string out a casual hello to a shirtless neighbor until I would’ve backed off the steps of the balcony that ran along our apartment front doors had he not shouted a caution at me.

On our 25th anniversary Todd and I married and took a transatlantic cruise as a honeymoon. Mid-sea the captain announced that the ocean was three miles deep where we were. I thought of riding my bike from my childhood home three miles to the train station, where, as a rail fan, I’d spent the hours other boys spent playing sports.

I also thought of the Poseidon, but not in fear, in relief. The ocean of my life had turned out to be as smooth as a pond once I got myself right side up.

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