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    The New Year's Random Ramble

    I'm in the midst of unpacking bins and boxes and suitcases and looking for the cord for the printer and for the thingy that lets me plug in a bunch of USB cords.  That is, I should be in the midst of those things.  Instead, I'm thinking about my dad on the 100th anniversary of his birth and I'm thinking about a couple of memorable quotes from Mark Twain and Spongebob Squarepants.  (I thought about quoting Joe Scarborough, who couldn't think of Walter Reuther's name this AM while he was knocking the unions, but I want this to be a positive, maybe even fun blog and tomorrow's another day.)

    I jumped the gun and wrote about my dad last year on his 99th birthday.  I knew I should have waited for the Big One, but I was feeling it then (just as I'm feeling it now).  Out of a family of 12, only his two baby sisters are left.  One is 83 and the other is 91.  They have skin like velvet, even now, and if they ever lose their Italian sense of drama, I will just die.  

    My father, having been the only one in his entire family to move away from his birthplace, striking out on a life of his own, was a lapsed Catholic for most of his life.  My mother was a ho-hum Lutheran.  His background is Italian; hers is Finnish.  He was dark and she was blond.  In his family, no one had ever not married an Italian--until then.  In my mother's family, no one had ever not married a Finn--until then.  There was some concern about how my Italian grandmother was going to take the news, but she accepted it as graciously as an Italian mother of a son could do--and eventually grew to love my mom (and later, me and my brothers) dearly. 

    My mom learned to sing Italian songs, which thrilled my grandfather no end.  This man, Giuseppe, loved music. I remember at an early age being stunned and frightened by the sight of him, Uncle Victor's cask wine in one hand, a foul Italian cheroot in the other, weeping, sobbing, in a self-inflicted agonizing ecstasy, as he listened to records of Enrico Caruso and Beniamino Gigli .  Music moves me in the same way--even worse, now that I'm older--and I love the fact that I got that trait from that old man who spoke little English, who loved his Italian tenors, and who, in other ways, was as strong as a bull and just as sure of himself.

    My father--his son--liked but did not love music.  My mom did.  My mom loved to sing and was actually pretty good at it.  I was, too, as long as I didn't have to sing solo in front of anybody.  Then something besides music came out.  Oddest damned thing.  I could warble like a songbird as long as I was alone or my voice was mixed in with others.  But let me try and sing for you and the sound of a cawing crow would have been music to your ears.   A painful thing to admit, but it's better than not knowing and causing all kinds of grief for everybody.

    So. . . for Christmas I always get a book or two from my oldest grandson.  He was hinting for suggestions early on, but since I already owned "Blowing Smoke", and hadn't really made a list, I sort of put off answering him.  He winged it and gave me the new "Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1".

    I have to say, it is the most amazing gift!  First off, it weighs exactly four pounds and looks to be about six inches high.  (When it's not a book, it's a footstool.)  It holds 738 pages and is printed in what looks like a teeny tiny 8 pt. font.  And this is just Volume One!!

    But I love Mark Twain AKA Samuel Clemens, and as soon as I devise a carrier for the thing, I'm going to do some serious reading of what I just know is some funny, witty stuff.

    Already I'm finding this funny:  The actual "Autobiography of Mark Twain" fills only 264 pages!  The book's remaining 474 pages cover a 58 page introduction, 142 pages of "Preliminary Manuscripts and Dictations", 182 pages of "Explanatory Notes", Appendixes, Notes on the text, Word Division, references (31 pages) and an index.

    There are photographs of manuscript pages, which are more exciting to me than those teeny tiny printed pages.  This, after all, is Mark Twain's own hand.  On one page I found this:

    What a wee little part of a person's life are his acts and words!  His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself.  All day long, and every day, the mill of his brain is grinding, and his thoughts, not those other things are his history.  His acts and his words are merely the visible thin crust of his world, with its scattered snow summits and its vacant wastes of water--and they are so trifling a part of his bulk!  A mere skin enveloping it.  The mass of him is hidden--it and its volcanic fires that toss and boil, and never rest, night nor day.  These are his life, and they are not written, and cannot be written.  Every day would make a whole book of eighty-thousand words--three hundred and sixty five books a year.  Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man--the biography of the man himself cannot be written.

    An odd comment coming from a man who was, in fact, directing his own autobiography at the time.  But I get what he means.  We tend to choose carefully the parts of us we're willing to expose.  But sometimes we just say to hell with it.

    So while I was looking at the Mark Twain book, counting the various sections and finding that alone quite amusing, I was eating a frozen Yoplait Gogurt.  My method is to push the frozen yogurt slowly up to the top and them lop it off little by little.  Then when I'm almost done, I press the tube flat from the bottom up, getting the last little bit out of it, like a toothpaste tube.  Normally, the next step would be to toss the flattened tube into the trash and be done with it, but I happened to glance at the package and saw that Spongebob had issued a challenge:  Fill in the missing word from the quote:  "I smell the smelly smell of something that smells __________."

    Rancid!  Putrid! Fishy!  No, wait. . . .smelly!  I got it!  Yes, I got it!  Or rather, Spongebob got it and gave it to me.  I had been vaguely trying to think of a one-liner to describe the newly Republican-dominated House and all that goes with it, and there it was:

    I smell the smelly smell of something that smells smelly.

    It really kind of made my day.  It takes nothing away from either my dad or my mom or my grandfather or even Mark Twain, no matter what you're thinking.  They all would have got a laugh out of it.  (Okay, maybe not Giuseppe.  I'll give you that.)

    (Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices here.)



    You know I forgot and you reminded me Ramona. Damn

    I want to get a little printer and I have this little bonus coming Feb 1.

    It is so funny because for the longest time when I had something to contribrute to society I had a printer.

    There are lists and such that can be made into real paper made lists. And Dagblog took care of so many things for me. I can find all my old blogs--like 700 of them.

    Hell, I have been without a printer for a decade. damn!

    I just did some post on a critique on Keeler's take on this new book and I am so interested in how you read this new tome.

    What a wonderful gift!!

    Tell me more! ha

    DD, I'm such a creature of the printed word I have to print long pieces in order to make sense out of them sometimes.  Mine is a printer, copier, scanner and I bought it at a thrift shop, brand new, for three dollars!  It's a small one so it goes with me and it's my friend.

    I'm anxious to read your critique.  I'll go look for it. 

    Yes, it was a wonderful gift.  My grandson is the other writer in the family and even though our reading likes are totally different, we're usually on the same wavelength when it comes to really good writing.

    Couldn't find your post. Can you point me to it? Thanks.

    Ramona, you may be on to something. Mark Twain AKA Samuel Clemens had an amazing gift and uncanny talent of shoving reality up the rears of politicans from the public's view point. I use to have a thick book about his life, complete with specific quotes rendered and the specific situations that warrented his rebuke. Unfortunately, I let someone borrow it and they never returned it. Perhaps the Democrats in the House should counter the GOPer's insistence on identifying the specific clause in the Constitution that warrents their proposed legislation by offering quotes from Twain why their proposed legislation should be adopted. It would make for good comedy both in the halls of Congress as well as on TV.  In fact, maybe they should use Twain as their standard to rally against the GOPer's excess in the next two years...who's gonna argue against the wisdom of Twain?

    "...who's gonna argue against the wisdom of Twain?"  Answer: House Republicans would just force a floor voice vote declaring All Things Twain Unconstitutional.

    Ramona: pretty interesting quote you put in the box.  Twain may be right that life is what happens in our heads, but it's probably a good thing the world sees more of our deeds than our thoughts.  ;o)  I wish I'd had a Grandfather Guisseppi who'd wail over beautiful Caruso songs!  He probably had one of those enormous handkerchiefs, too.  ;o)

    Oh my gosh, Stardust, he DID have one of those handkerchiefs! I had completely forgotten about that. It had a print, I remember--not one of those gentlemanly white things. He would use it to wipe his nose and his eyes and the juices coming out of both orifices were something to behold. Oh, I'm getting that image in my head. I love it!

    Sorry, but that was tried many times while Twain/Clements was alive and they made fools out of themselves in the process. Simply because declaring something verbotten makes people curious to see why which feeds on itself.

    Beetle, I have several books of his, too, including his short stories, and I never get tired of reading them.  He had a huge ego and often made fun of just how huge it was.  I don't know the book you're talking about, but it sounds like something we should be looking for on eBay or elsewhere.  Beat you to it!

    The book was one about his life. It covered his days on the river, then on to Nevada and so forth. I was in the middle of his European travels, when I lent it out, where he was documenting his daily excursions and noting how the young were too fleeting in writing memos to themselves to remind them of their experiences. In fact, somewhere I heard he had scratched his name in the wall at the Rotten Oxen (Red Ox) in Heidelberg and when I tried to see if I could find it I gave up as soon as I walked into the establishment...the walls were covered in handwritten graffiti. The tavern's reputation was well over a couple of hundred years...King Lugwwig of Neuschwanstein castle (Disneyland) fame was a frequent patron there when he was a student at the university in the early 1800's. But what was interesting was at every stop along the way,they gave the historical account of the activities that drove him. It was interesting in that it gave a very detailed account of the world he lived in and why he responded to it the way he did.

    Sounds wonderful.  I'll be looking for it, too.  If I find it, I'll read it and pass it on to you.  Don't you hate when you don't get your books back?  I loaned out a book about Scott and Helen Nearing years ago and I'm still angry at the guy who promised to return it but didn't.

    "What a wee little part of a person's life are his acts and words!  His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself."

    Nice to see some one defend the importance of the inner life.  A fine tonic for all this "character is action" sentiment which, while also true and powerful, doesn't tell the whole story.  The whole story that, Mark reminds us, can never ever be told.

    Happy Birthday to yer pa!

    My pa thanks you, Flower.  I just know he does.

    If you are feeling the need to write about your father again, I think you should go ahead and do so. Besides, is it really fair to deprive those of us who weren't here a year ago of the story of your father?

    You have a pleasant way of telling your stories. I look forward to reading more.

    Thank you,. Emerson.  I look forward to reading you, too.

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