Thursday, May 18, 2006

Odds and Sods

Imagine my delight to open the latest issue of the New Yorker, and find that Anthony Lane had profiled the legendary Patrick Leigh Fermor (not available online). I was first tipped off to Fermor by repeated mentions in Robert D. Kaplan's books, but the two books RK quoted ("A Time of Gifts" and "Between the Woods and the Water") were long out of print in the U.S., and commanded prohibitive sums.

Last spring, I found the first in the basement of a London used bookstore, and spent a wonderful afternoon immersing myself in it -- sitting in a London park (forget which one -- near the British Museum), under a tree, looking at girls and reading "A Time of Gifts."

It's the first of a planned three-part tale, recounting an 18-year-old Fermor's walk from the Netherlands to Turkey in the early 1930s. ("BTWATW" is the second -- the third is still undone, and I deeply hope Fermor will manage to get it done.)

To say the books are captivating is an understatement. Fermor writes beautifully and wittily, and he really did this at the last possible moment -- pre-autobahns and European Union, with the first stirrings of the world war to come, he travels from country to country, relying on friends of friends and the kindness of strangers. I can't imagine anyone reading this and not wanting to follow in his footsteps.

And the trip was only one small part of an amazing and eventful life. I know from passing mentions that Fermor went on to have a storied espionage career in WWII, and then a life of travel and introspection. I haven't finished Lane's profile but it's rekindled my love for this all-time great. And -- it has the good news (for people other than me, at least) that the books have been rereleased in the U.S., here and here. Check them out -- you won't regret it. I know my critical faculties are in doubt since I've slobbered over the last few books I've read, but anyone with even the slightest love of travel will love Fermor.

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Actual real news from one of the slew of e-mail lists I'm on: starting next month, the Friday Project's "The Friday Thing" will be free, as will the archives. Sarcastic, funny as hell, often outraged -- fantastic stuff, especially for the Britishers around here.

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The NHL's final four is set, and maybe it's a testament that they do go on too long that I had to continually remind myself that the winner of Edmonton-San Jose wasn't going to the finals. There's no teams left that I feel a particular loyalty to, and also no teams left that I really despise. Even the once-mocked Ducks really don't seem so ridiculous any more, and perhaps our children's children will long for the days of old school hockey, when teams had good names like "The Mighty Ducks" and featured classy logos like a duck-shaped goalie mask -- much as time has lent nobility to other silly names.

Onward though, tangents be damned. Lacking any real pressing reason to go for either team, I'm picking the Oilers in the West and Hurricanes in the East. While I'm always a sucker for out-of-nowhere goalies like Bryzgagglegalanovsushinsky, and I still want to see Teemu Selanne do well, the Oilers have Hemsky and Spacek, and I'll always root for Pronger (at least 'til five years from now, when he signs with Detroit). In the East, it'd probably be smarter to choose Buffalo -- a better goalie, I suspect, and all those zippy little dudes -- but I'll give some love to the other Southeastern team, and can anyone rationally pick against Rod Brind'Amour? Well, of course you can. He's never won a Cup, so picking against him has always worked out. But I like the guy and that does it. 'Canes in 6.

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For those who've been asking how the bathroom project went, eat m... I mean, it's still not done! Removing the mirror begat big holes in the wall, patching those holes begat sanding, sanding begat plaster dust in my toothbrush. What was to be a half-hour job will now involve me repainting the room this weekend, unless something more enticing comes up, like jury duty. I'm thinking about turning this into a business -- I'll come over, destroy your bathroom, drink your beer, and leave the project undone and you stepping over random debris for weeks on end. $75 an hour!

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I'll be revamping some of the crap on the right side this weekend, adding a ton of new links, an entire new subset of links (oooo!!), maybe some other stuff. I'm kicking around the idea of getting a new template, one that has a smaller font size, but I'm still haunted by the comments adventure. So for now, I'll probably stick with the large-print edition of The Post-Pessimist Association.

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