Friday, August 28, 2009

meteors, part III -- robert benchley, my ten years in a quandary and how they grew

my apologies for the abrupt silence in this blog of mine. it appears my brain decided to take a vacation and thus, i have trouble typing things that i want other people to read. but tonight i read a very funny little diversion, and i wanted to share it with you all. it's a piece called "isn't it remarkable" from a collection of very short shorts (i imagine they were newspaper columns) written by robert benchley. benchley is best known for his membership at the algonquin round table alongside dorothy parker, alexander woolcott, harpo marx, and charles mcarthur, to name just a few. there is plenty to know about benchley, as comic writer and actor, but like i said, i'm not typing just now, so i can only advise you to find out more about him.

Isn't It Remarkable?

On a recent page of colored reproductions of tomb paintings and assorted excavations from holes in ancient Egypt there appears a picture of a goose with the following rather condescending caption:

Remarkably Accurate and Artistic Painting of a Goose from Pharaoh Akhenaten's Palace, Drawn 3300 Years Ago

What I want to know is-- why the "remarkable?" Why is it any more remarkable that someone drew a goose accurately 3300 years ago than that someone should do it today? Why should we be surprised that the people who built the Pyramids could also draw a goose so that it looked like a goose?

As a matter of fact, the goose in this particular picture looks more like a goose than that of many a modern master. Just what do we think we are, in this age of bad drawing, to call an Egyptian painting "remarkably accurate and artistic" I don't know, but we have got to get over this feeling that anything that was done correctly in 1000 B.C. was a phenomenon. I say that we have to got to get over it, but I don't know how.

People managed to drag along in ancient Egypt, from all that we can gather. They may not have known about chocolate malted milk, and opera hats, but, what with one thing and another, they got by. And, presumably, every once in a while somebody felt like drawing a goose. And why not? Is there something exclusively twentieth century about the art of goose-drawing?

We are constantly being surprised that people did things well before we were born. We are constantly remarking on the fact that things are done well by people other than ourselves. "The Japanese are a remarkable little people," we say, as if we were doing them a favor. "He is an Arab, but you ought to hear him play the zither." Why "but"?

Another thing, possibly not exactly in this connection, but in line with our amazement at obvious things. People are always saying: "My grandfather is eighty-two and interested in everything. Reads the paper every day and follows everything."

Why shouldn't he be interested in everything at eighty-two? Why shouldn't he be especially interested in everything at eighty-two? What is there so remarkable about his reading the paper every day and being conversant on all topics? If he isn't interested in everything at eighty-two when is he going to be? (I seem to be asking an awful lot of questions. Don't bother answering them, please.)

It is probably this naive surprise at things that keeps us going. If we took for granted that the ancient Egyptians could draw a goose accurately, or that Eskimos could sing bass, or that Grandpa should be interested in everything at eighty-two, there wouldn't be anything for us to hang our own superiority on.

And if we couldn't find something to hang our own superiority on we should be sunk. We should be just like the ancient Egyptians, or the Eskimos, or Grandpa.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

cowboy trick at hanlan's point

last friday, the city workers strike that paralyzed the city was finally over after 36 days. while it was on, garbage piled up in the city parks and stink saturated their grounds, people litigated that loved ones were lost as a result of limitations of strike EMS service, and my friends and i pouted, through the quietly outraged whispers of clandestine cruisers carrying carousing tourists, when public ferry service was suspended to the islands.

of late, j had acquired a taste for laying about at hanlan's point beach, where you can choose to wear a bathing suit, or let it all hang out. yep. a nude beach in toronto. and even though i have a framed photo of signage from this beach "clothing required beyond this point" in my bathroom, i had never been since i am not a naturist, or nudist, at least when i am outdoors. but the enthusiasm of my friend piqued my curiousity and so it was that we ventured forth this past holiday monday.

we went late: it was after three, but there were plenty of people on the ferry over. we walked a bit after they let us off at the point, and i stopped to take a couple of fairly typical photos of the island scenery: trees and water and boats and birds.

we walked on and were hailed by a couple who told us they'd found an excellent supply of wild catnip, and suggested we harvest some ourselves. as much as hexter likes the weed, i was anxious to get to the beach and we moved on. soon we reached the sand and we took off our shoes, and i found myself passing the desolate stretch of sand designated for shy sun lovers, and moving onto the clothing optional strip of shore. immediately my eyes were assailed by penises of all types and dimensions, cut and uncut, cute, and uncute, and flopping around for all to see. j guided me through the maze of naked body parts until we found some people who looked around our age, and i pulled out the fuzzy sheet office give-away with plastic on the bottom that had confused me until somebody explained it was an outdoor blanket. that made a lot of sense because the plastic was kind of itchy when i tried to snuggle in it on the couch, and it was a disaster as a blanket dress from minute one. i plopped down on it while j arranged his normal blanket, and we began to people watch.

it should be understood that i went to the nude beach without any intention of getting nude myself. in fact, the idea never even occurred to me. as fond as i am of my birthday suit, it was not going to appear to honour the generic civic holiday. i simply went because my friend likes going and i like to look at naked people. though i suppose there were plenty of people still in clothes on the beach. there were families, and children and all kinds of humanity on the beach that day. but mostly there were naked men. naked men standing solidly, mimicking lazy susans by wheeling their hips in an arc, as they pressed their fists in the flesh just above, and surveyed the scene. some of them reversed status quo by wearing only t-shirts, leaving their cocks out. a lone, nude boy-man spread out close by us sat scribbling with an hp pencil, and he reminded me of somebody i knew that i had never seen naked. he lay down the pencil and picked up a novel for a while but eventually went out into the water to bathe, returning to shake out his towel conspicuously but considerately moving in front of us, ostensibly because he did not want to shake his superfluous naked sand in our faces.

i realized i should not take pictures while the beach was full or i would look like a pervert. so we watched the promenade of people moving up and down the shore, and all their shapes and sizes. some people i envied, and some i feared. the fashion of nudity continued to fascinate, as i witnessed people wearing hats or back packs or fanny packs as their only accessory. at one point i thought i saw a man wearing a condom, but j opined that it looked like a cock ring. on further inspection it seemed to us the man was using a woman's hair accessory to keep his penis from bouncing around. no, it wasn't a scrunchy.

j told me stories he'd heard about assignations on the beach, and we muttered directions and angled our heads in order to point out various appendages to each other. clouds had rolled in and the sun started to go down, and it was becoming cold. and that's when he told me about the cowboy trick.