Down to the sea

So take this veil from off my eyes
My burning sun will some day rise
– Bradley Nowell

Among other things, Memorial Day signals the beginning of summer where it joins the 4th of July and Labor Day as the Tinker to Evers to Chance of beach-going. Now I know you people in fly-over country don’t really have beaches, but being the good red-staters that you are, well, you’ve got God instead.

I, for one, am willing to call it even.

Over fifty years ago I was born and raised in a house just one block from the ocean. Except for a few scattered years here and there, I have always lived close enough to walk to the beach and even now I can still wake up at night and, if the wind is blowing right, I can hear the waves breaking and smell the salt and the fullness of high tide or the sharpness of low tide. I don’t do as much when I go to the beach when one considers that I grew up in the Golden Age of the Frisbee, the Hobie Cat, and all shapes and sizes of surfboards, and nowadays the off day is spent flip-flopping down to the shore with beach chair, iPod, book, and Mr. SPF8 in tow where I park myself and read and work on that pre-cancerous glow that we call ‘a tan’. (It is a well-known fact in San Diego that man is only as deep as his tan. You can look it up).

Recently I have been the recipient of quite a collection of wonkish political books from publishers anxious to have a “somewhat popular blogger” read and comment upon and I thank all of you who have sent them along. I try to make a habit of commenting on the ones that I like and, in contrast to all other aspects of life, if I don’t have something nice to say about the others, then I say nothing. It’s important to occasionally be gracious…or so I hear.

Summer though is the time for lighter fare and in these post-Da Vinci Code times, I’m always looking for something that engrosses or amuses me. Having said all of that, here are a couple of recommendations that I’d like to pass along for your summertime blues whether you are beach-deprived or not. First off, after more than a few distractions, I finally finished Kevin Brockmeier’s The Brief History of the Dead which might be described as To Build a Fire as written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez with advice from Stephen King. Intriguing, no? Go read it. You can thank me later.

Currently I’m knee-deep in Lapham Rising by Roger Rosenblatt which has just enough misanthropy and snark to keep me coming back. Here’s a favorite passage:

On the opposite shore, the Lapham’s thirty-six-thousand-square-foot-castle rises on eight acres like a mutant flamingo alongside fortifications belonging to other royal pretenders just like them. The Klimers, the Courters, the McWalmarts, the Hooligans, the Caesars, the Wontons, the Rapynes, the Bolognas, and the Bonanazas – ah, the Bonanazas. I have never laid eyes on them, including Lapham. But he consumes my special attention because his house is the biggest and gives off the most bang for the buck, and also because his family creeps back into the gothic caves of American history. Third mates on clipper ships, assistants to slave auctioneers, pale and lascivious clergymen, disbarred magistrates, corrupt patroons, embezzler quartermasters, informers for Andrew Carnegie – a genealogy of disappointed ambition. They made money nonetheless. (In 1878, Moses Lapham of Cincinnati, in a failed effort to fashion a tooth-yanking device, inadvertently invented the asparagus tongs, which soon gave rise to escargot tongs, the grape scissors, the lobster cracker, and other instruments associated with dining and grasping.) The family continued to reproduce like inbred collies until their heads became so pointed that there was no room for brains, and yet fortunately, no need.

Today, the latest of the breed, still quite wealthy thanks to untouchable trusts and the irrational though lucky investments of his forebears, is not gainfully employed. Lapham’s occupation is a Web site he created, on which he offers America his opinions both on current events and on life in general, called Lapham’s Aphms. He either seems to have misunderstood or misspelled aphorisms. The English language, though his own, presents him with challenges. Yet he shows great confidence. One of Laphma’s aphms is: “He who does not promote himself will never be promoted.” He is currently said to be at work on a memoir titled Lapham Is Here. As if that were in question.

As Edith Wharton might have put it: That’s some pretty funny-ass shit.

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Yeah. Like I would tell you....