Tag Archives: People

Three Paragraphs of Nearly Christmas

Our friend the evolutionary biologist was visiting from New York this past weekend.  We met him in San Francisco on a rainy Saturday for a brunch of crab-meat benedicts and mimosas.  He’s a snazzy dresser (button-down shirt, sweater, slacks, glossy oxfords), heavily bearded, wears glasses; personal interests include weevils, pulp science-fiction novels, and espresso.

A couple days later: After a wait of forty minutes and a per-vehicle fee of $15, we cruise the park to admire the Christmas light displays.  The children sip hot cocoa in the back and we listen to The Chipmunks.  Elves peek from behind trees.  Santa, in a boat, whips a fish from the water straight into the mouth a waiting pelican.  A teddy bear rappels down a giant candy cane.  Around a corner we surprise a dozen dinosaurs of precarious holiday relevance.  T-rex screams. Brontosaurus only munches his electric salad leaves.

Our family cat is sixteen and has never received a letter.  I’m posting her one from the office today.  It comes, ostensibly, from another cat she knew years ago in Seattle, a full page of punctuated ‘meows’ with a paw-print for signature and photo attached.  Won’t she be surprised.  My five-year-old daughter collects the mail with me each evening.

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Marginalia, no.78

Witness the elephant who was rival to Aristophanes the grammarian in the love of a young flower girl in the city of Alexandria… They tell also of a dragon in love with a girl, and a goose smitten with the love of a boy in the town of Asopus, and a ram that was suitor to the minstrel girl Glaucia; and every day one sees monkeys furiously in love with women.

~ Montaigne, Apology for Raymond Sebond

Could it really have been every day in sixteenth-century Bordeaux that one saw monkeys ‘furiously in love’ with women?  To borrow L.P. Hartley’s famous phrase, the past is a foreign country.  And so is France.  Of course, French women are famous lookers, so one can hardly blame the monkeys.  But perhaps Montaigne had in mind local men who were uncommonly grabby and hairy.

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