Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Good Memory

A few nights ago, Spouse and I were watching “Too Cute” on the Animal Planet channel. For those of you not familiar with it, it is a show featuring utterly adorable puppies and kittens from birth through joining new families.

When a clutch of Wiemaraner puppies came on, we simultaneously said “remember the dogs . . . .?”.

Years ago, we were driving home across the Whitehurst Freeway when we came to a broken-down car. A woman and two handsome Wiemaraners were standing close to it. It was a cold, windy day made worse by their being on a elevated highway next to the river. There was no shoulder for her to pull onto, so they were in the active roadway.

At the time, I was driving my dearly beloved Pinto station wagon, so we pulled over and offered them a lift. [This happened before cell phones, so they were really in a bind.]

The two big dogs seemed happy to jump into the back and the woman climbed into the back seat. The dogs soon lay down and the woman thanked us for stopping. She was headed for her husband’s office at 16th and K Streets, so we drove her there.

She thanked us profusely. As we drove away I believed she would have done the same for us had our roles been reversed.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Creepy-Cool Coincidence

Early last week, I read about a special sculpture on loan from Italy to the National Gallery of Art, here in D.C. Two photos were included in the article and soon I became obsessed.

“Dying Gaul” is a fatally wounded warrior in battle. His weapons lie near him and his face is stoic, disappointed and filled with pain. It is beautifully and incredibly realistically rendered in marble. To me, it represents the futility of war and terrible waste of human life.

Last evening, I started reading a novel and, about a quarter of the way through, one of the lead characters revealed that she, too was obsessed with the “Dying Gaul” sculpture. The coincidence creeped me out.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I met Uncle Sam on January 26th, 1981 . . .

 . . . and here he is:
His name was John W. Rusk and he had been "Uncle Sam" since 1947.  We met in the Rayburn Senate office building when I went up to The Hill for my work.  He was just strolling around and handed me the above postcard.  He said that many others had tried to take his place but that he was the original and genuine "Uncle Sam."
On the back he signed it in elegant script and wished me well.  He was soft spoken and a gentle man, unlike so many Capitol Hill minions.  I think we need someone like him to remind Congress of the pride and dignity he embodied.

Monday, December 2, 2013

"The Drowning Guard"

A recent news story reminded me of a novel I read several months ago. The news story was about a planned tunnel to be constructed under the Bosporus between the eastern and western parts of Turkey.

The novel, by Linda Lafferty, is loosely based on actual people and events during the 1820s in the Ottoman Empire. If you have any interest in that part of the world and it’s history, this is a fascinating story. The lead character is the Sultaness Esma, favorite sister of the sultan and a woman before her time.

As was customary in that time and place, the Sultan maintained a large harem. The women were essentially slaves, but generously pampered and kept hidden away, to be summoned only for the Sultan‘s pleasure. It was, however, not customary for a woman to have a harem, but Esma did. Her harem was a group of women friends to keep her company in her gilded cage. [Sons of living Sultans also were held under what might be considered house arrest so they were less likely to try to depose their fathers.]

Esma had her own palace and ran it as she pleased -- sometimes testing the severe restrictions placed upon women. She was purportedly a beautiful and seductive woman with a strong sexual appetite. The story goes that she took a different Christian bed partner every night. Following her frolics with each man, he was silenced by being drowned in the Bosporus, thus the drowning guard.

As were most of the guards and male servants, Esma’s had been captured during military campaigns and forced to serve their Ottoman captors. Considering their inescapable fate, they were clothed, fed and sheltered as valued servants. The man Esma chose to drown her victims was a Serbian Christian with whom she fell in love. Of course, being a Muslim and royalty, she could not act on her feelings.

The novel is well-researched and written. The characters are believable and well expressed.

So, getting back to the news story -- I imagined divers stumbling across the skeletons of hundreds of Esma’s victims during construction of the tunnel. Not something I’d want to discover.