One morning this past week I had put on a favorite album of mine made by Cuco Sanchez, the great traditional Mexican singer. The passionate spanish-language lyrics were a perfect accompaniment for a Spring-like day … the sun shining, the roots of all the plants out there murmuring to one another: Is it time? Do we do it now? What if we go too soon? What if it freezes?
Plants have lots to worry about this time of year, but that’s their problem and I can’t do a thing about it, so let’s move on. As I was musing on Sanchez’ songs, with titles like Guitars, Cry Guitars and Shout To Me, Stones of the Field, I found myself wondering … where were the songs of Norwegian passion? Surely the breasts of my own ancestors must have swelled with anger or grief or love at one time or another. Why don’t I know a single Norse tune?
So I did what I always did when I am stuck for an answer. I turn to experts.
I located him through an internet search at his home in Valhalla.com, and set up a Zoom interview which went something like this. Actually, it went exactly like this.
Me: Ho, there, Ragnar and may the fjords always run full of herring for you!
Ragnar: What was that about? I’m not a fisherman, you know, but a warrior. And we don’t talk like that. The Irish, now, they talk like that. But we beat the pants off the Irish.
Me: You’re right, of course, please forgive me. A faux pas, as it were.
Ragnar: We beat the pants off the French, too.
Me: This is not how I hoped our conversation would go after such a long interval, can we get past my initial clumsiness?
Ragnar: Yah, go ahead.
Me: BTW, how’s Valhalla, if you don’t mind my asking?
Ragnar: Pretty much like they told us it would be. All the mead you can drink, good food, very high wench to warrior ratio, and so much fighting to do that it really wears a person out.
Me: Fighting? In heaven?
Ragnar: This isn’t heaven, not by a long shot. We love to fight. It used to be our main reason for getting out of those straw pallets each day. But here … not such a big deal.
Me: Why not?
Ragnar: Because we’re immortal, that’s why. No matter what happens in a battle we know that tomorrow morning we’ll be right as rain. Takes a little off the edge, it does.
Me: And the mead is good?
Ragnar: Well, it’s the best mead ever, for what that’s worth. But I have to admit that while I was hanging around on Earth for that long while, I kind of got to like craft beers. And there is not a single IPA in Valhalla.
Ragnar: Not a one. Nor a stout, nor an ale, nor a porter. But there is a good side to this … at least no one ever serves us a light beer up here. Pfauuugh!
Me: That’s too bad. Have you asked … ?
Ragnar: You bet, but some of these guys have been here 10,000 years, they don’t want to make changes.
Me: Meeting some resistance, huh?
Ragnar: Yah, they just say “It was good enough for Arvid Longbow, and it’s good enough for me.”
Me: Who was Arvid Longbow?
Ragnar: No clue.
Me: Here’s my question for you today is why are there no Scandinavian love songs of passion and sweat and pores opening up and all that? Like the Spaniards have, for instance?
Ragnar: We beat the pants off the Spaniards, too.
Me: But you are evading my question.
Ragnar: You are much smarter than you look, so here’s the deal. Up among us Northmen it’s always cold, the sun is either up all the time or down all the time, and half of the country is a coast line while the other half is up smack against Sweden. So, it’s not like Spain where the sun will warm you right into a bikini, the food has to be spicy just to last through the meal, and there is always a day and a night. A warm and languid evening to serenade someone you’ve taken a fancy to – not happening in Oslo, and you can make book on that. So our songs are kind of dark, the moods are more on the morose side, and not too many of them are hummable.
Me: Do you know of any examples we could listen to?
Ragnar: Well, here’s a favorite of mine. See what you think.
Ragnar: Not a cuddle in a carload of that, is there? Good for listening to on those weeks in the longboats, though, when you’re off to teach Ireland, France, and Spain a lesson.
Here’s a day brightener. Robin had heard tales of a little pizza/ice cream shop in Montrose and since I had been a very good boy yesterday she took me out for dessert. Buckaroos is a hole in the wall sort of place next to a liquor store. Not at all promising to look at from the outside. The inside was generic as well, but the ice cream choices were excellent.
While we were eating I noticed a sign that made me curious. It was a drawing of a heart and written within the heart was this phrase: “Not all disabilities are visible.”
There was a pamphlet stand near our table and I scanned in photos of the two sides of a tri-fold pamphlet to share with you.
What an absolutely heart-warming business model! It beats even Paul Newman’s donations from sales of his salad dressings, which are already a pretty good example of sharing the wealth.
There’s a fellow who writes an outdoor column in our local paper who does a pretty good job, I think. He picks a topic, shares his experiences, does a bit of research, and writes decent prose.
Saturday morning’s topic was feral pigs, which apparently are a growing problem over much of the United States. Did you know that there are 9 million of them in the U.S.? That they eat everything in sight and can carry diseases that can spread to other species including humans? That they are intelligent, resourceful, fertile, and occasionally, just occasionally, attack and eat a person?
Now that I think back I do remember the story about the caregiver who was killed by a pack of pigs on her way to work. I recall thinking at the time that this was an absolutely uncool way to go. Far better to be done in by a mountain lion or grizzly bear, it seemed to me. I mean … someone asks you what happened to grandma and you have to respond: “Pigs got her.”
Not cool at all.
I’m not too worried yet. I know there is an army of hunters out there who could perhaps be dissuaded from having all that fun killing mourning doves and quail who could have their theriocidal energies directed toward these porkers. After all, it’s bacon on the hoof we’re talking about here.
(I showed the above cartoon to Robin and she was not amused. I think it was the fact that the woman on the barstool is portrayed as blonde.)
Last night we watched an old movie that Robin brought home from the public library – Anne Of A Thousand Days. The film tells the story of Anne Boleyn from when King Henry VIII first noticed her at court to her last day on earth as the French executioner brought over especially for the occasion did his job. A good cast, with Richard Burton, Genevieve Bujold, and Anthony Quayle as Henry, Anne, and Cardinal Woolsey.
That period of English history … what can I say? I never tire of reading about it or seeing films or plays about it. It is almost unbelievably dramatic when compared to modern political theatre. A time when a misstep at court could find you being a head shorter by the end of the day. It’s like Game of Thrones without dragons.
My favorite three books about this era are still the trilogy written by Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall, Bringing Up the Bodies, and The Mirror and the Light. It’s historical fiction done so well that you might not even care if it is true or not. It’s an awfully good set of tales being told.
I ran across this while reading about Anne Boleyn. Apparently there were apocryphal stories about her speaking after being decapitated. These rumors are deftly put to rest by a Mr. Kunkel, according to entries in the online version of Scientific American.
To understand why cockroaches—and many other insects—can survive decapitation, it helps to understand why humans cannot, explains physiologist and biochemist Joseph Kunkel at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who studies cockroach development. First off, decapitation in humans results in blood loss and a drop in blood pressure hampering transport of oxygen and nutrition to vital tissues. “You’d bleed to death,” Kunkel notes.
In addition, humans breathe through their mouth or nose and the brain controls that critical function, so breathing would stop. Moreover, the human body cannot eat without the head, ensuring a swift death from starvation should it survive the other ill effects of head loss.Scientific American
Frankly, I never considered “the other ill effects of head loss.” Foolishly I always assumed that being suddenly deprived of that part of the body was pretty much the end of it, without pondering why that might be. It is a failing of mine, that I do tend to oversimplify.
And as for those rumors mentioned above, I feel pity for the poor English folk who were so superstitious and simple that they would believe such a thing. Why, I’ll bet that if you had been back there and told those poor serfs a completely outrageous story, one involving children being sold into slavery from pizza parlors** they would have believed it.
I for one, am overjoyed that we have come so far and are so much more sophisticated now.
(**Of course that couldn’t have happened in 1536, pizza parlors hadn’t been invented yet.)
You may remember that a week or so ago we were part of an ignominious foursome who managed the difficult feat of playing the game “Clue” through to the end with all four participants making wrong guesses.
This may be why when Robin and I learned that a youth theater group was putting on a performance of the play with the same name, we felt that we had to attend. All we had to do was drive to the town of Ridgway (25 miles) and buy a very reasonably priced ticket to the show.
Maybe the answer to our question: How in the world did we do that? could be found at the theater. At least we hoped so.
Alas and alack, although we were highly entertained by this troupe, we are no wiser in that important regard on this Sunday morning.