He looked on fabulous monsters, the twin beards and huge beast-bodies of Assyrian Kings, the walls of Babylon.
-Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward Angel
All photos by Benn Bell
The Big Sleep and Look Homeward Angel
I just finished reading Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe. It was a monumental mountain of beautiful prose. Now I turn my attention to a different sort of angel. A slumming angel. Of course I am speaking of none other than Raymond Chandler. I have read The Big Sleep before, but not the new annotated edition. Chandler’s prose is a bit more hard boiled than Wolfe’s but it is no less poetic. I can’t wait to get started!
2018 was a pretty good year for films. I had a hard time picking my top 10, but I didn’t have a hard time picking my top 3. They are as follows:
Top 10 Films of 2018
A Star is Born
Sorry to Bother You
Crazy Rich Asians
Bad Times at the El Royale
Howard Schultz Running for President
There is always a fly in the ointment. This time it is former Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz announcement that he is running for president as an independent. The last thing we need is another old billionaire white guy as president. Now you might think that as an independent he doesn’t stand much chance of winning. But my concern is he could be a spoiler and throw the election back to Trump.
Another concern is he just hired Steve Schmidt as campaign manger. Schmidt is a brilliant political operative who I greatly admire. With Schmidt at the helm Schultz has a chance. Things should be pretty interesting over the next few months as they develop. As if they hadn’t been interesting enough. Watch this space.
What hood this is I think I know.
I walk and think while the hood fills up with snow.
Old Louisville is where I walk around
As the snow flakes fall gently to the ground
I linger here a while
And what I see makes me smile
The pretty little houses with the snow piled high
I take a few pictures to remember by.
I read 27 books in 2018. Did not hit my goal. I’ll try to step it up for 2019. So many books so little time. Here is my Top 10.
- The Man With The Golden Arm – Nelsen Algren
- The Road to Wigan Pier – George Orwell
- The White Album – Joan Didion
- Never Come Morning – Nelsen Algren
- The Fall – Albert Camus
- The Crossing – Cormac McCarthy
- Paterson – William Carlos Williams
- The Other Shore – Thich Nhat Hanh
- Young Once – Patrick Modiano
- Rabbit At Rest – John Updike
Anyone want to talk about any of these books I would be happy to discuss. Your comments are welcome. Each book was special in its own way and I would be hard pressed to say which one I like the best.
Shoot the Breeze!
A few months ago, I had the good fortune to move to Old Louisville. As fate would have it, I moved into an apartment on Third Street just four houses down from a house I used to live as a young man during the turbulent 70’s. As a matter of fact, my family actually owned that house and sold it in 1993. Fast forward to 2018.
My friend Victoria was looking for an apartment and I have long been encouraging her look in Old Louisville as it was a very interesting place to live with a lot of old Victorian Mansions which have been subdivided into apartments. And there was Central Park nearby.
One day she was over at my place and we went out apartment hunting together. She had several picked out over on Fourth Street to look at. It was raining that day so we took our umbrellas.
We walked down Hill Street to Fourth and as we were about to round the corner, I noticed a For Rent sign in the yard of a house that I had long admired. I called it the House of Lions and Pineapples. It was a beautiful three-story red brick Victorian home with two lions and pineapples outside in front and a black wrought iron gated entrance. I said, “Why don’t you give them call?”
She did and we were able to see it right then. They had just put it on the market and were in the process of cleaning and painting it when we went in. Victoria fell in love with it immediately and I did too.
After looking at a couple of other places in the area Victoria decided that the house of pineapples and lions was the one for her, so we called the owner and asked for a meeting. Sure, come on over they said. They told us their address and we headed over.
They lived on Third Street, just a few doors down from where I am currently living. What was that address again, I asked Victoria? 1461? Why I used to live in that house back in the 70’s. As a matter of fact, my family owned that very building back then!
When we got there and knocked on the door a little old lady round and short answered the door. She had a big smile on her face. I introduced myself and told her I used to live this building back in the 70’s and wasn’t it ironic that we were here? Oh, did you know Dr. Bell? Why yes! I am his son!
We sat down and had a nice talk. Joe and his wife Arden bought the house in 1993 from my parents. At that time, I was part owner of the house myself and received some of the proceeds from the sale. Arden gave us a tour of the house. I bet it looks a lot different now than it did then, she said. Yep It sure did!
So, there we were. My friend Victoria was about to rent an apartment from the couple who own the house I used to live in but was sold to them in 1993 the same year Victoria was born. What kind of alignment of the planets was necessary to bring us to this point? By what chance occurrences was Victoria destined to cross my path and rent the apartment in the building of the lions and pineapples?
It put me in mind of a story I once heard when I was living in Philadelphia.
It seems there was this college professor living in my building who sent his servant to the Italian Market one day for supplies. In a very little while the servant came back, shaking and trembling. It was clear he had been greatly disturbed by something that had happened at the market.
He said, “Mister Coffer, sir, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd. I turned to look to see who it was and I saw it was Death staring me in the face. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture. I ran from the market and came back here. Mister Coffer, will you please lend me your car so that I can ride away from this city and avoid my fate? I will go to Salem and there Death will not find me.”
The college professor gave him the keys to his Mustang, and the servant got in and rode away as fast as the car could drive not first without leaving a stretch of burning black rubber behind him as he pulled out of the parking garage. Later that day the professor went down to the Italian Market and he saw Death standing in the crowd and he went over, not afraid, and asked her, “Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant this morning when you saw him?”
“That was not a threatening gesture,” Death said, “I was just surprised to see him here in Philly, as I had an appointment with him tonight in Salem.”
Thomas Wolfe wrote in his book, Look Homeward Angel, “The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a Georgia slattern because a London cut-purse went unhung. Through chance, we are each a ghost to all the others, and our only reality; through, chance, the huge hinge of the world, and a grain of dust; the stone that starts an avalanche, the pebble whose concentric circle widen across the seas.”
And although chance may have something to do with our lives and though we make a move this way or that we are still bound like an ant on a leaf rushing down a river to the sea. And there is precious little we can do about it but enjoy the ride.
Victoria rented the apartment and she is living there now just one block away in the building of the lions and pineapples. And if you squint your eyes and hold your mouth in a certain way you can almost see the flapping wings of the butterfly in the rain forest that made it all possible.
Last night I went to a party put on by the Third Street Association here in Louisville, Kentucky. It was in a beautiful old Victorian home. For while I thought I was lost in the Ingmar Bergman film, Fanny and Alexander or the Short Story The Dead, by James Joyce. Such was the beauty of the home I went to and the magical quality of the experience.
Both the stories were about a Christmas celebration among family and friends in spacious beautiful old homes decorated for the occasion. Both stories were a celebration of the love of family and friends and the human nature we are all heir too.
The House on Third was full of great Christmas cheer, fun, and laughter.
“His soul swooned softly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”
-James Joyce from his short story, The Dead