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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Catcher in the Rye Dies

"Boy, when you're dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you are dead? Nobody."

------The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield died today. More accurately, J.D. Salinger, the man whose fertile brain conceived of the iconoclastic literary figure that most of us read while in high school.

Most of us, that is, whose teachers were not freaked out at the notion of their students reading the novel. One of my high school english teachers refused to assign the book to her classes because of what she feared would be the effects on what she termed our "easily influenced minds."

The book and its reclusive author have developed a mystique since it was published in 1951. Teachers banned it from their classrooms, and one in New York was fired after he assigned it. Some of my friends ran to the library to grab the sole copy, which we read quickly and passed around ourselves before we had to give it back--there was a waiting list for it.

Curiously, I recall more about the machinations we had to undertake in order to obtain and read the novel more than many plot details. (Methinks I may have to add this to the list of "books I read when I was a kid" and maybe should re-read.) But Salinger's passing has brought the story once again into the spotlight, an arena that the writer himself shunned more and more as he grew older.

There were attempts to bring Holden to life on the silver screen and on Broadway, but those were made nearly impossible by Holden's creator. One brush with the "Hollywood-ization" of an earlier work made Salinger nervous about allowing anyone, included noted directors like Elia Kazan, to trample on his territory.

It's just as well -- a literary work is a direct connection with the writer's mind, dependant entirely on the reader's imagination to fill in the cracks and details. Maybe nobody should really know what Holden looked like, how his voice pitched, or how long a shadow he cast when he stood in the morning light.

This is as his legacy should be, not, as he feared, with flowers on his stomach.

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sleeping With The Cheesy Fishes

I love snorkelling. It's one of those activities that I could do every single day, a pleasant mix of weightlessness and aerobic exercise -- and when carried out under the crystal waters of the Caribbean, I am as close to heaven as I can get on this planet.

I started eons ago -- when the only masks, fins and snorkels you could buy were made by a company called US Divers. All the gear was black, hard rubber -- and not entirely easy to use as a result. The mask was pretty claustrophobic--a heavy glass, metal and rubber contraption that allowed you to see only directly in front of you via an oval-shaped window. The snorkel was just a tube bent in the shape of the letter J which filled up with water as soon as you ducked your head under the waves. And the fins? They weighed a ton, had to be strapped on over a pair of booties and they had very little "give," so you really had to work at moving forward. They were better than bare feet, but not by much. And heaven forbid if you accidentally thwacked one of your buddies over the head with one of those beasts.

Nowadays the gear has changed substantially -- better, lighter materials, snorkels that wrap easily around your head and keep the water from going into your mouth each and every time you go under. The fins, ah, the fins -- these days I'm loving my slip on Mares, and if you consider this an endorsement of their product, then so be it.

I was amused and horrified when I went back recently to Cemetery Reef on West Bay Road in Grand Cayman, watching two couples wearing every bit of gear possible, all of it ill fitting as rental stuff albeit goes, and to my chagrin, each one carrying cans of yellow cheese food for the purpose of "feeding" the denizens of the reefs.

I'm one of those -- believe that above all harm none, and I do not touch anything whenever I am snorkelling or diving. I could not help but notice how much more aggressive most of the fish were since the last time I had visited that particular reef -- now even the more juvenile ones getting in my face to an unusual degree. I had one of those yellow underwater cameras and realized all too quickly that the color must have reminded the fish of the cans of cheese -- and got bit a couple of times before I just put the thing away.

I wanted to swim after the foursome, wished like hell I had on my old trusty US Divers fins so that I could clock each and every one of them on the head for their stupidity. Not only were these idiots making the fish dependent on human feeding, they were also "nourishing" them with something their digestive systems are not meant to handle.

No, I didn't go after them, of course, but I DID hope that they would suddenly find themselves surrounded by barracudas.
Amen, and pass the mustard.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Follow the Yellow Brick Road (NOT)

I went to my blog today and discovered gadzooks, that I had a follower.
It's someone I know, and no, there are no stalker issues involved. She's one of those human generators with too much energy to simply stalk – she'd most likely pounce.
However, the thought of followers had not occurred to me until about five minutes ago.
Wait, somebody might actually read this? Does this mean that now I have to concoct cogent sentences instead of jotting down the rambling thoughts that flit through my head like mosquitoes in July?
And what does this “follower” thing mean, anyhow?
It brings to mind images of Dorothy and her merry gang of misfits, in her gingham dress and glittery red shoes following the intensely yellow brick road to Emerald City, in hopes of getting whatever it was that they seemed to need so desperately. (What Dorothy needed was a week with Carson Kressley to my way of thinking. I don't believe any female over the age of seven should be caught in gingham.)
It brings to mind images of dogs in the Yukon, those white eyed powerhouses that mushers tie together and then let 'em rip, with the humans hanging on to the sled for dear life as the team rips into the night atop frozen mile after frozen mile. Think about the view – and I don't mean the TV show – what all but the two lead dogs are forced to look at while they careen across the tundra.
I could go on, but won't – preferring to state here that anyone who decides to “follow” me had best realize I've a terrible sense of direction and get lost on the way to my closet. I have an uncanny knack of falling into these cosmic vortexes – like each and every time I am in Miami and inevitably end up in Hialeah due to some mysterioso turn of the road.

This is much like the movie Being John Malkovitch in which characters enter a smallish door into the actor's brain, seeing things through his eyes for a brief spell until eventually they get spit out onto the New Jersey turnpike. They come out of the experience a little more enlightened, albeit confused, and curiously wanting to return.
Let's just leave it at this – don't follow me, instead hang around with me a little bit. The view will be much, much better and glitzy footwear is optional.
Amen, and pass the mustard.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cayman Quake

Before all else -- the quake in Haiti is undoubtedly one of the most horrific catastrophes in our lifetime, if not of all time. The images of human suffering are intolerable, and it is unlikely that the poor unfortunate souls enduring this tragedy will see true relief for some time. Let's not even get into the ones that will die before relief can get to them.

The nearby island of Grand Cayman is also coping with the aftermath of a 5.8 quake that rattled the nerves of all residents yesterday. This one rattled me as well -- given that just a couple of days ago I was visiting George Town and hanging out with some friends along some of the very spots where the tremors were felt.

(Note: I lived there for a bit of time, but that's another story.)

Even though Cayman has been rocked by quakes in recent history (December 2004 brought about another that registered 6.8 on the Richter scale), this one, although damages were minimal, landed on an island where raw nerves are still greatly exposed thanks to another cataclysmic event aptly named Ivan the Terrible.

Hurricane Ivan was a category 5 storm that clocked Cayman in September 2004, and with its over 160 mile per hour winds tore up the tiny island and caused heartbreaking damage.
Photographer David Wolfe's website posted numerous images he took that show the extent of the damage. (Full disclosure: I do not know Wolfe but searched around the web for images and found these to illustrate my point.)

During my last visit, I found that most Caymanians now speak of things "before Ivan" or "after Ivan," most like the western world that refers to dates "before Christ" and "after Christ." As I was driving around the island with my friend Denise, she would point out where a home once stood or how the very highway we were on had been lifted by the waters and deposited several feet away. One resident told me that he went to his Seven Mile Beach condo and found ten, fifteen feet tall sand dunes in the vicinity of his front door. And the owners of a bed and breakfast where I stayed told me that the warning didn't come fast enough, and that some folks simply did not have time to get out of harm's way. This couple holed up in one of their spare rooms as the winds howled overhead.

Caymanians are a very resilient people, however, and because of the various industries that have set up shop on island-- banking and tourism -- there were a lot of foreign companies whose investments needed to be protected and as such insurance money poured in and rebuilding took place relatively quickly.

Not so easily rebuilt, however, was the peace of mind of the locals -- it's anybody's guess how many cases of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS) are lurking under the usually sunny dispositions of Cayman's people.

In sharp contrast to the prosperous Cayman, it remains to be seen how the impoverished Haiti will fare given this most violent new assault on an already battered national psyche. Unlike Cayman, Haiti is dirt poor and I figure there won't be much insurance money covering some of the hovels where the people eked out their existence. I'm hazarding a guess that PTSS will reign supreme for at least a generation, if not beyond, no matter how much money celebrities and TV telethons bring in.

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Anachronous Anaesthesia

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word "anachronism" as a a "person or a thing that is chronologically out of place; especially one from another age that is incongruous in the present." Merriam Webster defines "anaesthesia" as "loss of sensation with or without loss of consciousness."

Anachronous Anaesthesia.

The name of this blog is a monniker that arose when I thought I might baptize it using words that began with my name, Ana. That said, after rooting around in the deep (or not) recesses of my cranium, I googled words beginning with the letter A and then started popping together a couple that would, well, mean something.

There is a part of me that always feels out of place, either because something in me still wishes that ladies carried parasols and men wore spats as they strolled down the boulevards, or else wore some kind of futuristic mylar as they strapped on power packs that allowed them to fly at will to wherever. If I could choose, would I live in the past or go to the future? I'm not entirely sure, but would love to give it a shot if I could.

The losing sensation without losing consciousness part? I'm of the opinion that because of all the various forms of media and communications, we have become so de-sensitized to just about everything. This requires us as a people to experience or see something so catastrophic or intense before anything registers at all. Haiti's earthquake is a prime example. We've all noticed, we have all been horrified, but at the same time, the cruise ships have already begun to sail into the island again, and I've heard little public outcry. And let's face it, the ubiquitous flags that were on every car in the United States after 9/11 are now history.

What will I write about? It may become clear to me as the time goes on, but for the present, let's just post this puppy and see what happens.

Amen, and pass the mustard.