this blog written in the style of Dr. Stephen Maturin’s diaries from Patrick O’Brian’s “Master and Commander” books
Our ship laid anchor in Venice, California – perhaps I should call it the slightly less couth sister of Santa Monica, the bustling port city of Los Angeles. Other groups have taken the jolly boat inland to Hollywood and points beyond, but knowing I must make home here, I’ve chosen to stay and assemble my various collections.
The natives are a leathery, insouciant people; well-heeled women in suggestive topcloths parade around the avenues like so many cockled peacocks, and the men are as manicured as the Egyptians, a tribe of smellsmocks and pinchfarthings jockeying for attention. Still, their dedication to the sea is admirable, and though their style may not answer, one may at least take a droll curiosity from their gait.
When we were docked in New York, I noticed the idiots – in rectus verbum, naturally – would spend hours conversing with themselves, holding infinite dialogue within their own person as they traversed the subterranean locomotor. In Venice, however, the insane, the imbecile and even the “moron” are much preoccupied with talking to you. I find it challenging, to say the least, and have kept to quarters, avoiding quarrel.
We are bunked in, rooming with several other transplants from other climes, each one peddling wares in a local industry hellfire on ignoring them. One in particular, whom I shall call “D.F.,” is a 29-year-old lady in the waning hours of her youthful bloom, clinging to her speculative idea, knowing full well these months will determine her course. I looked at her tongue, and told her the pace would surely send her into ague.
Many are like her in this village, drawn up in high buggies, partaking of coffee in immoderation, always with a canis domesticus by their side. Surely the want of these women and the supply are in unbalanced proportion.
The cuisine is spicy, and is a welcome break from the red meat of Eastern America. Of course I long for the soused hog’s face and goose bits in goose grease, but the “enchilada” and the “quesadilla” are olfactory delights, especially after a “margerita,” a local – and expensive – form of grog.
I inquired after several friends who had once graced this port city, but many, not finding work commensurate with their talents, have gone far inland to cities like Chicago and back to old New Amsterdam. Even the talentless have fled, such as K.L., a lady so untowardly cynical, with legs waxed to reflective gloss, who moved to West Palm Beach. In her last post, received not 18 months ago, she told the surviving members of her sloop that she was “looking for a rich husband.”
Is there any hope for divination in a valley that breeds such people? Could the desert sun, unabating, with so little rain and vegetation sparse and prickly, produce a population that has had their higher virtues blanched away? One hopes that a heavy rain might purge thousands of egos, sending them flooding down streets and out to sea.
And does my own presence make me tacitly complicit? Am I no better than any of them, another rube on horseback playing the ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote to the windmill farms on every hilltop? I have decided to keep my ship free of both barnacle and scale by not dwelling on the whys and wherefores; after all, my age advances as well.
I shall keep to the pen, to my loves, and to the moment. As Virgil says, “tempus erat quo prima quies mortalibus aegris incipit, et dono diuum gratissima serpit,” and I too, shall repair body and mind with sound sleep.