Sunday, August 24, 2014

Benefits of old pulp fiction

I mentioned a couple posts ago that I'm on a Nero Wolfe binge. For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Wolfe, he's the hero of several dozen detective novels written by Rex Stout starting in the 1930s and continuing for decades. His plots are marvels of elegant complexity, his narrator, Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's assistant detective, is a Humphrey Bogart type who is excellent company. His characters are unpredictable the way actual people are unpredictable, and the bad guys always get caught in the end. Great literature it ain't, but sometimes just a well-told story is more than sufficient.

One side benefit of reading the early ones is running into thought patterns that were unremarkable at the time, but now seem amazing.

For instance, in "The Rubber Band", the one I'm reading now, written in 1936, we have a cantankerous old coot who doesn't trust Wolfe and is about to refuse to do what Wolfe wants him to do. Trying to convince him, Wolfe says, "You called me an idiot, Mr. Walsh. I return the compliment. What is worse, you are hot-headed. But you are an old man, so there is humanity's debt to you."

Humanity's debt to him just because he's old. An unthinkable concept in current society. But then, in the late 30s, Social Security had just been put into place, and people were thinking in terms of what we as a society should do to protect our elders from grinding poverty in old age. I'm not going to insist that the world owes me just because I have survived to 71, but the idea that I've contributed to humanity and might expect at least some respect in return has its appeal.

Of course, there's the other side too. In "Too Many Cooks", written in 1938, I bumped right into the casual ethnic slurs of the time. There are several African American characters, whom Archie refers to with the N-word, and some Italians who are described as "dagos". The plot manages to wind its way through the unthinking racism of the time, coming down against it, but, as someone who really does think the Washington football team should change its name, I was shocked to see the words in print. But one of the minor characters was a squinty-eyed West Virginia sheriff whose behavior reminded me that there's more to racism than non-PC language.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I've been snubbed

My orb weaver spider apparently took offense at having her web destroyed twice in a week. She's gone. Now, come October, I'll have to find spider webs to admire elsewhere than on the roof.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

new neighbor on the roof

A small orb-weaver spider has taken up residence between my tomato plant and the one next to it.

I am not afraid of spiders. I am, in fact, a bit fond of them because I think their webs are beautiful and I am awestruck at their ability to create them. I mean, they somehow manage to anchor long support wires off in three or four directions, then make them meet in the middle where they spin nets. I couldn't do that. And on a cool fall morning, when the dew drops make the web easy to admire, it is a great wonderment and worthy of thanksgiving and respect. Not that I want a spider crawling up my arm or anything, but I have no desire to assault any spider who is just going about her business creating beauty.

Unfortunately, this particular spider creates her web such that I can either respect her art or pick tomatoes off my plant. She's little at the moment, having just chosen her web site (spiders did that millenia before we did) and set up waiting for small bugs to stick to it so she can eat them and become larger.

But I want my tomatoes. So I broke through her web. She scurried off onto the tomato plant as I grabbed the two ripe ones. My guilt at the destruction did not interfere at all with my enjoyment of the tomatoes. It probably should have.

Two days later, I went up again. And there she was again. And there was her web again. And there were my tomatoes. I tried to find ripe tomatoes that were not on the other side of her web. I found one, but two more glowed through the delicate netting, and I had to swoop down like the ravening hordes again.

I don't know how long she can put up with this. While she weaves beautifully, I suspect she is not very flexible about where, plus which the space between tomato plants is probably ideal for catching bugs as they swoop over the roof. The tomato plant looks ready to keep producing for weeks to come. I wonder if there is a way for me to get her to relocate about four inches to the southeast back past most of the tomato plant. Or even down six inches so I could reach past. Anyone know how to negotiate locations with an orb spider?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

healthful side effect of my tomato plant

There are two elevators in the main lobby of Terwilliger Plaza. One goes to the roof. One goes only to the top residential floor.

So, now that my tomato plant is producing, I frequently need to get to the roof. Earlier today, I stood at the elevator doors on the sixth floor waiting for transport. The wrong elevator came. I stood back, let the doors close, counted to 10, and pressed the call button again. The wrong elevator came again, this time with people in it who looked quizzically at me as the doors closed.

Now I was embarrassed. I know I can't climb the six floors of stairs, plus the flight to the roof. Well, OK, I could, but my knees would explain my error to me all day tomorrow.

I pressed the call button again. The wrong elevator came again. And then I had the "Eureka!" moment. I may not be able to climb seven stories, but I can certainly climb one. So I took the wrong elevator to the 12th floor and the stairs to the roof. Not only did I get healthful, nourishing, delicious tomatoes for my lunch, I got one more floor of stair climbing than I would have otherwise, plus I got that smug sense of accomplishment I get when an idea from outside the box manages to make its way into my head.

So now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to go wash and cut my tomatoes, slosh them with some balsamic vinaigrette, and have lunch, with a side dish of self-satisfaction.