Cemetery of Forgotten Books

Or was it The Confession by Grisham?We gathered up a stack of books to drop off at a nearby library’s used book room. Among them: The Reversal, a recently published crime thriller by the great Michael Connelly. We had purchased it only a few months ago and read it straight through. One gulp. The last word on the last page had barely finished resonating before we stuck the bestseller on a shelf and returned to the grim demands of daily life.

Until this morning when it came off that shelf (where we found it next to Grisham’s The Confession) we had not given The Reversal a moment’s thought. We’d forgotten we owned it. We couldn’t swear that we had even read the novel. Flipping through the book, examining a passage here, a passage there, brought nothing of the story back to mind.

Okay, we know it featured a regular Connelly character named Mickey Haller, the “Lincoln Lawyer,” an ethics-challenged defense attorney, half-brother to Connelly’s police detective hero, Harry Bosch.

But we know all that mostly because it says so on the cover. We also spotted both names while we searched the book to jog our memory. Memory remained otherwise unjogged. What “reversal”? What crime? Who did what and why? How did Haller and Bosch triumph, and over whom? No image, no episode, no snatch of dialogue bubbled up from the depths. We were stumped.

We dropped The Reversal back atop the stack of books to be recycled and thought, “That has got to be the very definition of a great read.”

The Reversal by Michael Connelly. Highly recommended.

Anthony Hopkins Plays Baal

Aerobic exorciseWe went to see the new Anthony Hopkins film The Rite this evening. When we got home we were pretty hungry. Sure, we had bought the large tub of popcorn, but only because it’s easier to carry than the paper bags, and has a stable base so you can set it on the seat next to you with no fears of an avalanche. No way were we going to eat more than 7% of the contents, nor did we, and so, upon returning to our little bungalow on Mulholland Drive, the first stop was the fridge.

Lo and behold! What did we see but the second half of the “Kung Pao Chicken Salad” we’d bought earlier at Gelson’s Deli. Did we make short work of it? And how!

You know what got us most about the salad? The bean sprouts. Yup: bean sprouts! The funny thing is, we don’t normally go for bean sprouts in a big way. They seem a little too health-foody, if you know what we mean. Like hay for cows. But tonight they seemed, instead, fresh and crunchy. Just the thing after seeing a movie about exorcism set in Rome, “the Eternal City,” and starring Anthony Hopkins, a Welsh actor. It was swell to see the great Irish actor, Ciarán Hinds, in a small role as a lecturer on demonic possession. There were many Roman cats in the movie. You’d like them.

After we had polished off the Kung Pao Chicken, we were mighty tempted to nom down on a couple of Eggo toaster waffles spread with lemon curd, but the late hour forbade.

Rocky Peak Adventure

Just outside of Nome.What you see here is the photo I took at the summit of Rocky Peak. At 2,750 feet, this rugged promontory, well-deserving its petrological title, is the third highest point in the Santa Susana Mountains which form part of the northern boundary of Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley.

If you want to enjoy the same vistas I gazed out upon from this lofty aerie — once, by the way, part of the vast real estate holdings of entertainer Bob Hope — your desire can easily be satisfied. All you need is a stout trek pole, sturdy boots, a boonie cap with a chin strap, three water bottles, two chicken sandwiches, a backpack full of Cuties™ mandarin oranges, an iPod loaded with I, Sniper, a Bob Lee Swagger novel by Stephen Hunter, a smartphone equipped with GPS, a camera for bringing back the proof of having reached the summit and the iron determination to plod wearily up thousands of feet of not-too-step yet all-too-steep much-fissured fire road.

My little guidebook calls the Rocky Peak Road an easy hike. So it is. Easy to take exit 32 off the Ronald Reagan Freeway. Easy to park in the turnout located to the south on Santa Ana Pass Road. Easy to cross north on the bridge over the Freeway to reach the trailhead.

After that less easy: an hour and half of glute-stressing climbing, followed — after a chicken sandwich break en plein air during which you can admire the view of the Pacific far to the west — by a wobbly-legged descent of similar duration. But not too demanding, even considering the cold, unceasing, buffeting wind way up top which may possibly slap you so silly that you, too, forget to snap the evidentiary photo celebrating your conquest.

Half-way twixt summit and trailhead — at the juncture of the Rocky Peak Road and the Hummybird Trail – a thoughtful park ranger has installed a restful bench.

When You Care Enough to Send the Anapest

Goodnight, Mrs Calabasas, wherever you are.

‘Twas the week before Christmas, and grocers grew fey,
As they set out their produce in cheery display
In which veggies foreshadow the Birth of the Lord
With a Rudolph the Red-Nosed made out of a gourd,
It was captured by Mrs N. Work with her phone
As she shopped for potatoes and fresh provolone,
And repurposed to say have a most Happy New
Year, and Merriest Christmas. Yours, Nice W.

Lines Written After Reading “Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant”

GLENDOWER:
I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

HOTSPUR:
Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?

—— From Henry IV, Part One, Act iii, Scene 1

Owen Glendower dissed by Hotspur, Henry IV, Part One, Act III, Scene 1

From Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant

…the two of them made some mutual arrangement. Then they smiled at each other, again without any sense of surprise or excitement, as if long on famiiar terms, and the waitress retired from the table. Barnby handed the stump of pencil back to Maclintick. We vacated the restaurant.

‘Like Glendower, Barnby,’ said Maclintick, ‘you can call spirits from the vasty deep. With Hotspur, I ask you, will they come?’

‘That’s to be seen,’ said Barnby. ‘By the way, what is her name? I forgot to ask.’

‘Norma…’

— Anthony Powell

Glendower Calls the Spirits

The world we touch and smell and taste,
The world we hear and see
Pays homage to the vasty deep
In which it soon will be,

But giving memory its due
(Which is to say: a lot),
The things we touch, smell, taste and hear
And see are all it’s not.

WikiLimereak

What fools these anarchists be.

There once was a man called Assange
Whose name did not rhyme with mélange.
“You must say it,” he said,
“Not like ‘mange’ but instead
“Like the Congolese river, Ubangi.”

Who Was That Lady?

Athena or Hera or Demeter or Aphrodite or Someone ElseSay good-bye to this ancient Roman goddess before she leaves her present home in The Getty Villa in Los Angeles. She will return this Sunday to her birthplace, Sicily, where, we hope, she will be better treated than before when she was left buried like an old tin can for several millennia. Having seen how nice she looks when cleaned up, the Sicilians suddenly want her back, so back she goes.

Her name is Aphrodite or Hera or Demeter or Athena, depending on the now-missing identifying objects she once held, and on the now-missing headpiece she once wore. Maybe the Sicilians can kick around in the dirt and find something to I.D. the lady.

You can see that Jane Doe — Giovanna Cervus in Latin — is a doughty hunk of woman. Eight feet at least, without shoes. The picture above includes a field trip kid for scale.

Mostly she’s made of limestone, but her head, arms and feet are marble. Marble, intones the informational card on her pedestal, was an expensive Greek import and so was saved for the nicer bits.

We’re also told that close inspection reveals faint traces of pink and blue pigment in the crevices. No such close inspection was vouchsafed this member of the public. The alert museum guards forbade pedestal clambering. Peer as we might from the allowed distance, nothing pink or blue was revealed to our sight. But we take the coloration as a matter of faith from the Getty curators who have never lied to us.

The statue was carved sometime around 400 B.C. Or 400 “B.C.E” to you godless heathens out there. It’s well preserved — not too badly weathered, that is — so we guess the Sicilians valued Ms Unknown Goddess and took good care of her for a while, until they forgot where they’d put her.

Maybe she's Miss Etna 400 B.C.