I know there’s some debate about whether what humans might perceive as a smile is truly a canine expression of happiness and satisfaction — as opposed to, say, simply panting to cool off on a warm late summer day. It’s hard for me to believe, however, that anyone who sees Kasey outside in her favorite spot, with an apparent ear-to-ear grin, could argue about whether dogs actually smile.
The people of Maine are different: hardier, more outdoorsy, and seemingly closer to the land. Kish has noticed that the women wear less make-up and tend toward a no-frills look, while the men have the kind of ruddy complexion that makes it look like they’ve just stepped off a sailboat.
There’s something about living in a rustic area, near water, that seems to encourage that laissez-faire personal attitude. If you’ve got water and a boat nearby, there would be a lot of incentive to use it — and if make-up tended to run down your face when the fog rolled in, and fancy haircuts frizzed out and became unmanageable in the salt air, then make-up and the high-end ‘dos would likely hit the cutting room floor.
I thought about all of this on our recent mailboat run out to Isle au Haut. At one of our stops we saw a mother rowing her very cute little girl across the harbor to a dock. The Mom was an accomplished rower, and I’d be willing to bet that her daughter ends up as one, too. That’s not a bad skill to pass down from generation to generation.
Anyone who’s ever been much of a drinker knows how painful hangovers can be — and they’ve probably come up with their own theory about the best way to dodge them while still enjoying the simple, warming pleasures of a few adult beverages.
If you ask your friends what they do to avoid the dreaded hangover, you’ll find that people swear by all kinds of different folk remedies, with an almost religious intensity. Never drink on an empty stomach. Take two aspirin before going to bed. Quaff lots of water while you’re out on the town. One of our college friends contended that eating a plate of french fries covered with gravy was a sure cure, and another insisted on going out for chili dogs. And then there are the assorted “next-day” remedies, ranging from munching dry Excedrin (to maximize its impact), to guzzling an entire pot of coffee (to allow caffeine to counter the lingering alcohol effects), to downing a large breakfast of pancakes (to soak up the remaining alcohol in your system), to sampling the “hair of the dog that bit you” (to start working on tomorrow’s hangover, today). I’m a big believer in drinking lots of water, myself, and I am convinced that if you wake up with a hangover it’s too late to do much about it other than ride it out and swear you’ll never be so stupid again.
Now scientists have weighed in. A study conducted by researchers from Canada and the Netherlands looked at 826 students (a perfect control group for hangover analysis if there ever was one) and examined their food and water intake, their alcohol consumption, and their resulting hangovers. The study concluded that neither food nor water consumption had any impact on the severity of the throbbing next-day headaches and the listless, befuddled feeling that inevitably accompanies them — although those that drink lots of water feel better than those that don’t. (Told ya!)
Instead, the study concluded, the only surefire way to avoid a brain-crushing hangover is simply to consume less alcohol.
What? Drink less? That’s no fun! You know, pancakes sound pretty good right now.
If you’re one of those “keeping up with the Joneses” competitive types, you may as well just give it up. Some Russian megabillionaire named Andrey Melnichenko is spending $450 million on the world’s largest sailing yacht.
One of our friends once observed that if you’re measuring your self-worth by comparing your bankroll to others, you’re doomed to failure. There’s always going to be someone, like Mr. Melnichenko, whose financial statement will to blow you out of the water. And in fact Mr. Melnichenko, whose yacht will weigh 14,224 tons, is worth about $9 billion — an unimaginably huge sum to most of us — but he’s only ranked 97th on the Forbes list of world billionaires. (He’s also married to a “supermodel” unknown to me, by the way.)
So how do you complete with somebody like Mr. M? How about in the creativity department? He’s named his massive craft “Sailing Yacht A.”
Somewhere along the Maine coastline, you will find Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies. It’s home not only to some great and inventive jams and jellies, but also to the sculpture of Peter Beerits — an artist who creates interesting pieces out of discarded odds and ends.
The area around Nervous Nellie’s is chock full of Beerits’ work, including pieces organized into an entire Old West town, complete with jail, general store, and a saloon with card players. The artwork has a certain fascination to it, because Beerits obviously can see through the current condition of an object to its ultimate, artistic realization — where a rusted top of an outdoor grill becomes the shell of a tortoise, or an old washtub serves as the legs of a goat. It’s all quite in line with Michelangelo’s purported statement that his sculptures were always there, lurking inside the block of marble — he just was able to see them, and then could chop and smooth away the unnecessary stuff.
It’s cool to see what most of us would consider to be junk reused, and reimagined, into interesting pieces of art.
Kish and I were driving home yesterday, so we missed the TV news coverage of the awful shootings in Virginia. We therefore didn’t see the footage of the killer gunning down two innocent people, for reasons no one will be able to explain.
We listened to the radio, though, and heard the sounds of the gunshots and the terrified and anguished screams of the witnesses — and that was bad enough.
Whatever other twisted grievances and chilling fantasies may have motivated the killer to commit a cold-blooded murder of a reporter and cameraman on live TV, it’s obvious that a desire for public attention was one of them. I won’t give it to him, nor will I have my sensibilities jaded and perverted and corrupted by watching something so horrible. I’m not going to look for his Facebook page, or read his “manifesto,” either, nor am I going to put a picture of him, or his criminal deed, on this post. Consider it my little protest against publicizing the evil actions of a sick, depraved mind.
There’s a serious journalistic ethics question lurking here: if you are a TV news program, do you broadcast the footage, which plays into the killer’s desires and potentially might lead to copycat actions, or do you decline to do so, knowing that some of your viewers might change the channel to a station that takes a different approach? I can’t fault those outlets that broadcast the footage, on a “just report the facts” rationale, but I can applaud those networks and programs that declined to do so. Journalists are part of society, and as a society we have an interest in discouraging murderous acts by disturbed individuals.
We live in a weird world, where ethical questions arise that wouldn’t even have been possible in an earlier, less technological age in which “social media” didn’t raise the possibility that every criminal could also become a celebrity. Sometimes, as in the case of the Virginia shootings, it’s a truly ugly world. I’d rather not dive into that ugliness.
At what point do you suppose that you first grasped the idea of “home”? I imagine it was one of the first concepts I ever understood, and probably one of the first words, too. It was a specific, physical place, to be sure, but it was a lot more than that. It was where the most important people in your life lived, and you developed happy feelings that you associated with the special combination of that place and those people and your things — the sense of where your life was centered, and of being where you belonged.
And as you grew up, and your family moved from one house to another, and went on vacations together, the concept of “home” became even stronger, because you realized that your home was not just one place, but could change from one city to another even as you left your friends and favorite places behind, and was more than just the temporary location of your Mom and Dad and brother and sisters. And after such a move to new place, when the settling-in process finally ended, at some point you thought to yourself that your new house had become less strange and “finally felt like home.”
The home-shifting process continues, for many of us, as our lives proceed and we move through college and venture out on our own. At some distinct point the concept of “home” morphs from the place where your parents are to the place where you and your spouse and your family have established their own lives. The legal concept is called domicile — the location where you have established a permanent residence to which you intend to return, whatever your temporary movements might be. Courts trying to determine domicile evaluate evidence like where you are registered to vote, where you pay your taxes, and where your kids go to school, that seek to capture, to the maximum extent that bloodless legal “factors” can, the emotional element of having found a welcome place where you have sunk down roots.
Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have grown up with a solid sense of “home,” with the warm, deep feelings of belonging and physical security and personal value and countless other attributes that come with it, can’t fully appreciate how having a home has shaped our lives and personalities. And we can’t really imagine what it must be like to grow up without that essential emotional and physical center, or to someday lose it entirely and become “homeless” — a powerful and terrible word, when you think about it.
Yesterday, as Kish and I drove back from a vacation on the coastline of Maine, the pull of “home” became irresistible, and what was supposed to be a two-day drive became by mutual agreement a 17-hour, roll-in-and-unload-after-midnight rush to get back to our little center of the world. And when we finally made it, and were greeted by a small, happily barking dog whose tail was sweeping the floor like a metronome set at maximum speed, we once again were reminded of what “home” is really all about.