A Host of Kind Faces

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This post is a “sticky” feature, and will be on top throughout fundraising week. Scroll down for more recent items, including culture-enriching violence against the emergency services in the Netherlands, a report on the lunatic who murdered ten people in Hanau, an article about jihad attacks on utilities, culture-enriching crimes in Sweden, Geert Wilders talking about Jew-hatred in the Netherlands, and last night’s news feed.

Winter Fundraiser 2020, Day Six

Saturday’s Update: Miscellaneous Faces From History, Not All of Them Kind

I’ll switch gears this morning and post a series of faces from history, chosen by whim from my image library. The one above shows Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili (a.k.a. Joseph Stalin), Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Sir Winston Churchill at the Tehran Conference in late 1943. Sir Winston’s face might be characterized as “kind”, but FDR’s and Uncle Joe’s not so much.

Tip jarI have more faces to post, but first a word about what I’ve been doing during this week that is rapidly drawing to a close.

For one week every quarter I beg for money from readers to help keep Gates of Vienna going. The tradition began while Dymphna was alive, and continues in her absence. We depended, and I still depend, on the kindness of strangers. Actually, not all of you are strangers, come to think of it…

So if you haven’t done so already, please click that funky tip cup on the sidebar (or use this link) and drop in a ha’penny or two to help keep this enterprise afloat.

What’s amazing to me is the large number of modest donations that have come in. They’re generally quite small, but there are so MANY of them — they really add up. I’m humbled by your generosity, and pleased to see so many first-time donors.

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And now we can return to faces from history. Here’s Sir Winston and FDR again, in Quebec the year after the other photo was taken. Mr. Roosevelt was not in good shape that day, and Sir Winston’s body language attests to that fact:

An aside: In her book American Betrayal, Diana West provides a meticulously-sourced analysis of the severe damage done by Soviet agents of influence who held high positions in the Roosevelt administration before, during, and after the Second World War.

Dropping back a generation, here’s a photo of ANZAC troops in a trench during the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917:

Two generations before that saw the end of another war, when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at the McLean House in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865:

To close on a more cheerful note, this morning’s final photo shows children participating in a St. Lucy celebration in Sweden in 2006:

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Friday’s gifts rolled in from:

Stateside: California, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Virginia

Far Abroad: New Zealand, Sweden, and the UK

I’m profoundly grateful to all who have contributed. I’ll be back tomorrow for the final update in this week’s fundraiser.

Friday’s Update: Rug Rats, Parents, and Hippies

This morning’s post will feature odds and ends of photos from the family album here at Schloss Bodissey. I’ll begin with the photo above from the mid-1980s, which features the future Baron when he was a rug rat. It was taken during the summer, which means he was probably about fifteen months old. I’ll have more about that after I explain my mission for the rest of the week.

If you’ve been reading Gates of Vienna this week, and still haven’t clinked the tip cup on the sidebar (or clicked this link), now is the time. Somebody has to pay for all this Islamophobia and Deplorability, and my application for an NEA grant just got turned down yet again. I pitched my idea for a Sobieski sneaker to Nike, but for some reason they weren’t interested. Next will be a meeting with Stanley Hand Tools to push my proposal for a line of Charles Martel Claw Hammers, but I’m not all that optimistic about my prospects…

So it’s really up to you, Mr. and Mrs. Islamophobe, the readers of this site. It’s your nickels and dimes that keep the lights on here, and (to borrow a trope from Garrison Keillor) give a shy boy like me the strength to get up and do what needs to be done.

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Fly Away Home

I don’t know about the rest of the country — or even the rest of Virginia — but the part of the Piedmont I live in has been suffering from a plague of ladybugs for at least the past 25 years.

The first time they came to my attention was in the fall of 1994, which was also the worst year of infestation. The little bastards would get in through the tiniest gaps around windows and doors, and then buzz around the house, forming large clumps in the corners where two walls meet the ceiling. I remember at one point seeing a mass of ladybugs as big as a ping-pong ball in one corner. They all eventually found their way up here to the Eyrie, the highest point in the house. They also seem to prefer to enter through the south window here, which is bright and warm during the day. They make their way through tiny cracks around (or in) the frame, then buzz all around the window, and spread to the rest of the room. When there are a lot of them, I have to cover my coffee cup when I’m not sipping from it, because they have a habit of dropping into it and drowning. If I then sip from the cup without looking first, I get an unpleasant surprise — they taste NASTY.

Back in 1994 I resorted to keeping the vacuum cleaner up here in order to deal with the ladybugs. I scrounged around and found all the lengths of pipe extensions we had for it, as well as a four-foot flexible hose. The straight, rigid section I put together was about eight feet long, allowing me to reach almost the entire room while standing in the middle of the floor. Some days I would vacuum up several hundred of them in several passes through the room. I learned to appreciate the satisfying thwip each bug made when it was sucked into the narrow aperture in the outermost attachment at the end of the pipe.

When I was done with a vacuuming session, I put a piece of duct tape over the end of the pipe to keep the prisoners from escaping. I found out early in the game that if I didn’t do that, eventually some of the little demons would make their way out of the pipe and back into the house.

1995 was also bad, but not as bad as 1994. Since then there have been some really bad years, and some where there were almost no ladybugs. But there have been no years in which the annoying creatures were entirely absent.

The period of their annual infestation seems to have gradually moved to later in the season. They used to be here from September until about December, with almost none after New Year’s. Now the peak is generally from January to March. They’re pretty bad this year, which is why I’m writing about them. I sucked up a lot of them yesterday, but many more have come in today.

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These aren’t the normal ladybugs that we were used to before 1994. They’re not bright red, like the ladybugs of my childhood — in fact, they may have displaced the original population, for all I know. They’re kind of dull brown, and not at all attractive.

They’re also aggressive, and will occasionally bite if they land on your skin. They seem to prefer fair Nordic types, and tend to bite them more often. But I’ve been bitten by them a few times — a sudden sharp stinging feeling, followed by itching.

I’ve been told that these new updated ladybugs were introduced into the local ecology by the state department of agriculture, to control the bark beetles. Timber companies have invested in large tracts of pine forests in this area, and the bark beetles are a serious problem for them. I assume they lobbied in Richmond for the ladybug solution.

After I heard about the ladybug project, I realized that I had seen one of the first drops of the bugs back in 1989. The future Baron and I were out for a ride in Nelson County, and we stopped when we saw a helicopter operation in a field next to the road. We watched the helicopter take off, and then a cloud of something was released from its cargo bay into the air above us. Five years later, when the bugs hit and someone told me about their origins, I put two and two together and deduced that the fB and I had seen the first wave of the buggers being released into the local environment.

Now they are permanent residents here, and a permanent nuisance. I don’t suppose that our being plagued with the damned things carries much weight when balanced against the need to harvest enough pine trees to print the Congressional Record and The Washington Post. So we have no choice but to endure them.

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A final note: Typing the word “ladybug” reminded me that what we colonials call “ladybugs” are known as “ladybirds” in England. Or at least they were in the 1960s, when I lived there.

The Temporal Princes

In the early days of this blog, back when I was commuting to work in Richmond and was only home on weekends, Saturday was often designated Poetry Day (and when it wasn’t, it was Ranting Day, which was also fun).

Today’s poem is actually an excerpt from a much longer work by C. Day Lewis, “The Magnetic Mountain”. I’ve never seen any of the rest of the poem, so these four stanzas must be the best part. The excerpt was included in an anthology of modern verse that I was assigned to study for O-level English in the late 1960s. I memorized it back then (we had to memorize lengthy chunks of verse to quote in the exam), but I don’t own a copy of it, so I hadn’t thought of it in decades.

As I mentioned last weekend, I’ve been sorting through a big old trunk of odds and ends. Some of the memorabilia in it are more than fifty years old, and I hadn’t laid eyes on any of the stuff in more than forty years. As a result, I’ve been running into some (mostly pleasant) surprises.

This past week I encountered the first two stanzas of the poem mentioned above in that trunk. I had scribbled them from memory on the cover of a William and Mary notebook — in class, when I was bored — in about 1971. When I saw them, they seemed VERY familiar, and gradually all four stanzas came back to me. But I couldn’t remember who the poet was, so I googled a piece of the text, and found it on someone’s blog (with minor textual errors, and possibly missing some commas).

This is a superb poem. I’m glad I recovered it after all these years. It’s somewhat gloomy, but I’ve just returned from a funeral, so gloom is appropriate:

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A Cat Who Depends on Secondary Sources

This week’s edition of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits is an unusual one: not only has the poem below never been published before, but until now it had never existed except in manuscript form. It was written in pencil on a half-sheet of paper torn out of a spiral notebook. As far as I know she wrote it in the late winter of 1978-79, a few months before we met. It was the first poem by Dymphna I ever read.

Charlie was a stray cat who wandered into Dymphna’s household in Maryland and was adopted by her (probably at the behest of her kids). When she moved in here the following summer, Charlie came with her. I remember him as an amiable fellow, but he didn’t stick around very long. He hadn’t yet fully bonded with Schloss Bodissey, and it may be that the lure of the vast wilderness outside the front door was irresistible to him. In any case, a few days after he arrived he went out one morning and never returned.

Charlie was here so briefly that no photos were ever taken of him, so I used a picture of Moe instead for the header of this post. I don’t think Charlie had any black on him, but the picture will have to do.

[Moe appeared in this space a few times a quarter-century later, most notably in a heroic role in 2005 when his piteous meowing alerted his master that his mistress had fallen off a ladder picking figs and couldn’t get up.]

And now for the poem:

Conversations With Charlie

by Dymphna

Not Nietzsche…
Charlie and I discussed the weather:
Whether it would rain;
When Spring would come;
Where the mice had gone for Winter.

I sat there on the car,
Breathing the becoming air
And glad to be
With Charlie in the dark.

But Nietzsche? No…
Charlie doesn’t read him,
Except in translation,
And I have nothing
To say to a cat
Who depends on secondary sources.

The Well of Memory

This post was a “sticky” feature and was on top throughout fundraising week. Scroll down for the whole week’s worth of more recent items.

Autumn Fundraiser 2019, Day Seven

Sunday’s Update: Madonna and Child

At last! We’ve arrived at the final day of Gates of Vienna’s quarterly fundraising week. After today I’ll stop bugging you for three more months.

Tip jarBut this morning I’ll take this final opportunity to remind everyone what this week is all about: Modest donations from lots and lots of readers provide enough wherewithal to keep this website going. The generosity of our donors has enabled us — and now it’s only me — to get by every quarter. Just barely, but I get by.

I’ll have to postpone indulging my taste for champagne and caviar until one of my relatives gets elected to high office and arranges a place for me on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, with a nice seven-figure annual stipend…

If you’ve only just discovered this fall’s bleg, or if you haven’t already hit the tip cup, please go over to the sidebar and make it clink. Alternatively, you can use this handy link.

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My final installment concerning Memory for this fundraising week will be a few more reminiscences of my time with Dymphna.

The photo at the top of this update shows Dymphna and the future Baron. It was taken in the late 1980s, in the late summer or early fall. That summer had been hot and dry — there was a devastating drought early on, in May and June. In some of the photos from June the grass is utterly withered and brown. But by the time this photo was taken there had obviously been some rain, because plenty of green is visible in the background.

When I came across this photo recently, I looked at Dymphna’s face, and it seemed so recent — there she was! And then I looked at the fB — he obviously wasn’t yet two years old. That means that more than thirty years have passed since that early autumn afternoon.

I can remember a lot about what happened between then and now. A few years after the photo was taken I taught the future Baron to read and write, and made him do his sums. Then Dymphna’s mother came to live with us, and I took care of her for a year until she died.

All through the ’90s we were quite poor. I was painting pictures, and not making any significant money doing it. Dymphna was a social worker, and then later had her own housecleaning business. She kept us afloat, but all those years were pretty lean.

Yet we never lacked for anything. My son had no idea we were poor. He had a VCR and lots of videos. I made sure to take him to the beach at least once every summer. We didn’t get to stay at any high-toned beach accommodations, mind you, but that didn’t matter to him — he was just a kid. Staying in a little cabin and eating at Burger King was fine with him.

Just before Y2K I had to stop home-schooling him, because my skills in chemistry and physics were minimal. We sent him to private school, and I found well-paying work as a programmer so that we could afford it. The Lord provided. It worked out.

Just before he graduated from high school, his sister Shelagh, Dymphna’s daughter, died of a methadone overdose. The fB went off to college, and Dymphna went into a tailspin that she never really recovered from.

The foundation of this blog was my idea: I thought it might help her work through the pain of grieving. And it did. Most of you have seen her early work on this site, either when she originally wrote it twelve or fifteen years ago, or in the reposts I’ve been doing since she died. She was a powerhouse of a writer, and putting her heart into her essays help bring her back to the land of the living. Even as her condition worsened (she suffered from fibromyalgia), she kept at it as much as she could, right up until the end.

And now here I am, maintaining the site by myself and dealing with my own pain of grieving. My wife is gone, but she lives on in her writings, and is ever-present with me in this empty house that we shared for forty years.

I will always remember her, as long as memory remains.

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Knowing Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

This week’s edition of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits requires a special explanation, because the poem featured below has never previously been published. She wrote it in the summer of 1995 as part of an extended collection that we called Therapy Poems, although its official title eventually became Intense Disclosures (which itself would require a separate essay to explain, but Wallace Stevens aficionados may recognize the reference).

Dymphna liked to say that she had been in therapy longer than Woody Allen. She had seen several therapists before I met her, but after we got together we were quite poor for almost two decades, so her opportunities for professional psychotherapeutic assistance became very infrequent.

In the mid-1990s, however, she was given the opportunity to have weekly sessions with a young psychiatrist who had just entered his residency. She was to be the central case for his thesis, or whatever it is that psychiatric residents do to achieve their final release from training and be allowed to practice. She was able to see him gratis for therapy once a week over a period of a couple of years.

She was, as she herself described it, a Difficult Patient. She knew far too much about psychology, philosophy, theology, and other esoteric subjects to be easy going for a therapist. Fortunately, her doctor was (and is) a competent, kind, considerate, and humane man, and was able to navigate the stormy seas raised by Dymphna’s psychological tempest.

Their sessions were intense, needless to say. Early in their relationship she took to writing a poem after every session, which she would then deliver to him at the start of their next meeting. At the end of his residency, when he had to terminate the therapy, she collected the poems together into a volume entitled Intense Disclosures, had it printed and bound, and gave him a copy.

To create the book, she turned all the original Word documents over to me, and I did all the formatting and indexing necessary for the print version. As a result, I have the full collection — which we always called “Therapy Poems” between ourselves until she picked out an official title — in a form that is easily accessible. “There is a Midnight” (which I posted as part of my eulogy for her), was a member of that collection, as was “Lament For My Brother”, which I posted here.

The poem below may be the best in the collection. She wrote it when she was very unhappy and angry with her therapist (as patients in psychotherapy often are). He was such a WASPy guy, with his blond hair and blue eyes, so she tweaked his nose with “To Young Dr. O’Malley From the Bi-Polar on Ward A-2”.

The poem would still be worth reading if the story ended there. However, after he had read it, he confided to her a personal detail about his life: he had recently learned that his parents had adopted him, and that his biological parents were in fact Jewish. He looked so Aryan, and had been raised a Christian, but genetically speaking, he was a Jew.

Not an old one, though. Not yet.

The poem is below the jump. By the way: “O’Malley” is not his real surname, so there’s no point in searching the lists of accredited Virginia psychiatrists to try and find him.

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Dust Off Those Rusty Keys Just One More Time

Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the founding of Gates of Vienna. It should be an auspicious occasion, but the fact that Dymphna can’t help me commemorate it has kind of taken the starch out of me. I just don’t have that much to say.

So we’ll have some music instead. Thinking about this anniversary made the song “Stella Blue” by the Grateful Dead came into my mind. It was a staple of their live shows for more than twenty years, from 1973 until whatever the last one was before Jerry Garcia died. The studio version was first released in the summer of 1973 on the album Wake of the Flood, but I first heard it at a live show in Philly in March of 1973.

This version is from 1977 at Winterland. It doesn’t include any video footage, but I chose it for Garcia’s fine guitar solos, even if he does blow the words in a couple of places:

The lyrics are below the jump (the official version from Robert Hunter’s collection A Box of Rain):

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The Past is a Foreign Country…

…They do things differently there.*

In this particular province of the past, Dymphna smokes a cigarette. Indoors. And in an art gallery, no less.

Those were different times. The poets studied rules of verse, and all the ladies rolled their eyes.

Our Russian commenter Elena requested that I post a photo of Dymphna when she was young. This is among the best from those early years. It was taken in 1982, when she was in her early forties, at the opening for one of my art shows in Washington D.C.

The photo of Dymphna holding the puppy (posted here) remains my overall favorite, but this one is a close second.

* L. P. Hartley, from The Go-Between

It is This That the Darkness is For

My wife Dymphna died three months ago today. Writing about her from time to time helps me cope with the devastation of losing her. This post is off-topic from the primary mission of this site, so readers may skip it without missing anything.

Early in our relationship I introduced Dymphna to the music of Leonard Cohen, and she eventually became at least as much of a fan as I was. A couple of months into our marriage we were listening to the album Songs From a Room, and I suddenly realized the significance of one of the songs. “Listen,” I said, “that’s our song.” She paid close attention to the lyrics, and agreed that it was true. So from then on, for the rest of our time together, it was “Our Song”.

I’ll explain why it seemed appropriate, but first listen to “Lady Midnight” by Leonard Cohen:

Dymphna and I met in the spring of 1979, in a bar in suburban Maryland near where my mother lived. I had gone to elementary and junior high school there, so I knew the area well.

My father had died the previous winter, and my mother and I had just returned from a trip to New England to inter his ashes in the family plot. The return home became a grueling ordeal after her car blew a head gasket in upstate New York. When we finally got back to Maryland, I said, “I really need a beer,” and went off to a bar at a nearby golf course where the bartender was an old friend of mine.

I had reached the point in my life where I wanted to get married and settle down. I knew that you don’t meet the woman you’re going to marry in a bar — I had always been told that, and still think it’s true, as a general rule — so I wasn’t there to pick up chicks; I was just drinking a beer and talking to the bartender.

While I was standing there at the bar a woman in distress came through the door, approached the bar, and said, “My battery’s dead; I need help.” She had been there for a drink a little while before, and when she left, her car wouldn’t start.

The bartender waved his hand towards me and said, “This is the man you need to talk to. I’ve known him for more than twenty years, and can vouch for him.” So I went out to the parking lot with her, moved my car over to hers, got the jumper cables, and started her car.

We left it idling to charge the battery and went back into the bar. She said, “The least I can do now is buy you a drink.” So I got another beer, and she ordered a drink for herself (dry vermouth, if I remember rightly — that was her customary drink in those days).

We introduced ourselves and began a conversation. I noticed that in addition to being attractive, she was obviously well-educated and -informed on various topics that also interested me. After a while my attraction to her must have become obvious, because she said: “I don’t do one-night stands, you know.”

Well. I was genuinely affronted, since that was the farthest thing from my mind — as I mentioned earlier, I wanted to get married, settle down, and have kids. So I said: “I don’t have to take this s***!”, turned on my heel, and went to the gents’ to cool down.

When I came back a few minutes later she apologized profusely, and we resumed our conversation without further rancor. It wasn’t long before the age difference — she was ten years older than I — ceased to matter. The attraction was mutual, and we arranged to meet the following night (a Saturday) for dinner at the Double-T Diner up in Edmondson.

The rest is history, as told in my eulogy back in June.

So remember, boys and girls: you won’t meet your future wife or husband in a bar. Dymphna is the exception that proves the rule.

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Now, having heard the tale of The Night Baron Met Dymphna, read the lyrics of “Lady Midnight” and see why we decided it was Our Song:

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