here with little on
my mind and going nowhere
Growing up in West Michigan with an eye on reading, I was aware of the writing of Niles, Michigan native, Ring Lardner.
Mr. Lardner was a sportswriter who also wrote short stories, many of which, “Alibi Ike” and “You Know Me, Al” were short stories based on sport.
If you happened to see the 1988 (1988???) movie, “8 Men Out” about the Chicago Black Sox scandal, Ring Lardner is the sportswriter the movie follows to tell the story.
When the movie was made, Lardner’s son, Ring, Jr., was on the set as a consultant and Ring, Jr. said he could not be on the set when the director, John Sayles, who also played the part of Ring, Sr. was in costume as he looked so much like his father.
Like I said, I have always been aware of Mr. Lardner’s writing.
It was said that no one wrote dialogue like Mr. Lardner or as one person put it, his mastery of idiosyncratic vernacular.
If you grew up in West Michigan and you knew of Mr. Lardner and you read anything he wrote that wasn’t about baseball, you most likely read the short story, The Golden Honeymoon, the story that takes place in the 1920’s about a couple from West Michigan that celebrates their 50th wedding anniversary with a month long trip to Florida.
It is written is a way that you can hear the man narrating the trip and telling the entire story – and its quite a story – all in one sitting without taking a breathe.
In a bizarre magical way it starts out rolling and the words don’t stop and all of sudden it is over and you have spent the last 30 minutes of your life in real time on a month long trip to Florida.
Here is a snippet –
I felt sorry for Hartsell one morning. The women folks both had an engagement down to the chiropodist’s and I run across Hartsell in the Park and he foolishly offered to play me checkers.
It was him that suggested it, not me, and I guess he repented himself before we had played one game. But he was too stubborn to give up and set there while I beat him game after game and the worst part of it was that a crowd of folks had got in the habit of watching me play and there they all was, looking on, and finally they seen what a fool Frank was making of himself, and they began to chafe him and pass remarks. Like one of them said:
“Who ever told you you was a checker player!”
“You might maybe be good for tiddle-de-winks, but not checkers!”
I almost felt like letting him beat me a couple games. But the crowd would of knowed it was a put up job.
Well, the women folks joined us in the Park and I wasn’t going to mention our little game, but Hartsell told about it himself and admitted he wasn’t no match for me.
“Well,” said Mrs. Hartsell, “checkers ain’t much of a game anyway, is it?” She said: “It’s more of a children’s game, ain’t it? At least, I know my boy’s children used to play it a good deal.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said. “It’s a children’s game the way your husband plays it, too.”
It colored my view of making any trip to Florida to this day!
So why was I thinking about Ring Lardner this morning?
I was thumbing through another book by James Thurber titled the Years with Ross, about the operation of the New Yorker Magazine and its founder, Harold Ross.
Ross claimed, so Thurber wrote, that [Ross] “asked Lardner the other day how he writes his short stories, and he said he wrote a few widely separated words or phrases on a piece of paper and then went back and filled in the spaces.“
And I came across this passage.
The 1933 scroll was charged with all kinds of things for H. W. Ross. The Depression, which had been aimed directly at him, was still holding on, though getting better (1934 was to be one of the New Yorker’s best financial years). Hitler had risen to power, the banks had closed, Prohibition was soon to become a sorry memory, and the Roosevelt family had come to Washington, thus supplying “Talk of the Town” with dozens of anecdotes and the art department with dozens of idea drawings. In 1933 Ring Lardner died, and the morning World came to an end – major sorrows that saddened Ross and all of us.
It struck me that Thurber, recounting the good and bad that happened in 1933, the fact that Ring Lardner died was enough to make it bad year.
And I thought about that a good long while.
If nothing else it made want to dig out and read Mr. Larder over again.
With little on my mind and going nowhere in particular, its a great day to read.
Doing so I came across the line of words that I assembled into today’s Haiku.
As Frank Lloyd Wright might have said, “there you are.”