It has been a very long time since I read Huckleberry Finn, and I finished listening to it today in the car. I think I agree with some critics about how Tom’s appearance ruins the last third of the book. Huck is essentially generous and good hearted, and Tom’s ideas about adventure and the way those ideas affect Jim are painful to read.
Still, a glorious book. It was worth rereading.
I’ve ridden a steamboat, gone to the Mark Twain Museum, visited the Light House and Lovers’ Leap, and gone to a Mark Twain Impersonator show. I’ve done it all. What a glorious day. All except for one small part when a rude man put me into a bad mood for about 20 minutes. It really is not nice not to be nice.
I can really imagine what it must have been like to be a child here in the nineteenth century. Waiting for a steamboat to come into town. Walking barefoot through dusty streets–and sharing it with pigs. So much of it would have been wonderful, but then there were the cholera and measles epidemics where my friends would have died; the cold in the winter and the heat in the summer (I’m in an air conditioned room as I write this); and being hungry and poor. Not to mention having slaves–or being one! So it is fun to imagine, but I enjoy 21st century life for the most part. Here I am mimicking a Tom Sawyer moment.
I am off on a road trip. More than 3,000 miles until I return. Nothing is more fun–that feeling of being totally footloose and fancy-free. I like to drive, and have since I first drove our ’58 chevy down that dirt road in Idaho when I was 14. The car had “3 on the tree”–remember that gear arrangement? My dad sat patiently in the passenger seat as I ground the gears and did my best to drive. Since my mom didn’t like to drive at all, I became her very willing chauffeur as soon as I had a license.
So I will probably drive most of the time. Lots of time to think as I listen to Huckleberry Finn and walk Mark Twain’s hometown streets.
Today I have vertigo. That spinning sensation that feels like you just got off a Tilt-A-Whirl at the carnival. I never know when I’ll get it, and I can’t figure out any logic to it.
I do think I know what caused it, though. Fifteen years ago I landed smack on my head on the concrete. It had started to rain, and I didn’t realize that the rain was turning to ice on the sidewalk. I left my office, went outside, and immediately did a back flip onto my head. After an ambulance ride to the hospital, a CAT scan, and a diagnosed concussion, I have had occasional vertigo ever since.
It’s not too bad, but today I just feel so fuzzy–like my head is not screwed on tight enough (which everyone probably knew anyway). In the grand view of what people suffer, it is pretty minor, but I still hope it goes away very soon.
Hot days like today remind me of the summer day I got hit by a car. I was 9. It was pretty unfair–I wasn’t even in the street. I was in my very own front yard playing Monopoly. The thing that possibly saved my life is that I had moved from the spot I was sitting in because I was losing and I was mad. I was standing up, and kind of leaning over the board and a car crashed through the bushes, struck me on the right hip, and threw me out of the way. I lay on the lawn dazed, and looked at the car, which had hit our front porch.
A lot after that is pretty blurry in my memory, but I do remember a few things:
1. The woman who was driving the car was worrying that she had injured someone, so the next day my mom had me write a note that we could take to the hospital. She made me do it over again because I signed it, “From the Kid you Almost Killed.”
2. I was traumatized because my mom made me pull down my pants and show the policeman where I’d been hit. I’m sure if it had happened in these days I would have gone to the hospital and been checked out for internal bleeding.
3. I developed a lifelong distrust of the media because I was allowed to stay up late to watch the news (reporters had come to the house) and the anchor person said about the woman in the car, “According to the kids, she didn’t pass Go, so she didn’t collect $200.” I knew we didn’t say that, but was too young to understand adult humor.
That day was how I learned for sure that life is dangerous.
If you have read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” this photo may resonate for you. Francie Nolan manages to bloom in an impoverished family with an alcoholic father. The tree in the title refers to a tree of heaven that is growing improbably out of a crack in the sidewalk. When I saw this determined marigold (growing by a drain next to my house), I thought of Francie.
Today I was on the local news talking about our neighborhood Hollyhock Festival (it’s this Saturday, everything is free, and it should be grand). I talked to my friend Ariane before I went on, and she told me she was going to watch it with her kids. Just before I went on, I got a text message from her saying that Lauren and Paige, her nine-year old twins, were really excited about it. Lauren said she was really excited to know “someone famous enough to be on TV.” So there you have it. I am famous enough to be on TV. Kind of makes me proud. If only I didn’t watch it and wish I could have plastic surgery!
Click here to see it.