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TWIP Vol. 6 Issue 03

In this issue:

  • Arlan(19) Writes about his trip to NYC
  • Rundy(21) Writes about Calf Hunting
  • Rundy(21) Brings prolegomenon to The Word Corner

Find the current issue of TWIP on the web at http://www.purdyville.com/twip/current.html


Early this semester Arlan took a trip down to NYC for his art class. I’ve converted his report back into an article for your enjoyment.–Rundy, TWIP Senior Editor.

My Trip To NYC
By Arlan

Recently I took a trip down to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for an art class. I’ve been down there once before, on the subway and up in the Statue of Liberty and the ill-fated Towers, but that was years ago so my memories are imperfect. I do remember getting a headache, although the Statue and the Towers and the ferry ride figure more prominently in my recollections.

We were supposed to leave at 6:00 AM, but he bus was late picking us up. That was a good thing because I might have missed it if it wasn’t. I didn’t want to get up too early and be frogging around in the cold and the dark with nothing to do and no sleep, but I cut it way to close.

The trip down seemed surreal. The bus seemed as wide as our bathroom and as long as our house– and taller. If you had moved me horizontally from the bus into the other lane, my heels wouldn’t have hit the car underneath. I was amazed when we got under a 13′ bridge.

Being that high up made you feel like you were going roughly 20 mph slower than you really were, and the windows were treated in such a way that they mirrored the interior of the bus—actually not so much the interior as the outside surroundings on the opposite side. In the dark it was often very hard to tell if what I saw out my window was really there or if it was on the other side of the bus.

For most of the trip we were heading south and east, going over hills–mountains, I guess–so there were a lot of beautiful scenes with sunrises and cliffs. So many cool cliffs. . .one time we went over a bridge so tall that it was above another tall train trestle.

The city itself snuck up on me. The closer we got the more huge developments we passed, but consistent development sort of sprung up on one side of an underpass. All of a sudden it was there. "Metropolis" doesn’t really describe a city like that. It’s really a world-city, a cosmopolis. You don’t feel like you’re in a city because the city is the universe. You identify your location by neighborhood or something because to think of yourself as living in NYC is meaningless. NYC is everything.

I was looking for the skyscrapers, but they surprised me, too. I didn’t see any tall buildings–I just noticed that the far distant horizon was blocky. I was looking for buildings and I saw pointy hills. Now I know why it bothers NYC people so much to have the Twin Towers gone–it’s like removing a hillside from your horizon.

All things considered, I would say the traffic in the city was good. Our first standstills occurred miles out–at least an hour from the museum—but generally we were moving along OK. The teacher didn’t think the driver was aggressive enough and didn’t like the route he took (we went down through Pennsylvania–later somebody said they have higher speed limits that way), but I wouldn’t complain. It seemed to me that he stuck his nose into every space he could without getting smacked.

We went through the Lincoln tunnel, which was totally boring except for the thought that not only were we underground, we were underwater, too. Then we hit downtown. It was like coming out of a cave and finding yourself in a ravine–buildings everywhere, hemming you in, trapping you on the street. It made you hope it wouldn’t rain for fear of flash-floods. I couldn’t believe how long we maneuvered through these streets–I was sure we were being taken on a tour of downtown.

Finally we got to the museum. We had to have our bags checked, but I guess they were only looking for big bombs because I surely could have hidden something in the bottom of my sack that they wouldn’t have seen. At least, not the guy who looked in. I don’t know what they had hidden in the walls. The place was crawling with security.

When we went upstairs I felt a little queasy. There was an incredible amount of vibration–primarily up and down the range of audible sound, but there was something I thought was the subway that made the floor pulse(the teacher thought it was related to the renovations, which makes more sense–but it felt like a train passing underground). I think the air bothered me too, in some way. At any rate I was nurturing a headache all afternoon.

We were supposed to go to the daVinci exhibit and copy one of his drawings, but it turned out that you weren’t allowed to sketch in that part of the museum. Some of my classmates, lifelong New Yorkers or simply more brazen, tried in anyway (in some cases repeatedly), but I didn’t want to get anybody mad at me. At about this point the group dispersed and I hardly saw anyone till we left.

After my first tour of the daVinci exhibit I had to go eat, because I had only gotten half of my breakfast. I found the cafeteria all right and had plenty packed, so that was all right. But I really felt like a country idiot. There were two different signs, one for the public cafeteria and one for the restaurant. I thought I was in the cafeteria, but then I saw a waiter picking up a tip. So I forced myself to ask him if I was eating in the right place. I guess I was, but I felt obliged to leave a tip anyway. Only I didn’t buy anything, and I couldn’t remember the tipping rate anyway. So I left two dollars. I know that wouldn’t be an acceptable tip if I had been in a restaurant, but I didn’t buy anything and I didn’t make a mess, so I figured it was a big enough percent of nothing.

I went back to the daVinci to try to memorize my assignment and then wandered around looking for a place to draw. I finally found a spot, after drifting through countless exhibits. It was a relatively quite spot with some benches and fountains. I had a print-out from the web of the daVinci sketch I was doing and I pretty much did my initial sketch off that.

It was hard to do anything all day long. I was pretty much in shock from the moment I got on the bus until the moment I got off. It was an experience too radically different from anything I’d done before for me to be able to do anything but cope with it. I couldn’t really appreciate anything in the museum because it was just too overwhelming. I couldn’t afford to be amazed by the fantastic paintings or I would have swooned. I kind of walked through the museum mentally saying, "Yep, there’s another priceless treasure." I couldn’t think about the object any more than that because there was something else unbelievably old around the next corner.

It was hard to remember that the stuff was old. A lot of things were no doubt corroded or faded with age, but since it was well kept-up it looked like the original artist had intended for the piece to look exactly as it did.

When you’re faced with paintings where you cannot see the brush strokes, stones originally cut and stacked in ancient Egypt, and all those impossibly old and well-crafted things, you can’t deal with the reality. You just have to accept it, without really thinking about the guy who made it, how he made it, what he did with it, what other people in his day thought of it–it’s too much. You just accept it as is, just like all the everyday things in life today that, in reality, have an incredible amount of work put into them. You don’t think about it, you just accept it, and that kind of takes the fun out of a museum where you can’t touch or use anything. Touring the museum become
s little different than walking around on your daily life, not interacting with or contemplating the things around you.

But it still was different. Despite the overwhelmingness of it all, and the very limited extent with which one could interact with the displays, it was a fascinating experience. I had all day there and I couldn’t manage to tour all the galleries. It was too much.

One of the ones I did spend some time on was the "Arms & Armor." Even that I couldn’t do justice to, but it was cool to look at the suits of armor and imagine how heavy it would be, and why you would want to wear such a thing, and how you would bear any weight if it would keep you from getting killed. There wasn’t enough of that stuff. Too many variants of full-body suit armor and not enough varieties of real swords (fencing swords don’t count).

In late afternoon I was walking off somewhere and one of the security guys told me I had to check my bag. It was the exact same backpack I’d been carrying all day long, but for some reason this one guy wanted me to leave it with the luggage claim. In the end I just went a different way. That was the closest I got to causing a terror alert.

I thought I would be bored all afternoon long, but I wound up feeling like there was too much to do and not enough time to do it. That didn’t stop me from being in a hurry to leave, since the building was giving me a headache. The bus was supposed to arrive at 5:45, the museum closed at5:30, and the galleries closed at 5:20. As soon as they started to warn that the museum was going to close I started leave. It was a long process, not so much because of the checkout as simply because of the size of the museum.

But I did get out, and it was good for my head, except that it was cold and windy and the bus was good and late. I don’t mind cold very much if I can keep moving, but I was staying put to keep the frigid wind off of someone in a wheelchair. It must have worked since she said she was fine while thirst of us (her helpers were also blocking the wind) were freezing. Then I tried going up and down the stairs to stay warm, which warmed up my legs just fine but made my headache worse.

Eventually the bus arrived and we piled on. I finished off my packed food and dozed for a while, but as we were leaving the bus stopped at some shopping plaza (we were never told why) and I did some reading homework. I didn’t have a problem reading or dozing on the bus, although the constant talking kept me from ever really sleeping.

It was a fantastic trip in the sense that it seemed like a fantasy. Getting up at five thirty, riding through a picturesque landscape into the sunrise, and then into a landscape where natural features dot the landscape the way man-made features do here, through constructions going higher and lower than could be believed, walking amidst things whose creators have died in the distant past–it was fantastic.

The fantastical idea of living in a castle has appealed to me, but in reality castles tended to be cold and dirty. It was about the same with NYC. I loved the unbelievable, incredible sights, but I’d never want to live there. Ever.

Comments, questions? Write to Arlan at purdyville@earthlink.net

Calf Hunting
By Rundy

Last Friday afternoon Lachlan walked into the den holding the telephone in one hand.

"Are you available to work for Mr. P this afternoon?"

I looked at him. It already was the afternoon, and I was in the middle of editing work. I don’t like interruptions in my writing time, and even when I’m not writing I don’t like unscheduled odd jobs dropped into my lap. I tried to think of a polite way to decline, but then had the thought that the job in question might not be the normal odd job. Mr. P doesn’t normally call us up on a moment’s notice and ask if we are available right then.

I checked my desire to decline and said, "It depends on how desperate the work is."

The job was urgent.

Mr. P is a small time beef farmer who lives down the street. Early spring is birthing time for cattle and Mr. P’s first calf came while he was recovering from surgery. The first he heard of this was when he came home from the hospital. As second hand stories from neighbors are wont, the information he had was confused.

The story went something like this: The donkeys from further up the street had escaped and taken flight down the road. One neighbor claimed to have seen the two donkeys chasing the calf down the side of the road. Someone else saw the calf lying in the ditch at the side of the road. It was now after one in the afternoon, and there were no calf sightings since yesterday.

How the calf ended up being (supposedly) chased by donkeys is conjecture, but Mr. P thought the donkeys running along the road probably spooked the calf, which then bolted through the fence and took off town the road in terror. Where the calf was now he couldn’t guess. Since the people who sighted the calf said it was the same dingy brown as dead grass the creature could be hiding anywhere. It was important for the calf to turn up before it starved, died from exposure, or was discovered by the coyotes.

Mr. P is retired, a tall big boned man now small time farming because he enjoys it. He has led a rough life, and for years one of his feet has troubled him because of serious injuries suffered earlier in life. When I heard that he had come back from surgery I guessed that he had undergone an operation to deal with the problems in his foot. This was not the case. When Lachlan and I met him at the side of the road he had a piece of cloth gauze taped firmly over his left eye.

I was a little taken aback, and tried to hide it. Cataract surgery, was my first thought. But wasn’t cataract surgery a minor affair? Why did he need his eye bandaged shut if it was only cataract surgery? My mind then leapt to other gruesome possibilities. Had a splinter of wood gouged his eye? Or had a flying piece of metal struck him in one of the most unguarded portions of human the anatomy?

At the first polite moment I asked him what had happened to his eye.

"Cataract surgery," he said, and then went on to explain the unpleasant details.

What was initially just simple cataract surgery had gone bad. The cause was his eye–scarred from ancient head injuries. Instead of leaving it at that, Mr. P went on. What was supposed to be a twenty-minute operation had turned into a two hour procedure, he said, with him lying on the table, his eye all opened up while they tried to fix him. As if that wasn’t enough to create a revolting mental picture, he went on to describe how the scar tissue on his eye had made it difficult to remove the lens. The doctor was unable to extract the lens in one clean cut and was forced to extract it using many small cuts–"Like a can opener cutting off the lid of a can" Mr. P said.

Just wonderful. I can stomach many things that make other people queasy, but talking about eyeball dissection is one thing I’d rather avoid.

Mr. P continued. This took a lot of time, he said, and things were starting to get difficult because of all the blood. The doctor had trouble attaching the new lens due to the problem with scar damage. After much effort the doctor felt confident he had the new lens firmly attached to the eye.

The story didn’t end there. Mr. P went home and went to bed only to wake up the next day with terrible pain in his eye. In excruciating pain, he returned to the doctor only to learn that the lens had come detached and fallen back into his eye.

This was beginning to sound like a horror story. A lens falling back into an eyeball? It sounded like something worth screaming about. It sounded like the end of his eye.

Somehow, they managed to reattach the lens. Further difficulties came when the pressure in Mr. P’s eye rose too high. They gave him medication and drain some of the fluid from his eyeball. Then the pressure went too low, and there was the danger that the back of his eyeball would suck forward.

At this point I had heard quite enough about cataract surgery. I was very glad I could not see his eyeball, and, frankly, I just wanted to get on with finding the calf. I thought it remarkable that he was holding up so well considering it seemed possible he would never see out of his left eye again.

Leaving Mr. P at the edge of the road, Mrs. P, Lachlan, and myself began the search. It was clear from the start that nobody had even the faintest idea of the calf’s location. The ditches along the road searched before Lachlan and I arrived, and now we were supposed to fan out across the swampy ground leading down to the brook. If we didn’t find the calf there Lachlan and I were supposed to go up to the other side of the road and check the pines above the field.

This all seemed unlikely to have any success. The calf was no more than a few days old, and I couldn’t imagine that it had traveled very far, terrified or not. There were no good hoof tracks to show where the calf had left the road, and if it wasn’t lying in the ditch somewhere along the road, I doubted it was anywhere. But I kept my opinions to myself and crossed the swamp, checking every clump of brush or grass. What could have been very difficult turned out easy because the heavy winter snow had flattened all the undergrowth. The March melt was only recently finished, and no fresh greenery was up, so we had the clearest view of the land anyone would have all year.

We reached the brook with no sign of the calf. The first possible location was gone. Next Lachlan and I searched the two stands of pine trees across the road. We thought this was foolish because if the calf was going to hide in the pines it had to climb an embankment and cross a field. Highly unlikely, but when it is a $500 calf missing no corner can go unexamined. We dutifully combed through the bramble among the pines and found nothing.

From the pines we moved to the forest behind Mr. P’s house and circled back down to the road. Then we followed the fence line around the cow pasture. Still nothing. Next, we went north up the road and checked among the blue berry bushes of a U-pick. Not a sign of the missing calf, so we went south to the other side of the farm and began to systematically check the hedgerows around the fields, hunting for any sign of the creature.

By the time Mr. P decided we were so far from his farm that the calf couldn’t possibly be any further afield, we had spent nearly three hours tromping cross-country. With no more leads to follow, Mr. P called off the search. He was going to have Lachlan and myself help him retie some tarps back over his stacks of round bales, but I begged off and let Lachlan do it alone. Israel was supposed to come over to our house after work and I wanted to be there to greet him.

Lachlan came home with a little more information to add to the story.

The elderly lady who spotted the calf last had called Mr. P. Apparently, she had been driving home sometime after dark the night before and spotted the calf sitting at the side of the road. She had recently undergone foot surgery and couldn’t go after the calf herself, so she went home and called the nearest neighbor. When he went out the calf was gone and his flashlight was too weak to search the brush. The neighbor found a better light, but when he came back and looked there was no sign of the calf.

Based on this new information one last search was launched, but with no success.

It is my suspicion that the calf was snatched. It was last seen near the road, and to disappear so suddenly is suspicious. Someone could have easily spotted the calf, stopped, and tossed it in the back of a pickup truck. Or, they might have accidentally hit the calf, killed it, and decided to take away the evidence. Some people make venison out of deer they hit. Why not veal?

Mr. P’s eye continued to bother him. Lachlan thought the pain grew worse for Mr. P, but the farmer didn’t say much. His biggest comment, Lachlan said, was to mention that when he bent over he could feel his eyeball draining.

Draining eyeballs. I didn’t care to hear about that at the dinner table. I’m sorry about the lost calf, but I’m more sorry about Mr. P’s eye.

Comments, questions? Write to Rundy at purdyville@earthlink.net

The Word Corner
By Rundy

This week’s word: prolegomenon [pro le gom e non]

Definition: Prefatory remarks or introductory observations; specifically a formal essay or critical discussion serving to introduce and interpret an extended work.

Rundy’s comment: Before the speech I’d like to give a prolegomenon. Okay, I don’t, but wouldn’t that be a good start to a speech?

Who came up with the word prolegomenon? Blame, or thank, the Greeks. It is the Greek neuter present passive participle of prolegein which means "to say beforehand." Simple meaning, but what a big word we got out of the deal.–RP

Comments, questions? Write to Rundy at purdyville@earthlink.net