Ernest Hemingway was to me, a kind of paleo-minimalist writer. Because of the shifting tides of taste and cultural politics he seems to go in and out of style. When I was in college in one of those literture survey classes we were required to read Hills Like White Elephants. If you like deciphering metaphors it can in its way be a detective story. Its beyond my reach to capture a moment like Heminway did in that story. That moment, so small, yet so important where one’s life changes forever. There is no going back, some things cannot be undone.
Since I liked Hills I read A Clean, Well Lighted-Place. It takes place in a cafe. Its not just a physical place , but a mood. In a cafe or diner you can be the iconoclast American, the free thinker, but at the same time you’re sharing time with others. In Hemingway’s story the old man isn’t physically traveling, in fact he’s near the end of his journey in contrast to the young waiter who is at the beginning of his. The full text is here, click on the red title.
“Another,” said the old man.
“No. Finished.” The waiter wiped the edge of the table with a towel and shook his head.
The old man stood up, slowly counted the saucers, took a leather coin purse from his pocket and paid for the drinks, leaving half a peseta tip.
The waiter watched him go down the street, a very old man walking unsteadily but with dignity,.
“Why didn’t you let him stay and drink?” the unhurried waiter asked. They were putting up the shutters. “It is not half-past two.”
“I want to go home to bed.”
“What is an hour?”
“More to me than to him.”
“An hour is the same.”
“You talk like an old man yourself. He can buy a bottle and drink at home.”
“It’s not the same.”
“No, it is not,” agreed the waiter with a wife. He did not wish to be unjust. He was only in a hurry.
“And you? You have no fear of going home before your usual hour?”
“Are you trying to insult me?”
“No, hombre, only to make a joke.”
“No,” the waiter who was in a hurry said, rising from putting on the metal shutters. “I have confidence. I am all confidence.”
“You have youth, confidence, and a job,” the older waiter said. “You have everything.”
“And what do you lack?”
“Everything but work.”
“You have everything I have.”
“No. I have never had confidence and l’m not young.”
“Come on. Stop talking nonsense and lock up.”
“I am of those who like to stay late at the cafe,” the older waiter said.
“With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night.”
“I want to go home and into bed.”
“We are of two different kinds,” the older waiter said. He was now dressed to go home. “It is not only a question of youth and confidence although those things are very beautiful. Each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be some one who needs the cafe.”
“Hombre, there are bodegas open all night long.”
“You do not understand. This is a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well lighted. The light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves.”
from New Partisan Ali’s Nose
If she only had a sense of smell, Alison Bernstein has told friends, she would be perfect. But as it is, she wanders the world cut off from the sensations and signals that guide those around her. She can’t identify her boyfriend by the smell left on his shirts. When she passes the Nuts4Nuts vendor, and friends exclaim over the delightful aroma, she can only nod and smile.
Daily Kos on how some Republicans are like Al-Queda, So You Want to Play Hardball Eh?
When he wrote the Constitution in 1789, James Madison had a specific goal in mind: to create a system of government that would constrain the tyrannous behavior of an unaccountable executive. Only in this way, Madison knew, would the “blessings of liberty” be able to flourish and grow in the new United States.