Like a Rock
In my very early 20's my best friend and I traveled by steerage for a 3 week holiday at my father's not so humble residence with the city limits of Tokyo. My friend and I had squeezed a 3 week break from our respective advertising firms by promising to put in extra hours before our departure and after our return. So due to all the extra hours logged in at the office, when our departure date approached the only preparation we had done for our trip was to line up wardrobes and purchase a Fodor's Guide to Japan. We planned to read the Fodor's on one of the 3 dozen planes that would eventually get us to Tokyo. Even though it took us more than 48 to get from Boston to Toyko , we never cracked the Fodor's because we decided we were on a real adventure and just go wherever the spirit took us.
After landing at Narita airport, my dad greeted us at customs and soon we were seated in his car. Before we left the airport's grounds my best friend and I had fallen asleep only to be most rudely awaken by diminutive soldiers in riot gear, brandishing machine guns banging on our windows yelling something completely indiscernible in their native language. Such was our introduction to the Japanese people. "They want to see your passports." my dad explained. I cracked my window and slipped it through wondering why I had traveled to such a place like this. The soldiers looked at the passports and after establishing we had no connection to a eco protest group that was protesting something regarding the farmlands surrounding the airports, the soldiers waved my dad's car through the barricades.
My dad took us straight to a little French restaurant for dinner. There, he ordered for us in Japanese. As we awaited our meals, he asked us what we'd like to see during our visit. "Sumo wrestlers" was my repsonse. "Why?" he queried. "I want to be photographed with that Samoan for my Christmas card." I said in between sips of my single malt. "It's not sumo season. So what else?" "How about dinner at a Geisha House? I asked. "Why?" he calmly asked. "I'd like to see what it is that Geishas do." I responded. "Dinner for you two at a Geisha House is about $3000 a piece. For me it is more. No. What else?" "Cherry blossoms?" You're too soon for those. Anything else?" "Hot Springs Baths?" "Yes, you can do that. I'll make arrangements."
And so he did.
My best friend and I have many things in common. An appreciation of art being one of them since we are both classically-trained artists. A Hot Springs Bath is exactly that. Hot. Springs. Bath. In Japan it is done au naturel which we did know because we hadn't read our Fodor's Guide to Japan. Since my dad has a James Bond complex, he booked us into a posh little private Japanese hotel up in the mountains that one would have not been surprised to have stumbled upon Sean Connery in his kimono in the hallway or gardens. Or, more importantly to artistic young ladies, in his birthday suit the hot springs bath. You see, hot springs bathing was not only au naturel, it was co-ed in the place my father booked us into. I should have known...
When my best friend and I checked in, we were handed our kimonos and told to put them on. This is the tradition there. All little posh hotels and resorts have their own kimonos and the guests wear them everywhere, even out on the streets. Oh and it's traditional to wear nothing underneath them, in case you were wondering. The kimonos are a form of advertising. People get to see what kind of guest stay at what hotels. My dad had arranged for a traditional meal to be brought to our rooms after our baths. As we were escorted to our rooms, the lady who was escorting us showed us the large bath. It seemed larger than a YMCA pool with natural rock formations with real shrubs and plants all around as well as little grottos for couples was all that we could guess. My best friend and I knew we were up against it completely. Our knees began to shake until somehow the lady managed to convey to us that we were not going to use that bath but my dad had arranged for us to use the private baths - together.
This is when my best friend and I realised our friendship, thanks to my dad and Japanese tradition was now going to a higher, and totally unforeseen level. Our knees began to shake again. In our rooms we braced ourselves with the single malt my dad had waiting for our arrival, shed our clothing, put on our kimonos, and headed off to the private baths like the two classically-trained art students we had once been. At this point I should tell you that when we had checked in, there had been two Japanese men, just a few years older than us, giving us the once over.
Before bathing in a hot springs bath, one must take a sponge bath. There were large sinks on placed the floor with water spigots coming out from the wall for us to use. My best friend and I, stiffened by the single malt, squatted down and began our sponge baths. My best friend, perhaps nudged by her guardian angel, looked up at the door and said, "Oh we didn't lock it." She got up and flip the traditional wooden latch. After completing our sponge baths, we climbed into the hot springs bath. The reaction your body has when hits that hot water is to lose your breath, which naturally caused us to giggle. And so we continued giggling away talking about what if our friends in Boston could see us now in Japan in a hot springs bath together. Suddenly we both stopped giggling because we could hear male Japanese voices coming down the hallway towards us. Thanks to the traditional rice paper walls and doors, we could see clearly the shadows of the two Japanese guys who had been giving us the once over during check-in. They were now in their kimonos and trying to slide open the door. Tradition was that if another guest or guests desired to join us in the private baths, we were to allow them. Obviously, these two men were aware of this tradition and had waited until we were in the baths to join us. It was evident by the jerky movement of their shadows and the not so pleased tone in their voices that they had never expected us to lock the door. Indeed tradition (and hospitality) is that you do not lock the door but my friend and I were stupid Americans and had most unknowingly gone against tradition. A big no-no that we were very glad-glad for at that moment. The men called out to us in Japanese. We said nothing, drew our knees tightly up to our chests, and looked at each other. Our eyes were as large as saucers because if that wooden latch gave way, it would be just a matter of seconds before those two men were in the hot springs bath with us.
Thankfully the latch held. The men left. We waited a few minutes and bolted from that bath, running all the way back to our rooms. Dinner was waiting for us. With our cheeks still reddened from both the bath and our near miss with the men, we partook of our meal while still in our kimonos seated cross legged on pillows at the low lacquer table in the center of our common room. In the morning we took in the local open air museum. The majority of the museum's collection was 20th junk. However it had a few replicas of Michelangelo's work. After surveying what can only be described as the splendor that is David, I decided right there that if one was into art, marble of biblical proportions was the way to go.
Katherine Hepburn, Stage Door, 1937:
"The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower -- suitable to any occasion, even the civil unions of heretics. I carried them on my wedding day, and now I place them here in memory of something that has died...the Episcopal church."
I have been reading (with amusement though please do not share that with anyone) the reaction to Robbo's probation with the RCBfA. My, what a naughty man you are. Though it is good to remind everyone, particularly prospective members, that the RCBfA is not for the faint-hearted, nor will it ever be. This is why membership is restricted to Catholics.
Understanding how you deplore Connecticut and all that it has become in the last 350+ years, but also understanding how much of an art fancier you are, I thought I'd draw your attention today to the late Connecticut artist, from Cos Cob no less, Childe Hassam. Like you, Childe was a naughty man and he dropped his Christian name, Frederick, to make people believe he was of Arabic descent. However, any RCBfA worth his salt would quickly detect at a mere glance of his work that Childe was no Arab but a Bostonian. Which Childe was until he left Boston for the more gentler shores of Connecticut. If Childe been an Arab his work would have had more fruit in it, don't you agree? Childe's accident of birthplace (Boston) did give his art, overall, a much more fruitish quality than his European contemporaries. However a few years of hanging out in all the wrong places in Paris with his European contemporaries did stiffen his sinews and, ultimately, give his work enough gravitas to make it even slightly appealing to you, dare I say, the most hardcore member of the RCBfA.
Take a good gander and see if you find something to admire. If you do, then you shall have to rethink your thoughts on people from Connecticut.
Your favorite calendar month, "June".
Childe's most productive years were prior to indoor plumbing being di rigour. Connecticut girls learned, most nicely, to make due with natural elements for their daily ablutions. Some still do...
These rocks are quite lovely. Childe's very deft brush strokes have even captured the heat from the summer sun emanating from them, don't you agree? Why, the only thing lacking in the composition, is a young lady, who after spending several minutes scaling these rocks looking for treasures from the sea, reclined upon them to catch her breath and admire the shapes in the clouds overhead. Then, overcome by the heated rocks and seeing no one in sight, she shed her all of clothing. Only momentarily, naturally.
Self portrait. Childe was not afraid of little art for himself. I like that in a artist.
In June 1944 I was an auxiliary soldier in an anti-aircraft unit. I was 15-years-old then. I was drafted a week after my 15th birthday.
On 6 June I was at our home at Herrlingen, because my father was coming to spend the night on his way to visit Hitler at Berchtesgaden, and it was my mother's 50th birthday.
My father came home because he was convinced that no landing would occur, as the Navy had told him the sea was much too rough.
But at 0800 he received a telephone call from his chief of staff announcing that the landing had begun.
He immediately took his car and went back to France - it was too dangerous for him to fly as the Allies had huge air superiority.
He was upset that he was not in his headquarters at the time, but he had felt it very important to go to Hitler and ask his permission to reassign the troops in France.
My father entered the German Army long before Hitler came to power.
He was a professional soldier all his life, which of course meant that he could not vote in the elections which led to Hitler coming to power.
When my father was home on leave, often for only three days or so, he would go hunting. Political matters were not discussed in our home.
My father had known Germany could not win the war since the battle of El Alamein against Montgomery in 1942, but was seeking a way out.
He became more and more aware of the concentration camps, and hoped that if there was a victory in France then Germany could negotiate peace with America and Britain, possibly also with Russia.
But this was a dream, because in the first week of the battle in Normandy it became absolutely clear that the Germans would not be able to push the British and Americans back into the sea and that Germany would have to surrender.
In general, the other army commanders in France shared my father's opinion, because the superiority of the British and Americans became greater and greater.
In the summer of 1944 my father thought it would be better to end the war in France, perhaps even surrender unconditionally, to avoid many more casualties.
He spoke to Hitler, but became aware that Hitler was not prepared to surrender at any cost.
Hitler intended to take the German people with him to the grave.
So in July, my father spoke to some of his military commanders and discussed whether they should end the war in France without Hitler's permission.
Plot against Hitler
On 17 July my father was wounded in France by British aircraft and went home to recuperate.
In the meantime there were investigations into people who opposed the regime, and a lot of trials and executions by hanging of people who had criticised Hitler.
Then on 20 July there was the attempt on Hitler's life by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, which failed and left the army rather helpless.
My father was at home and he understood then that he would probably not survive the war.
My father did not agree with the Stauffenberg plot because he thought that the risk of failure was too high, and that a dead Hitler could be more dangerous than him living.
He hoped that the troops in France, Stalingrad and Tunisia would surrender, but there was a problem because Hitler sent six of his SS divisions to France and they were very loyal to Hitler.
My father even spoke to two of the SS generals and asked them if the plan was to continue until the Russians were in Berlin and Germany destroyed.
They said no, and one of them promised my father that should he decide to go his own way he would follow him.
Regarding the extent of my father's knowledge about the crimes taking place on the Eastern Front (where he never held a command), I know that in the first months of 1944 he met a lot of officers who had witnessed mass executions and so on, and so he knew by then that Germany was in a very bad position.
So although he was hoping for peace the conditions could not have helped very much.
I was at home when my father was there injured and I helped him to read papers because he could not read himself for a while.
Afterwards I went back to my battery, and my father was murdered.
Later I served in the infantry and ended my military career as a prisoner of the French army.
I had completed 21 months of military service and was still only 16.
After the war I went back to school and became a lawyer and a civil servant, ending up as Under Secretary of State in the Ministry of Finance.
I was elected Mayor of Stuttgart and now I am retired.
I think that the chancellor has been invited to take part in the D-Day anniversary ceremony this year as a gesture of reconciliation.
After 60 years it is important that we became friends, remain friends and that we remember the battle in Normandy is history.
Of course, with his wealth and power, Kennedy would get good treatment anywhere. But the same care is available to every American. Not so - if we make the health "reforms" called for by Kennedy and other liberals.
have been nominated for
our august society.
You will submit your application
consider yourself on super secret probation.
your probationary period you will
take this work of art entitled
(notice the fruit)
display it on your website(s), make it your screen saver
display it, suitably framed of course, in your study
your office until further notice.
Mrs P. & Sir Basil,
What are the rules for putting up new members to the
RCBfA [Roman Catholic Boys for Art]? I'd like to
propose Robbo the Llama Butcher (and ODT if he is
not already a member). After their admittance, I would
reccomend both be placed directly on the
The Irish Elk
Dear Irish Elk,
I am not a member of the RCBfA. And will never be one.
Not even an honorary member as the RCBfA is one of
the few remaining all-male bastions left in the entire
blogosphere. And it shall always remain all-male if
I have anything to say about it.
Therefore, I 'm ignorant of the club's charter and rules
but, I believe, they were in fact penned by Sir Basil and
Mr. P after an evening at the dog races. Oh, here comes
Mr. P now.
Oh Dear, Mr Elk has a question...
Dear Mr. Elk,
As you are the one doing the proposing, the heaviest
burden falls upon your shoulders. Prospective members
must eschew the works of Peter, Paul and Mary, while
evincing a profound regard for the works of Peter Paul
Ruebens. I refer you especially to his "Rape of the Sabine
Women". A simple test of your candidate's fitness would
be to insert a glossy color copy of this towering
masterwork between the pages of, say, Robbo's. As he gets to Section B with all it's
startling revelations about hedgefunds, watch his
reactions closely for this is the acid test. If he blushes,
he's out. If he makes a feeble excuse for the thing being
there, he should be shot. If, however, he surreptitiously
folds the picture in two andslips it into his breast pocket,
we'll make him Treasurer.
ODT, your second nominee is already a member,
occupying the esteemed Mae West Chair of François
Boucher Studies. It goes without saying this position is
Sir Basil, do yo have anything to add?