Saturday, June 16, 2007

True Brits

The two Brits collide--metaphorically. In my head. They know of one another, but have never met. I am the link, as so many persons and things are linked in ways as distant and unfathomable as the stars

"Quantas may rankle," Fagan of Lyme Regis says archaeologically, and you can see him having dug the item from a mass of conversation, "and Air New Zealand may have better amenities, but they are in fact serving forth portions of the same kangaroo. They're both owned by the same organization." The way he pronounces it, you can almost hear the English s instead of the American z in organization.

Even as I write this, Wolfe of Felixstowe is aloft, on his way back to Canberra, aloft on Air New Zealand. What began with both of us as a prank has become an example we both teach of the unthinkable come to pass. Some years back, when we both taught at USC, in a mischievous ploy to avoid the heat, boredom, and fustian of graduation, we both listed the University of Canberra as the place of our graduate degree and thus the regalia for the university to provide us for the graduation ceremony. Wolfe is well-known to a particular generation in Australia, having among other things hosted the Australian versions of "What's My Line" and "This Is Your Life." I am unknown to all but a few Antipodians. The university could only locate one small University of Canberra regalia and although I am taller than Wolfe, neither of us could have fit in a ''''small" regalia, thus were we excused from The March of the Academics and for all other purposes the graduation itself.

"You got me into this," he remonstrated, off once again to Canberra for yet another semester there after having left U of New Mexico, where I did talk him into going, but Albuquerque has soured for him and so, after a recent visit to London, so has London. Canberra is a place where he might consider retiring, he considered. It is a lovely train ride from Sydney.

"And not far from Vegemite," I offer, embarking on one of our favorite games of naming places after--well, things, i.e. The Dire Straits, Loose Ends, The Bovrils, and The Digestives.

His nose wrinkled noticeably. Vegemite is perhaps too close to home. Or too salty. Used to the warmer climes of Albuquerque and Los Angeles, he has recently found the small village in French Canada too cold for his liking and too remote for his tastes, having just purchased a home there. Thus off to Canberra, he promised to track down pod and Todd, then lurched away.

"We have become sheep that pass in the night," I called out the window.

"Piss in the night," he responded. "Vive le prostate."

Fagan, also inured to warmer climes, has similarly lurched off, on a lecture tour, his Mac Powerbook brimming with more notes on the rapidly assembling work on our Cro-Magnon forbears, determined to add to his description of their footwear "the forerunner of the Ugg boot."

Thus I lurch forth, temporarily not between a Brit and a hard place, out into the afternoon, where the marine layer slithers in off the Pacific, as heavy as a damp towel, trapping scents of fish and iodine in its moist insistence. Free to take on the remaining papers to be read and commented on from those who will be attending the Santa Barbara Writers' Conference starting next Friday.

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