Saturday, April 19, 2014


Because of events in your fourth, fifth, and sixth grade years relative to your handwriting, thereafter referred to as your penmanship, you now have at least twenty-five fountain pens, one of which is almost certain to be with you on most of your ventures out of 409 East Sola Street.

Because of events leading up to your ardent wish for a pocket knife, your subsequent acquisition of one as a birthday present on your sixth birthday, and the subsequent fate of that particular pocket knife, you have any number of pocket knives.  Once again, you are not given to hyperbole with the observation that at any time, there is a likelihood of a pocket knife being in your pocket on even so insignificant a venture outside 409 East Sola Street as the long driveway, where the Sunday edition of The New York Times awaits you.

In a small sense, going forth with a writing implement and a pocket knife can be seen as gestures of rebellion, or assertions of your sense of grown-up-ness.  In another sense, prior to your years of classroom issues with your penmanship, there was sure to be at least one stub of a number two Dixon-Ticonderoga pencil in your pocket, along with some form of notebook in which to write things.  In those pre-penmanship days, you were able to decipher your handwriting without much difficulty.

The penmanship issues were in large part a result of you being moved from California to the east, where school desks had actual inkwells, filled  at least once a week with what has become your least favored color of ink, midnight blue.

Of course the third element in the toolkit equation is the notebook.  You have many of these scattered about.  One or more of them find their way into a jacket pocket.  Many of them have notations in your favored color of ink, a tint resembling rich dark espresso coffee muddled with frothy cream, thus a shade of brown.  

Notebooks these days have matters of greater consequence, not the least of which is your University ID number, which allows you to long onto the University Internet.

With so many pens, knives, and notebooks, a certain aspect of misplacement, searching, and outright loss are inevitable.  Sometimes, in the crease of your reading chair, or in the pocket of a jacket you haven't worn for some time, you will find a pen or a knife or notebook you'd presumed lost.  You greet it expansively, promising to take better regard of it, recognizing its importance and, at the same time, its vulnerability.

One such pocket knife went the way of the original one, this more modern version bought for a specific purpose, every bit as dear to you as fountain pens, notebooks, and pocket knives.  This was a Laguoile, small enough and thin enough to be a pocket knife, but with a long enough blade to essay such things as a melon, the long, pointy loaves of French bread, undoubtedly a salami or summer sausage, and without question, thin leaves from a round or brick of cheese.  Your Laguoile, unlike the one pictured here, also had a corkscrew, in the event that a bottle of wine should require its assistance.  

This was to be used only for picnics.  Picnics deserve an essay of their own; they are representatives of rituals vital to human survival.  Talk of the need for survival suggests itself when, as the English poet, Wordsworth said, "The world is too much with us, late and soon."

The picnic is vital for your own sense of place, which means your need to arrange a picnic suitable for one human and one dog, then find the proper place for both.  Champagne, a chilled Gewurtztramanier. Folle Blanche, or Pouilly Fuisse or, a cold pale Sierra Nevada ale for you, sufficient water for Sally.  The Italian Market on De la Guerra was an excellent place to begin.  Perhaps a stop at Gelson's Market or the Tri-counties Produce for pears or melons.  The Xanadu or Our Daily Bread for the ficelle, and cheese according to the whim of the moment.  Surely olives.  Perhaps a fresh cucumber or a cucumber brined just long enough to have made the transition to pickle without giving up its crispness.

There are picnics for two humans as well, and of course there are picnics for large groups of humans, each picnic an answer to a specific need or situation.

With picnics in mind, you've been looking at the advisability of another Lagouile, this time without the corkscrew because you already have at the ready a combination bottle opener, corkscrew, and knife to cut the seal of a bottle of champagne or rascally white.  And you know it is effective for cutting a cantaloupe and an avocado.

There are many splendid places in memory for a picnic.  Among your favorite, where you and Sally often went, was a spot about half way up Deer Creek, off the Pacific Coast Highway at the southern end of Ventura County.  Sometimes, after your meal, you'd sit at the edge of  one of the ocean-facing ledges, watching the tides, aware Sally was getting added scents of deer, perhaps coyote or bobcat.

Perhaps, with some coffee from a thermos, the notebook and pen would come forth for some observation.  In any case, the occasion was the dream of your earlier years come true:  an adventure, a celebration, a sense of being somewhere in the midst of flying, crawling, scurrying life, the dance of tides, and the textures of your most favorite of all meals, the picnic.

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