Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

It’s Hump Day, as we vulgarians call it in America: Wednesday, May 10, 2017.  I see that there is yet more tumult in the Trump administration, with the “President” having fired FBI director James Comey, whose organization was already investigating the administration’s ties to Russia. See Politico for a take by legal scholars on whether we are having a Constitutional crisis. Appropriately, it’s National Liver and Onions Day—a vile dish that was much beloved by my father. The house reeked when my mother cooked it, but, like Leopold Bloom, my old man ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.  It’s also Golden Spike Day, celebrating the day in 1869 when the the first transcontinental railroad across the US was completed. The rails of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads met on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, and the final railroad spike, made of 18-karat gold, was driven to join the rails by Leland Stanford, founder of the eponymous university—who got much of his dough as a railroad tycoon.  Here’s the spike, now in the Cantor Arts Museum of Stanford University:

On this day in 1774, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette became the King and Queen of France. In 1857, the Sepoy Rebellion began in India, and in 1908 Mother’s Day was first observed in the US. (Don’t forget Mom this weekend!) Curiously, it was on this day in 1924 that J. Edgar Hoover became FBI director, remaining in that post until 1972: a tenure of 48 years! He was a nasty piece of work, too. On May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill became Britain’s Prime Minister after Chamberlain resigned, not having brought Peace In Our Time. On this day in 1954, Bill Haley & His Comets released “Rock Around the Clock”,  the first rock and roll record to reach the top of the Billboard charts and often considered the first “real” rock and roll song. I well remember the first time I heard it, when I was a lad of five living in Greece. And on this day in  1981, Miterrand became the first socialist president of France. He died in 1996.

Notables born on this day include John Wilkes Booth (1838), Fred Astaire (1899), Mother Maybelle Carter (1909), Donovan (1946), Mark David Chapman (1955), Sid Vicious (1957), and Bono (1960—what a memorable day for music!). Here’s Donovan playing one of my favorites among his songs, with words heavily infused with psychedelic imagery:

Those who died on this day include Paul Revere (1818), Stonewall Jackson (1863), Carl Nägeli (1891), Joan Crawford (1977), Walker Percy (1990), and–for Stephen Barnard, who drives a Cobra replica–Carroll Shelby (2012). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s dialogue is enigmatic, and when I asked Malgorzata what it meant, she said this:

I didn’t understand either. So I asked Andrzej and he said that he and Hili were discussing microbes earlier. I’m still a bit in the dark but that’s the whole explanation I got.

Perhaps Hili is remarking on the invisibility of microbes; you be the judge.

Hili: Our senses are deceiving us.
A: Why do you think so?
Hili: I have the impression that there is nothing here.
In Polish:
Hili: Nasze zmysły oszukują.
Ja: Czemu tak sądzisz?
Hili: Mam wrażenie, że tu nic nie ma.

In Wloclawek nearby, Leon is truculent:

Leon: We are not going any further.The arctic air is approaching.


  1. Posted May 10, 2017 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Date typo – Churchill became PM in 1940…!

    • Posted May 10, 2017 at 6:43 am | Permalink

      Fixed, thanks!

    • Posted May 10, 2017 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      Also the day Hess left Germany on his bizarre trip to Scotland. I am reading about it in Camp Z by Stephen McGinty…

  2. busterggi
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Godfrey Daniels, the spike was removed? No wonder our rail system is falling apart!

    • Posted May 10, 2017 at 7:24 am | Permalink

      Comedy gold! 😉

      • E.A. Blair
        Posted May 10, 2017 at 7:39 am | Permalink

        I thought the golden spike was in the Union Pacific museum in Omaha, but I was only about eight years old when I was there, so I may be misremembering. It was probably a replica.

        • Posted May 10, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

          There are actually several golden spikes (read the Wikipedia link), but the one above was the one actually driven into the ground by Leland Stanford.

      • E.A. Blair
        Posted May 10, 2017 at 7:53 am | Permalink

        My parents thought liver & onions were one of the best meals in the world. I hated it, hated everything about it – the taste, the smell, even the texture. One day they adamantly declared that I wasn’t going to bed until I finished my liver. At eleven PM I was still at the kitchen table, staring at a plate of cold, shriveled liver, still untouched.

        That was the last time they tried to force me to eat anything I didn’t want to.

        Organ meats were not a common part of the US diet – only immigrants and poor people ate them – until World War II and meat rationing hit and eating liver, kidneys, tripe and other formerly disfavored animal parts became a patriotic duty.

        • E.A. Blair
          Posted May 10, 2017 at 7:54 am | Permalink

          Oops – this should not have been a reply but an independent post. Something weird happened when I posted it.

        • David Coxill
          Posted May 10, 2017 at 10:38 am | Permalink

          You and the good Doc don’t know what you are missing ,add some bacon to the liver and onions ,yum yum .
          My mate hated liver ,mind you he had a severe allergy to it ,he said even the the smell of it make him sick .
          He used to call offal ,awful .

          • E.A. Blair
            Posted May 10, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

            There were other foods that my parents tried to force me to eat which I resisted*. Later in life, I found out that a good number of those things cause me severe health problems. I was listening to what my body was telling me, but my parents (and now you) weren’t listening to me. Before you condemn people for not liking certain foods, give a moment to considering whether there is a good reason for that dislike. In my case, eating certain vegetables makes me susceptible to painful gout attacks. Once I found out about these problem foods, I gave my parents a big fat “told you so”.

            *I remember bringing a cardboard box to the dinner table when we were having something I considered odious. I told the parents they could use it to ship my portion to those starving kids in China they kept telling me about.

          • Posted May 11, 2017 at 4:16 am | Permalink

            is dire!

        • Richard Jones
          Posted May 10, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

          Maybe you have to be of a certain age to like liver. Onions and bacon are essential and I don’t recall much cooking smell.

          Kidneys are delicious and my wife’s steak and kidney pie has been relished by many friends.

          It was a surprise to us when we came to Canada that organ meats were so despised.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted May 10, 2017 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

          I also find all offal awful. My father loved it, especially steak and kidney.

          I’ve no idea whether it even makes sense, but at the age of about five I decided he liked lots of revolting things like offal because they had a strong flavour and his taste buds had been ruined by his very heavy smoking.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted May 11, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          Organ meats were not a common part of the US diet – only immigrants and poor people ate them – until World War II and meat rationing hit

          I didn’t know the US had wartime food rationing of any sort until now.
          If you don’t want your animal’s wobbly bits, I’ll have them.

      • busterggi
        Posted May 10, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        I see what you did!

  3. Posted May 10, 2017 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Here’s a good story which features the Transcontinental railroad shortly after its completion, told by Simon Winchester in ‘The Men Who United the States….

    In the early 1870s two dusty, bedraggled prospectors ambled into a frontier California town. From their mules they took several heavy knapsacks and asked to deposit them in the bank. The manager was suspicious and wanted to know what was in the bags. With a show of reluctance, the men showed him. They were full of gems, sapphires, diamonds and the like.

    On questioning they said that they knew of a place where one could just pick them off the ground and they were abundant. The banker asked for proof and they agreed to show him the location. They had one condition: that they would blindfold him until they reached their destination. He agreed.

    Blindfolded, they accompanied him on a train journey for 24 hours. They got off the train. He was put on a horse. After an arduous journey uphill they stopped. The two men took off his blindfold. There, in the mountains, gems lay strewn all over, on rocks, on the ground. It was child’s play to find them. The banker was convinced. He had no idea where he was, the only clue was that there was a notable conical-shaped mountain nearby.

    The banker and prospectors agreed to set up a company to profit from the amazing find. Word got out and the big Eastern Banks joined in, including the Rothschilds. Shares rocketed.

    The Head of the U.S. Geological Survey heard about the find and was sceptical. He had surveyed the Rockies and knew of a peculiarly-shaped conical mountain. He traced the railroad station at which the banker and two prospectors had alighted to a point 24 hours east of California. Arriving there, he asked the locals if they remembered the party arriving and leaving on horse-back and they confirmed the tale. The Surveyor took off to the locale of the conical mountain. Sure enough, he came across an area where gems were just lying around on the ground. They had been planted there.

    In the meantime, the two prospectors had sold up their shares and made $300,000 each. The Surveyor accused them of fraud but they had disappeared. Eventually, one was found and put on trial. He admitted that he had bought some gems for $25,000 and planted them in the Rockies. The rest were glass. In a deal with the law, the prospector didn’t do any time.

    His co-conspirator had vanished and was never put on trial.

  4. Historian
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Trump’s firing of Comey may have been legal, but his motive for doing so must be determined. If he did so to end the investigation of his campaign’s involvement with Russia then we are entering impeachment territory. A Congressional inquiry is necessary as well as the appointment of an Independent Counsel to continue the investigation. The next few days will reveal whether congressional Republicans will help block Trump’s slow motion transition to authoritarian rule.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 10, 2017 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      No thoughtful, reasonable, honest American can possibly believe Trump’s risible, pretextual excuse for firing James Comey. Trump is clearly intent on shutting down the investigation into his ties with Russia. In making his excuse, he is once again showing utter contempt for the citizens he was elected to lead.

      • darrelle
        Posted May 10, 2017 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        I agree completely. The thing that continues to worry me though is that it is very apparent to me that many Americans are not thoughtful, reasonable and honest. I hope enough of them are, but look how deep in shit those that aren’t have gotten us.

        Perfect example. A woman I know who is very nice nearly swooning when Bush Jr. appeared at a local bookstore, exclaiming “*Sigh* I just love that man!” The level of cluelessness one has to have to feel that way about Bush Jr., perhaps the most calamitous administration in US history, and well within this woman’s adult experience, perfectly illustrates the voting block that over the past 20 or so years has led us to where we are now. And of course she is a Trump supporter. One who is genuinely surprised when someone disagrees with her about Trump’s steriling character or abilities.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted May 11, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        Trump is clearly intent on shutting down the investigation into his ties with Russia.

        RealDonald is going to be so pissed off when Putin stabs him in the back. Or the front. Or both. Simultaneously.
        What’s that Nixon line? “I gave them a sword – and they stuck it in.”

    • W.Benson
      Posted May 10, 2017 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      Beginning of the end? Hope so.

    • busterggi
      Posted May 10, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Not a chance, the Rethugs have taken the fuhrer oath.

      • W.Benson
        Posted May 10, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink


  5. Hempenstein
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    LBJ, when asked why he had kept J Edgar Hoover on, replied that he preferred having him inside the tent pissing out vs. the other way around. Perhaps Trump will come to understand that wisdom.

    Otherwise, is that spike solid gold? If so, can’t imagine they drove it all the way in.

    • Richard Jones
      Posted May 10, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      They make a hole.

  6. Hempenstein
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    And re. Mother Maybelle, none of my classmates seem to remember it, but she played for the American Civilization classes at my highschool in 1966. I clearly remember her hightop boots and autoharp. She played Wildwood Flower and Keep on the Sunny Side – maybe others. Despite that half the first stanza of Wildwood Flower makes no sense, that’s how her father, AP Carter, transcribed it. Most efforts to figure out what the lyrics should be are just looney, tho with a little sense of native mountain flowers and sense of what you can and can’t put in your hair (my version) it could be otherwise. But most people want to sing it AP’s way.

    A version that makes more sense, if anyone’s interested:

    I’ll entwine and co-mingle my raven (or waving) black hair
    With the roses so red and the lilies* so fair
    And the myrtle so bright with its emerald hue
    The pale Angelica** and violets so blue.

    *clearly, they had Lily of the Valley in mind.
    ** accent third syllable

    • W.Benson
      Posted May 10, 2017 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      This seems to be an older/original version (1860):

      I’ll twine ‘mid the ringlets of my raven black hair,
      The lilies so pale and the roses so fair,
      The myrtle so bright with an emerald hue,
      And the pale aronatus with eyes of bright blue.

      Aronatus seems to be a flower known to the lyricist but no one else. Maker perfect sense: she’ll put flowers in her hair.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted May 10, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        One of the looniest attempts to make sense of it I’ve ever seen was changing …eyes of bright blue to …islip so blue. Islip’s a damn town in New Jersey!

        Others have come forth suggesting (big, showy) tropical flowers that would make the mountain girl look like Carmen Miranda.

  7. Roger
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Vile dish and reeked are entirely appropriate terminologies in regards to the aforementioned dish that shall not be named.

  8. Gemma Jillian
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    This post has within it, PCC(E), exceptional adjectives and a noun unhabitual as to most folks’ daily parlances!

    — vulgarians
    — eponymous
    — enigmatic
    — truculent

    Always learning here. Thank YOU!

    ps: I “relish” liver and onions!
    Heavy on the onions, please!

    • W.Benson
      Posted May 10, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      I just did a look-up on Marie Antoinette and as a reward learned a new word: Paronomasia. It means “pun”. Apparently in the French court many did not like the queen and, punning, referred to her as the “Austrian Woman”, which, when properly pronounced, came out as the “other female dog.”

  9. jwthomas
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    There’s nothing strange about Hili’s remark. She has simply
    apprehended the truth of the Advaita Vedanta teachings:

  10. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted May 10, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    That’s an interesting acoustic solo version of one of the few early Donovan songs released with a background orchestra.

    I was pleased to see Donovan in concert last fall on the 50th anniversary tour of “Sunshine Superman”. With no backup musicians at all, he mostly sang stuff from his first two albums, which were his acoustic stuff before he went electric. (He also did a heavily self-censored version of “Young Girl Blues”.)

    Less psychedelic than “Sunny Goudge Street”, this is the only Donovan song with extensive mention of…cats!

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