Thursday, November 13, 2008

November Blues

I've been smitten with Herman Melville's Moby Dick for so long that I cannot remember the last November that has not caused me to recall -and fret over- these lines from the first paragraph of the first chapter of the book that I'm pretty sure contains a big chunk of the narrative of my soul.

"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."

Why November drives me to hunker down and get restless and cranky over the condition of my soul is obvious -I was born in November, the weather is dour and the landscape goes mute as daylight becomes twilight. I've never run off and gone to sea in any way that was not metaphorical. But since my first reading of Moby Dick, whenever November comes around I imagine myself, like Ishmael, walking in damp boots towards New Bedford under a grey drizzling sky , a rucksack on my back, daydreaming of Cape Horn, harpoons, and doom.

Hmm, now that I think about it's probably a good thing that I identify so closely with Ishamel than the more obvious choice of Fleece, the Pequod's cook. True, like Fleece I live a good portion of my life below decks in the galley, and I'm sure I could fry up a whale steak quite as well as he. But Fleece went down with George Bush, I mean Captain Ahab, in the ship in the vortex produced by the enraged whale, while Ishmael survived.

Sorry if this post is a downer. I'll make it up to you in the next one with something bright and clever about the latest installment of some smacked-ass cooking show where the cooks battle it out like Rock-em Sock-em Robots. (No I won't.) In the meantime have a look at a few shots of the farm in November. The ham was made in October, but I added it in because it felt right.


Don Luis said...

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that, at 54, I've never read "Moby Dick". I will now. My soul is more connected with Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, but I don't think it's too late to make up for my lack of a liberal arts education (do they still call it that?).

I love November (in Puerto Rico, it's 73F right now). The citrus is in full bloom, and there are panas, bananas, and platinos aplenty. Pity we can't make salumi here because of the heat and humidity.

I would love to hear your opinion of "some smacked-ass cooking show where the cooks battle it out".

ntsc said...

I like others of his works, but have never been able to enjoy it. It was required reading in some required college course.

However do remember 'Moby Dick is not a venereal disease'.

Tags said...

It's good to get it out of your system

Jennie/Tikka said...

I'll trade you weather. It is still in the mid to upper 90's here in Los Angeles and I am still in need of air conditioning.

Hot weather and Thanksgiving/Christmas just don't match.

The wood I bought for a nice cheery fire in the fireplace is still waiting for it's chance to fulfill it's destiny (after the a/c stops hogging all the attention).

Oh, and did I mention everything south of Santa Barbara is on fire?

Bob del Grosso said...

don luis
My first rock concert: Fillmore East, 1968, Albert King, Chuck Berry, The Who. F--king Rock and Roll! Melville is in the same stream.

In order to enjoy Melville you must be angry and confounded. You've probably always been too clear headed and happy is all.

Thanks! (for nothing, man :-)

November only happens in the North and East (of Ca.) everyone else in North America fast forwards from September to May. I'm surprised that someone as smart as you did not know that.

More seriously now, I've been keeping up with the news on that fire. Wow, it sounds like hell.

Jon in Albany said...

We are in the middle of the month, so I've got a 50/50 shot of being early or belated: Happy Birthday, Bob!

My dad turns 80 on Monday. That's pretty hard for me to believe. Probably harder for him, though.

Tags said...

Sorry, I didn't realize the clip was so short

here's the whole song

Kate in the NW said...

I feel for you. November in the Pacific NW is no joyride either, believe me (though we do have lots of lush, lovely green below the grey, grey, grey, and you can even almost see it in the 4 hours of almost daylight we get here).

I couldn't help noticing what looked like some lovely drafts out behind the you work the land with horsepower?

boberica said...

I loves me some hog cheeks, but I've never cured them, save for, indirectly, as guanciale. What's your scoop, or in honor of the fires...what's your motivation?

Bob del Grosso said...

Those are the Percheron draft horse that Trent uses for plowing and seeding and reaping. They are beautiful, I hear you.

For reason that are not at all clear to me the guy who slaughters our hogs likes to pulls all the fat off of the heads down to the jowls. That leaves the cheeks exposed. If I had a restaurant in which I could serve them as a finished dish, I would. But I don't, so I cured them and stuffed them into casings like capacollo. It was the least -and I hope best- that I could do.

Don Luis said...

Perhaps I was a late bloomer, but in 1968 I was 13 years old (and I believe you were too). The only rock-and-roll I knew was the "yummy yummy yummy I got love in my tummy" that I heard on my pathetic brick-sized transistor radio.

It wasn't until 15 that I discovered Zappa (in the same way that Columbus discovered America, which came as a great surprise to the people already living there).

Scotty said...

I was 10 in 68, and too into the space program to care about music. That awakening came when I got George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" and Genesis' "Nursery Cryme" as Bar Mitzvah presents.

November makes me melancholy as well. The plastic goes up on the windows, the backyard grill goes into hibernation (The Weber in front is still active). The herb garden begins to die, and when snow does fall it may be around for a while.

The image I get at this time is not Melville, but the final scenes of Truffaut's "Fahrenheit 451" - the book people walking through the snow, and the kid reciting Truffaut's addition to R L Stevenson: : "He was more afraid of death than of anything else. And he died as he thought he would, while the first snows of winter fell."

Not planning on dying anytime soon - too much food to experience - but that's the melancholia this season brings. That and the annual Bad Thanksgiving dinner I have to cater . . .

Linda said...

Wow, I was 16 in '68 and I knew everything and read everything and I was on top of the world.

So Happy Birthday, Bob! I don't think of November as melonchaly. My son was born on 11/19 and I love this month in north Idaho. I recently drove up to Canada to see all the trees turning color, including the tamarack trees (larch). It's SO beautiful!

I used to live in southern Calif. and my mom had to evacuate her home this weekend. So thanks Jennie/Tikka for all you do!

But I love the northwest because we actually get to put our garden to bed for the winter. Then I get to make true comfort food, from italian sausage lentil soup to braised Scottish Highland Beef shanks to venison roasts.

And Scotty, you mentioned one of my all time favorite movies and I remember well the end scene, the memorized books and the falling winter snow. But it gave me hope because the cycle of life continues no matter what we humans do to mess it up.

Bob del Grosso said...

It's all about context. I'm sure if I lived in Taos, for example, I'd have a different attitude when November comes around. But in the mid Atlantic states, with the sea so near, an me, having spent so many years up in New England, there just no way to avoid it.

But hell, I don't mind it really. Pathos is kind of cool -as long as you can detach yourself from it a bit.

don luis
Very few people have read Moby Dick. It's one of those books whose fame outstrips it's popularity. Another is Don Quixote de La Mancha, an amazing brilliant, funny, tragic and bathetic book that should be read by anyone with cultural roots in western Europe. Then there's Canterbury Tales, The Decameron, La Mort d'Artur ...yikes!

Tags said...

Beat those November blues into submission

and happy 70th birthday Gord!

Tags said...

If you can't beat em, enjoy 'em

Gals of November remembered