Monday, July 31, 2017

Banana Republic

We, the US, are not a banana republic. However, if one did not have a sense of history and just arrived on Earth, and followed the Trump administration the last week or so--that person might have a different assessment.

Today I read that the tenure of "the Mooch" has ended. The erstwhile Director of Communications lasted a week and a half.  Eleven days.  The new chief of staff, John Kelly--in this role for a few days,--urged the president to make the change.

So, in a couple of weeks, the press secretary, chief of staff, director of communication have all resigned.  Russia is threatening to remove over 100 members of the US diplomatic core in Russia. North Korea has threatened the United States.  The President made a speech to the boyscouts that would have gotten him tossed out of Student Government in any high school in the country.  The extraterrestrial might figure we are a banana republic.

I just completed a book of short stories by O.Henry.  It is called, appropriately, Stories of O.Henry.  I was surprised to read in the preface that O.Henry was a different sort of person than I had imagined. We all are familiar with his most famous story, "The Gift of the Magi" which is in the collection.  Also, while it is not in the collection I remember reading "The Ransom of Red Chief" in high school which is pretty funny. It is about some no-goodniks who kidnap a kid to get money from his rich folks, only to find out that the kid is impossible to control.  The parents, aware of this, force the kidnappers to pay them to take the kid back.

If not a no-goodnick, O.Henry was a bit of an eccentric character.  The guy drank himself to death allegedly knocking back two bottles of whiskey a day for the last decade of his life. He had worked in a bank, was subsequently arrested for embezzling, and spent three years in jail. When first arrested he went south of the border to avoid capture, only to return when his wife proved too sick to join him.

His stories, I figured, would be easy to digest.  I'd read "The Gift of the Magi" which is not too difficult and "...Red Chief" and then another very short one called, "It Makes the Whole World Kin."  These three are relatively simple, but they are aberrations. Most of the stories in this volume are work--sometimes work that is worth the effort, but nevertheless, not walks in the park.

It was worth the entire collection of 23 stories to read a long paragraph on page 113 about adventurers and those who do not have courage to take chances.  Also, a story about pancakes was excellent.

In the pancake one, a cowboy is interested in a friend's niece. He attempts to court her and is initially successful. One day he comes to visit and a rancher is out riding with the woman.  Well, the cowboy is upset and approaches the rival ready to duke it out. The rival tells him he has no interest, that he is a homebody, and is only riding with her because she has a terrific recipe for pancakes.  If, says the rival, the cowboy can get the recipe from the niece, he promises to never see the woman again. This strikes the cowboy as a good deal, but every time he brings up the pancake recipe to the woman, she looks at him strangely which he interprets to mean that nobody gets this family recipe. Each time he mentions pancakes, she stares at him frostily, disappears, and then the uncle comes out with a glass of water to placate the suitor.

One day the cowboy comes to visit the woman and the uncle says that she ran off and married the rival.  The cowboy is furious.  He finds out that the woman never made a pancake in her life, but the rancher rival had told both the woman and the uncle, that the cowboy was a bit crazy and you could tell he was about to go postal whenever he started talking about pancakes.

Anyway I can't recommend the collection in its entirety as it really was hard work. Besides a number of the stories I could take or leave.  The stories aside, however, I found the history of O.Henry interesting particularly when I read today--on the heels of the Mooch firing-- that it was O.Henry who coined the term "banana republic" from his outlaw days living south of the border and observing the ways of countries where he was hiding.

On a peripheral note, I read a best seller called, The Woman in Cabin 10.    Very high on the ridickalus scale.  I'd pass and move on to cabin 11.

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