As your humble editor is currently in the midst of the unspeakable horror known as “moving”, in lieu of a new episode from Arnold Schnabel’s classic 69-volume autobiography Railroad Train to Heaven, we present this week a selection of bons mots culled more or less at random from Schnabel’s massive chef-d'œuvre, suitable for recitation at dinner parties or literary gatherings, or for private pondering in the dark watches of a sleepless night:
I did something I should not have done yesterday. Against not only several doctors’ orders but my own personal experience and supposed good sense, I had one too many last night, all right, perhaps two, what am I saying, three, all right, say four, four too many considering two is my limit and I had six, but no, wait, I think I had seven.
The day after my previously recounted escapade at the Pilot House was no worse than what might have been expected, viz., killing hangover, suicidal depression, pathetic and meaningless remorse and guilt, and unremitting boredom relieved only by an infinite self-loathing, in other words nothing to get excited about, just another day at Villa Schnabel.
She arrived, stepping in from the still-bright but dying summer daylight. I suppose she felt she looked radiant. Her hair was like some modernistic light fixture with a hundred watt bulb turned on inside it. She wore a flowery dress of what looked and eventually felt like wallpaper, and she reeled towards me on high heels.
The waiter handed me a wine list. All I knew was you were supposed to drink red wine with meat and white with fish. But she had ordered lobster and meat, making the choice impossible. I settled on a bottle of Mateus rosé.
I kissed her. It didn’t kill me to do so. And for once I surrendered, and I fell, and it was as if a great part of me finally opened up to life. Previously I had felt that nothing could be quite as pleasant as lying in bed on a cool afternoon with nothing to do, staring at the ceiling and dreaming of a world beyond this world, but now I was not so sure.
Her eyes, which seemed suddenly to have grown enormously, looked into mine. I felt as if I could fall into them. So here I was, precariously suspended between being thrust backward out into the stars or falling into this interior universe which seemed to me just as unknowable.
Perhaps life didn’t have to be so difficult after all. Perhaps I had been denying myself life itself all my life in the service of some random superstition. After all, what if I had been born a Hindu, or a Pygmy, or a Hottentot —
The air was cool and clean and fresh, the ocean wind smelled alive with the grace of the universe, of seaweed and salt and bushels of glistening fresh oysters, and so naturally I had to have a cigarette.****
I awoke next morning feeling odd. Well, I should say, odder than usual. I lay there and realized that one odd thing I was feeling was not hungover. So that was one good thing about marijuana.
People were slowly walking up the bright street, in their bathing suits, carrying their umbrellas and beach chairs and blankets and towels, in this already stifling and blazing heat. They were quite mad, to go to the beach on such a day. But then of course it was their vacation and they wanted to get their money's worth. But they were mad nonetheless. They would broil on that merciless beach like so many lobsters. Even I was not that insane.
My aunts and mother tend never actually to eat a meal, per se. One of them will eat half a slice of toast, say, and then pass it on to one of her sisters. If it’s a big holiday meal, forget it, they won’t even sit down for more than a minute at a time. There’s no changing them. And yet they’re all rather solid somehow, and strong, albeit very short. They’re almost like the remnants of some race of immortal and stoutly-built dwarves who have emerged from the darkest depths of the Schwarzwald to dwell for a time among men.****
I sat in the shade of an oak tree while Kevin crept down to stare at the ducks. He stopped at the water’s edge and crouched down. Some ducks slowly glided back and forth along the water’s surface. They looked bored, but then it was a hot day.****
The shop was busy on this rainy day, what else was there to do for poor vacationers? Well, at least this was one day when they wouldn’t have to lie in the blistering heat of the beach, their flesh burning, their children wailing. They could drag themselves and their families into places like this and eat pie and ice cream.
When I awoke again I felt much better, very rested. The rain was still coming down, but much more lightly now, and the wind had settled too. The green of the leaves on the oak tree outside my window sparkled dully, like seaweed in clear water.****
(Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train to Heaven will return next week at its regularly-scheduled time, with a brand new thrilling and never-before-aired episode. Unless we are still unpacking boxes and painting, in which case expect an "Arnold Schnabel Potpourri, Part 2".)
These are better than epigrams, more personal, free of Pinterst, and more significantly, free of that age-old aphoristic danger, amour-proper.
To which, Arnold is immune--as perhaps is his editor.
Still, I thought the editor might appreciate the quote below (obvious as it is), because of that annoying fiction blogger who compulsively bares all.
The height of cleverness is to be able to conceal it.
Francois de La Rochefoucauld
Aw, thanks for the comment, Kathleen, and I love the Rochefoucauld quote!
Is Arnold the grandfather of Vito Schnabel, the new boy toy of Demi Moore?
We can only hope that it is so, Ted.
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