The Corner


That’s how WFB labeled many, many e-mails: “Misc.” (often “misc”). Anyway, wanted to share some mail, most of it light, some of it not.

In Impromptus yesterday, I mentioned my Ann Arbor homeboy, the author John Bacon. Formally, he is John U. Bacon. I said, with a speck of exaggeration, “This is one of the great names in American letters. How often do you see the middle initial ‘U’?”

Eric Fettmann of the New York Post sent me a note about Jack Lemmon. His name was John Uhler Lemmon III, and at the start of his career he thought about calling himself Jack U. Lemmon. He decided against it, however, because he could foresee a headline: “Jack, You Lemon!”


Also in Impromptus, I said this:

Several days a week, I walk by the Intrepid, on the Hudson River. Almost every time, someone is having his picture taken in front of the ship. Usually several someones.

Earlier this week, I thought, “Is that the way it’s going to be in the future? Will our ships in general be like the Intrepid – museums? Will America be a formerly mighty power, with tourists taking pictures of what used to be? Will we be like Europe, a has-been continent?”

I’m not ready for that, chillen. It’s not just a matter of personal or national pride. This is not a question of vanity. The world hath need of us. For if not us, who? (To coin a phrase.)

A reader writes,

Your comments about the Intrepid reminded me of an experience I had many years ago. In the Navy, we stopped at Portsmouth (two days of liberty for five months underwater — see the world indeed). On our way off base to explore England, we passed the Victory. At the time, I admit shamefully, I was ignorant of her history, but I still would have enjoyed touring her.

Unfortunately, some ceremony was going on just as we passed, and she was closed — one of the princesses was there (can’t remember which).

Having read and learned so much history since then, I think of the Victory and Nelson’s glory and how great Great Britain once was. I remember that sad nobody of a princess having her picture taken in front of the Victory. And I wonder, Was there even an awareness of the decline, of the impotence of Britain and the irrelevancy of the monarchy?

Sadly, I suspect we will have many museums like the Intrepid and the Constitution to have our photos snapped in front of, while our navy will end up like Argentina’s. Or maybe Norway’s.


In a Corner post yesterday, I mentioned Occupy Ann Arbor — Occupy Ann Arbor! This is terribly funny to anyone who knows the place: The Left has been running Ann Arbor — has “occupied” it — for many years.

I said, “An Occupy Ann Arbor is like a special ballet company, set aside for thin people. (You can come up with your own, and better, analogies.)”

In a Corner post of his own, Mark Krikorian quoted a line from a show: “But then I realized to commit suicide in Buffalo is redundant.” A reader wrote to me, “An Occupy Ann Arbor is like a topless beach in a nudist colony.”

About Ann Arbor in general, a reader sent me a rather beautiful letter:

. . . I have been to Ann Arbor only a few times. . . . I completely understand when you speak of the ideological narrowness of the place, although I liked the town very much otherwise.

To me, the name “Ann Arbor” will always be extremely romantic, in the way that boyhood memories so often are. Allow me to explain.

I was born in Rhodesia in 1948 to an Australian WWII bomber pilot and an English-speaking South African mother. In the next 21 years, I lived three times in England for seven years in all, including university for the final three, but otherwise I looked at the big world from a tiny place in the middle of Africa. I was a sports nut and, especially when very young, loved to read books and memorize statistics and other facts. I was particularly fond of track and field.

I am not going to Google anything, this comes from the memory bank of probably a ten-year-old! In a single hour one day in 1935 in Ann Arbor, Mich., Jesse Owens broke five world records and equaled another! . . . Because of the schedule, he had time for only one long jump, and traveled 26 feet and eight and a quarter inches. That world record stood until 1960!

This is why my immediate reaction to the mention of Ann Arbor is always one of nostalgic excitement.

As I said, a beautiful letter. For an account of what Owens accomplished that day, try this Wikipedia entry. It was a great, great day in Ann Arbor, and one of the greatest days in the history of sports. Like any other Ann Arbor kid, I knew men who were there. (For real, I think — just as someone had to have participated in the French Resistance.)

Finally, a couple of notes about southern accents, which I’ve been doing some writing about lately. A reader says,

I have a friend whose southern accent is so strong you can hang your wash on it. [Love that line, had never heard it.] He is quite cheerful about it, and we make fun of our mutual communication challenges.

One day, a friend asked him in a mock southern accent, “How can you tell the difference ’tween ‘hail,’ the ice that falls from the sky, and ‘hail,’ the place you don’t wanna go to after y’all die?”

He looked at her and said, “CAWN-text.”

And the second note: “My North Carolina wife says, ‘We talk slow in the South so that even you Yankees can understand.’”

Good one! See you.