Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Story About a House, 2

Today is Sunday, 10 September 2006.

Now, HH has long been fascinated by the phenomenon of Time. Time philosophically, historically, technologically, you name it. For some reason, when he was growing up, a local restaurant, The Golden Drumstick (guess their especialite), had three clocks on one wall, set to different times around the world.

As a child, HH resolved to have something similar when he grew up. He now has three desk clock sets, each with three clocks, set to New York City time, Moscow, Beijing, New Delhi, Tehran, etc. Then there’s the atomic clock, which is set to Central Time, and adjusted automatically by a radio signal sent from the official U.S. government master clock at Fort Collins, Colorado. The latter keeps time by measuring the vibration of cesium atoms, that is, the second, as based on the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom.

Note to right-wingers, who claim all government is a total waste: when was the last time you had two hyperfine levels of the ground state of cesium 133 perched somewhere around your bunker, huh?

When HH saw the first adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1960), he was fascinated by the collection of chiming clocks the Time Traveler had on shelves in his Victorian house. While HH has yet to achieve this, he has long had so many clocks that one is never out of sight of a clock, wherever he’s lived.

Which is the long way home to get to something which happened several days ago, and is the genesis of this series.

Mrs. HH wanted a clock to go by her side of the bed, and picked up a small, spare travel clock in the kitchen. She said to HH, after she had placed it, Something is perhaps broken with this clock; it’s showing the wrong time.

HH said, There’s nothing wrong with the clock; it’s just set to Baghdad time.

There’s a very funny song, “Why kill time when you can kill yourself?”, by Hamburger Patty and the Helpers. You probably don’t think that’s very funny if you’ve had someone close to you attempt or commit suicide, but, on the other hand, I’ve had both, and am mordant enough to still find the song funny. Go figure.

Time is further represented in the vicinity of the house by tree stumps on the property, with their record of rings.

At night, even though one is in the midst of the city, the surviving trees afford enough protection, that one can see many stars, though not easily the lens of the Milky Way. Light, such as that from stars, is, of course, always a time capsule, since it travels, not instantaneously as once thought, but at the relatively [humor intended] poky pace of approx. 186,282 miles per second (or 299,792.458 km. per second). While the reflection from a mirror may seem real-time, in reality, there is no such thing. It is only at planetary and stellar distances that the relative lapse seems credible.

Two additional dimensions of time. In the master bedroom is an antique blanket chest, ca. 1830, presented to the HHs on the occasion of their wedding, some 21 years ago. On it rests a small box, contained in a larger, ornamental box. Inside are the ashes of Persephone, a domestic short-hair cat, 1980-1998. Before HH knew Mrs. HH, Mrs. HH-to-be came home one day, and the child who lived across the hall in her six-unit apartment building came over cradling a tiny black kitten, saying, I got a kitten last month, and my parents say I can’t have two. Firemen rescued this kitten from the tree outside today; would you like her?

Persephone was always a sweet cat, but a tad stand-offish to begin with, as cats are wont to be. Until, that is, she bolted out of the new apartment to which Mrs. HH-to-be had moved, down by the Arkansas River in Tulsa, and disappeared. HH combed the neighborhood, even crawling through a drainage tunnel which runs under Riverside Drive to the river, and was disgustingly snake-infested. Persephone was gone ten days, and then, just as all hope seemed lost, she reappeared, lighter and burr-infested, outside Mrs. HH-to-be’s apartment. The vet said she seemed to have survived by eating insects.

Needless to say, Persephone thereafter realized upon which side her bread was buttered, and was extravagant in her affection.

George Bernard Shaw: “Humanity is civilized to the degree that it understands the cat.”

Tomorrow: Two anniversaries.


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