Memory of a Place and Time

Memory of a Place and Time

I'm looking forward to Dune 2 on HBO. I'm not sure how the HBO episodes match up with the Frank Herbert novels; it's been a long time since I've read them. I can't remember how many I made it through.

When I was reading them, I liked the idea that it'd be a story, but then I started getting the sense that the author couldn't stop. Similar experiences with The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire.

I'm more sympathetic to the authors now. As a reader, I know where my preferences lie. I want a story to end, even if you're left wondering where Shane goes after he disappears over the horizon. But I understand how writers might start realizing that the possibilities start multiplying. What did Paul set in motion?

That's a weird, convoluted intro to a random complaint about the new Dune. If you haven't seen the new or the original Dune, there are some spoilers ahead. I wanted to write today, but my thoughts on Dune caught me off-guard. I'll attempt a blog/internet Spoilers Start, Spoilers End tactic.

Spoilers Start.

Paul and Jessica escape the Harkonnen invasion and a sand worm. They randomly bump into Stilgar, who they've met before (at least in the current version, can't remember the original). I like Javier Bardem's Stilgar, but I'm annoyed by his reaction after he tries to kill Jessica. She's too old to learn our ways, she's of no use. He gets bested. "Peace woman, peace", he pleas. Be reasonable and merciful, whereas I was not.

Spoilers End.

I've got at least 15 open tabs of articles I thought were interesting. They're just lurking, like so much unfinished business. So get ready for a bunch of links. Ideally, for me, when someone posts a link, it should be a you should read this moment. This is not one of those moments. I liked the articles, but obviously not enough to overcome my laziness and write about them in the moment.

I like reading Pete Wells' food and restaurant articles in the New York Times. I was fortunate to live in New York City for a couple of years, and I love the city, its neighborhoods, its history, and its people. Pete Wells works a lot of those angles into his articles, covering restaurants that I will never go to. My dining is pretty simple, but I love reading about the people who make restaurants possible.

In February, he wrote about Torrisi Bar and Restaurant. The first paragraphs convinced me it was a place I'd never want to go.

From the street, Torrisi Bar & Restaurant looks like a set for the hottest restaurant in New York in a movie made by people who don’t live in New York.
You can’t see inside the curtained windows, but you can read the restaurant’s name, painted in gold script, from across the street. Black S.U.V.s with tinted windows wait at the curb. A doorman (or is he a bouncer?) in a heavy overcoat looks over each new arrival. The inside doors are so tall and heavy they don’t give unless you put your back into it. The last place I saw doors like these was Grant’s Tomb.

If you like reading about food and the restaurant industry, keep reading. Evan Sung's photos are incredible, and Pete Wells does a fantastic job of conveying what the chefs and owners are trying to do with this spot in Little Italy. It didn't turn into a place I'd want to go at this point in my life, but I could easily understand how a group might want to share a special night there. I could understand that more than how people choose a $500 tailgate party and a football game (no offense to the tailgaters, that's a valid choice, just saying that we all have our preferences).

I'll leave you with one more block quote from Wells' article. It reveals Wells' knowledge of the city, and I think it also shows a food writer returning from the pandemic shutdowns.

The restaurant’s great, covert theme is immigration in Lower Manhattan. The backbone of the menu is still penne and escarole and chicken alla griglia, drawn from a Little Italy that is not much more than a name these days. But Mr. Torrisi is always looking at the blocks around Mulberry Street, too. “Chopped liver with Manischewitz” is a jokey name for a profoundly rich chicken liver parfait under a Concord grape and red-wine gelée — I’d normally use the English word here, but this is not standard grape jelly (and Manischewitz has nothing to do with it, either).

I'm fading, so I might not make it through many more links. I can hear my audience of five saying, "thank goodness." I very nearly closed all the tabs and wrote about the Twitter Files hullabaloo (sp?), but I just get too confused by it all. I am going to write about it eventually, with a bold warning of CHUCK SKIP THIS POST.

Kim Barker and Jasmin Shah have an amazing article in the New York Times about Shelli Wiley, Laramie, childhood, memory, moving on, and returning.

Shelli Wiley was killed on a cold October morning in 1985 in Laramie, Wyo., just before the sun rose. She was stabbed. Her apartment was set on fire, and her body was burned beyond recognition. In many respects, she was erased. The local media gave her death barely any attention. Ms. Wiley, who was only 22 when she died, seemed to leave hardly a ripple on the surface of Laramie. Her killer was not caught.
At least, that’s what I remembered. Back then, I was a 14-year-old high school sophomore, living in a drab ranch house about three miles from Ms. Wiley’s apartment. I didn’t know her. But her murder, like so much else about the town, left a mark on me.

The writing is incredible. I've read the essay (it's more than an article) several times, and I keep thinking about Ms. Wiley, Laramie, and the photos.

Those memories became an anecdote, even after I became an international correspondent, covering places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. Laramie: the meanest place ever. The label wasn’t anything I ever really considered deeply. Memories can be like that. Unbothered by analysis or reporting, they can harden into what seems like fact.

The idea of memory, possibly an unreliable narrator, figures prominently in the essay. Powerful.

Tangent. A Lamb shows up in the Laramie essay. It reminded me of Jackson Lamb, in Slow Horses. Chuck recommended Slow Horses, and I finally got around to watching it. Completely over the top, Bourne-style get me the feed on those CCTV cameras STAT kind of stuff, but a lot of fun. About to triple-down on fun. As Chuck said, "Gary Oldman is having way too much fun playing Jackson Lamb."

There are two approaches to the show. First, and most important, if you enjoy it after a long day, carry on. Second, give some thought to whether it's glorifying their actions or challenging you to question them.