I saw a real, live Frenchman! And I buyed onions from him!
For almost two hundred years, farmers from Brittany have been coming across the Channel to sell their onions to the English. Brits call them “onion Johnnies.”
They sell a particular mild pink onion from the area around the town of Roscoff, which they braid onto plaits of straw, loop over the handlebars of their bicycles and sell door-to-door. Oh, yeah…they wear little black berets and little black mustaches and really camp it up.
It started in the early Nineteenth C when one farmer realized he could get more for his crop here than they could there. Eventually, there were a couple of thousand making the regular run. They’d bring the crop over and warehouse it in July, then slowly fan out on their bicycles selling them to housewives until December or later.
The onions keep about six months; hang them up in the kitchen and snip one off from time to time. (My old mother would have LOVED this. She had a sort of onion fetish, as did her mother before her. We had onions as a centerpiece at the dining table and got onions in our stockings at Christmas. Come to think of it, that kind of sucks, doesn’t it?).
Our onion Johnny was cheating; he had a table outside the local grocery shop. And no mustache. But he did have a slick color brochure (printed with an EU grant — don’t get me started) which I have lost. It informed me that there are now 25 onion Johnnies.
They’re probably as authentic as the Pirates on a Disney ride, but poor old Uncle B got all excited. He remembers real onion Johnnies from the Before Time.
August 31, 2009 — 5:39 pm
Ohhhh…that would keep me busy for WEEKS.
He liked a good Chappaquiddick joke, did he? Let’s send him out with some!
August 28, 2009 — 10:51 am
For once in my miserable life, I wasn’t going to go there. Though there are so very many things to dislike about Ted Kennedy, I knew other people would mention them all today, and I don’t need the karma. But nobody’s quite nailed the thing that bugs me.
It’s the way Mary Jo Kopechne died. I mean her literal, actual last moments on earth. She almost certainly lived for some time on air trapped in the car. Maybe hours. The diver who recovered her body found her kneeling with her hands against the seat and her head in an air pocket.
Hours. In the pitch dark and cold and wet, breathing up her last, stale, warming scraps of air. Waiting for help to come. Help would surely come, wouldn’t it?
Ach. Makes sweat prickle along my hairline. I got stuck under an overturned canoe once, trapped (ironically) by my life preserver. I had an air pocket, too. It started to taste very bad very fast. My breath sounded like it was blaring out of a PA system into a high school gymnasium. I was under there five minutes, max, and I still have dreams.
No, I doubt Kennedy left knowing she was trapped alive. But I don’t see any evidence that he was particularly troubled by the idea, then or ever. He walked away from the accident and never reported it. Pulled a few strings, observed a few formalities and got off with a six-month suspension of his driver’s license.
Not five years later, Kennedy was screaming “is there one system of justice for the average citizen and another system for the high and mighty?” over Richard Nixon’s pardon for…whatever it was Nixon was supposed to have done. Without, apparently, feeling the slightest twinge of irony or embarrassment. Or anguish. Or self-awareness.
He named his dog Splash and wrote a book about him. He didn’t seem to have any idea there were subjects he should avoid. Or remorse he ought to feel. And nobody around him saw fit to tell him. Not that you can order someone to feel shame.
To them, Chappaquiddick was an unfortunate accident that happened to Ted Kennedy’s presidential hopes.
That’s monstrous, and all the good-deed-doing in the world can’t make it anything else.
August 27, 2009 — 7:25 pm
Ted Kennedy has shuffled off this mortal wotsit, and leave us hope he is somewhere on the astral plane, right this minute, ‘splaining himself to Mary Jo Kopechne.
That was quick, wasn’t it? I thought he was holding his own so far.
Well, that’s Enas Yorl for the win. Dude, send me your mailing address, and the fabulous can of Heinz Bangers ‘n’ Beanz is headed your way (I had your address once, didn’t I? Well, I lost it. After jotting it down next to the mirror in all the ladies’ rooms in Rhode Island, natch).
Right. As soon as I find a suitably impressive new fabulous prize, we’ll kick off Round Two.
UPDATE: I guess it’s on. If y’all want to go ahead and make your picks, we’ll do it in this thread. I’ll work out the fabulous prize later.
One pick per person; first come, first served. Any famous person will do. Doesn’t have to be anyone you WANT dead, unless that enhances your personal Dead Pool experience.
UPDATE: And the fabulous prize is…!
August 26, 2009 — 7:02 am
Also, I have added Stronger Than Death to the Moronosphere links. For one thing, they had the good taste to sidebar Zombie Reagan. For another, I think they asked before and I plumb forgot.
Weasels! What are they like?
August 25, 2009 — 8:09 pm
Uncle B’s mother is in the hizzouse. Okay for me; I get along with her just peachy, but I think the poor bastard feels like he’s in a mad old bat sandwich, and he’s the olive loaf.
Today, we all drove to the beautiful, haunted town of Winchelsea in East Sussex. Old Winchelsea was a large and important medieval town, until it was swept into the sea by a massive flood in 1287. Edward I ordered Winchelsea rebuilt on the hill above. A newfangled planned town, with the streets built on a grid.
The new Winchelsea was likewise a thriving port. But it was sacked by the French and the Spanish a few times and especially hard hit by the Black Death of 1348. When the harbor silted up in the 16th C, that was pretty much it. Winchelsea today is tiny and spooky and lovely and full of terribly, terribly rich people.
The surviving church — actually, the surviving chunk of the surviving church — is at the center of the grid, and it’s spectacular. For two months in 1855, John Everett Millais stood about where I’m standing inside and painted L’Enfant du Regiment, a wounded little girl asleep on the tomb of a knight (from a fictional story about an orphan adopted by her father’s regiment).
Well, he painted the tomb on this spot; he painted the little girl later in his studio. And a damn fine job he made of it, too. Millais is hit or miss — when he’s good, he’s very, very good and when he’s not, he isn’t so much. This one is very fine. It’s oil on paper laid on canvas mounted on board. It lives in Connecticut at the Yale Center for British Art.
And tomorrow? Dunno yet. Presumably, two old bats and Olive Loaf hit the road again…
— 6:55 pm
I grew up in a house crammed to the rafters with taxidermy. Mostly things my grandfather shot, but my dad added his bits and they both picked up a few curiosities and, you know, creepy floating junk in cloudy formaldehyde jars. I freaking hate taxidermy. All those bad mounts, crooked faces, dusty bald patches and shiny, shiny glass eyes. Vengeful shiny. Angry shiny.
Okay, I can understand the hunting trophies, even if they creep me out. I can understand the curiosities, even if they really, REALLY creep me out. I can just about squint, tilt my head on one side and understand the various useful hardware, like ashtrays and doorknobs, made out of bits of animal bound in metal. But I will never EVER comprehend how our grandparents could find dead stuffed animal tableaux in any way, shape or form cute.
I think that lobe of the human brain plumb dried up, rolled over and fell off in the last hundred years.
JuliaM posted a link in the comments to a site called Crappy Taxidermy that brought my taxidermiphobia roaring back with a hideous, throbbing immediacy. Oh, yes…I looked at all sixty pages of posts. Every last sad, twisted, bulbous, crusty, mangled fuck-up of a nasty dessicated beastie.
I can has nightmares.
One name kept cropping up: Walter Potter (1835-1918). I know I’ve seen pictures of his work before, and I bet you have, too. Potter was a local Sussex lad, the son of a publican. He took up taxidermy as a hobby and spent seven years building his first tableau, the Death and Burial of Cock Robin.
Some years and hundreds of dead animals later, dude put together a whole museum in Bramber, Sussex. Huge set pieces. Individual mounts. Two-headed lambs and eight-legged kittens.
His most famous pieces remained large tableaux, built out of frogs or rats or squirrels or adorable fluffy bunnies or sweet baby kittens. FREAKING KITTENS. Oh, dear lord Jesus — dead stuffed kittens with twisted faces and vacant eyes. Dressed up for a wedding party or serving each other cups of tea and slices of cake.
Improbably, the whole museum was kept intact and roughly in this area until quite recently. It was broken up and sold at auction in 2003, so I *just* missed seeing it.
Thank CHRIST for that.
August 24, 2009 — 7:24 pm
w00t! Weasel gots WHEELS again!
We drove by this thing a week ago and Uncle B noticed a For Sale sign on it. I wasn’t even thinking about a car — certainly not before I could afford to buy one myself and pay the upkeep. And I’m still unemployed, thanks.
But I drove his car once, and it was a total gritty whiteknuckle curb-barking suckfest. I was shocked out how wrong and disorienting it was. I’ve always scored high on spatial awareness tests and regarded myself as an excellent driver for a girl, so this was too, too humbling. I hate humbling. A hooptie of the genus Miata seemed a way make some goddamned part of the experience familiar.
It’s a 1993 exported used from Japan in 2003. A word about that: the Japanese have ass-kickingly hard car inspections every two years, and they get exponentially harder to pass and more expensive as a car gets older. At some point fairly early in the life of the car, most Japanese say ahhhh fukkit, sell up to the exporters and get a new one. The British are particular beneficiaries of this policy, since the Japanese drive on the wrong side of the road, too, and they can sell the cars here more or less right off the boat.
So the model is called a Eunos Roadster, a marque only sold in Japan. I am learning the Kanji for unleaded gasoline only and do not overinflate (perhaps I’ll have one of those things tattoo’d on my lower back to impress the guys at Hanzi Smatter).
Silver. Pretty good cosmetically. About 90K miles. Under two grand American. Steering wheel on the wrong side. Union Jack on its ass.
Drives like a Weaselmobile, baby!
August 21, 2009 — 6:45 pm
I love this picture of the president. It cracks me up every time Hot Air or somebody runs a story under it, because it reminds me so much of this guy.
So you know what I had to do, right? You know what’s coming, right? No, I’m going to make you click a link. You know what you’re going to see when you click the link, so don’t come crying to me if you click the link and then you’re all, like, “golly, Weasel, how could you be so rotten and horrible and mean?” Because all you have to do is not click the link and you won’t see the picture. Simple, really. Don’t do it. I’m begging you.
I mean it.
August 20, 2009 — 4:41 pm
Did you miss me? Um, yesterday. When I didn’t post. No really, I didn’t. First time I’ve missed a weekday since I moved the blog to its own URL.
Oh, well. What happened was, we finally had the neighbors over for booze and munchies. And after we drank them under the table and they wobbled home, we stayed up burning stuff in the chimenea and looking at the stars until the wee hours.
We hadn’t done that before. We’re well away from a city of any size and have next to nothing in the way of light pollution. It’s almost as dark here as where I grew up in Possum Testicle, Tennessee. I had hoped to make a whole night of it for the peak of the Perseids, but — of course! — it was overcast on the 12th/13th.
Man, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a sky like that! Milky Way and everything. And then I spent today being hungover. It’s an all-day job, that.
The cars? They were just sitting in the parking lot of the supermarket. Must have been on their way to a classic car meet of some kind. Lots of that around here.
Did you know the Model T had wooden wheels? Very cool.
August 19, 2009 — 6:10 pm