The Whale in the Room

Ride the Whale!

Month: August, 2012

Ch. 4 The Counterpane or a hatchet-faced baby.

Do you know what a counterpane is? Neither do I. Start listing all of your best guesses. Mine are as follows.

1)    Like a windowpane, but somewhere else.

2)    Mortal enemy of T-Pain.

3)    I have no idea.

It turns out I was wrong in every way. Except for “I have no idea.” I was dead right about that. A counterpane is a blanket. A comforter. Something you sleep under, something that keeps you warm. Normally, I feel confident deriving meaning from antiquated words or phrases, but I think the reason this one in particular was abandoned is because it’s plain old dumb. Here is where we begin to encounter the cultural and linguistic discrepancies of my oversized future brain and Hermano Melville’s antiquated, yet still smarter brain. We live in a future where a tiny pane of glass can show you moving images of people engaged in coitus. On a whim. And you can pick the kind of people you want to watch having coitus. And maybe where they do it. And if you’re lucky, there’s a soundtrack, or a “score” as they call it in the business. Now that I think about it, I can see plainly why we are getting dumber as we get smarter.

This book was written over a century and a half ago. Let us make another list, this time noting any considerable differences between now and the dark ages of the 19th century.

1) Women could not vote or generally do anything that displeased men without swift and often violent reprisal.

2) People were not as smart, yet somehow not as dumb as some people I know.

3) Cars and Michael Bay movies weren’t around, so life was less awesome. This is absolutely debatable.

4) Fear of ghosts was probably more common.

5) Slavery.

6) Somewhere in space and time, the forebears of Snooki were smooshing.

7) Polio?

8) Lasers. Definitely.

Those are some of the more notable differences that came to mind. If there’s something I’m missing, I’m sure my dedicated readership will be so kind as to educate me. As per the name of the chapter, Ishmael wakes up next to his new bedfellow and new best boy Queequeg and recalls a childhood memory of being punished and sent to bed around 2 in the afternoon for playing “chimney sweep.”* When he wakes many hours later in total darkness, upon the “counterpane” (it’s called a bedspread holmes) he finds his own hand wrapped in a phantom hand. He is so terrified he won’t move. And eventually he falls back asleep. Fast forward to adult Ishmael, and Queequeg, his new amicable (yet still pleasantly cannibal) bedfellow, is playing big spoon and Ishmael is incapable of escaping Queequegs grasp. Upon removing the counterpane Ishmael finds Queequegs tomahawk lying beside them. Like a “hatchet faced baby.” Cool.

They get dressed and there are many sentences and words used to describe the intricate process and many feelings and implications shared between (betwixt?) the two and so on and so forth. Breakfast.

Next.

* Difference #9; children played at being a chimney sweep back in the day. I loathe to think how in the future my spawn will play “Apple Executive” or “Oil Refinery Technician.” 
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The Spouter-Inn, also known as Ch. 3

The spout. I assumed a whales spout, a blow hole, but felt unsure so I took to the greatest encyclopedia I know. A little google action brings us to, obviously, the urban dictionary. A couple of notable definitions come up here, and I think they are worth sharing.

1) Up the Spout- Scottish slang for pregnant. It comes with this contextual gem.

This is not a food baby. I’ve taken like three pregnancy tests and I am fo’ shizz up the spout.

What I want to know is, what Scotsman says “fo’ shizz?” Also, see food baby.

2) Also British for something that has gone awry.

Tony Blair has gone up the spout.

3) For the grand finale, AMURIKA! Up the spout means to

load…

ones…

WEAPON?!?!

The Glock-17 holds 16 rounds: 15 in the magasine and 1 up the spout.

So if I understand correctly, what the English speaking world means when the words “up the spout” are uttered, it’s that a woman has been impregnated, shits obviously fucked up, and it is now time to make sure this gun not only has ammo, but that there is one in the chamber ready for the killing. Who’s getting shot? Baby Daddy? The less we ask, the better. Remember kiddos, no glove no love. That way, there shall be no need for discussions of spouts and what is up in them… or coming out of them.

Oh yea, also, Ishmael arrives at said Inn, the Spouter Inn. It is what you would expect a 19th century whalers Inn to be; occupied, cold, and full of unsavory characters. Also,  a harpooning cannibal named Queequeg, who, we shall later find, makes an ever so charming bedfellow.

Next.

The Carpet-Bag, or Chapter Two

Remember how I said I’d try to keep up with this thing? Fail. But not completely. Three weeks later, here I am. I have progressed quite a few chapters in my reading, but clearly not at all in my ongoing shitty book report.

Saturday in December. In New Bedford, Connecticut. Cold, rainy, and miserable. Have you ever trudged through a New England winter? Admittedly there are worse, but a proper New England winter can suck the life out of you and then have the gall to tell you that you owe it money.

Ishmael gives us the low down on the whaling game in town, how New Bedford is now the spot. Nantucket was hot, and to give them their due, they were some of the first anglo-whale clubbers in town. But now the trade has moved to New Bedford, and Ishmael is trying to get. that. nut. The adventure nut I mean. Packed up his “carpet bag” and just strolled into town.

Through these musings, I’m starting to gather that this Ishmael fellow is well educated, or at least well read… maybe just well informed. But he’s clever no doubt. He compares Nantucket to “-the Tyre of Carthage;- the place where the first dead American whale was stranded.”

I don’t know what the Tyre of Carthage is, but I’d like Hans Zimmer to score it. Russel Crowe can come too if he wants.

I’d like to reiterate the gross potential for abandonment and failure of this silly project. I have chosen one of the most celebrated and dissected American classics. My only solace comes from knowing that very few, if any, will read this. Sigh. If you think I’m sniffing glue, I’m not. I tried it once as a teenager, and though it can be effective as any drug could ever hope to be, that ship has gracefully sailed off into the sticky night.

There it is for you. Connecticut. Cold and shitty in the winter. Next.

Chapter 1: Looming

Call me Ishmael. Probably one of the most famous lines in modern literature. I also like Cogito Ergo Sum.

Ishmael. Got it. So what’s up? Ishmael has got it in his head he needs to go to sea. He’s hanging out in Manhattan, which he calls Manhattoes, and waxing philosophical about the need to get out there before he wraps his lips around the business end of a Smith and Wesson. He doesn’t actually threaten suicide really, but he sorta does so now we know he’s maybe a little critical of himself.

I’m pretty sure this book touches on madness. This bodes well for some hot action. And by that I mean disagreements of the strongest sort… the kind that end in fisticuffs or disembowelment.

La de da, away I go to the sea for some adventuring and a little existential recalibration, cause if I don’t I’m going to push the nearest child in front of a bus. Gotcha. Peace New York, Ishmael is outie…

See you in New Bedford?

p.s. There are a lot of chapters. And this dude Melville talks a blue streak about all sorts of nonsense. Smart dude, I get it. But we are trying to get through this together. You, me, and Hermano Melville. And because you are oh so busy, I will deliver only the juiciest gossip. And by that I mean stuff that interests me or moves this train forward. I’m also going to continue these post scripts in italics because italics are like whispering. This isn’t really content… shhhhhh….

It’s not cheating if there’s not a test

“They don’t think it be like it is, but it do.”

                                                        -Oscar Gamble

 

Have you ever read Moby Dick? I haven’t. What’s that you say? You haven’t either? That’s fine. Were you ever told to read it, maybe by a friend or some harsh literary mistress?* It’s a big ass book and unless you have an obsession with books, as many I know do, you probably have no interest in committing 10,000 hours of your life to a story about an extra-big-ass-whale and some peg-legged madman who really wants to find that whale and fuck it up because it stole his leg and yada yada yada. “But,” they say, “it’s a classic!”
Good thing I’m on it. I will read it for you and give you a play-by-play. That way you can pretend to have read it at your next holiday party and convince some goober you’re considerably more dedicated and motivated to knowing more stuff than everyone else, so of course you’ve read Moby Dick. You can even have opinions about it. But they will be my opinions. Which will morph into fact.

Think of it like this. It’s a made-for-tv movie. With no relevant pictures or motion. Maybe it’s more like an abridged book on tape. Without the sound. Cliff notes? Close, but I’m not qualified to educate you on Moby Dick. I’m just here to tell ya how it is. How it be. Word? Word.

p.s. if you have read moby dick… my interpretation may very well shatter your infantile understanding of literature. or it may make you rue the day the internet was invented and consequently empowered knuckleheads like myself to continue writing.

* I’ve always wanted to meet a “literary mistress,” though I’m not entirely confident I grasp the full scope of possibilities in regards to what, exactly, a “literary mistress” might be. I’m intrigued, aren’t you?