A Post in Which I Recommend a Brand of Fish Sauce and Don’t Talk about Arctic Animals Very Much

Hi guys.

Just popping in to assure you that I have not fallen off my bike or locked myself up with a dictionary and a crate of chocolate pudding. I’ve been busy! Too busy to blog.

Also I’ve haven’t been sleeping well. Also the internet signal I’ve been sharing with my landlady has faded to nothing more than whisper, so I, currently, have no interwebs at home. Also, Holly is back on our desert shores, fresh from saving the lives of babies and she’s been plying me with Chinese steamed buns. Also, I’m reading about narwhals–which I would be tempted to write about if I hadn’t promised to lay off the Arctic animals.

So, just three things this time:

1). If you’re going to spill fish sauce all over your kitchen rug, make it this brand! My apartment smells bad (marina bad), but I shudder to think how much worse if I had spilled a more pungent, fishy fish sauce.

2). I just read that Albuquerque may have the largest riverine cottonwood grove in the world. We’re talking the Bosque, people–the woods flanking the Rio Grande. Other Southwest cities have razed, tamed, and canaled their rivers and riverbanks, but in typical New Mexico fashion, we’ve allowed ours to ramble, which means we get to keep our trees. If any of you faraway friends or relatives come to visit me, I will take you to this grove and many more natural wonders!

3). Unicorns. Did you know that the practically priceless unicorn horn (worth twenty times their weight in gold), so sought after in the Middle Ages, was actually narwhal tusk brought to European shores by hapless sailors from Icelandic and Greenlandic waters?

What it boils down to is a failure to communicate. The horn buyers never said, “Hot damn, unicorn horns! And by unicorn I mean that magical horse that prances about in remote forest glens.” And the horn sellers never said, “Here’s your narwhal horn, and by that I mean that elusive sea mammal that rolls about in the Arctic waters until harpooned by natives.”

It wasn’t until the late 17th century that Gerhard Mercator, yes that Mercator, set the record straight. (I guess Mercator knew about the narwhal from his cartography pals.)

Of course, by then, unicorn horns had garnered such exorbitant value and such potency as charms against all sorts of evil, that nobody wanted to listen to Mercator’s buzzkill. “Go back to making your dopey maps, Mercator, and leave our unicorns alone!” was the general sentiment.

I really wish someone would make a movie about this starring Ryan Gosling.

Odell Shepard writes in The Lore of the Unicorn that by the mid-sixteenth century, only 50 intact tusks were to be found on the Continent and these were treated like holy relics, possessed by kings and plundered by Crusaders. (Apparently there is still one on display in San Marco Basilica in Venice, which nobody effin’ told me about when I was there.) In 1671, Christian V of Denmark was crowned on a throne made entirely of unicorn (narwhal) tusks.

So you see? Mercator was a real killjoy. But only if you can’t appreciate the narwhal as much as the unicorn for its utter rarity and strangeness.

Oh, how we cling to our precious illusions!

Let us close on that exclamation. Until next week, dear sensible readers.


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