The Book Is Written In Mathematical Language

“Philosophy [nature] is written in that great book which ever is before our eyes — I mean the universe — but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written. The book is written in mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without whose help it is impossible to comprehend a single word of it; without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.”
Galileo

Richardson, Texas

Short Story of the Day – The Man With the Scar

He’s an exile from Nicaragua. He’s a ruffian of course and a bandit, but not a bad fellow.

—–The Man With the Scar, Somerset Maugham

The land of lakes, volcanoes, and sun. A painting I bought on my last trip to Nicaragua.

Every now and then I like to share a short story that is readable online. I used to do this a month at a time every couple years  ( 2013, Day One 2015, Day One 2017) and may yet this year – but for now… here’s one.

 

Today’s story is The Man With the Scar. You can read a PDF of it here.

 

I was cleaning out the files on a laptop when I stumbled across a PDF entitled The Man With the Scar. It was a short story by Somerset Maugham. Obviously, I had read it before and downloaded it, but I didn’t really remember it. I re-read it and then searched my archives to see if I had written about it before. It was mentioned here – in a review of another Somerset Maugham short story. I had forgotten how much I loved his short stories. I had read the thing in a lending library at a park downtown – Klyde Warren – the park build over a freeway.

Woodall Rogers Freeway, from Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

But I had never linked to the story itself.

Which is a shame, it’s a little piece of greatness. What a horrible tale told in such high-falutin’ language. It encapsulates the insane evil that springs forth when human life is held in such little regard.

Is the Man With the Scar a hero or a villain? An evil man… maybe, or an ordinary man caught in a hopeless farrago of wickedness. He does at least take a stand… but it is such a depraved stance. He realizes that beauty has no place in his world – no place for mercy or for sacrifice.

I guess our only reaction to a story like this is to rejoice we don’t live in the same place as these characters do… or to maybe at least hope we don’t.

Get the Whiskey

So has everybody. Shit happens. Get the whiskey.

—-Bad Times at the El Royale

Bad Times at the El Royale

 

There is nothing better to make the time go by on an airplane than watching a movie on the little screen on the headrest of the seat in front of you. It’s even better than reading – I have trouble reading on the airplane – there are too many interruptions and I can’t really read when I’m that uncomfortable.

On the way out to Boston, all I wanted to do was sleep – so I chose Aquaman. That did the trick, I kept nodding off.

But on the way back I put a little more thought into it. There were some excellent movies to choose from – some I had wanted to see. But I didn’t really want to see those on the little tiny screen with the wonky headphone jack that I had to push on the wire a certain way to get the sound.

I wanted something that wasn’t bad… but wasn’t too good. Something entertaining without having to think too much.

I chose Bad Times at the El Royale.

I chose well.

I remember when that movie came out – it looked very interesting – and was surprised at its lack of box office. It came and went in a flash without leaving much of a trace. Sometimes these can be hidden gens when they make it to streaming. Bad Times at the El Royale isn’t a gem, not by a long shot, but it is an enjoyable way to kill a few miles between La Guardia and DFW.

It’s one of those retro, noir-y thrillers with a simple story made complex by careful manipulation of point-of-view, time-shifting, and vital information not made available to the audience until the proper amount of confusion is generated. There are twists and turns a-plenty and plenty of unexpected, sudden violence. The good guys aren’t going to win in the end because there aren’t really any good guys (well, maybe one). There are listening devices, hidden corridors with one-way mirrors and a big bag of cash hidden in a most clever way.

It all takes place in the El Royale, an almost bankrupt fleabag hotel/motel located right on the border between two states – you can choose a room in the Nevada wing or the California. A cast of misfits check in and are ultimately faced with a fatal game of roulette with the most handsome Manson-like cult leader of all time (a very buff Chris Hemsworth). I read that Matthew McConaughey was originally going to play that part – that might have catapulted the film into greatness.

As it is, greatness isn’t catapulted into – but it is a fun bit of diversion. Especially for someone trapped in a crowded metal tube hurtling along at unimaginable speed thousands of feet in the air.

 

A Single Open Window

“We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it.”
Tennessee Williams, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

Republic Tower, Dallas, Texas

A Thin Layer Of Icing

“I saw the world I had walked since my birth and I understood how fragile it was, that the reality was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger.”
Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Modern Pastry, Boston

Modern Pastry, Boston

There is nothing as beautiful as the display cases in an Italian pastry shop. They may even… especially en masse… look better than they taste.

These photos are of the cases in Modern Pastry, in Boston’s North End. We bought Napoleons and Carrot Cakes – both visible in the second photo. We ate them walking in the street – which isn’t ideal.

We had gone to Mike’s Pastry, which is very famous, first – but the place was packed with a line down the street, so we walked down another block to the Modern, which was full, but without too long of a wait.

The funny thing is, sixteen or so years ago, in 2003, Candy and I had gone to Mike’s for a pastry, and an older gentleman came up to her on the street and told her to go somewhere else, other than Mike’s…. I think he said that Mike’s was, in his word, “A tourist trap!” I can’t remember where he recommended… I don’t think it was the Modern. Candy is from Texas, and he… well, he was not – so I had to translate, they couldn’t understand each other.

Candy and the older man in front of Mike’s Pastry in Boston’s North End. This was in 2003 – it still looks exactly like this today.

Morning Has Broken

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world
—-Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) (born Steven Demetre Georgiou), Morning Has Broken

Sunrise, Boston, Massachusetts

I was way too tired. We had finished work the day before (a long, tough week) and treated ourselves to dinner at an Italian Restaurant in the North End (Ristorante Limoncello) some pastry (Modern Pastry shop, Mike’s was too crowded – line was down the street) and a drink at the end of the hockey game (The Black Rose). Then, when I settled down in my hotel room I discovered that HBO GO was on the TV complimentary and, against my better judgement, I watched the episode of Game of Thrones I had missed because I was flying the previous Sunday. It was getting too hard to avoid spoilers.

My flight was scheduled for eight (though, due to mechanical problems it didn’t actually leave until ten) so that meant I had to get up at five, which meant only a couple hours of sleep. I was woozy in the morning, but was treated to a glorious sunrise painting the buildings of downtown Boston a bright crimson.

Still I’d Like To Express My Thanks

“Got no checkbooks, got no banks. Still I’d like to express my thanks – I’ve got the sun in the mornin’ and the moon at night.”
Irving Berlin

Thanksgiving Square, Dallas, Texas

Everybody in Dallas takes this photograph. I have several times. Still, it’s an amazing scene and you never really can capture its beauty. It’s a surprise the first time you see it – especially concerning the drab (though interestingly-shaped) exterior of the chapel.

 

Chapel, Thanksgiving Square, Dallas, Texas

Thanksgiving Square Chapel, Dallas, Texas

Thanksgiving Square Chapel, Dallas, Texas, 2003