Speaking of remembering what I’ve written: From about 2003 to about 2010, I had a constant theme — no one appreciates what an Iraqi politician goes through. No one appreciates how far he sticks his neck out. It’s not like running in some comfy-cozy Western democracy. Iraqi politicians face kidnapping, maiming, murder, etc. And they expose their family, bodyguards, friends, and associates to those things too.
In the decade of the 2000s, I met many Iraqi politicians, and I tended to admire them a great deal. They were constantly dumped on (sometimes fairly). Again, no one, or too few, appreciated the risks and horrors they put up with.
It all came back when I read a piece last week by Colin Freeman: here. It’s called “Gunfire and a stone-throwing mob — a day in the life of an Iraqi politician.” I’m so glad he wrote it. These things are too little said.
A little language? Actually, this is more politics than language. I was reading this AP story about the fiscal cliff, tooling along, when I came to this sentence: “Despite bitter battling over taxes in the campaign, even die-hard conservatives endorsed the measure . . .”
Okay. But would a “mainstream media” story ever refer to “die-hard liberals,” or “die-hard leftists”? Maybe. But I would be surprised.
A little more music? I was in St. Louis the other day. Down by the arch — and the Mississippi River. And damned if that song from Showboat didn’t enter my head. The Mississippi wasn’t really rolling that day. If it was, it was rolling slowly.
I guess that’s the point of the song, one of them . . .
While in St. Louis, I walked around Lafayette Park, a beautiful thing, certainly in freezing but bright winter. I saw a statue of George Washington — one of the best I have seen, actually (small in size). And a statue of Thomas Hart Benton (bigger).
Oddly, I did not see one of Lafayette. Maybe I didn’t have my head screwed on right.
If you ever check into the DoubleTree Hotel at Union Station, take a tip: Try the ice cream — vanilla, I think — with chocolate-chip cookies crumbled into it. Holy Moses. That may be the best ever (along with Ben & Jerry’s S’mores). (Look, can I help it if the Communists, some of them, make good ice cream?)
Perhaps this is available at all DoubleTree Hotels, I don’t know.
In Union Station, I saw a stained-glass window, kind of touching: It showed Grecian figures — can I say that, as in “urn”? — and three names underneath: San Francisco, St. Louis, and New York. This was apparently meant to signify the major cities from west to east. They were sisters, linked. St. Louis thought of itself as the central great city.
At least, that was my interpretation (seat of the pants).
Last month, Galina Vishnevskaya died. She was a formidable soprano and the wife of Rostropovich. Actually, she was a formidable everything — just plain formidable. I would see her now and then in concert halls. (She was attending, not performing — this was long after she had retired.) I would tremble a bit, steer clear.
Let me tell a story I have told in this column before — I suspect it’s been years. I was having a conversation with my friend Paul once. We found out we were in complete agreement on something.
I said, “You know, Vishnevskaya’s memoir is one of the best memoirs by a musician I have ever read.” In 1984, she wrote Galina: A Russian Story. Paul said, “Me too.” I then said, “Frankly, it’s one of the best autobiographies I’ve ever read — by anyone, in any field.” He said, “Me too.”
I continued, “You know something? I mean this, and I’ve read many, many of them: It’s one of the best books about the Soviet Union I have ever read.” He said, “Me too.”
Finally, I said, “Hell, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.” Laughingly, he agreed. Maybe you would too. I haven’t read it since the 1980s, I bet, but I would probably be as impressed with it today. If you have the time and inclination, go here.
And I’ll see you.
To order Jay Nordlinger’s book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.