Hail Fellow Well Met

Paul Ryan, who announced today that he won’t run for reelection, has a reputation as a nice guy who treats his staff with courtesy and respect. Great. But I’m put in mind of this observation from Burkas Cobbs: “I’ve known plenty of personable scoundrels and plenty of profane saints.”

The Truth of a Train Whistle

What tells more truth than the distant whistle of a passing freight train on a drizzly Monday morning? Nothing. Not the scratchy recordings of Édith Piaf singing “La Vie en rose.” Not Linda Loman’s summing up of the life of her husband Willie. Not Vonnegut or the Adagio for Strings or any particular twelve-bar blues. The train whistle is their equal, a mechanical maestro of the bittersweet.

A Death in Vienna?

I might have seen a man die this evening. It happened across the Danube canal from me in Vienna. I watched from my fourth-floor window. They did CPR with a machine, I think. It was startlingly indelicate, the machine. But to no avail, or none that I could see. Eventually, they took him, or his remains, away, and within an hour, all trace of the crowded urgency having evaporated, bicyclists again coasted past what was, I’d say, this man’s ultimate earthly latitude and longitude, as if the coordinates carried no more weight than any others.