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Monday, October 15, 2007

Retirement and Steamboats

Well, here I am recently retired, hoping for lazy days filled with books, both printed and audio, an environment that has yet to manifest itself as the "proverbial "honey-do-list gets longer rather than shorter.

That being said, I ran across an article about the current fleet of steamboats that still ply the Mississippi ("In Twain's Wake" by Wayne Curtis, Atlantic November 2007.) It sounds like a marvelously languid experience. Curtis has a way with descriptive phrases and several that struck my fancy included his description of the calliope: "Its sound was exactly the opposite of a pipe organ’s: Where the latter rouses one with deep bass notes, the calliope thrills with piercingly high ones. It is, however, a thrill I believe best experienced only once."

Sitting around on deck as the steamboat glides up the Mississippi had its charms too: "Afternoons and evenings were spent eating, attending history lectures, and sitting in deck chairs, where the vibration from the engine created a Magic Fingers effect; inevitably, I would find myself in a row of dozing passengers, our heads secured to our chests with great hawsers of drool." That's a vivid nautical image.

The boats stop at assorted locations along the way and Curtis's description of the tourguide at one plantation broght a chuckle: "wandered over and joined an early tour, led by a hoopskirted guide who spoke in that singsong monotone used to hypnotize tourists and make them think that tarnished table settings are interesting."
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