Saturday, August 21, 1999
Today was a triple banner day for some novice archivist at the IHT. This rarely happens. More likely than not, the job of combing history for catchy news for today's Op-Ed page is assigned to a journeyman journalist. Easily made impatient with toiling over dusty tomes in the damp bowels of 92521 Neuilly-sur-Seine, he early on realizes that his editors won't grumble just so long as the date is right. What actually happened on that date is usually second fiddle. But, not today.
IN OUR PAGES: 100, 75 AND 50 YEARS AGO
[the International Herald Tribune]
1899: A Botticelli Fuss
ROME - Persecution (sic) has been instituted against Prince Chigi, Marshal of the Conclave, for having sold for foreign exportation the famous picture of Botticelli, representing the Virgin Mary with Christ as child. The painting was sold for 15,000 Pounds to an English or American connoisseur, who has not removed it from Rome. One of the reports associated with the sale is that it was destined for the British National Gallery.
1924: Tune in Mars
LONDON - Radio experts throughout England are concentrating their time and effort on equipment which will enable them to establish communication with Mars this month, when the planet will be in opposition to the earth. While there is no direct evidence to prove that life exists on Mars, the foremost astronomers of the world have declared that not only is the planet populated, but its inhabitants are of a much higher civilization than the earth's. If this be true, then it is highly probable that Martians have for years been attempting to penetrate the gas which hovers over the earth's surface.
1949: The Ruble Bloc
LONDON - Soviet Russia is fast building up a "ruble bloc," to extend over Soviet controlled nations, financial quarters said here. The bloc - apparently designed to match the dollar area and the sterling area - is considered a further step in Moscow's policy to tie eastern European economies still closer to Soviet Russia. This coincides with recent efforts of the Soviet Union to expand economic cooperation with the satellites and to encourage the system of triangular or quadripartite trade.
But, let's not forget that today is also the Second Day of the Feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. This little reminder came my way via "Newne's Dictionary of Dates and Anniversaries." As did the following:
- 1762: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, traveler, died.
- 1863: The Quantrill Raid on Lawrence, Kansas.
Dear Reader, when David returns to Florida after his side trip to Zurich I am sure that he will fill you in on the details of our last balloon flight over Siena ... the one we had this morning. He also has a few other journal chores that need attending to. Probably the biggest bit of unfinished business has to do with the photograph of Rosemary hugging the giant sunflower: you see, last night David was supposed to attach Al Jolson's "What's It All About, Rosy" to the picture. That way, when the reader clicked on the photo not only did he get a really big picture of Rosemary and her flower but a cascade of scratchy music and song would pour forth as background noise. But, he didn't get around to doing it.
Today, our little band of balloonists started to disband. Richard and Rosemary were the first to leave: their Florence to Paris flight positioned them nicely for the late afternoon Air France long-haul to Miami. David and Adrianna, as I already said, went off to Switzerland.
Early tomorrow morning Annie goes to Seattle via Amsterdam. And, a few hours later, Linda and I have a direct flight to London. For about a week we'll be at the Four Seasons Hotel; the one just off Hyde Park.
But, for all practical purposes, this part of the trip is all over.
Sunday, August 22, 1999
- 1607: Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, navigator, died.
- 1642: Civil War in England began.
"One of zee en-jins is get-ting very hot!" ... he said.
Yes, well that certainly got me to drop my in-flight magazine and concentrate on what the pilot was telling us. The first time around he said it in Italian; that explained the earlier rustle of discomfort in the seats behind me.
"Do you smell something like burning plastic?" ... she said.
Linda's Italian genes have given her a well-developed sense of smell. My Norwegian ancestors had precious little of that stuff to pass on to me, what with all the vices that they were busily bundling into their bequeaths. Whatever, by then I did not at all like the direction that this distraction was taking.
The stewardess grabbed her purse from the crew overhead compartment.
"She's damn well going to make sure that she leaves this plane with her essentials." Linda understands women, I thought.
Meridiana Airlines flight 3537 was en route from Florence to London. Linda and I were in seats 2D and 2F.
The engine stopped.
"Do you think that God is angry with us?" ... "Probably, what with all of those sacrilegious jokes you have been poisoning me with." ... "You were just as bad." ... "We should say that we are sorry; especially for the holy card one." ... "That was yours; don't even think that I was there with you on that one."
One of those truncated airport buses pulled up to the prow of our plane.
"Maybe it was just a warning; after all, we ARE on the ground." ... "I guess."
Not being 8,000 meters above the Italian Alps when all of this was going on makes us out to be just a couple of inconvenienced travelers, doesn't it? And, not all that inconvenienced at that. There were people on that plane who had lovers to meet, husbands to avoid and cops to duck. We just wanted to get to London in time for a good seat at the sushi bar.
Nine hours after we left room 520 at the Jolly we were in room 503 at the Four Seasons.
Next: The London Journal