LI's adventures in the world

The writers LI admires most are scourgers of mankind – Swift, Marx in his political mode, Nietzsche, Kraus, etc., etc. Alas, though we nourish misanthropy in our bosom, hoping to become like them, when we are released into a crowd situation we become as unselectively friendly as a beagle.

So, I went and moderated this panel last night at the Bob Bullock museum. The crowd was sparse, unfortunately. But I loved it that anybody came out at all.

It has been a while since I addressed a number of people, and I was a little nervous. That soon passed. I will not bore you with the play by play of the three panelists and me. One of the panelists, Jim Haley, the historian, is an acquaintance.

The unexpected part of the whole thing, for me, was Ms. Denise McVea. She’s written a controversial book (if you are a Texan) about Emily West de Zavala. E.W.d.Z was the wife of the first vice president of the Texas Republic. Her slave, according to legend, amorously dallied with Santa Ana on the morning of the battle of San Jacinto, thus giving our Texas boys a fatal advantage as we routed the Mex. Our Delilah. McVea’s thesis is that this story is an distorted version of a suppressed fact – that Mrs Zavala was herself black, and possibly had been employed, before she met de Zavala, as a courtisan. This thesis has created a small storm – the Republic of Texas still has a space in the hearts of some of the men and women throughout the state who have never taken kindly to miscegenation, integration, and uppityness. I wish to God that I was caricaturing. I’m not. Denise turned out to be such an absolute doll, and in the Q and A she displayed no countering scorn for her detractors, who are the type to sling all kinds of your usual blog comment insults. Instead, she was the height of … well, dignity is an insufficient word. There is a sort of solemnity that accrues around a person who has a scholarly object that has absorbed her world, and when that solemnity is exposed to the light of the public response, it has a disarmed smile. It is a smile that continues even as the response to one’s researches seem, for mysterious reasons, to have provoked every jerkwater idiot within reach of a keypad to pen some dull and insulting opinion that goes straight for the genitalia or skin color. The serenity of the smile of reason in the storm of unreason stands out, like some broken marble column from a better age, around which spreads the ragged ass tents of a barbarian encampment. So Denise said that she found the response … interesting. Shockingly interesting. Such perfect poise – I was blown away.

Then it was out with a friend to get a couple of drinks on sixth street. Apparently, some convention of largeheaded bald men was happening in the city. A bouncer convention or something, since men with huge shaven heads were parading up and down the street. It looked like a loopy MTV video. And so, as Pepys would say, with some margaritas swimming in my belly, to bed.


new york pervert said…
Cool!Cool!Cool! I realized as I started reading this that I would give anything to have lived in the Republic of Texas, because it must have been as strange as possible.

Portrait of Denise is wonderful. Thank you.

Now admit it. Devouring space like that was as much fun as you've had in a long time.
winna said…
I think all the true misanthropes are people who would be as friendly as beagles if people weren't such bastards.

I used to have a friend who lived like Shaw's idea of a person in the Salvation Army- smiling and damning the world. He expected great things of people and was always disappointed, which is what made him so bitter.

I am glad it was fun. You should start a lecture tour like the esteemed Mr Clemens, also a man made sad by the failures of our species.
roger said…
Winna, I would do that in a heartbeat -- if I only had a cool white linen suit.

Mr. NYP, yes, the Texas Republic was slightly insane. The heaviest crossfire, last night, was actually about Sam Houston. The two schools about Sam are: he was a drunkard and a coward, one, and he was a hero, two. I am in the two camp, although nobody can deny he was a drunkard. But he has never been forgiven for being pro-Indian, pro-Union and anti-slavery (in the weird, Jefferson way). So of course, we get the guy who wants to know what really happened between Sam and his first wife.
Such mudslinging -- and poor Sam's been dead nigh on these one hundred almost fifty years.