CHEAP EATS Crawdad called me on speakerphone, like she does: in the car, with the childerns. "Will you tell us the story of Moby Dick?" she said.
"Moby Dick," I said, about as meaningfully as one can say, into an Android, Moby Dick. As it happens, I had just hung up with my dad, who (as it further happens) is an actual, dyed-in-the-whale Melville scholar. Me, no. Not so much. I've read it, of course, but . . .
"Dang, is traffic that bad over there?" I asked.
"No. We're going to get ice cream," she said. As if that explained everything.
"OK," I said. "Ice cream."
I said, "Kids . . . listen up: Moby Dick."
And while clearing the dishes I proceeded to abridge one of the substantialest-ever works of American literature into four sentences:
"This guy Ahab goes out in a boat to get some whales, and in particular this big old one name a Moby Dick. But Moby Dick is so big and so old that he outsmarts Ahab. Anyway, he outsizes him. He busts up Ahab's boat and most if not all of his crew, The End."
I forgot to mention Queemquack, or whatever his name was, but — no worries — I'm de la Cootersitting tomorrow, so I'll have all day to bring them up to speed.
Poor kids. Even without any knowledge of Queemquack, they were speechless.
"Why did people fish for whales?" Crawdad asked.
"I think maybe they made lamp oil out of their fat, or something," I said, rendering the kids even speechlesser.
"You have to understand, Chunks," I added, "this was before the age of light bulbs. People couldn't just flip a switch and see things; they had to go out and kill giant whales and split their heads open. There was this oil in there that they needed for their lamps, so they could stay up late and read Moby Dick."
Without which — a century and a half later — my father would never have been able to feed his family. Which reminds me: I would love to tell you about the not-great hashbrowns and sold out "Millionaire's bacon" at my new favorite restaurant in the Tenderloin, but after all I'm on strike, so ...
It's been hard to rally any interest in the Giants lately in the Chicken Farmer and Hedgehog household, I'll admit. It's not that we wouldn't be thrilled to hug and high five strangers on the street should they go All The Way, but it seems we left our baseball hearts in Oakland this season — somewhere under the cheap seats in the Coliseum.
It's been looking like the Giants lost theirs somewhere other than San Francisco, too. Maybe in St. Louis? We went out tonight in search of a TV screen with 49ers on it, and at Hogs and Rocks on 19th they had two screens: one for the 49ers and one for the Giants.
By way of play-by-play, I eavesdropped on a conversation between a father and his small son, sitting across from us.
"The Giants have given up," declared Father.
"What do you mean?" asked Son in an innocent little voice.
"They're playing like a team that's lost its heart," Father said.
"There's still time to win I know," said Son (bottom of the seventh, Giants trailing 8-1). "I have never gaven up in baseball. Ever. I can steal home, it's so easy. It's how I make runs!"
I think maybe this kid has figured something out that grown-assed men who get paid way too much to play games haven't. At least on this side of the bay.
Cheap Eats continued...
Yes, my dear, I just hope your cute little eavesdropee doesn't grow up to be a whaler. Because in life as in Moby Dick, sometimes it is better to give up than to fight. Call me chicken.
Call me Chicken Farmer.
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