Marco Polo's a good guy
Let's talk about this for a second.
I’m reading a book right now that’s based on the kinship that developed between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan. It’s called Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino. I am loving it so far, but because I’m not done with the book yet, I hesitate to recommend it full-throatedly to anyone, because Calvino always does trickery with his books and some readers hate it, and there might yet be trickery coming.
Personally, I am always here to be tricked by my reading material, so the more Italo Calvino and David Mitchell and Mark Z. Danielewski the better, but I’ve recommended Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler to a bunch of people who despised it, so: Read Invisible Cities, maybe, but only if you like books that don’t really make sense!
I started researching about the world of the book — which mostly consisted of me going, “Hold on, did Kublai Khan and Marco Polo actually meet IRL?” (Yes.) and, also, “Is Kublai Khan a real historical figure, or was he just an opium-induced fugue Samuel Taylor Coleridge once had?” (Yes, on both counts.)
And I learned that after he got back to Venice from his 24 years of travel, and was imprisoned, Marco Polo wouldn’t stop talking about how many millions Kublai had, so his fellow citizens nicknamed him “Milione,” or the longform version, “Messer Marco Milione,” so MISTER MARCO MILLIONS.
This poor guy. He travels all over Asia, Persia, Turkey, Burma, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, was gone from the ages of 15 to 39 — like, imagine if you didn’t see your parents, sisters, best friends, neighbors in that amount of time — risking life and limb on daring adventures half a globe away, and went to jail, and when he got back? He wanted to tell everybody about all the wonders he saw, all the cool things he’d learned — and keep in mind that he was one of the first Europeans EVER in Asia — and friends? No one could be bothered. They just saddled him with an embarrassing nickname and went about their day.
Could anything be more relatable? Marco is like, “No listen, listen, tutti, they’ve got ACTUAL ELEPHANTS over there,” and meanwhile Cousin Rolando the Fragrant is sitting there like, “Ooooh, well! Get a load of Prince Polo Pachyderm! Liege Lord of Large Land Mammals! Emperor Herbivore! Hey everybody! Make way for Signor Trunk!”
And so then, of course, Marco Polo wrote a book instead, because what is a tortured academic surrounded by people who cannot relate to him to do? PUBLISH.
Human nature is quite cyclical.
Eventually, of course, Marco Polo got the last laugh, since he became immortalized in a children’s pool game. I don’t know of any world historical figure, certainly not anyone secular, who has much more of a stranglehold on the American cultural psyche.
Actually, I did a quick and highly scientific straw poll on this matter and polled some friends from around the world about their Marco Polo (the game) awareness.
Turns out, Marco Polo (the game) is played in the U.S. and Canada, and also South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Pakistan, and Australia, but not in India or Brazil. But even more baffling, I asked some European friends, and though some of them had heard of it, not a single one played it as a kid. I want to believe this is because the people on Marco Polo’s home continent are still, down the centuries, giving the poor guy the shaft (“Marquess Mastodon!”), but Grant thinks that most European countries were simply too far north to have much of a backyard-pool-game culture.
Feel free to weigh in if you have opinions. Personally, I’m backing the longform-shade-throwing theory until someone proves me wrong.
Anyway, as part of my Marco Polo (the game) research, I also learned about the existence of some fun-sounding Brazilian games, as well as the existence of the duck duck goose vs. duck duck grey duck controversy. What in the world? Duck duck grey duck? Look, I don’t want to be rude about this, but I just want to say if you’re a “duck duck grey duck” person, do not @ me. It’s two syllables! It’s so much easier to get caught! COME ON!
POLO VS. THOREAU: DANCE FIGHT
Speaking of famous people who hold sway over Western culture: My book club and I read Walden this past month. We were all excited to do so, since none of us had ever read it, and we were all expecting to love our peaceful, nature-loving minimalist folksy New England philosopher-guru.
There are some good quotes (mostly the ones you already know by heart, like “I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately”), but overall, Thoreau’s… there’s no delicate way to put this… he’s kind of an insufferable dick. He spends many pages of the book literally just making fun of people he knows, and the world at large. He crows about how admirably self-sufficient he is, conveniently omitting the fact that Ralph Waldo Emerson flat-out gave him the land to build his cabin on, and he was also, like, easy walking distance to the town and could hang out with people whenever he wanted.
There’s a restaurant in a beach town near where I grew up (shout out, Sam and Omie’s!) where all the servers wear shirts that read, “Everyone should believe in something. I believe I’ll go fishing. — THOREAU.”
Growing up, I didn’t know who Thoreau was, but I thought, “He sounds like a fun time.” And even up until, I think, right before reading this book, I somewhat believed this was an actual Thoreau quote, but now, having read him, I understand there is no way, because he is not a quippy-humor-good-times-fisherman sort of guy. He’s more of a scoldy-demeaning-unaware-of-his-privilege-bean-farmer sort of guy. Both equally fun and good, obviously.
I don’t mean to judge Thoreau by our modern standards around all of this. He definitely had some good and ahead-of-his-time ideas about minimalism and vegetarianism and land stewardship, and the world would probably be much better off if we’d listened to him. I did like the part where he described the ant fight in great and exhausting detail. But you couldn’t be friends with the guy. (Not that he’d ever let you.)
Y’ALL FOR ALL
You might remember, because I think I mentioned this here, that a few months ago, in some sort of weird Coleridge-writing-Kubla-Khan-esque fugue state, I woke up completely from dead asleep thinking, “I should go buy the domain name yallforall.com and figure out what to do with it later.” And two minutes later, I owned it.
I still don’t have anything on there, but now, at least, I have a video I could put there.
So that’s fun.
Also: This is my roundabout way of telling you that I started making videos about grammar things that interest me, and I’m excited about it. This is driven by the fact that I have endless things that I want to say in the realm of language and grammar facts, and I’ve always thought “Yes, but who cares,” but now I think, “Life’s too short NOT to do something I want to do,” which is definitely the right answer, and so here we are.
There’s this Annie Dillard quote that I love, which is relevant here:
“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”
In the past, when I’ve thought about doing certain things, I am inclined to think, “Wait until later when you’re better, or when you know more.” This perspective has served me badly my entire life whenever I’ve been dumb enough to listen to it, and at some point, I crossed a line into, “I know stuff, but other people have already said things about this, so who cares.”
This is how I know that the problem here is not really timing, but my poor, fallible, human brain.
So whether or not you feel it’s the right time, which it never will be, it’s so important to seize your moments and take your shots, and it can apply very minutely. Like, I’ve got a big two-liter of club soda in the fridge right now. I might think, “Wait until later when you have a better use for it since you rarely buy big bottles.” But it’s already open. If I wait, it’ll go flat and be ruined. I’m trying to finish it all today instead. THIS, BUT ACROSS ALL OF LIFE.
And we’ve got leftover limes, and I’m using those all up TOO.
So all that’s to say, if you liked the Y’all video, I hope you’ll follow the Lane Editorial page on LinkedIn because that’s where all future videos will go. Also, get some limes if you don’t have any. What? You DESERVE LIMES. Right now! Y’ALL FOR ALL, AND LIMES FOR ALL Y’ALL!
Things are extremely good with Lane at the moment. For the past ten days or so, it’s been that rare, wondrous thing where everything has seemed to go exactly right. Cool projects coming at me, clients I thought were gone who came unexpectedly back ready to go into contract, and out-of-nowhere offers to do interesting things. It’s exciting. It’s also nice since it makes up for the fact that a couple weeks before that, I was despondently saying to Grant, “I just need something to work oooouuuut,” and actually pulling at my own hair, and he had to remind me that things are always working out. It’s a cliche, but entrepreneurship is truly feast or famine, at least at the beginning of a new venture, and although I know this and have heard friends say it repeatedly and seen it happen in my own life so many times, it’s so hard to remember, during the famine times, that things turn around. I always think, “this time is different” “it’s all going to come crashing down around my ears” “I’ll die alone” and so on.
It can be funny to talk about, when you’re on an upswing, but the downswing actually is quite hard to take.
And I know more downswings are coming, so for now, I just need to enjoy the top of the arc while I’m here. Y’ALL FOR ALL!
I shared this on Instagram yesterday, and now I share it with all of you as well, my single proudest accomplishment of the summer to date: We grew an olive.
Look at this! A WHOLE-ASS OLIVE:
We might lose the olive, and I don’t want to get my hopes too high, so for now, while the olive is still alive, I just wanna enjoy it while I can. Y’ALL FOR OLIVE!
HOW TO EGGS
As you might know, Western Canada experienced an unprecedented heat wave a few weeks back. It was a confusing time, and the eggs didn’t get done.
We don’t have A/C, so during the height of the high temperatures, standing in our kitchen was enough to make you start sweating. It was too hot to move, too hot to think. Grant made hard-boiled eggs, or he tried to. The first egg was still runny when Grant cracked it open, and he was running late.
Then he said, “Can you microwave an egg?”
“I don’t know,” I and the heat wave replied.
So he stuck the egg in the microwave, pressed some buttons and then walked away.
SMASH CUT TO:
~~~~EIGHT SECONDS LATER~~~~
A loud popping noise occurs in or near the microwave. I say “omaigah” and Grant reverses course from wherever he was going that was not in the direction of the microwave, and heads back to inspect things.
He goes over to the microwave, opens it, and looks in. Then looks up at the sky. Then he looks over at me.
“It looks like an egg exploded in the microwave.”
I wait, saying nothing.
“You know how it sounded like an egg exploded in the microwave? Well it also looks like an egg exploded in the microwave.”
I come over to inspect the damage too, and he’s right: there is cooked egg on every surface of the microwave.
“Well, it’s not that bad.”
“It’s not? On what planet is it not that bad?”
“I mean, it’s definitely cooked now. So that’s something,” I and the heat wave replied.
During the heat wave, I slept outside for two nights with no blankets because it was too hot to breathe otherwise. In retrospect, I think I kind of enjoyed it.
A VERY SPANIEL REUNION
Woodrow’s dog breeder held a family reunion for all her dogs. Listen, I’ve been a dyed-in-the-wool “adopt don’t shop” person in the past, and I still think that this is the more moral and correct option for pet acquisition, BUT the dog family reunion is one of the cutest things imaginable, and I am not sorry I got to attend one. The breeder holds these every year, and I really wanted to take Woodrow back to see his mom and dad while they were both still alive and kicking.
So here’s Woodrow and his dad, Georgie, who was the friendliest and sweetest dog ever. So we know where Woodrow gets his friendliness.
And this here is the best photo I was able to get of Woodrow with his mom, Ebony:
So we also see where he gets his inability to hold still.
But listen, this story has kind of an unbelievable ending. I knew both of his parents were getting up there in years, which is why I became so adamant that we go to the reunion this year, because I didn’t know how much longer either of them would be around. I’d been wanting to go since we first got Woodrow, but life always seemed to get in the way, somehow.
I wanted photos of Woodrow with his mom and dad, and to see if there was any moment of Disney-style recognition between them. (There wasn’t, but they all seemed very happy and content to hang out.)
Both mom and dad seemed pretty sprightly and happy that day, cavorting around with the whole 50+ dog family, but a few weeks after this, Georgie got sick and stopped eating, and he died. So sad, but I also am grateful I listened to that intuitive nudge that was like, “Take him this year, or you’ll be sorry.”
LINKS ON DECK
The most fun and rad event in the city, the Vancouver Mural Festival, is happening now! Y’all better go check it out!
Jason Sudeikis is Ted Lasso, according to his friends. That’s nice.
An Ernest Hemingway lookalike contest. I strive to be as happy and content in my life as all these Ernest Hemingway lookalikes appear to be. (As my pal Amandine pointed out, they’re probably also mall Santas when it’s the Hemingway-Contest off-season.)
I assume you, like I, would enjoy reading about the Butter Rebellion.
Want your mind blown? Maybe time goes in two directions. (n.b. I am not a physicist and therefore understood only about 15% of this, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.)
You have to read this piece from Sally Quinn (wife of Ben Bradlee) about how life in Washington, post-Trump and post-Covid, will never be the same.
The history of the Cheez-It proclaims that crackers were initially considered a health food, which is welcome news for this girl, considering my annual cracker intake (ACI).
Here’s how the thermometer was invented.
Our senses are about 50-100 milliseconds behind reality at any given moment. Did you know that? Because I did not know that.
I’ve been gravitating away from social media (reels, TikTok, all the things it is becoming, designed to keep our phones in our hands as long as possible, are literally anathema to human connection and I hate ‘em), and I am constantly wishing for a return to simpler, deeper expressions (am I the first person in all of history to do this once they reach age 40? probably, right?) I’ve always loved a good compendium of quotes, and this list from a computer programmer and essayist is a nice one.
This oral history of the Pentagon Papers is astounding, particularly the part where Jesus Christ is furious:
Happy to report that a deep dive on understanding the sad trajectory of the Salton Sea has led me to discover the existence of the International Banana Museum. (The website itself is such a joyful time capsule to 1996-era web design and you will not be sorry if you visit.)
This podcast episode from Behind The Bastards, Dr. Phil Is Even Worse Than You Think and You Probably Think He Sucks, is a delightful and terrifying romp through the mind of one of America’s most indefatigable charlatans.
FOREIGN ACCENT SYNDROME EXISTS. It’s a thing! I know it’s a thing because when I moved to New York, I started de-rhoticizing my Rs, and when I moved to Canada, I started saying “, eh?” all the time. I look forward to a future chapter in perhaps the U.K. I’d like to adopt “oi” or “mate” next. And also, obviously, Marco Polo mockery.