11 July 2006

Informal Smokers at the Tower Club in July
Informal smokers at the Tower Club (Civic Opera Building, 39th floor) have been scheduled for Tuesday, July 11 and Tuesday, July 25.  Attendance is expected to be spotty (especially tonight, with several regulars, including your secretary, being out of town), so in the words of David O'CONNOR (following Shaw and Churchill), bring a friend, if you have one.  All University Club and Tower Club members are invited, and guests interested in a smoke and a cocktail in good company are welcome.  BYO cigars and each member signs his own chit. 

On sartorial formalism
In a chance meeting of the Cigar Society one recent Thursday afternoon, prompted by late-night jazz pianist Jeffrey DEAN's trend-setting example of smoking a Sancho Panza Double Maduro and drinking a double-gill of Lagavulin while observing, with a mixture of amusement and disdain, the lunchtime antics of the University Club's Admissions Committee, and as staff members frantically sprayed air fresheners and raised the AC in the President's Bar to force 6 on the Beaufort scale in preparation for the arrival of the candidates, we heard David MORRIS, founding member of the club's Beau Brummel Society, discuss the pros and cons with Mr. DEAN of the Windsor (or double Windsor) versus the half Windsor (or Windsor) "surely Mr. Dean you realize that the half Windsor, contrary to what its name would imply, is not half the size of the Windsor but rather three-quarters" and ask whether anyone knew how to construct the peculiarly cylindrical knot sported by Pierce Brosnan in The Thomas Crown Affair.

Mr. DEAN immediately called for a consultation of the groundbreaking tome, The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie, by Cambridge physicists Thomas Fink and Yong Mao an important work of reference for resolving disputes and settling gentlemen's wagers that should not be allowed to leave the bar under any circumstances.  In this book the authors apply mathematical knot theory to the study of necktie knots, develop an algebraic formalism for specifying the "maneuvers" necessary for creating them, enumerate the eighty-five distinct ways of knotting a standard-length necktie, and classify all possible necktie knots according to size, symmetry, and balance.  The cylindricality of a necktie knot is determined by the number of central maneuvers (or "centers") in its construction fewer centers implying greater cylindricality.  This fact, along with a brief inspection of available Google Image data of Pierce Brosnan wearing neckties, suggests that the tantalizingly cylindrical knot that Mr. MORRIS seeks is perhaps a six-move knot with one center (all necktie knots possessing at least one center) called the Victoria (Knot #6 - formula LRLRLCT) or possibly an interesting variation on the Victoria called the Prince Albert, in which the knot is consummated by a final passing of the active end of the tie through the loops created by the previous two maneuvers, rather than just the last.  Another possibilityand in this regard we admit that we require more photographic datais a one-center knot constructed with more than six maneuvers.  There are difficulties with this hypothesis, however: concerning a one-center, seven-move knot (Knot #11 - formula LRLRLRCT), the physicists remark that, "it is sufficiently cylindrical to be of questionable taste; more practically, it is unbalanced and inclined to lose its shape."  Perhaps cigar club regular (and former Cambridge scholar) Alexander SHERMAN, who owns two editions of The 85 Ways and who sports the elaborately pyramidal, four-center Balthus (Knot #78 - LCRCLCRLCT) from time to time, will provide illustrative examples, unbothered by questions of taste, in future meetings.  Finally, a more prosaic possibility, indicated by the photograph included above, is that Mr. Brosnan's knot is a carefully tied four-in-hand, with its mere four maneuvers deftly concealing a single center (Knot #2 - LRLCT). 

For the record, your loyal secretary's favorite knot is a self-releasing eight-move variation on the Cavendish (Knot #23 - LRLCRLRCT).  The Cambridge scientists remark that, "an inspection of its sequence reveals it to be the concatenation of two four-in-hands, one the mirror image of the other," and quote a colleague with a special relish for the Cavendish as saying "I'll be damned if I tie a four-in-hand again."

On sartorial informalism
In the current issue of Chicago Social we find Alexander SHERMAN sporting uncharacteristically flapping collars while accompanying surreal collaborationist and U. of C. social sciences professor Nomi Lazar to the Steppenwolf Theater's Red or White Ball.  One wonders whether, next to Mr. Noonan's (picture 2) weakly knotted four-in-hand and Mr. McNulty's (picture 5) elegant but unchallenging half-Windsor there was not room for a more theatrical creation.

Reading for July
Alberta Rockafellar, ne Green, high-school classmate of longtime club member and cigar smoker Charles SPROWL (Michigan '32), recited her favorite July poem for your loyal secretary (who is also her grandson) last week in Michigan ("'Twas the Fourth of July, the weather was dry, and nary a cloud was in the sky.")  I have included it herein for Mr. DEAN and others as an antidote to the more and more irksome club signs reminding smokers where and where not to light.


Darius Green and his Flying Machine (1896)

John Townsend Trowbridge

If ever there lived a Yankee lad,
Wise or otherwise, good or bad,
Who, seeing the birds fly, didn't jump
With flapping arms from stake or stump,
Or, spreading the tail
Of his coat for a sail,
Take a soaring leap from post or rail,
And wonder why
He couldn't fly,
And flap and flutter and wish and try -
If ever you knew a country dunce
Who didn't try that as often as once,
All I can say is, that's a sign
He never would do for a hero of mine.

An aspiring genius was D. Green;
The son of a farmer, age fourteen;
His body was long and lank and lean -
Just right for flying, as will be seen;
He had two eyes as bright as a bean,
And a freckled nose that grew between,
A little awry for I must mention
That be had riveted his attention
Upon his wonderful invention,
Twisting his tongue as he twisted the strings,
And working his face as he worked the wings,
And with every turn of gimlet and screw
Turning and screwing his mouth round too,
Till his nose seemed bent
To catch the scent,
Around some corner, of new-baked pies,
And his wrinkled cheeks and his squinting yes
Grew puckered into a queer grimace,
That made him look very droll in the face,
And also very wise.

And wise he must have been, to do more
Than ever a genius did before,
Excepting Daedalus of yore
And his son Icarus, who wore
Upon their backs
Those wings of wax
He had read of in the old almanacs.
Darius was clearly of the opinion
That the air is also man's dominion,
And that, with paddle or fin or pinion,
We soon or late shall navigate
The azure as now we sail the sea.
The thing looks simple enough to me;
And if you doubt it,
Hear how Darius reasoned about it.

"The birds can fly an' why can't I?
Must we give in," says he with a grin,
"That the bluebird an' phoebe
Are smarter'n we be?
Jest fold our hands an' see the swaller
An' blackbird an' catbird beat us holler?
Doos the little chatterin', sassy wren,
No bigger'n my thumb, know more than men?
Just show me that!
Ur prove 't the bat
Hez got more brains than's in my hat.
An' I'll back down, an' not till then!"
He argued further: "Nur I can't see
What's th' use o' wings to a bumblebee,
Fur to git a livin' with, more'n to me;
Ain't my business
Important's his'n is?
That Icarus
Made a perty muss
Him an' his daddy Daedalus
They might 'a' knowed wings made o' wax
Wouldn't stand sun-heat an' hard whacks.
I'll make mine o' luther,
Ur suthin' ur other."

And he said to himself, as he tinkered and planned:
"But I ain't goin' to show my hand
To mummies that never can understand
The fust idee that's big an' grand."
So he kept his secret from all the rest,
Safely buttoned within his vest;
And in the loft above the shed
Himself he locks, with thimble and thread
And wax and hammer and buckles and screws
And all such things as geniuses use;
Two bats for patterns, curious fellows!
A charcoal-pot and a pair of bellows;
Some wire, and several old umbrellas;

A carriage-cover, for tail and wings;
A piece of harness; and straps and strings;
And a big strong box,
In which he locks
These and a hundred other things.
His grinning brothers, Reuben and Burke
And Nathan and Jotham and Solomon, lurk
Around the corner to see him work
Sitting cross-legged, like a Turk,
Drawing the waxed-end through with a jerk,
And boring the holes with a comical quirk
Of his wise old head, and a knowing smirk.
But vainly they mounted each other's backs,
And poked through knot-holes and pried through cracks;
With wood from the pile and straw from the stacks
He plugged the knot-holes and caulked the cracks;
And a dipper of water, which one would think
He had brought up into the loft to drink
When he chanced to be dry,
Stood always nigh,
For Darius was sly!
And whenever at work he happened to spy
At chink or crevice a blinking eye.
He let the dipper of water fly.
"Take that! an' ef ever ye git a peep,
Guess ye'll ketch a weasel asleep!"
And he sings as he locks
His big strong box:

"The weasel's head is small an' trim,
An' he is little an' long an' slim,
An' quick of motion an' nimble of limb
An' ef you'll be
Advised by me
Keep wide awake when ye're ketchin' him!"

So day after day
He stitched and tinkered and hammered away,
Till at last 'twas done
The greatest invention under the sun!
"An' now," says Darius, "hooray fur some fun!"

'Twas the Fourth of July,
And the weather was dry,
And not a cloud was on all the sky,
Save a few light fleeces, which here and there,
Half mist, half air,
Like foam on the ocean went floating by
just as lovely a morning as ever was seen
For a nice little trip in a flying-machine.
Thought cunning Darius: "Now I shan't go
Along 'ith the fellers to see the show.
I'll say I've got sich a terrible coughl
An' then, when the folks 'ave all gone off,
I'll hev full swing fur to try the thing,
An' practise a little on the wing."
"Ain't goin' to see the celebration?"
Says brother Nate. "No; botheration
I've got sich a cold - a toothache - I
My gracious - feel's though I should fly!"
Said Jotham, "Sho!
Guess ye better go."
But Darius said, "No!
Shouldn't wonder 'f you might see me, though,
'Long 'bout noon, ef I git red
O' this jumpin', thumpin' pain 'n my head."
For all the while to himself he said:

"I tell ye what!
I'll fly a few times around the lot,
To see how 't seems, then soon's I've got
The hang o' the thing, ez likely's not,
I'll astonish the nation,
An' all creation,
By flyin' over the celebration!
Over their heads I'll sail like an eagle;
I'll balance myself on my wings like a sea-gull:
I'll dance on the chimbleys; I'll stand on the steeple;
I'll flop up to winders an' scare the people!
I'll light on the liberty-pole, an' crow;
An' I'll say to the gawpin' fools below,
'What world's this 'ere
That I've come near?'
Fur I'll make 'em b'lieve I'm a chap f'm the Moon;
An' I'll try to race 'ith their ol'balloon!"
He crept from his bed;
And, seeing the others were gone, he said,
"I'm gittin' over the cold 'n my head."
And away he sped,
To open the wonderful box in the shed.

His brothers had walked but a little way,
When Jotham to Nathan chanced to say,
"What is the feller up to, hey!"
"Don'o'- the's suthin' ur other to pay,
Ur he wouldn't 'a' stayed tu hum to-day."
Says Burke, "His toothache's all 'n his eye!
He never'd missed a Fo'th-o'-July,
Ef he hedn't got some machine to try."
Then Sol, the little one, spoke: "By darn!
Le's hurry back an' hide 'n the barn,
An' pay him fur tellin' us that yarn!"
"Agreed!" Through the orchard they creep back
Along by the fences, behind the stack,
And one by one, through a hole in the wall,
In under the dusty barn they crawl,
Dressed in their Sunday garments all;
And a very astonishing sight was that,
When each in his cobwebbed coat and hat
Came up through the floor like an ancient rat
And there they hid;
And Reuben slid
The fastenings back, and the door undid.
"Keep dark!" said he,
"While I squint an' see what the' is to see."

As knights of old put on their mail -
From head to foot an iron suit
Iron jacket and iron boot,
Iron breeches, and on the head
No hat, but an iron pot instead,
And under the chin the bail,
(I believe they called the thing a helm,)
Then sallied forth to overwhelm
The dragons and pagans that plagued the earth
So this modern knight
Prepared for flight,
Put on his wings and strapped them tight
Jointed and jaunty, strong and light
Buckled them fast to shoulder and hip;
Ten feet they measured from tip to tip
And a helm had he, but that he wore,
Not on his head, like those of yore,
But more like the helm of a ship.

"Hush!" Reuben said,
"He's up in the shed!
He's opened the winder I see his head!
He stretches it out, an' pokes it about,
Lookin' to see 'f the coast is clear,
An' nobody near;
Guess he don' o' who's hid in here!
He's riggin' a spring-board over the sill!
Stop laffin', Solomon! Burke, keep still!
He's a climbin' out now Of all the things!
What's he got on? I vum, it's wings!
An' that 'tother thing? I vum, it's a taill
An' there he sits like a hawk on a rail!
Steppin' careful, he travels the length
Of his spring-board, and teeters to try its strength.
Now he stretches his wings, like a monstrous bat;
Peeks over his shoulder; this way an' that,
Fur to see 'f the' 's any one passin' by;
But the' 's on'y a caf an' goslin nigh.
They turn up at him a wonderin' eye,
To see The dragon! he's goin' to fly!
Away he goes! Jimminy! what a jump!
Flop flop an' plump
To the ground with a thump!
Flutt'rin' an' flound'rin' all 'n a lump!"

As a demon is hurled by an angel's spear,
Heels over head, to his proper sphere
Heels over head, and head over heels,
Dizzily down the abyss he wheels
So fell Darius. Upon his crown,
In the midst of the barn-yard, he came down,
In a wonderful whirl of tangled strings,
Broken braces and broken springs,
Broken tail and broken wings,
Shooting-stars, and various things;
Barn-yard litter of straw and chaff,
And much that wasn't so sweet by half.
Away with a bellow fled the calf,
And what was that? Did the gosling laugh?
'Tis a merry roar from the old barn-door.
And he hears the voice of Jotham crying,
"Say, D'rius! how do you like flyin'?"

Slowly, ruefully, where he lay,
Darius just turned and looked that way,
As he stanched his sorrowful nose with his cuff.
"Wal, I like flyin' well enough,"
He said; "but the' ain't such a thunderin' sight
O' fun in 't when ye come to light."
I just have room for the MORAL here:
And this is the moral Stick to your sphere.
Or if you insist, as you have the right,
On spreading your wings for a loftier flight,
The moral is - Take care how you light.


Letter from Sweden
The club's Talisker Tasting was postponed from midsummer to fall, but in the mean time Johan Dyberg, who visited us a few months ago from Stockholm as a guest of Mil OVAN's, has sent us the following observation.

Here is something to think of as you enjoy your Talisker at the club: almost every airport I have visited so far and every "well sorted" liquor store in every big city all sell Talisker.  But! I spent about 36 hours in a small house right by their distillery in Scotland.  It is extremely beautiful, right by the water, in what looks like a small, narrow, and steep fjord. There is a small very "pitoresk" local bar next door where true Scottish old men brought up on whisky gather and share their laughter...  So the problem is this: I didn't see one single boat, not one single truck, not even a pick-up.  So where does the whisky actually come from?  Is this also outsourced to China?  If so, tanker accidents would become much more appreciated, probably even massive tourist attractions.  In fact the shipmakers could probably get sponsorships from small shore communities to build in thinner steel, steel prices could go down, insurgences go up and....  We're living in a world of change!   My 10 cents to a good 2am whisky discussion...



  Other meetings this summer 

Informal Smokers at the Tower Club are scheduled for the following Tuesdays this summer: July 25;  August 8, 22;  September 12, 26.  We have tentatively scheduled a New World Cigar Society Dinner for Thursday, October 12, Columbus Day.

Respectfully submitted by

Your loyal secretary

Curtis Tuckey