Culturally Discombobulated

Tag: Thanksgiving

Resting Places and Starting Points: Rotherhithe, a Prince and the Mayflower

 In April I took an evening walk along the Thames. It may have been the overly romanticized view of a traveller returned home or merely the diffused light so typical of London in springtime, but the dirty, old river struck me as being particularly beautiful. 

At St Mary’s, Rotherhithe, I stopped and looked around its graveyard. A large stone tablet lain across a family grave told me that I was stood before the final resting place of Prince Lee Boo, the son of Abba Thulle, King of Palau, an island archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. In 1783 a ship of the East India company, the Antelope, was wrecked just off Palau. Those members of the crew fortunate enough to survive the wreck, including the ship’s captain, Henry Wilson, were, under the instruction of Abba Thulle, treated well by the people of Palau. Abba Thulle was impressed by the Englishmen’s technology, particularly their firearms and engineering skills. As the Englishmen crafted a vessel on the island to replace Antelope and which they intended to sail to China on, Abba Thulle asked Wilson if his second oldest son, Lee Boo, could return to England with him.

Leaving Palau, Lee Boo travelled to China and then on to England. During the long journey he charmed the Englishmen with his natural good humour. In England he was given a room in Henry Wilson’s home  in Rotherhithe and lived as one of the family.

 Two months after Prince Lee Boo’s arrival in London, he stood transfixed, one of a crowd of a hundred and fifty thousand who watched as Vincenzo Lunardi, along with a dog, a cat, and a pigeon, conducted the first balloon flight across the city. He met also with the poet George Keate who with the publication of a book on Lee Boo’s life would dictate the nobel savage narrative by which Lee Boo would be remembered – that of a charming curiosity. Only five months after his arrival in London, Lee Boo contracted smallpox. On the 27th of December, 1784, aged probably around twenty, Prince Lee Boo died and was buried in St Mary’s.

Though the precise spot is not known – there is no ornate family grave, no headstone to read – in this graveyard lies Christopher Jones, a merchant sailor, who was buried in St Mary’s in 1622. A resident of Rotherhithe, Jones captained and part-owned a ship that he moored in the Thames, only a stone’s throw from St Mary’s. In 1620, Jones’s ship, an old wine vessel that had mainly seen service importing claret into England, was contracted to take 102 passengers, mostly English Dissenters, to North Virginia. Here in the shadow of St Mary’s, Christopher Jones unmoored his ship, the Mayflower, and began to sail it out towards Southampton. There he would be joined by the Dissenters who he was to take to the other side of the world and leave them there so that they could start a new society. Perhaps Jones struggled to understand these pious men and women. Perhaps he was threatened or bemused by their zealous belief that the parish of St Mary’s, Rotherhithe, where Jones had had his children baptized, and England, where he was to return to be with his family, were all irredemable in God’s eyes, or perhaps he was simply happy to fulfil his contract to sail them out of the Old World and into the New, just as Henry Wilson would later sail Prince Lee Boo out of the New and into the Old.    

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Reheated Turkey: Thanksgiving facts (and factoids)

When pondering what to write about Thanksgiving it finally dawned on me that I could be a cunning devil and simply recycle last year’s post. It contains Thanksgiving facts, some true and some spurious. You can find it here.

 

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If you want to stay discombobulated, don’t forget you can subscribe to Culturally Discombobulated using the email subscription button on the right hand side of the screen. Or, if you are a real masochist, you can follow me on twitter at @C_Immigrant or at @awindram.

Reflections: Black Friday

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A young woman leaned in close to him and politely answered his inquiry about her plans for Thanksgiving.
“Well,” she whispered conspiratorially, ”my main plans are for Black Friday.”
Black Friday? It was a term he was not familiar with. It sounded ominous. The knowing intonation with which she spoke alarmed him. Had he inadvertently stumbled upon a grand conspiracy? Was Black Friday, he wondered, a revival of the notorious Black Hand? He had his suspicions. The woman might be a nihilist – he was suspicious because of the scuffed shoes she wore. Was this Black Friday some dissident group she was involved in? She must have mistaken him for a co-conspirator. Or perhaps she was not a political agitator but a foolhardy soul dabbling in the black arts? He vowed to dig deeper into this Black Friday and discover what malignant intent it had.
“So,” he asked, ”what happens at Black Friday?”
She smiled. “Mayhem.”

Reflections: Trivial trivia

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Back when Patty Turner opened her diner on K street she thought that she should put a little book of questions on each table. She figured it would be a fun and diverting activity for her customers as they waited on their orders. So with the help of her grandson Aaron – who tutored her in how to conduct a google search – Patty went about compiling her book of trivia. When she was finished she found that she had produced a 20 page booklet of questions. At the FedEx office she had 50 copies of the booklet laminated, along with 100 copies of the diner’s menu. Without fully realising it, Patty told a lot about herself through the questions she had selected for the booklet: the page of Pumpkin-related questions spoke of her love of fall and Thanksgiving; the page of America-related questions spoke of her quietly observed patriotism; and question 2 in the miscellaneous section spoke about her disdain for yuppie scum.

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If you want to stay discombobulated, don’t forget you can subscribe to Culturally Discombobulated using the email subscription button on the right hand side of the screen. Or, if you are a real masochist, you can follow me on twitter at @C_Immigrant or at @awindram.

Reflections: Decorative gourds

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The debate over whether aesthetics are universal or encultured is answered definitively in the high aesthetic value North American women place in “decorative” gourds.

Bubonically bucolic, these hideous, misshapen vegetables appear in supermarkets and at farm stands every autumn. The gourds I’m looking at have ridges, bumps and warts that cover the rind completely. Staring at these, my thoughts aren’t of pumpkins and butternut squashes, but of a diseased, pustule-covered body part. The talon-like stem of the gourd is dark, almost black. These . . . things . . . these devil squash would be better placed in a jar of formalin and displayed in the Hunterian alongside Charles Byrne’s skeleton and other morbid curiosities, instead they are arranged into wicker baskets and called seasonal centerpieces.

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If you want to stay discombobulated, don’t forget you can subscribe to Culturally Discombobulated using the email subscription button on the right hand side of the screen. Or, if you are a real masochist, you can follow me on twitter at @C_Immigrant or at @awindram.