In 1956 the universe made a transaction in which planet earth came out on the short end of the stick. Henry Louis Mencken died on this day and three weeks later (all about me) I entered American life. This morning I was reading one of the more charming pieces that Mencken reproduced for his fourth series of Prejudices, a sampling of random thought and memories about his life in a place he considered the best show on earth. Here is an all too brief excerpt of “People and Things“:
The Capital of a Great Republic
The brother to the wife of the brother-in-law of the Vice-President. . . . The autnt to the sister of the wife of the officer in charge of ceremonials, State Department. . . . The neighbor of the cousin of the step-father of the sister-in-law of the President’s pastor. . .
Ambassadors of Christ
Irish priests denouncing the Ku Klux Klan. . . . Rabbis denouncing Henry Ford. . . . Presbyterians denouncing Flo Ziegfeld. . . . Missionaries collecting money from the mill children in Raleigh, N.C., to convert the Spaniards and Italians to Calvinism. . . . Polish clergymen leaping out of the windows at Polish weddings in Johnstown, Pa., hoping that the next half-dozen beer-bottles won’t hit them. . . .
Bilder aus schoener Zeit
The burgundy from the Cresta Blanca vineyards in California. . . . Michelob on warm Summer evenings with the crowd singing “Throw Out the Lifeline!”. . . . A wild night drinking Swedish punch and hot water. . . . Two or three hot Scotch nights. . . . Twenty or thirty Bass’ ale nights. Five or six hundred Pilsner nights. . . .
The High Seas
The buxom stewardess who comes in and inquires archly if one rang. . . . The discovery that one forgot to pack enough undershirts. . . . This wilting flowers standing in ice-pitchers and spittoons in the hallways. . . .
The Shrine of Mnemosyne
The first inauguration of Woodrow Wilson, and the pretty suffragette who rank beer with me at the Raleigh. . . . A dull night in a Buffalo hotel, reading the American Revised Version of the New Testament. . . . The day I receive the proofs of my first book. . . . A good-bye on an Hoboken pier. . . . The Palace Hotel in Madrid.