Friday, August 28, 2009

Real Men of Genius

After thinking about my last post on Adlai Stevenson, I got to thinking about who's portrait will hang in my aged-oak study.

Those of you long time readers of "In Pursuit of Sanity" will remember my fantasy study: It's a high ceilinged room smelling of cracked mahogany and wood stain. The walls are covered in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, organized according to subject [not author]. Between the shelves, there are portraits hanging of various historical figures [to be discussed] and as a centerpiece is my beloved gun rack, filled with historical firearms. I regally sit, left leg over right knee, in my green overstuffed leather chair with brass studs, gently stroking the head of my overweight and asthmatic English bulldog, Xanthippus.
[One of my favorite stories from antiquity is the tale {tail?} of Xanthippus's dog. Check out the full story here:]

Dressed in a smoking jacket and sporting a finely trimmed snow-white beard, I sip the finest tawny port from 18th century blown glass and entertain my numerous guests with uproarious stories of my debaucherous youthful exploits.

(Side note: Dalida's "Besame Mucho" just came on the radio and made me laugh out loud.)

So, who has the honor of hopefully gracing my imaginary walls in my fantasy study sometime in the possible future?

1. Marquis Lafayette- The Frenchman turned honorary American, Lafayette was the very definition of chivalry. Born into the aristocracy and a sizable fortune, he left France at the naive age of 19 to fight for the fledgling American republic, and subsequently earned the trust and admiration of our founding fathers. Besides being instrumental in winning French support for the American Revolution (without which, victory would have been impossible), Lafayette was a committed abolitionist (it wasn't trendy at that time), moderate during the French Revolution (a near suicidal political orientation), and opposed to the absolute rule of Napoleon Bonaparte (who, interestingly, sprung Lafayette from an Austrian prison in 1799).

The story goes that General Pershing's aide, Colonel Stanton, exclaimed upon visiting Lafayette's grave in 1917, "Lafayette, we are here!" When I had the honor of visiting his grave at the Cimiterie Picpus in Paris, I brought a bag of sand from Omaha Beach in Normandy with me and sprinkled a handful of the sand on his tombstone. I think he would have appreciated that too.

2. Ernest Hemingway- Writer. Amateur bull fighter. Correspondent in World War II. Married four times. General bad ass.

3. Robert Capa- Photographer. Lived the bon vivant life that I crave. Capa was the epitome of greasy charm and could befriend anybody he met. He photographed the Spanish Civil War, landed at Normandy in 1944, and rolled through Paris during the liberation, only to die violently when stepping on a landmine in Vietnam.

4. Gandhi- To tell his story in a paragraph seems like hubris. Let's just say that he is the closest person, in my reading, who's words and actions approached true altruism. For that fact alone (and oh yeah, he led an entire nation to freedom without lifting a finger in violence, by the way), he earns his place on the wall.

That's just the south wall.

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