July 16, 2004

Last night

I walk to and from the train station each day. Unless it rains and my wife agrees to pick me up on the way home. I don't attribute that to any great humanitarian impulse on her part. No, she just wants the whining to stop. She's a pragmatist, she is.

I stayed late last night to have a meeting with a new client who wants to do something that will surely get him sued. While I obviously cannot go into it in any detail, let me note that when you want to leave your job, and you are an officer of your current employer, and you want to take some of your direct reports with you, and then go into competition with your current employer, you are going to get sued, non-compete or no non-compete. A couple of bourbons and sodas later, he seemed to get the picture.

As I came home, I had the pleasure of sitting next to a young woman in a sun dress who occupied herself by reading through a script. She was very pretty in that sort of fresh-faced "I'm-going-to-be-a-star-one-day" kind of way. You know the look right? It's that look they still have while they're living at home with their parents and before the fickle hand of fate has smacked 'em around a couple of times and they're looking at the wrong end of their late twenties with not quite enough time in to get that SAG card and they start thinking, hmn, graduate school in social work seems like a really good idea. She was pre-that second look. We had a pleasant and flirtatious chat for about three stops. Is there anything nicer on a warm evening than a harmless flirtation with an attractive young woman? An exchange of witty banter that does not start with, “so, come here often” or end in, “so, can I get your number”? Nope, just some gentle conversation.

So, I got off the train feeling pretty darn good. New client with bound to be difficult (read: expensive and interesting) problem, slightly buzzed from the bourbon, recipient of the flirtatious attention of a delightful young woman. Does it get better? Well, actually, it kind of did.

It was twilight, that time of Le crépuscule du soir that Baudelaire writes so interestingly about in Fleurs du Mal. That poem starts:

Voici le soir charmant, ami du criminel;
Il vient comme un complice, à pas de loup ; le ciel
Se ferme lentement comme une grande alcôve,
Et l'homme impatient se change en bête fauve.

My rough translation:

Here is the charming night, friend of the criminal;
It comes like an accomplice, on the feet of a wolf;
The sky closes itself up, slowly, like a great alcove,
And man grows impatient to change himself into a wild animal.

Beautiful, isn't it? Even with my not so great translation (which I expect to hear about in the comments section, no doubt).

Well, that wasn't my night or my twilight.

My twilight was cooled by the breezes off the ocean, a scant mile away. It was lit by the dying sun, in cool oranges and pinks and eight different shades of white. It was quiet. And it was punctuated, to my delight, by the incandescent little bursts of fireflies, as I turned onto my little street.

I love fireflies. I remember chasing them around the yard as a child, trying to catch them to put into a big jar to watch them blink and blink. My mom would always let them out after I went to sleep but I never minded. I could always catch them again the next day.

What makes them so bright? What gives that glow? Well, according to the scientists at Ohio State University, the bioluminescence is produced by a chemical reaction "consisting of Luciferin (a substrate) combined with Luciferase (an enzyme), ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and oxygen. When these components are added, light is produced." The cool fact about this is that the firefly produces almost 100% light from this reaction, as opposed to a lightbulb which gives off only about 10% light with the rest of the reaction wasted as heat. I am surprised to learn, by the way, that science still does not know exactly how the firefly throws the on/off switch for their lights.

Why do they flash? Well, either sex or defense, seems to be the reasoning. To attract mates or repel things that would eat them.

Or, I’d like to think, to welcome me home after a long day at work.

Pax tibi!

Posted by Random Penseur at July 16, 2004 09:34 AM

We've got scads of fireflies down here, far more than I ever saw in my youth. I've been indoctrinating the boys into the fine art of fire fly appreciation. It doesn't get much better than that.

Don't worry, I won't comment on your translation. I'm better than 16 years removed from speaking a comprehensible sentence in French and have lost just about everything except the curses.

Posted by: Jim at July 16, 2004 10:11 AM

If you have retained the curses, you have retained the best part!

Posted by: RP at July 16, 2004 10:31 AM

Nice post. My three-year-old son and I went out in the backyard last night after nightfall to see if the bats were out, and found the place illuminated with fireflies. One landed at our feet, and his blinking belly -- an insect version of a car buff's lowrider -- lit up the leaf on which he was perched.

Posted by: Mark C N Sullivan at July 16, 2004 10:52 AM

I've never seen a firefly. I think you're all making them up. ;-)

Speaking of science, they don't know where electricity comes from either or why it exists. We just know how to tame it.

Posted by: Amber at July 16, 2004 05:42 PM

Oh, and thanks for the translation, Random. That was lovely. I hate it when people quote from another language on their English language blog and then expect all of us to know how to speak that other language.

I was never able to learn another language at all. I've taken several years of Spanish (a good thing to know in our area) and my family finally told me as nicely as they could to stop trying to speak it in restaurants, etc.

They said I speak it so badly, I sound like I am mocking the people I'm trying to converse with. Which is so not my intent.

So I just pretend I don't know it now and as a consequence, I've forgotten almost everything I've learned. *grins*

Posted by: Amber at July 16, 2004 05:47 PM

Amber, I'm not sure we even know how to tame it all the time! And of course the fire fly exists! I mean, you can find them on the web so they have to be real, right?

I'm glad you found the translation useful. My wife, my most demanding critic, actually said she liked it!

Hey, Mark, that was really a poetic description. The good kind of poetry, at that!

Posted by: Random Penseur at July 17, 2004 07:10 AM

Aah, yes. The fireflies and the bats. Always a great show in a twilight while sipping a brewski or some homemade lemonade. It's funny that I remember so many fireflies being around when I was a kid, but there was a period when I didn't see them for years and years. Once in a while I'd wonder where have all the fireflies gone, and if I'd only imagined them. But over the past couple of years I've begun to notice them again. It must be something about the way we look at our surroundings when we're kids and when we're watching kids that we temporarily lose sight of when we're first taking on the world. I'll bet that that pretty girl on the train doesn't notice fireflies anymore/yet.

A belated welcome to Munuvia! I love yer posts!

Posted by: Tuning Spork at July 17, 2004 10:40 AM
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