{Changes}

September 6, 1999

So, yesterday, was a very full day.

Sabs hauled me out of bed and we scrambled ourselves into gear to go have dim sum with our friends Chris and Skinny. Both are actually named Chris, but one is very large while the other is quite slender, hence the nickname.

We were running just a titch late, and when we arrived, all was not copacetic. The hostesses had refused to seat them since the entire party wasnít there and Chris had calmly tried to change their minds, at which point one of the hostesses had yelled at him. He was quite upset and had gone off to call us when we arrived and Skinny explained the situation.

We went in and Sabs and Skinny went up to the front, and the hostesses said it would be another twenty-five minutes of waiting. I donít now what Sabs and Skinny said, but five minutes later we had a table. After that, everything went smoothly. The food was excellent as usual. I ate lots of sesame red-bean balls, my absolute favorite piece of dim sum and the conversation was good, since both Chris and Skinny are rather erudite fellows with decided opinions on a number of topics.

After paying the check, we hadnít had enough of each otherís company yet, so we toddled up the hill to the local Starbuckís. Chris and I spotted two exquisitely comfy looking armchairs and promptly plopped into them and refused to budge for a few hours. Sabs and Skinny went up to the counter and got our drinks Ė iced mocha for Chris, ice chai tea latte for me, hot mocha for Skinny and I still have no idea what Sabs got but it was iced something or other.

We sat there until about two oíclock in the afternoon, discussing books, politics, philosophy and trading stories from childhood. It was great fun. But we still hadnít had enough of each otherís company. So Sabs and I headed home to run a few errands and Skinny and Chris repaired home to start preparing a chicken and dumpling dinner. We planned to go pick up Chris at four to catch the four-thirty showing of The 13th Warrior at the Springfield Mall and then have dinner with them at their house.

This is where things unraveled a bit. One of the errands we had to do, was checking the balance in the bank and getting some cash so that we could go to the store and either, make dessert, or pick up wine for dinner. We wound up doing neither as I had a mild break-down over the state of our bank account and so we wound up being late again for the second time that day.

The movie was showing at a closer theater at four fifty-five though, so we headed on over there and Chris was very understanding. For the next two hours we were plunged into the Dark Ages world of a kingdom of Norse-men and the mysterious creatures that were assailing them. All viewed through the eyes of an effete Arab from Baghdad.

While the movie was terribly bloody and gory (highly accurate to the time of course) it was also absolutely fascinating. From a linguistic standpoint, the film was stuffed with interesting little tidbits. First, when the Arab and his translator come across the Norse-men, the translator attempts several languages to try to communicate with these people. Finally he has some success with Greek, which one of the warriors understands, but he answers in Latin. Iíve never heard anyone speak Latin in a film, other than Church Latin, for more than a few sentences. This was Latin as it might have sounded being used on a daily basis, tossed off in short phrases, unlike any of the massive structures we commonly studied in my college classes. The fun part was listening closely to understand what was being said. There were no sub-titles; everything was explained through the translator, a nice twist that places the viewer firmly into the perspective of the protagonist, Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan, who speaks only Arab.

A bit later on, after Ahmed has parted from the translator and headed north with the Norse warriors, there is a fascinating sequence, where we see Ahmed learning to understand and finally speak, Norse. Iím not sure which of the languages in the Scandinavian family the actors were speaking, but Iím fairly certain it was Norwegian. This wasnít a bad choice on the part of the directory, since Norwegian is a descendant of Old Norse. According to my Beowulf professor, Icelandic might have been an even better choice, since that language in its modern form most closely resembles the language that the epic poem was written in.

At any rate, the way that Ahmedís acquisition of Old Norse is shown, is very, very nicely done. I recommend the film, for just that alone. However, the story plays out into a full-fledged epic legend, with sword-fights, sneaking into the very heart of danger all the while adding the lightest touches of humor that nicely counter-balance the gore of the battle scenes.

I walked out of the theater mightily impressed indeed and Sabs said that the film did the book upon which it was based: Micahel Crichtonís Eaters of the Dead, ample justice.

We wrapped up the evening with an excellent supper and more wonderfully deep and thought-provoking conversation about alternate history and history itself. Iíd almost forgotten what it felt like to have my brain thus stimulated by thoughtful, intelligent conversation. In fact, itís encouraged me to devote more effort to cultivating the few friendships that remain to us here, and re-engage with some of the people that we care about.

So the weekend ended on a hopeful note and I began to look forward to the coming week with far less dread. Of course, we did get home extremely late so I slept too much today and did not get as much done around the house as I would have liked.


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