The Twelfth Best Email We Wrote This Past Weekend

The Twelfth Best Email We Wrote This Past Weekend

The Twelfth Best Email We Wrote This Past Weekend: HMM WEEKLY PREMIUM

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The other day here in Baltimore, Maryland, I had lunch with a friend near my house at a fake village-square type development that was developed around older existing architecturally significant mixed-use office space, and as we were sitting around lunching, my pal did the “Hey, turn around and look, but don’t look like you’re looking” thing, because there was a group of gentleman my friend described as an old Boy Band, so I pretended to need the salt shaker from the table behind us and I got a quick eyeful of what indeed looked like three male non-teen performers and their silver-haired manager, who totally, I decided, had an English accent. Also, I am going to start a band called “Three Male Non-Teens.”

The performers exited our luncheon venue and were notable for 1.) one guy wearing a furry, almost feathery-looking hat that looked like kind of like a homburg hat, but taller, a rawboned homburg that wanted to be a Pharrell hat crossed with something that escaped from Deadwood or McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and 2.) another guy in the group wearing a red and black buffalo plaid jacket like I used to wear in junior high school, and that’s how long ago that was, it was when they had junior high school.

I used to be a shoe clerk, so I scoped their footwear, and they were all wearing new or new and esoteric-looking shoes. The guy I made for the manager was totally rocking something like a soft Mephisto walking shoe, and I think it was the buffalo plaid guy who was wearing some tan Redwing-looking boots that were spotless.

We ran into them again as we headed for coffee across the courtyard that includes an artificial turf square for public lounging while discouraging the presence of canines. I said to the group, “OK, settle a bet, are you guys in a band or otherwise famous?” One of the group, a guy wearing a snapback-looking trucker hat, said “Nah, I’m not, but these guys are, the Beatles, you heard of ‘em?” The silver-haired gent said “I’m the drummer,” but not in an English accent, and I told the guy with the giant beaver-pelt looking homburg that he wasn’t fooling anybody, walking around with that hat.

Everybody kept moving in their own direction, and when we were out of earshot, my friend said he was puzzled by the evasiveness and the flippancy, and I said that only confirmed they were Something and they may have been irritated that we had only profiled them generally as being in a band, rather than recognizing them specifically. My pal remembered there was an iHeart Radio studio in the building we were near, and he got hold of a friend there who said yeah, there was a band in the studio, and they just left. Turned out the gent who said he wasn’t in the band was the performer Logan Mize.

Upon further reflection, I wondered if I had been rude in my casual and smart-assed addressing of the group, but I felt like if they weren’t famous, they’d think it was funny that somebody thought they were, and besides, we were just some mugs outside a coffee shop, it wasn’t like we were asking them for money or even their autograph. My friend’s feeling that they were a little off made me think they might, at this point in their careers, be sort of tired of people who don’t know exactly who they are, as in, we’re not worth their serious attention. But life’s too short to get bent out of shape by either end of this interaction. Brush with fame!


[Illustration by Jim Cooke]

12. The Princess and Her Suitors

A king's only child was a daughter, of whom he was very fond. When the princess reached marriageable age, the king sent forth an announcement that he would be offering her hand to whichever noble suitor could prove himself most worthy, by completing a suitable trial. "To succeed to the throne should require daring and ingenuity beyond the normal mortal standard," he declared.

No small number of young noblemen--princes and knights of various degrees of bravery and skill--made their way to the royal palace, in the hopes of demonstrating their fitness. When a score or so had pitched their tents outside the gates, eyeing one another suspiciously, and scuffles had begun to break out among their servants, the king summoned them into the courtyard.

"He who would wed my daughter," the king proclaimed, "must bring me the enchanted moonstone held by the witch of the glass mountain." The glass mountain was not far away, but its smooth slopes were treacherously slick, and no one had the slightest idea how to overcome the witch. Still, the nobles began to sharpen their swords and pack their armor, to depart with the next noon and try their luck.

That evening, the princess baked a pair of poppyseed cakes. Then she went down into the palace workshop and gathered from the cooper's equipment some rags soaked with pitch. Packing the cakes in a basket and the rags in a sack, she crept quietly out of the palace in the dark, and set off herself on the road toward the glass mountain.

She reached its foot in the hours before dawn. The glass rose cold and glossy before her; the armor and bones of past generations of adventurers lay scattered where they had slid. Quickly the princess wrapped her slippers in the sticky rags and began to climb the slope.

As dawn began to glow in the sky and glimmer in the glass, she reached the summit. A small hut stood there, with a light showing through its front window. The princess knocked gently but firmly on the door.

"Who goes there?" called a voice, and the door swung open to reveal a white-haired woman of indeterminate age, with fierce glittering eyes, who held a gnarled and sinister-looking cane. The princess curtseyed and introduced herself, then offered the basket.

"I've brought you breakfast, auntie, if you don't mind," she said. The witch beckoned her in, and the glint in her eyes softened a little. The princess entered, taking the rags off her feet before stepping on the floor. They sat at a table by the fire and began to eat the cakes, with some tea that the witch had been brewing.
"Now," said the witch, pausing with a morsel of the cake lifted on her fork. "Not many folk climb this high, and hardly any of them do it simply for the sake of sharing a meal with me. Before today, none."

"Indeed, auntie," said the princess. "And I fear there may be more trying to bother you before long." Briefly she explained the challenge her father had put. "It seems a waste," she said, "for them all to suffer their various pains, and to bring you whatever trouble they might somehow bring. So I was wondering if you might be kind enough to lend me your moonstone."

The witch let the cake, buttery and aromatic with the seeds, dissolve on her tongue. She swallowed it and took a sip of tea. "Take it," she said, with a wave of a hand. "Keep it. That seems reasonable enough." She went and rummaged in a chest and brought forth the stone. It was larger than a goose egg, and it rippled with mysterious light.

"I must tell you, however," said the witch, "that plans like your father's are stubborn things, and I doubt my stone will be the last of this." She dug in the chest again and drew out a folded piece of cloth. "Take this, too," the witch said. "It is a shawl that cannot be cut or pierced, not by the sharpest steel. It may be of use to you. And here"—the witch pulled out a small olive-wood flute—"is a flute. It's just a flute, but a good one. You play?" The princess confirmed that she did.

"Good," said the witch. "Take it. One never knows." The princess thanked her profusely, and the witch thanked her in turn for the cakes and bade her farewell. The princess wrapped her feet again and descended the mountain, bearing the gem and her presents, and hastened for home.

The pages of the young nobles were blowing competing fanfares in the midday sun, preparing for their separate but coincident marches on the glass mountain, when the princess appeared on the palace battlement, the moonstone shining in her hand. "There's no need, I've already got it for you, father," she said, and she handed the gem to the king.

The king retreated to his chambers, and the nobles to their tents, all parties quite speechless. But three days later, the king issued a second proclamation: Let the man who would marry the princess venture southward to the grim forest, and slay the ogre that dwelt there.

Again, the young nobles made ready, this time with even greater attention to their arms and armor. The ogre was known far and wide as a horror and a man-killer. Once more, though, the princess stole out of the palace in the dark ahead of her suitors, this time bringing the shawl the witch had given her and a sharp small saber her father had suffered her to learn the use of, and leading a mule.

By late afternoon, she reached the edge of the grim forest. Tying the mule to a stump and wrapping herself completely in the shawl, she entered. Foul-smelling mists clung to the trees and iron-hard brambles raked at her, but the shawl was impervious. As she walked, she sang a song, sweetly but loudly, pausing between the verses to listen. Before long, she heard the chuffing and rustling of some gigantic body approaching through the underbrush.

"What disturbs my domain?" a gargling voice roared.

"A mere human woman," the princess replied.

The ogre stomped into view: a ghastly figure, twice the height of a man, lumpy with muscles and with warts atop the muscle-lumps. Its jaws were immense even for its size and full of jagged, irregular teeth like knives. "Woman or man, all's a meal for me," it roared. "Too frightened to run?"

The princess covered her face with the shawl. "Terrified," she said. The ogre seized her in its huge, leathery hands and lifted her to its mouth. The jaws closed around her, and the hideous teeth splintered on the shawl. So intent was the ogre on gobbling down its meal, it chewed at the princess three or four times, shattering every tooth, before it felt the pain.

Then, howling, it coughed out the princess and collapsed to the ground in agony and surprise, clutching at its bleeding mouth. The princess shook tooth fragments off the shawl, drew her saber, and lopped off the ogre's head with one neatly placed stroke.

This time, the nobles had already ridden a furlong or two on their way from the palace when they encountered the princess returning the other way, leading her mule, which was dragging the ogre's enormous and toothless head behind it. They trailed after her, unsure what else to do, as she made her way back up the road to the gate.

"Father," the princess called out, "the ogre has been dealt with." And the king looked out and saw the ogre's dead head, and once again he retreated to his chambers.

Three more days passed, and the king presented one more challenge: To claim the princess, one of the nobles must find a way to tame the wild griffin of the stony hills. The griffin was known to be both skittish and ferocious, wary of human contact but ready to strike with eagle's beak and talons and lion's claws should it find the occasion.

The nobles studied the matter severally, each one trying to summon the art and courage to bring the fabulous winged beast under control. Nets were woven, drugged arrows prepared, various amulets and incantations purchased from the available soothsayers.

When the preparations seemed to be nearing completion, the princess went into the palace larder at night and brought away half a lamb carcass. Then she got several yards of tightly woven linen, some light flaxen rope, the saber, and the flute the witch had given her--and the shawl, just in case--and set out with her mule once more.

They reached the bare stony hills after a day and a half of walking. A cold wind blew through the treeless slopes, and the princess was glad to have the shawl as a shawl. Now and again, among the ragged clouds, she would glimpse a shadowy winged figure too large to be any bird.

Finding a sheltered spot where two ridges met, the princess sat down and began playing music on the flute. She had studied extensively, and her playing was skillful and haunting, the flute's tone clear and warm. The shadow in the sky swept by nearer and nearer as she kept playing.

Finally, with a flutter and a swirl of wind, the griffin alighted on the rock nearby. It was almost the size of a horse, its wings ten yards in span. It stared at the princess with piercing eagle eyes, and lashed its lion's tail, but she continued to play, seemingly taking no notice. On nervy claws and quivering paws, it drew nearer. Its feathered crest and withers flattened.

The princess played on, till the griffin folded its legs and settled on the ground beside her. Still playing the flute with one hand, she drew out a length of linen with the other, moving slowly, and gently draped it over the eagle head, covering the eyes, as if it were one of the falcons in the royal mews. Setting down the flute and speaking softly, she cut a piece from the lamb carcass and fed it to the griffin. Slowly, bit by bit, the entire half-lamb went into the griffin's beak.

"There's more, you know, where that came from," she said gently, uncovering the griffin's eyes. It lowered its head.

So it was that the young nobles, setting out to seek the griffin, spied it already winging over their heads, wheeling down toward the topmost tower of the palace, with the princess seated on its back. "Here is the griffin, father," she said to the king, as she alighted. "Though we may wish to send it away again, after it's worn the butchers and the herdsmen weary for a while."

The king looked at the creature, and the creature stared back at him with its deep and alert eyes. The nobles gazed up at the scene in consternation. The king's discomfiture deepened, and then suddenly lifted. "We have nothing more to test for," he announced. "We have established, beyond doubt, where the highest courage and ingenuity in the realm are to be found."

The king smiled. "My daughter's fate belongs to my daughter, and so shall my throne. She shall marry whoever she will marry, and at such time as she pleases." Five years later, the princess found a man whose company she enjoyed, and they were married. At the wedding, no one among the guests recognized a white-haired woman who toasted the bride's health, in grave and mysterious terms, nor did anyone see her arrive or depart. When the day came that the king died, the princess reigned as queen, and the kingdom flourished.


We present here for your continued delectation three more recipes for sandwiches selected from The Up-To-Date Sandwich Book: 400 Ways to Make a Sandwich, published in 1909 and now in the public domain. We cannot help but think this first recipe solves the eternal question of whether a hot dog is a sandwich.

Cut cold boiled Frankfurt sausage into the thinnest slices and place on slice of buttered white or rye beard; run a cucumber pickle through a meat chopper and sprinkle on top of sausage. Place another buttered slice over this.

Heat a tablespoonful of butter in a pan and add the juice of a lemon. Season with salt and pepper. To this gradually add a well beaten egg, thinned with sour cream, adding it slowly, stirring the while to prevent it from curdling. When it begins to thicken, remove and stir in enough ground peanuts to make a good spreading butter. In preparing sandwiches of this, cut bread thin, spread with the mayonnaise; and lay between the slices a crisp lettuce leaf. Cut the sandwiches in fancy shapes. Dainty for a noon-day luncheon.

A dainty cheese sandwich to serve at afternoon parties is made by placing the halves of an English walnut on either side of a square of cream cheese. Serve on a crisp lettuce leaf.

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