Monday, October 13, 2003

Columbus blog.

Today might be the last warm day in several months. I should have been off, but I wasn't. Today is the ersatz Monday version of that most quasi of quasi-holidays, Columbus Day, and did I find myself reflecting on the immortal deeds of Admiral Columbus while lying in bed at 8 a.m. this morning, anticipating a bonus extra Sunday-like day ahead? No, I got up and got on a train this morning, and got myself to the office. The morning commute doesn't lend itself to reflections on important historic events, usually.

Some holiday. You have to work for the government in some way to qualify for it.

Or be in a public school. Lilly didn't have go to school today. "Do I have to go to school tomorrow?" she asked on Sunday. No. "Why?" Because it's Columbus Day. "What's Columbus?" He discovered America. Heh-heh-heh. Someday I expect her to return to me with the canned idea that he didn't "discover" anything, and I don't think she'll pick it up from partisans of Leif Ericsson. At which time we will discourse on the matter.

This argument is more than just semantics, of course, but the word "discover" is large enough to describe what Columbus did. Even the most fanatical badmouthers of the Admiral probably wouldn't take issue with a statement like this: "Guess what, I discovered a great new restaurant downtown last week." The fact that people had eaten there before you doesn't invalidate that sense of the word, or even that people work there and that someone created the place out of raw retail space. But to keep the nattering about the discovery of America at a minimum, perhaps John C. Fremont's appellation -- the Pathfinder -- might be better for Columbus than Discoverer.

Anyway, Columbus' reputation will have its vicissitudes. He's still remembered after 500 years, and probably will still be after another 500. There are reasons for that. I think of him as one of the great explorers, and I reflexively admire great explorers, who left the safety of their homes, purposefully went somewhere else, and discovered that the world is very large indeed.


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