Amy and I had the pleasure of dining with our friends the Mostels this weekend at their home in North Florida, not far from here. The house is wondrous--a spatious, high-ceilinged metal building housing all kinds and eras of art (Toby and Aileen are both artists, as well) and artifacts from their years in Manhattan and Maine, as well as more recent productions and acquisitions, on fifteen acres or so boasting a three-alligator pond and snakes aplenty. They're wonderfully warm and generous people and they've helped make the transition to life in South Georgia easier. And Toby's a fine cook, so I don't mind taking a good bottle of Brunello or Cab there to share (this time a fragrant 96 Casanova di Neri I found locally at a closeout price). The large open front area of the house really belongs to Albert, Toby's chattering parrot, who tolerates the cockatiels and enjoys Toby's devoted attention. Albert loves to listen to him sing and play the two Steinways that sit side-by-side there, and he lets the rest of us hang out as long as we abide his commentary.
We spoke of politics and opera. Well, Toby spoke of opera at length, with Aileen adding an anecdote about a particularly moving final performance by Joan Sutherland at the Met. At any rate, Amy and I listened, since our arcane pop sensibilities couldn't add much here, but we enjoyed listening to stories about opera's golden era, looking at photos of the magnificent staging of Billy Budd.
Finally they also spoke of their encounter with a rare Florida panther. Aileen walks her four dogs, each named after some article of luggage (Trunk, Valise, etc.), every evening. Last week, the dogs went nuts off a scent. A deer caught in a fence was strangling itself, and Aileen tried to help free it, but couldn't before it collapsed and died. Meanwhile, the dogs went into hiding. After failing to free the deer, Aileen looked for Toby to help disentangle the dead deer. He walked down to examine the situation, watched a nearly nine-foot panther saunter away up the roadway, looking back over its shoulder at the prey and the man. Later that week, the dogs treed a panther cub on the property. Whether this is a true panther or a wandering cougar transplanted in a program to expand the gene pool, it ain't supposed to be in these parts. A big cat on their property. We talked about how frightening it is. We talked about how promising it is.
Fisk update: His own article on his visits to Cairo and Valdosta, http://news.independent.co.uk/world/fisk/article2387832.ece