stages the subject of that meanderingrndocumentary: The Man of Action, I’hernDevil-May-Care Lover, The CelebratedrnAuthor, and Worst Shot-Up Man in thernU.S. seems to shrivel up and recede intornthe background of modern history as ThernLanguid Nobleman, The Man in thernMoth-Holed Khaki Sweater, The Proprietorrnof the Palazzo Tron Wlio Never Replacesrnthe Blown Lightbulb in the Hallrnand Drives a Boat the Size of a Child’srnShoe emerges as a far more interestingrnand genuinely literary personage.rnThe famous boat (commercial value:rnnone, not even with a fresh coat of paint;rnvalue of the engine, if the thing everrnstarts: $50) sank the other night, in mysteriousrncircumstances. Alberto telephonedrnwith the horrible news. Apparently, hernhad left it on the Grand Canal, tied tornone of the posts outside his door.rn”Wliat happened?”rn”I cannot think. Certainly I had notrnmoored her too fast, so it was not the hdernthat did it.” His voice is ashen. “I thinkrnperhaps the fire brigade passed andrnsideswiped her.”rn”So what are you going to do now?”rn”I went into the canal with a rope atrnlow tide last night, to look for what wasrnthere.”rn”How? hi your trousers?” I obviouslyrndon’t know what else to say. Trousers? Itrnwas five degrees centigrade on the Sundayrnof the Madonna of the Salute, and arndriving wind from the north called borarnwas thrusting wet snow over Venice andrnthe lagoon.rn”No, I had taken off my trousers. Irnmanaged to pidl up tlie motor, and yournknow, it started on the first try. But thernboat, no. I am afraid that is now completelyrnlost. Wlien the motor started atrnfive o’clock this morning, I just smoked arncigarette and went to bed.”rnI suggest that the protagonist of the dialogue,rnthe same man who would advisernus to stay indoors last spring for fear of viralrninfection and nervous exhaustion, hasrnbeen using a drug all his life —the tranquilizerrncalled human dignit} —to keeprnthe world at bay. This is evident from hisrncomportment in the face of loss, somethingrnwith which all the great families ofrnVenice are familiar. Alberto’s have longrnlost the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti, builtrnin the mid-1400’s and occupied first byrnthe Condotierre Cavalli, then by thernCounts Pepoli, who established there thernfamous music academy of the Rinovati,rnthen by Archduke Frederick of Austria,rnand finally by Alberto’s great-grandfather,rnthe noted composer Alberto Franchetti.rnAnd they have lost their other, e en morernsplendid seat, the Ca’ d’Oro, “perhapsrnthe most famous house of the GrandrnCanal,” according to the EleodorirnPalaces and Families, “to be comparedrnonly to the Palazzo Ducale for tire richnessrnof its decorations,” which was eventuallyrnbequeathed to Venice togetherrnwith its important collection of paintings.rnAnd now the boat. Now I ask you, isrnthere anything in Hemingway’s life andrnwork which even comes close to this as arntest of character?rnAndrei Navrozov is Chronicles’rnEuropean correspondent.rnLetter From Texasrnby William MurchisonrnUp in Smoke?rnThe Texas Aggies—well, let’s just say fewrnother student bodies resemble them inrnunified outlook or devotion to tradition.rnThat may well change. The hammer ofrnconformity, of homogenization, has beenrnheard banging on the Aggies’ door sincernthe bonfire debacle.rnThe debacle was bad enough: a dozenrn,ggies killed in the collapse of the spiritbuildingrnbonfire. W( this i-Aggiernsubmits, would be a shamefaced retreatrnby the Aggies from their traditions, fromrntheir singular way of presenting themselvesrnto the world. There are, nonetheless,rnthose who want them to, and I predictrntheir voices will rise ever morerninsistently.rnTo tell the truth, A&M even now isn’trnwhat it used to be. It once was the Agriculturalrnand Mechanical College ofrnTexas, founded in 1876 (a great-greatgrandfatherrnof mine was the first president);rna haven for farm boys with anrbitionrnand yet practical aspirations. Yournwent to Aggieland —most likely from arnsmall town or the farm —to become a veterinarianrnor an engineer, emerging withrna good degree.rnWliile at A&M—which in the old daysrnwas all-male—you belonged to the Corpsrnof Cadets, a Reserve Officer TrainingrnCorps program that amply supplied thernU.S. Army with officers. Yon wore uniformsrnall the time: boots and sabers by thernsenior year. You spoke a particular lingo.rnAn Aggie friend of mine, when I was visitingrnas a University of Texas debater,rnshowed me around. Some of the fellowshiprnand rah-rah spirit might seemrnforced, but it did knit together a diversityrnof folk.rnAt football games, the Aggies stood,rnand still stand, throughout. Wheneverrnthe team scored, they kissed their dates.rnThey sang The Spirit of Aggieland: “Wernare the Aggies, the Aggies are we. True torneach other as Aggies can be.”rnThis was the old A&M; not to be confusedrnwith the extinct. A&M went co-edrnin the earlv 6()’s and changed its name tornTexas A&M University (finessing thernquestion of what “A” and “M” stand for).rnIt has achieved national stature, educationally.rnThe economics faculty is fiercelyrnfree market. (Phil Gramm once taughtrnthere.) The George Bush presidential libraryrnis housed on the campus. Studentsrnare generally conservative. There arernsororities and fraternities now. Perhapsrnpredictably, considering what Americarnhas latterlv become, only about 2,000 Aggiesrn(out of 40,000-plus) belong to thernCorps. Still, A&M accords Aggie traditions,rncentered on the Corps, a becomingrnkind of priority.rnAmong those traditions: a 5 5-foot-highrnbonfire to fire up spirit before the annualrnThanksgiving game with archrival Texas.rnIt was this bonfire pile that collapsed arnfew days before the game, plunging thernstate into sympathetic gloom —and ca.stingrndoubt on such an alpha-male tradition,rnwith its elements of organized work,rnhierarchicallv directed; fraternal bonding;rnand exuberant celebration. Reportsrnof drunkenness and bad engineering arernseeping into the public prints.rnWill they (whoever “they” may be: editorialrnwriters, professors, female legislators,rndo-gooders) eventually come downrnon the Aggies, directing that the bonfirern(called “Bonfire” by the Ags) be madernsafe and salubrious? Perhaps a 20-foothighrnbonfire: How would that be? Orrnmavbe professionals will take it over, ruiningrnthe participatory nature of thernevent.rnIt all seems a small thing. But you neverrnknow about small things. They sometimesrnget bigger than anyone suspects.rnI^estruction of the bonfire traditionrncould usher in a reassessment of the contradictoryrnfaces of modern Texas A&M:rnKappa Sigs and Corps members; “Ag”rn38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn