Never The Twain Shall I Meet
Once I was casually chatting with a fellow at a bar in Chicago’s Old Town District, and he told me a story about working as a desk clerk at The Mark Twain Hotel, a less than upscale establishment at Clark and Division. A middle-aged, well-dressed man came in with a young lady wearing a mini-skirt and too much makeup. This gentleman signed in as Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Clemens. My acquaintance was amused but claimed he didn’t crack a smile. I think Mark Twain would also have been amused, and I wish he too were sitting with my companion and me at that bar that night.
I often think about how interesting it would’ve been to spend an evening drinking with any of the dead writers I admire. But I’ll never get to meet Mark Twain. The best I can do is read other writers’ recollections of having had that opportunity. From what I’ve read, Mr. Clemens was actually a pretty sensitive guy, which contrasts dramatically with his oft-quoted contrarian and cynical remarks. The explanation may lie in this quotation from a speech he gave: “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” The same is probably true of many writers’ witty quips. Nevertheless, I’m sure he would be a very entertaining drinking companion.
Here is a delightful list of Twain quotations. It is telling that he often makes as much fun of himself as he does of the rest of our species.