Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Man for All Susans

You reach a certain age--or perhaps it is more of an uncertain age--where hair no longer grows where it once did and persists in growing where it didn't used to. It was always difficult getting up early but now it is increasingly likely that you will have been up and about for some time--at least one cup of coffee worth--before feeling truly awake. Going to bed at a reasonable time seems increasingly like a good idea but one that is proportionately more difficult to arrange.

You are more likely to be called upon to write valedictories for departed friends, colleagues, and others with whom your life has formed some relationship, real to you or potential to others. None of this strikes you as particularly morbid, as LK suggests it does, much less does it cause you to think carpe diem thoughts anymore now than you did when you were first setting forth to amass a useful store of experiences from which to fund a writing life.

The comings and goings of things and people in your life begin to seem as an analogy for the hundreds of millions of sensations that fall on your sensor plates, thereupon to register physical and/or emotional responses. You begin in some inchoate way to understand why particular plants, shrubs, flowers are the color they are so as to better attract particular insects, birds, and reptiles. You also see with some--if not articulate--clarity the two-sides-of-the coin aspect in which the very color of a plant that attracts the appropriate insects who will broadcast its pollen and/or receive the appropriate pollen of another plant will also attract various acts and forms of predation. (And we think our own sex life is complex!)

You still find yourself, for instance, looking in the interstices of the back seat of the Camry for the tortoise-shell Sailor fountain pen which you could very well have mislaid in any of a hundred other venues.

You are still in a sense of disbelief mixed with grief and frustration over the fact of having for the moment placed a five-page table of contents and description of a book on writing fiction you plan to do with J.F. "Jerry" Freedman on the roof of said Camry, anchored them with your Panasonic Lumix FX-30, then poured the two containers of water you'd lugged from the kitchen to the place where your pet avocado tree lives. 

Late for a meeting with Jerry, after watering the tree, you'd entered the Camry, scattering the outline and Lumix to the winds and although you have found the outline easily enough, the Lumix defies detection.

Well and good for inanimate objects, now comes the message in an email that Unk, your friend of at least twenty-five years, Duane D. Unkefer, to be more specific, has decided he has had a bellyfull of Santa Barbara and is about to venture to Portland where, with all due respect to a city I admire, his nether regions will be chilled as though a chardonnay.

Which gets us down to the need for a philosophy that will get us through the existential night with a lilt to our step, a smile to a stranger, and on-going niceness to dogs and cats. You are increasingly drawn to the writings and influence of Giambattista Vico. (1688-1744) Now here was a purposefully reasoned approach to the notion of events and how events played forth, observable, capable of replication in the laboratory or the bedroom. Note how Vico leads to hermeneutics, the investigation
of speech, social institutions, and ritual behaviours (such as religious ceremonies, political rallies, football matches, rock concerts, etc.). Hermeneutics interprets or inquires into the meaning and relative value of these phenomena. Once you got Vico and hermeneutics down, Finnegan's Wake became less obscure and, as a result, less boring.

By a lovely cycle of chance, Unk came to own a car that so frustrated and demoralized you that gave it to an auto mechanic named Chuck, whose wife supported the two of them by selling elaborately decorated cakes. You were indeed given a white cake with berry jam filling, a relic from a wedding that had been precipitously cancelled. It was a sway-backed Volkswagen that was largely white or perhaps primer-coat gray and where it was neither of these, it was indifferent. You met Unk having reviewed his break-through novel, Gray Eagles.

No particular effort is needed to wish him well and watch him set forth on his way. You have come to the point where enough coffee and philosophy and a fountain pen that works most of the time and a comforting dog can get you places where you have never been before.

There was a time, for instance, when you were in center field, a position you enjoyed too much to concentrate on all the nuances of center field. You dealt with a particularly troublesome line drive by short-hopping it and relaying it with, you thought, considerable dispatch to second base, only to be addressed by the pitcher with "Hey, schmuck! What's wrong with home plate?"

Some years later, playing in the same position, and in a similar fielding situation, the pitcher called, "Home, sir. Throw it home, sir!" Thus had you gone from schmuck to sir.

Experience gives you the opportunity to engage situations with optimal grace and perhaps even a touch of panache.

You'll freeze your nether regions, Unk, but you'll have Powell's Books on Burnside, and Jake's Famous Crawfish.


Pythia3 said...

Good Morning Shelly,

I linked to your blog from Lori's blog (I visit her for my daily inspiration!) and I'm happy I did.

I really like this post. (I have to return and read more of your postings after I get something done around my house, as I sat in front of my computer almost all day yesterday - writer's block!)

I especially loved what you wrote in the paragraphs below:

"You have come to the point where enough coffee and philosophy and a fountain pen that works most of the time and a comforting dog can get you places where you have never been before."

"Experience gives you the opportunity to engage situations with optimal grace and perhaps even a touch of panache."

Have a great day!

PS At least our modern technology allows us to keep in touch with faraway friends and family, but I do miss sharing conversation and coffee with my best friend, Kim, who moved to Texas last year.

Anonymous said...

Hello. :) I discovered you at theindividualvoice's blog. I hope you don't mind me just popping in.

Your comments there caught my attention, especially your mention of subtext (things we mean but do not say). I've had theatre training and I know that subtext is what drives characters. I believe it's the same way when one writes a character: you don't have to spell everything out for the reader.

Your entry is straight to the point yet sincere, needing no frills to keep it interesting. If it were a film, it would be one of those quiet yet profound indies, sans distracting soundtrack or blockbuster-revving scenes. I really enjoyed reading excerpts from your life. :)

I would like to add you to my blogroll. I hope you don't mind. :)