Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Kinkiest Places under the Sun

Clunton and Clunbury,
Clungford and Clun,
Are the quietest places
Under the sun.

--A. E. Houseman

Although he took great pride in his classical scholarship, Houseman was relatively modest about his reach as a poet and although his seemingly instinctive ability to "get" the Latin he was translating advanced our sense of the works he studied, it is safe to say his poetry had every bit as much effect on a larger audience.

Never having been in Clunton or Clunbury, much less Clungford and Clun, I am willing to take Houseman's word for their quietness and even his assessment that if you thought to have troubles there, those troubles were a two or three on the scale of ten, with ten being what you could expect to find in, say, London.

I have been in Fresno and Salinas and Tulare and, yes, Bakersfield. I have been in Soledad and Gonzales, even ventured into Chualar (which is a lovely name for a rather unlovely kind of grass). Not to forget King City or Earliart or Tracy, and hey, what about Merced? Talk about quiet places!

And yet.

And yet these bastions of small-town California are undergoing a kind of revolution which I feel confident in recognizing as having spread over the state lines. almost past the point where it can be observed by a single person. This is epic stuff, and it has to do with the complex irony of a battle against the middle-class in this country, reminiscent of and a cautionary reminder of the one that has been effected below us in Mexico. There is little or no middle class there, and the odds against a sustaining one in this country are becoming more precipitous.

It offers wry amusement to think of so many American jobs already being outsourced to India that the good folk of India must outsource the work they cannot handle to--you guessed it, Mexico.

The quietness of these American cities I've mentioned can be seen in larger cities, in the Wal-Marts ad K-Marts and cookie-cutter malls, where bleak faces shop thriftily, their livelihood and comfort depending on it. In these cities, which are often as much as a two-hour commute from larger employment centers, there are town houses, condos, and ready-mix apartment complexes that, because of their distance from the larger employment centers, are affordable.

Soledad and King City are splendid examples of cities divided in two, old town and more traditional residents; new town and the aliens. The aliens may not be comfortable with some of the statewide franchises but they have a grudging familiarity with the from the big city.

In a real sense these divisions within cities are akin to the divisions back in the Stone Age where weather, not commuting costs, more or less drove Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon into the same quietest places under the sun.

The more things change...

Soon the large stores will be trying to attract our interest in trading goods for the December rituals of gift exchange, a set of ceremonies not unlike the potlatches of Indians of the Northwest. Auto makers will try to attract our interest in maneuverable vehicles with smaller footprints, speaking of which, shoe manufacturers will be after us to try out ergonomic but palpably green models in the wearing of which we leave no toe behind. As we go about the warp and woof of the approaching autumn, take a moment to lock eyes with some stranger who is as bewildered and harried as you.

Paul Portuges likes to throw in a stage management in his screenplays, in which a male character, sexually interested in a particular woman, gives her "the male gaze." He does this on the theory that directors and actors know what this is short hand for. Accordingly, I propose the Hunter-and-Gatherer gaze for the next trip to the Levaithan market places and the cities that have become the new quietest places under the sun.

Using the Hunter-and-Gatherer gaze, we make contact with our inner Neanderthal.

Dare to spank your inner Cro-Magnon.

Take an Ice-Age person home to dinner.

And while you're at it, forget this business of gender equality. Hunting is a man's work; the ladies get to do the butchering and cooking. This isn't the big city, this is the forest primeval.
Or maybe just the forest prime real estate.

Go figure.


John Eaton said...

Brilliant, Shelly.

Spankin' the inner Cro-Magnon. Reminds me of asking Ken Wilber to spank the indigo monkey and find a new paradigm.

Carnations and biscuits all around,


Pod said...

would one really want to live in clungford?

Grandmama Carla said...

Oh that's the odd sensation I get at the farmer's market--they are eyeing my hatchet hand and ogling the size of my skillet.

You know what they say, Shelly--it's only kinky the first time.