Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More Dots, er, Holes to Connect

For some years, Barnaby Conrad and I lunch on Thursdays at a place variously called Tom's, particularly when Tom was the owner; but also as the Pharmacy Lunch Room, and in its most formal presentation of all, the Montecito Pharmacy Lunch Room, even though it has nothing to do with the Montecito Pharmacy, except in the form of a benign neighbor. With the exception of frequent remarkable culinary additions to the menu--apple pie milkshake, migas, avocados stuffed with shrimp, huevos rancheros, a stunningly effective steak sandwich, and a splendid fish called escolar, very little happens at the Pharmacy Lunch Room. During the summer months, when great gobs of tourists seem to appear, Jonathan Winters literally works the room, pinning the hapless tourists in the rear corner, covering them with a manic barrage of humorous observation that ultimately becomes as oppressive as a George Bush speech. Accordingly, it was big news when Tom sold the lunch room to Debby, who promptly renamed the lunch room The Montecito Coffee Shop. I will not comment on the coffee, which is urn coffee and therefore merits as little consideration as possible.

For all the years Conrad and I meet to dismember French Dip sandwiches or allow Debby to indulge her creativity with unusual types of milkshakes, through the tourist infestations and Jonathan Winters's choleric discontents, this cover has been the witness to the nonhstory of the Upper Village. I have trod upon it, undoubtedly driven over it, and worst of all, ignored it while pursuing the warp and weft of some seemingly vital goal.

It took a walk with Sally in Hale Park along with the conviction that I had dropped a check book there to come to terms with what I now consider at least as much a work of art as Andy Warhol or the mustached insouciance of Salvadore Dali. But it took me walking through a long patch of earth with holes of varying sizes, suggestive of a condominium for the likes of gophers, spiders, and perhaps snakes.

I rushed to the Montecito Coffee Shop to take this shot of this more sophisticated hole covering, for that is at heart what it is. The gophers, spiders, and others want no such elaborations; to them a hole serves as an entry and an exit; quick in--quick out. If need be, sorry, no one home.

Mankind likes to leave its mark on things, nicknames and love interests incised on schoolroom desks, ignoble wads of flavored chewing gum, abandoned on the underside of tables in restaurants and libraries; beta versions of tattoos inscribed on tree trunks, paintings on the walls of caves, and the lovely, almost iconic inscriptions on the huge rock formations of the Southwest, Paso por aqui, passed by here. Man likes to label his holes, his conduits, perhaps to identify, perhaps as a kind of Aristotelian taxonomy.

I am quite taken with these emblems that we have gone to such pains to render as seeming important, and I pledge herewith to capture as many of them as I am fortunate enough to come by, the Edward S. Curtis of the sewer and man hole cover. What a glorious name. Man hole cover. Two unabashed iambic feet.

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