Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Inner Captain Spaulding. Hooray! Hooray!

For some time during recent weeks, I've been playfully occupied by the notion of a time when the world was less populous than it is now, a time when such remarkable characters from the traces of available classical literature didn't opt for a particular career so much as they were called to it by a direct summons from a god or goddess, a calling forth that probably led to the cration of the Muses, who no only presided over various of the arts but recruited as well. One of my favorites, as recently noted in these vagrant postings, was Hesiod, called forth not only to serve the gods but to write about them, catalog them, become in a sense their historian.

By the time such things got around to me, the muses were pretty busy and had a broader selection from which to chose than back in the days of eld. More than likely, instad of responding to a specific call from a specific muse, I was made aware of a cattle call at which I could audition, hopeful of beig chosen for something.

I've already spoken at some length about having been called by those estimable works of he who called himself Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Life on the Mississippi. It would not be accurate or fair to list Roughing It or The Innocents Abroad, because I'd already been called by the time I came to those and accordingly looked to them. It would be accurate and fair to add to the list of calls one Captain Geoffrey T. Spaulding and accordingly the vehicle in which he appeared, the motion picture Animal Crackers. By the time the character of Captain Spaulding had emerged from the psyche of his creator, one Julius Henry Marx, he had acquired greasepaint eyebrows and mustache, and had affected the forward bend of the upper torso, over the euator of the waist line, the right hand balled into a fist and placed at the base of the spine while the left hand swung freely.

Captain Geoffrey T. Spaulding became my muse, calling me to a task away from the serious notions of literature I'd begun to see in work I admired, singing a Siren song I thought was calling me forth to the pursuit of rigorous intellectual pursuit, scholarship, and, dare I say it, research.

Captain Spaulding is a difficult pole star to follow he is subversive of the goals I was pledged to follow. For some years I fought to disassociate myself from my inner Captain Spaulding with the growing tendency toward pomposity, which is one of the many things the "real" Captain Spaulding seeks to subvert, with quip, irony, outrageous puns, and a kind of 27/7 reduction to absurdity of all about him.

I think it may be safely ventured that where matters of pomposity are concerned, the pompous one is always last to make the discovery.

This is not to suggest a middle of the road course between the better works of Mr Twain and Captain Spaulding, because middle roads quickly betray themselves for being what they are--a pathway where the view is only moderate, safe, and populated with fast-food restaurants.

It takes study, patience, experiment, and a bit of the samurai's discipline to heed the call of your inner Captain Spaulding, to arrive with your own version of the chicken walk, the grease painted mustache and eyebrows, the samurai's vision of himself within his chosen terrain.

So far, it would appear that I have borrowed the eyebrows they sprout like weeds in a Summer garden, advertising my approach, warning that I am not to be taken for middle of the road. The years have brought other attributes, tools to clink about in my tool kit. I know this much: It is too late to turn back. I will have to make it on the bushy eyebrows and a few outrageous puns until the carpenters arrive to supply the finishing touches.

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