Saturday, September 12, 2009

Now and Then, now and then

The things you carry:  a Parker fountain pen with a medium italic nib, an illuminated pocket magnifier, an almost-filled Moleskine notebook, two crumpled cards entitling me to small espresso drinks at Peet's, a Coach leather pocket wallet containing driver's license, two Amex cards and a bank debit card, a few business cards which are actually too grungy to be of any use, an 8 GB iPod Touch, fifty-four dollars and eighty-five cents.

The only link between what you carry now and what you used to carry as a pre-teen is the magnifier which, at the time, was better in your estimation than a book of matches you normally carried because you could use the magnifier much of the day to start a fire or more importantly to magnify the sun's rays to the point of burning a hole in something.  It is not so much that you wanted to start a fire or burn a hole in something as it was the comfort and assurance you felt knowing you could, if you wished, start a fire at any given moment or, should something offend you, burn a hole in something.  These were tools of approaching adulthood, things that demonstrated your readiness.  At the time, there were small paper notebooks available, lined, provocatively blank, allowing you the added luxury of being able to write anything that struck your fancy.  You generally had a pencil stub which, thanks to the pocket knife you carried, could have as sharp a point as you wished in case there were a need to take notes, to write some observation, some truth or information or advice to be remembered.  You can recall sitting in any number of out-of-the-way blinds, certain of your relative invisibility even though you were too young to grasp the notion that a boy hidden in a tangle of shrubs was not so much likely to be invisible as he was to be ignored.  Sitting thus, sometimes for what seemed hours, pencil poised, you longed for things to write in your notebook, things worth writing down and looking at later, remembered with a sense of importance.  For a time, when you were eight or so, you were so eager to write things in your notebook that out of desperation you began keeping count of the cars that traversed your street, thinking how exciting this was becoming when you were able to include a record of cars with non-California license plates.  There was also a time when you decided to see how many numbers you could manage to fit on the page of a notebook, beginning with one, then two, then...leaving you when you had filled the page with numbers a sense of having something unspeakably wonderful, a record of numbers.  You were filled for days with the excitement of knowing how many numbers could be made to fit on a notebook page, a miracle your father made even more miraculous for you by suggesting you could get more numbers on a page if you used numerals.  If there were no things such as ideas or facts to write in notebooks, there were numbers to fall back on.  The excitement of the numbers did not last long because there was yet another way to fill notebook pages.  The list of cars passing your street gave no hint of who was driving the car,  Day by day, the lists grew.  Man driving car.  Lady driving car.  Man and lady in car.  Lady with two kids.  Lady with two fighting kids.  Lady in car with dog.

You did not see the potential for stories in numbers although one of your school mates said you would quickly see a story in numbers if you understood the distance between stars or the distance between earth and moon and sun.  Exciting, yes, but in a sense too late for stories in numbers, too late until you began to see the stories in the numbers in your checkbook.

Thus were you launched into considering the who and how many and, later, even the why of persons in cars and how they looked, and, of course, where they might be going.

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