Friday, October 16, 2009

Exercises in awareness

 It is a fun exercise to imagine one's self thrust into the life of another person for a brief time, to see how it felt to be  variously so talented, educated, curious, privileged etc then to return to your own self, thinking hey, the room is messier and the cooking isn't as good, but I'm where I want to be, a writer, after all, who can, if he choses, be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, long enough for a story.  

It is accordingly possible to have the nose of a blue tick hound, a nose literally crammed with sensitive tissues that transmit scent to your brain with such intensity that the responses override any task at hand and dictate pursuing the scent.  Then you return from your blue tick-ness to realize you have dropped considerable time into following the scent of your own imagination.

It is also good sport to think of a particular time before your own lifetime, where you wished to be transported for a brief vacation, aware that you'd have to leave such implements as your laptop, your favored Ancora fountain pen, and certainly your iPod Touch behind, making due with such substitutes as were available.  Then you return from your vacation to find the implements you have treasured and become familiar with (although you still do not have the complete hang of that dreadful HP Photosmart 4580 printer, which behaves as though it had a goddamned mind of its own, performing (or not) like the stereotypical servant who resents its employer. Thus also, this forthcoming December 5, the 208th anniversary of Mozart's death, you could still hear one of your favorite of his compositions, the String Quartet #18 in A Major directly from a digital disc through the CD player in your car or from your iPod Touch, also playable through your car, or through the earphones on said iPod while you sipped an expertly-made latte at Peet's on upper State Street.  

There is, to be sure, a potential for a count-your-blessings philosophy resident in these vagrant lines, an awareness simultaneously reminding you you don't have things all that bad and nudging you to agree that Mozart was smarter, more prolific, and more inventive than you, as though you needed such a nudge.  Better, however, for you to have raised such matters than to have them presented to you as though you were in denial.  Equally better to understand that the now of your time, the present-moment-ness of this present moment, is your trampoline on which to play, allowing you to jump and thus raise however briefly your horizon.  Had he lived another 200 years, beyond his 1750 date of death, J.S. Bach would likely have already invented one type of music you so much enjoy, giving you an alternate universe of considerable pleasure in which you are able to project the chord changes, tempos, and harmonics of the good J.S. onto, say, Charlie Parker (1920-55), a thing J.S., for all his chops, could not do.

Thus this is in greater thrust an admonition to continue playing outside the sandbox when the sandbox is the metaphor for the conventional, then to play in it when it is discovered in some previously unimagined place.

"I know you, don't I?" said the butcher at the Fordis Meat Market on Fairfax Avenue, gravely wrapping the short ribs I had selected and whose trimming I had supervised.

"You do.  We both attended--" hitching shoulder southward toward Third Street--"--Hancock Park.  You were the playground monitor whose instruction I was always trying to secure, relative to excavations and constructions I made in the sand box."

"What did I tell you?" he was genuinely curious now.

"Always the same.  'No foundation.' "

He smiled.  "I was nine or ten, then.  You were seven?"

"Seven is probably right."

"You see what I have become.  The son in a father-and-son Kosher butcher shop.  What have you become?"

"A writer who is trying to learn how his mother made mushroom barley soup."

His smile broadened.  "I see you now have foundation."


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