Saturday, July 2, 2011


 A person you once cared about to the point where you two might marry,once said to you in a fit of pique, "You are not required to have an opinion about everything."  Such, indeed was the connection between you that her response has remained with you these many years.  The tone and verb tense of her observation freighted to you the level of education and privileged life style she'd led from about age twelve onward until her premature death, perhaps a symbol of the issues and reasons that caused you to think marriage to her was not the splendid idea you once believed.

You in fact believed and still do believe you are required to have an opinion about everything, not of necessity for your own use but rather for the individuals you might create as characters or as facets of real life individuals you might have occasion to write about in an historical context.  Thus do you go about, notably on your evening walks, rendering judgements on things you might otherwise not notice were you content to remain neutral.  With due respect to journalists who are in fact required to keep their opinions out of their reportage, they are also required to note the opinions of those about whom they write.  When you were a journalist, thinking this could be your profession, you were supported in your belief that a news story written by you should require no by-line; it should speak for itself.  The fact of your recognizing this led to your wanting a by-line, which is to say you wanted in some way for the things you write to convey an opinion that leads to emotion in the same way a freeloader party crasher is drawn to the buffet table.

Not many days ago, a former student who had long since become a friend, even to the point of providing a blurb for your forthcoming book, caught a reference in these vagrant blog pages wherein you relished the fact of not being an academic.  "The fuck you're not an academic,"  he said.  Your reply was not too shabby.  "The fuck I am,"  you said, "I rarely, if ever, use the passive voice."  Not bad for spontaneous at the breakfast table, but you wish you'd said instead, "I'm too much an auto-didact."  You might have even added the adjectival "undisciplined."  There is seldom a direct path to your quest for information or your additional quest about the platforms of the sources you have found.  As a consequence, you are on occasion a naive narrator, perhaps relying on opinions of others without ingesting the material in some greater detail.  You could, on occasion, be adding the propaganda or agenda of others to your opinion without being aware you are doing so until later.

You do take pride in being in large measure self-taught, even though you did have the experience of studying with some men and women of scholarly formidability.  There is hubris in this, you know, just as there was hubris when you were being interviewed for the position of running the Los Angeles office of a major publisher by a woman who was a major shareholder and high-echelon editorial functionary.  "What's so special about you?"  she asked.  You drew yourself erect.  "I have good taste."  This stopped her for a moment and you could tell she was not used to such a response.  You could also tell she was a high-echelon functionary in the organization for an important reason.  "How,"  she asked, "will this good taste of yours reflect on a balance sheet?"  She might well have been speaking of overripe fish when she spoke the words "good taste."  "My balance sheet will reflect my having acquired books others will want to read."

"Take him away and let me think,"  she said.  "Get him coffee and those things the Mexicans out here take with their coffee."

"Churros,"  you said, not knowing that had been the deal maker, your knowing that word.  You were led to another table, quite a distance away by an acolyte who despaired of your hire.  "Bad,"  he said.  "You argued with her.  She is not to be argued with."  You were already beginning to be suspicious of such locutions, thus you asked the acolyte where in the East he had gone to school.

You started work two weeks later, in an office on Wilshire Boulevard between Fairfax Avenue and Crescent Heights, a brief stroll from the small, shady street where you once lived with your parents and sister, the place, now that you think of it, where your opinions began to grow.

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