Thursday, August 25, 2011



Most Friday mornings, you have a regular date for coffee, usually at Peet's, upper State Street, Santa Barbara.  Depending on some dynamic of an individual or the entire group, the meeting venue will shift to the downtown Peet's in the 1100-block on State Street, or the significantly non-Peet's French Press at the corner of State and Victoria.

Attendance varies; there have been as few as four, as many as sixteen.  Average is about ten.  One of the regulars has been known to you for over thirty years.  Average length of friendship at least ten years.  You are often the first to appear, but when you oversleep or get caught in some unanticipated errand. you more or less have the option of choosing where you sit, which is to say that, depending on your mood, you can plunk yourself down where ever you chose.  There have been times at such Friday gatherings where you were not particularly talkative, other times still where you were as animated as if you'd had two or three double lattes as opposed to your customary one.  There are conversations from time to time about subjects where you have little or no information, at other times yet, the subjects being discussed are of no particular interest to you.  In either case, you wait the conversation out, asking questions if you are interested, sipping your coffee and dunking your muffin if you have no interest.

You generally stay until about a quarter of nine.  Santa Barbara being a relatively small town, there is the likelihood that you or one of those in your group will recognize a friend or acquaintance, then move to draw that individual into the group or detach yourself from the group for a moment's chat with the newcomer.  All social, comfortable, relaxed, no particular rules or conventions other than the convention of gathering.


It has long been your theory that any given individual is a composite of several individuals, squatters as it were, or as they were, occupying the same body.  Just when you think you have identified all your component parts, another appears and you make some attempt to drawn it into the group.

For as long as you have had this theory, you have posited that there is nothing  unusual about it; the unusual begins when the host is not aware of the squatters or, if you will, the other tenants.

In similar fashion, you are often amazed--a step above being surprised--at the discovery that the individual leading you and all your others is someone other than the one you'd supposed.  This is often the case when you find yourself acting and responding as someone with considerable quantities of youth beyond your own age or, contrarily, when you find yourself at some odds from your customary state of risk taking.  And yes, there is quite the teen-aged boy wanting to show off for a woman of nearly any age.  It is not that you have anything against showing off for women of nearly any age, but there is a difference in the way the younger iteration of you shows off and the way the more contemporaneous you shows off.


Since you were back in single-digit ages, there were individuals, mostly friends, who moved from your life circumstances or you were removed from theirs.  As you aged and changed schools--five grammar schools, two junior highs, one high school, two university landscapes--the ebb and flow intensified.  When you began teaching, students were a part of the tidal movement, causing waves of regret, some of which you had to bury.  Lovers, coming into your life, then moving away.  Some friends and family members dying; among these death was either more or less expected or sudden.  Authors moving on to other publishers or, here we go again, moving on to death.  Clients, moving on to their fates, some of whom you miss, others you were just as happy to see move on, such as one who was poached away from you by another editor.

Sometimes it was only in the breech, hearing from an old friend, a former student, an earlier lover, contacting you that made you aware of the gap that had insinuated itself into place.  In some cases, the breech was natural rhythm or the need to move to another city or state or country,  In other cases, some issue, some conflict of vision.  In yet other instances, the culprit was the fact of both parties changing their interests or values.  And yes, times where the relationship seems to have been characterized not by the breadth of association and feeling but by one or more areas of opinion.

Not all that long ago, an author described a book project he wanted to write.  You made several suggestions which he was unwilling to take.  Subsequently, sixteen publishers rejected the book after reading the first chapter.  Supreme in his confidence, he published it himself, then sent you a copy, wherein you found several fatal errors in the first five pages, whereupon you told him, whereupon he told you he'd hired an editor, whereupon, with questioning, you discovered that the "editor" was an English teacher, whereupon you observed that adherence to grammatical rules did not insure a resonant book, whereupon he looks the other way when he sees you coming.

All of this is to say, some individuals and some relationships attenuate of their own lack of gravity.

You have differences of opinion with a number of your selves, but you greet and maintain eye contact with all of yourselves you recognize.


Sometimes, music gets away from you.  It is more likely to be classical music than jazz.  Last month, you thought some Chopin ballet music was Tschiakovsky.  Janaceck, who had for some long while, been a great favorite, had managed to escape your recognition.  Yesterday, music you were listening to was surely one of your early close bonds, Beethoven, but, damnit all, you needed the announcer on KUSC to tell you it was his Seventh Symphony.  And true enough, about a month ago, you thought Kenny Baron was Barry Harris.  It is not likely, however, that you could even not recognize Red Garland.


Some books come and go for you, although they generally come to you after a few moments.  What troubles you most is rereading something you once thought was wonderful and now have a difficult time staying with.  It is in its perverse way comforting to see that you'd completely missed entire dimensions of something you'd liked earlier.  It is useless to flog anything, particularly yourself for something you did not know in the past, but not to forget persons you cared about and their not knowing something you'd hoped for them to know.


You are fond of remarking that parallel lines in geometry meet only in infinity but in novels they meet in the last chapter.

1 comment:

Storm Dweller said...

I find it humorous that you talk about our "squatters" and my word verification came up as sibbl. I'm laughing so hard I've completely forgot all of the wonderful thoughtful responses I had to this piece. I guess I'll have to come back and re-read it later.