Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Delivery!

If this note were being written in New York, you could preface it by saying there wasn’t much time before the food arrived because you’d sent out for Chinese.  The New York joke is that you scarcely have time to click off the phone from making the order when there is a knock at the downstairs door and the announcement,” Delivery!”

This, however, is central coastal California, where the delivery here is more often than not pizza, presented in reasonable time ratio to the order being phoned in, but still not quite so fast as New York Chinese food.

You’d have rather ordered out from a Chinese restaurant, even though the anticipated delivery is only metaphor; so, in fact, was the ordering out.
In keeping with yesterday’s observations about rituals, these notes are about a kind of ritual, a celebratory rite, a family gathering for dinner.

Your closest family members are respectively ninety miles away and several hundred, Venice, California, the former, Santa Fe, New Mexico, the latter.  You believe the son of a favored cousin resides in Portland, but the sad fact is you’ve never met him.

Who then of this “family” gathering are nearby?  What manner of metaphor do you float here?  Funny you should ask; all these family individuals are indeed aspects of you.  Some of them are as remote to you as the Portland son of a cousin, which, you believe, makes him your second cousin or cousin once removed.

When you have a family gathering, you have no idea how many will arrive because you have no sense, after all these years, of how many of you there are.  You’ve dealt in some detail with the difference between individuals such as yourself who have any number of components, but do not for a moment doubt who the CEO or department chair is, as compared with the multiple-personality disorder individual who is unaware of the psychical equivalent of the room being double-booked.

There are indeed times when, confronting some consequence of a particular act you’d performed or not performed when you’ve wondered, “What was I thinking?”  The implication there is bewilderment at how the sober, rational, considerate you must have taken leave of your senses to have done or not done what has caused these consequences in which you are now immersed.

What you did basically was let the teen-aged you take the car without checking to see if he had his learner’s permit.  Now, you’re the one who has to do the equivalent of attending Traffic School to neutralize the mark against your record.

You have enough marks on your record without help from your Teen-age Driver Self.  In similar fashion, you’ve enough questions and concerns about manuscript projects in the works without having to cope with the “advice” of your internal editor person, who is not above assuring you, each time your author’s copy of some past work arrives at your desk that you want to hold it up to the light, perhaps even have it framed, because it is sure to be the last thing you will ever see published anywhere.  This Internal Editorial Person has on some occasions gone so far as to assure you that you couldn’t manage to get things published on your own blog site.

Another aspect of you is there to shake his head in wonderment at the increased prospect of what “they” will do when they “find out” about you.  He’s pretty evasive about identifying who ”they” are or what the circumstances they will discover are.

You have to like this guy’s opposite number, the one you’ve come to think of as The Big Spender.  “You can do it, kid, go ahead.  Show them.  Nothing you can’t handle.  Nothing.”

Of course there is The Skeptic, who asks if you can trust the person who asked you for a story or essay, and who doubts the client will pay you for the edits, and who believes the dean—any dean—is another kind of politician, an academic politician.  What about Susan” you counter.  She was great.  And what about Bruce?  Ah, The Skeptic says, rarities.  They don’t make deans like them anymore.

There is the Don Rickles Stand-up Comic you, the Let’s Buy out the Bookstore you, and the John Wayne you, not to mention those joined-at-the-hip Lewis-and-Clark aspects of you who are big on explorations to the point of forgetting where they are.  And there is for a certainty what you call the Royce Hall Nightmare, named after the building at UCLA that housed many of the English Department classes.  Named for the American philosopher and advocate of absolute idealism, Royce Hall figures in this recurrent dream as the site for a classroom to which you trudge with some reluctance to sit for a final exam for a course whose name you do not know.  All you know is that you have not attended any of the classes during the semester.  You’d think to call it your Kafka dream were it not so firmly located in Royce Hall.

There are of course other figures, some as murky and ethereal as Cousin Ted, the M.D. from Portland, others of yet more remote and featureless bearing.  They are all there; they all have opinions about the way you are being run.  One in particular is not at all satisfied with the way you deal with finances.  He is quick to remind you that as an editor, you were always on budget, even when your choices of books were less than prescient.  But, he is quick to point out, you cannot say the same for yourself; you did not need that extra latte, nor did you have to tip so generously at that Italian Restaurant or…

What you have done is to invite them all to the table.  It is in fact only a table for you, with a side dish of bacon strips and chicken tid-bits for Sally, but in your mind’s eye you ordered a range of pizzas, some with anchovy, others tending toward vegan, for all and sundry of you, to break pizza with you, in recognition that you are where you are in some measure because of them.  You were thinking of champagne, but this is a weekday affair and there are two classes tomorrow, so you settle instead on the bottle of San Pellegrino you discovered toward the rear of the refrigerator.

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