Saturday, May 4, 2013

All present and accounted for

Your new cat, Goldfarb has not been with you long enough to be allowed to embark on his destiny as a cat with access to the outdoors.  Perhaps another week, since he does seem well bonded and in close contact whenever you're at home.  He may well prefer to remain indoors much of the time, but he will have access to the outdoors whenever he wishes, opening yet another door, a more metaphoric one of Goldfarb out on the town, or Goldfarb not in at more or less the time you chose to retire and thus, should you wait up for him, leave the door open a crack, or allow him to see the consequences of staying out past curfew.

The relationship will have evolved to a new level of probability and possibility.

Some of your oldest and dearest friends, animal and human, are now available to you only in memory and, in some cases, via photo, which you come across by happy chance.  Sometimes, as last night, you dreamed of one.  In the past week or so, a few straggling condolences have come in, dear expressions of contact in reference to your two most recent losses, your dear, longtime friend, Barnaby Conrad, and your dear dog companion of seventeen years, Sally.

Much as you admire the philosophy of living in the moment, focusing on the immediate now and trying to arrange your activities so that future obligations, social, professional, and obligations of citizenship do not catch you unawares, you find present time another kind of friendship to manage.  Present time is a friend in the sense of it being a close, constant companion.

You are with some frequency distracted from this companion, sometimes by the most delightful distractions of all, a friend with an agenda, or a story with the equivalent of an agenda, which it presents you in the form of a friendly challenge, attend me, heed me, help me.  Hang out with me.

Sometimes absent friends distract you with memories that yank you back into some past event, where you were in the then of present moment instead of the now of present moment.A strong bonding agent among friends is past event.  By a quick calculation, you've had the better part of over three thousand meals with Conrad.  

You've gone on at least 1500 picnics with Sally.  Even now, when you visit the Italian Deli on De la Guerra Street, the older of the sandwich makers want to know if you still wish your super deluxe torpedo cut in half, a portion for you and the other for Sally.

At one point, because of your friendship with Conrad, you were a judge in a bullfight, one staged in the barroom of the Miramar Hotel, in which Conrad was the bull and Patrick Cunningham the matador.  Conrad's bull's horns were a chair from the dining room, legs extended.  Cunningham's cape was a tablecloth, whisked from a table in the dining room with such a deft snap that the silver, condiments, and spice rack were not disturbed.

At one point, because of your friendship with Sally, you were in the field between your then home and a large estate next door, at about three in the morning, clad only in a sweatshirt and underwear, intent on reclaiming Sally before her barking and coursing after a raccoon set off the alarm system and lights of the estate next door.

In similar ways, you are thrown back into memories of stories with whom you've forged some friendly relationship, recalling them in contexts that come as much as a surprise to you as your memories of past times with human friends or animal friends.

Stories, too, distract you from your goal of remaining in the now, following the trail of the present as it morphs into the future.  This includes stories you have read and admired and stories you have written or are attempting to write now.  

These variations on a theme of friends provide a constant source of distraction to the point where each time you hear the phrase "living in the past," you fear it was invented for you.  The past is an equal opportunity distraction, reminding you of woe and weal, offering endless diversity and diversion, in told and well-told stories, vital tools in your toolkit of experience.

Not long ago, you were at a commodious Sunday dim sum brunch, the final celebration of the birthday of a longtime publishing friend, Fred Klein.  You were seated at a long table, jammed with individuals all connected through friendship or family to Fred.  There was one unoccupied place setting.  When someone asked who the place had been set for, you replied, "Elijah," meaning of course the prophet Elijah, a well-known figure in your culture of birth.  He for whom there is a seat at every Passover Seder, should he happen to be in the neighborhood and wish to partake.

The present is important, it is a grand place to live in and live for, in preparation for the future, which, your experience has assured you, arrives quickly enough.

Distractions from the present are the equivalent of the seat and setting for Elijah.  The past is The Uninvited Guest who is nevertheless welcomed at rituals and gatherings.

Conrad has not been gone all that long.  Sally is not yet a month distant.  You sometimes catch yourself on a Monday or a Thursday, thinking to suggest to Conrad you try some other, as yet unexplored venue for lunch.  At least twice in the past days, you've left a restaurant after a meal, strolling toward your car, already digging for the napkin in which you'd squirreled a few rashers of bacon or a half sandwich for Sally.

In either case, the pangs are there and you acknowledge them as they wash over you like a playful wave at the beach.  You get a bit wet from time to time, but you're glad of the hold your friends and your past has on you.

Sometimes, rereading a story, you feel that same splash of discovery and the immense bond of friendship.  They allow you to stand tall as you move back into the present.

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