Friday, October 4, 2013


There are reasons to assume Sigmund Freud's observation about a cigar sometimes being only a cigar is apocryphal.  Lack of a reliable source for the observation does not, however, challenge the logic or practicality of the statement.  

If the statement was invented, the inventor made a shrewd blending of alleged authority with demonstrable fact.  Freud was a habitual user of cigars; some of his interest was indeed with phallic symbols.  Perhaps the inventor of the observation might have started by saying "As Sigmund Freud might have said..."  And some impatient editorial source may have removed the conditional, in preference to the simple, declarative tense.

You approach the subject of tables with what you thought a lifelong experience that had pretty well taken in a complete spectrum of use.  Once again you are brought to realize how vital, radiant, and filled with potential the universe is.  

A table is all the things you thought, including that wonderful expanse about which families, friends, complete strangers, lovers, and clients gather to dine, to converse, to make plans.  A table is a finite square or rectangle or circle or oblong on which a writer spreads index cards, seeking the correct order of scenes in a novel or short story, or on which a writer spreads relevant notes for a project, searching for a sense of meaning and relevance.  

This use alone imparts another, even more deeply felt meaning to the communal meal.  You like the symbiotic relationship of a meal and a writing project, tied together by a table.  Both acts, the meal and the project, become a form of sustenance.

You cannot forget the Spanish word for table, mesa, for a number of reasons.  For a time you lived in the Federal District of Mexico on the Street of Big Tables, Calle Mesones.  For much of your life, you've been fascinated with the mesas or tablelands of the Southwest, in the special context of mesas being the habitat of your favored character, Wile E. Coyote, who becomes so preoccupied in his quest for The Roadrunner that he often suffers the consequences of running beyond the borders of his mesas.

Early in you schooling, you were introduced to Roberts' Rules of Order, a guide to the parliamentary procedures of the UK and the US, most likely some academician's idea of a way to teach American junior high students methods of polite social interaction.  You learned of motions being tabled and, at about the same time, you learned about various forms of pool tables, including the pocket-less tables known as billiard tables, from which, thanks to a kindly man named Dutch, you learned enough to get you at long last beyond geometry.

There are of course multiplication tables, which offer the individual entry to the family of numbers in agreement and disagreement.  There is a periodic table of the elements, which introduces the curious to the family of behavior of atoms and molecules.

You learned the meaning of family thanks to the various tables presided over by your father and mother, and as you worked your way into the publishing trade, you learned about tables of contents, which of course took on a culinary aspect for you as you considered a book in terms of it being a feast of ideas presented to a reader.

You have never considered until recent times the wealth of tables in your life nor of their significance.  Much of your teaching experience involves seminar tables rather than desks and even though in recent years you've moved from the graduate seminar to the undergraduate class, your venue has been a table.  Of course you are not to forget the various assemblages of tables at Cafe Luna in recent years, tables about which your Saturday morning sessions play out.

Sometimes, a table is only that, a device for bringing people together, where persons of good will and various intents may meet to forge some sort of bond, some sort of connection, some memory of a shared and pleasing experience.

Other times, and in that same context of collegiality, a table is indeed a symbol, a gathering place where persons of good will may venture to exchange ideas, perhaps secrets, perhaps good will, perhaps to forge lifelong bonds that will resonate in memory like the savory odors of delicious meals.

Sometimes, a table is a few planks of wood, assembled for convenience, a place to lay offerings, a place for flower pots, covered dishes, casseroles, tubs of ice with chilled beer and wine bottles extending like greeting hands.

Sometimes, a table is a place for beginnings.

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