Friday, July 11, 2014

All Keyed Up

With all the devices and implements an individual carries on his person during the course of the day, your vote for the most anamolous is the key chain.  You were brought into abrupt awareness of this factor earlier this morning, at your normal Friday morning coffee with a group of regulars, men and women, you've known for at least twenty years.

When you were a growing boy, a significant man's style element was the key chain, one end of which was fixed to either a belt loop or the belt, itself; the other end a metal circle or oval to which the man attached most keys for daily use with the exception of car keys, which were often carried in the pocket as a part of a seperate holder.  Thus your father, a silver-plated chain which you still keep as a souvenir of him, along with his pocket watch and his wedding ring.

Circumstances related to earning a living had your father leaving the Los Angeles of your birth, a Los Angeles where he'd done quite well until the Great Depression.  "You're the man of the house," he told you, giving you his key chain, which had only one key, the key to the house.

Your present key container is not a chain, rather an amalgam of rings to accommodate your car key, the key to your apartment, the key to your mailbox, a key to the door of The College of Creative Studies, UCSB, and the key to your office in said College of Creative studies.  Your key ring also contains a key to your literary agent's away-from-home mail box, a small- but-powerful flashlight from a now defunct local bank that has been subsumed by a large, national bank, and a small flash drive, should there ever be a need for you to take a copy of a document from a computer that is not your own.  There are also plastic ID tags from a grocer, two drug store chains, PETCO and Office Max, plus an ID tag from the Lost Key and Wallet Protector of American Express.  Yet one other element, a small silver-plated oval from Tiffany & Co, the New York jeweler, intended as a lost key return but kept on by you as an emergency screw driver.

Thanks to having a client who is an archaeologist, who on occasion writes books about anthropological topics as well as anthropological ones, you are well aware of the concept of a tool kit as representative of what an individual from any particular historical era would carry about with him or her.  Your client;s next book is likely to come of your suggestion relative to how the Swiss Army Knife allows many modern men and women to carry about somewhere on their person--pocket, purse, backpack--a tool kit containing most of the important tools from the ages.  Whether the flash drive has achieved iconic tool status is a topic for discussion, nevertheless, some models of the Swiss Army Knife do contain such modern implements.

Your tool kit equivalent also includes a money clip and a Languole pocket knifeabout twice the overall size of its predecessor, which now languishes in a desk drawer.  Your thought in acquiring this aspect of your tool kit is romanticism at its best, relating to spontaneous picnics, loaves of baguette or larger French bread, fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, and one or two lengths of sausage, which in this case you extend beyond sausage to charcuterie and, thus, pates, terrines, bacon, ham, and the like.

Your tool kit also contains a number of fountain pens, pocket-sized note books, and, of late, a number of ball point pens from a favored restaurant in Carpinteria.

This morning's awareness of the one or two men who appeared for their coffee, sporting external, visible key holders, got you to thinking how the key ring in general and the key in specific are entrances to work areas, work places, and quite possibly to actual tools.

Proud as you were to have the loan of your father's key chain, it had only one key, which got you into your locked, secured residence, but little else.  At the time, that was your major complaint.  You had notebooks, pencils, even a magnifying glass, and a pocket-sized compass, which was a premium from a box of Cracker-Jacks, and often either refused to tell you where north was or simply did not know, chosing any direction, intimating you could not tell the difference.  The magnifying glass, also from Cracker-Jacks, could burn a hole in paper or plant leaves, ratifying its understanding of its purpose.  It also made small print seem larger.

More to the point, a key was not as important to you as a book, which got you into any number of places and which seemed always to dispel your boredom.  In retrospect, you see the sense of boredom you were at pains to avoid as a shrewd cover-up for fear, the kinds of fear coming from loneliness and from wondering how well you'd do in actual adventure circumstances beyond your youthful boundaries.

Comic books and the then equivalents of paperbacks, the Big Little Book, were early friends, leading to another contemporary joy of your younger years, pulp magazines such as Weird Tales, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Dime Detective, Black Mask, and, although it might sound anomalous to your interests, Ranch Romances.  One teacher, mindful of your reading habits, expressed concerns that such reading would, as she put it, "hamper and limit" your tastes.  To your great pleasure, your principal, Ms. Ruth Angelo, said they would do no such thing; they might forge your tastes but hardly limit them.

To your even greater, retrospective pleasure, consideration of such "keys" helped your embarkation on the journey that got you here, now, moving with interest and hunger from such pulps to the likes of Walter Scott, Joseph Conrad, Jack London, and he who wrote as George Orwell, all these without a word of the inevitability of your discovery of Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

The one regret you've been at some pains to rectify is the relative lateness where you began to read for the inner workrooms and tools therein, the tools of narrative as opposed to the mere pleasure of experiencing them.  But for a time, so great was your boredom and relative fears that reading was for the purity of transportation away from boredom and into the jungles and savannahs of imagination.

Here you are now, coming to understand the great extent to which the aspects of story reach, how each moment in each remembered and treasured story is a universe in itself, and how, over the years, story has become muscle memory for you.

Listening to authors being interviewed, asked to discuss certain scenes or dramatic decisions they made, you wondered how they were able after the fact to have the material so well into memory.  Even with your freakish memory, you did not see how such recall was possible.  Which led you from your awareness that you'd not been too much of one for revision.  You, the equivalent of the actor who wants to go from the first table reading of a play to the stage, thinking substance is all there from the beginning, or it is not.

You, understanding the way muscle memory works.  Long, sometime acrimonious arguments with the musician, Artie Shaw, whose music you love and whose personality you found excessive.  Debt:  he caused you to see, appreciate, and apply the understanding of muscle memory to performance.

How does an actor remamber his or her lines?  Not so much with the memory of committing material to memory:  I pledge alliegance to the flag, or We, the People of the Unites States, in order to form.  Et cetera.  Not at all.  Each beat of a successful story is wrapped around an emotion.  Actors don't describe, they duplicate.  Feelings.  They don't so much remember words as they remember emotions.

To see emotions, you need to observe them at work in yourself, and then in others, and then file them away as muscle memory.

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