Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bubble Gum, Bubble Wrap, and Cultural Bubbles

Once again, the collision of seemingly random events throws you into a familiar bubble you had not realized was a bubble.

The first event was a phone call of epic reach, extending beyond the particular bubble in which you placed yourself when you signed to have your land line and cell phone listed as Do-not-call Numbers relative to solicitations and advertisements.  When the land line rings, you answer it with an awareness of what it must feel to live within an estate or gated community with an aggressive security system.

When the phone rang this morning, you answered with the certainty of one who had reasonable filters in place, a certainty that was shattered immediately by a gambit that traps most telephone solicitors, whatever their motive.  That gambit comes directly after your identity is established, as in:

"Mr. Lowenkopf?  Mr. Shelly Lowenkopf?"


"How are you this morning, Mr. Lowenkopf?"

Most of the individuals you hear from by telephone are not persons who want to know how you are this morning or the growing variation, "How is your day going so far, Mr. Lowenkopf?"

When you hear such gambits of outreach and establishing contact, your immediate response tends to approximate, "It was going well until this phone call."  

Today was another matter.  This was George, as rapid-fire a speaker in English as speakers known to you as speakers of Spanish or Italian.  This was George, who allowed you probably would not remember him but he, on the other hand, was well aware of your exacting tastes in art and the finer aspects of rugs, tapestries, and woven carpeting.

This was George whom you became convinced you did not know, George who must have you confused with someone who does have taste in such things, someone who most assuredly is not you.

George was not put off by your modesty nor the great advantage at which you held him because, at this very moment his wife was packing the remaining things they were taking with them on their return to Turkey, which was his reason for confessing how vulnerable he was at your hands.  Carpets and hanging pieces could be yours for pennies on the dollar.  Were you to see some of these things now, you would surely take even greater advantage of the situation and then, because it was clear to him that you were not by any means a cruel person, you would offer him a fair ratio of what would still be pennies on the dollar.

No, George could not believe you had no interest in exquisite rugs; you were saying such things only in recognition of the position of vulnerability in which you held him, at which point he drew out for you the taxes and tariff fees he would have to pay, were he to send such treasures back to Turkey. 

 If there was anything George could tell about you, it was your keen appreciation of art, of your need to have your personal life surrounded with significant reminders that the world has great beauties to offer such as you.

By the time you had consigned George to his forthcoming journey, you were aware of a bond between you that extended beyond a mere conversation.  George had put something, however fanciful and open to charges of potential mendacity, into his exchanges with you; its energy remaining long after you turned your attentions back whence they'd been distracted.

But not for long.  

The conversation with George led you to recall the tenor and building of non sequitur upon non sequitur of a story you were for some long moments trying to identify, reaching the point where you'd have been satisfied only to remember the author.

Not too many days ago, you'd been in a discussion about an author you much admire.  Perhaps he was the key.  But you soon became quite sure the author you were seeking was not Dennis Lehane, nor was it another dialogist you admire, Elmore Leonard.

The best thing to do in such circumstances is to push the entire matter as far off into the distance as you can, your past experiences reminding you that the answer will soon appear, whether you are in the midst of a conversation about an other matter or, by yourself, moved on to another subject.

Sure enough, within a few minutes, you had the name of the missing author.  It was you.  The key to your memory of it some comments you'd made in a recent blog essay about how, in many ways, the easiest way for you to begin work on a short story is to do so as an act of procrastination from another task.

The story you had in mind was from a considerable time back.  The story was long enough to have staked some claim to novella length, that is, if your sense of story at the time were closer to what it is now.  So then, call it a narrative rather than a novella or a long short story, which might well have become a more traditional length, if you'd had the tools to revise it.

You were in a bubble then, for a number of years.  There were characters in your narratives,  This one even had a goal, which was winning a competition.  Its shape was something you're going to have to fiddle with, experiment with, try to retrieve, revisit in light of the bubble you are now in so far as shape and structure of story is concerned.  The memorable thing about this bubble was the dialogue.

At the time, you had no vocabulary for what this dialogue was.  Now you see it as a vision, perhaps your best at the time, of persons trying to communicate, but talking about different things, then coming from the exchange with a sense of having been a) articulate and b) so articulate that one could not help being understood, and c) having little or no clue that understanding was in many ways like a cat, wishing to be given its supper.

Many things have changed since you wrote that narrative, which is why you would like to try your hand at bringing it back, if only to see some of the things you were right about back in that bubble, and what changes have overtaken you.

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