Saturday, September 20, 2014

Through Various Glasses Darkly

For most of your life, you have gone about in the world wearing some form or another of glasses.  Early photos of you show an owlish boy, hair plastered or watered down against an army of rebellious cowlicks, as eager to erupt as you were eager for the recess-time escape from the classroom.  

These photos have you scowling into the camera through lenses mounted in black or tortoise-shell in horn rims.  For a while, you switched to wire frames, perhaps from your parents' judgment that these would better withstand the furies and unrest of boyhood. You proved equally at home breaking horn-rimmed glasses as you broke wire frames

By the time you were ten or twelve, you'd become inured to such terms as strabismus, far-sightedness, and the more generic "weaker left eye."   You even knew the Latin abbreviations for the eyes on prescriptions, os for oculus sinister, and OD for oculus dextrus, thus left and right, adding to your growing accumulation of foreign words and terms.  

The word sinister had a nice ring to it.  Because your left eye was measurably the weaker of the two, and because the comic books you then read and the radio serials you listened to were filled with sinister characters, you got even for the inconvenience of glasses, ultimately bifocal glasses, and in the bargain another Latin-sounding word, by doing your best to appear sinister.

Few of the types of characters you wished in your boyish fancies to be wore glasses.  By degrees, you therefore abandoned potential careers as a cowboy, a pilot of a mail delivery airplane, a fireman, and for reasons you've not yet been able to reconcile, a maitre d' for either an Italian or French restaurant.  

To the best of your knowledge, one could be sinister while wearing glasses. You read extensively to acquire sinister traits from the likes of Long John Silver in Treasure Island and even more so from the arch villain from Wilkie Colins's stunning, The Woman in White, Count Fosco.  

The great likelihood is your being seen as grouchy rather than sinister, but at this remove, you're willing to accept that grouchiness has some cachet, and although cachet has more of a French origin than Latin, your boyhood self was willing to negotiate.

This did not stop you in your secret heart from wishing to be a cowboy or pilot or fireman or maitre d.  These secret urges had the positive effect of causing you to read books about individuals who followed these professions to the point where reading became the engine, while the content of the reading became the fuel.  When questioned about your preferences for birthdays and other gift-giving times, you openly sought a Daisy B-B gun, Red Ryder model, faux pearl-handled six-shooter, Gene Autry cap guns, or fur-lined pilot's helmet, with goggles.  Only a matter of time before your secret hearts were beginning to find their way into stories.  

A writer who wore glasses could still write Western stories.  When one editor of a Western magazine suggested to you that your name did not seem to go with Westerns, you became the alter egos Craig Barstow, which sounded Western enough and Walter Feldspar, which allowed you in metaphor to ride the horses of your dreams across the terrains of your imagination. In those same dreams come true, there is the persistent picture of you, accompanying your regular column for the Virginia City, Nevada Territorial-Enterprise, wearing horn

As a glasses-wearing writer, you had two other landscapes to traverse before you could hang up your spurs, one of these was commercial television, which lasted a few frustrating years, followed by a few more years in which a noted literary agent sought to corral (his choice of verbs) your abilities to the point where you were attempting to write stories for the coated-stock monthly magazines referred to as "slicks."

You discovered at length the strong possibility of at least one glasses-wearing writer finding what would today be called a narrative voice.  You were not a commercial television writer nor were you at the time interested in any of the kinds of drama you've become interested in of more recent years.  

You were an anomaly, a lover of unslick, of so-called pulp, except that your concepts of plot were un-pulp-like, undershot with sly, mocking undercurrents, and characters riding off into their own sunsets instead of your sunsets.

Wouldn't you know it, your eventual development of cataracts was the cause of your farewell to contact lenses.  A jumble of drug store reading glasses sit at the ready on your desk, but they are more often than not left at home, forgotten.

Wearing glasses, then switching in your mid-forties to contact lenses, you pursued careers and agendas you'd not thought open to you, while in real time pursuing careers you'd not thought open to you, proving that the imagination is a magnificent steed to ride upon, however riding-challenged you may be in real life.

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