Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Free Lunch

For as long as you can recall, you've been intrigued by the voice of the slightly over-the-top sales or pitch person.  This began in the pre-television days and the remarkable-for-its time allure of the Jack Benny Radio Show, which featured an actor with the consummate come-on voice, Sheldon Leonard.

Jack Benny would be walking somewhere in one of his skits, when he would be accosted by Leonard, in character.  "Psst.  Hey, bud."  Oh, what a world of mischief and conspiracy in those words.  The Leonard character was always intent on selling Benny something that was not quite sleazy, also not quite legitimate.

Much as you enjoyed some of the other skits on the Benny show, you waited patiently for those skits, where the Benny character's established cheapness played out against the Leonard character's used-car-salesman ethos.

That same voice was put to serious work years earlier by Mark Twain, first in his break-out book, The Innocents Abroad, followed shortly after by his time in the Nevada gild and silver mine country around Virginia City.  The voice invited conspiracy theories and shady deals into the parlor, where we were given reason to suspect they existed as well.

The after effects of that voice reminds us of the sage conventional wisdom in which two parallel lines are drawn, one being the concept of the free lunch, the other line being those implications and subtexts which remind us of the hidden cost or price of said free lunch.  

You well recall a conversation you instituted in all seriousness with your father about the meaning of the warning about the price tag for the free lunch.

His father and mother, at one time saloon keepers, were particularly free with pickled hardboiled eggs and pickled pig's feet, both of which were salty, inducing the thirst for yet another draw of beer or ale.  

Okay, free lunch does have a price tag, and the used car salesperson--in one of Twain's more memorable stories, "The Mexican Plug Horse," the salesperson was a used horse seller--can, if seen in one light, be an agent of The Trickster.

This attitude toward that Tricksterish voice, also embodied by at least two of the Marx Brothers--Groucho and Chico--is important to you in the highly personal way of its relevance to how you were recruited into the band of scallywag writers, story tellers, and jugglers of dramatic implements ranging from burning torches to ten-pins, and plates.

A real juggler can handle seven or eight items, sometimes adding to his or her panache with a varied list of items.  You have all you can do to juggle two physical items, much less the minimum acceptable number of three.  But somewhere along the way, you heard the equivalent of the Sirens call to the sailors of Odysseus, and you believed them, at least to the extent that here you are, by no means the person you had in mind to become when you set forth, nor indeed the person you'd hoped to have become after having plied the trade for some time, say twenty years.

Today, in some publication, you say an illustrated article depicting the physical uproar that cam come from a life devoted to dancing, featuring an emphasis on those whose dancing required of them to spend time on their toes, to say almost--but not quite--nothing of being required to carry, balance, catch, and otherwise engage what can best be described as flying lady ballerinas.

The juggler and the dancer have a greater likelihood than you of physical injuries.  You seem to have reached your current state, whatever that may be, with any physical problems or anomalies having come from other sources.  You have no idea how long it could take a person who wished to develop skills as a juggler, much less have you any idea what would motivate a person to wish to become a juggler.  

Or a dancer.  Presumably, there were earlier urges to juggle or dance, of equal presumption acted upon in some way or other, just as you can recall the sense of amazement and wonder that you wished to do the same thing the likes of Mark Twain and Guy de Maupassant, and Willa Cather did.

Much of what you can recall about your journey from about age thirteen or so to this point can be summed up by a conversation you had early in your twenties with your mentor, who urged you to get used to dealing with the way you felt about things as a youngster before they get away from you, your furious effort to do so, and the seeming rush of time past your study and office windows as you sat composing or attempting to compose.

You're aware of streaking along on some orbital path, trailing smoke and fire and gas in the chilly reaches of space, all you can see about you thanks to the wisps of fire in your tail.  You are waiting to see where your momentum will take you, into which corners of the universe, and more to the point, if there are any reasons to believe there are any traces of life on you.

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