Monday, September 7, 2015


At the time, you might be so preoccupied with being in the moment that you are unaware of being in a stage.  Life is like that.  But when you begin connecting things, you may discover how much of a stage you are in and what kind of stage it is.

Stages are sometimes like those drive-through hamburger stands.  You are in a stage of wanting something approximating dinner but perhaps too tired or too hungry or too stunned to decide which restaurant you'd prefer to this drive-through stage.  You are in effect in a stage of transition, passing from one stage to another.

You've not made notes about the stages you've been in, which is to say the stages you were aware of being in.  Sometimes it is not always easy to determine if you are in a stage any more specific than an uncomfortable stage.  

But as you begin to think about some of the stages you've been in and perhaps even through, you realize there is something to be said for trying to grab on to the you of some past memory, see if you can get your attitude at that time, then see if you can decide what stage you were in.

At the moment, you're preoccupied with tracing the movement, if not progress, you've made in your transitions from one stage to another.  This preoccupation comes from trying to settle on a list of one hundred novels you've read and reread, starting at about the time you were ten, then following your progress through the subsequent decades.

There were a few books in your shelves and stacks at your present home, where you moved with about one hundred books, saved after disposing of the others.  Now, there are considerably more than one hundred books, two of which got you to the subject of stages.  

One of these books is One Hundred Years of Solitude.  Much as you love it, you will not include it in your hundred novels project, settling instead on Love in the Time of Cholera from the same author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  You have a special relationship with One Hundred Years because someone sent it to you while you were deep within a stage you longed to be out of.

You hadn't a real name for this stage, not at the time you were in it, only the awareness of being uncomfortable, looking for some equivalent, some line that would get you to the equivalent of a hamburger stand, where you would say something into a microphone, pay some modest amount of money, then in due course be handed your order.

With a bittersweet hindsight, you can now look back to the stage you were at, the envelope in which the Marquez book came, and the unsigned note that accompanied it, "Hey, man, you ought to look at this and take it to heart and start thinking of what you're going to become if you don't take steps, what you're going to become if you take any old steps, and what you might become if you take the right steps.

To this day, you believe the sender was one of the musicians you used to get stoned with, just before ROTC drill time.  You can't be certain.  The sender could have been any of a number of persons, which is why the novel and the note mean so much to you and got you reading Marquez, whom you'd not read before.

The stage you have come to understand you were in was the asshole stage.  The fact of being sent the book and the note was more than a mere wake-up call.  Even at the time, you recognized having connections with persons of some great empathy, persons who could easily have waited you out in hopes you would outgrow being an asshole.   

The other book was a title that has made your hundred list, Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March, which came with a note written in a different tone than the note accompanying the Marquez, but still seeming to you now, in retrospect, to be calling you out for being an asshole.  The signature was a scrawl that looked like initials.  

You are now in a stage where you can venture the belief that a worthwhile novel is one you can come back to again and again during your lifetime, learning aspects of the human condition, noting techniques of the storyteller's trade, a story making you examine yourself against the possibility you might be an asshole, then suggesting ways to move beyond.

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