Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Civil War

Over the past two days, I have been involved in a massive editorial effort, getting my book ready for publication. I have decided to publish it for myself, via Never have I loathed writing more than I do right now.

It's like some demented cavalry commander is running circles around my subconscious mind, burning things down. It's giving me nightmares.

Luckily, Nancy, a formidable editorial force in her own right, has decided to come to my rescue. Madam, I am at your disposal.

Now, I know how Lincoln must have felt when he found General Grant.

"I can't spare this man; he fights."

Except Nancy smokes better cigars. And she is a lot cuter.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Bacon Effect

Gosh, is it nice today! Somebody has planted blue hyacinths in the huge thick, gray anti-terror pots outside the Chrylser Building, on 43rd Street. The lovely smell of those flowers returned me to Boston last week, where a soft breeze (Iam ver egelidos refert tepores, as Catullus would say) brought me the first whiff of Spring this season while visiting Sally. [Hi, Sally!]

I am not sure if you have ever done it before, since everybody does it differently, but if you should ever find yourself in possession of a few warm evenings to fritter away in fun, I would like to recommend this book.

The perfect place to read it, of course, is Boston, in the evening, around seven, sitting on a cool and comfortable concrete pilaster on the banks of the River Charles, in between paragraphs, perhaps, puffing a cigarette, watching the smoke drift off—like the billowy white sails on the little white boats from the Community Boathouse scudding across the copper-plated water. I did this about 15 years ago, in the waning days of the 20th Century, when History was on the verge of being abolished.

Even though History continued—in some quite shocking, though entirely foreseeable ways—I did give up smoking, I am pleased to say, and eventually took up running. And for that, I thank History. I am also happy to note that Boston has continued being beautiful in the spring—much more beautiful than New York. So, if you are in New England today, and if you have the time, if the temperature is above 60 degrees, and if the breeze is right, and the angle of the sun is correct, at sundown, you may be able to reconstruct some of what I call “The Bacon Effect” even now. Think of it as a thought experiment.

A lot of ifs there, I know. The cumulative effect of all of these contingencies may seem a bit daunting at first glance. As dicey as it seems, do not let yourself be deterred from a dip into the subjunctive mood. Reading a bit of Francis is at least worth a try. Recipes involving Bacon usually are.

Lord only knows why I was drawn to read Francis Bacon then. I think I was on an essay reading jag that summer: Montaigne, Bacon, Addison, Steele, Voltaire, Hazlitt, E.B. White, Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, William F. Buckley, and others. I go through these odd little literary phases.

One particular phrase from Bacon’s essay 'Of Studies' has never been very far away from my conscious mind since the warm and wonderful day when I first read it:

Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books, else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.

“Weigh and consider.” That phrase took on a new and more painful meaning for this writer a few years ago when he was laid off and found himself carting large portions of his library off to The Strand bookstore to be sold to pay for food and rent. I think I might have earned $2000.00 from the sale of those books that summer. I have no idea what I paid for them originally. But it frightens me to think about it.

To what end does this wretched anecdote lead? Probably nowhere, if you write fiction. Still, it said something to me in very practical terms—something I had always suspected about poetry, but had never fully internalized, as a poet, until I actually started looking at the worth of words in terms of how effectively they feed you—which, at the end of the empirical day, more than their truth or their intrinsic beauty, may be all that really matters about the words we use.

Used Books
(Weighed and considered)

I run my index finger down each spine
Along the wall, selecting books to sell:
Collected Tales and Sketches of Mark Twain,
Pierre and the Piazza Tales, Melville;

A fine translation of Montaigne’s Essays,
The Plays of William Shakespeare, bound in green.
A dozen pages flutter from Rabelais’
Gargantua. My God, he’s gotten lean.

I slip the poor thing back among the rest.
To the Lighthouse, Giovanni’s Room—
I take. I tie them up with Tacitus
And Mr. Gibbon’s history of Rome.

All that remains is dust. And poetry:
Nobody seems to buy that shit, but me.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

On Hats

day I was very disappointed that I was not able to find a hat, one that would be the perfect complement to my light summer wardrobe. I traveled all over Manhattan to no avail. Not a single hat I liked. All the baseball caps I tried on left lines on my forehead that made me look like a pygmy Frankenstein. I really need no help there, thank you, given my present sepulchral pallor. I blame global warming. After 6 months of shoveling sun out of the driveway each morning, one is apt to look a little wan.

Of course, I wish I could say my inability to find a hat was the fault of capitalism failing to produce the one article of headgear vital to my continued health, prosperity and happiness, but I can't: I found many hats, it's just that none of them fit: a clear case of supply and demand. Half of the time my head was too small, the other half it was too big. By about 3:00pm, I was beginning to feel like some sort of middle-class cephalic monstrosity.

Therefore, I have written a letter to the President on the subject of the hat crisis and the middle-class. I urged the President to forget taking over the banks, the auto industry, the health care system, our mortgages, our credit cards, energy production, egg production, chicken production, the Moon, Mars, and the Sombrero Galaxy, the silliest galaxy ever to take shape in space [see illustration above]. What we really need right now are medium-sized hats, Sir, I said, speaking on behalf of my fellow citizens. Healthy heads require healthy hats. A man can only do so much about the shapes of gallstones and galaxies, Mr. President, I reminded him, even a man so gifted in gallstone and galactic formation as you.

Even though I was not his supporter in the recent election, I tried to maintain the respectful, reverential tone of address appropriate to the divinity his office. But I am not sure I always succeeded. I did try, I assure you. The fact is, it's rather difficult to write a letter to a public official of President Obama's exalted stature when you are somewhat vertically-challenged, like I am. It is well nigh impossible to do it when you are not wearing the appropriate hat.
I hope the Secret Service will understand my predicament and not take it amiss.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ex Nihilo

I wrote this about 8 years ago and I have never been able to find a place to put it. It is written in the rhyme scheme of ottava rima (abababcc, for you poetry junkies), and I always hoped that I would be able to integrate it into a larger poem.  But it seems to stand rather shakily on its own.

So, I publish it here, out of context, in the the hope that it will find a place on the Internet, if not in your heart or in your memory.

New York: A Fragment

Nothing in this City lasts; nothing is
       This dust, impossible to dust away—
Pollen, maybe, pulverized asbestos—
       The gulf between today and yesterday.
But nothing’s more insidious than this—
       This feeling of despair—what can I say?
Yet out of nothing, next to nothing—silt—
You and I, our Universe is built.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Robert Louis Stevenson

Speaking of stories and mad scientists.

It was in the back room of his brain that I first heard tell of the prim little doctor who would eventually become my imaginative role-model, if not my mentor, when I took my first tame, tentative steps toward song.

The Mad Scientist

Although I never met the man myself,
We seemed to share a barber—this Mr. Hyde—
A quiet man. He said the Doctor died
Of liver damage. Jaundice. On a shelf,

Above his licenses, stood five glass vials.
Used scissors, I thought, soaking in alcohol.
“Formaldehyde,” Hyde snipped, “to forestall
The gradual decay of human smiles.”

Each jar was neatly numbered and dated.
Each contained a pleasant memory
Dyed a brilliant shade of yellow he
Distilled from flowers—daffodils. Hyde said,

“According to spectral analysis,
There is no formula for happiness.”

Monday, April 20, 2009


The last few posts have finally been assembled into a finished “story” which has a working title of “A Private Symposium.”

“A Private Symposium” is the first complete short story I have written, apart from a quiet impressionistic piece (modeled on La Mer, by Claude Debussy) about a mad scientist’s attempt to resurrect a giant red squid using lightning bolts. This earned me an “A” from the boys in Mrs. Sugar’s 6th grade class, but a “D” in grammar from the Teacher herself, for mis-punctuating the phrase, “We’re fucked,” as, “Were fucked,” leading to some raised eyebrows among the School Board about the placement of one tentacle in relation to the mad scientist’s sexy, scantily clad assistant, Bubbles. This orthographical contretemps would not have been a problem in Japan.

The only other foray I have made into the world of fiction was a piece I slaved over for 2 years in the mid-90s. As I envisioned the work at the time, when I was 26, this story would be the first in a series of Jamesian character studies, centered on the adventures of one Professor Mooney. In the opening tale, Professor Mooney returns triumphant from a contentious conference in Boulder, Colorado, where he delivered a provocative paper on the position of commas in the sex life of Gibbons (descendants of the famous English historian of Rome, not the apes) at the Modern Language Association’s Annual Conference, only to find his white boxer, Marbles, dreaming of beef marrow bones in an inaccessible crotch of the elm tree in his front yard.

Most of the story we spend with the perplexed professor, orbiting the tree, trying to figure out how the dog came to be there. Professor Mooney advances several different theories which, to his nimble mind, seem equally credible: extraterrestrials, an earthquake, a mountain lion, Dick Cheney, ghosts, a tri-cobalt satellite (left over from an episode of Star Trek), the black magic of his gardener (Barney Haller), a cantankerous kite string, or a confabulation of faeries.

Being a professor of Comparative Literatures [sic], the most obvious solution to the problem of the dog, of course, never occurs to him: a deliberate prank perpetrated by the boisterous and be-freckled neighborhood Boy Scout, Tommy (boys bearing the name Thomas, as Dr. S.L. Clemens so clearly demonstrated in his seminal early work on adolescent male psychology, being the central source of mischief in the known Universe. And several dimensions yet to be discovered.)

For five pages we wander in circles with Professor Mooney under this tedious tree, looking up at his boxer, trying figure out just what has gone wrong with the forces of Nature in his secluded corner of Cambridge. It never occurs him to call the fire department, or grab the aluminum ladder the painters left under his lilacs and try to rescue his dog himself, so lost he becomes in a maze of thorny epistemological questions arising from the presence of a dog in such a tall tree: since, as you will notice, the word “Dog” spelled backwards is “God.” And we all know in what mysterious ways that gentleman works.

Sadly, I never got further with this story than the thin filament of drool connecting Marbles above to the Earth below before I abandoned it as totally unworkable. Comforting as the image of a ficticious dog sleeping in a ficticious tree might seem to me, I couldn’t imagine anyone else would believe it, except for the people of PETA, who would have burned down my house.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Sunday, 2009

A sudden rush of cold water from the leaky shower dissolved the nihilistic nimbus surrounding the maniac on the bench below. Like the reader, I had temporarily lost sight of him in this blog because of the steam. Like the reader, I slowly opened one eye to the significance of the loss. Then I opened two. Our fiendish friend was no longer sitting like a philosophy student, removed one step from Reality, as he had been until a moment ago.

Now he was standing somewhat further away, at a more educated distance, leaning against the hot ivory tiles of the wall, the glassy look of learning in his eye. The delicate fingers of his delicate hand were attached to the argent chain hanging from the shower valve above: and, for all I know, they have been delicately entwined there since Wednesday, waiting for the present paragraph to be written.

Released now, from a spell, he lifted his lips languorously toward the icy rain, rinsing his teeth, letting the water bubble effervescently down his torso from the corners of his mouth.

I am not certain when it was, exactly, during our discourse—probably in the short, opaque interval between the Book of Genesis and invention of Voltaire—while you were busy bargaining for deceased Victorians in Connecticut—when I realized that the lad not been summoned from the sulphurous depths of Hell in order to murder me—not necessarily, anyway—but that he had, in fact, been enlisted by other forces for a more shocking purpose: INSPIRATION.

“Get Thee behind me, Sir,” I growled, “I will not have myself being inspired by the likes of you. You, and your master, Beelzebub, be damn’d.”

The poor literal-minded fool merely blinked at me with incredulity, as if I were insane. What else could he do, Madam, I ask you? Nobody talks like we do nowadays, do they? He simply surveyed the steam in the room. Satisfied we were alone, and unlikely to be disturbed for a few days, he shrugged his shoulders and followed my instructions to the the very last tip on the very last toe of the very last letter.



Whether the creature was damn’d or not, we shall never know. He certainly was good to me. A priapal putto brandishing a tiny black bow and arrow on his left buttock leaves some doubt in this writer's mind as to both his Earthly pedigree and his Eternal destination. Whatever his Future, he disappears from our story now—into Infinity—with our benediction.

It is with more than the ordinary pang of regret that I admit to the reader, and to myself, before I could could acquire a name, a telephone number, a lock of hair, a leg, some material reassurance that he actually had existed—and a dialogue between us had actually taken place. He had not even patted my knee. Aside from some residual redness around my ear, a fading blush, and some prickly sensations elsewhere, he had evaporated—leaving behind only a hazy memory, a chain of images—a chain of events—in my mind linking us together these last four days.  


All I know is this: wherever he went, I wish him well. I can still hear those florescent yellow flip-flops, flop, flop, flopping in the locker room, growing ever fainter, as he hurries away.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday, 2009, A Day of Fermentation

FROM harmony, from heavenly harmony, 
This universal frame began: 
When nature underneath a heap 
Of jarring atoms lay, 
And could not heave her head, 
The tuneful voice was heard from high, 
'Arise, ye more than dead!' 
Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry, 
In order to their stations leap, 
And Music's power obey. 
From harmony, from heavenly harmony, 
This universal frame began: 
From harmony to harmony 
Through all the compass of the notes it ran, 
The diapason closing full in Man.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Pandora's Box

Before we get to my slaughter at the hands of a lunatic, the bloodbath alluded to in the closing paragraphs of yesterday’s post, I have a statement to make to my murderer, which may also be of some interest to the sympathetic reader.

I freely acknowledge a self-interested motive in turning philosophical here. One turns thoughtful toward the End of life. Sometimes at the Beginning. Occasionally, too, in media res, when we look toward the End. Sometimes we go back to the Beginning. 

Our eyes roll dizzily around in our heads in ever more anal concentric circles looking for something less scary to study, something in between Beginnings and Endings, something that doesn’t have quite so much darkness on either sid
e: something warm and wonderful, womb-like in its wetness, smelling faintly of security: something very unlike the misty, moldy Present.

The Present is what makes me think that the day of my destruction might be the ideal juncture to interject a detail— relate an anecdote—tell a story—that will illuminate—I hope not as an epitaph—one or two aspects of the chaotic style which orders my life.

From one angle, I know, my remarks read like a fruit salad. From another, they appear as clear as a chocolate parfait. I am coming to terms with my limitations, I am over 40, but the saccharine truth of the situation is hard to bear.  As Eliot says, we cannot endure too much Reality. The packages all say it gives you cancer. Fie on't, I say. Fie. Man may yet find a cure for cancer.  He has done more remarkable things.

My only fear is that, before we find a satisfactory treatment for the terrors of Reality, the madness behind my methodology in confronting them will bore the reader into oblivion and my voice will be silenced forever. This is the risk all writers take when they open their mouths.


Since, I am told, as a poet, a voice is all I possess, I will rely upon my mouth. My tongue. My teeth.  I plan to pluck arrows out of thin air with my teeth and hurl them directly at the heart of Death with a bow I have 
improvised from my two lips. I have seen Cupid do this before, in paintings by Poussin, so I am sure the action of Love is not without parallel in military history.  

I have always preferred entry through the heart rather than the head, though not for Romantic reasons, as you might too hastily conclude, but for practical, strategic ones.  Through the conduit of the ear, my words might get lost in the skull, or be deflected to a different destination by some voice in the chorus of ambient sounds you hear in a steam bath: the hissing, the farting, the coughing, the panting, the lute.

It is a risky proposition, I grant you. The farts may overwhelm me. They may asphyxiate the lutenist, too. The farts may overwhelm us all.  Death is a desperate man, when he is aroused; filled with desire, he will stop at nothing to get his way.  For him, the fart is not foul: it is an aphrodisiac.


Ridiculous, you say, Sir, what you are proposing is total insanity.

Ho, ho, I say, applying a clothes pin to my nose, I believe I have more reason than you, Sir, to laugh.


If you have the courage to face Reality, then, read on.


Last year, while my cousin, Lisa, was attending a summer conference on Eschatology, the study of Apocalypses, on the beautiful island of Bimini, I was lucky enough to spend a week at her chalet in Springfield, watering plants. It was in the sober silence of her home (Lisa is a teetotaler), where I first took the opportunity of a captive audience to read a plant some of my work.

At the time, I was deeply involved in correcting the pre-publication proofs of a ten thousand line poem I had spent twenty years writing--a modern Iliad--narrating, in minute, poignant detail, the slow dissolution of throat lozenges in modern American life—an effort, I might add, which an anonymous reviewer in The New York Times identified as, “entirely without precedent in the annals of Epic poetry: it is a work designed—not for reading or for recitation—but for use as a weapon of mass destruction. The author should be shot.”

My cousin’s ficus tree, obviously possessing a finer and more delicately attuned poetic sensibility than the green little idiot from The Times, greeted my rough hexameters with a more forgiving ear: it clapped. Take that, New York Times.

Indeed, speaking of the times [Lower case, please, printer], my cousin phoned just this morning to say that her ficus flourishes beautifully. It is larger and more luxurious than ever. She thanked me several times, again, for taking care of it, before mentioning, again, that it really hasn’t said very much to her, since she returned from that apocalyptic conference on Bimini. It sits in a cracked orange pot all day, in the parlor, in the sunshine, in a state of photosynthetic bliss, producing oxygen for her, yes, and a meaningless cascade verses about a bird—this thrush—busy building a nest in Lisa’s mulberry bushes, just outside the window.

Unlike Lisa's ficus tree, I try to ration my imaginative resources, reserving a portion for use in the Future, should we be so fortunate as to enjoy one together. When necessary—like now—I will borrow against my dwindling intellectual capital. When I exhaust my credit at the Bank, I will cheerfully steal. Let other poets worry and waste their lives with their hands in their pockets, searching for meaning—feeling for nickels among the particles of lint. I just want to be happy, and, if possible, rich. And where happiness is concerned, you never pass up an opportunity for theft.

For instance. Two weeks ago I visited an estate sale in the billionaire suburb of Greenwich, Connecticut. Skipping breakfast, I walked from the train station, arriving at the great iron gates guarding the mansion early, for a Sunday, around 8:00 am.   There, I spent a lazy morning stationed at an antique Queen Anne walnut secretary [suggested bid: $15,000.00]. I stood there for four hours, with my book bag between my legs, pawing though old shoe boxes full of cracked, broken, and purple-mold-spotted sepia-toned family portraits [price: 25¢/dozen].

Until the previous week, these people had belonged to a bachelor, a Mr. Smith, originally from Bath, England.  He had been a financier, whose speciality was mortgage-backed securities.  I had, on a few occasions, been his caddy.  We were familiar, as business associates are, but not overly so.  He once bought me dinner in the clubhouse. I wouldn't call us friends.  He left me nothing in his will.  He left no will at all. According to the blue postcard which I received in the mail from the outfit handling the Auction of his effects, he and his relatives now belonged to the State. Which I took to mean, by democratic extension, as an enfranchised voter, they belonged me. I was ecstatic.

In truth, the legal status with respect to claims on properties confiscated by the State of Connecticut and a resident of New York, such as myself, are a little vague. But the death of Mr. Smith filled me with joy and generosity. I would let Connecticut keep the expensive walnut secretary, the surrounding woods and lands, etc., all the big ticket items, in return for a small consideration.

It was with this eleemosynary mission in mind, that I returned to his house. I had decided it was time to acquire some breeding. I would purchase some solid, sensible-looking citizens who might be willing to fill in for the next 50 or 60 years (at the going rate, 25¢/dozen) as ornaments on the twisted branches of my family tree. When I proposed this scheme of redemption to the gray people in the photographs, all I received were frowns. They frowned even further when I promised them, if I died—WHEN I DIED—they would be set free.

Under other circumstances, these dour expressions of ancestral disapproval might have disappointed me. If I were Japanese, it might have led to suicide on the spot. However, as things turned out, it was Noon: the sun stood at the Zenith, in a clear, cerulean sky. Luck was with me. The wind was at my back.  I stole something else.

At the bottom of the last box of pictures, under the tissue paper so generously provided by the packaging department at—what is this place—Lobb's—I discovered a folded piece of parchment, which I at first mistook to be a souvenir of France—an ancient French Letter. It was not. It was an English letter. The dead man was British, after all. He looked like a walrus.

But this was a letter written by no walrus. It was a work of genius. It was three hundred years old, and it read as if it had been written yesterday. As if it had been intended for you. Or me.

[I have transcribed the epistle from the original, preserving, as best I can, the original spelling and idiosyncratic orthography intact:]


Clearly the terrible Titan, Chronos, hath interposed his savage SCYTHE between us! Never have two persons pined for Spiritual Emolument with more ARDOR (or more INIQUITY) and been so disappointed in their Desire for FULFILLMENT than the sorry pair of Faces the Fates set before us in our LOOKING Glasses today.

It is with great regret that I inform you that I did not die at the hands of the French on the BATTLEFIELD, in the Service of our SOVEREIGN, the good and gracious Queen Anne, on April 9th, 1709, inst. T’was the POX (the small one) which carried me off, Madam. I caught it pumping INFORMATION from a Ship's Carpenter in Cadiz.

Crueler even than Chronos, however, is the fact that Her Majesty’s Postmaster, a certain Mr. Jago, should be so whimsical in the EXECUTION of his DUTIES as not to be sensible of the boundaries of SPACE or TIME. Thus, in the VORTEX of EVENTS, as in a soiled Handkerchief, have our Destinies been CONFOUNDED. Thus, do you receive this epistle only now, on the Tercentenary of its Composition.

Do not a let a little thing like TIME come between us, Madam. I have seen MORTALS dissolve into Dirt who curtsied to the RULE of CLOCKS. And I have seen others cultivate a Transcendental PASSION—an AFFINITY of Souls—so far removed from the SHARPE curvature of Chronos’s SCYTHE that they passed, immortal, into the Heavens, unbound by quotidian rules of mental CHASTITY or casual CAUSALITY. Why should we be any different than these, my Dear, when our Hearts share the SAME buoyant Capacity to soar above the Zodiac, beyond the STARS themselves? This is no Time for TRIFLES.

[I am starting to stink, I am told by my companions, and turn pestilential, so I had best hurry up and FINISH writing, before I am DRAINED and EMBALMED.]

Please, rest assured, my dear, that, tonight, you may consult your congested Handkerchief without fear of REPRISAL. We shall eventually be meeting in a better place. As I gave my Ghost to Heaven, I sealed this MISSIVE with a Kiss.

The last Name to light on my lips was yours.



Post Script. Don’t forget to buy milk on your way home from the office. I think that by now Daisy must also be dead, too. I neglected to provide arrangements for her continuous care before I sailed for Spain. —Adieu.


I am not sure about the reader, but, upon reading it over again, while typing, I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that this letter—indeed this entire blog post—may possibly be a forgery. And a pretty poor one at that. I have read other billet-doux, other blogs, I spend entire days reading blogs, and this is like nothing I have ever seen before.

What's more, when I turn off my computer, the author hovers there, grinning at me like a ghoul from the glossy black depths of my screen. And, what is worse, sometimes he also follows me into the toilet, for my morning ablutions, and before I can shut the door and sit down, he takes up residence in the mirror.

Have you no decency, Sir?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Discourse on Method, not Madness

I am training for a marathon. Last night, after a nine mile run, as I was reclining in the steamroom, cleansing my senses, inhaling that soothing Sibylline mixture of mold spores and eucalyptus aerosols my gym specializes in, I was approached by a naked philosopher, in florescent yellow flip-flops, curious about how I developed my tight narrative technique. An answer will be forthcoming.

Before it arrives, however, I hope it will be noted, italicized, bolded in blood and underlined in black, that I normally reject the random requests I receive my fans at the gymnasium.  I take no risks. I am the scrupulous steward of an uncommonly high standard of appearance in all matters of public virtue. Like Julius Caesar, I am a Republican. I try to take my responsibilities to you, dear reader, and to my Art, very seriously. True as that may be, it must also be confessed, unfortunately, with respect to the temptations of talk, that all men are of mortal—if not mathematically equal—temper. Especially poets.

No matter how fortified we may consider ourselves to be against the seductions of discourse, no one is entirely proof against them. We must remember, when the mind is flooded with endorphins, or flushed with an excess of wine, or desire, even the Saintly—such as myself—may succumb and say, "Hello." We are all sinners. We need look no further than the philosopher Plato for verification of this sad fact. Confronted by a young Athenian engorged with curiosity, we may see the elderly thinker, Socrates, our prim Patron of Propriety, reduced to a babbling brook of imbecilities. And we may weep for him.

Yes, we certainly may weep. Indeed, we do weep—we all weep—we shed whole Pacifics some nights—but not for very long. Who has time for tears these days? Our grief is not Greek, after all. We will get over it. That is why we invented Band-Aids decorated with bunnies.

We are a goofy and giddy race.

I believe it should be abundantly clear from the brevity of the preceding paragraph that I bend over to no man in the pursuit of Truth. Or Wit. In case it isn't, let me reiterate: I will have no truck with false prophets, no matter how sexy in size or spiritual endowment. 

For the religous reader, of course, I may make exceptions. I am not without a heart, when it comes to emotions, you know, or a head. I am a friend to animals everywhere, of every stripe. Some of them are tigers. Some are zebras. Some are slugs. Some of them are my best friends—so you had better watch it. E-mail me a photo and your exact measurements and I will see if I have a cage for you in my mental menagerie.

[To continue.] Candor forces to me confess that, after nine miles of treadmilling, the very last thing on planet Earth I wish to do is trifle with a curious Twink. I greeted the inquisitive eye of this naked question mark [?] with a sigh and a circumambient survey of the Cosmos, which seemed to take in everything in the Universe except for him, his nihilistic nether regions, and those ridiculous florescent flip-flops. 

As a refuge from the temptation to talk, I assume, when it finally came to rest, my gaze alighted on a piece of plumbing ideal for meditation and pregnant with poetic potential: the leaky shower head suspended from the ceiling in the corner.

Undeterred by my chilly dismissal of his existence, out of the corner of my eye, I descried our persistent you friend remove his towel from his waist, and begin folding the sodden article into a two-layered square.  He sat down in a puddle next to me on the bench below—another student expecting a Symposium on literature, I imagined, and preparing to take notes. The hideous atmosphere of dramatic tension engendered by this action—the simple act of sitting down—made me feel very English (in the Masterpiece Theater sense), very Thackeray, very lost. Very nervous. Very old.

Drip, drip, drip, went the leak.

We sat there, one bench removed from each other, a short space, the distance fact differs from fiction for what seemed like an Eternity. I twiddled my thumbs—I was all thumbs—silently sweating. I was not in the mood. I studied the patterns of steam rushing from the vent, the tiles, the bottle of eucalyptus spray, the door. A grey glob of abandoned newsprint on the floor uttered the ominous syllable: “Ob—.” The haze grew denser. Hell grew hotter. I had come in here to relax. I found myself breathing heavily—harder than I had panted when I began running mile nine.  The air thickened. I was becoming deranged. The drip, drip, drip of the shower head echoed in my head, grew louder, dislocating the very senses I had repaired privately to this room to stick back into their proper sockets.

Why was my heart racing? Was I dehydrated, I wondered? I can’t see anything anymore, only shadows, I thought. What does he want? Perhaps I was wrong.  He seemed kind of friendly for a psychopath: he kept smiling.  I suppose most of them do. I panicked. Although there was light, the fog in this dank little room made me feel more claustrophobic than that spooky cave in India I visited with Dr. Aziz and Mr. Forster.


My Life was already circling the drain, when—


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Good Soldier

April 1st, 2008 was the date of my last posting.

I am not sure I really appreciated the solemnity of that particular date at the time, and for this I was punished by the Powers of Creation for impiety. Less than sixty seconds after pressing the POST button on Blogger, I slid under my desk, into the trenches, knocking over my computer, and falling into a deep and dreamy electronic sleep.

What visions coiled about my unconscious mind during the intervening year, I have yet to fully unravel. I probably will be spending the next several weeks stretched out on a divan, with Dr. Freud, just sorting out the naked women from the serpents and artichokes. Which is much better news for the ladies than it is for me, I suppose.

From my present perspective, however, back at work, calmly collected in front of my computer, my shadowy face glistening in the screen, the time between Aprils passed with uncharacteristically gentle alacrity, my consciousness wrapped in a soft, muddy, almost matronly mist. I woke refreshed, thanks to the kind words of a concerned friend, who found me curled up under my desk, next to the trash, gathering discarded apple cores, balls of crumpled Xerox paper, twisted paper clips, tired teabags, and dust.

Now, after a much needed change of clothes, a shave and a bath, I feel wonderful: as if I had just spent a delirious month in Deutschland, with my wife, Mrs. Dowell, and the
Ashburnhams, taking in the salubrious waters of Bad Nauheim.

The only problem with this sunny scenario (if you want to be picky and call it problem) is that I am not married to Mrs. Dowell. I have no idea who this lady is, Constable. I am not married at all. My name is not Dowell. It is, as I have been telling you for twenty minutes,
Shandy. And I have never been to Germany. I don't even know where Germany is. And even if I did, I am sure I wouldn't like it. The place sounds less like a spa to me than a spoiled petri dish, a sort of gigantic brothel for bacteria, the kind of establishment respectable middle-aged gentleman like myself never visit.

Seldom in my experience with literature have I met a more reckless, unreliable narrator than myself. I probably should be horsewipped. Indeed, this morning, it actually feels like I have been. Or it may just be that my undergarments are too tight. I am told by my two friends down there that I need a new tailor. Pshaw! I say, gentlemen. This whole recurring nightmare (some may call it "blogging") reminds of me of a poem once penned by my father, Professor Housman, concerning the delinquent diversions of one Terence (a man not to be confused with the immortal playwright).

Until tomorrow then, I guess.