Saturday, February 28, 2015

Putting Off (Off-putting).

"... and in that way, he would say, one can live."
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Postscript:   Truth be told there's a corollary - one gets peevish at times, quite mean spirited and, "looks up to curse" as Steve Smith put it in 'God's Kaliedescope'; or (in a more secular time) over, or across and down, looks somewhere else to curse; but yes, curses.   ;-)

When you get to the food bank there is no choice, very little interaction of any kind in fact. I look for an instant at the guy running the show but he's obviously angry and, I don't know why so I turn away. There's some kind of a line and I'm blocking it. A woman with a bright blue plastic apron asks me if I need food. That's not really why I've come but yes, I also need food, so that's what I wind up getting.

Very similar to the welfare office in that way: you go in wondering if there's any help and wind up getting money which doesn't really do it.

The man who registers me asks if I have any income. He's been instructed to get proof but seems to intuitively recognize the difficulties of proving a negative and so smiles at me, and before we know it he's telling me his story instead. It's his first time too so I guess I'm lucky.

It would be fine (I suppose) if it were enough money and food to live, but it's not. There was a torture machine called 'le petit aise' and this could be it. I sit waiting with some others for my number to be called. There's no talk. She calls the number, drops a box on the table, takes my number stick (the numbers are written on tongue depressors) and goes into the back again to fill another box. I pack it up and leave carrying a bag, mostly canned stuff so it's heavy.

There are two streetcars back-to-back at the light and by jaywalking I manage to get aboard the second one. The driver is a black woman who laughs with me when I thank her for being so perfectly on time.

Wiley Miller: Closing Argument.
[Not me. I have no degree, no credentials of any kind, no reason to be believed beyond whatever you may imagine for yourself.]

Certainly it must be patho-psychology, an abnormal condition. Someone studying such things might be able to identify it, name it, and provide ... aetiology, suggested therapies, probable outcomes and what not.

Me?     ...     I've just noticed a progressive putting off, beginning years ago with leaving things behind: houses, cars, furniture, books and papers, and proceeding step-wise up or down (depending on how you visualize) to going outside only when necessary, making do, avoiding even the basics: teeth-brushing, bathing, eating, moving, waking.

And people, pick up on this kind of state right away - it 'pours off you' as someone said to me once about something else - and they find it ... off-putting.

I stopped cleaning toilets at some point. The (Christian) real-estate agent in Houston sends me a vehement email explaining his refusal to refund my deposit (which I have not asked for) with a digital photograph of the scale in the toilet and a complaint that he has had to replace 'the fixture' (which I do not believe). He doesn't mention all the brand-new top-of-the-line furniture left behind.

Maybe the name is a word like 'anhedonia' ... but not that particular one because, I'm not unhappy. There is joy, often, coming upon the singing cashier f'rinstance (see below). I wake singing almost every morning and the tune rattles merrily around my brain all day long, sometimes for weeks on end, even when the song is a sad one. Today it's the Stones' 'Love in Vain', and later on Paul Simon's 'Bridge over Troubled Waters'.

Laerte: Eu não estou gritando. / I'm not shouting.
Why don't you put    Why don't you put     Why don't you put    Why don't you put   Who are you
your memories         your metaphors         your jaws                your molecules        really?
on paper?                on the clothesline?     in the barrel?           in a credit rating?     I'm not shouting.

Gerry M. told me - way back in 1968 - that my personality was full of 'holes you could drive a truck through'. I didn't know then what he meant but, I remembered. He died ten years ago and someone said to me, "Aren't you going to the funeral?" I said, "No. The last time I saw him he told me to go away and not come back." Now, with Dunning-Kruger (more on Dunning-Kruger another time) in the mix I have, at least, a glimmering. I wish I'd understood him at the time.

There's lots of it going around. Part of the problem is that there are more good speakers & writers than good listeners & critics; part of it is the malignant Internet 'hurry', 'bustle', (blizzard?) around deadlines and the continuous quest for novelty; part of it is human fallibility (on both sides); and there are other parts too:
Here's what I would call a flawed argument for rewilding, maybe not flawed but incomplete, or the O Henry twist at the end goes the wrong way, something like that.

And another one (timed a few weeks before the anniversary of Malcolm's murder): Malcolm X Was Right About America by Chris Hedges - such a comprehensive and well written piece except that it fails (for me, somehow, again towards the end) to get to the point and moves off instead into irrelevancies. He starts out with "Malcolm was right" and ends with ... sincerity? "The price of freedom is death," (?). Say wha?

You remember Giles Frazer. He's the fellow who quit a senior 'position' with the Anglicans over their un-Christian response to Occupy at St. Paul's in London. In this piece he writes clearly about the circus part of 'panem et circenses' and then comes round (weakly it seems to me) with "Who would have guessed?". Who indeed? Well, perhaps anyone who thought about the 'industrial scale' butchery in Flanders during WW1.

The only hint that the writer of the article on the personal debt crisis sees through it is when she qualifies the term 'downward spiral' with "according to Ms. Lund," (Ms. Lund being one of the authors of the report the article is about). Otherwise it is all Rah! Rah! Growth and hand-wringing over any jeopardy. I read to the end hoping for another glimmering but there's none.

It's hard to say just what Bruce Anderson has in mind? He forecasts "a pretty good scrap about this issue [carbon pricing]" but follows it with "once again". I guess he's referring to Stéphane Dion's Green Shift but it's not clear. To my mind there is yet to be any 'scrap' whatsoever on this issue and the notion that Justin Sinclair will take any realistic part of one if it happens is ... ludicrous. Anyway ... this guy thinks John Bennett is on the fringe - he has evidently not been out there to have a look around and see. (Ah! As I go back to find the URL for the link I see that it has changed. He has been asked to edit it. I wonder why? If I remember I will post both versions somewhere later on.)
Malcolm X.Malcolm X, 1965 by Victor Boynton.Angela Bassett.Denzel Washington.
A slave in Egypt says, "I have been a stranger in a strange land," and doesn't know the half of it. What a (long strange) trip it will be up to the height of Pisgah and down again. The rivers of Babylon fit in there somewhere too, and the promised land of milk and honey is now an electrified mine field and we're back in Flanders again - with improved technology.

They say, "The truth will out." It won't. It doesn't. They say, "Home is where they have to take you in when you have to go there." Not so.

"Some say the world will end in fire, some say ice," (and some, dear Robert, just say the world will end, and weep).

In extremis the victims (if that's what they are) don't care who they tell - strangers at bus stops. And people tend to keep their distance because, once these damn crazies get started the yackety-yacking is hard to turn off or get away from (and anyway there's an apparently concomitant lack of personal hygiene and they may smell a bit).

The old man getting up onto the streetcar in front of me has pissed himself. I want to tell him something, comforting, understanding, say to him "It's OK," (when it evidently is not), but when I put my ticket in the slot and turn around he's gone.

We are stopped and I'm giving TTC tickets to my sisters in the entrance to the subway - a year or so ago, not very long after Vince died - and a man comes up and asks "Is there a 'problem here?" He has picked up whatever it is from a distance, something in our body language. He imagines (I guess) that I'm importuning. There are two women with him as well, waiting on the sidelines. They (my sisters) both deny it ever happened when I ask them later what they think of it. Another day, recently, in the park I twice say to passers-by "What a beautiful day," (and it is - ! - sunny and snowy and breezy and cold) and twice get scowled at.

While someone else meets Jane Jacobs in a park in the middle of the night and hands over her baby to be quieted. Go figgure. The author has posted a copy on her website without ever (apparently) re-reading it to see the typos.

Decades ago I'm in the middle of a brutal divorce (or at the beginning perhaps, the very 'setting out' - since these things never end). I stay up all night till dawn writing a love letter to her. As I mail it I think, "Now she'll see." But it turns up instead in the evidence for the prosecution - as proof of my constant malignant manipulation.

Alberto Benett: Apenas uma vez pra dia.
Alberto Benett: Mentira Graciosa.
Hey, you! Tell me                         I can't. Lies are never charming.     That doesn't matter. Tell me a
a charming lie.                            They usually bring pain and shame.         charming lie.
Another one?
Ballard Street: Watching fish.When the kids were small we had an aquarium. At first we half-filled it with sand and kept gerbils. When there got to be too many we let them go into the bushes along the backyard fence. The neighbour's cat sat on a post watching, tail twitching, for days after. Then it was guppies. I called it 'therapy', sitting in front of the tank staring into it when the kids weren't there. My daughter came home from school one day with a tiny turtle the size of a quarter in a jam jar. We organized a pile of rocks for it to climb out onto.

By the time the courts & lawyers had worked their jigs and reels and the kids were gone the turtle was grown way too big for for the tank. When I burned all the furniture and stuff from the farm house I let it go into the pond.

Now I keep five neon & rainbow tetras in another tank large enough to lose myself in. I feed them every day but they hardly touch it. At first I thought they might starve but it's been going on for several years. They seem happy enough. A schooling breed, they move as a squadron most of the time - I assume this means they're happy, or not unhappy - however one names the mind-states of fish.

I wonder why they keep on living ... but they do. And then I wonder how you know if something is alive at all? A sort of Turing Test maybe? And then, next, wondering how one recognizes spirit?

Bathos: Ludicrous descent from the elevated to the commonplace in writing or speech; anticlimax; a ‘come-down’.

Pathos: That quality in speech, writing, music, or artistic representation which excites a feeling of pity or sadness; power of stirring tender or melancholy emotion; pathetic or affecting character or influence.

I've never been able to keep these two words straight. Now I see a memory-clue: 'bath' -> water -> deep water. Might work.

"A thing so horrendous you cannot take it all in without becoming frenzied and hysterical and mad." (A statement by one of the characters in a downloaded TV program, I can't remember which one.) And then to be alone with it week after week, month after month, year after year in almost perfect solitude, perfect isolation. Everyone turning their backs and no one saying why, no one saying anything, until even this little Internet squeaking feels like no more than a vanishing point in some well hidden perspective (inside an enigma).

After that it's comparatively easy, not so hard to bear my children not liking me anymore and making harsh judgements. A mere biological rudiment or some other simple explanation I'm sure. ... I did about the same to my own father (minus any judgement), ignored him. Must be that pesky Golden Rule again: What goes around comes around.

Sometimes it feels black but it is surprising how little it takes to bring me 'round; don't take much at all; a cheap drunk, a pushover; but things are forgotten so easily these days; I have to write 'em down or they're gone ...
Coming to the cash in a strange supermarket one afternoon I find the cashier singing and she smiles at me when I compliment her (somewhat extravagantly). Her fingernails are painted with day-glo glitter designs - the thumb in a different colour & pattern.

A very skinny old man, emaciated, a stick figure, and a highschool girl with him at the streetcar stop. He is white and she is black and I can't guess how they've come together. And they are singing, very low, some pop tune I can't make out; and dancing - she moves her hips and he shuffles his feet (in odd, oversize boots) and nearly falls. She steadies him. His glasses are huge on his head and almost fall off. His head lolls back and his eyes roll down and he sees me watching. It is freezing cold and windy and they go inside the restauraunt to wait.

I'm waiting for a bus one afternoon and I see a man I recognize walking on the other side of the street with a gym bag, must be on his way home from swimming. A tall man, old, white hair, and he walks ... crabwise - not staggering, but sort of zig zag down the sidewalk - arms ... flapping, bag and all, almost as if he were still swimming. I am so delighted to know him.

I have screwed up the automated book checkout somehow and a librarian is doing the business. A rough sort of guy (but he doesn't look dangerous) approaches with a scrap of paper in his hand on which something is written. He smiles and wants me to read it. It's too small, very tiny writing; so, OK, I take out my glasses and put them on. "David," it says. "Is that your name?" I ask. He smiles and nods. "I happen to like that name," sez I. He takes the scrap and heads away out the door, satisfied. And then, after six years coming there day after day, one of the librarians volunteers her first name when I make a joke about her name tag. They all wear tags which all say 'Library' and I say somethng like "Funny name for a girl." And she even gives me a mental clue to remember it with. Wow.

It has taken more than a year to figgure out that a prepaid cell phone might be the way to go. Someone has told me they have cheap ones at Walmart but I have no idea how to find a Walmart until I stumble into the old Zeller's one day and find it changed into one. So I go to the phone counter and a young man named Albert kindly takes the time to explain it all to me. $29 a month for lots of service and no strings if you have your own machine. Unfortunately it's too late even for $29 a month but I thank him for his time and he smiles and gives me his card.

There is an old woman all in white (once in a while she is all in black but the outfits are ... expensive, coordinated sportswear ensembles) who regularly walks a fluffy tiny-little prancing dog in booties, also white. One day she looks up at me sitting smoking on the bench and calls over, "Nice day." "Yes," I answer, "It certainly is."
Maybe I shouldn't write these things down, but they're important somehow and I forget so easily, and I want to store them up for another day when I may really need them. So.

What drove Hal over the edge in Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece was (unwarranted, unjustified) secrecy; and we are back, full circle, to Blake's 'Poison Tree' and forebearance.
Stanley Kubrick: 2001-A Space Odyssey, 1968, conclusion.
        And if the old man climbed out of the cart and stretched himself (things were gathering pace now) and looked at where the pump had been that the soldiers had blown up so that nothing should be left standing, and complained, saying, "What are we going to do about water?,"  he, Michael K, would produce a teaspoon from his pocket, a teaspoon and a long roll of string.  He would clear the rubble from the mouth of the shaft, he would bend the handle of the teaspoon in a loop and tie the string to it, he would lower it down the shaft deep into the earth, and when he brought it up there would be water in the bowl of the spoon;  and in that way, he would say, one can live.
J.M. Coetzee, 'The Life and Times of Michael K', final paragraph.

Feliz niver querida.
... and don't forget - leeks tomorrow everyone!
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