Friday, January 31, 2020

This Person Was Not

Had just had my hair cut.  I suppose I miss the silly routine I’d enjoyed in Beijing for the last twelve years.  One can only imagine that Laurent’s business, there on San Li Tun is in the toilet, just now.  Here in town, Anne, whom I called and was randomly assigned and who also, I discovered, also does my wife’s hair, was very pleasant.  My ears got a bit soaked on the wash-down but besides that all went well at my new salon de coiffure.  She travels.  She is repulsed by the President.  We had a lot to talk about. 

Couldn’t connect with my wife, who’s phone bill needed paying, so I walked down the road, looking for a place to dine.  In my pocket was my brand-new copy of Mahmoud Darwish “Why did You Leave the Horse Alone?”  A Palestinian poet from Acre, his grace and his bitterness cast me off towards Ibrahim Nasrallah and Emile Habibi, where what is yours is taken and resistance is noble, but futile and the fantastic is necessary to make sense of the overwhelming force pressing down upon you. 

I have driven by “The Main Course” in New Paltz, one hundred times or more.  Somehow, I thought they sold fresh seafood. As a pedestrian I learned, a bit more about the town than I’d ever seen otherwise driving through.  Rather The Main Course is a lunch place, where you order at a counter and they call out your name a while later, a bit too loudly on their karaoke mic.  I’d hoped to have my wife join me there, but I drank my wine and ate my sandwich and slowly came to realize that she was not online and would not be able to find me.  Piling through the Darwish I was, when I noticed a peer aged woman with a kind smile who was, of course my old high school classmate.  How grand.  I’ll have to go and say “hi.”   But that classmate died the year before last, I recalled morbidly, simultaneously. This person was not that person.  I looked once again and resigned myself to the cold facts.

Still no wife.  I walked then.  Walked down Main Street.  A proper pedestrian on the Main Street I’d otherwise only driven down.  No.  I didn’t pass a place where I might procure a blazer.  That’s one thing I was looking to buy.  Yes.  I did pass a Starbucks and a strong triple espresso would do just fine.  "Huh?  Yes.  Thank you.  No lid." And after that I continued along past a couple offering a Christian publication of some denomination. I made eye contact.  They looked cold. Couldn’t reach my pop on the phone.  He might have met me.  Alright then, take a left on the rail trail and walk along it home.  It’s only a mile.  And sure-enough my gal rang me halfway back.  And no, I was unable to overcome my spiteful feeling till long after I was home.  But it was a fine walk, even though I was striding snarky. 

Friday, 01/31/20

These Simple Mediterranean Pleasures

Damn, Fintan O’Toole can write.  I can remember greatly enjoying his work: “The Lie of the Land” from some twenty-years back.  Yesterday I got my second copy the New York Review of Books delivered to my house and noticed he had a cover article about Joe Biden, whom I otherwise wouldn’t have necessarily wanted to read about.  Someone else had gotten us a copy of New York Magazine which had a characterized representation of Biden and Warren and Sanders and Buttigieg on the cover, which I had little to no intention of reading.  But “Mourning Becomes Joe Biden” was a subtle look at Biden’s trajectory, his identification as Irish Catholic, his embrace of the dead Kennedy’s and his own, aching T.B.P.T (touched by personal tragedy). Here was a depiction of a candidate that felt Shakespearean, rather than polemical.

Loyal readers will know I’m persisting in my slog through the Old Testament.  People I know and respect have told me when I’ve asked that the Book of Job is a section of the Bible they quite enjoy.  It’s hard to see how.  God is goaded by Satan like a kid in a playground, into ruining the life of one of his innocent, loyal devotees and sadistically testing the extremes of what faith can endure.  And then he rewards him with new wealth and new beautiful kids after he’s wiped out the first lot.  Hey, look, a happy ending.  What a spiteful, miserable tale.  I’m sure I’m missing it all. 

What follows though, caught me completely by surprise.  Operative word: “Follows,” in the Jewish Study Bible at least, is “The Song of Songs.”  What a disarmingly romantic, evocative verse!  How many poor young men and woman, living isolated in monasteries with nothing but Job and Jeremiah and Ezikial to consider in the Old Testament, came upon the Song of Songs and read it over and over again, wondering why it was that these simple, Mediterranean pleasures had been denied to them in their monastic drudgery?  Predictable perhaps, but it was the first section I think I’ve come across, now, nearly sixteen hundred pages into the text, where I heartily commenced to read it over again.  I suspect I may actually return for a third helping. 

My mom graciously offered us a desk for this room I’m now sitting in.  It is a Queen Anne, I believe and while it is a lovely piece it is too small for my long legs.  I went down considered my options last night, after scraping my knees a third and fourth time, pulling in close, to type.  Books were uneven and other nothing else in eye-shot seemed sufficiently sturdy to hold up the furniture.  Down in the basement the four-by-four I’d hoped to find was nowhere around. But just around the time I was preparing to give up, I spied a number of similar sized paint cans.  And now the desk is resting on four red napkins, which themselves rest upon four paint cans.  It looks silly but my knees can now slide in and out.  Still, the Mrs. will not be one to approve of this junky this set up.  I needn’t even wonder. 

Thursday, 01/30/20

Not Impressed and Turned

A good bike ride today.  It was muddy and hard going.  Took some work to get traction but it was good to be able to ride along again.  Coming up on the apple orchard I saw a great pair of wings alight and settle in a tree about twenty feet up ahead of me.  Unlike ravens or even hawks there is something oddly human about the great round head of an owl.  He stood there for a moment and looked down at me.  I stared back and involuntarily made a ‘whooo” sound in his general direction.  He was not impressed and turned to fly away, as if he’d heard it all before.

I must be sinking three or more hours of my day, this week, updating on the latest news for the Corona-virus.  The New York Times had an enervating article documenting global Sinophobia.  “No Chinese Welcome” signs in Vietnam, in Japan, in Thailand and South Korea. DNA-level human behavior, certainly.  People are scared of the unknown.  I am scared of the unknown.  People in Hubei outside of Wuhan don’t want to talk to anyone from Wuhan.  Chinese from anywhere but Wuhan don’t want to talk to anyone from Hubei.  People from the rest of Asia don’t want to engage with anyone Chinese.  And the rest of the world doesn’t want to sit next to anyone who looks “Asian.”  Hopefully some time and distance will cultivate a bit of empathy. 

First one conversation and then another during which I refer to the "Seventh Seal."  My wife doesn’t get the reference.  Neither does my business acquaintance.  I remind them that something like one third of the population of Europe perished during the Black Death.  Ponder for a moment just what that might have been like.  It too spawned from East Asia, but by the time it got to Western Europe, who cared.  It was simply death, metastasized uncontrollably from each person to each person.  And the scene I have in my mind is not the chilling face-off with death over the chess board, but rather the scene in the woods when the infected man runs up upon their party, asking for help, asking for sympathy and he is told to stay away, and die somewhere else.  This must be etched in at the DNA level the same way we leap from a snake or feel terror when we hear the call of wolf. 

My stepson, down in Brooklyn.  I’d given him a vinyl copy of the Rutles Album which he kindly took a look at but didn’t quite know what to do with.  Well I heard today that he was playing along with “Please, Please Hold My Hand,” and other classics.  Does he know that it is a play on “Please, Please Me,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” ?  Does he know any of those songs?  Does it matter?  What matter it if one comes to Rutles through the Beatles or the Beatles through the Rutles?  Unlike fear of being hunted or infected, Beatle appreciation isn’t coded into our DNA, but it settles into the circulatory system with remarkable consistency. 

Wednesday 01/29/20