I have a recurring fantasy that if one were to dial the telephone number of someone in the past, one would hear again a familiar voice, and time would instantly rewind from now to then. I still have Orson Welles’ telephone number in my book (213-851-8458). Do I dare ring him and talk to him back in 1982, where he is busy trying to convince Jack Nicholson to play Pellarin for two not four million dollars? Should I tell him that he’ll not get the picture made? No. That would be too harsh. I’ll pretend that I have somehow got a copy of it, and that I think it marvellous though perhaps the handkerchief was, from so prudish a master, a bit much? Even incredible.
“Incredible?” The voice booms in my ear.”How could it be incredible when I stole it from Othello? But now I have a real treat for you. Standing here is your neighbour . . . Rudy Vallee! Overcome that ‘quiet reserve of shyness.’ Sing!“
From out of the past, I hear, “My time is your time,” in that reedy highly imitable voice. The after-life’s only a dial tone away. “What makes you think that this is the after-life?” Orson chuckles. “This is a recording.” Stop story here.
—Gore Vidal, “Remembering Orson Welles”
I’ll tell you what I’d like to see happen.
The kinds of super-bright, hardworking geeky people who, 50 years ago, would have been building moon rockets or hydrogen bombs or what have you have ended up working in the computer industry, doing jobs that in many cases seem kind of ignominious by comparison.
What I’m kind of hoping is that this is just kind of a pause, while we assimilate this gigantic new thing, ubiquitous computing and the Internet. And that at some point we’ll turn around and say, “Well, that was interesting—we have a whole set of new tools and capabilities that we didn’t have before the whole computer/Internet thing came along.
“Now, let’s get back to work doing interesting and useful things.”
As someone said to me—I can’t remember now who it was—it is really remarkable that when you wake up in the morning you nearly always find everything in exactly the same place as the evening before. For when asleep and dreaming you are, apparently at least, in an essentially different state from that of wakefulness; and therefore, as that man truly said, it requires enormous presence of mind or rather quickness of wit, when opening your eyes to seize hold as it were of everything in the room at exactly the same place where you had let it go on the previous evening. That was why, he said, the moment of waking up was the riskiest moment of the day. Once that was well over without deflecting you from your orbit, you could take heart of grace for the rest of the day.
A peculiarity of American sexual mores is that those men who like to think of themselves as exclusively and triumphantly heterosexual are convinced that the most masculine of all activities is not tending to the sexual needs of women but watching other men play games. I have never understood this aspect of my countrymen but I suppose there is a need for it, just as the Romans had a need to see people being murdered. Perhaps there is a connection between the American male’s need to watch athletes and his fatness: according to a WHO report the American male is the world’s fattest and softest; this might explain why he also loves guns—you can always get your revolver up.