Archive for August, 2011

The Attachment Of Free Molecules

“You’re an educated man: do you know what smell is?”

“A sense.”

“More than that. Smell is the essence, the attachment of free molecules of the thing itself. If we could really see each other, we would see clouds of loose molecules and atoms. We’re dripping with them. Every person you meet, you exchange some with. That’s why lovers reek of each other, because they’ve joined so completely that they’re virtually the same person.”

—Martin Cruz Smith, Wolves Eat Dogs


Gentleman, Start Your Engine


Before DNA testing and black pride, the South, not Africa, used to be the Old Country for African Americans. As W. Fitzhugh Brundage observed in The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory, because there were few physical memorials to the black past, this history was preserved in stories, which resulted in a feeling akin to ownership, if not of the land, then of place. That was in itself still a relatively new experience for me, not being afraid of being in a black place, not bracing myself for the anti-Tom vibe or the anti-queer vibe, which were often pretty much the same thing. Black New Orleans during Katrina V was extraordinarily friendly. Every single black person I passed on the street greeted me. Every one.

I bought a bag of fried chicken and some white bread at a cramped soul-food counter on Claiborne Avenue and sat to eat on a piece of concrete under the expressway. Not far away, black people were relaxing on lawn chairs beside their trucks, coolers at their feet. A vendor hawked fresh fruit to traffic paused at the lights. I thought of how my sisters and my parents would be astonished to see me, of all self-conscious black people, gnawing chicken in a public street. They would have laughed and teased me. I began to cry, it was a meal straight out of the distant down-home past, and I missed my family so much all of a sudden.

Congo Square, that meeting place of slavery and music, where Gottschalk came to get ideas, was still boarded up, locked away, but I went to hear the young brass bands in the neighborhood bars whenever I was asked. I danced in second lines; I danced in the streets, something I’d never been moved to do before.

—Darryl Pinckney, “Deep In The Bowl,” September 2011 Harper’s

Wearing Our Grandfathers’ Clothes

Left Behind

for ala, from the ship

“Everybody’s lookin’ to believe something or somebody. In fact, two people hit on me the other night at that benefit, about Jesus. Jesus people. There’s a lot of Jesus talk going around in certain worlds.”

—Jerry Garcia

When the spring gushes forth, it does not know at first where it will go.

                                                                                                              —I Ching

About three months ago, the world commenced to end. On May 21, at precisely 6 p.m. in each time zone, the Lord plucked up into Hebbin the faithful 3%, those who had managed to evade the snares of this world. And then He rumbled those left behind with an earthquake mighty, the first of many miseries that will plague the ungodly—yea, without cease—until October 21. Upon which date He will squash the planet like a bug. And that will be that.

Such was the plan, anyway. At least according to Harold Camping, an 89-year-old electronic preacher who had read him some bible, and found therein keys to all sorts of kingdoms. Camping had divined from his readings that the May 21, 2011 end-times festivities would kick off with an earthquake in New Zealand. And—yea, verily—there did indeed occur on that day an earthquake in New Zealand. As well as one in San Francisco, and one in Iceland. But these were mere rocks of the cradle, compared to the world-shaking thunderation that Camping had predicted. And today, nearly three months later, it is abundantly clear that, earthquakes or no, 3% of the world’s population—or about 200 million people—did not go floating way up in the middle of the air, there on May 21, as Camping had said they would.

Indeed, Camping himself is still earth-bound. When the day of judgement passed without apparent judgement, Camping pronounced himself “flabbergasted.”

“It has been a really tough weekend,” Camping said of that weekend when the world failed to begin to end.

“I’m looking for answers,” he added.

Join the club, bub.

But lo: the answers came for Camping quickly enough. By May 23, less than 48 hours after the end-of-the-world no-show, Camping had Divined what had Happened. Seems that Judgement Day really did arrive on May 21. But it was a “silent judgement.” Camping had somehow missed this detail, in his earlier readings. De Lord had in fact looked down upon de people on that day, and found them wanting. All of all, on Earth, were—are—doomed. Case closed. But, in one of His occasional acts of mercy, He has decided not to subject for five months all and every left-behind sundry to all and every manner of trial and torment. He will instead simply turn out the lights, all at once, on October 21. Camping and Co. will go up and play harps. All other earthlings will wink into nothingness.

So let it be jabbered. So let it be done.


Orwell Encounters An Extraordinary Fungus

Have you read anything interesting lately? I read for the first time Marlowe’s Faustus, & thought it rotten, also a mangy little book on Shakespeare trying to prove that Hamlet = Earl of Essex, also a publication called The Enemy of Wyndham Lewis (not the professional RC), who seems to have something in him, also something of Osbert Sitwell, also some odes of Horace, whom I wish I hadn’t neglected hitherto—otherwise nothing, not having much time or energy. Mrs. Carr sent me two books of Catholic apologetics, & I had great pleasure in reviewing one of them for a new paper called New English Weekly. It was the first time I had been able to lay the bastinado on a professional RC at any length. I have got a few square feet of garden, but have had rotten results owing to rain, slugs & mice. I have found hardly any birds’ nests—this place is on the outskirts of London, of course. I have also been keeping a pickle-jar aquarium, chiefly for the instruction of the boys, & we have newts, tadpoles, caddis-flies etc. If when you are passing, if you ever do, the pumping station at the beginning of the ferry-path, you see any eggs of puss moths on the poplar trees there, I should be awfully obliged if you would pick the leaves & send them to me by post. I want some, & have only been able to find one or two here. Of course I don’t mean make an expedition there, I only mean if you happen to be passing. What is Dennis doing these days? I want to consult him about an extraordinary fungus that was dug up here, but of course he never answers letters.

—George Orwell, letter to Eleanor Jaques, June 1932

Terms Of Endearment

When I Worked

August 2011
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