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CROSS TALK

Edward Williams

Month

October 2007

7) Anecdotal

The Barnes & Noble Bookstore, in Pittsford Plaza, is a converted department store, on two floors, and the only thing remaining from that department store are the escalators, facing each other, UP to the right, DOWN at the left, which I rode in fear and exaltation, I recall, in that department store which sold clothes and everything else, and smelled of sweet perfume, as a child. So, one can almost, by closing their eyes . . . no, they can’t–this is the future, from which one does not return or travel anywhere, except into the future, which is rising you might say. Therefore it is alarming to me, and all of us, when one of these escalators malfunctions, to use the ugliest word available for a necessarily hurried anecdote. I think more alarming when only one of the escalators is frozen, in this case the DOWN, which is only needed if . . . one has already gone UP. And there you have it. Up like a dreamer, and down like a mortal. Typically I don’t find what I was looking for at this warehouse, so at least I wasn’t loaded down as I arrived at the Down portal, and stood there in awe of the frozen metal stairway, almost keeling over right away, so difficult did it seem to make this adjustment. I mean I look forward to these down rides at Barnes & Noble, which are so timeless and make me feel like I am not even born yet, if you know what I mean–but this! I just looked around to see if there was anyone behind me, and tried walking. Few things are more difficult than walking down a stopped escalator, just nonchalantly, particular for a self-conscious cripple, I mean clown, like me.

So I put on a little act, at least to cover my disability, and then immediately with a sense of performance, as if there were great crowds watching. I went about a third of the way down, and stopped. I froze with one foot slightly in the air, and right hand raised like waving from the deck of a ship. And I stayed that way for as long at it would take. I was quite conspicuous, I am sure–except that nobody happened to look that way, the whole store was ignoring me like people do in dreams who you can’t get to notice you. It was a damn nightmare, for about ten seconds until I decided it was a stupid idea anyway, certainly; and I was worried someone was coming up from behind, and they would not be sympathetic, or amused. So I dropped it, and proceeded on down, unseen and only mildly humiliated.

Five steps later a tremendous sense of a missed opportunity, and a fierce determination, welled up inside of me, and I heroicly tried it again. I mean, if this isn’t funny?– the sight of an unfortunate man who happened to be innocently riding this escalator, when it suddenly stopped functioning. And he got malfunctioned with it! Of course. This was the high comedy I was hoping to perpetuate, on the spot here, in this silly bookstore (that never has what I want). This was the ridiculous untruth I was propelled to enact with my very person, on that unheralded day. This solo performance, executed with grace and free abandon, I fearfully expected and was prepared to endure the notice of . . . by someone! Either that, or I expected to initiate a stopping of the whole store, all its mechanical functions, all its useless inventory, and all the people in it, too. Or an embarrassed laugh, perhaps?

At the very least I saw that here I was creating the material for an anecdote to amuse family and friends, and get the kind of “no, you didn’t!” reaction, that I have come to expect, the majority of the time when I report my fabulous expectations and imaginary adventures. Of course, as a child, riding even this same escalator, and fascinated as to where those metal steps went after they disappeared into the floor, I never expected to be laughed at. But as an adult . . . I got used to it.

6) BROADCASTER

“Baserunning. I am telling you once you drop the bat, base-running is the most important thing as to whether you score runs or not,” ventures the TV broadcaster, as if he really knew from experience–or watching thousands of games. Maybe though, now that I think about it, the broadcaster speaks not from experience as such, I mean playing the game himself; but it is from something else, from another source, that this broadcaster has learned the truth and gained this insight. Because, most of us (sports fans) can readily calculate that, in reality, base-running is not the major factor in how many runs a team scores. It is important, sure, and can be the critical factor in a specific game–like the one we are watching!, giving in fact this broadcaster the opportunity to make such a claim. But overall, if you stand back, from the moment, in which a speedy runner scored all the way from first base on a looping fly ball, that he, that base-runner, could calculate was going to drop at the outfielders’ feet (such a good baserunner being equipped with just the right perceptual ability, in the moment, in the action, totally alive!, and making a split second judgement–or else he would have been a very bad baserunner)–overall, I say, and if you can resist being convinced by the broadcasters authoritorial voice, I say this base-running thing is, say, a twenty-percent factor in how many runs are scored. That is what I say, and I have watched alot of games myself, folks. And since games are more often than not won by more than one run, I could develop a strong position, that baserunning, while it certainly is exciting and a special skill that always needs to be mentioned by the sportscaster, focusing on the base-runner and his achievement, specifically, to get the due admiration of the viewer, who is myself and is really into the game, this game at this time, since . . . where was I? I was trying to figure out where the broadcaster got this idea at all, except from the lure of the spectacle of the moment. Baserunning errors can be disasterous, too, and lose you runs! Oh, I am just saying, subtract all the hype, and I am sure that if you put the heat on that sportscaster, as to just how much this blanket statement–which was, and I know I have gone on too long here: “Baserunning, I am telling you once you drop the bat, base-running is the most important thing as to whether you score runs or not.”– how much this statement is actually borne out by the facts, of the game as a whole, well, that broadcaster would then say with the exact same voice of authority, “well you know what it’s like, it seems true when you are caught up in it, and it is right in front of you.” Thus making him savvy, and wise, and an expert on human nature, to boot.

5) Science

Acknowledging the unavoidable subjective element in observing and interpreting the world, due to the very fact of consciousness in the interpreter, is easy; it is practically a sport. Such an existential attitude is rampant here. One becomes a scholar of moods, and a master of irony. But believing that this same, personal, puny consciousness– harbored in the situation of the observer (yourself!), actually changes reality, that is a more fatal step. One pauses at the edge of the pond, and looks at the leaves, reflected in black water. We can know we are never be sure of what is happening, and devise a suitable personality, based on the apparent fact–that there are no facts. But that we are a part of what is happening, and the facts are created right where we stand, with our help or our denial, that is a further story. I say, doubt is never possible as a final word–because a doubtful situation must change, and the next time you look it will be different. Because the very doubt you had is going to influence the succeeding reality.

This, I say, is certain: reality is not stable when put in the crucible of our doubts and fears. Neither is it impervious to our hopes. Science, the scientist in everyone, must instinctively back away from the accusation: that it isn’t neutral or anyway objective. The kid scientist knows better than the sentimental reader, that agreeing with the notion of a shifting reality, a change in the ground of being, or conscioiusesness itself, especially historically–this questions not just the techniques of their method, or the flaws in procedure. It means they have no method, and are every minute meddling and destroying. What is wrong in the view of reality that says we do not participate in it, is that it absolutely wrong. Not just approximately wrong, or wrong in the details of what it observes by thinking it can stand back from reality–but downright deluded, by reason of ignoring the obvious. (Need I repeat myself?) The scientific view is the one view that is totally childish. All its conclusions are wrong, by definition. All it knows are symptoms! Attributes! Science preens itself on objectivity, but it is only rigorous as a discipline of denial. On the other hand, I have some serious questions about this tone of voice I have insensible adopted.

4) EQUIVOCAL

Death is cast in mystery, a theme of mystery, an equivocal shroud that passes over the living; but not a subject that looks like it is ever getting cleared up. Rather it is a mystery increasing, and always encroaching. Death is pervasive; for it is not just that we all die, but that we all also don’t die, while we are alive. But we witness other people dying, that’s all we do in regards to death. We are watchers. That’s how pervasive death is, cutting two ways. The subject is not closed, or even partially dealt with, by pointing out that it is simply everyone’s fate to die. For meanwhile, everyone also lives in a world with death around them, it being equally a fate, as I say, to live with death. So one is always alive–that is my experience. When I compare myself with, well, some people who are actually dead, I have to ask, what has happened to them? All we can establish is their stunning absence, from our lives. I do not recognise anything else, that I might use, for instance, to apply to myself. We can’t say that something like death is in store for us, such that we really understand what has happened to the already . . . dead. For surely, we don’t know what has happened to them, nor what is in store . . . unequivocally, for us. Both deaths, yours–if you are slated to join that strangest gallery–and mine, so far away, are mysteries. And the question is: are they part of the same mystery?

3) EGYPT

Can you ask or expect to be recognised and applauded for writing things that are aimed squarely at penetrating mysteries that seem apparently to never have been dealt with, and that you yourself only glimpse as on a borderland of thought? Well, you could, if you were so naive as to assume many other people had been there already, and you were just bringing in the literary expression of this far-off land. And such a naivete might be necessary as a fortification, while you work on this excavation and monument. By the way, building the pyramids would not have been so difficult, if the stones were lighter at the time; they might also have been, these stones, very porous, which helps (and I say helps) explain why the Egyptians appear to be able to walk sideways, and through walls. It is as if they, the Egyptians were actually two-dimensional. Only later did the pyramids actually unfold, if you can imagine that! This reminds me of that cardboard Pirate Ship my grandmother gave me, that I got immediately at putting together right there on the rug, like it were an important assignment, at my grandmother’s house on Wellington Avenue–as the adults were humming and yawing and trading the silverware, way off in the dining room. I mean this stuff is barely expressible and you can’t just expect to bring it around and have other people go, “that’s so true!”

2) Slaughter

Biological processes are not devoted to survival at all, but equally and maybe even more so to dying, sacrifice, inward destruction, and even suicide. Where the idea became so pervasive that one lives to keep living, or that one must eat in order to gain sustenance and keep living, I don’t know. It seems obvious that every step one takes in physical life promotes one’s death equally or maybe more definitely, as it does make one fitter and fatter. We are fattened only for the slaughter. But it seems one’s personal death, the explicit death of their own body, has been left out of the general, onward and upward, survival picture, as if the world and society and Mankind, whatever horrible many headed monster of self-interest that is, are devoted only to life. But the actual person can just figure out their own fate by themselves. They are only essentially contributing to the picture by what they do when they are stuffing their face, or on their exercise bicycle, or contributing to the gross national produce, while active in the pursuit of grinning, all consuming, life. One begin to suspect that “life” is very must a catch-all, poorly defined, and it would look like death, if specifically encountered or described. And this is what a person faces eventually, somebody says to them: not this time, sorry, that carrot just make you fatally ill. Even in nature, cyclical processes which clearly involve death are viewed as essentially life-giving, as if the renewal of life trumps the phase it just experienced, the process were essentially devoted to endless growth, or at least survival–because for some reason this has been drummed into our heads, that life is interested in perpetuation, at all cost, and even we must contribute our bodies to it! And the sun must always come up again.

But there is no reason to believe the sun must come up again. There is every reason to believe in death coming up again, and I stare into the black mirror of existence and see my face deep in its depths

BLACK MIRRORS, by Lloyd Mintern

1) SEGUE

—–In my neighborhood it is the topical segue that is favorite form of transition, not associations from the person’s memory, certainly not dialectical investigation. That is how we travel around here, how we get from one place in our talk, and in our thinking, to another. It is what is most often most enthusiastically praised, when someone accomplishes it: “nice segue”. This word just indicates the phenomenon (like Prousts “phenonenon of memory” Montanos Malady, pg 121); the reason for the popularity, indeed the necessity, of this procedure, in my neighborhood, is, I think, to be found in the actual novelty of the external world, and the consequent chaos of personal experience of it; thereby producing multiple unique images; further, analogies are cleverly made to current moods, contemporary appetites, etc, and these can be made respectively. Genuis, as we also know around here, is the ability to make analogies, which is to make cross overs from one subject to another. Everything is apples and oranges, so to speak, and seques are profuse; the talent for making segues is noticed, and it appears unexpectedly in people otherwise undistinquished. The term itself coming from music, and music being a familiar place where segues are made, people go out to listen to bands here with inordinate expectations. Cacaphony is preferable to impossible conversation. All the time I hear people complaining about how no one else can say anything, and they can’t express their thoughts; but still the naive remain in a state of expectation in regards to what they think is utterly of the moment.

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