It’s 11:30 a.m. a Sunday in late November. I just put in a load of wash and got the Sunday paper from the porch. It’s sunny, chilly, not terribly cold. I take the paper out of its plastic envelope and look for the funnies. I try to avoid the news. Not necessarily because it’s bad, but because it’s stupid. The writing is bad, the topics are shallow and have little to do with any actual truth, and the bias leans toward the inane and narrow. The headline is, in fact: “Big-time coaches score big-time perks.” Did I say inane? Spectacularly inane.
Dagwood, on the other hand, is spooky. He is followed around by a drone. He sees it while leaning back in his office chair. It follows him as he goes to a photocopier. It follows him as he goes to a water-cooler. It follows him home. He enters his home, walks past Blondie who is startled to see him followed by the drone, and Dagwood says “Whatever you do, don’t say anything about the boss.” Is this meant as a sly attack on the use of drones, or what the French would call a “banalisation,” a humorous acceptance of the use of drones and surveillance of our daily and private lives? I suspect it is the latter. Dagwood has never been edgy.
I don’t know who the woman is on the cover of Parade. She is young, in her late twenties or early thirties, is very pretty, a bit on the heavy side, zaftig, with shiny long blonde hair, a red dress and red high-heeled sandal shoes. A red and white Christmas ornament dangles from her left outstretched arm and a large red globular ornament hangs from her outstretched right arm as she attaches it to a white (presumably artificial) Christmas tree, at the base of which are a group of beautifully wrapped presents. The caption reads: “My Best Christmas Ever! With a dashing new husband and visions of babies dancing in her head, Kelly Clarkson celebrates the joys of the season.” Who is this woman? Is she famous? Is she a TV personality? I look inside. I discover that Kelly Clarkson is a “jet-setting international pop star” who just acquired her pilot’s license.
I suddenly feel very old. I have become one of those old people so out of touch with the world of media that I don’t know who Kelly Clarkson is.
I hear a distant siren, rumble of a truck, drone of a passing airplane, our new Whirlpool frig kick in with a pop and a whirr. It’s the kind of whirr that translates in my mind as “cold.” “Your food is getting chilled. I am your refrigerator and I am spinning my gears and eating electricity so that your food may be nice and fresh.”
Thank you, Whirlpool Refrigerator. I wonder what our apartment would look like if all the furniture had dialogue balloons over it. The chair would be saying: “….” I can’t imagine what my chair would be saying. The chair never makes any noises. It supports my body. But it supports my body as an object, wood and fiber, structure and geometry. It has what Aldous Huxley would call a definite “whatness” but I can’t say what that whatness would say if its whatness employed language.
It is clear I am not destined to write cartoon strips. A cartoonist would know what a chair might say. A cartoonist would draw a chair and the chair would say “I am a chair. I have Being. Yet one cannot speculate about this Being without oneself being a chair. How else would one know what it is to be a chair? To be inorganic? That is to say, to be solid and void of blood or any other animating fluid, void of bone, void of muscle and vision, void of skin and fur. Yet I exist. For there is Being. The primal mystery for all thinking is concealed in this phrase.”
I hear another plane. There are lots of planes in Seattle. Kenmore Air is less than two miles from us on Lake Union, Boeing Field is 8.2 miles to the south and Sea-Tac, also to the south, is 16.5 miles. I rarely hear jets. I mostly hear planes.
I hear the liquid rebellion of metaphysical baubles. I hear the osmosis of eccentric membranes, the conflagration of alphabets and the singing of whales in my toenail. I hear a sack of fog moaning in my testicals and hazy secretions fulfill the wizardry of ink. I hear the promiscuity of light in a junkyard of ancient suns and a carnival of molecules in a drop of fire.
Right now, I’m attempting to establish the reality of a frog with a handful of words. The legs of the frog are long and supple and affirm the vivacity of being. Yet the frog resists becoming a frog. What I have here is the image of a frog. Do you see the frog? If you can see the frog then the frog has a true existence. There is something essential about this frog, although it remains an imaginary frog. But is it ‘a’ frog, or ‘the’ frog? “The” frog, the frog I began assembling, assembling with letters and phonemes, the articles of language, may be different than the frog you have imagined, are imagining, have yet to imagine, have put off imagining until some time in the future when you have more leisure to think about frogs.
Here are some things I like, besides frogs: the smell of hardware stores, cherry cordials, shovels and magazines, the smell of freshly dug earth, dollop of honey drooling onto a piece of toast from a tablespoon, the quiet glamour of soap, the paradox of dance, the mystery of transparence.
And books. I have a book that traces the history of sunlight in my shirt and a book on the idleness of colors under the influence of space travel. Olives and catalogues. Dictionaries and incunabula. I have a book that makes a noise like morphine and another that walks through itself word by word looking for thread. A book that squirts windows and a book that grapples with the camaraderie of turpentine.
A purple apparition hops into a sentence of green and performs a diagnosis on burlap. I rip a paragraph out of the air and snap it against a box of Mediterranean apples. I sip the absence of walls. I pluck a balloon and eat it. The paraphernalia of history dances on a twang of sternum.
I’ve forgotten that I’ve put my clothes in the washer. I go to the washer. I take out my clothes and put them in the dryer and come back in and try to figure out what’s going wrong with YouTube nothing plays. I start Patton Oswald and he starts a monologue about sweat pants and then he stops. YouTube won’t play. I try moving it forward, that doesn’t work. I click it on and off. That doesn’t work. Then I remember that I left my cardigan sweater with the clothes in the dryer and go retrieve it before it shrinks. I come back and try to get Patton Oswald going again. I get him going. He’s a very funny man. But it feels wasteful to be spending my time watching a standup comic when I could be writing wonderful paragraphs, big fat paragraphs full of subtlety and vertebrae. I could put a desk in it. I could qualify the desk. I could call it a sanguine desk. And the desk would instantly become a sanguine desk. But that would be a failure as a desk. To attribute an emotional state to a desk is to destroy the deskness of the desk right down to the root of the word, which is from Medieval Latin, desca, meaning “table to write on,” which in turn is from the Latin word “discus,” meaning “quoit, platter, dish,” which in turn is from the Greek root diskos, meaning “discus,” as in “discus-thrower,” or “discobulus.” I like “discobulus.”
I actually have a photograph of myself mimicking a discus thrower in the Louvre. I am positioned like the discus thrower, preparing to swing my body round and let a discus fly out of my hand. Only I don’t have an actual discus in my hand. I have nothing in my hand. But then, neither does the discus thrower, who is naked, and marble. He appears to have something in his hand, but I’m not sure what it is. I’ll have to study it more carefully if I am ever in the Louvre again. Meanwhile, I think my clothes are dry. I can go now. Go and discover the rest of this day.