Archive for August, 2021

Captain Stubing look alike & Julio

August 31, 2021

Passing into Alexandria, conformity of 1960s concrete, its modern re-creations, South Arlington, having given way to the stately brick and classiness of downtown Alexandria, that foreign-ness of wealth much present at midday. Energetic slender Irish 60 yr old with his beer at 12. My take: a person far tougher than I was who would go far farther than I would for much less of what I’d ever consider worth it, doing that all day long. Also, Captain Stubing look a like: old, enjoying his meal, brighter than the rest of us, steering himself among the stately brick, holding fork and knife. I don’t mind it, one is sure he deserves it, but that brightness will seem queer and separate. Bright and smooth at that age, not a Buddhist but a professional, wealth. Faces of people eating on the sidewalk I have to pass. It’s all fine. Now to the park by the river: see the small single power boat in the large river and its sound dominates everything up and down the shore, in the whole blue sky. When its sound is gone the waves arrive, which holds a certain childish interest, watching the waves the loud powerboat has made, how the rip-rap and the pier has jumped to life, just like the child I saw the other day, stomping the puddle with his rubber boot to see.

Very non-plussed later to see a young man too aggressively encouraging his young gal companion to persist in their exercise regimen, both very handsome. She had wanted to stop; had told him she could go no further; had said “Julio no I can’t”; and yet Julio, running ahead of her, turned around, still running himself, and said please please please you can! and she did, and at that point I thought okay good for Julio. Then she wanted to stop again, and he wouldn’t allow it; then not long after that, she again said she must rest, but still he pleaded and begged and would not permit it. And when I eventually passed the young couple on the path, which took me a while on my brittle knees, he was actually physically pushing her forward from behind with both hands and straight arms.

August 30, 2021

“Traversed by iron where the water drips down”, first on the trail where 395 passes over: water dripping from bridge producing brown on the concrete below. Then it is the bridge over 395 I commute across:  sign is green and so not iron but copper or bronze I suppose and “where the water drips down” the concrete has been traversed. Now today on the trail beneath Carlin Springs I see water issue from a spout creating a dark pattern on the wall and I’m unable to refrain from recalling — “where the water drips down”.

There was the moment when I realized that the Raymond Carver story I had recently read was very similar to the conclusion of the Altman movie Shortcuts and that maybe he had based that movie on Carver and that maybe I had known that once, that Altman definitely had, (he definitely had).

There was the moment I read Purity of Heart in the morning, and the moment I conceived that Summs performs the exercise known as a plank so strenuously that he actually transfers himself to another dimension. Summs achieves in one scenario what the book calls “rigor mortis alive”, making the plank permanent. He becomes covered in rock and and dung and coprolites and is dug up again and thawed out and exhibited to millions of eager museum goers after some future ice age.  But in the other scenario he doesn’t know what happens: the pain and stress induced by his performance of the plank is so great that the actual Book of Summs, the books Summs occurs in, is itself shaken –the book tumbles from the reader’s hands because of the extraordinary exertions of its principle character —  Summs tumbles out of the “ice” of the Book of Summs — from out  of The Statue of Summs has appeared Summs himself — entering the reader’s dimension that way. At this point he becomes the real Summs, who is possibly known as Summus, and who will refer to himself as “We Are.”


August 29, 2021

Customer said she hated driving down 12th street, which was so narrow. Customer said she was originally from a town outside Sacramento, possibly Roseville. Customer said her apartment building had really been going down hill in recent years. Customer said when she had moved into a new apartment years ago her neighbor had told her to get RAID MAXIMUM STRENGTH for the ginormous roaches they had (she did). Customer liked royalty and wasn’t as captivated by democracy — loved the opulent palaces of Indian kings. Older pedestrian who, a couple years ago, had dyed his hair jet black, then allowed it to go white, is dyeing it again, but a little more subtlely. (Probably pandemic related — another customer following similar pattern.)

Customer ordered hot chicken sandwich and blended coffee drink. Customers ordered three bagels, variously dressed, three assorted bottled drinks, and a large decaf iced vanilla latte with honey. Customer ordered two grilled cheeses, two cookies, and a large iced vanilla latte with honey. It was [a familiar figure] — Anything going on in local politics now? “No, it’s been fairly quiet.” How was McAuliffe polling? “Bout the same as the last election, looking good.” Customer ordered two vegetable quiches. Customer had previously ordered two buttered bagels. Attendant told amusing anecdotes about his bizarre weak: the story of him biting into a sponge; the story of the mice at home, how they had gotten in and what he had done to get them out and keep them out, and whether he had been successful or not; the story of how –usually reliable– he arbitrarily showed up for work at the wrong time on thursday, his mind having played a trick on him.

Whopping 9 mentions of nothing

August 28, 2021

Found myself wondering why Winter’s Tale had the most nothing-mentions in Shakespeare’s plays and I think a lot of the reason is this passage which contains a whopping 9 mentions, the most of any single passage in his plays that I found.

… When I started looking at this, I suppose I’d hoped to find some unifying idea behind these nothings, though these days the lame view I’ve taken of the matter is that Shakespeare simply found in these words (“thing”, “nothing,” “no thing,” “something,” “everything”) opportunities for wordplay.

… That said, Shakespeare does seem preoccupied with things whose existence is in a certain sense questionable. Is a lie or deceit –Edmund’s letter– something or nothing? Is an emotion –Hamlet’s grief– something or nothing — or everything? Is seeming to be real (e.g., the theater) real or not? Metaphysically, are we to construe nothing as literally no-thing or does absence have its own sort of presence? etc.

To be or not to be — nothing is involved in that question.

My old friends Plants & Nothing

August 27, 2021

Having just read “All’s Well That Ends Well” it occurred to me to go back to see what references to plants and to “nothing” were in it. Not much to note in the former instance, not a lot plants named and not much in the way of correspondence between them that I can see. With respect to ‘nothing’ though, its recurrence really leaps out at you in this play and I’m going to see if I can scare up an idea about it.

By the numbers, the Shakespeare plays with the most ‘nothing’ mentions are Winter’s Tale with 35, Lear with 34 and Hamlet with 32. The plays with the fewest have in the five to ten range, while All’s well has 26.

August 26, 2021

Customer said his infant daughter was crazy about these animals (pandas) apparently unaware (anyway, not acknowledging) that his shirt had a large panda face on it.

Customer hoped he wasn’t talking in an insensitive way but saw in the upsurge of LGBTQ communities an indication we were at the cusp of evolutionary change. (Maybe: we were changing the environment and the environment was changing us back.)

Customer said if he had an interest in laundering money –which he didn’t– he would send the attendant over the border in that hat, oh god.

Attendant: assuming that scientific knowledge had no practical application, would it still have any value? That is, was there any point in knowing that the sun was not a god in a chariot but a bunch of molecules undergoing a process, if we couldn’t use that information somehow? Customer: “We need to know, we have to know. We have to ask obvious questions about that sun god and in the process find out it’s not a god at all. And yes, we can do things with that knowledge.”

Attendant stopped customer’s narrative to ask her why she said she’d given the police officer a “smart reply”? What advantage had there been for her in doing that?

Customer had been struck by car while jaywalking, girlfriend reported. Had said to the driver -“why did you hit me”? “I didn’t see you,” driver had said. Taken to hospital but not seriously hurt, a sore knee.

Customer was doing okay, working part-time at the ABC store. (Was it busy?) Yeah it was busy (what were people buying?) Stuff for spritzers. (What were spritzers?) Champaign-y mixed drinks that were refreshing on hot days.


August 25, 2021

In the back portion of the shop is a book shelf, and that book shelf of course contains, among its otherwise odd melange, the book Moby Dick; and happening to peruse the second chapter of that work during an especially slow summer workday this last week, I came across the name Dives with which I was totally unfamiliar (despite having read this same chapter multiple times):

Euroclydon. Euroclydon! says old Dives, in his red silken wrapper- (he had a redder one afterwards) pooh, pooh! What a fine frosty night; how Orion glitters; what northern lights! Let them talk of their oriental summer climes of everlasting conservatories; give me the privilege of making my own summer with my own coals.

Euroclydon is one of those names I presume I won’t ever know, and, having learned, will shortly forget. But Dives, it turns out, is Latin for rich man and is the name informally given to a rich man in a parable in the Gospel of Luke.

The gist of the parable is that a rich man gives no attention to the suffering of a poor man in life but in the after life their positions are reversed. In Moby Dick, Melville imaginatively compares the poor man (“Lazarus”) to a person experiencing a cold night while outside in it, and the rich man, Dives, to one experiencing a cold night from a cozy area inside.

Anyway — Dives (two syllables.)


August 24, 2021

Customer said his girlfriend had left the windows open and airconditioning on with the result that mould was everywhere and the place had to be condemned, the furniture burned.

Customer asked attendant if he thought a certain drink on the board was good. It sounded good. (Attendant was vague.) Customer replied he thought it sounded good and would try it next time he came in.

Customer described herself as studying to be a Physician Assistant.

Customer –friend or classmate of the preceding– asked if she could clip a bit off the plant that was on the bar — she hoped to grow a plant of her own from that clipping.

Handle of the dry mop became detached from the head of the dry mop. On vacuuming, attendant discovered and held up to the light the screw that had held them together.

Customer said yes he did know what actual medical professionals called a broken bone —  they called it a fracture — and surprisingly revealed a medical restraint on his wrist. Another customer knew what a metatarsus was, since his had been broken a few years back — a clean break that had healed nicely.

August 23, 2021

Trying to think of what the customers who’ve expressed disappointment in America have said — what has disappointed them? For one person, it’s the size of the national debt and the quantity of cars. For another, it’s the lack of freedom of expression — how you can’t express an idea without someone getting upset or dwelling on the language. For another, it’s lack of basic standards and accountability. People make a mistake and nothing happens. An error occurs and nothing’s learned from it. Would like to ask, particularly the older customers, what the root of their disappointment is; and what piece of information would so pleasantly surprise them it could make them more optimistic about the country’s future. .. Going to try and ask about this.

What brings it to mind is customers of opposite politics being really very dour about where we are and what’s ahead — that’s the mood. (Though, by a lot of metrics, things seem not so bad, or quite good.)


August 22, 2021

Idea that I’ve had my shapes all wrong, not bad Kalligrams but awesome zaums — they are not mainly to be looked at but are mainly to be recited, this e.g., letter by letter, a list of letters. What they ‘spell’ is in some sense the shape.

“”; \B/ “”
a;””; “”; “”; “”;pCB
.d””; “”; “…. ” “; “”;bse
..e “”; “” m….. h “; “”;eNol
.l; “”; “” ; o……”” i ; “”; “”;rie.
..a””; “”; ” r………” p”; “”; “Gslm…
…....n “”; “”; d………. a “; “”; eieie…..
………...t”; “”; ” r……….. p; “”; “”usnt……….
……………..o “;””; “”i.. ……… e; “”; “”; E i …………….
………………”; “”; h………. … r”; “”; “”da………………..
……………….enfrentamientos armados –………………
…………oL 50 years, what’s itf…………
……pe. ging..siron.. sand . Ds……
…od. Maryof Egyptham r.o…
r ..
. gUA
he er.

Mystery Train/ Nuclear Physics from the Big Pink

August 21, 2021

Mystery Train (Greil Marcus, written 1975) is a wonderful book of music criticism, which I wish I had read decades ago. Just wanted to note here a few of its more surprising themes or undercurrents before I forget:

  1. He places a high value on the individuals in rock music. There was nothing historically inevitable about the music Elvis made, blending black and white idioms; rather, it was Elvis who did this and without Elvis there would be no music like his. The last time I encountered such opinions it was from scholars of a much more conservative stamp (or maybe just Harold Bloom?) arguing for the historical uniqueness of Shakespeare. It was not history that created those plays; it was him.
  2. What destroys great music and great musicians? In a word, audiences –the people who love that music and those musicians. This comes up most prominently in his discussion of The Band and Elvis, but in a more complicated way in his study of Randy Newman.
  3. No distinction for Marcus between so-called high and low art — a Robert Johnson song and Picasso painting are equivalent forms of art. He never makes an argument that this is so, but in the few places where it crops up as an issue, he takes a strong position.

This is Mystery Train, Elvis’ last recording for Sun.