My daughter has been playing an online game in which players try to run a successful coffee stand, controlling such variables as advertising, location, and product quality, in order to turn the best profit. One supposedly bad thing that may happen is that customers become sickened by the coffee, but of course, Mademoiselle has turned this eventuality into a desired result; nay, it has become the object of the game. She will not rest until the area in front of her business is a veritable Versailles fountain court of projectile-vomiting patrons.
Most people clean up from the evening’s activities before turning in for the night, but I’ve always preferred to leave things where they are, the better to reconnect with them, and with a slightly younger version of myself, on the morning after. Waking up bright and early to last night’s tea mug, with the damp bag of Sleepytime still in the bottom, reminds me that I was, just a few hours ago, in a mellow world, very different from the up-and-at-‘em condition in which I now find myself. If the Kind of Blue album jacket is still on the floor in front of the stereo, the lesson is all the more powerful. It’s like I’m looking back in time, to a yesterday that is psychologically ages ago.
Sunday night to Monday morning transitions are the most striking, and if the detritus of the weekend is still in place, I find I’m beside myself in a time-traveling sense. Cards and poker chips, beer and pretzels stare up at me from the table, stare forward at me, through time, from the weekend. If today is the first day of the school year, and last night’s Uno game is still in situ, then it calls to me across an even greater distance, from my carefree to my care-burdened self.
The just-passed hurricane reaches out to me too, from flashlights and candles gathered in the dining room, now bathed in the ironic light, and the silence, of the morning after. Of course, I don’t long for the storm as I would for the summer, but I long even so.
Once, in fact, I was able to commune, not just with my late self but with a late friend, through the medium of leftover spaghetti sauce. She’d cooked a batch of it before going home to hang herself, and we ladled it onto our plates for weeks.
Seated at the next table today at China Doll were three long-retired airline pilots who were reminiscing in loud voices on airsickness of days past. They seemed to think that “regurgitate” was more acceptable table talk than “vomit” or “puke;” and thus they droned on, in sentences such as “I started to feel sick, but I didn’t regurgitate. It wasn’t until we got closer to New York that I regurgitated.”
That was going on next to us. Above us was the only PA speaker in the ceiling, and it was raining down muzak versions of “Lost in Love” and comparable classics, directly onto our food.
Despite the excellent preparation of the eggplant with garlic sauce, I found it difficult to enjoy my meal. In fact, I felt as though my whole world was melting into a swirling morass of tossed cookies and lost love, Eastern Airlines, air sickness bags, eggplant and garlic sauce. Today’s luncheon was, in the words of Mark Twain, “tedious and wretched and dismal and nasty.”
A sunny Sunday is too much of a challenge for me. A grey one makes it easier to stay home and veg out with a clear conscience.
A former student recently asked me about campus radicalism, and here is how I replied:
The far-outness on campus is real and has been at least since the 80s, when I attended [my alma mater]. It was 99% a left-wing phenomenon, but some ‘conservatives’ got in the act too by pretending to be victims and marginalized on campus. Most of the stuff that happened at school back then would count as funny and charming today.
As to how this has happened, there are many explanations. My theory is the hormonal theory, which calls attention to social and sexual factors. Essentially, leftism is much cooler and sexier than conservatism or moderation or classical liberalism. As a result, the most radical people on campus will tend to attain social prominence. At [my alma mater], the ‘in crowd’ was composed of radical lesbian feminists. Conversely, heterosexual white males found themselves on the wrong side of history and thus could never be cool. As compensation for this uncoolness, the heterosexual white males had to present themselves as supercommunists in order to get any attention and acceptance at all. In my case, having crushes on the lizzies made the problem worse. (Actually, it goes back farther than that. Even in high school, I found that the more radical I sounded in class, the more attention I would get, from girls and also from teachers. Either way I was greatly encouraged.) The male college student trying to get laid by lesbians writes paper after paper, each more pinko than the last. If he becomes an academic himself, he’s already developed habits of thinking and an academic specialty that cannot be so easily changed. On campus or off, if there is any kind of lefty ruckus going on, I guarantee that at the bottom of it is a middle-class, heterosexual, white male trying to get a feminist in the sack.
Heartfelt praise and gratitude, thou saucy soul who affixed the upside-down penis sticker to the mailbox down the street. You give me strength. You give me hope – hope that, even in these debased and conforming times, even as the road before me narrows, straightens, and becomes ever more monotonous, even as each day’s food and music tastes and sounds the same; still there frolics the subtle prankster, still there sports the creative, visionary vandal. You render the common unique. You alter the uniform, making it irregular and baroque. With you lurking, I have no fear. With you on the loose, I might relax. Bless thee, Holy Pervert, for by you, we are all saved.
Writing on flags is an underrated pastime. The American flag lends itself to sloganizing, owing to its college-ruled design; and the experience can be philosophical and meditative.
My favorite personalized flag is the Spinoza flag. Pictured above is my current version, finished today. It replaces one done a few years ago (pictured below), which became frayed. I found that the gold lettering didn’t show up very well.
The translation is “The purpose of the republic is freedom.” (Spinoza put in a few extra words.)
My wife, a superior artist, produced the following design on canvas:
The inscription comes from the Greek statesman Cleisthenes and is an injunction “Not to Notice the Tribes.”
The missus also is a better forger of Abraham Lincoln’s signature than I am: