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Tuesday, March 13, 2001
By Paul Ford
8 intervals from 13 Mar 2001 (Minuscule Headquarters Belief)
Now, I just wrote to you: "I don't know offhand what we do if it rains."
"Off hand" is an "image schema," say cognitive scientists George Lakoff & Mark Johnson, via Mark Turner's The Literary Mind. By using these words I metaphorically project a mini-narrative of a physical event: having something in my hand, instantly accessible.
But it is not in my hand but in my mind and the knowledge is not in any way tangible. Language comes out of our bodies, the motions and the feeling of the skin. That is how stories begin: one thing moves, or appears to move. After that it's all up to the mind.
I ate no sugar today, and only some refined starch. God, the candy screamed out to me from the supermarket shelves, with the crackers and the salty smooth things. Cheeze-Nips grew mouths and cried out for my nibbling kiss. It's pathetic that such childish monsters hold such sway, promising comfort, delivering removal and fatness.
Late at night, I spent 20 minutes in a bodega trying to decide what to eat. In my hand I held corn chips three times, a block of feta cheese, a tomato, an avocado, and finally I settled on: pita and hummus, an orange, and a banana. I was embarrassed by dawdling but the choices I made were, finally, acceptable. Hummus = too much oil, and pita = bad starch. But it was an informed compromise.
The absolute apex of sexual food comfort, of mouth-stuffing joy, would be a chocolate covered breast.
There are many exceptions to prove the rule that sex should only be after a shower. Sometimes you're drunk and you've been to a party and you were dancing or running around or whatever and you both smell like sweat and booze. And you stumble in the door, and the fellow just throws the woman on the bed, where she waits in a half-stupor while he tries to get his pants off around his disturbing engorgement. Then, quickly, without a full disrobing by either party, he sullies, ravishes, violates, dishonors, envelops. He smirches; in turn, she submits to complete besmirchment, suffering enebriated, pounding disgrace in ecstasy and finally groans out, heaving forth like a wooden dam burst under a monsoon.
Now, this hypothetical couple, if they were to take the moment to clean up, brush teeth, get scrubbed, and engage in pre-coital chitchat, it would cut the line that stretches between the bar, the cab and the bed, and the very delicate drunken mood might be fractured, all for the dubitable sake of hygiene.
I just bought a few books on Israel-Palestine, including Chomsky's book. Sad stuff all around. Everybody has blood on their hands. Went to Revolution Books on 19th St. Buncha commies. They promised to call me when Peter Singer's new "A Darwinian Left" came in. Ended up with three different copies of the Revolutionary Newspaper because woman behind the counter thought it was essential for me to see them. Everyone knew everyone else in the store. One fellow wore a nice red button with a sort of cloisonne picture of Lenin on it.
Far left girls, like the ones there shopping, are always cutest. All shapes and sizes, with nose rings and pamphlets for rallies for women's rights and Mumia-freeing, smart glasses. People on the right are so provincial, and it winds up their facts and robs them of joy. In the store was a nice pudgy girl with a nose ring and a curly-haired woman seemingly of mixed African and Arabic and Caucasian descent.
It was nice to see them and smile at them, and have an over-the-counter chat with Smitty, whom I'd never seen before. He had a low voice, lower than mine.
I should get out more; it is much easier to eat abstinently when one sees pretty girls wandering New York, and big buildings, and cars and streets. It feels like I'm coming out of a long fog.
[NOTE: 19 lines/grafs removed from public version of file.]
I have exactly 4 minutes before I have to leave for this meeting. Let's see what I can come up with.
The heat hisses in the pipes; the radiator knocks. Rain pours over the edge of the roof and bounces over the fire escape's many landings, headed for the sidewalk. Out the window, bodies in motion, on their way to and from the subway stop, in raincoats.
Take away the buildings and we hover in air, off the ground, layered above one another, points in a lattice of language and touch. Some are touching; some are waking next to others. Some, like me, are alone, often in front of one kind of screen or another.
Sooner or later we all come in contact. Too often, we measure our worth in distance from celebrities. I met a man who is friends with Bill Clinton. I know a man who is close to Jamie Lee Curtis. Claude Rains lived up the block from my childhood home. Celebrities have bubbled to the top; their lives mix with the wires; they have less recourse to walk out their front door and to the subway stop than the rest of us, because unlike us, they are integrated with the network of invisible lines in that latticework, they have become an integral part of our conversation; they play out in our stories, and have lost something of the earth in the bargain, have traded their lives for a chance to be translated into electronic ether and sent the world around, to become more medium than man or woman.
It's 9:47! 2 minutes over. Suit-jacket on & out the door.
Back from the meeting. This is what I saw:
A blond woman reading Jane Eyre with stung, pink lips. She was 31 or 32 and wore a light green raincoat, very modern. Her hands were small. She had clear, trimmed nails and smooth skin, beginning to wrinkle around her knuckles. The book was an expensive edition with a heavy blue cloth cover, on acid-free paper, each page adhering to the golden mean and cast in a vintage typeface.
A soft, fat security guard in a loose tie and suit jacket. I noticed how his shirt creased and folded between his right breast and his stomach.
Scratchitti (graffiti etched with a knife of keys) on the plexiglass train windows, indecipherable.
A postman in an elevator - a thin black man with short gray hair. He said, "please take another elevator" when I got on. He was delivering the mail, floor to floor. He propped the door. He had 40 floors of mail to deliver.
The Manhattan skyline, the lower portion, as I came off the Ftrain.
Things Not To Put in the Baby's Bottom
A Guide for New Parents
* Cotton, 4 lbs
* Man's hat
* Digital camera
* Last year's New Yorkers
Three Random Paragraphs
1. The Iago effect, trusting the wrong people and following their lead, is a classic theme of lit and pop psychology. I don't trust people who brag, "others like to tell me extremely private things about themselves." If a person /enjoys/ the power they have over others, is proud of the trust they inspire, should they be trusted? I think I was once such a person, which makes me even more concerned.
2. Really, do you still need that beaded thing in your hair, hippie? Huh? Or how about that woven bracelet around your ankle that you're waiting to rot off? Why don't you change those pants, you skanky, skanky hippie? Is that orange-colored viscuous oil you smeared on your body supposed to smell good?
3. I am also maybe eventually taking some boxing lessons. Wham! Wham! Wham! Wham! Punch the heavy bag. Jump up and down. Get big arms like a dockworker. Girls like a man who is peaceful and loving and kind and pets puppies with sincere excitement at their puppiness but can also beat the absolute living shit out of someone, if that someone is bad or scary. And you know what? Guys like a man like that, too. And you know what? I want to be that man that I like. I want to be able to lift a sofa, punch mean people in the nose, and recite a sonnet all at once. Is this too much to ask? Yes.