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I would appreciate your indulgence in considering this ‘prologue’ to be one of those ‘Your video will play after this ad’ flags.

Unfortunately, there is no ‘Skip ad’ button here.

That vast numbers of people will vote for Donald Trump this November brought me long ago to the realization that the human race is irredeemably flawed and we need that asteroid to go ahead and wipe us out.

On a personal level, we have two friends of decades duration whom we once effortlessly considered charming/bright/witty, who have been purged from our lives upon discovery of their Trump support.  Some would argue against such a course of action, but those advocates belong in a monastery.

Better off limiting relationships, so we never learn ‘the rest’…

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An Ode to Small Talk

by James Parker — The Atlantic — October 2020

The correct answer to the question “How are you?” is Not too bad.

Why? Because it’s all-purpose. Whatever the circumstances, whatever the conditions, Not too bad will get you through. In good times it projects a decent pessimism, an Eeyore-ish reluctance to get carried away. On an average day it bespeaks a muddling-through modesty. And when things are rough, really rough, it becomes a heroic understatement. Best of all, with three equally stressed syllables, it gently forestalls further inquiry, because it is—basically—meaningless.

Small talk is rhetoric too. Americans in particular are small-talk artists. They have to be. This is a wild country. The most tenuous filaments of consensus and cooperation attach one person to the next. So the Have a nice days, the Hot enough for yous, the How ’bout those Metses—they serve a vital purpose. Without these emollient little going-nowhere phrases and the momentary social contract that they represent, the streets would be a free-for-all, a rodeo of disaster.

But that’s the negative view. Some of my most radiant interactions with other human beings have been fleeting, glancing moments of small talk. It’s an extraordinary thing. A person stands before you, unknown, a complete stranger—and the merest everyday speech-morsel can tip you headfirst into the blazing void of his or her soul.

I was out walking the other day when a UPS truck rumbled massively to the curb in front of me. As the driver leaped from his cab to make a delivery, I heard music coming out of the truck’s speakers—a familiar, weightless strain of blues-rock noodle. There was a certain spacey twinkle in the upper registers, a certain flimsiness in the rhythm section … Yes. It had to be. The Grateful Dead, in one of their zillion live recordings. And I knew the song. It’s my favorite Dead song.

“ ‘China Cat Sunflower’?” I said to the UPS guy as he charged back to his truck. A huge grin: “You got it, babe!”

The exchange of energy, the perfect understanding, the freemasonry of Deadhead-ness that flashed instantaneously between us, and most of all the honorific babe—I was high as a kite for the next 10 minutes, projected skyward on a pure beam of small talk.

A boy appreciates a little validation now and then.

This Washington Post piece is the ‘long-form’ version of something I’ve observed before, that White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany has all the shameless belligerence of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but in a sort of showgirl/callgirl package, so why did it take so long for the Trump ‘administration’ to find her.

The crawling of my skin is seismic watching her perform her routine.

I’ve cobbled together a question I’d like someone (willing to part with his/her press pass) to ask her, to tax that subterfuge algorithm brain of hers.

‘Kayleigh, one of the Republican Party’s positions on this Corona/Covid-19 ‘thing’ is that the Medicare herd needed thinning anyway.  Does it frustrate the president that the Democrats can’t see the silver lining here?’

Why do I dream?  With unmatched sangfroid, she’d just… speak.

Not so long ago, weeks-wise, we went on a ramble to the midsection of the state, visiting a half-handful of communities specific to Stephen’s family.  The primary goal was to find a cemetery just outside the town of Gordon.

Though the topic of cemeteries has of late become ultra-grim (I had to finally put it to my brother that ‘disposition of the remains’ needed to be addressed), this excursion was for the pleasure of curiosity.

We did find our cemetery, demarcated fairly strictly: old and very old to the right of a small church, ‘recently’ departed on the left.  We were looking for and found the grave of Stephen’s Great-great-great Grandfather, Israel Fountain.  Lovely name.

Unbeknownst to us, a short distance to the left of the church, resting next to his mother, is none other than the infamous former Savannah resident Jim Williams, central in John Berendt’s ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’.

To me, cemeteries conjure up Act III of Thornton Wilder’s ‘Our Town’, where the souls sit in place and converse.  They seem to have access to their immediate vicinity only, so I’m guessing Jim Williams and Israel Fountain will never have the opportunity to gab.

One of the other nearby communities we visited on our jaunt through middle Georgia was Fort Valley, where my dearest friend Dee Matthews was born and grew up and is buried.  Nearby her grave, I found another, marker tipped over, which I righted after taking this picture.

I feature Mr. Muttart remarking, ‘What a nice gentleman!’

With one exception, magazine subscriptions have died off in our household.

While we have succumbed to ‘consuming’ other periodicals digitally, in the single case that simply will not do.  For one thing, the paper stock Metropolis is printed on is very supple, which makes leafing through it a pleasure.  And frankly, I think any little ‘fetish’ thought you may be ascribing is just beneath you…

Honestly?  The ‘ivory tower’ aspect of some of the content occasionally gives me the pip, but the design and layout are really impeccable.

Like a number of other magazines, a kind of after dinner mint appears on the very last page of each issue, in this case called ‘Noteworthy’.  The illustration caught my eye and the idea/info is interesting, yes?  Click to read.

As to the matter of ‘mate choice’ mentioned in this piece, my hubby’s ability to just snatch up a scrap of paper and sketch something fully realized was a ‘fitness indicator’ for me all those years ago.

Here is a note I copied before it left the house attached to cookies bound for a neighbor, and a quick doodle for something he was working on about ‘tooting your own horn’.  Click to enlarge.

 

Here is a ‘vintage’ Polaroid of myself and the famous Tommy A, mentioned in the previous post.  Pardon my Eighties helmet ‘do’; I have never been burdened with existential quandary: I was placed on this earth to grow hair.

I’d made a fitful search for this photo in anticipation of that previous post, but to no avail.  Then, rather like (but probably not at all like) that term meaning ‘the predicament of thinking of the perfect reply too late’, it turned up.

I wonder if you have noticed that I refer to persons with first name and an initial, and sometimes full first and last.  I know asking this question is like imagining that your doctor has assigned a full-time employee to sit and wonder day after day if you are alright.

The answer is that the living get an initial, the departed, full name.

John Gilbert, the ‘insulter’ chronicled in the previous post, is – unlike myself – no longer with us.  I should at my age, and in these ‘Covid’ times, be more circumspect about frivolous references to death, but frankly, if I were any more circumspect than I am, I’d start twitching and sparking like an android.

Remember those photos I posted a while back, a naked young man clinging to various New York City settings?

Here he is, on the right, clothed, with our friend Tommy A.

(Photo credit: Barbara McKenzie, once our friend, then landlord, then neither; lesson learned.)

The very rarest boy, Tommy was one of the go-go dancers at the first public performance by The B52s, Valentine’s Day 1977.  He wore a hand muff, like the one pictured here, on his head, teased and hairsprayed into a bouffant.  It was inspired.

In the day, Tommy drove an enormous vintage road-yacht of a convertible.  I once detailed to him the automobile of one of my mother’s neighbors, a turquoise 1962 Chrysler Imperial convertible.  This was a cruel mistake, as I fear that a microscopic longing for that car may still be tucked away somewhere in his psyche even today.

I’m reminded of another automobile from my youth, not ‘voluptuous’ like this one, but glaringly ‘wrong’ in the landscape of my hometown.  It was a Rolls Royce driven by my optometrist, Randolph Gilbert.

Doctor Gilbert had a handlebar mustache, a fairly sober one as those go, and wore hand tailored suits; I think optometry just gave him something to fill his time.  I recall that the first note of his laugh was conventional enough, but almost instantly became a kind of giggle.

His son John was a friend of my best friend for a couple of years in high school, Tony.  Tony told me that John once asked him why he (Tony) was friends with me (David) as he (John) found me to be the most ‘insipid’ person he’d ever met.  Well, there you have it.

Do you think I’m insipid?  I’d go for ‘canny’ in your reply…

Much in the news these days, this is a teargas canister.

The paint job is mine — ‘candy flake cranberry’ — poorly applied on a whim some time after receiving it as a gift.  Just now it is displayed on a lovely Chinese Chippendale napkin table (which I’m taking with me when I leave Stephen) as part of a rotating retinue of other curio.

I mention the table only as a matter of pride — ‘pride’ in the sense of the Southern expression scornfully delivered when observing a display of ostentation: ‘Well, aren’t they proud!’.

At the end of my two years at the NSA in Washington DC, which coincided with the second half of my Air Force enlistment in 1969 and 1970, I was given a sendoff luncheon that might have appeared to the odd observer more appropriate for someone’s retirement.  To say I was very touched sounds like I don’t mean it.

At that luncheon, I received as a gag gift this teargas canister, an artifact of the 1968 SDS riots in Dupont Circle in Washington.  

The giver was a young woman with whom I had shared a group office at NSA.  This was a person of such core elegance and soignée that it was incumbent upon me to address her with a faux formality, which she returned (Miss ‘E’… Mr. ‘H’…) with mutual enjoyment.

The striking Miss ‘E’ was actually my contemporary, and my boss told me more than once, ‘You should ask her out!’.  Enough on that.

Miss ‘E’ explained that she had picked up the teargas canister on the street nearby her apartment, post-riot, thereby inadvertently adding to her ‘resume’: a Dupont Circle address.

I wonder what became of her.  In some bizarre way, I miss her, but if I’m not careful, I’ll start sounding like Holden Caulfield:

‘Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.’

My friend Johnny cuts my hair.  Over winter, we decided to let my hair ‘go’ longer.

Okay.  Then, the Corona lockdown came about.  Since my last snip, my locks have not seen scissors for twelve weeks.

We weren’t even aiming for ‘David Byrne’, but here we are at ‘David Lynch’.

Help.

I know what you’re thinking, but this is actually a type font you can buy from Linotype, FontShop, or Adobe.

I think it’s called ‘Halfwit’…

Why am I telling you this?

I started blogging in 2009, but in October 2016, I ditched the previous posts in a fit of cyber housecleaning. Some of it was really nice writing, but alas, as my old friend Susan once said: ‘Compulsion is a cruel master’.

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