Sometimes in life, when you think you finally have your White Whale well within reach, you find that it has sent along a bloated Guppy in its stead. This happened to me about 6 years ago when Gladsome, Humor and Blue arrived at my door step via e-bay. It did not contain the long lost tracks from a mix tape of some 12 years past. Indeed, I held said mix tape in my clutches 12 years ago but somehow it became lost and has been missing for over 10 years. Finally, however, my childish heart beats true once more, for the White Whale has been captured and sweetly placed into my hands. It comes in the shape of a 5 inch square, plastic Boat to Bolivia. Smile, smile, smile. But if you know the title track, you know you can’t catch a boat to Bolivia.
And you can never truly capture your White Whale, unless you’re willing to be eaten alive. Something to keep in mind most times.
“Dying is pointless. You have to know how to disappear.” – Jean Baudrillard
The first man is Jean Baudrillard, the third, Kurt Vonnegut. If you know me, there is a good chance you know, or can guess who the man in the middle is. There is often much sorrow around death, and in this case, for me, there is some regret. I’d planned a trip that I didn’t take in time. But R. Hugh Dickinson lead a wonderful, full life. I am glad I was able to celebrate it with family in Seattle recently. I am proud to be his granddaughter.
“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Sirens of Titan
There’s been a lot in the news about Baudrillard and Vonnegut, whose deaths occurred around the same time as my grandfather’s. The writing of the two more famous men has influenced me in some ways in my life, so news of their passing touched my awareness more than news of this kind normally does. The grim topic of death and dying has been on my mind a lot lately.
Forever a skeptic, I will of course refuse to acknowledge synchronicity in the timing of these events. I will insist that it is all random yet I will search for meaning in random things – like a friend lending me the DVD, A Good Year. I found myself relating to the main character who’s life is changed when his beloved but estranged uncle passes away and he revisits the chateau and vineyard in Provence where he spent much of his childhood. My friend suggested the flick for several reasons, including my grandfather. So much for random. 🙂
My mind is filled with things my grandfather used to say. My eyes are a little wider and my heart more open. Every little thing makes me think of him. Grandpa Hugh may be gone, but he will never truly disappear.
In my life June has always been the month I identify with the most because it is my birth month. I was born on the 22nd, the second day of Summer, my favorite season. Throughout June, I often feel as though in some ways I am existing a little closer to myself than during other months. When I hear the word June spoken, I get a feeling of familiarity almost like hearing my own name. Now June is almost over, but summer is here, and I am about to begin a new chapter in my life. It is like a metamorphosis. I will move from the care free life of a “starving artist” to the stable 9-5 world of having a “real job”. If I were Gregor Samsa, I might be a bug at the start of the story and human by the end. But which is worse?
(Full version of this text can be viewed by family on my x blog.)
In other June news…
Nardin Academy across the street from my apartment just chopped down 3 towering pine trees in their yard making the back of the small private high school visible from the street for the first time in who knows how many years. The trees were inserted into a tree chopper and converted to saw dust right there in the parking lot. The smell of fresh pine filled the neighborhood for several days.
I learned the name of the Auburn Street walking guy (May 4 post). It’s Hubert, the same as my dad. He has incorporated the job of mowing lawns for money in the summer into his walking routine. He now smiles or says hello as I pass him on the side walk.
NYC is a pedestrian city to say the least. That is one of the things I love most about it. But when it rains every day during your short visit there, it can be a drag. There is something to be said, however for sitting in a Brooklyn cafe with a good friend, sipping coffee and reading The Great Gatsby as the rain falls down all around outside the window.
The only difference between the gay pride parade in NYC and the one in Buffalo is that in NYC it is bigger and people yell at the cops more.
June is the month of missing the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island because of rain.
June is the month of chocolate cake.
June is the month of looking into my heart and head.
June is the month of missing someone very special to me.
June is the month of new beginnings.
“Gregor Samsa – A young traveling salesman who hates his job. Gregor goes into the business because his father, after the collapse of his business, …”
“Finally, Gregor Samsa, having survived 30 years as an insect, becomes physically ill as the old apple-infection turns to septicemia; and he becomes …”
Read The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.
Just Call Me Sartre
I finally decided to open the old trunk that I’ve left sealed up as tight as a drum for what seems like ages now. It has bits and pieces of my history packed in so tightly that two strong men were hard pressed to move it to my new place on Auburn Ave. last Summer without hurting themselves. They begged me to unpack it first, but I was reluctant to unleash the memories.
Other than wanting to move the trunk again to a place in the basement more out of the way, I’m not sure why I decided to allow the heavy ghosts to stir. I found a lot of little treasures I’d forgotten about. One of the best finds was an old contact sheet from when Andrea, my best friend from childhood and I took her dad’s camera for the day. We wandered all around snapping birds and bicyclists, treetops and houses. That was a significant event in my past because it marks the moment I knew I wanted to “become” a photographer.
Among the old photographs, home videos, darkroom supplies and memorabilia, I uncovered a calendar I’d purchased when I first moved to Buffalo to begin grad school. On the last page I had written the following…
“For a hundred dead stories there still remain one or two living ones. I evoke these with caution, occasionally not too often, for fear of wearing them out, I fish one out again and see the scenery, the characters, the attitudes. I stop suddenly: there is a flaw, I have seen a word pierce through the web of sensations. I suppose that this word will soon take the place of several images I love.”
I couldn’t help laughing at myself. What must have been going through my head to make me write such dramatic lines in the back of my calendar?
Upon looking a little closer, however, I discovered that, although the passage had been written in the calendar by me, the words were not my own. Apparently I had been reading Nausea at the time, and I was so moved by that passage that I wrote it down. I went straight to my book shelf to search for Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre. I flipped through the pages and skimmed for the passage. Sure enough, on page 33 my pen marks directed me to the words. For some reason I did not include the entire passage in my calendar. It continues as follows…
“I must stop quickly and think of something else; I don’t want to tire my memories. In vain; the next time I evoke them a good part will be congealed.”