Sunday, April 28, 2013

Contrails over Sussex County

How the mind works, it's just this side of a miracle that it works at all. I was sitting in the kitchen minding my own business -- as though I knew what the hell my own business consisted of, the way the world these days comes closing in on me, a damn freight train, fuck knows what my own business is, as opposed to yours or anybody else's -- eating and trying to figure out these big leaps in sense that my gray matter has been making. As though the brain tissue was orbiting its own sun, minding its own business instead of mine. Lotta loose shite rotating around that stem.

I was sitting there eating french fries and it came to me how a girl -- no, a woman, though only in spirit all these years since her death -- I knew worked in a McDonalds down in Greenville, Mississippi and was awarded "Employee of the Month" because she made batches of french fries so fast and so well. She loved working there she said. "I had such good time." By the time I met her, she was in the city, Mississippi far behind. We had fun saying that line of Lowell's: "gored by the climacteric of his want…" Christ she could laugh at such words and she kept a whole slew of the buggers up her sleeve -- archaic words, neologisms, small words, funny words, cuss words -- slang was her specialty. It was a real gift. This was just as email was taking over the workplace, so she and I had to be careful what words we used for official business. Her life was full of love and heartfelt comedy but all I can focus on this morning are those french fries. Hot and crispy and salty.

Fucking Nietzsche, arguing that the ones among us who count are the supermen. Let him rot in hell. What would he say about Byron who worked in a Pepperidge Farm outlet store selling old bread, went to church and tithed, and volunteered at St. Mary's Hospital in Passaic? That was his whole life. When we prayed together at St. John's -- he'd recite these long intercessions for his brother who was a drunk -- he would raise his voice in song, and Faulkner's Byron Bunch came to me, the man nobody sees, the man nobody can imagine worth anything, the man whose love is true. A fur piece my arse, Nietzsche was a mess. My picture of him is the one I got from Gustaw Herling -- lost in his mind, embracing a horse in Turin, sad and stammering, his brain boiling, ecce homo laid low by the sheer size of his thoughts. I'd set Byron's humility against Nietzsche's willful pride any day of the week.

A close friend of mine glommed onto Nietzsche's characterization of people of mixed parentage as mutts. "I'm a mutt, destabilized at my very core." I thought to myself, okay that's what we all are, we Americans. Mutts. Street dogs. He's half Sicilian, half Hungarian. Then there was another young woman I used to know, she was mostly of German background, as I am on my mother's side. I told her one day that I would rather be known as a dumb Polack than an evil Nazi. "I know what you mean," she said. I don't remember what other blood she had in her but I knew she wasn't pure. These days even the royal families aren't pure.

Nietzsche remains a problem if you're inclined to think Christ's elevation of the poor in spirit was an honorable pitch. Christ's godhead is something I can't deal with, but the beatitudes still hold out enormous hope for those of us whose lives are filled with living but who won't make a mark on History written with a capital "H." Lying on my back on Rehoboth Beach watching the sky fill with gulls, then looking over at E. as she squinted into the sun, thinking to myself, maybe this is the best one can do, to be this happy even if for only a few moments. Nietzsche is also a problem if you like music but find Wagner's Liebestod a bit over the top. If you prefer Debussy's late Préludes, recognizing that Romanticism is dead and gone -- perhaps not forever, you never know what your successors will find blissful -- then Wagner is a ball-and-chain made of heavy metal. Something to drag you down because, in the end, you can't help but go teary-eyed at the fat soprano's death. Joe, who used an umbrella in the snow, played the Birgit Nilsson recording from time to time. It was Joan Sutherland he couldn't stand.

None of this is my business. I have been loved far more wonderfully than I'd had any right to expect. Contrails over Connecticut turn into clouds but here in northwestern New Jersey they disappear as quickly as they're made. Or maybe we just don't see them.

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