Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Aspects of Eponine

Eponine, significance of her: man's voice; passing resemblance to a bat; eventual cross-dressing; pride in literacy; happy childhood; pretty face; viciousness; wounds. There is so much to think about about Eponine. This past weekend I did a Google search for Eponine and found some of her fans, their outposts with photos. Because of course she is in the musical and major there: "the other woman," rival to the oh-so-ugh-too-sweet Cosette whom a certain kind of girl, a certain kind of boy, too, just rejects out of hand--Cosette the way-too-straight one. Which, I don't know: maybe it is hard to show on stage amid choruses and melting greaspaint the differences between compelling and attractive, even arresting and attractive. That the more bizarre is not necessarily more beautiful is a concept quite foreign to modern musical theater (at least). That the evils of her upbringing and her society have given Eponine a twisted heart destined to stop young, through some misadventure punctured; and that what she finally achieves of "redemption" through "love" is inseparable from the fatal harm she's tried to cause--and dies happily believing she has caused: these are aspects of Eponine that I think may not have survived intact the passage from book to Broadway. I'll have to see someday. Meanwhile I think about her and with her truest fans I blink back tears (19), walking around downtown outside work, or sitting at my desk, reading and re-reading her end, not wanting to leave that dead girl's tragic body in the dark and mire.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dolce far niente

My night so far, so sweet and idle. Listened to a neighbor practicing an oboe part in some orchestral piece I thought it might have been Tchaikovsky--which might have been the power of association acting on me living among Russians as I do. And still the night is young. I could a little later take a walk, stroll down the boardwalk to where The Beach Boys are scheduled to be playing at the bandshell as the headline act in Old Man's Band Night. Or I could sit at home and watch The Runaways (from Netflix) and eat coffee cake with it as I had planned. What do I feel like doing? I'll ask--I'll answer--at the moment, neither. Right now I feel like making marks inside a notebook with my pen, marks responsive to a speaking voice inside my head. Somewhere up above and just behind the eyes, I think, I believe it's coming from...

Have you been reading this series, Top Secret America? Dana Priest, top journalist, bar none. There I sat, at work, when I should have been reading Les Misérables, reading this series instead and receiving so clearly the picture of life in these top secret office parks that go on forever on top of what used to be farmland, where all day and night thousands and thousands and thousands of temps sit wearing headphones through which come voices of people who might be plotting to HURT US or something; along with, for instance, 45 minutes of me laughing hysterically at my sister's phone imitations of Mira Sorvino and Rabbi Schneerson.

The point being, the voice I hear as I write, the voices coming through wires into highly cleared ears--what's said is said, what matters is how it's edited. The other point being, What are those people defending down there in Top Secret America? Other than their firms and their own Life Styles? Defending the freedom to make lots of money and buy suburban houses and "vehicles" and drive to impenetrable workplaces to do unmentionable things on the taxpayer's dime--yes, I think so? Yes. They are defending a life that feels sweet to them. Now would they defend it on the barricades, to the death? The last point here being, how much, how infinitely much, it is to be hoped that they don't start to feel any need to, considering what their version of a toppled omnibus might be.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Marius left the horses behind him.

When Marius isn't there I don't miss him, or his pallor, or his honorable poverty, or his long walks and moony meanderings; Marius in love especially I do not miss. But whenever he returns to Les Misérables, poetry appears. Approaching the barricades at the Corinthe, penetrating the pitch black streets of Saint-Denis in a journey likened to entering a cellar--nothing but broken street lamps and no window candles allowed--Marius creeps street by street, guided by memory and fingertips alone, until he perceives up ahead something big, white, animate. It's the two horses that the insurrectionists have unhitched from the omnibus they've toppled for use in their barrricade. Now the horses are wandering lost among the empty streets. Marius approaches: and at this point a scene occurs that isn't in the book. It happens in the space between two paragraphs.

Marius approaches through the dark. The tall thin pale young man pauses to calm the two gigantic white horses, exchanging wordless language made of breath with them; his long hands stroke their necks and faces. One horse nuzzles his pocket, its lump of revolver, and one the black locks that stray over his forehead--Marius and his magnificent, epic, poetic, beautiful forehead walking smack into a benison shaped like a symbolist poem, complete with velvet whiskered lips invisible.

Monday, July 19, 2010


You know, at times I really wish I were the kind of person who could sit down and write 1,800 or 18,000 words about whether the internet has made me stupider. Me--or rather, everyone else and maybe me too, just a little.

Oh, you know, to be so and so easily convinced that I was doing something important, socially worthwhile, while I was working up pithy précis of the extant literature and taking such care over the data so as to achieve that perfectly circular inconclusive arrangment with every bunch of it. Happy as a cross between a rich gay florist and a clam in the deep cold salt mud, spitting after, the independent scholar-journalist, I wish I could be.

What a trip it's got to feel like! I mean to feel right and whole or wholer, righter, while opining at length; the doing and the consciousness of doing both rewarding. (Not to mention maybe even a check on delivery, or a PayPal credit, or a couple of events passes or something--I know how it works and I wouldn't be choosy like the others are.) I suppose I would be thinking, "Frankly this should come from me. I've got the answers and if I haven't got the answers I can get them and what's more I can pack them up so nice it makes you dizzy and your eyes spin. Mine might be the last words you'll ever read on the subject--" I mean, need to.

It's me I see me weighing in. Paragraphs unspool from my soft fingertips like spider webbing; here and there a trapped fact gasps. I'm leaving it all up to you, the experts, to slap the engines with your special monkey grease and keep my traffic high. My job, once you deliver the readers, is I keep that page view session long and longer ever longer. The hardest stuck will stay to fill my comments boxes...stay forever. I like I'm imbibing something enzymatic--fruity, meaty, mineral--feel rich. Hot. Creepy.

Look over here instead! It's me starting an important new paragraph. Which in addition to its personal importance is important because here is where I admit that if someone gives me a nickel for every time I make a mental note to make a Google search but in ten minutes or less I forget to so then I don't, then that will make too many nickels please. I would rather get paid every fifth lapse in quarters for laundry.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pluckers Wanted

Tuesday I had to leave off reading Les Misérables in the middle of the insurrection, at a wine shop, in the middle of a conversation. Work had intervened. Yesterday and today I had no time to get back there. Lately I miscalculate the hours I'll have available for reading, and squander precious minutes checking headines in The New York Times: Have they capped the well yet? Has there been another bomb? A new discovery? A scandal? Like bird killing in Brooklyn. 400 Canada geese--Canada geese which I remember when they were rare and a sight to see!--transported from Prospect Park to a gas chamber. Except they haven't been frozen for serving to someone, anyone, some holiday soon, I approve; even though their bread scrap diet wouldn't have done much for their quality of flesh or flavor.

I see this as a sign--that a massive and controversial goose culling feels good--that I'm really getting older now. This vacancy relieves me, the return of stillness to a pond I haven't visited in months relaxes me; the lawns and waters, refreshed by two days of rain, must be cleaner already, and smaller species feel they've got a chance again to hear themselves think. The geese sont gone; innocent for sure yet being so many they made for a big bully. A park bully, swept off to oblivion. What kind of society gives out food stamps and then lets itself get overrun by game birds? Which when it finally kills it throws away? Back at home I surf the internet, descrying the outlines of a plan that feeds a lot of hungry people--once or twice, anyway. Not to mention those fine fat-roasted potatoes on the side.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Burial

The effort of will involved in not reading New York magazine on-line: is it beyond me? In the continuing heat am I being sapped of strengths essential to discrimination? What I've mistaken for instinct, in fact requires practice. Like writing. I feel so unappreciated. From Zane Grey, wisdom: Don't--look--back.

Have to prepare something for Bastille Day. Reading at work of the insurrection of June 1832--the barricades, the skirmishes, the character of fighting in medieval streets with antique weapons, handmade cartridges--the character of Paris, where while fighting rages in other quarters the theaters are open, restaurants serving. The people face the soldiers: the difference here, in New York, would be that the soldiers would be aliens, not from here, half-hillbilly with blank faces; we would not feel "our" army confronting us, or even "theirs" of The Authorities. Here it would feel like the rest of America's army had come to do battle against us. Best tactic: throw a whole lot of prostitutes and 20-somethings at the problem, then pick them off singly, in alleys, as they stagger away. Perhaps this is already happening. Although if it is, the pace of our victories must have slackened in the last ten years with the city grown so much more wholesome. All the babies, the brand names and big boxes, the bike lanes, the hidden cameras, the secret contingency plans and mysterious drills: chill calm on the rails during train delays when one by one the passengers diagnose, "An exercise. Making us safer."

Three hundred thousand in the streets follow the hearse that bears George Steinbrenner's coffin. Up ahead, a line of shields, boots, helmets, black visors bristles. Someone in the front ranks hurls a new model iPhone which shatters on the pavement; a shard of screen glass spins and catches sunlight, looks too much like something sparking. Incomprehensible barking blasts from an electric megaphone; TV news helicopters drop clatter into counterpoint with one last giant tandem lock and load. Short pause; then, quickly, conflagration. Or rather: one side, made up of strangers from Arkansas, pours out conflagration on the other side whose ranks are grossly swelled by people more intent upon recording it than taking up the confrontation proper. At least one hand of each busied with camerawork or typing--the loss of arms, cumulatively, fatal--the rain of responsive projectiles, more like a drizzle. General retreat impeded by ambitious bloggers who linger at the mouths of side streets to "document" the carnage. Bud Selig last seen ducked behind a double-wide McLaren stroller toppled on its side.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Something Awful

Record heat wave in New York! A vestige of royalty visits Ground Zero! Mexicans everywhere! Last week I'm on the train again, in the hot morning, waiting in an air conditioned car while another car pulls up across the platform, passes. Unjostled, my pen makes nervous aimless sour blue marks. What happened to Les Misérables? I "took a break" and started reading blogs again at work--"blogs" being "everything"--on-line magazines, first paragraphs of boring essays, books reviews, even public comments. I have fallen. Why? Just gravity? Or something mechanical? There I was, hewing to the confines of my snake hole, when someone took the soil away. Bare air, aimless pointless tepid, full of fluff and dropped apostrophes. I feel undefended from the voices of the living.

On Saturday I have dinner, out of guilt, with my downstairs neighbor, she's 83 or some years old. We go to the Mexican restaurant nearby where all the Mexicans go and I'm in a bad mood. I observe myself enduring another conversation about skin cancer. Then it's on to chimpanzees and inevitably we discuss the one in Connecticut that bit a woman's face and hands off. It occurs to me that all old people must have discussed this story repeatedly and at length. It's one they've got memorized. It's one that got through. They find significance in it. What is this significance? What are old people trying to teach us when of all the stories out there this is one they pick to tell and tell again? Do they think it was an omen? Did they detect some kind of warning in it when it happened that they're trying to get someone to heed?

I try to put myself in her shoes--their shoes--those of all the old men and women who keep the stories, the oral traditions, the gatekeepers of narrative merit and meaning who have determined that the lady, her face and her friend's chimp make the cut. With them, I nod my approval over the elements here combined: horror and bloodshed being given, there's so much more. Connecticut real estate. Enormous incisors. First responders struck faint and aghast. Echoes of "African" savagery. White women being foolish, vainglorious, brave. Diapers, drugs, red wine and comeuppance. Yes, I suppose there were many transgressions here.

I tell my neighbor, just to add to the horror, I don't really recall the details, I think the cops had a problem--but I tell my neighbor over dinner that they couldn't tell, when they saw the woman on the ground, was she human? Or another animal? My neighbor shudders. "Because without our skins we look like animals," I say. For what? Why am I being so unpleasant? Just because tejano music stinks? Because this heat wave is too hot and long? I should have asked her then, Why again with the Connecticut chimp rampage? It's like a code I'm not in on; like a key to confidences rich in meaning but slipped into my sweaty palm it's nothing but an object I can't recognize. It only puzzles and annoys me. "Oh that stupid chimp story again! What do they see in it!" It makes me mad at her.