December 19, 2014

Quotables

From the novel Let Me Be Frank by Richard Ford:
Normally I counsel patience in most things. Patience, though, is a pre-lapsarian concept in a post-lapsarian world

*

Copland’s soaring as I make it out onto the bridge. Barnegat Bay, this morning, is a sea of sequins the wind plays over, with the long island and Seaside Heights out ahead, appearing, in a moment of spearing sunlight, to be unchanged. Gulls are towering.

*

a parking lot behind the Pathway paves over the sacred midden of the lost Lenape

*

the sight line stretches all the way up to Ortley Beach and beyond, to where the old roller-coaster bones sit marooned in seawater.

*

He reminded his rich customers of the get-your-hands-dirty (and smelly) New England work ethic that made this republic great, powerful, and indomitable and always would, and that they’d gone to Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth to make sure they never got any closer to than the length of Arnie’s sweaty arm.

*

And because of something Sally said, I feel a need to more consciously pick my feet up when I walk—“the gramps shuffle” being the unmaskable, final-journey approach signal. It’ll also keep me from falling down and busting my ass. What is it about falling? “He died of a fall.” “The poor thing never recovered after his fall.” “He broke his hip in a fall and was never the same.” “Death came relatively quickly after a fall in the back yard.” How fucking far do these people fall? Off of buildings? Over spuming cataracts? Down manholes? Is it farther to the ground than it used to be? In years gone by I’d fall on the ice, hop back up, and never think a thought. Now it’s a death sentence.

*

I don’t look in mirrors anymore. It’s cheaper than surgery.

*

Arnie may simply want me to take the trouble to be there—to be his witness. It’s what the Christers all long for, dawn to dusk. It’s why there are such things as “best men,” “pallbearers,” “godfathers,” “invitees to an execution.” Everything’s more real if two can see it.

*

In later years, these tidy frame homes have been re-colonized by Nicaraguans and Hondurans who do the gardening, roof repair, and much of the breaking-and-entering chores out in Haddam Township,

*

A few vestigial Negroes have managed to hold on—by their teeth. Since my wife, Sally, and I moved back to Haddam from The Shore, eight years ago, and into the amply treed President streets—“white housing,” roughly the same vintage and stock as the formerly all-black heritage quarter—we’ve ended up on “lists” identifying us as soft touches for Tanzanian Mission Outreach, or some such worthwhile endeavor. We’re likewise the kind of desirable white people who don’t show up grinning at their church on Sunday, pretending “we belong, since we’re all really the same under the skin.” Probably we’re not.

*

WHEN THE RED-COATED BLACK WOMAN AT MY FRONT door realized no one was answering, and that a car had crunched into the snowy driveway, she turned and issued a big welcoming smile down to whoever was arriving, and a demure wave to assure me all was well here—no one hiding in the bushes with burglar tools, about to put a padded brick through my back window. Black people bear a heavy burden trying to be normal. It’s no wonder they hate us.

I got out of my car, advertising my own welcoming “I know you’re probably not robbing me” smile.

*

At least four prior owner/occupants have come to visit houses I’ve lived in over these years. I’ve always thrown the doors open, once it was clear they weren’t selling me burial insurance and I’d gotten my wallet off the hall table. I’ve just stood by like a docent and let them wander the rooms, grunting at this or that update,

Usually it takes no longer than ten minutes—standard elapsed time for re-certifying sixty years of breathing existence. Generally it’s the over-fifties who show up. If you’re much younger, you’ve got it all recorded on your smartphone. And it’s little enough to do for other humans—help them get their narrative straight. It’s what we all long for, unless I’m mistaken.

*

I experienced a sudden, ghostly whoosh of vertigo—something I’ve been being treated for, either along with or because of C-3 neck woes. The world’s azimuth just suddenly goes catty-wampus—and I could end up on my back. Though it can also, if I’m sitting down, be half agreeable—like a happy, late-summer, Saturday-evening zizz, when you’ve had a tumbler of cold Stoli and the Yanks are on TV.

*

Ms. Pines looked at me uncertainly, possibly stifling the urge to ask, “Are you okay?” (No more grievous words can be spoken in the modern world.)

*

Statistics show that great cravings of almost any nature, including a wish to assassinate, can be overcome just by brief interludes of postponement—the very thing no one ever believes will work, but does. That IS news.

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