July 20, 2008

Fiction for a Sunday...

It was the summer of '67 when I was invited by a Hollywood writer/acquaintance to a hot-tub party at the Playboy Mansion. I declined for reasons of fastidiousness - I couldn't (or didn't want to) imagine what bodily fluids were in the tub. I figured that hedonists, being of the "eat, drink, for tomorrow we may die!" disposition, wouldn't go to the trouble of changing the water or adding the chemicals.

I wondered then if the Playboy Mansion was like paradise for Muslims - 76 virgins, well... It seemed Muslims didn't leave anything to chance as far as motivating believers, at least not the male believers. The Christians took it on faith: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard...". If it was beyond human experience perhaps it wasn't beyond the imagination, though the harps and angels and music generally left something to be desired. Christianity being a social religion, I imagined it a very social place, like a large family reunion. Or a place of rest, like the Sabbath rest, although these were competing visions since what if you wanted a rest from the relatives?

I reasoned that Heaven was like girls though not in the Islamic sense. I figured it got more alluring as you got older or wiser or if you changed, just as girls were yucky until at some indistinct point in early adolescence when they weren't. Before then eye had not seen, ear had not heard...

At school and during summer jobs my default setting was to work rather than socialize, which set me apart. I found the latter more wearying than the former. It had the unintended effect of making me more interesting to co-workers and schoolmates who shared their exploits while I listened, having nothing to report myself. I learned that girls and concerts and alcohol were the Elysian fields that opened them to transcendence while I found the same through chaste Proustian dreams, at least until people broke the spell.

I wrote novels in my head while working, composed symphonies while showering. I began each novel lyrically, like a song, not to show off but because it was dreaming-out-loud and dreams were what made life worth living.

Dreams bled into real life too, like the time I saw a black dog walking in between the rows of a soybean field, his head just above the plants just like he was swimming on land, which is what day-dreaming was like. It was as surreal as the disembodied rabbit at a greyhound track.

Then, another real dream: I've strung etymologies of obscure words together, sang Hungarian folk songs, wandered amid wildflowers, became intoxicated by hectares but I never saw anything as beautiful as the Sunday I saw that farm sitting still in the sun.

It was exceptionally windy that day, though oddly not while I was looking at the small but prosperous spread, everything in exquisite order. Entropy was momentarily damned; God was in his heaven.

Fields flanked the structures like the seas flank the earth. There was a white house on the left with a perfectly manicured yard in front (as if done by hand with barber scissors & clippers), a long white barn that was neither too high nor too short next to it, and a plump silo surrounded by gravel.

The house had the patische of age without the neglect. The silo had a tall scaffolding of equipment attached that appeared - from the surrounding circle of gravel - to spin around the silo when the equipment was in motion.

Such profundities and peace this odd machinery produced in me! Not knowing what it was was its pleasure. I longed not to know for that would kill it, as certainly as it I figured it had killed it for the farmer then absent, who was presumably looking with longing at a Manhattan brownstone.

The gravel shown white under the sun, like beach sand, tasting of freedom and the Platonic ideal of the rural for in all my memories only rural estates had gravel drives and so I associated them with the plenary privacy in front of me. It was like Heaven, or so I imagined in the time before spiritual puberty...

No comments: