They hit upon the Zeitgeist, you know, The Beatles. "You think you've lost your love; well, I saw her yesterday. It's you she's thinking of, and she told me what to say. Because she loves you, and you know that can't be bad. With a love like that, you know you should be glad..." Something like that. "Hey Jude" has basically the same message. That love is the reality. Don't get disheartened, or negative. And the young women and the girls in the audience screamed, overtaken with this expression of primordial truth, emotional reality, however you'd want to put it. And a large part of the modern world seemed to open up, as if embraced by the sun, looking around, and it was a good time for such a thing, maybe a time that needed such a positive truth about human relationships, and what better one to portray than that, a guy and a gal, caught in the tight rules of society and how to act, and their egos, and their hurt feelings what-have-you, and now able to break free and love each other as their hearts truly wished. A celebration of the possibilities of communication, wonderful, wondrous, with a sense of humor even. Stuff of higher consciousness, really, when you think about it. Fifty years ago now, more or less.
It makes you wonder, what's the zeitgeist now, who is conveying it, who is listening to it, in what form... Is it Karl Ove Knausgaard? The long books of My Struggle, the writer's shyness meeting the world on fair terms, the quality of deeply personal admission?
The zeitgeist is within us. It's in me, it's in you, in him, in her. Maybe it takes a trip sometimes, to see it, like if you've been stuck in Washington at your desk job punching out widgets so frequently that it began to seem like all there is, that and housekeeping, dishes, the laundry, and you go up to New York City for a weekend. A fresh experience, being surrounded by strangers, yes, the actor's secret, will open you up.
Every now and again I look back at some of things I've written. I don't read my roman a cléf piece very often, feeling a sense of not being able to look at it, made sad by it, the same reliving of things I do to my own detriment on a daily morning basis when I am lonesome and not knowing what to do with myself, when there's nowhere to go really except for a walk and the grocery store. But I think of some of the pieces written here, and I look back at the very early ones, back seven years ago, to see where I started, where the impulse began, continuous of the novel and other things. I reread Plane Crash, about first coming to DC. I reread A Train, about going up to New York to see a play my friend was in, having missed him in Angels In America in my rut.
I've been repetitive, I know. The same half-motifs or mentions. But, for better or worse, it is writing. It is some personal attempt to reach down into the stream of the times I find myself in, scared, vulnerable, just trying to get by, but also, in some sort of I hope positive effort, trying to do some of what I was meant to do.
I have barbaric American manners, I suppose. I wish writing could show up more in that field of manners, in which one is a writer even when he's doing other necessary things to pay rent and occupy his time. I'd wish to be courtly, temperate, a gentleman, an understanding type, one who looks past the immediate reactions for the deeper reaction that underlie quick words and doors shut in your face and phone calls that end abruptly, to not feel hurt in other words, but to smile graciously and try again in a more polite fashion...
I am the closer, I guess, somewhat ironically, closing the bar, nailing the end down, four times a week. I'm the last one at the restaurant I jokingly refer to as The Dying Gaul. What rush am I in? I'm a writer. Like Knausgaard I need, in order to be creative, the anonymity that allows for no interruptions when I am trying to track down the fleeing hares of thoughts and dreams and feelings coalesced around words. He works at a coffee shop until they start to recognize him as a repeat customer, say hi to him, give him one on the house, then he's done, retreating, back to wandering in search of some other place to write, as a little background noise can help the process, maybe in that it eases the sense of being lonely in person, in thought, in speech.
But I am not much of a, as they say, deal closer. The day off is simple. I get up when I finally am able to, I do the dishes, drink the tea made yesterday from the fridge, take on the laundry, and I sit at home, and I write what I am able to write. An attempt at capturing the mind's utterances in a non-judgmental fashion, because if I stopped to judge, nothing, not at thing would get written. And by writing's most simple of acts you are casting out a net, as wide as you can, without distraction, and it is the wider net that lets you catch the things on your mind, the things that come out as little blips and bleeps, which then need to be laid out and sorted, connected, so as to see the relevance of the individual piece of it. It's not always inspiring, nor inspired, except I suppose when you take it on the long term view, as if to applaud a poor clerk who, like a crow, collected some particular bits and pieces and in his off time glued them together in some Gaudian form that was simply what it is and nothing other, albeit evocative of natural form.
The leather couch bores me. I sit back in it, low, the laptop warm on my thighs. I used to go down to Starbucks on R Street and sit outside, but that can be problematic. I think of taking a good long walk. Did I miss anything? What did I miss? I'm sure some thought somewhere has been neglected, and I'm basically okay with being alone, as if to shrink down into the sea bed after all the energy of being up in the business end of the coral reef, the closer, the last one filtering the night's waters before going home, having another glass of wine, the comfort of the TV remote and finally the covers.
Call me Ishmael, the wanderer, ever since a particular time, set of events, a person of female form, never quite satisfied of where I am, with a few exceptions, a few moments here and there, a few places, that's just life, as they say.
I suppose that's why I like the play that Pogues song, Shane MacGowan's Rainy Night in Soho. It seems to inhabit a moment that is us, who we are. That moment we have in our day to dream a little bit.
I was reading somewhere an eye-witness account of Lincoln's entrance into Ford's Theater that night. The light caught him as he passed through the audience, and visible was the burden on his face, some form of sorrows habitual. That he got shot just as he politely chuckled over a line, well, might be somewhat comforting, I mean, if you had to find something in the whole awful thing...
We hear the drumbeat in Kundera in the novel he writes of his father's final illness, the Communist take-over of the Czechoslovakia, 1968. His father, a conductor, unable to talk, points to the score of a late Beethoven piano sonata, mutely expressing the deep significance of the piece, and we get the son's interpretation, Beethoven drilling down to the very center of the earth with each new run at the initial theme. As in the story of Hamlet, this is where that thing which is genius comes out.