Last night I hosted my first Fete Francophone. My guests parler-voused Francaise off-and-on (they promise to exclude me more, next time). Many wonderful language stories though – oh, the faux paux’s I can anticipate!
I was also introduced to some music (Jacques Brel, MC Solaar, and Les Négresse Vertes), a news broadcast (Actualités), and Les Guignols (probably a prototype for John Stewart).
We will do it again, oui?
[The menu, by the way, was international in scope. Italian and French wines, goat cheese, a salad of local mesclun greens, red cabbage, haricort verts green beans with Wernz famous New England Vinaigrette, pasta with walnut sauce, and mango sorbet.]
Last night I hosted my first Fete Francophone. My guests parler-voused Francaise off-and-on (they promise to exclude me more, next time). Many wonderful language stories though – oh, the faux paux’s I can anticipate!
It is not often that one gets to participate in the precise phase of transition from someone’s former life to a future one.
Followed by a Kamikaze.
Washed down with some Massatucky Brown.
I just played pool.
There are no photos. The transition is undocumented. Except for here. Maybe somewhere else, too, but you’re on your own to fix location and pin down time. You’ll fail, of course. Time passes, the moments go. Some cycle back (most, actually, repeat in endless iterations with minute changes in variables) but certain times, special times, are unique in their unrepeatability.
Renee, Aspiring Activity Director and Surf Instructor Extraordinaire
Area 3 (not to be confused with Area 51) provided the backdrop for my return to Point Judith. (If it was not the precise scene of the crime, it was nonetheless crucially involved.)
After pitching camp and checking out the surf, we ate lunch, engaged miscegnation, plotted a plan to surf, and prepared to consult the heavens. Jupiter was going to be in opposition, and I had brought some spiritual tokens with which I hoped to dispense. How perfect could that be?! Jupiter, the largest planet, would be closest to Earth, therefore appearing huge : a fortuitous celestial coordination (why not?!) for letting martial bonds go – the idea of hucking a certain medicine bag with assorted precious stones into the sea was proposed, a goldfinch went wild with song.
I had a bit of trouble with the wetsuit, and balance, and staying above water (!) but a couple of waves caught me (!!), so I was able to experience the sensation of riding a wave. WOW!
I did, indeed, huck those ancient stones (toppling instantly from my precarious perch). I so love to look cool!
Moreso, however, I just learned to appreciate water, especially water in the form of the sea. Its potential as metaphor, and its sheer physical power. I wrote about surfing as an example for my students’ introductory assignment: writing about something exciting that they have just recently learned. I’m pleased with the strategy – what tremendous diversity has been introduced into the class as foundation!
~ and it was a blast: beautiful (the Deerfield River below the Shelburne Falls Potholes Dam), with bouyant company (a total of thirteen), only one lost car key.
Nearly every conceivable delay possible occurred. Nonetheless, spirits stayed high and humor ruled the day. “Can we get on the river and then solve all the problems known to man?” asked Genti while we waited for the last person to visit the restroom before finally heading to the river some 2 1/2 hours after the scheduled departure. The water was sweet, the nicotine thick, the schmoozing delightful. Water monsters tried to nip some derrieres, capsizing was kept to a minimum, rescue proved available when required.
Mishaps continued, more-or-less, throughout the rest of the adventure: a bit of backroads wandering, lengthy provision of a mosquito banquet in which Belgian jokes apparently ruled the day, and a very late dinner – at locations revised and undisclosed. Personally – and I do mean personally, in reflection upon how impatient I would probably have been in days of yore – I was so impressed with the flexibility and grace shown by all. (I know I’m not supposed to be mushy, here. Sorry. Sortof.)
You’ve all taught me so much – about how to live, and about how to be with people. Thanks.
All I wanted was some help with creating a database and an introduction to creating animation.
I was too slow to capture the half-dozen police officers arrayed around the entrance with automatic weapons out. While I was digging the camera out of my bag, commands were yelled and they charged in; by the time I had the scene in focus shots were being fired inside (rubber bullets, I presume).
(We went to work in the library, instead.)
A few hours later (on the basis of a social contract, because “If I put it in print, Steph will find a way around it just to prove a point” – can you believe someone said that about me?!), we headed out for exercise and our reward. Not that our journey there was without incident, either!
Did you think I was kidding?! How could anyone possibly chart the contours of conversation transversing the loop of henley, gender disparity of toilet facilities in India, insectology, the xprize, social network etiquette and tipping the hybrid? What neural groove formed in the discussion of a joint investment (Where? Whachusay?) as we hurtled from a hill through a pirate’s den to the launching pad at eastworks? I want a Free Spirit Sphere! No no, a massage account! A well-stocked pond to measure mental health changes over time beginning with adolescent male reading strategies! (Recommendation: one Complaint Storage Room, with an endlessly-repeating tape of a successful escape from Guantanamo Bay.)
See The Fall, Wall-E, remember Matt. Think, fools! No no, that’s depressing, never mind. Let’s get back to the duct of Galini.
Ursula Le Guin
One of my post-sailing-adventure musings is, what if I had read Longitude shipboard instead of The Telling?
There’s no way to know, of course, what would have changed or whether those changes might have mattered, in the end. Captain explained how sailors use the variety of sounds from gongs and bells to triangulate position in fog. “Can you really tell what direction the sound is coming from?” I wondered. “In general,” she replied. So there you would be, unable to see sky or shore, listening. Moving (because how can you stop?), and listening. Straining to hear a hint of familiar sound, constructing a mental map against remembered ephemera, calculating where you must be (the reckoning?), and committing yourself to being there – fixed (dead?) – in that moment. Then, you would begin to move the boat in the direction your imagined memory suggests, calculating speed and direction by wind and current with no other reference point except a longed-for next sound.
Fog is an extreme version. (Definitions of “dead reckoning” describe the process of “estimating one’s current position” and then “advancing … based upon [other] known [facts of] speed, elapsed time, and course.”) In lieu of clear vision, i.e., when one must estimate location, not only might audition take prominence, some neuroimaging research shows emotional perception is also affected.
Ok, yes, you caught me – I am making a big metaphorical leap: from the literal to the representational, from the physical to the symbolic. Loss of clear sight from conditions in the external visual environment or due to perturbations in the internal affective state are not exactly the same thing: but the physicality of impaired vision on knowledge of one’s geometrical position in relation to other physical objects can have (I propose!) similar effects as an internal confusion about one’s status, role, or relationship (to name a few social scientific categories) in relation to comparable “position(s)” of others.
Dava Sobel details instances in which, “Too often, the technique of dead reckoning marked [any random sea captain, pre-chronometer] for a dead man” (1995, p. 14). No one died on our journey (Thank god! I hear the Captain exclaim), but we definitely mis-fixed a few crucial reference points along the way, keeping corrective navigation in turmoil.
Discouraging as Anonymous’ judgment is (a pal wrote, “hey, that “anonymous” poster was way outta line! What was that all about??!!), the solution presented by “Rocks and Shoals” (Articles for the Government of the United States Navy, 1930) imposes a severe lack of ambiguity on relative social position/status. While Captain Donald I. Thomas USN (Ret.) defends the justice meted out under the original document as “speedy and fair, with the rights of the accused properly safeguarded,” he ultimately celebrates the code’s demise. Presumably not only because he no longer had to listen to it being read out loud once a month, but because it was a source of abuse:
“We got the message loud and clear that we were expected to throw the book at the accused and leave leniency, if any, to [a particular Base Commander]. This well-understood command influence remained until 1951, when the Uniform Code of Military Justice came into being. One of its provisions was that “no Convening authority or commanding officer could censor, reprimand or admonish any court or member with respect to findings and sentence adjudged by the Court and may not attempt to coerce or influence action of a court in reaching its finding or sentence.”
Under the Uniform Code, continues Capt. Thomas: “The administration of justice took on more of the characteristics of civil law; not surprising since it was drafted by members of Congress, many of them lawyers who had served in the Armed Forces during the War. Under the Uniform Code, greater latitude was given to peremptory challenges, and the finding of guilt required a two-thirds majority in all but capital cases.” (There may be hope for me, yet!) I have no idea what Anonymous’ invocation of the Rocks and Shoals was “all about,” but the thought that someone I met wrote so starkly is a bit disturbing – I enjoyed everyone I met. And, still, I appreciate the food-for-thought. For instance (in combination with other sources of inspiration and some creative sentence-splicing),
“The zero-degree parallel of latitude is fixed by the laws of nature; [while] the placement of the prime meridian [for fixing longitude] is a purely political decision” (Dava Sobel, Longitude, 1995, p. 4).
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the eighties feminist slogan, “the personal is political.” I absorbed this ethos, and attempt to live its significance. After twenty-some years of practice I sometimes feel as if I’m close (the perception never lasts for long!) I triangulate my reference points broadly: from the interpersonal sphere of my friends, to the international relations such friendships draw me into, and this blog in-between. The third axis is time; that curious dialectic between the present and the future. More often than I prefer to acknowledge, my close-up aim fails because of interference from the past.
What obscured the facts? I think it must, at least in part, be how I look – not my generic appearance, but the particular expressions that cross my face, the movements my body makes when I am feeling awkward, uncomfortable, insecure. Or, conversely, when I’m confident, psyched, exuberant! Whatever internal emotion, mood or attitude inspires the viscera, despite whatever skills or talents I’ve nurtured, whichever socialized or conditioned awful habits I’ve tried to reconfigure – I must still be appear visibly only within a certain range of possibility. And that range is associated with every previous time I “looked” that way, and potentially even with other people who appear/have appeared similarly – whether for the same or different reasons, under alternative or familiar conditions.
Despite my ambition, I am a follower. I “follow” what I perceive, reacting when caught off guard, responding when my act has a little more room to maneuver into a way to fit together. It’s impossible to establish a temporally causal relationship (first this, then that) – I am not attempting such linearity. I am trying to explicate how I get caught playing into roles (behaviors, actions, attitudes) that diverge from intention and desire. How is it, in other words, that I keep appearing in certain ways that invite responses which lead me to feeling unseen?
‘Tis a puzzle, no?
Mike said that, talking (to himself?!) as he entertained a couple of neighborhood girls by trying to figure out one of their toys.
Yesterday was full of tugs. I spent the afternoon and evening enjoyably, after taking a much longer time than usual to blog (and cook! shhhhhhh). Being on the periphery of two kidnappings with happy endings left me full of vicarious emotion. For the last three days I have been feeling a bit de-centered, as if there’s “a disturbance in The Force” (!), or – as the new roomie said, I am “out of alignment” with myself. My thinking is slow, difficult; my self-consciousness heightened. I speculate that I’m experiencing fallout from being (now) in a timespace different than expected (on land rather than still at sea), or the process of absorbing recent life lessons, or the malaise that lingers from old wounds . . .
I know I don’t have the jazzy hectoring tone considered most successful in writing on/for the web. The thing is, I don’t want to play into that collusively heeyyy cowboy insider attitude that Jack Shaffer promotes. Yet, I appreciate that friends do (sometimes, smile) actually read the blog and (rarer still, hence precious) give me feedback on my writing. Building “indexes” over the past few days must have put me in a summative mood, because I carried that mode into writing about Alf’s freedom instead of just blogging the moment. Perhaps I’m feeling it more necessary than usual to justify my existence (I got flamed!), to explain the reasons for my choices, or otherwise try to articulate how I perceive things going together? I am also prepping to teach, and I never (ever!) stop learning.
Even though I’ll probably never capture the tone of our times, my mind resonated with resemblances to another angle of Caleb Crain’s reflections on online literary style. In particular, he writes (and I insert comments):
I’ve kept a blog for several years (ditto), and although its readership is tiny (mine too), I of course notice when the hits rise and fall. (I should pay more attention!) I seem to get more readers when I post frequently, when I write about people or topics in the headlines, when I have been drawn into a conflict, and when I write something that speaks to a self-image that a group of people share. (Hmmm, it would be interesting to know if any such patterns are evident here in Reflexivity.) Over the years I’ve gradually revealed more personal details (we differ in this); I still reveal very little, comparatively, but enough to entitle me to say that I feel a tug there, too. Perhaps the tugs that I feel are a better data source, come to think of it, than my blog’s underemployed hit counter. If I were to interpret those tugs, I would say that writing on the internet tends to be more popular when it satisfies the reader’s wish to be connected–the wish not to miss out.
Funny – is Crain suggesting an internal (his own) or external (from others) tug to reveal more? Where (with whom) does the wish to be connected originate, and can it be cultivated as a social/relational force for institutional/historical change?
Only if we act on those wishes.
“What’s that sound?”
“the briny sea”
of wind and water
“if you live long enough!” (Part 1)
“if you live long enough!” (Part 2)
a bridge behind me
Captain got me a room at the Haddie Pierce House while I waited on my hero to pick me up on Saturday afternoon. He collected me from the Beach Rose Cafe, where I spent several hours – over three days – ensconced online.
Carleigh is great: “We’ll miss you at that table! You’re like furniture now!” (Hey – follow that dream – get on a boat and go!) Swell Andyman is also awesome, from plugging the food, “Chef Mike doesn’t mess around,” to keeping the place spotless. Both of them impressed me the most interacting with a local man who doesn’t get around so good. Carleigh leapt up from eating lunch on her well-deserved break when Bob entered, got him settled at the table he wanted with his beverage of choice. Andyman kept up a running banter with Bob while tending to his diverse duties. I ate three excellent meals: Jamie’s Favorite Salad, Habanero Chili Chicken Wings, and perfectly-prepared, barely-battered Fried Bay Sea Scallops (sans roll).
Speaking of food, Daria, the Innkeeper at the Haddie Pierce House, provides a mighty fine spread!
After fresh fruit (watermelon, strawberries, and canteloupe), cranberry coffee cake, coffee, tea, apple juice and water, Daria served up a delectable peach french toast with peach sauce for the main course, along with precisely crisp bacon. One doesn’t need to eat for a long time after such a feast! The company was neat, too. I wasn’t sure, at first, if there was going to be space for me in the conversation but eventually I found a way in. Rose began with a story about touring mansions the previous day. While they were in the entry waiting for one tour to begin, one of the jets practicing for the upcoming airshow boomed overhead. Someone either looked puzzled or concerned (or might have said something), and Rose announced, “The sound of freedom! Isn’t it wonderful?”
All four at the table were retired military, reservists, mostly, and one is out but still doing work as a contractor. I learned a lot in a short while! For instance, I know a fair amount about how gays and lesbians are treated, but I’d not considered that heterosexuals also have to date within restrictive rules or be punished. I also hadn’t thought deeply about what it’s like for reservists who establish careers, get called up, and then return to careers that need to be rebuilt. Apparently, reservists weren’t really called up for active duty before 1990 (Desert Storm), but if you were in during the late Eighties and paying attention you could see the signs of preparation. And the ambivalence of not wanting to fight/kill/die but also wanting to be called up if others are, instead of being left behind. Because Gayle, Mike and Judy, and Rose had so much in common, I gleaned more insight into some personal elements of a military career than I’ve previously had opportunity.
Who knew, for instance, that “the silly stuff matters most” in care packages sent to soldiers? (Of course it makes sense, but you have to think about it.) They can get most everything these days, it seems, except good coffee and current magazines. Popular Mechanics is a favorite.
“Most military people, if you talk with them,” Gayle explained at one point, “don’t really want to go to war.” “You lose too many people,” someone (Rose?) said. “But you have to be ready,” Mike offered (if I remember correctly). I wanted to know if they thought it could ever be different, if the system could be changed. Being in communication, I explained how the theories show over and over that if you prepare for something, it’s almost as if you invite it, so “if we’re ‘ready for war,’ then others ‘get ready for war’ and if everyone’s getting ready then eventually there will be a war!”
I wish I could say they offered some concrete hope, but – although they acknowledged the point (Gayle, especially) . . . Mike said its about power. I agree that’s how it has been, but haven’t enough people now achieved a certain level of middle-class comfort we could figure out how to do power differently? This was the most interesting part of the conversation for me. I suggested that most people around the world want the same things we have. “What if they don’t?” Mike challenged. Judy wasn’t sure if they really do (want the same things). “Culturally it might look different,” I said, “but at base, people want to eat good food, like we are; live in solid houses, like this one; be able to travel safely; educate their kids; have decent healthcare….how they go about achieving these things might not be the same way we do, they may not look the same in the end, but at base these are roughly the same things.”
We did not exactly arrive at an impasse, but we couldn’t seem to push that topic much further. There was some talk of development in Dubai, the incredibly-disparate wealth of the royal family and hiring of immigrant labor while the vast populace of the country remains in poverty. I wondered if – knowing that they were basically doing similar things to what our ancestors had done (I had the trailer from Traces of the Trade: A Story From the Deep North in mind, a long with all the Indian names along the course of our voyage: Napatree Point, Weekapaug Point, Misquamicut Beach, and Connecticut itself) – instead of perpetuating those habits, those systems…. or looking the other way . . . or taking advantage . . . when Rose labeled the jet engine’s roar as the sound of freedom, I remembered the jet that buzzed us the previous day in Brewer’s Harbor, so low and close to us that the volume was literally painful. I had wondered, then, about the psychological element of warfare, the intention to cause “Shock and Awe.” Do they design those engines on purpose to be so loud? Or just choose not to do the mechanical things that could make them more quiet? Further, what would it be like to anticipate after this sound, another – if one survived the explosion long enough to even hear it? Ultimately, why do we (humans in general, Americans – “my people” – in particular) feel so justified in subjecting other human beings to that experience?
We ended up talking about camels. Recommending that we watch Weeping Camel, Gayle mused that if she “ever stayed overnight with a camel” it would probably break her of the sentiment that “there’s nothing about a camel I don’t like.” I, for one, want a full report!