Monday, September 22, 2003

It's Flotsam and Jetsam, today.

Hardly surprising, considering I spent so much time during the past few days looking for something or other underneath my desk.

It's random realizations, today.

Hardly surprising, considering I have the attention span of a parakeet. Or is it just more of "focused when interested, but when not, not"? So...

Foresight is having a small blanket within reach for when the temperature suddenly drops during the night.

Luxury in NYC is having two tall weeds growing in your tiny window boxes.

What memories will remain of these past days that might not just as well refer to any other period of my life? What details actually deserve being remembered?

Saturday, J. called: "I miss you. I need to talk to you. Could you pleeeeease come for a while?" I was bizzy, designing a business card for another friend, ready to print, looking for the card stock under my desk. Still, I went down three flights to J's, taking my cup of tea with me. What's the point of having a friend if you never see her? She was so happy to see me, it was almost worth the delaying of my own gratification, the completion of a self-appointed task. We sat down at the table, and Zap! On went the TV: "I want to watch Miss America", said J. And so we did. You must really have been missing me, I laughed. She invited me back for the premiere of Threat Matrix last night, and so I went.

It was all OK, I suppose, but it all got me off to a late start this morning because I am not accustomed to watching so much TV. I don't even have TV in my house. TV watching gives me a visual hangover, all those meaningless ads for SUVs, and all those criminal ads for pharmaceuticals, and all those manipulative ads for dog food, kitty litter and chicken nuggets, I go forth late and bleary-eyed the next day. I zombie along to Starbucks on automatic pilot, barely looking at the street lights before crossing. Consequently, I experienced a different Starbucks from the usual very early morning slot. You could hardly make out their piped-in music for the din of all those cell phones, "How aaaaaare ya'?", "It's me--I'm having coffee...", "...And he said...", "So, what's new?" So much pressing business. All of B'way was there, beautiful, tall, leggy show girls, lots of hair, lots of teeth, bright eyes, lots of hopes and dreams and determination. It must be so hard to be young and beautiful these days.

On the way home, I catch a cell phone poster, something like: "You cant' procrastinate your way to the top". I take it personally, I suppose that is the whole point. It's only at Gristede's that I recover, as I select my can of black beans in the Goya aisle, as I remember that Descartes, Voltaire and Proust all spent most of their lives in bed. Napoleon too, but that's another story because he was seldom alone.

Well, those guys were all French. Maybe the French have a point, when they adopt their superior attitudes.

It's kind of funny, now that Thomas L. Friedman (and probably those others he influences and represents) has declared the French to be our next enemy. They do have that sarcastic streak, they do tend to look at the rest of us as "their village idiots", but sometimes you can't begrudge them the benefit of a sneaking sort of admiration.

My father, who used to write a lot of letters to the Editor, gave me a bunch of his notes before he died. While I was looking for the card stock under my desk, I came across an envelope in which I found the following:

"It has been said that language, as distinct from speech, was given to man to disguise his thoughts. That seems highly probable, when one reflects that there are about 3,000 languages spoken in the world today, but there are only about seven races, and none of them pure.

"In such conditions, it seems absurd that a community, like the French, which prides itself on being the world's elite in most things, but especially in brain power and intelligence, should fear the virility of any other of the 3,000 tongues used in lesser communities.

"As a regular user of the French language over the last thirty years, I should say they are right to claim that it is an ideal medium for diplomacy, insofar as diplomacy means seeing two sides of every question and discussing them in ambiguous terms. How often in negotiations does one reach an agreement "en principe" which is no agreement at all

"No doubt the Delphic oracle would have used French as a medium, it if had been available, because of its built in banana skins.

"When the late General used to give a Press conference or public speech, for days beforehand specialists would speculate on the French radio about what he would say. And when he had said it the same specialists would spend hours on the air commenting on what he meant by what he said, and what he might have meant by the things he did not say.

"To me, French in negotiations seems to function like judo, where the strength and enthusiasm of the victim is utilised to effect his own discomfiture.

"There is a great danger of being tempted to believe it means what you want it to mean--and that is the danger for Mr. Heath today.

"French is also an effective medium for studied insult and sleek insolence. A lesson in this function was a not so recent radio conversation between an ex-British Ambassador to Paris, and an ex-French premier.

"Lord Jebb, a doughty warrior who had effectively defended Great Britain's views in English at UNO, etcetera."

It gave me a new perspective of deja vu on the whole Iraq war and peace resolutions. My father's musings would apply with slight modifications today. It's a different cast of characters, it's differing circumstances, but it's the same flavor.

I had a dream last night about someone famous doing something unexpectedly strange and out-of-character for him. It was clearly a man, even though I don't remember who it was, or even what he did. All I remember is that in the dream itself I had the realization: "Why on earth should I be dreaming that so-and-so would do such-and such?" It was like remembering a joke without its punch line, why should I record such garbage?

Like I said, it's all Flotsam and Jetsam, today.

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