Impotent Middle Class Bell Blues

tide chart

Somebody wants to kill herself. And what can I do about that? Last week I hung fly paper around our home. The week before that ant traps.

I tried to keep my spirits up. I tried dreaming of deep sea whaling, and joining a small crew to catch King Crab in Alaska. Not much luck.

I just was insufficient, too human also. Too foul-mouthed, too conceited, and too effed-up with my own human deficiencies. Not enough tiger in my tank to spare.

The things I naturally saw—bright stars, baby praying mantises, nice people at Whole Foods—their skins had grown over with donut glaze, premature glaucoma.

In Women in Love Winifred cries “Di—Di—Di!” hollering for a child that’s drowned. Prescient pun, I suppose, for “Diana,” a book I read thirty-five years ago.

And Emily, well, everybody in America knows because she “could not stop for death,” you can click on it if you don’t. See?

I know, I know, I know I ran away, pulling out my hair. And when I caught myself doing an Amy Winehouse 180, I saw a little, look-alike man like me was there instead, now sleeping in my baby’s bed. My ghost, my brother, my killer.

Paralyzed, hypnotized, infantilized, Christ! I’m a smart enough dude; I’ve read and comprehended Schiller and what in 1795 he wrote about the “simple” and “sentimental.”

I know, too, from The Tibetan Book Of The Dead, just to sit. That is a great service to the dying, and not much else to do. Try it.

Kurt Cobain confessed his “will was good.” But flopping around town, I’ll tell you this: his bagged “mosquito” also offed my “libido.” Se fue, hermano.

Today, I’m just a solitary organ grinder standing at the street corner in Nabokov, a minor character waiting for an unknown stranger to flip a light coin into his monkey’s cup.

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Life During Tea Time


Even his cheap old tea was gone. The old, paper-wrapped bags of black English Breakfast, sitting in the back of the cabinet for years, a long papery row of hardly ever used sacks of really dry, and really common stuff packed in a flimsy cardboard box. Ripped into. There were others, too, that’d been used up, of a far more fancy kind. Finely woven sachets that opened up like tetrahedronal parachutes when into steaming water poured from a kettle they were plopped. Once, he recalled, he’d known an older woman, whose net worth was in the tens of millions, to have served him this rather ridiculously in a half-filled Styrofoam cup.

Yes, she had pointed out to him and his mad wife at the time the giant nest where the bald eagles dove to kill prey at the corner of her flowing Hudson River property. She had, since then, sold that mansion for another entrenched upon some paradisiacal edifice built into the escarpment of Maine for tens of millions more. Ah, that was a time, and such teas did the rich like that drink.

Later, he had indeed been happy. The grassy sencha caught his taste at the back of his throat. The silver needle, so delicate and so fine, whose fresh flushes were picked during just two weeks time alone, would match for many years his evenly kept balance. But most of all, of any love affair he had ever had of such kind, was gyokuro. This shy and subtle tea, shaded for weeks before its shoots are plucked, was his heart’s once. Steeped for many long minutes in water that, for some, would barely measure to them as hot, he had warmed both the pot and cup beforehand when it had been made.

Today, all that luxury was gone. And he scrounged around like a mouse looking, rather than for a spare kernel of popcorn, or a bit of grain, for anything to steep lying about in leftover, empty wooden Clementine boxes. Little and large metal tins among empty glass Mason jars, once casually filled with oolongs and other less favorable fruity experiments, clanged and banged about like bunches of noisy wind chimes one could only wish the neighbors or a hurricane would take down.

It was all gone. The fragrances of love spent. The allure and yearning for romance, gone. The flavorful infusions of flavor, reduced to now a small lemon wedge squeezed into boiling hot water. The fact remained that he had not run his life profitably like a tea shop on the village corner, or, for that matter, like any other. Instead, he could already claim, like Brecht, that he had left this life “without regret, or with only slight regret,” if one should choose to be almost perfectly honest, and almost smiling publicly.

Chatting At A Picnic Table


She had been more interested in his son than his art. And he had been more interested in her art than in her son. It was hard for him to imagine that she even had one, a son, and one that was a bit younger than his own. “How’s your son?” she would ask when the met. “He’s great,” he would say. After some more of this chit-chat like that about her son and his son, they would talk about art, his art; for, in this situation her art was already established as art, and his art was just becoming or just about to become established as that. And she leaned over his work on the picnic table they were seated at and talked about it. While she did so, while she was leaning in, getting closer and closer to the paper lying on the wooden picnic table, he found it harder to imagine that she had a son, and even stranger that she and her husband had named their child, when translated into English, what means the word “God” from “Isten” in Hungarian, which was his name: Isten. That was strange. But it wasn’t just that.

It wasn’t just the large difference in age between them, and their both having very young children—toddlers—and the added oddity that it was the much older woman in this case who had the very young son rather than a man with a fifty-year old’s paunch and a two year old after having had a first run at family life that totally burned out starting over again. It wasn’t that, however likely and usual such imaginings go. It was that she was so much farther ahead in her art than he was when, in the distance of time measured forward from the ages of the births of their small children as a zero point, they were about the same. So, from that perspective he was so much behind her, perhaps even hopelessly. “I really like this piece,” she said at the end of their conversation. “It’s got a narrator who seems to be quite sure of himself almost to the point where as the reader I almost feel he can’t be trusted anymore, if that makes any sense. And I always like that very much about your work.” Straightening her back, she put her own notebooks in a canvas bag, looked him briefly but directly in the eye with hers, and, after touching the wooden pin holding the back of her hair in position, got up from the picnic table to pick up her son somewhere else by 3.