Proof it Sometimes Pays to Do Nothing — a very short story

Tuesday, 7:33 or so in the pm; if one tried, the barest hints of the passing day were still visible (or maybe that was just wishful thinking).

Groceries slung over my shoulders, nestled safely inside my unintentionally socially conscious canvas bag, I stare into the headlights of oncoming traffic and assess that I have at least a few minutes before the M11 approaches ready to take me to my destination.

I take out my mobile phone, lean against the glass wall of the bus stop, and search for a nearby Verizon store; reception is a foreign to my device. Perhaps, I hoped speculatively, they might suggest something that would put an end to the pirouettes and yoga poses I must perform in order to have a conversation inside my apartment.

And in a flash, my mobile device — the one I had just been admonishing for its lackluster performance of late — is lying on the asphalt a few feet in front of me. A fellow passenger, rushing to catch the slowly departing M7, knocks my balance and my phone and we both are temporarily startled. The screen on my misbehavin’ phone is shattered (and no, not metaphorically); thankfully, I fare better.

And then momentary panic: never have I had a broken phone and the idea of paying for a replacement was loathsome to me.

I enter the Verizon store today with trepidation, bracing myself for the dollar signs output in my future. Do you have insurance, the young man at the front entrance asks me. I’m not sure, I answer, fully convinced that I most definitely do not.

20 minutes, 3 customers, 1 paranoid toddler (who was convinced that his mother had brought him to the doctor’s office) later, I learn the following: I do have insurance on my phone; the deductible is minimal; my new phone will arrive tomorrow.

The moral of the story: apparently I forgot to either opt in or opt out of something, and for once it worked in my favor. Thank you Zeus or Hera or whichever Greek mythological figure is responsible for forgetfulness.

May everyone forget just enough for his or her own good today.

Brighton beach memoirs

Ventured out to Brighton today to gather with some colleagues; this was the view from our Brighton colleague’s flat:

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What must be the sensation of looking out and seeing the tide ebb and flow ad infinitum just steps away?

Upon my return back to micro-flat, I happened upon a reading list that somehow felt apropos — not only of the conversations I’d spent the day having, but of the academic culture here in the UK. It’s called “Best Summer Books And Their Corresponding Drinks” (special shoutout to E, who will also appreciate the tenor of this compilation).

And so another day has passed. My erratic sleep/insomnia remains. What lies ahead? A bit of work, a handful of meetings and conferencing, and, if weather and schedule cooperate, a bit of the local tennis scene.

today’s playlist

Those of us who write — for work, for play, for all the bits in between — think and talk to a great degree about voice. But so rarely in all that talk is there discussion of what the damn words actually sound like — the timbre, resonance, rhythm, cadence. What do our words sound like in the world? Spoken by others we may never meet? Or, for that matter, what is the sound of our voices as we dare to say the words we so boldly write, as we so baldly claim our voice.

And then, thoughts of voice — of timbre, resonance, rhythm, and cadence — took me to these voices, and I was soothed, intoxicated, transported.

It amazes me what people can do with their voices, what they choose to do, what they think to do. Alexi Murdoch is a recent discovery. The live rendition of “All my days” has been on a loop for the past hour and half. Can ears be transfixed? Mine are. (It only underscores the abject lack of quality of my own voice as I have participated in a few renditions of “happy birthday” in recent weeks…)

Near the end of a conversation (included below) between John Berger and Michael Ondaatje, all of which I love and highly recommend that everyone give a good listen to, they each reveal what path they might have pursued if they were not writers.

The question is proffered by Berger to his friend and interlocutor at around the 39:50 mark. He says, with his inimitable and somewhat rounded style of articulation, “If you could swap  your talents you for another of any kind, do you know you’d choose?”

Ondaatje responds with an eager “Oh yeah…” even before the question completes its exit from Berger’s mouth.

“I would want to be a piano player.” And, having said this, Ondaatje smiles momentarily, as if to take in his own response — one that he has clearly pondered many times before this one.

Berger: “huh…”

Ondaatje: “Well, what would you do?”

Berger — smiling, perhaps self-consciously or in a self-congratulatory manner, and nodding, his tan head prominent against his white shirt whose sleeves are messily rolled up — responds: “I would want to be a singer.”

Ondaatje: “And what kind of singing?”

Berger: “Doesn’t matter [shaking his head]… just … it–it doens’t matter…uhh… the devil or the fairy decide.”

Ondaatje: “Well we’ll meet in the next life and join up.” [laughing, and joined by Berger’s enthusiastic laughter at this proposition]

The guitar fantasy — the one about being able to create altogether new worlds with a simple wooden object, strings, and fingers in concert with voice — still lingers… Maybe in another life, indeed…

For now, in honor of the Nick Drake kind of week I’ve been having, thank you to my friend who first brought his music into the realm of my consciousness all those many, many years ago. A classic (albeit somewhat overused classic at this point):

after the rain

Earlier this week, storm clouds — cirrus, I think, with their thin, layered, sheetlike behavior — tumbled through overhead to deliver to our region the gifts of rain that mimicked the clouds by falling in sheets, unruly winds, and the siren’s song of late dusk light. Naturally, I ran out my door, camera in hand.

 

 

 

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