Wednesday, March 24, 2021

I Got To Thinking About My Father And The Magic Of Flint

 And that can either be good or it can be bad; I guess it can also be vapid; you judge which it is here.

I have been watching the Ken Burns documentary Jazz.

What a massive addition to American history it is; there should be History of American Thought classes in our better universities using Ken's masterpiece as its spinal chord.

But that probably can't happen; the documentary is too African centric, I would suppose; trump voters can't stand truth and the truth of our culture could never be allowed in a university; Ol' Mitch and the Boys would scorch the fields from which it had attempted to spring.

And that would be that.

But back to Jazz.

In the current episode America has fallen back deeply into Depression: it's 1937 and nobody has a job; except rich people.

The documentary has a brief clip of a musician - Jazz, of course - saying that he asked his band leader how all those people kept coming out, all over America, to see him and the band perform; the band leader said something like "they save their pennies".

That was poignant.

But what it was for me was Proustian.

I suddenly remembered that when I was five, or less, my mother sent me to the corner - it was on a corner, but two blocks away, grocery to buy Kitchen Bouquet; I was doubly honored: I was being sent on a mission by my mother, and one which I had never been sent upon previously (a block and a half alone?) AND I was being told to buy something that I had not only never heard of but which I was unsure that I could even say; but I went. 

And I bought Kitchen Bouquet - even to this minute I can remember the amazed relief with which I received the storekeeper's acknowledgement and understanding of my almost whispered request for what my mother had told me to buy.

And also I bought two pieces of candy.

They cost two for a penny.

Which is why I bought two.

And the penny is the entry point of the whole purpose of this little tale.

But the penny only got me started.

Down the tunnel.

Of what we may or not care about and may or may not remember and may or may not even let into our current little pinched lives.

I have decided to un-pinch.

This once.

By a series of happenstances I was the only person at my father's deathbed.

They said that hearing was the last to go so I said a few inanely and apparently comforting things to him.

I, without thinking, held his hand.

The various machines had green slinky graph lines and beepy burpy audio noises.

It was, once one had become comfortable with the fact that it was an enclosure of imminent death, a rather soothing sort of place.

That all went on for an un-remembered and un-measured period of time.

But it did end: my father flipped his head 180 degrees and the slinky green graph line went flat line.

That was probably the most intimate and meaningful encounter I ever had with my father.

The reason I mention it here is that that experience has turned out to be a gateway.

The intimacy of "I was the only one there when you died" has started and kept alive a low key dialogue with that man, my father, a person who I never really knew.

I said once, on a blog post from Paris on the 70th anniversary of D Day that my father never really returned from WWII.

Since his death I have wished that I had ever been able to, or had been astute enough to have taken advantage of that fact; I should mention that, since his death I have lived in Paris and other parts of France for two or so years out of the last twenty.

I have wished that I could ask him some questions; just a few are enumerated here.

"You spent days in La Louvre; my grandmother, your mother once told me; is that true?".

"Did you ever stand on Pont Neuf and look up river and wonder if the people from up river millennia ago ever came down river?"

"Did you ever walk la Seine on the quai and just feel as if you were in heaven?"

"Was Pont Alexandre III as outrageously beautiful as I have seen it to be?"

"Did la Tour Eiffel make you want to sing - something?"

"Did you ever go to Parc Montsouris, or Parc Monceau, or Parc des Buttes Chaumont, or le Jardin des Plantes - you would have loved the frogs - or Jardin de Luxembourg, or le Bois de Boulogne or le Bois de Vincennes?"

"Or, just where DID you hang out?"

And, most compellingly important: 

"Did you sense that the flint scattered everywhere on Paris' paths was vibrating with stories - maybe even something akin to videos - that those of us now would really like to see and hear?"

"Did you feel the vibrations that I have felt of a curious confluence?"

"Of something; or of anything; or of everything?"

That's what I wish I could ask my father.

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