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The Things of Living

Toothpaste, papers, laundry, oil changes, Con Ed notices, buying socks, sweeping floors, paying bills, setting alarm clocks, tying shoes, updating a drivers license, reading food labels, getting shots, millions of advertisements burned across your vision. These are the “things” of life. They eat patience and energy and attention. They are eternal in a lifetime. They are largely meaningless. Menial, mundane tasks and items that get in the way of living, that are life itself.

“I never thought this would be past,” has come to mind times too numerous to mention, while listening to a song (today it was Pavement’s “Shoot the Singer,” which, when we heard it, felt so far ahead of yesterday that no today could catch up, much less pass that moment) or re-being in a certain state of existence newly discovered to be temporary (sitting on a sofa on Madison Street watching my cat Danny – or Dani, gender ending felion/ess s/he/he/she was – jump sky high with no forewarning while summer turned old outside comes to me now). This is just only another thing: the time spent comprehending time, which I have heretofore resisted as just a human construct, granted unjustified weight and reverence and attention. The reality of no longer being (other than via vicarious memory building) in a given moment, however, and being whisked through moments piled on as years, has become increasingly undeniable to me. But, time, too is just another thing. Other than astounding us with its sphinx mysteries, turn this rubix cube around and there is no breathing shining gem of life pending revelation in any of its sides or contortions. It is a distraction and tool not much different or more or less useful than toothpaste or socks.

So what is there? A walk in the rain at 7:00 when the streets are largely empty, and faith in the shuffle function of technology pays off, and each word was written, specific and painstaked like veins on the backsides of leaves. This, and spurts of joy in appreciating another being, animal plant or human. The understanding of what effort it takes to plate a little kindness, and the wild flush rush feeling of being a guest at the table.

Here’s to you, and your kindnesses.

And here’s to my iPod, that always knows what to play. On my quick jaunt out to drop off dry cleaning and pick up a bottle of white for dinner, tonight’s set went something like this, while the rain danced in harmony above me.

Sorry to lose Donna Summer this week.  She was a regular voice in my house growing up.

Nice of Erica Wheeler to visit me through the headphones tonight.  When I was a law student in Madison, she stayed at my place when she went through touring.  She asked me later what the big books were for.  It only occurred to me then I’d never mentioned I was not a full time music junkie but also did some other stuff, like study, on the side.  I didn’t know what she was up to now but I’m glad this post brought me to it.  Check out her site.  I like the idea – reconnecting to place.

The only real downside to iPod on shuffle mode is that if you witness something like I did tonight — where the songs perfectly align with your mind and, even more, jump in the dialogue with swift and deft precision — and you want to save it to recount the unparalleled synchronicity of your thoughts with the so called random selections, be careful which way you spin the touch pad.  I tried to just pause it but the songs disappeared, shuffled back into the 7,000+ songs on rotation.  The last song I was going to share with you was a Bob Dylan one that I don’t hear often.  From the sound of it, I figured it was on Love & Theft or Modern Times.  I’ve been through both and haven’t been able to find for certain the song I was hearing earlier.  I am thinking now it just may be that you never can hear a song again the same way.  Either way, every song on Modern Times (esp. Spirit onAnd now I’ve just learned today is his birthday. Happy birthday, Mr. Dylan.  (I’m particularly fond of this one and the articulation of sounds/words in the foreign tongue) (this is my favorite — Bob Dylan singing, Charlie Chaplin playing)

5 responses to “The Things of Living

  1. Ralph ⋅

    A few thoughts came to mind reading this. A recent replay of an old Doctor Who episode had a group of aliens on a ship waiting to witness the destruction of Earth by the sun. Billions of years in the future, a creature claiming to be the last surviving human has a full sized juke box rolled into the room. She proceeds to announce to everyone that it is what used to be called an iPod. As pieces of what used to be Earth fly out into space, a character states that billions of years of achievement and billions of lives are gone and nobody will ever know about them.

    I’ve occasionally read stories speculating what someone in the distant future would say about us. Looking through mountains of garbage and waste, what would that say about us?

    I watched the Bob Dylan video with Charlie Chaplin linked from above. From a Chaplin marathon a while back I recognized most of the scenes. I believe they were from his movies Modern Times, and maybe City Lights. Both those movies are must sees, and have a common theme showing how bad things were, never giving up, and yet making the best of it. I never realized how talented Chaplin was until that marathon.

    • Revel

      Interesting, too, because the album is Modern Times — I didn’t know the connection, till now. Thank you! Funny how that song sprang to me as I was walking down the street, then I lost it and, perturbed, went looking to found it and found every song talking to me. Then to realize it was Bob Dylan’s bday (fellow Gemini) just topped it off sweetly and perfectly for me. Like Bobby D brought cupcakes for his bday treat.

      Interesting episode of Dr. Who you happened to catch. Is that for real, that the jukebox was called an “iPod”? Wonder if the person in the Apple naming room knew where they grabbed it or if it was something that had just been lodged in their subconscious from years before? This site from a quick search suggests the iPod name was inspired by 2001:

      I wonder, too, what will be said about us, and about this time in particular. As clear as our vision is, including the pressing and commonly articulated need to change things before we destroy them, I’m sure our future vision will have its proverbial 20/20 hindsight and shine an unforgiving spotlight on what could have been done better. Maybe even what could have saved us from ourselves.

  2. Ralph ⋅

    She actually called it an iPod, undoubtedly name confused after billions of years gone by and no doubt done on purpose to emphasize the point of things lost and confused in history. It was a full size 50’s/ 60’s vintage juke box complete with all the lights. A record gets loaded and starts playing. The song name eludes me now, possibly ‘Tainted Love’- ‘some times I feel I want to run away …’. An interesting song to witness Earth’s end. This was from a newer episode of Dr Who, so they probably got an OK from Apple to use the name.

    Dr Who- another somewhat quirky scfi show with many interesting topics and messages.
    “Oil, an emergency? About time the people who run this planet of yours realize that to be dependent upon a mineral slime just doesn’t make sense. Now, the energizing of hydrogen—”
    – Dr Who

    It’s usually on BBC America (chan 106 Time Warner Cable) at 5PM. If anyone doesn’t know Doctor Who, he’s the last survivor of an alien race destroyed by a great war. He is a ‘time lord’ who can travel through space and time in what outwardly appears to be a vintage English police box.

    The Charlie Chaplin scene in the video where he is imitating a pair of dancing shoes was from his movie Gold Rush, not City Lights. When I saw Modern Times in your post I immediately thought of the movie and wasn’t aware it was an album. Modern Times is another great movie to see, as is City Lights.

    • Revel

      I see — I was thinking it was a Dr. Who from pre-iPod days. I remember seeing on Youtube once a video made in the sixties about what life in the aughts was likely to be. There was speculation about computers in every home, and shopping online. It was talked about in such a way that it was apparent how ridiculous the writers felt even imagining such a thing could ever be commonplace. I have wondered sometimes whether and to what extent all the minions of tech-gods have been inspired by various such speculations.

      Charlie Chaplin could just inspire me to get back on NetFlix. I gave it up after I realized there still are such things as video stores, that it would probably help local economies to patronize them (thinking of some small ma n pop, or ma n ma or pop n pop, shops in B’klyn), and that I really didn’t have enough time to watch enough movies to make NetFlix worth the monthly fee. But Charlie Chaplin and your mention of these movies may just draw me back.

  3. Ralph ⋅

    Those movies float around various cable channels (TCM is one good choice) from time to time. BUT- if you’re quietly hoping I’ll come up with a few words that will give you the last little push you need to get NetFlix again, all I can say is Buster Keaton.

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