December 27th, 2003

caillebotte_man at his window

To Make Some Sound

Three-ten in the morning. That's as good a time as any to begin writing something, with no clear ideas in mind. I do it just to see what happens. I stop when it feels done. Will there be weather in it? Probably. Will there be nostalgia? Could be. This is the time of year when most people get into that sort of thing, with Christmas behind them and the year's end approaching. But my period of nostalgia is mid autumn. I'm one of those annoying people who looks forward at the end of the year. In any case, this year has provided me with little about which I'm ever likely to become nostalgic. I'm sure that, like a decaying cadaver, it will be best when it is safely buried.

Everybody else in the house is sleeping, even the cats. In fact, the whole town is sleeping, as far as I can tell. I've gone out a couple of times (and returned shivering) and have heard not a sound from anywhere, except for a pair of rambunctious raccoons engaged in some frolic just after midnight. But it seems that no human wants to be abroad in this frigid night. From my front porch, I can see Orion dominating a big chunk of sky in the west. Tonight, he is the liveliest company I have.

Indeed, in the deep silence and the darkness which obliterates every trace of the surrounding houses where they crouch under the tall pines and bare, bony oaks, I might surmise that Orion and I have the entire universe to ourselves. But I know that if I lived in one of the valley towns I would hear the distant rumble of the highway where the trucks run all night, every night, and now and then I would hear the louder grind of a train passing, the diesels humming as they drag the clattering cars along the tracks. There would be the glow from the streetlights, as well, blotting out the lesser stars and even dimming Orion. It is only because this place has few such lights, and lacks any through highway, that I can feel this sense of isolation. The big world carries on away from here, and I am in this shrunken verge, indulging in fantasies of isolation.

Even the wilds nearby are islands now, washed in places such as this by the breakers of the teeming world. For a few hours, the tide recedes and quiet prevails, but soon enough dawn will wake the town, revealing the streets and houses, bringing forth the shoppers and kids on Christmas bikes and Saturday drivers. Smoke will curl from the chimneys and the invisible vibrations in the air will be captured and converted to football games and newscasts and cartoons, and the forest will lie revealed, ridge on ridge, green and still, overlooking it all. Orion will be gone to someone else's night, and have another name. May they enjoy his silent companionship as much as I have.
caillebotte_man at his window


I woke up way too late again today, and can't blame it on the darkness this time since there was plenty of sunshine. I just couldn't get to sleep this morning. I've gone from being merely nocturnal to having actual insomnia. How annoying.

On the bright side, I have pink beans for dinner, and french bread with mad cow's butter. By the way, does anyone know if they still make Laughing Cow brand cheeses? I haven't seen them in years. I always wondered why the cow was laughing. Now I know. She was privy to the bovine conspiracy to destroy humanity!

Dinner, now. Happy Saturday, everybody!
caillebotte_man at his window

Katherine Anne Will Be Spinning In Her Grave.

I had one of those distressing Internet experience last night. One would think that by now, when I've seen everything from sites promoting that bizarre Czarist humbug The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, to Ouchy the S&M clown, there would be nothing left to surprise me, but it is not so.

A mention of Flannery O'Connor on my friends page put me in mind of another writer with wose work I became familiar in a college literature class, Katherine Anne Porter. She wrote one of my favorite short stories, The Jilting of Granny Weatherall. This particular tale impressed me in part because it closes with what I found to be the most startling image I had ever encountered in a work of literature. I've never forgotten the moment I read those words. The story is a gem; terse, vivid, and brutally honest. I recall being scandalized at the inability of the other students in the class to grasp the import of it. I kept wanting to shout "No, you tools, the missing bridegroom at the end of the story is not the same one who went missing earlier in the story, and it certainly isn't death who is missing!" Sheesh. Community college!

So I went hunting on the Internet to see if there was anything about the story there. I entered the keywords "jilting granny weatherall" into the Google search engine, and was rewarded with thousands of results. The first, from NYU, was actually about the story. As I continued down the page, my astonishment grew. Almost evey result was from one porn site or another, specializing in pictures of or stories about sex with elderly women. There were sites with such names as "insest- with-granny" and "spankmans-nude-older-women" and "momsbangvideo." Page after page of the search results was dominated by porn sites. There was a sprinkling of links to sites about the story, or sites selling the video of the version of the story that was made for a high-brow television series a few years ago, but the porn sites just went on and on. I was astonished.

Now, it is certain that I am not a prude where Internet porn is concerned. Indeed, I seek it out and download it all the time I have come to accept its regrettable presence. (Heh. I'm still not tired of that joke!) But the idea that the central character in Porter's sad, poignant and shocking (in the good way) story should have become a symbol of what I would consider one of the more bizarre manifestations of sexual dysfunction is truly shocking in the bad way. I'm actually not sure what amazes me more; that jilting Granny Weatherall is apparently now a code name for a very peculiar form of lust, or that the people who operate these web sites apparently are familiar with Porter's story. Literate porn peddlers! What the hell is the world coming to?

Well, at least I found that link (posted above) to the story itself (after wading through several pages of porn links.) Now, I don't have to go all the way across the room and take that heavy book from the shelf and crack it open. That ought to be worth the price of the images now stuck in my head of guys drooling over slash tales about old ladies. Shouldn't it?