April 28th, 2004

laszlo moholy-nagy_chx

Hung Up

I just spent about two minutes staring at a small piece of bread torn from a larger slice. As I was about to eat it, the texture caught my eye, so I looked closely, turning it this way and that, holding it up to the light, pulling on it to see how far it would stretch. The mass of air pockets laced together by moist white fibres is fascinating. It looks almost like it might be the tripes or the lung tissue of some creature, or the nest made by a colony of some tiny insect species. I found myself wishing I had a microscope handy, that I might look inside this product of random kneading and rising and baking. I got hung up on a fragment of bread. I've probably eaten tens of thousands of slices of the stuff, but I've never looked so closely at it before.

I was reminded of an afternoon many years ago when I was captivated by the reflections I saw in the convex side of a teaspoon. I was in a bowling alley coffee shop, and the reflected scene from the outside which captured my rapt attention was a fascinating distorted miniature of a busy street. I don't know how long I gazed at it, but I became aware that the place had fallen silent, and I looked up to see the waitress and the other customers quickly look away from me. It was rather ironic, really. They had gotten hung up on the guy who was hung up on a reflection in a spoon. The coffee in my cup had grown cold. I think I chuckled at the situation, which probably made them think I was even more weird than they had believed.

The weirdness that day was the result of a party the night before, at which I had become quite thoroughly ripped. I remember little of the party, except that one person in attendance had suffered from the delusion that the chair in which he was sitting was continually getting lower, and a group who left before us had somehow managed to get their car out of a driveway which our car was blocking and which was their only means of egress. We came to the conclusion that they had levitated one of the cars, but never decided which of the two had been the object of this feat. In any case, the aftereffects of my indulgence were with me the following day when I discovered the strange and lovely world in the bowl of the spoon. This propensity to drift off into fantasies was one of the reasons I eventually gave up the smoke. Even without any chemical assistance, I have always had a difficult time maintaining concentration, and I eventually realized that I had no need to aggravate the trait. I suspect that I have an unusually high level of various natural brain chemicals, in any case -- which would explain my sudden and otherwise inexplicable fascination with a little fragment of bread. Ah, the wonders that will cease to exist when my brain finally shuts down and rots away!

Once I had finished my examination of the baked goods (meaning the bread, not my mind) I went out to listen to the crickets for a while. Tonight has cooled a bit more quickly than did last night, which gives me hope that the day will be less fierce. I would very much like a bit more spring before summer comes raging in. I (and the plants and frogs and such) would certainly like a bit more rain. It's April. There ought to be showers. I don't expect to be getting rain today, but I'd be satisfied if it would just be (please) less hot.
bazille_summer scene


When I was ten, a day such as this would have been both a trial and a treasure. The part spent in a schoolroom would have been difficult, watching the first rays of afternoon sun make their way through the western windows and brighten the hardwood floor and the rigid desks, then erase the white words on the blackboard with bright reflections, and all the while the slow clack of the clock's big hand marking the death of hours minute by minute. I'd have gotten lost watching dust motes drift, been brought back by the scratch of pencils on paper, been annoyed by the cloak room's lingering smell of recently consumed sack lunch apples and bananas. Every passing car and every bird which chirped from the schoolyard trees would have reminded me of my imprisonment. My thoughts would constantly have drifted to the places I would rather have been; the breezy hillsides where the spring grass was green and damp and perfect for sliding, the creek where minnows darted and crawdads lurked in the deep pools, the shady stand of pines near the crest of a steep vacant lot from which I could view the entire neighborhood and listen to the distant sound of city traffic drift lazily by.

At last, the clock's minute hand would have clicked off the last and longest minute of the day, and the liberating bell would have rung. But I never joined the rush to the doors. I remember that at this moment, I always wanted to savor the anticipation, freed of any distracting tasks. I would wait until the turmoil had died down and the halls emptied out, and then go out into the sparsely populated school yard where a few boys might linger playing games, with puffs of dust rising from the trails of shot marbles, and the empty swings creaked as they were moved by the breeze. I seldom took the bus home, but walked slowly through the quiet streets, pausing here and there at my favorite haunts. I would gather a few honeysuckle blossoms from a mass of brush that hung down a hillside, check the progress of the blackberries that grew in a small arroyo, pet a particular dog who always napped by his front gate on pleasant afternoons, and maybe stop at the corner grocery store to buy a Freeze-ee bar (cheaper than Popsicles) and eat it while sitting on the steps of the church next door as the afternoon shadows stretched and the leaves rustled. I don't remember if I knew it at the time, but those were perfect afternoons. I'm sure I never knew that they would return to my mind so many years later, hundreds of miles away, recalled by the breezes of other sunlit spring days.