Sunday, February 7, 2010

How Exactly Do You Mean?

Matterhorn, Karl Marlantes
Telegrams of the Soul: Selected Prose of Peter Altenberg
The End of the World, edited by Lewis Lapham.

Listening to:
Eric Dolphy
Sunny Murray
Gil Scott-Heron
Radney Foster

Looking at:
Charlotte Dumas, Paradis
Peter De Ru, Sven
Krazy and Ignatz, George Herriman

Occasionally, I guess, I'll do the sort of thing I've just done above, purely for the hell of it, and because I'm often curious about what sorts of things other people are reading, listening to, and looking at. I'm thinking there's probably some way I could tuck that information away somewhere in the right margin, but I haven't yet made up my mind whether it's a good idea or not, so I'll wait a bit before I start monkeying around any more.

Honest to God, to be honest with you I honestly don't know about any of this business, which, excepting this brief bit of honesty, seems inherently dishonest.

Friday afternoon I sat across a desk from a man in a suit and tie (it's been a long time since I've done such a thing). I listened as the man told me that "social networking is a real career builder right now."

He seemed completely serious. He elaborated: "With some of these sites you can accomplish more with a few minutes at your keyboard than you could with a week's worth of expense-account lunches with well-connected people."

"What sorts of things could you accomplish?" I asked him. "In either scenario, really, but I guess I'm most curious about the first."

He held up his palms and raised his eyebrows, a gesture that might mean many things but that in this instance I took to mean 'use your imagination,' or 'the sky's the limit.'

"It's a great way to get your name out there and communicate who you are and what you're looking for," he said (this, I gathered, after he surmised that I was a bit confused regarding the meaning of the palms/eyebrow gesture).

"I like to think I've had my name out there," I said.

"You need to make your name" --here he hesitated, apparently searching for just the right word-- "resonate."

"How exactly do you mean?" I asked.

"You want people to remember you," he said, "to be intrigued enough that they'll bookmark you." It seemed to me that he inserted quote marks around the word 'bookmark,' although he didn't, as I might have expected, actually use his fingers to indicate as much. It did, though, strike me that he was exactly the sort of fellow who would resort to such a gesture with some frequency.

"I guess I meant that question in a more literal sense," I said. "You know, a more general 'you,' a more general 'mean.'"

The man shook his head, or rather nodded quickly two or three times and then, as if his actual head were correcting the thoughts (or confusion) it was trying to process, shook it vigorously.

Yes, yes, yes....No, no, no.

As I was leaving his office I sensed that, whatever question I might have had going in, the answer was a decisive no, no, no.

I've learned to take no for an answer.

Or am learning.

Will, I gather, learn.

On my way home I stopped at a SuperAmerica where I am an embarrassingly regular customer. The clerk, a Somali woman with whom I have chatted on a number of occasions, asked me if I was a farmer.

The question startled me, I'll admit. "I'm in here almost every day," I said, and stepped away from the counter so she could --or so I hoped-- more clearly study my appearance. "Do I look like a farmer?"

"Your hands," she said, "and...." Here she did this hunching thing where she rolled her shoulders up and pulled her chin down towards her chest at the same time as she raised her arms in what resembled a combative position. "You see?"

I had no idea what any of these gestures meant. I clearly did not see. And perhaps my reaction struck her as indignant or offended.

If so, she merely shrugged and smiled.

"A farmer," she said, "is a very good thing to be. Better than the office man."

Which was an answer that somehow redeemed a week's worth of lousy days.


  1. Was the suited fellow Sid Hartman?


  2. I hear that you and your band have sold your guitars and bought turntables.

  3. I was there at the first Can show in Cologne...I was there. But I'm losing my edge to better-looking people with better ideas and more talent. And they're actually really, really nice.