We are really cookin' up here in the Big "Stewed" Apple today. I don't believe in air-conditioning so my apartment is like being in around the 4th or 5th layers of Hell...I have to stop and think sometimes about how Christian-male I write--some people in the US of A have no idea of this "Hell" I'm talking about. Teevee is still pretty much my-type white in its culture so it's full of references to Hell and the use of the word in swearing (see my post on Daniel Defoe)--teevee's so backwards-white, I can still score big points on Jeopardy--even the more up-to-date questions on Millionaire--I mean Jeopardy still uses F. Scott Fitzgerald in its answers needing questions on literature--or the music answers and even the movie answers are still within my cultural range of knowledge. Like ask me about Coolio's career and best hits and shit and I'm a dead damned duck dead in the water. Or even ask me to name the top ten bestselling books--and I can't. Who's the most famous book writer today? I assume it's the woman (I don't even know her name) who writes all that silly Brit-Merlin-King-Arthur Harry Potter shit, but I've never read a Harry Potter book even though I have a niece who tells me she finds those books wonderful reading for both adult and kid. I'd rather read a much more intriguing writer to me, like right now I'm reading Ralph Ellison--his magic with words and how he gives them special super-actuality meaning.
Every generation has its bestselling female writer--when I was a wee kid it was Grace Livingston Hill. My grandmother, a writer, once sat me down in front of her bookshelf and told me that Grace Livingston Hill sold more books than Mark Twain...or sometimes, and she hushed her voice when she said, even the Holy Bible. I never read a Grace Livingston Hill book. I read Kate Chopin when I lived in New Orleans but preferred Lafcadio Hearne's writing to hers. I recall when Danielle Steele was the book-writing queen of the bookpile--I tried to read one of her books but couldn't get past the first paragraph. Same, I'm sorry to say, trouble I had when I tried to read a Stephen King book (Pet Unsanitary (sic) I think it was)--couldn't get past the first paragraph I was so damn perplexed by his lousy writing--like the writing was so bad there was no way he was going to grab my interest in that first paragraph--and I didn't feel like giving him a second chance. The lead paragraph to Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms is even to me one of the greatest lead-in paragraphs to a novel or any book ever written and that's that.
I wrote this long novel a couple'a years ago, sitting up there in my loftbed with my laptop while living with me at the time was this certain woman--yes, in the novel I called her "the woman in my life" and boy was she really in my life and funk it up and shit--so much so she motivated me to write this damn novel--a diurnal-type novel in the sense of time line--it follows pretty much 730 days in a row of a man's life--and in that novel I started deliberately using cliched phrases and then noting how many of them were in today's languages totally archaic--or worse, totally "no longer used in speech; hell, no longer even thought of in our linguistic constructions." Nearly every line I wrote I noted a cliched substance--I left them all in--I had to; I didn't know what to replace them with.
I'm totally dumb to the language of the Hip-Hop World; yet young kids speak it without any second thoughts and, dammit, I seem to know what they're saying and then I'm thinking, hell, come on, cat, stud, man, you know, dude, daddy-0, cool driver, bopper, lollygagger, etc., they're saying the same things in their code I used say in my code. I even think that when I hear people speaking in their native tongues around me here in Continental Gotham and I think, Jesus, those people sound so F-ing complicated to my illiterate ear; yet they're talking about the most common things same as me when I'm speaking my American around other folks of my kind, some of whom talk funny like Canadians talk funny, with the "hume" and the "ay?" at the end of their statements--like: "Dammit, honey, the baby's shit in his pants again; when are we gonna housebreak that little bastard." Sure, that's all they're saying--in Greek, in Persian, in Bangladeshi, in Hindustan, in Haitian, in machinegun-firing-tongued Domincan Republicans and Puerto Ricans...and the Mexicans and the Peruvians and the German tourists and, of course, all the blimey Brits in town for a visit and the always-present Irish bartender or waitress--they ain't talking rocket science.
When I was learning languages I learned them from books. In graduate school, I had to at least have a reading knowledge of French and German, which I managed by reading paperback language books--How to Speak French and its companion, How to Speak German. I can't speak a lick of French or German--and I wish I spoke both languages to be real about it, though on the other hand I'm not distraught about not speaking them. I did manage to read both well enough to do my thesis on the German sociologist Georg Simmel, all of whose theories are based on early German sociology and the use of German terms, like Gesellschaft, a very important word in Sociology in general. And enough French to read Durkheim in the original--though like a hunt-and-peck typist with multiple sets of dictionaries in my lap--even phrase and vernacular dictionaries.
This is what is puzzling me as I sit in the, I think, comfort of my sweltering apartment, without a worry in the world--unless I stop and contemplate what could happen if this or that happened too long. I have several fans blowing on me--the air is not stale--it's absolutely fresh coming out of one of my window fans--hot, yes, but fresh. My apartment's windows face deep south, down the island and out into New York Harbor, which I can't see but I know it's down there. In the summer, from noon until it sets, old God the Father of Us All Sun blows ultraviolent rays against my big window panes like dragon-tongue licks and tries to cook my ass in the oven the sun of a bitch makes out of my apartment--but I'm a son of the Sun-baked Western prairies where temperatures soaring around a 100 are normal fare out there in the summer--and I grew up in West Texas and also in oven-like Dallas without air-conditioning--my father didn't believe in anything artificial and that included air. When Legionnaire's Disease hit that bunch of American Legionnaires whooping it up in that Philadelphia hotel all those so many forgotten years ago due to the bacteria in the hotel's air-conditioning system and that unknown-til-then disease killed a whole host of those dudes--that's why it's called Legionnaire's Disease--I thought of my old man and how he would of reacted to it had he lived long enough and could just hear him bellowing, "Damn silly American Legion jokers. They'd never let me in their ranks, you know-- and I was a National Guard drummer in World War I, too--the most dangerous job in the Army--next to the flag bearer..."--[everyone in the family would start laughing like hyenas when my dad would start his American Legion trampling and talking about his being a drummer in the National Guard in WWI--they laughed because they knew he was only 14 when the whole damn war ended]--"so it serves 'em right," he would have continued, "... they are an antithesis to real soldiers--I mean staying in air-conditioned rooms in a filthy Philadephia hotel room --I lived in Philadelphia one summer, stayed at the Ben Franklin, no air-conditioning--I didn't get sick once." One of my dad's brothers was a highly decorated soldier in France and WWI and he used to really jump on my dad when he started telling his WWI drummer-boy tale. I remember my decorated uncle bringing out his most prized medal, the Croix de Guerre, which he pronounced "crow de gair" and he said Marshall Foch kissed him full on the mouth when he pinned it on him in Paris. My uncle didn't get any medals from the US--he was assigned to the French forces--and that pissed him off I know--one reason he'd go along with my dad's WWI-experience tales.
So I sit here--as long as I don't move, and I'm fairly cool--considering I just heard it's 95 on the street. There are two poor illegal South American souls working on my building's roof today--and that roof is aluminum-paint-coated and it must be like the pits of the most Holiest of Hells up there working in this heat--hell, I thought as I spoke broken Spanglish with them on the elevator, these guys know what the hell the Hell is I'm talking about it being as hot as today--I don't know if they would know about the different layers of Hell--but that is assuming because they are young South Americans they've never read or heard of Dante--on the other hand, I thought, they may read Dante in his original Latin.
por The Daily Growler