...Before the Beginning ("And in the beginning were WORDS.")
A little warped kid once lectured me on "Words" as I was hauling his little bastard ass from New Orleans up to the Louisiana State Juvenile Slammer in Monroe, Louisiana, where a judge had sent him for "rehabilitation" until he turned 21 for trying to slice his little sister's throat open, which he almost successfully did. "You couldn't have booked me into Monroe, dude, without words, man. That's all I hear 24/7, words, my mom yackin' her fat ass off constantly, and my old man, a man I don't even know, man, dig?, and he's got his words going full speed 24/7, too, and his words are such bullshit, 'cause he's drunk when he talks, he's silent when he's sober, though he ain't never sober so he's talkin' all the time, man, words. Fuck, I'm tired of words, dude; words ain't done me no good whatsoever." "So why'd you double slice your little sister's throat?" "Ahhhh, man, I don't have the words to describe that, like I told the judge, man."
I was reminded of that story as I was speed reading a couple of Paul Bowles's short stories while waiting to move on about my business in these early morning peaceful quiet hours of a New York City early morning, and as I was reading Bowles's enticing words I was suddenly doing focused thinking on words to the point I lost the meaning of the conglomeration of words Bowles had put together and got hooked on the words themselves, the word after word after word, on and on, volcanic flow of words--which when isolated from that flow mean only what they individually mean--put them together--I mean, I'm thinking, a book is simply a huge, giant, behemoth jigsaw puzzle of words put together in such an intricate way they give a huge, giant, behemoth panoramic imaginary picture, painting, photograph, wide-angled lens's view of the vision of the mind, the dump for the memorized--and don't we memorize by words?--and in this deep-thinking sense I include numerals as words, too, and certainly thought out in our skulls as words, five plus five equals 10--see, I read that 10 as a word--and think of how many words are involved in our everyday lives--even those words we think to ourselves all day, or those words we are constantly seeming to be reading, or those words we hear, words, a maddening herd of words rushing back and forth across the fields of our mental monitors. Some words we don't have any definite idea what their definitions are. Some words are so foreign to us we don't even understand them unless we're multilinguists and even then we're thin in words where an indigenous speaker knows multiplicities of more words with more wordy meanings in his or her own language than the multilinguist will ever have, even with all his or her reference books, linguistics studies, and dictionaries, and lexicons--there's always a language somewhere with words yet to be defined, though they are rattled off in the daily life of where they are used, flung about into the airs of the world, to crystalize as babblings on places like this glorious Internet. Words. Give them any meaning you want, it doesn't matter. "Banana?" a human asks a monkey. Of course that monkey knows the word banana! Monkeys aren't dummies, they see a banana and they have an instant recall of the monkey sight-word for banana. Seeing an object gives it a word definition in your brain even if you don't speak an understandable language that can't be put into human words! Though didn't all human words come from monkey sight-words in the beginning?
Monkey See; Monkey Do
I store a lot of my words in notebooks--and I've got tons of notebooks all over my apartment--a stack of them by my bed where I do most of my reading and jotting and tittling, shorthanding an array of words that gives me more than just a list of facts or a list of nutritious items or a long, farfetched idea I just put into randomly grabbed words that I think will help me remember the points I'm trying to make in my rough-draft thoughts. What would I do without words? I guess I would revert back to my natural monkey sight-word way of defining without writing it down as a word or speaking it clearly as an understandable word. "Here boy!" seems to work just as well with girl dogs as it does boy dogs. Hell, a dog has to sniff to know whether she's a female or a male? Dogs use smell-words in their thoughts. Dogs have sight words, too, don't get me wrong. And heard words, too. Except heard words are translated through ears into thought words, same as sight words and smell words and I'm getting a little prattly here--prattle--a word that reminds me of "prairie rattler" because I'm from the prairie where there are rattlers, so the pra--and the the rattle--make up the words "prairie rattler" in my mind--ho-hum.
And I got on the elevator yesterday with a Chinese woman who was wearing an embroidered Chinese-style jacket and the closer I looked at the back of it which was right in front of me the more I figured out the design on the back of that jacket was a gnarling of silk dragon characters framing a very finely embroidered representation of old Saint Nick, Santa Claus, standing full figure, looking like George Bernard Shaw playing Sir Winston Churchill as Santa Claus--and I said, "Damn, woman, you've got Santie Claus on the back of your jacket," and she turned and with a big smile said, "Yes," and I just started saying, "Ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho!" Doesn't that mean "good luck" in Mandarin? She looked at me with much admiration, I must add in a gentlemanly fashion.
I sometimes decide I've learned enough. I have plenty of knowledge. Then I think, hell, why don't I settle down and make something out of all the knowledge I already possess--I mean, look at all these notebooks I've got scattered around my apartment--right here by this Mac there is a pile of them--let's see--I'll just pick one up at random here and see what words come tumbling out of it...
Spilling Words Out of a Notebook
Here we go, let's see, here's an entry:
"Eugen Weber said Shelly said the world wouldn't be free until 'the last King is strangled with the guts of the last priest.'" Did Shelly really say that? If he did, I'm impressed. I once stood on the Bay of Spezia and looked out at where I figured Shelly drowned. It made a big impression on me. I may have started to tear up with excitement--I don't remember, but I probably did.
Let's see what else falls out of this notebook:
"Bowles. To N African Moslem male a woman is a piece of property with just slightly more value than a sheep. p. 134 green heads/blue hands."
"...of all Berbers--the Touaregs write their language derived language system No one knows how old Touareg alphabet is. It is a true phonetical alphabet with 23 simple & 13 compound letters Bowles"
"Matthew Hammond was burned at the stake"
"accusations lead to denials"
"Thomas Hobbes (materialist thinking)"
And then from out of this notebook falls:
"New Names That Just Pop Up Out of Nowhere like
Raymour & Fitzgerald
The Art Institute of NYC
SBLI USA "Why America's working family use SBLI USA"
(Savings Banks Life Insurance Fund)
The Lipper Average (on T Rowe Price ad)
Globe Life Insurance"
I was watching teevee one night and started noticing all these new business names advertising on teevee that just sort of popped up overnight--like Raymour & Fitzgerald furniture stores! Where'd they come from? For years on NYC teevee Seaman's Furniture Stores had their ads running 24/7 on all channels--suddenly they're long gone and this Raymour & Fitzgerald are saying they're the cat's meow in furniture stores around here now. How come Raymour & Fitzgerald are succeeding where Seaman's failed? And Red Robin, which is an chain of eatin' joints (read: fast transfat-loaded food). Where the hell did they come from? See how just a few words jotted down can lead to a whole extended paragraph of explaining words--why, one could write a story out of all these words.
And a guy named Harry Ruby made a fortune off "Three Little Words."
for The Daily Growler