1999 Notebook: Interval IX

18 March 1999
A Harry Callahan Obituary Anecdote
I just learned that Harry Callahan died Monday at his Atlanta home. I liked a lot of his work; I liked it so much so that I plagiarized some of it.

This is a horrible thing to admit, but the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Harry Callahan isn't the work he made over many productive decades. Instead, I always think of a silly anecdote.

As anyone familiar with Callahan's output knows, he made from seven to nine million nude portraits of his wife Eleanor. A friend who visited Callahan a number of years ago had an awkward reception. Eleanor, not Harry, opened the door. This momentarily confused my friend. There was an awkward silence as my friend tried to think of something to say other than the first thing that came to mind: "Oh, you must be Eleanor. Sorry; I didn't recognize you with your clothes on."

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19 March 1999
A Common Word, Misspelled
A friend of mine, a retired schoolteacher, has some firm opinions when it comes to spelling.

"You know the word I've never seen anyone misspell? 'Fuck.' I've never ever seen it misspelled."

"Really?" (When it comes to fact-checking, I'm nothing if not rigorous.)

"Really," she replied. "A friend of mine was teaching in a new school, and after class a kid came up to him after class and asked how to spell the teacher's name. 'It's T-a-n-e-n-b-a-u-m,' he replied. He knew the kid had picked up the spelling correctly when he later caught the him writing 'Fuck Tanenbaum' on the sidewalk."

Of course, ever since she told me that story I've seen the word that's never misspelled misspelled everywhere.

20 March 1999
Old Delhi
A friend was telling me about her trip to India; she mentioned something about Old Delhi.

"Hold it," I said. "So there's an Old Delhi as well as a New Delhi?"

"Of course," she replied. "How could there be a New Delhi unless there was an Old Delhi?"

I must have been thinking of the United States, where everything is new: New England, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, New Orleans, et cetera. I don't think there's an Old England, Old Hampshire, Old Jersey, Old Mexico, Old York, Old Orleans, et cetera, although I'm too lazy to check.

21 March 1999
Peasant Idealism
Ivan's always looking for corporate sponsorship for his wacky projects. Ivan's never received a penny in corporate sponsorship, but he keeps trying. Ivan sincerely believes that the corporate bosses would be kind to him if they only knew what a deserving person he was.

Every time Ivan tells me about his latest proposal, I imagine a scene in Minsk a century ago. There's a miserable serf scratching out his nth petition to the tsar that, like all the other ones, will never be read by anyone but him.

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22 March 1999
Perfect Toothpaste
I have a tiny tube of toothpaste; it's the perfect package. It's brilliant white inside and out; everything's white except the word, "TOOTHPASTE."

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23 March 1999
Anonymous Snaportrait
I don't know who's in the sleeping bag. Whoever it is always appears and leaves from his (her?) spot across the street from my laboratory when I'm not looking. Another specter on San Francisco's golden streets.

24 March 1999
Kahlua, Love, and Life
I drank Kahlua and milk last night; that's all that was left after an unprecedentedly thirsty run on the laboratory bar.

The syrup reminded me of Harriet Hammer, my first Serious (with a capital S) girlfriend. She introduced me to the sugary Mexican concoction when I was--when we were--teenagers.

A drunk driver killed Harriet twenty-some years ago.

I remembered her fondly last night. Memories are about all that's left of her. When I and her few contemporaries are gone there'll be nothing. And soon after that there'll be no trace of me either.

That's love; that's life.

25 March 1999
Deodorized Cigarettes
George sprays deodorant on cigarettes. I don't know why; they smell just as bad--if not worse--than normal cigarettes.

26 March 1999
Frank the Pragmat
Frank was explaining some thing or another thing when, in the middle of everything, he mentioned that one of the protagonists in his tale was a pragmat.

I told Frank that I'd never heard the word "pragmat" before.

"I'm not surprised," he said. "I just made it up."

27 March 1999
A Bad Monet Review
I heard some wanker on the radio say, "I cry when I see Monet paintings." How ridiculous; Monet's paintings aren't that bad.

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©1999 David Glenn Rinehart