1999 Notebook: Interval XXIX

26 September 1999
Preceding a Serious Automobile Accident
It seems that the moments preceding a serious automobile crash are, almost without exception, unexceptional. One moment there's just the mmmmm of the car, maybe a conversation, maybe some recorded music. The usual.

And then there's the crash: smashing glass and bones, rending metal, that sort of thing. Anyone who's been in a car crash remembers every second of it, and anyone who hasn't will have to find a better writer than me to adequately describe it.

Anyway, I started out on just such an ordinary journey yesterday, a drive through narrow, winding country lanes. Everything was as normal as normal gets these days on a warm autumn afternoon; there was nothing to suggest an imminent car wreck.

I arrived home safely, without incident.

27 September 1999
Ocular Tendrils
Ubiquitous overripe kumquats hyperventilate unnecessarily, perchance amalgamating odious jetsam peripherally. Ocular tendrils discursively prevaricate--internecine tendencies askance, routinely proliferating unchecked.

Harmon B. Warriner of Modesto, British Columbia, was the grain of sand--the catalyst, really--for the preceding pearl of a paragraph. Mr. Warriner, who appears to be one of my few regular readers, wrote to tell me "I have read your notebook and much like it." Quite a nice compliment, I thought, although Molly suggested a second reading might yield a different interpretation. Whatever; I haven't got time for that now.

Anyway, Mr. Warriner suggested my work "might be further enhanced by the judicious expansion of your somewhat limited vocabulary." (Hmmm, maybe Molly was right.) So I gave it a shot, and found twenty words I hadn't used once in the preceding 1,365 entries.


(Make that twenty-one.)

28 September 1999
"I'm Going to Eat My Brain."
I heard a great story on the radio. It was on one of those science programs that entertains more than it educates. That's fine with me. When a piece of science journalism tries to impart too much new information, everything just goes in one ear and out the other, like mental floss.

The program I heard talked about the sea sprite, one of the more interesting citizens of Neptune's realm. At least I think it was called a sea sprite; I wasn't paying close attention. In any case, the sea sprite swims around until it finds a good place to live for the rest of its life, then permanently attaches itself to a rock. After that, it survives by filtering bits of little dead stuff out of sea water.

Now here's the good part. Since it doesn't take a lot of intelligence to survive on marine dandruff, the sea sprite's last thought is this: "I'm going to eat my brain."

Then the sea sprite eats its brain.

That's a metaphor for so many people, customs, institutions, practices, et cetera, that I have no idea what to say next.

29 September 1999
Not Right, Not Even Wrong
Jon asked me what I thought of his new project. Since I've known him long enough to be candid, I told him the truth.

"It doesn't look at all right to me," I said. "It's so off the target it's not even wrong."

30 September 1999
Garrison Keillor's Clever Punctuation
I've always liked Garrison Keillor's writing, and his radio show. It's hard to read the former without hearing the latter, and vice-versa. I suppose that writing and speaking with one voice may be a sign of aesthetic success, although I'm not quite sure about that.

I'm reading a book of his old short pieces, Happy to Be Here. It's like a collection of anyone's work: there's some very good stuff, some not so very good stuff, some stuff in between, and an exceptional paragraph in "Friendly Neighbor":

    To those too young to remember the show, it probably seems corny, but to listeners the Bensons were as real as if they did live next door. Reverend Weiss recalled, "I once said to Dad, 'You were a pastor of the flock as much as I, or perhaps more so, for your sermons were in the form of stories, as the parables of old, and brought home spiritual truths far better than preaching ever could. Tens of thousands listened and tens of thousands responded to the message of love for one's fellow-man that was ever the keynote of "Friendly Neighbor." ' "

Now, I don't read that much, and I certainly don't know that much about punctuation, but I'm pretty sure that I've never ever seen a paragraph that ended in "" ' "" before.

Great job, Garrison!

1 October 1999
Serene Pub Vision
The first time Christopher walked into his local pub after moving to Brixton, he was presented with a serene tableau. Only three people were there that warm, midweek afternoon: the barman and two customers. All three were asleep, their heads on the bar, cushioned by folded arms.

Christopher now spends as much time there as he can. Who wouldn't?

2 October 1999
derrière Under Siege
I had dinner tonight with a woman I'd met only once before, nine years ago. Although I hadn't talked with her over the years, I had heard a thing or two about her. (So far, she's more of a friend of my friends than a friend proper.)

Between carrots, I decided to inquire about one of the stories I'd heard.

"So, was it your derrière that was under siege in the youth hostel?" I asked.


"I heard you and the gals met some lads in the pub and invited them back to the youth hostel for another drink. If I recall the anecdote properly, one of the boys was last seen chasing you around the kitchen on his hands and knees at three in the morning expressing his drunken desire to bite your bottom."

"Oh, that," she replied, "that wasn't me, it was Vanessa. But don't repeat that story; her husband's not very understanding about that sort of thing."

Still, and despite the decorous wishes of my dining companion, a derrière under an inebriated lustful siege is a wonderful story that demands to be told, and so I have. Nevertheless, I will add that "Vanessa" is not the real name of the woman possessing the bottom in question.

gratuitous image
3 October 1999
Fiona Coleman (snaportait)
Fiona is a friend of mine.

4 October 1999
I haven't developed the photographs I made of Carey or Fiona, and I have my doubts about how well they'll come out. I only made one exposure of each of them, and that's not a good idea. As anyone with a motor drive will confirm, the law of probabilities is a photographer's best friend.

After complaining before (on 11 January and 29 June) about how disappointing my experiment of making a portrait every interval this year has been, I've finally decided to do something about it.

Now a lesser artist might resolve to work more diligently, but that's too obvious, too predictable for someone of my stature. Instead, I've hit upon a more elegant solution, a semantic remedy for my visual ills. With the help of my unquestioning computer, I've automatically renamed all of this year's so-called portraits to snaportraits.

Expectation management; that's the ticket!

5 October 1999
Sylvestre Matuschka
Two commuter trains collided in London this morning. Carriages ripped, flipped, and crumpled. A small lake of diesel fuel caught on fire, cremating some of the dozens of people who died even before they got to work. Anyway you look at it, it's a tragedy.

I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that when I think of horrible train crashes, I think of Gomez Addams and Sylvestre Matuschka.

Most people somewhat familiar with contemporary popular culture will have heard of Gomez Addams, the patriarch of the Addams family. Addams had an elaborate model train set that he used to stage railway spectaculars. He delighted in sending one miniature train on a collision course with another. And Addams didn't plan just any collision either, he carefully timed the trains' speeds so that they would collide in the middle of a trestle bridge over a deep gorge.

Of course, the trains never collided. Seconds before the speeding trains reached the bridge, Addams pushed the plunger linked to a series of explosives in the trestles supporting the bridge, then, KABOOM! The trains sped into thin air where the bridge used to be; no more moose and squirrel.

Sylvestre Matuschka did pretty much the same thing, but with two important differences. He masturbated during the train wrecks. And he blew up real bridges.

Matuschka was a Hungarian hero in the first world war. In 1931, a Vienna court sentenced him to six years in an Austrian prison before shipping him back to Hungary. He was released during the second world war, presumably to blow up more bridges.

And that's the last history tells us about Sylvestre Matuschka. Sort of. In fact, I learned everything I know about Sylvestre Matuschka from Jello Biafra's song, Sylvestre Matuschka; it's on Lard's Last Temptation of Reid recording. Sylvestre Matuschka is not one of Lard's best tunes, but it is one of the more interesting ones.

(It's curious to note that Matuschka's erotic interest in motorized disasters predates J.G. Ballard's novel Crash and David Cronenberg's film of the same name of the same book by several decades.)

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©1999 David Glenn Rinehart