Friday, March 29, 2013


Well, I've certainly fallen down on my pledge to myself, to post something here every day for a year.  I'll try to figure out just how bad I should feel, maybe in November. 

Today, a quiet day at home, mostly spent in the den, amid all my paper-making supplies, in a heap that would horrify normal visitors.  I lay on the couch, with one of the cats asleep next to me, and a bag of ice perched on my sore right shoulder, while I took men's pink shirts apart with a knife, and watched 1940's B-grade movies about 'The Doctor Detective'.  Idle hands being the devil's workshop, after all...

The movies -- totally unremarkable, fairly typical of the period, were interesting to me because the plots were so transparent, the exposition unspooled as artlessly and unselfconsciously as possible, and life seemed incredibly unsophisticated or suspicious, in spite of the prevalence of bad guys in ugly hotel rooms that all looked the same.  Were the lives of my parents and their contemporaries really mirrored in these films?  Did these movies really reflect the expectations of adults in post-WWII America?  If so, I think, if I had been born thirty years earlier, I might have been the biggest, most successful crook in human history.

I also found the women's clothes -- especially the hats -- mesmerizing.  Even in cheap movies like these, every female seen out of doors was wearing a fairly complicated chapeau.  There seemed to be a vaguely architectural/science fiction flavor to them.  I can only imagine what colors they might have been, black and white being so clever at disguising orange as green, etc etc etc.

Then I had two jobs to do: clean out the fridge, and make sure there was something to eat for dinner.  The fridge part was relatively quick and easy -- I just grabbed everything that had been lurking on one shelf or another for longer than absolutely necessary, and threw it out.  Why we insist on keeping cooked broccoli, when we so rarely eat same, may always remain a mystery to me.

Shopping.  I've promised to bring scalloped potatoes to the potluck Easter lunch John and I are attending, so I needed all the ingredients, plus the odd this and that, like... more broccoli.  In no time, my little blue plastic hand basket was filled to the brim, and I was semi-regretful of not having chosen a cart instead.  Especially with my sore arm.

I also found myself thinking, again, about being dead.  Actually, I'd started thinking about being dead right at the intersection of South Center St. and South Orange Avenue, on my way to the market.  I don't know what prompts these little bouts of... not exactly gloom, but maybe more like a longing for disconnection, I guess.  When I had finally picked up the final (non-essential) item for this particular trip, I stood in line for checkout, and had a pretty intense dizzy spell -- one of the first I've had outside the house.  And of course, while the wooziness swept over me, and then ebbed away, I thought about dying -- was this going to be it?  Was I going to die in public, in the checkout line in the South Orange supermarket, where Dionne Warwick is known to have shopped?  What might I be thinking about, lying on the linoleum and looking up at all the baskets they've hung from the ceiling?  What might I say, to disconcerted customers and panic-stricken cashiers?

No one could tell, of course, and I just did my usual joking during the ringing up process, asking if it makes any difference if I put produce before packaged goods, or the other way 'round.  Lugging the groceries back to the van -- more food than many villages in Africa probably see in an average month, I'll bet -- I had to change which arm I used, because the injured shoulder was finally complaining.  I decided to put the bags of groceries on the passenger seat, buckled them in snuggly, and set about extricating myself from the parking dungeon.

And while I was maneuvering around concrete pillars and other parked cars, I drifted back to what seemed to be the topic du jour, at least for this little errand: death.  Or more specifically, being dead.  It may truly be that what I fear and/or dread most about this stupid inevitable transition (if we're being optimistic.  I think), is not knowing how that actual transition will feel.  Will there be pain?  I'm not especially heroic about pain. 

I'm also squeamish about my appearance in public, and knowing what I do about death and its impact on the human body, I dread what seems to be an involuntary, inelegant mess, upon deceasing.  When we lived in Rochester, I happened to meet, through a folk-singing group, a Presbyterian minister who, apparently, was frequently called upon to witness the death of a member of his congregation, and he would from time to time make a mordant comment, indicating the frequency with which the deceased was discovered 'straining at stool'.  I would say that all of my suicide fantasies take messiness into account, as a high-priority item on the agenda.

But, while I waited for the light at South Orange Avenue and Scotland Road to turn green, so I could proceed on my one-mile westward drive to our house, I looked at my hands on the steering wheel and thought again about Proust's observation: 'Dying is easy -- people do it every day.  Thinking about death -- especially one's own death -- is impossible.'  Can I actually imagine my not being physically present on the planet?           

There's a meditation I found, in a book called 'The Secret' (which title I find hilarious, given how bulky the volume is, with conspicuous gold lettering on the cover and down the spine), in which I'm asked to imagine that I don't have a head.  I think that, when I first read it, I thought this, too, was hilarious, and then impossible.  But when I tried to put this into practice -- mostly on my commute down to Philadelphia when I was still somewhat meaningfully employed -- I found it to be curiously refreshing and diverting.  I tried to pretend that whatever I was seeing or thinking was actually taking place right about where my sternum is.  And as a matter of fact, I came to like this weird exercise, which must be impossible to do correctly, which of course means it's also impossible to do wrong.

But the reason I bring this up -- this purported imagining that I'm dead (which is probably, more truthfully, imagining that I'm imagining that I'm dead) led me to think about the possible benefits of being dead.  Which I thought I'd kind of list here:

Benefits of Being Dead.   (A Short List; A Complete Compilation Possibly Being Impossible)

Never having to do anything ever again.
Never losing anything ever again.
Not having to buy anything ever again.
Not having to worry about how I look.
Not having to worry about forgetting someone else's name, or anything else, for that matter.
Not having to worry about being late.
Not having to worry about being a failure.
Not having to worry about getting sick.
Not having to think about the odds of getting shot on any particular day.
Never having to drive anywhere for anything ever again.
In fact, never having to travel anywhere ever, ever again.
Never having to worry about getting older and more infirm.
Never having to think about what's for dinner.
Never having to think about deodorant or exercising, ever again.
Not having to worry about being polite.
Not worrying anymore about money.
Not thinking about the weather, or what to wear.
Not having to worry about being gay or not.
Not having to think about unfulfilled potential anymore.
No burping or farting.
Not having to spend time with people I don't like.
Not having to worry about misspelling things, or repeating myself.
Not having to be either particularly smart, or particularly stupid or clumsy.
Not having to worry about forgetting the house's security code, or anything else, for that matter.
Not having to worry about sin.
Not having to worry about death by tsunami, or meteor collision, or nuclear war, or plague.
Not having to think about death anymore.
Not worrying about halitosis.
Not worrying about never having sex again, or that the reason I'll never have sex again is that no one is particularly interested in me... that way.  Or, at least no one in whom I'm at least slightly interested... that way.

I think I'll leave this list on this prurient note, as John has arrived home, and I think I need to make motions similar to those one makes if one is going to make dinner.  About which, when I'm dead, I will never have to worry ever again. 

There seems to be a movie by Federico Fellini on TV now, and it seems to be about Napoleon.  Sometimes I prefer just to listen to movies from another room.  It's kind of like overhearing a conversation at Starbux. 

Happy Easter, or whatever.

©    2013               Walter Zimmerman

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