Monday, August 31, 2009

On Giving the Lie

"...the fact that, to a certain extent, the head and the genitals are opposite poles to each other."
-A. Schopenhauer, World As Will & Representation

I am gratingly Simple. Tho' I wear the Crown of Learning, I am but Pretender to that noble Throne; tho' I have tasted up caviar, & the Oysters of Chesapeke Bay, I have a Purse as deep as the Grand Canyon, & as parch'd of Filling. I explore, simply, a Home-Colony - that is, a place so antiently inhabited & storied with Tradition as to be a Home; and a place so unfamiliar, so transiently Occupied as to be a Colony.

Eagerly I seek in writings & Incident the tales, Exempla, Wit & whimsy that so delight a Reader. And yet wherever I turn there is the Janus-Face of Virginia. Truth is a but a door, that only bars Entry, or hides its shamed Face from us. Some Modesty in Almighty's constitution has occluded the Nature of Things, or else why wou'd so many great philosophers chase after rocks and trees? Why wou'd Johnson, in a rage, kick a Rock, rather than kick up an argument?

"Things are only mannequins and even the great world-historical events are only costumes..."
-Walter Benjamin

But we cannot ask Benjamin why; things switch'd their garb and chased him to Spain.

Mounting a full 2-weeks past, I partook of a local Tavern's wares. Two gentlemen of Learning accompanied me, one an eminent Divine, as yet entering his Programme of study; the other a student of historical Philosophy, acquainted with the profounder history of this Noble State, VIRGINIA.

As we scrutinized the nachoes, burrittoes, & sundry Salsa-dip'd dishes, I noticed that my belov'd beer, the 32 oz Dos Equiz (XX; $4.50, 1/4 doubbloon) had been removed. A 20 oz Tecate (also a 1/4 doubbloon!) wd have to suffice, tho' it barely did. Grumblingly settling for this new Stab at my tender Purse, my scholarly company did jest at my Exploits - those committ'd while under the full Weight of Beer's gold-fizz'd River. Such did we pass Time, till waittress came.

This Serving-wench was a young lass of perhaps 22 or 23, with honeyish blonde hair & the brown eyes as one might see flitting thro' the woods, on a delicate, nymph-like Doe. Let us call her Olivia. That she had her charms is admitt'd, tho' none so strong as to win me entirely from Mme Bainton. Blondes hold only the rarest appeal to yr correspondent.

She began her eve with us by leaning 'gainst the Table, & thrusting her Breasts quite in our faces. Bent in that attitude, she flitted her Eyes most daringly. When I spoke my desire for a Siam Pea-nut Burrittoe, she smirked, remembering this to be my Favorite. She danced her eyes to the Divine, and again she found a Hero's form, with grace & wit commodiously blended. And in the Philosopher she had found a Love deserving her dowry. I shd say, this Olivia has tuned her voice to a desirous huskiness, the sort of Forest-rustle that discloses animal Lust. Thus did our table begin a Colloquium, as to the delirious & inflamed behavior of our Hostess.

Befitting the eternal Contest with my Liver, already I had dispensed with the foppishly inane Tecate, and desired more Drink. Spirits were high, and the keen taste of daring was fresh as salt on my tongue. I wished - a Margarita.

The Divine and I began to debate the divers merits of the congregated tequilas. Already we had comment'd & discuss'd the peculiar behavior of this Saucy bit of Mutton, for she seem'd to have those profligate Affections common to Kitchen-slatterns, and yet all the sincerities of the most devoted Amour. I was all at sea.

She returned. She express'd her distaste for indecision. "What is needed," she offered with glee, "is a round of tastes!"

So she recruit'd her friend, another bar-Harlot, and gave her six bottles of the finest Spirits behind the bar. She crawl'd on her Back, adjusted her various petties and nonesuches, and, squirting Lime on her bare Stomach, dripped Salt in circles round three shot-glasses. This, we were given to understand, was our sampling tray.

Thus began the richest & most profligate Debauch recorded by human Sense & understanding. There was a great tapping of Canes, which delighted the Strumpets past the gates of Delirium. They saw no end of Pleasure in examining our Hats, strain'd in their puritan formality, when compared to the Dandyish excesses surrounding. The Divine swung, monkeyish, from the stuff'd moose, and hung down to grope the bosoms of passing femmes. The Philosopher shook his head, and order'd another tup off the barley-faucet, passing the night in bewilder at the Bar. And when I struck at their electric candles with my Dagger, the Hussies laugh'd, fiendish & choral as the pipes of an infernal organ. All the while, Olivia dragged my hand off her thigh, & then wou'd whine and cavil at the Loss of my Affections. "O, I am so glad to have had you at table to-night!" she whisper'd.

Wou'd that I cd say, I took her thro' the Kitchen & roger'd thoroughly. Wou'd that I cd say her Hands clasped mine in the door, and we made quick to a secluded spot of Romauncing. Wou'd that I cd say, she lies indolent & warm, and at the sound of my scribbling, a sleepy soft grunt might sound: "Mn."

But I cannot. We made to leave, quite disorder'd in Costume & Understanding, Cravats all askew, the work done to my Boots taking two of my good Stubb's Sundays to repair. And as I turn'd to grasp my harlot's paw, her warm entangling fingers, Olivia turn'd up her face, and heaved a moldering bucket of bar-slop to the side-walk. "Take ye & yr curly-cued Friends away! And remember next time of the Tip!"

Perhaps, in the Great Lottery of Souls, I shd have won a Precious scholar, a Dunce well-practised in Logic-chopping, or a bean-eating Philosopher, such as Pythagoras, or that high-flown saint, who, refusing Woman because of her sundry Charms, turned away even his mother. But I have not, and struggle & tumble yet with my liver, and my studying brains muddle with the incessant coquettries of serving wenches. I am worldly enough to recognize kisses for hire, but not yet lamprey enough to disdain them.

"...the final cause of the beard is...the rapid change in the features of the face which betrays every hidden movement of the mind...visible mainly in the mouth and vicinity. Therefore...nature gave man the beard. Woman, on the other hand could dispense with it, for her dissimulation and self-control are inborn."
-A. Schopenhauer, World as Will & Representation

For the curious: a brief filmic representation & True History of the Debauch, earlier alluded to but passed over in consideration of lewdness and time:

Out of Countenance

"I am, unluckily, one of those who have an antipathy to a cat, so that I am uneasy when in the room with one; and I own, I frequently suffered a good deal from the presence of this same Hodge. I recollect him one day scrambling up Dr. Johnson's breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by the tail; and when I observed he was a fine cat, saying, 'Why yes, Sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than this;' and then as if perceiving Hodge to be out of countenance, adding, 'but he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed."
-BOSWELL, The Life of Samuel Johnson, L.L.D.

On the penultimate night of August, yr humble correspondent stood on Charlottesville's Rugby Rd, peering at the night-clouds, curled and orange. The echoes of a house party up the Street bounced off the Unitarian building next door, silent and empty . A pale lamplight cast a ghoulish glow on its prognathous Porch; another Rotunda derivative, making a Skeleton's Grin at midnight.

Under this grim sign did I make my way home. So scrambled were my impressions that I had little Sense; I ate of my Host's blue-corn tortilla Chips, and betook myself to a nap.

For two hrs peculiar Fancies occupied my mind. The esteem'd Wm. Byrd has written that tho' sleep may disorder our intellect, and sacrifices some of our alloted on this Earth, it gives us Dreams. For which we may be thankful, for Dreams are our payment for sleep. As there are divers kinds of coin, so divers sorts of dreams in which our Creator rewards our daily Sabbath.

Some are night visions, which dis-cover a cryptic solution, as yet unforeseen. So August Kekulé, who was given the chemical structure of Benzene in a reverie. However, so Delphic is the signification of dreams, that Kekulé only saw a Snake swallowing its own tail. While the noble art of historical philosophy calls this Ouroboros, in America the Indians tell of a certain Hoop-Snake, which, when given a fright, or pursued by a Predator, holds its tail fast in its jaws and rolls away, quite as the hoops on a hogshead.

And thus we roll to another dream-type, the Visitation. Here our domestick Fancy proves her sparkling grace. She entertains guests, - pulls out chairs, offers tea, a compliment of victuals, and when clear'd of our appetite, she allows us intercourse with divers persons. Some perhaps dead, some long-since disappeared from our familiar round, some only taken in a Moment's glance. Thus do our Impressions and Memories participate in a great Family Reunion, conversing in unlikely company, though all linked by relation to Ourselves.

The above shou'd include those peculiar Intrigues which sometimes occupy an overheated Fancy, and even also those dreams, such as visited on authors &c. who find themselve given over to a narrative or tale. These disconnected epiphanies dance 'round the knotted minds of poets - how else to explain the Metamorphoses of Ovidius? Or the petulant insistence of Samuel Butler, that perhaps Nausikaa did write for Homer, he having already nodded off?

There can be no easy Dividing-Line betwixt these types, as Aeneas found when the mangled body of the hero Hector, his fallen cousin, appeared over his bed. As the flames licked the highest spires of Ilion, and the blood of Troy already spatter'd the ankles of raging Neoptolemus, Hector speaks:

'heu fuge, nate dea, teque his' ait 'eripe flammis.hostis habet muros; ruit alto a culmine Troia. sat patriae Priamoque datum: si Pergama dextradefendi possent, etiam hac defensa fuissent.sacra suosque tibi commendat Troia penatis;hos cape fatorum comites, his moenia quaeremagna pererrato statues quae denique ponto.'

‘Ah, flee, goddess-born,’ he cries, ‘and escape from these flames. The foe holds our walls; Troy falls from her lofty height. All claims are paid to king and country; if Troy’s towers could be saved by strength of hand, by mine, too, had they been saved. Troy entrusts to you her holy things and household gods; take them to share your fortunes: seek for them the mighty city, which, when you have wandered over the deep, you shall at last establish!’

Thus Hector, his once-noble form torn, blackened with bood and dust, his feet ripped open by the ropes of Achilles' chariot.

So deep does Fancy drive us within our Recollections and Visions that we are only wakened with difficulty. Indeed, the fire of Imagination consumes our other senses, melting them into the single alloy of its use. In this camera obscura, that hidden Room where some harmless drudge attends to the secret work of our mental Processes, sight, sound, taste, smell, even touch are subdued, twist'd and hammer'd to the shape of Imagination's vision. No longer will they work their peculiar Tasks - the senses, as we, are dead.

Which makes last night's sudden awake all the more perturbing. I was aroused from commodious ease by the most pungent, horrific Scent ever dreamt by King Intestine. Nay, it was not a scent - nor any of the other minor Imps, yr bouquets, fragrances and aromas.

In my sleep the Indolent Reek had settled its grotesque Rump upon my face and refus'd to budge. Foolish vanity supposed that exhaustion wou'd overwhelm me, defeating my disgust. But the Stench stalked about the room, capering and cavorting with Fiendish grimaces. With every step it unveiled a new Spice, a new Vantage on its wretched visage. It seems that in my sleep the cats had been at large, and perhaps in a kind of vengeance upon me, for my benign Apathy to their Charms, they had committed a felonious raid on the Litter Box, not a pace from the Foot of my Bed.

I assayed a Chemical Treatment upon the Beastly Effluvium, but not even the official spray of the National Foot-ball League cou'd do more than anger the emanation. I had only Irritated the beast, and encouraged it to do me still Greater Trespass with a new, brimstonish humor - one that I cou'd only compare, perhaps, with a half-digested Blood Sausage, retrieved from the bottom of a Latrine pit on the night of a climactic Barbecque, as we provide on the Chesapeke Coast of Virginia.

In retrieving a Mechanickal lighter, I passed by the Mothers of that satanish Stink, who meowed with sardonic glee at my Predicament. I admit, that in my vomitous State, I did hurl some Imprecations at them such as wou'd not well-acquit a Gentleman. But they are vile ass-hussies, and cats, to Boot.

Having kept a nauseous vigil for 1/2 hr at a vanilla candle, I set aside my book, a long-forgotten (because always-mentioned) novel, glared disconsolately at the grey muck of Filth across the room, and blew out the light.

"This reminds me of the ludicrous account which he gave Mr Langton, of the despicable state of a young Gentleman of good family. 'Sir, when I heard of him last, he was running about town shooting cats.' And then in a sort of kindly reverie, he bethought himself of his own favourite cat, and said, 'But Hodge shan't be shot; no, no, Hodge shall not be shot.'"

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Old, Weird Jefferson

During a recent sojourn, deep into the bowels of Mr. Jefferson's university's library, I sought a copy of Coke's Laws, and other sundry works. I expected a peaceful, if sedentary, Morning, devoted to the clerical arts of Reading and Contemplation, a mild Physic of divers readings.

But Lo! I turned a dusty Corner, and there did find a cryptic Freak of a man. Encircled like a Magus of old with the writings of Jefferson, he stare'd coldly at a bust of that venerated Virginian. He seem'd to read Messages from the mute Visage, which he had paint'd to much the colors of a living man, and wd run his coarse & knotted figures 'cross its face. The moldy scent of Madness hung in the air, a vapor commonly dispersed amongst such antient Tomes. I tried to pass, leaving him to his obscure Devotions, but he called - "Hark! See ye this? Seek ye knowledge of the Truth? Look no further than the Brazen Head of that Primeval Patriarch, JEFFERSON!"

To explain: As in Herculaneum they did celebrate Heracles, and in Rome the very footprints of Romulus are venerated, so in Charlottesville, so "Mr." Jefferson. To be sure, Founder of a Univ., Author of the Decl. of Independence, and of the V. Statute of Religious Freedom - these wou'd make a lesser Man Great in the eyes of his contemporaries.

But not Jefferson. His Feats began early in his life, and so Numerous were they that scribblers & scrawlers exhausted their inkpots, merely recording the deeds of this Titan. The aforementioned Old Mortality (for that was his name), provided me with the following tale. I offer you this his testimony, yet more proof of this man's judicious & learned character:

It was the February of 1761. Jefferson's enthusiasm for his studies overwhelmed him, calling him back from friends, wine, and the entertainments of that decadent whorepit[sic] Williamsburg. Of an evening, he wd spend his hours hunched over Adam Smith, or translating Ossian, or examining the writings of Tacitus & Homer. His determination bought him a spacious estate of knowledge, and proved his industry.

But sometimes at night, when the wind moan'd in the rafters, he wd walk into Williamsburg, to see George Wythe, or William Small, both professors, or perhaps to visit a fellow-student boarded in the town. It happened that on this bleak, cold evening, Jefferson was walking to the rooms of his friend, John Page. Page's letter to his father tells the rest of the story:

"Tho. has had a most remarkable experience. But two weeks ago, he traveled towards my rooms to dine, for I had recently obtained some delicious Pheasant from across the James, in Surry County. Walking the streets of Williamsburg as the sun's last did fade, a rain began to pinch his face. He ran to the porch of my Boarding House, and did stand under the cover of the awning for some brief moments, to preserve his clothing from the onslaught of vicious water.

At this juncture, a quite rain-soaked ruffian accosted him. Pardon sir, exclaimed the degenerate, could you spare coin for a lonely soul this evening?

You will remember, from Christmas last, Tho's vicious distaste for all persons transient and indigent; the thought of an odious rapscallion such as this pawing at his purse threw Noble Tho. into a phrenzy. Thus, he smote the scoundrel betwixt the eyes, breaking open the skull across his brow. At this, Tho. set down his brass-topped cane, and thought to examine the peculiar physiology of such a warped, rascallish type; but all at once, a veritable throng of ungrateful Beggars sprung towards him, at which he retreated into my house, breathing the story with equal parts frantic rage and sated relief."

"So the story, from the very correspondence of John Page! Doubt ye the veracity of the King of Rosewell? Will ye continue to deny that signification, so mystic and yet so keen?"

* * *

Thus did Old Mortality sing his Tale in his Bibliocrypt, and thus he undoubtedly sings still.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chopping Out

When, in Antient Times, our Forebears did survey a Ground, establishing those Lines which wou'd ensure all the commodious assurances of Property, those hearty men wou'd "Chop Out" a section of Woods. Taking down saplings and lesser Trees, leaving the Titans of that primeval Forest to break of their own Accord, these Explorers chopp'd into the Unnamed Wilderness.

And, as they with their clumsy axes did divvy the mute and remote Woodlands, so I set forth into that unseen VIRGINIA; the moreso ignored because omnipresent; as a Housewife's domestic improvements, by their very Success, are sure to be ignored. Or, as a Beggar's ubiquity blanches the Horror of Poverty.

I shall present True & Accurate notes on the body of our Dominion, not flinching from the bitten Nails and broken Bones, but neither forgetting to compliment her graceful carriage, her sweet-tuned Voice, and the autumnal light in her hair.