While there were fewer periscoping phones surfacing above the crowded sea, the talkers were as pervasive as ever, babbling about their dramas and feelings. I was too polite to shush or give them even a backward glance, yet still flummoxed to complain about their noises on the walk along the Mission back to our car after the concert.
“NO!” one girl was shouting at the other, over and over, every 4-6 bars, in various shades of incredulity and disbelief, each time a deeper respite about something — sounded like a challenge, the kind of “no” you reserved for problems of the ego. Something she was either unwilling to do or unwilling to condone.
Every time, every concert, every venue, nearly every song. Blabbering about anything but the music. What did I expect, from all the drinks and haircuts and startups and disposable experiences?
And then I looked up.
And there the night sky appeared under the ceiling of the chapel, reflecting into the eaves and beams a pathway to just how earnest anything could be, even an artificial annular eclipse.
I was equally flummoxed by the symmetry of the ceiling.
To share a birthday is coincidence, to understand something of the sun. To share a birth year, as Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. did, is to move toward the asymptote of fate, to understand something of the earth.
“His bad mood a space helmet lowered over his head, poor Nat trapped inside with no way to know whether the atmosphere was breathable, no gauge to tell him when his air supply would run out.” — Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon
You think the helmet is there to protect you from something dangerous, some unknown cause of blunt force injury. Or trying to keep the scattered messages in, like some particle detector.
It is equally spectacular that the planet brought about Dinosaurs as well as Humans, who discovered the hidden dreams of Dinosaurs, wrote and talked and walked and made small monuments to them from their remains, recasting the concept as something worthy of play.
If the cleanup is inevitable, perhaps you can enjoy the craft of making a mess.
I could feel the contrast brimming from the itinerary — a morning memorial for Bobby and afternoon first birthday party for Emmett — the social bookends of life.
At the high school gymnasium, the memorial celebrated us and how we carry the memory of Bobby a bit further forward into the future. What was it, to have been in this world with you, this idea of your spirit? And what of this idea do we want to take into our future? Did Bobby understand his importance? Did we, while he was here? We certainly do now.
The birthday party, in the backyard sun, proxied a celebration about parenting, as Emmett with his cake-smooshing hands unable to comprehend anything meaningful in the way that the rest of us collectively believe these celebrations are about. They were strangely, similarly not directly for the one-year-old, more of a first dress rehearsal of a ritual about the one-year-old.
They speak words about Bobby, saying all the brightest elegies he cannot hear. “Why don’t people say these things before they die,” he had wondered.
We sing about a numbered candle before Emmett can understand the words, thinking all the best things for him. I take his picture, understanding that the colors and shapes will be so foreign to him — in his imagined future — and yet so clearly about him, that day when a group of people helped bring the idea of a person into the future.
Asking “Why am I interested in this thing?” is fundamentally less important than finding out what is so interesting about the thing.
The way you do one thing is the way you do everything? This was the good news and the bad news. It meant that play could be practice and that often —or always — in therapy it was the process rather than the content.
I hadn’t seen him in the back seat of the car, laying low, surviving like a hermit crab, until after I photographed the frame and wheels of his car and Keith Haring-esque cave spraypainting of hieroglyphics. A rolling canvas of faces.
The man in the backseat walked out as I was reversing out of my parking space, a cell phone in one hand and standing directly in front of me taking pictures in my direction, at first like some retributional performance art, but then perhaps more-so in retaliation.
I rolled down my passenger window and apologized for invading his privacy and that “I just liked the pattern on your car and thought it was interesting, I didn’t see that you were in there.”
“Oh,” the man replied, his tan face and the wide look in his eye, explaining he thought I was with a Santa Cruz group against car living (the name of which escaped me on the drive home). And so I was no longer the enemy. From inside his car, perhaps I was. He shared that he was getting a lot of comments about the car, that the guy he bought it from had discounted the price of the car because of the paintings. Was it protection or was it a liability?
This wasn’t the first sedan-living man I’d seen this week. These were portable shelters, these were indicators of problems with opaque and perhaps impossible solutions, these were predicaments I couldn’t quite tackle.
“That”, he said, waving his hands in the direction of the chair, “is entirely separate from taking a step.” The space above the chair, after about ten minutes of conversation, had come to represent the world of problem-solving. “It’s firewalled.”
“You took one step, and smiled just a little bit, the first time all night, and then you came back over to the problem-solving world.”
And sat back down.