Saw King of Hearts again last night. It’s from 1966. I hadn’t seen it since 1974 or 75, when it was eight or nine years old which was a vast stretch of time then, equal to half the span of my long life. I saw it in a hippie movie theater in Fullerton CA between two other flicks though which I don’t remember. I do remember being confused. So I figured I’d watch it now, more than forty years later, being that l’m smarter and more sophisticated and mature. Unfortunately I fell asleep. That seems to happen to mature people. All that sophistication in exhausting.
I flunked pre-algebra so they had me retake it in summer school and gave me a D Minus even though I’d flunked it again. It must have a requirement for graduation or something. And I was a likeable kid. It was the only summer school class I ever had, and certainly the only time I ever took a class with all the other summer dumbfucks. And I was the dumbest of the dumbfucks in that class. The only one who flunked, or should have. Not that it bothered me any. All those letters where numbers should be.
Then we moved across town to another high school in another school district and I seem to remember having to take algebra and flunking it there too. Utterly mystified by all the letters where numbers should have been. It made no sense to me whatsoever. All my friends were acing calculus and trig and I couldn’t even spell hypotnoose. Still can’t. I do remember being called to a counselor’s office and asked if I had a problem with the algebra teacher. I said no, I thought the teacher was really cool. So you just don’t like math? I guess not. That ended my mathematics career. I’m great at simple arithmetic, but am the stupidest person I know at mathematics. I can’t do a single thing beyond addition, etc. Not thing even percentages. I cheat and divide by tenths and then hundreds and add them up. I’m a whiz at addition. But start mixing letters and numbers and it might as well be in cuneiform. Though I could probably figure out some cuneiform. It would make sense. Except for the goddam Babylonian algebra. It’s their fault. They invented it.
Apart from math classes I got mostly A’s and a few B’s in school. I figured out back in junior high that you didn’t have to study much if at all to ace an essay test. Teachers love pretty writing. So I wrote as much as possible in school. Wrote and watched the girls. High school was a breeze as long as I stayed clear of the math department.
A couple years ago I was digging through a box of some mementos my mother had left with me before she died and came across a certificate with my name on it. Apparently I graduated summa cum laude in English. I didn’t remember that at all. But then I remember very little of high school. The certificate looked a little goofy with its Greek words and swirls. Embarrassing. So that’s what summa cum laude means, I thought, and put it back in the box.
Back when I was a teenager learning the fine art of smartassery, I decided it was time to see if you could really slip on a banana peel and if it was actually funny. Unfortunately it was not the sort of thing one could work out theoretically, So I dropped a banana peel on the hallway floor, took about ten steps back, turned round, and carefully calculating the number of strides required to reach the peel at a natural gait, I walked toward the banana peel, stepped firmly upon it and skidded several feet before falling in a humorous heap, twisting my knee. Wow, I thought, that really was funny. The three foot banana peel smear that the experiment left in the hallway carpeting was also funny. Rather than attempt to clean it up, I told my mom my brothers did it. Also funny.
All this came in useful many decades later when I was working downtown. I was walking around on my lunch break with a secretary from the office I probably shouldn’t have been walking around with when suddenly I skidded several feet and landed in a humorous heap, twisting my knee. A banana peel. Did you slip on that? the secretary asked. Apparently so, I said. On a banana peel? Yes, and I think it twisted my knee. Now that’s funny, she said. But I already knew that. And I limped back to the office awestruck at the universal laws of comedy where the secretary told all my coworkers I’d slipped on a banana peel and everyone laughed and laughed till I hated that joke.
But it was funny.
The zebra danios are in Brownian motion, roiling like electrons, madly dashing after one another through open water and into the mass of triffids through little courses only danios know and then out again in a silver blur. It’s like they never stop but they do and when the tank is dark they lie suspended and still in piscine sleep. Do they dream? Who the fuck knows? They’re so small.
I looked up at the television and it said mistral in big red letters. Mistral…and a gust of wind sent the curtains billowing across the screen and it was like poetry. Wow. The gust subsided, the curtains fell back and the screen said mistrial in big red letters, as it had before. Mistrial, with an i, and I cursed learning just enough French to screw up.
OK, I’m not writing a novel. I tried writing a novel once when a Good Samaritan stepped in and told me it was the worst thing he’d ever read. Which it was. So I write non-fiction. Or try, when the epilepsy doesn’t object.
For a couple weeks now I’ve been pushing myself with the writing, seeing what I can do without setting off my epilepsy. There’s been no fuzziness, no numbness in the limbs, very little stuttering and speech problems, no confusion, none of all the symptoms that make me everyone’s quirky special friend. I’m almost as dull as regular people.
But yesterday I stepped outside and the world was gorgeously two dimensional. The colors were vivid, even at dusk, the perspective flat. It looked like a Van Gogh painting, tho’ I suppose only an epileptic can see the epilepsy in a Van Gogh painting. Tonight it was even more vivid. I really can’t explain how beautiful it is, tho’ LSD has a similar effect. But it’s not a good sign. That Van Gogh effect is an epileptic aura, a prelude of the fun to come if I don’t cool it with all the renewed writing. I hadn’t had an aura since I stopped writing last year. Start up again and now I’ve got Vincent Van Gogh eyes.
Experiment over, I will follow my pal Kirk Silsbee’s admonition and take it slow, take it slow. I think in be bop, but I’ll have to write like a cool Stan Getz, if that makes any sense.
So this’ll be the last essay for a while. Now just jokes and insults and the occasional brief whining.
Anyway, a poet once said:
this was where Ray-
mundo Chandler drunk
and wrote and thunk
he oughta write some more.
Die Antwoord would lose a lot of their Goth appeal if Goths could pronounce Afrikaans. Dee Antvoart, with that mewling diphthong, is not happening if you have black painted fingernails. DIE!!!!! Antwoord, though, that is cool. Sort of like how Björk sounds cool like New York except in Icelandic where it rhymes with jerk. A dipthonged nasally jerk at that. Admittedly New York is full of nasally jerks (not to mention dips in thongs), but that doesn’t help any, it’s still Björk like jerk. So I say Björk like New York and avoid the embarrassment.
Heavy metalers have no idea how an umlaut can reduce a strong vowel to something weaker and embarrassing. Motörhead doesn’t matter because ö is an er anyway, though Mötorhead would be Mertorhead, not so gnarly. Lemmy knew about umlauts, but then Lemmy collected Nazi paraphernelia so of course he knew about umlauts. (“Mein Führer, durch für gegen ohne um! Aus ausser bei mit nach seit von zu! Gegenüber!”) Blue Erster Cult could have been a non–starter outside of parts of Brooklyn, but there were very few Germans on Long Island to point it out and besides, BOC weren’t metal anyway. But Mertley Creyew is just plain embarrassing. And I saw Möngöl Hörde on a marquee once and read it aloud: Merngerl Herd. Mern Grrrl Herd, somebody said, and everyone laughed. Riot Grrrl humor. Not a good sign when your macho metal name could be mistaken for an angry female punk band from Olympia, Washington. Actually it said Merngerl Herdeh, but why ruin a good Riot Grrrl joke with proper German pronunciation? How punk fucking rock my German’s spelled?
I’ve always wondered if these things affect popularity in any way. I noticed this many years ago when (pardon the non-sequitör) I realized my favorite funny named city, Bergen op Zoom, was pronounced Bergen op Zhome and suddenly was no longer funny. That cursed Dutch phonology. I haven’t made a Bergen op Zoom joke in decades. Imagine my chagrin: Zoom is funny, but Zhome is where the heart is. Which is such a forced pun it just shows how unfunny the correctly pronounced Bergen Op Zoom is. Or how unfunny long O’s are in general, O-Hi-O excepted. So calling Das Boot boot as in boot the footware is funny. Calling it Das Boot as in boat is just sad. But then it was sad. A very sad film. Depth charges, doom (as in room) and despair. No Tony Curtis and Cary Grant in a pink submarine.
Seems I digressed.