Thursday, December 22, 2011

Last word, lost world: now

What's your pet geometrical rendering of the universe and meaning? Fate? Destiny? I say "geometrical" assuming that there are arcs, tangents, points, and intersections involved, as well as an urge to submit the whole thing to some kind of proof test that we can stamp with a triumphant Q.E.D. when we've achieved it.

Which we don't seem to be able to do. No one gets the last word. To realize this, all it takes is for someone like Christopher Hitchens to die and for various creedalists to get in a last word*, now that he's dead and not in any position to respond (not through the usual media, anyway), as if his death somehow means he wimped out and gave up, just like that, lost the argument; as if his ideas had no meaning and depended on the vessel that expressed them. If that's what you think, your geometrical rendering of the universe and meaning is the intersection of the ocean and a sandcastle built far below the high tide line. No matter what your creed says.

But it wasn't Hitchens's dying that made me think this. That was a complete afterthought, a standing at the apex of the triangle of the present and looking down the line of the dune at the incoming tidal wave of the future.

No, before that, climbing the hypotenuse, it was reading A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, with its impressive foreshadowing, following it with A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, with its impressionistic and expressionistic foreshadowing, and beginning Karen Armstrong's biography of Mohammed, with its expressive unshadowing. It was wandering through my library and ... okay, it's all too complicated, this geometry. If Jennifer Egan can advance her narrative with a chapter in PowerPoint slides, maybe I should take out my bubble gun and spray you with bullet points:

  • It was wandering through my library
  • over to where the new books are
  • happening upon the new books about music
  • where are Keith Richards's autobio and a new bio about George Harrison in the material world
  • and wouldn't you know Egan's Goon Squad was all about the music world
  • and there's something about Pearl Jam, which I pick up
  • because I went to see Pearl Jam once, in Knoxville, with my son, Sam
  • how old was he?
  • the book is called Pearl Jam Twenty
  • it seems to have every concert they ever played
  • when was that that I saw them?
  • Sam was probably 12 or 13, which would've been 1998
  • nothing in PJ20 about Knoxville
  • but here's something about Pearl Jam changing drummers in 1998
  • and yes, Sam and I went with a friend of his who played the drums and also his drum teacher, Alan Gamble, who turned out to be the son of an attorney I'd worked with, Bill Gamble, who was also a sax player who'd gone to the U. of Chattanooga and who'd played gigs with my father; but anyway I remember that Alan was wondering how the new drummer was going to do; I knew nothing about Pearl Jam other than their reputation
  • it was a great concert
  • but I felt bad for Sam and his friend because we had two separate sets of tickets (Thompson-Bowling Arena) and since the boys wanted to sit together, they took one set and Alan and I took the other. The boys wound up in the nose-bleed section, while Alan and I had great seats--a profile view of the stage, 20 rows up, if that many
  • it was a great concert, for me anyway
  • even though I didn't know any of the songs going in
  • but apparently it was a Pearl Jam non-event because it's not in the book
  • so back upstairs I check online and there it is: Sept. 6, 1998
  • PJ20 is a really big book with tons of pictures. It's also a movie, apparently
  • then I remember that Alan Gamble was in a band in Atlanta that my wife, Carolyn, and I saw when I was in library school at Emory
  • this came up randomly back in 1998 when Alan and I were talking on the way to see Pearl Jam
  • I was describing this really good band I'd seen in Atlanta in 1981 or 1982
  • We figured out it was his band!
  • Arms Akimbo (not The Arms Akimbo; they're Brit)
  • Here they are playing at the Atlanta Arts Festival 5/17/83
  • there's not a lot else about them readily available, but you can see that Alan's a damn good drummer
  • strange world, the pop music world
  • the mass music world
  • Jennifer Egan's Goon Squad main characters try to make it work for them
  • pay for them
  • the arc is from early 80's west coast punk to late first decade 2000's regurgitation
  • how the marketing has changed
  • I played at a festival last summer in Illinois behind Lawson Garrett
  • the festival was like a dream because it was set up for tens of thousands but only tens of tens came
  • Garrett is his mother's last name, like Vedder is Eddie Vedder's mother's last name
  • (Eddie Vedder is the lead singer of Pearl Jam)
  • Artie Kornfeld was pushing Lawson
  • is pushing?
  • trying to make it work
  • make it pay
  • Artie made Woodstock work/pay
  • an event that apparently has some meaning, just for its name
  • Jennifer Egan, writing about the final event in her book, a concert, the thing that wraps it all together. The marketer is cringeing, waiting for audience rejection of the artist, but just the opposite happens, and Egan (or the unknown articulate universal geometer) says "it may be that a crowd at a particular moment of history creates the object to justify its gathering, as it did at the first Human Be-In and Monterey Pop and Woodstock"
  • and it may be that Pearl Jam played Knoxville in 1998, even though it's not in their book
  • and it may be that I went to the beach that summer and built a sandcastle far below the high tide line
  • and it may be that it's not a small world, after all
  • but for sure Christopher Hitchens, it just so happens, right now, at this very moment, is dead.
  • Q.E.D.

*I wrote this when the only creedal reports on death after Hitchens were in print, but two days after posting this, I ate a Xmas Eve brunch at an IHOP with very various creedalists and damned if they didn't resurrect the Hitch. Fate? Destiny? And the IHOP refers to the Easter bunny.

1 comment:

  1. and then there's the Xmas Bunny too! Happy New Year.