Once you pass 30 (remember "Don't trust anyone over 30?" ) its often difficult to get from the 'idea' stage to the 'remembering' stage. I have all these little ideas in the course of a day, things which would make a great blob topic, the kind of things you relish being able to share at cocktail parties and the like – but which, like the water streaming over the just cooked pasta in a colander, race out the little escape holes, and down the drain before you can write the damn things on paper. I’ve started to try and remember these items by sending myself a text message immediately, with a couple of words, confident that at a later moment, I’ll be able to reconstruct the idea as if I’d written it right then. Two words: “Doesn’t work!”
Going through my emails and texts I find all kinds of little clues which now seem as distant as spot quiz French tests in the 11th grade. I have a vague memory of them, but it remains truly vague. There is one called “Just Keep Breathing.” I think it must have had something to do with figuring out how to live a long life. I guess I’d read something about longevity. And you think about these things when your friends, particularly your younger friends pass away. That breathing thing was key… If you wanna be here at 47 years old, 55, 63 or 71.. you gotta keep breathing. It’s a key element in the overall scheme of things. When you read the obits, and more than half the people are younger than you are, it takes an extra moment of consideration. You kind of think you’ll never really end up in that world of the gone. I mean, don’t we all feel (by ‘we all’ I mean anyone able to buy Senior Fare tickets on Amtrak) like we’re 32 or 28 or on a bad day, maybe 40. I wonder sometimes if my folks felt that way as they grew older. My dad passed away at 88. He played golf regularly until the last couple of years of his life, and always lived with a very youthful gusto. I wonder, though if he had the same kind of feeling – comparing himself to his dad (his mom died when he was a child) all through his life. It’s a natural thing to do, and the older you get, I suppose the more philosophical you become about it. There was a great poster in the subway I saw today, showing the eventual rise of man, and the stops which it took to arrive where we are. (It must have been for the Smithsonian Natural History museum in DC) Worth thinking about..such that it started with these neo ape-like characters (yes, your great(167 power) grand dad) who began making small talk. Small talk. Small. Talk. In a cave, under a tree, 50000 years ago. Small talk indeed. And it probably didn’t have anything to do with getting Kindergartners into the right school, or wondering how to fix a Magic Bullet Express with a frayed wire. No, that small talk must have been pretty small: “Fire?” “Water?” “Buffalo” Imagine the first guy who made a tool. Took the tooth from a dead sabretooth tiger, and started to carve things like mad. Did he think Patent was a good idea? He probably wanted to share it, understanding that what was better for all was also better for him.
Some of the other little messages I send myself are intriguing enough to actually follow up on. (Besides the standard stuff like Airline reservation codes, and Amtrak departure information.) The latest came from Melanie B., a photog who recently moved from Texas to the City and was stuck with the NewYork problem many people face: how to get your sofa inside the apartment. Sounds simple, as if you can just measure a sofa and measure a door or hall way and see if it fits. Which of course, if you ever tried it, you have discovered that it's not a proper method for measuring anything. The concept of volumetric space and how it relates from one shape to another, is something that in this age you’d need a pc and some great software. In the 30s and 40s they did it with a slide rule and a pencil. I kind of like the old version myself. There was something attractive about a slide rule, which gave you a real sense of being in control of the math, instead merely a pawn to it. Thus was created a wonderful new vocation. That of Couch Doctor. Those two words were immediately sent to myself when Melanie told of how she and her befuddled boyfriend had to finally call in the Couch Doctor to handle things. What does the couch doctor do? He either “disassembles” or, in manner befitting that 95 year old house next to the new library in your hometown, he cuts it in half, moves it through the pesky hallways and door ways, and once back in place, reassembles the two parts so that the impossible is accomplished. I guess it’s kind of akin to building a sailing ship inside a glass bottle. If you troll on Youtube I’m sure someone has given that secret away by now. But the couch doctor, I mean, he’s not even listed in Wikipedia yet. That IS cool. I guess if there is a lesson to trying to follow these little ideas onward to their natural end, it’s that you can’t ever really know where they will lead you. They remain rather like a race with no finish line. In those little two and three word gems are hidden (at least from my mind) all kinds of wonderful possiblilties. And while you may not be able to reconstitute the idea which led you to write the message in the first place, they may lead you somewhere else, to yet another place where ideas grow. Fire? Water? Buffalo ? We’re just sayin’… David