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November 03, 2008

november 2, 2008: unwritten haikai

465px-William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1825-1905)_-_The_Day_of_the_Dead_(1859).jpg [image: W.-A. Bouguereau, The Day of the Dead (1859)]

Of All Souls' Day, it says: "The Roman Catholic celebration is based on the doctrine that the souls of the faithful which at death have not been cleansed from venial sins, or have not fully atoned for mortal sins, cannot attain the beatific vision in heaven yet, and that they may be helped to do so by prayer and by the sacrifice of the Mass (see Purgatory)."

* * *

An epistemological panic over trivia. Is it, or is it not, All Souls' Day, the celebration for the faithful departed, on the evening of which in 1944 Auden set The Age of Anxiety? (Except that 2 November 1944 was a Thursday, not a Sunday as it is this year.) Yesterday, 1 November 2008, was All Saints' Day. Normally, All Souls' comes the day after. But if All Souls' occurs on a Sunday, then it may be moved... I sip my coffee.

* * *

I decide to attribute my shakiness to the impending start of the season's last race, the Brazilian Grand Prix, at the Interlagos circuit just outside São Paulo. Massa must win and hope for a DNF or some other disaster for Hamilton. Hamilton need only finish third to win the world championship. My slavish, true-born Englishman disposition is to support the man in the McLaren and secretly to hope for a Ferrari disaster. But this time I am surprised to find that my emotions do not lean in their habitual direction. Is my heart really no longer so xenophobic?

* * *

Reading the translation by Luc Sante of the anarchist and art critic Félix Fénéon's Novels in Three Lines during the commercial breaks which segment the Brazil race. Originally composed as tiny, "real life" stories for the "faits-divers" columns of Le Matin in 1906, these fastidiously polished granules of forgotten eruptions, blows and tragedies are perfect for the ADD-challenged, middle-aged motor-racing fanatic of a century later. To the accompaniment of a John Deere soundtrack emanating from my TV -- "Fencing master Pictori was wounded, perhaps fatally, by the thrust of an amateur, M. Breugnot." To the accompaniment of the music and murmurs of an oft-repeated Nissan ad -- "With one blow of his bottle, a Toulon arsenal employee stunned the idler who had objected to his enthusiasm." Back to Brazil. Five laps left. It has started to rain...

* * *

I could not respond to Massa winning the race or to Hamilton winning the championship. Am I losing an obsession? The boys and I drive off towards Shoreline, "our" little wedge of the San Francisco Bay's periphery. These are the bland streets of mid-income Silicon Valley. A monotony of Obama-Biden signs. Spirits are high for Tuesday. We get out and walk. Within 50 feet of the shore, grey-feathered pelicans, readying themselves for migration, are gliding back and forth very low over the steel-coloured water. As a fish glints over them, they crash head-first into the waves, and then struggle back upwards into the air, twisting and shaking their necks as they squeeze the live food into the stomachs. Suddenly I wish I could tell the guys that when I was a child I never dreamed I would see a wild pelican.

* * *

A late-evening run to Target in quest of Hugo's geometrical supplies. Stopped at a traffic light, I remember the dull, hard-charging, mid-century physician Merrill Moore, who completed sonnets in the time it took the lights to change from red to green. Then I thought of something else: last week seeing a cobweb in the window-frame as I walked past Stanford's "Center for Turbulence Research". And then something else again: I glanced in the rear-view mirror at the bluish shadows in the face of the driver behind me and I thought of how "MOM" reflected is "WOW" but how "DAD" read in a mirror is still just about untransmuted "DAD".

* * *

The "School Supplies" aisle. How long have I been staring at these two protractors, weighing them in my hands, holding them up to the light? Hesitation. Doubt. The weight of the world on my shoulders. I make a choice (or an abdication), and regret it even before reaching the cash register. Walking, I pass "Home Entertainment". Their contrasts boosted to maximum, a phalanx of HDTVs is showing a loop in which the same cherry blossoms drift softly downwards, instantaneously rise, and drift downwards again. A cliff of shimmering pixels bewilders me. It is, it must be, the Night of All Souls. But, lost in space, I find myself wishing They were praying for Me.

Posted by njenkins at November 3, 2008 12:50 AM

With the exception of interspersed quotations, all writing is © 2007-09 by Nicholas Jenkins