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Under Construction

Ladies and Gents Who Lunch photos
Pike Street Market, Seattle

August 21st, 2003

Such Is Life, I Guess
Another long day, a day when I got more than testy, but testy up to the edge and not over the edge (if you know what I mean), one of those days when you're going eight hundred miles an hour and getting a contact high from the experience. Chock that up to feeling better. I should be knocking on wood with this rah! rah! shit, but it's nice to feel, all the same.

Why eight hundred miles an hour? Why not seven hundred miles an hour? Fifty-five?

Dumb question. It's all in the sound. One of the artists who contributed to the old Seagull magazine at the University of Washington came in one day with a cartoon character named "Super Hip", the Cool Moose. This was the mid-sixties, Beat Cool, later adopted by the Freaks of my generation. Cool has been cool for a long time. Super Hip could fly, but never in excess of five miles per hour. Eight hundred miles an hour is for old farts who find a certain rhythm in the sound. It's important, you know, rhythm in the sound.

I've been thinking lately about words and meaning. I try to write carefully, try to get down what I want to convey, but realize, no matter how good, how accurate, there's never really a way to put it down exactly (assuming I know exactly, an assumption I'm not often willing to make). Everyone comes to the table with a unique reality, a separate construct of words and what they mean. So, as a writer, you go for style and sound and (one hopes) coherence, all the while knowing what readers are gleaning from your deathless prose might not be what you're trying to convey. Or they perhaps they do, but subconsciously, in ways you don't necessarily recognize. That's another subject. The inner ear, the inner eye, space city.

Are more mistakes made in face to face conversations where there's no chance for rewrite? Well, communication isn't all about words, in addition to words you have sound - soft, hard, sharp, soothing, wooing, inviting - you have visual clues: Facial expressions, body posture and the like. The words can be inaccurate, fuzzy, whatever - hell, they often are - but the visual information, the tonal inflections carry the message where words alone won't. Not much visual information on a printed page. Joan Didion wanted her book Play It As It Lays to have lots of white space so as to resemble a desert. OK. I understand that with Play It As It Lays, but that's the one example I can recall.

The words may not have anything whatsoever to do with the message, the real conversation can be happening at a subconscious level, but again, that's more difficult on the printed page. There's always an unconscious message being transmitted, some of it obvious to the writer when it's written, to the reader, when it's read; some of it obvious later; some of it way over your head never to be (consciously) understood. Such is life, I guess.

What brought that on?

Oh, you know.

The photograph was taken in Seattle's Pike Street Market.