Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

Morning. Nikas. Enter Irish Harpy and retinue. Retinue consists of one trusty husband, low profile man of much patience. In any case, she bids the new-not-so-new-now Monday-Tuesday waitress the usual felicities and then speaks her name. Ah, Maria. I had been told this woman’s name by the woman herself, but it slipped my mind. Maria, very Greek, was nonetheless born and raised in these parts. At some point she went back to the motherland – for good, she thought, just that the combination of ‘kids’ and the state of the Greek economy forced her to reconsider and so, she returned. I know nothing, otherwise, of her personal life, but she has the unmistakable air of a woman who has gone it alone; who seems to have reared a family single-handed; who is clearly competent if not downright masterful; who is weary. She is well-spoken, so much so, I took her for one of those unemployable PH.D-ers, male or female, with whom I was quite familiar in my cabbie days. Or that she had somehow fallen from some high mucky-muck economic tier of the pyramid, sales rep for a software company on the prowl, day care part of the package. Irish Harpy, about whom I have had little to say for the last while, has certainly mellowed. Is this to the good? Would I not prefer that she remain socialism’s answer to the Iron Lady now demised, and in some quarters, far from lamented? (The latter woman at her most inimitable once spoke something like the following words: any man who, at age 40, finds himself on public transport, may deem himself as having fallen short of life’s great call to profiteering.) Could be I myself have mellowed too much and mislaid my snarl. In which case, it is all the fault of McGravitas on whose account I meant to cook up a concerto on my guitar: Concerto for Bicycle Pump. Carnegie Hall, here we come, and with kazoos—Golden Girl has new digs. It called for debauchery. I must have gotten into my cups early on, as I heard myself putting it to a woman of the classicist persuasion: “How about those people of Nysus, eh? Well, were there Greeks in Indjah before there was that Macedonian fellow? Alexander? So was he a vicious lout with an army or was he a bit inspired or a bit of both, a guy who knew just enough of the classics to get into trouble?” I got the look for my pains. I then extricated my horses from a field of aggravated elephants and sought other avenues of play, but not before a third party, with commonsensical aplomb, suggested that heretofore unsuspected trade routes under the auspices of the Persian empire may have connected Greek speakers to Sindians long before Alexander got it into his head to see the world and stumble on exotic vintages. In light of which, I was, the other day, escorted to an old school snooker hall in the east end. I had thought such places long extinct. There was in the place a concession to video arcades and bad music, but it was otherwise a refuge for serious snooker players as well as a venue for newly-liaised couples out foraging. As I attempted to recoup, some twenty-five years later, what portion I once had of good snooker form, the thought went traipsing through my head (while the Moesian winced from missing yet another shot, the aesthetics of his game shot all to hell) that civilization is built one effing pottable eight ball at a time; and, should one be wishing to go further astream in the realm of metaphor, one might take into one’s calculations one well-plucked note of music at a time, as per Guitar Teach and his toe-tapping metronome. Oh, and there was the pre-snooker repast: homemade spätzle that the Moesian served up along with the schnitzel at his residence, Balkan good time rag the backdrop. Surely, spätzle must count for something. But if we wish to speak of civilization as nothing more than an excuse for rapine and plunder, that is something else entirely, and all bets are off. It is a cliché to say as much, but it is stunning, nonetheless, the extent to which the better parts of civilization are utterly reliant on a kind of collective good faith and will, as there is no law that says perfect legato, for instance, is obligatory on the part of your average citizen. As I was walking along toward the Moesian’s domicile, I caught the setting of the sun on the upper stories of duplexes of a narrow street; and it set something off in me by way of the shimmering light at play on the brick. It seemed I had been slipped inside a turn of the century novel of old – you know, the 19th century, the book still a sacramental item, in theory, at least, whether one was talking Proust or Jack London or Gibbon (in another century) or Nancy Drew (a self-correcting cultural icon such as may spin itself forever until the end of human time). At any rate, there surged in me a genuine affection for this town I have not felt for any other New World urbis. I figured I had best stay out of the way of this rampant surge and let it run its course. Well, London Lunar has just been to Sicily, and he is all thumbs up with Palermo. He is all thumbs down, however, for sea urchin as a major food item. Returned to his stomping grounds, or Hammersmith, he apparently dreamed up a potful of buccatini con sarde which he served to friends, and it would seem all survived. I caught by chance a movie the other night entitled Broadcast News (1987) which, irrespective of its merits, and there are merits, contains a bit of dialogue to which I can happily subscribe. It was spoken by the lead female character, a news producer; and she describes the ‘devil’ as being that which causes one to go lax in matters of standards, especially in regards to truth-telling, aesthetics and various and sundry related items. As late as 1987, say what?