Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

The plan was to clear the deck of reading matter so as to free myself up for Leopardi’s monumental opus: Zibaldone. Along came Bruce Catton’s The Civil War to complicate things; it interrupted my reading of Tom Lowenstein’s From Culbone Wood – In Xanadu, Notebooks and Fantasias. Well, the civil war has come and gone, and I am back to the latter book, having left Grant and Lee at Appomattox to bury the hatchet, the north’s relative generosity to the south (no southern leaders were to be hanged, no reparations were to be paid as such) rendered null and void by Lincoln’s assassination. And from there on in, the poisons of recrimination became a permanent fixture of the landscape—We will not dwell on what any of that has portended and still portends. Instead, from Lowenstein’s book: Reverting to some details of Great Kubilai’s initiation, the Khan, at his wife’s urge, and the phags-pa lama, was inducted into Buddhist tantra – a congeries of sacred patterns, incantations, spells and rituals that, lead, through a journey of some complication, to the centre of a mystery, or a point within a circle, where the mind, which represents that figment they call person, is subsumed into a sphere so abstract, absent, negatively present, that it deals for this time in a reconstruction of the here we call reality, in which paradox is reconciled and individuality abolished: a sphere where nothing is which also isn’t; in itself both nothing and its opposite: in life deathless, and in the self- death, self-existent—Something a bushed poet wrote? A blueprint for God? The case for Gender Studies? Morning. Nikas. To judge by the satellite feed, Sochi is underway, and I suppose it matters. I am told that it matters. My bank tells me it matters, and no doubt, the Tooth Fairy would too, just that this sort of thing would seem to come under the purview of the quote above in which the Khan tries on the godhead, in addition to his hunting and his love-making, and there is always the empire to which he must attend. On the other hand, what could be more frivolous to the cause of human evolution than the mute philodendrons that have a home here in the restaurant, one far from their native habitats. I have no objection to spectacles and the like, but the power of extravaganzas to dazzle does wane over time, once one has been dazzled any number of times; and, in regards to the current edition of the winter Olympics, one prefers to the hullbaloo of the opening ceremony the singular effect of the winter sun getting on for spring, its light creeping across the parquet floor with a bit more intensity as the days get on for March, then April, then May and all-out terrasse season. Here the waiter is one of those quiet personalities who may have ideas for himself, but for the moment is accepting of his menial lot. He does not otherwise make theatre out of it, whereas Irish Harpy would make a big production out of being ‘d—mn right, d—mn straight’, she compelled to pass judgment on the new design of place mat on offer at her table, which it is positively garish. What was Eddie thinking? Eddie being the cook and the source of some executive decisions as pertain to the operations of the restaurant. Everything’s in French. What the hell gives? Last night was given over to a second viewing of The Great Beauty, McGravitas and Golden Girl accompanying me, McGravitas forking out hard-earned shekels for the pleasure, Golden Girl about to be ambushed by Rome and roiling Epicureans; by the blah blah blahs writ large, and now and then the searing beauty of a twilight sky—I feel at home in this flick. I do not know if this is a good or a bad thing. It may be a very bad thing. But you know what they say: in another life—Recently, at the Casa del Popolo on St Laurent I had the pleasure of hearing out another of those so-called primitive American guitarists, a Mr Peter Walker who apparently was just in from Madrid, having played with gypsy bands there; or else he was just back from Peru where he had been chowing down on fish and yams for his health. He first made a name for himself composing ragas on the guitar back in the 60s, though he now seems a little sheepish about all that, his passion Spanish guitar, of which he gave the audience pieces in all the signature keys. The man is in his 75th year, and his hands are still nimble enough for the riffs; and I have to say this gave hope to such a one as myself, no spring chicken, who still labours on the guitar with hands that have all the dexterity of fossilized spuds. The warm-up act however was so dismally awful I have not the heart to mix it up with whatever on earth it seemed to be about, huge dollops of narcissism for starters, and a kind of musical potpourri which caused me, in my dismay, to quip that no culture on earth is safe from Canadians. No, not even spaghetti western soundtracks. Hugely unfair to peaceable, unassuming Canucks, I grant you, but I was provoked. The young woman at my side winced. French Quebecker, it was as if she knew what I meant—