Ephemeris by Norm Sibum


It was National Frosh League Week or some such fest. And McGravitas and I were innocently enough out and about on rue Bishop; or that it had never crossed our minds that we would find ourselves in the company of such baby-faced hosers. Fiddler’s Green, and McGravitas was ingesting nutrients in the form of a lamb burger (I had already eaten and was letting a beer settle on my stomach); and I was assessing my friend’s sense of ‘density of incident’ – in relation to the writing of TV drama – for its import, all this while incoming and outgoing crowds of the frosh persons were certainly doing yeoman’s duty as clamouring throngs. McGravitas in mid-chew snapped, in an irked enough fashion: “Relax, boys and girls, in ten years you’ll be bean counters and soccer moms, or maybe dentists.” In this way ‘density of incident’ took on other import in contradistinction as to whether American presidents, if any, come to office with blood on their hands. In any case, I tried to get into the spirit of things; I tried to look with empathy on something like ‘new life at the outset of, wow, hey, new chapters in life’, but I failed miserably. All I could hear in the squeals and shouts of boozed up young ‘uns a-swim in oceans of tequila and else was the ring of the cash register in regards to the university coffers, money rolling in and not much going out by way of sensibility. These kids were going to be coddled lest they get discouraged and so, withdraw their stashes of the parental wealth—A woman has written to ask what I consider new in contemporary fiction. I answered that I had nothing to say on the matter as I read so little of it. She directed me to an essay devoted to a certain Scots writer notorious for his predisposition to the use of the f-word and his insinuation that ‘polite’ English is helplessly racist and et cetera. What did I think of that? Was this new? The front or hind end of the wave? Was this the cat’s ass, how the man was writing post-Beckett-minimal? And I replied off the top of my head that yes, a certain diction is certainly construable, at times, as constituting the mask of an oppressor, but that if polite English is but racism with a sniff, as ‘literary English’ might well be for that matter, then all language is inherently racist inasmuch as anyone who does not sound like you is willy-nilly out to get you. So what did she think of them there apples? She did not know and she did not know if she should even care, to which observation I said, “Political theatre. Designed to increase rep and boost sales.” I then said to no one in particular that I was such an effing cynic, but then there have been years of provocation. I hoped that the woman would not oblige herself to endlessly protracted patches of cussage, but that if she should feel so inclined, she ought to pick her spots: a well-timed f-ck, sh-t and damnation can work miracles of expression. —And yet it is quite certain that everything we do, we do by virtue of a kind of distraction or forgetfulness, which is directly contrary to reason.  And yet that would be true madness, but the most reasonable madness on this earth, indeed the only reasonable thing, and the only consistent and abiding wisdom, whereas the rest is not wisdom, or only intermittently so.  From this, we see how wisdom as we commonly understand it, and which might be useful to us in this life, is closer to nature than to reason, standing between the two and never, as is usually maintained, only with the latter, and how pure, unadulterated reason is a direct source of inevitable and total madness, and is so by its nature. (From Leopardi’s Zibaldone.) And McGravitas thought so, too, and then said, “Let’s blow this place. Flee the kids. I know where we can obtain a semi-decent martini”—And I was Boswell to his Johnson as the man went tumpty-tee-tummily to the next street over, he having himself a hum: Billy Peddle Billy Peddle did you see Tom White? / Billy Peddle Billy Peddle did you see Tom White? / Billy Peddle Billy Peddle did you see Tom White? Gone around the harbour gonna stay all night—Caught Kissinger on the telly. The loathsome creature straight out of Star Wars seemed to think the world was about as chaotic as he had ever seen it, and that the West does not really ‘get’ Putin, as the man is playing chess whilst we are playing poker and seeking the instant fix at the expense of having any freakin’ idea of what our history has been ever, let alone the hankering after leverage with aces in the hole. And then there was China and a certain logic in recent affairs leading to a predictable enough contretemps—(Note: The martini was delicious, by the way, but the night was entirely given over to banshees and other troubled, undead spirits, which kind of spoiled it all; and yet again the lesson was learned: there are some nights out there that ain’t fit for neither man or beast—)