Tag Archives: Kurt Vonnegut

Dog Days

Louis recently had 14 teeth taken out in a procedure that quickly became a marathon operation, complete with dramatic skips and beats in which he, in his fright and confusion and special doggy frustration, tried to fight his way out; in which his breathing became abnormal (though it stabilized at just the right critical point for the work to continue); in which his teeth, while seemingly normal from the outside (and thus, primed primarily for a cleaning) were actually abhorrently rotten on the inside (hence the transformation of his dental work from standard to complex to troublesome), and in which the resultant financial cost went from the low $$ to the high $$$.

Yet, it was nothing, this being his 4th major procedure (2 back surgeries for herniated discs; 1 for a snapped ligament) in his 14 long years of doggy life. He’s since recovered, as he has 3 times before. He acts as if nothing had happened, though there is less and less of him for anything to happen to as time goes by.

Dog Days

The absurdity of this dog. The absurdity of it all – all of it, our life together.

In a 1972 letter to Jane Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut mediates on the nature of death, having perused the copy of Markings, Dag Hammarskjöld’s memoir, that Jane has sent him:

“I open it at random, and I find a lot about dying meaningfully, and about sacrifice and pain and mysterious destinies…Are you really tuned in to this sort of stuff? Should I be? Well – I’ll try, but it’s not my style. I, for one, am glad I didn’t die in Africa, although that opportunity was mine. I still believe that a dog is going to kill me, and it scares me – and it pisses me off” (2012: 192).

There are fates worse than death, just as there are a million ways to die. Vonnegut’s is the closest that comes to mind as being, if not right, if not justified, if not even true in its most tangible sense, than fair.

Harsh, but fair. More than fair.

This dog is going to kill me.

 

 

________________________________________________

Vonnegut, Kurt. (2011). Letters, ed. Dan Wakefield. Delacorte Press: New York.

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Books, Death, Dogs, Health, Pets, Philosophy, Relationships

1. 2. & 3. Real Stories About Music

 
No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED

FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

WAS MUSIC

– Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without Country (2005: 66).

 
 
 
1. A Trip to the Supermarket.

Drink up, before it gets cold! It’s not as nice when it gets cold.

You know, I was at the supermarket, picking up this and that for the house when I saw it. It was on sale. So drink on up!

The thing about the supermarket, though, dear, you know. All the supermarkets today. They play songs. Fast songs, radio songs, saxophone songs.

And the people.

The People, the people say, you know, that even if they don’t particularly like them – or at all – that the songs don’t bother them. Not at all. They say to me all the time, dear, people say they can’t even hear those songs. Can you believe that?

But meanwhile, you know, there’s other people. People like me who can’t just stand there and not hear the songs. Clattering around in your brain like rats in a bone heap.

Have another. There’s plenty. Don’t be shy; it does no good.

So, you know, now, it’s like, OK. When people don’t mind the songs, when they don’t even hear them anymore, then why, why, why, why play them?? I can’t stand it. It’s like, well, you know? It’s like…

[bangs fists softly but rapidly on table top, abruptly stops]

It’s. Like. It. Makes. Me. Want. To. Take. A. Gun.

A gun, dear.

It makes me want to take a gun, put it in my tote, drive to the supermarket and then take out my gun from my tote and stand there in the supermarket and shoot out all the speakers. Every last one of them. Such a rush! And I’d shoot them one by one so that they’ll see and learn and know what those songs can do to a person.

Honestly, it’s enough to drive one mad.

Have another sip, dear.

That’s a girl.
 
 
 
2. Radio in E-flat Major.

Whoa. Wait, wait, wait! One moment…

Ah! I knew it. Concerto No.5! Beethoven. No. 5, E-flat Major, Op. 73. To be eggs-act. Sorry, guys, I need to turn this up!

HA!

The Emperor Concerto. “C’est l’empereur de concerti!” Beethoven’s last and best, if you ask me. Forget your Rachmaninoffs and your Brahms and Tchaikovskys!

You can keep Mozart.

Bay-tho-VEEN!

HEY. Did I ever tell you guys about Charlie? Charlie H. Now, there was a good man. Good man, Charlie! Tough and mean as bloody hell, but a true and loyal friend if you were lucky enough to get on his good side. Which few ever did. He’d mess you up.

Charlie, Charlie.

 Charlie, Charlie, Charlie

They must play more of this kind of thing on the radio, all the time.

But good old Charlie. God, you shoulda seen him! Head like an anvil; gigantic, immovable! Legs so bow-legged he looked ready to pounce soon as you looked at him. But his hands. My god, but his hands were a thing of absolute beauty. You wouldn’t think they could be his, but they were. Delicate, yet firm. Strong, yet elegant. Luminous in the day and night.

Artist’s hands.

Charlie could play piano. Self-taught. He was, believe you me, one of the greatest pianists around, ever. Period. Charlie could play Beethoven’s No. 5, E-flat Major and he knew it and only played it very, very rarely. I used to go over to his house and he’d try to teach me but I never did get the hang of it. Mind you, I’d go over all the same, just to watch him play that fearless piano. The 2nd movement is where it got me every time. Gets me.

I like to imagine him, lying there that night, listening to the radio to No. 5, E-flat Major when his cabin burned down. Lit up like you wouldn’t goddamn believe, and with poor old Charlie inside.

FROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!

Just like that. Log cabin in the middle of the woods, there was nothing left but ashes.

Nothing left of Charlie. Nothing left you could call Charlie.

Lightning.

HA, HA! The Gods themselves had to take good old Charlie down!

That was years and years ago, see, but it wasn’t properly writ up in the papers. They got wrong what happened, is what.

November 28th, 1811. Leipzig. I would give anything to have been there at the Gewandhaus. But what can you do?

What can you do?

His bed was right there, next to that old piano. Almost at it should have been.

You know?

Shit. I think we missed our exit.
 
 
 
3. Soundtrack of Our Lives.

My brother? The usual. He’s taken over the entire basement now – threw out all my old workout stuff and videos. I dunno. He’s, like, dwelling down there with god-knows-who. Different fucking people all the time. Fucking different people.

Why not? Because where is he supposed to go, that’s why not. He barely works. He’s bad with money. He’s broke. She knows that.

He’s the youngest too, which helps his case. I couldn’t get away with half of his fucking goddamn bullshit.

All kinds of people!

OK. Look. OK.

He’s got sheets and, like, lights up on the walls. He’s got cameras, CAMERAS, pointed at them.

Because I went down there to find it. I know! He asked me to come and see.

So we go down there and he’s got these white sheets up on the wall and there’s his laptop and he opens it and turns it on. I’m like, “OK. Where is it?” And he’s like, “just wait, man. You have got to see this.”

And it smells down there. It fucking reeks and I just want to get it and leave and, I dunno, get on with my life. OK? I mean, there’s garbage and furry plates and dirty underwear, like, fucking, everywhere. And…there’s a fucking mattress in front of the white sheets. Like, an extra, additional mattress in the middle of the room in addition to the one he sleeps on. And I look at the screen as I’m, you know, taking this all in and there’s that fucking mattress again.

On the screen! On his fucking dirty-ass laptop. And then, fuck me, these two ladies come on and they are rough as fucking hell and they start making out on the mattress on the screen and, you know, the one starts pawing at the other’s Sears underwear and ripping off her sports bra and I’m sure, I am like fucking goddamn sure, that I recognize one of them, she worked at the high school or some shit, like, holy fuck, is that lady from the admin office? Dylan’s mom? Is that Dylan’s fucking mom sinking into that dirty-ass mattress in the middle of the room, on the screen?

I am so, fucking, enraptured by this that I don’t even notice it at first. But it’s there. It was there from the instant when he clicked on the video. To play it, right? I realize that now.

My music. The stuff from back in the day. He found it when he was throwing out the rest of my shit. And, and, he cued it up. He looped it to make it last. He made it happen. OK?

Ever? No. Not ever. How do I, I can’t even. And it’s, like, he made it work. Finally. Which means, in a way, I made it for him.

It was always for him.
 
 
 
“Back to music. It makes practically everybody fonder of life than he or she would be without it” (Vonnegut 2005: 67).
 
 
 
 
 
 
References

Vonnegut, Kurt. A Man Without Country. (2005). Random House Trade Paperbacks: New York.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Cellulite

I lost my cell phone last month and in that space between figuratively and literally, I also lost my shit over it.  I checked EVERYWHERE and when that initial effort failed to solve my problem, I did what anyone would do: I went to social media and complained about it.

 

December 30th, 2011 

What’s on your mind?

Dear Cell Phone. Please come back. We can work things out. You bastard.

 
My relationship with my cell phone is certainly an “it’s complicated”.  The truth is, I actually hate being on the phone.  Never really got the hang of it.  I’d rather talk to people when they are being people in person or yell to them from Very Great Distances.

There’s also the imposition.

I don’t like the convenience that other people have to contact me whenever they want wherever I am, even if that’s nowhere in particular and I am doing NOTHING there.  Whether I’m single-handedly perfecting cold fusion in a bunker somewhere in the mojave desert or sittin’ around in dirty sweatpants at my mom’s marathoning Buffy and no matter what time it is, I just don’t want to be bothered simply because I can be bothered.

There must have been a procedure in place to call on someone when you needed to call them in the Before Time before cell phones but no one, it seems, can remember exactly what that was.

I think it involved pigeons.

Some sub-speicies of dove maybe?

But having a cell phone is pretty much an obligation now, and I’m just not bigger than that.  So, yes, I have one.

My Methuselah is also my Lazarus (plus three days).

Seven days off the grid and it's back to status quo. Again.

I say “cell phone”.  I don’t have a smart phone and in point of fact this is exactly where I will draw the line until they move it again.

There are good reasons why I refuse to get a smart phone.

Is it fear of the new?  Some kind of existential distrust of what we might call “progress”?

Yeah, probably.

What’s that Thing Kurt Vonnegut says?  “We are here on Earth to fart around” (1997: 219) and, see, I can’t really do that if you’re going to talk past me through your smart phone or – worst of the worse – if you’re going to fact check the Things I say offhand,  just because you can now.

That whole “Welp! Let’s just look it up, shall we?” that kind of started as a lighthearted game amongst friends is, I think, being played with too much predatory zeal to be any fun anymore.

It’s a trial now.  It’s an interrogation of small talk.

These are exactly the Things I’m trying to avoid, as futile as that is, for as long as I possibly can.  After all, just because the Romans are at the gate doesn’t mean you have to let them in.

With a cell phone, especially a crappy one, especially my crappy one (it’s over 3 years old, the camera is 2 pixels and is broken, and sometimes and especially during peak hours it sounds like I’m talking to you through a wet pillow), the excuses for non-engagement are of the best kind: trite and endless.

The battery ran out; I turned off the sound and the vibrate is broken; I dropped the call; there were no towers nearby; I was slightly underground; there was so much mist out there; SOLAR FLARES.

It all adds up to a marvellous buffer zone – a kind of heaven, really – where I can just fart around unless and until truly needed.

So, yes.  I kind of hate having my phone but I hate not having my phone because I’m expected to have it.

Such a modern romance.

As it turns out, I had dropped my cell phone in the garden. It spent a full seven days under dirt, then snow, then dirt and snow, then, like, ice for a while, then melt runoff and, eventually, my own sad realization at what had happened.



January 7th, 2012

What’s on your mind?

Cell phone!  You are back!!! But you smell like cigarettes and whores and are as dirty as rotten hell. There is water where there should not be and a “gritty” I have never before experienced against my fingertips. I am impressed and horrified. Or, as the Chinese say, imhorripressifed!

 
It took over two days before my cell phone was fully charged again and there are still tiny beads of condensation on the screen, here and there.  If left unplugged, I can now only have a 15-minute conversation on my cell phone before it shuts down completely.  If no one calls me, it stays on all the livelong day, cheerfully letting me know the time any time I want.

Forget heaven.

PARADISE.

 

References

Vonnegut, Kurt. (1997).  Timequake. Putnam Publishing Group: New York.

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