Liner Notes for “In the Eventide”

 

You saying art is air means one thing if we’re sitting on or in a three-season porch at dusk; it means a whole other thing while sitting on or in the veranda in the eventide. Still, none of that matters as much as the woman who likes to come as a ghost. Oh, boy. Or the cosmic joke about the birds that could only fly south. That one you can discuss with the children. Without blushing. Without admitting you’re as much flesh and blood as esoteric murmurings about aurochs and angels. Although talking about mortality—isn't that the cosmic joke?—shouldn't be any easier. Somehow it is. And certainly nothing matters as much as the difference between art and air, between fiction and memory. I’m guessing you can tell I recorded this in one live take with my iPhone. Using the word "take" in this context feels about as precious as saying "eventide" for "dusk," but sometimes the meter's in the saddle and syllables drive events. And sometimes we're more pretentious than we've been able to admit. My children can be heard in the background. They made up their own parts. I didn’t ask them to laugh or sing or anything. I didn’t tell them I was recording. Teddy’s reactions—I think that’s the right word—are to his calculator, as far as I know, not to me. Their response to me singing is usually to come over and hit the high keys until I say, “Hey, wait a minute. Don’t I get a say in this?” I was so surprised they let me get through the whole song without one of them pushing the DJ button that I thought it should be made public, warts and all. Teddy is reacting to arithmetic. Alice is reacting to him. I say all this to throw water on the rumor that Teddy was calling me a “zero.” To my knowledge, he’s not aware that people—ten, twenty, thirty years ago? yesterday?—would sometimes refer to other people as zeros. He’s never heard, as far as I know, the phrase, “You need to drop that zero and get with this hero,” which I believe more than five real people actually said out loud. I am resisting the impulse to Google the phrase. I am resisting the impulse to seek out the origin story of dropping zeros to get with heroes. But I’m having a harder time resisting the impulse to explore the origins of young people quoting lines from movies and TV shows in social situations, as a replacement for talking about astrology or Howard Zinn—or whoever Howard Zinn was when you were that age. Because I’m fairly certain “You need to drop that zero . . .” was said by a character on A Different World or maybe Ski School 2. Once, at a party in college, I became entranced by two young men having a disjointed, poetic conversation. For two minutes or so, baffled, half-hypnotized, I relished my luck in happening on such rare birds. Then it settled on me. They weren’t eccentrics, ripe for study. They were just Todd and Zak, quoting each other lines from a movie starring Al Pacino. And that’s not all that different from Montaigne, I guess, especially the early essays. It’s not that different from the Irish monks in their lonely scriptoria. Or it is. Possibly it’s really different. Like art and air different.

In the Eventide - Richard Barthelme Sonnenmoser
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