Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Centuries of Laughter and Labor


 




Christa Wolf No Place on Earth




Each day we try to be of some use, teaching and acting up.

Online classes going into fall, spring,

Ad infinitum, into the new normal.

 

Six covid tests - all negative.

The world turns upside down.

 

Thinking of New Orleans.

Drinking sazeracs.

 

Centuries of laughter, sound and fury, signifying nothing,

the echo, monstrous, bouncing off innumerable barriers.

So Christa Wolf begins No Place on Earth.

 

Tuesday, I join local activists in NYC demanding accountability from Mitsubishi Union Financial Group (MUFG) to stop its financing of the climate catastrophe through funding fossil fuels and big agribusiness. #DefundClimateChange #Stopthefires!

 

Wednesday, we meet up, talking through the Gowanus rezoning.

We need open space.

 

Thursday, I bike to join labor leaders

demonstrating against layoffs, September 3, at 10 A.M. in Foley Square in Manhattan.

The City says it will lay off thousands of workers if no solution is reached on the City budget deficit.  First they were essential, now they are disposable.

PSC has already suffered layoffs, of 2,800 adjuncts, and while the union continues to press CUNY to rehire every laid-off adjunct, we should turn out at the rally in force!

 

Later that night news about Graeber came crashing down.

 

Remembering the good and the bad, the fights and the adventure,

Year of raging against empire, war, and vengeance, dark memories,

Dreams of fights in the dark, meetings in convergence centers.

 

Good try Ben, he said when I tried to ward off the bickering, personality conflicts.

 

And

Lots of laughter, lots and lots.

 

Centuries of laughter, flying by on the way to the beach.

 

Reading Christa Wolf and Faulkner.

 

She “shook with laughter.

 

David was here, now he’s gone.

 

Friday at the beach, reading about Faulkner and the Dixie Express.

Ideas flying from Oxford to New Orleans, to Paris,

Where he saw Joyce, imagining Ulysses.

Back to New Orleans, with a pile of short stories, a book contract,

A life ahead on the Dixie Express.

 

He knew you don’t commit suicide when you are disappointed in love, you write about it.

 

Saturday, we biked across Brooklyn with the #streetriders, moving through time.

 

Max and Jenn and Leslie telling stories about their adventures, the sun setting on Red Hook.

 

And mom talking with her brother, both still plugging along through the years.

 

All week, I thought about his trips to New Orleans with Sherwood Anderson.

 

Faulkner’s caricature, “Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles” made him no friends.

For a while there, they were friends. Sherwood wrote about their time together,

“He told me the story of his ill fortune--a crack-up in an airplane--with a very gentlemanly little smile on his very sensitive, rather thin, lips…. I liked his tone and I liked him.

This happened in New Orleans, where I had gone to live. When he came, my friend, Fred, for whom he was looking, had gone away, but immediately I felt a strong desire to know him better and so suggested we spend the evening together. When we went down the stairs from my apartment I noticed that he was a cripple. The slight limp, the look of pain that occasionally drifted across his face, the little laugh that was intended to be jolly, but did not quite achieve its purpose, all these things began at once to tell me the story I have now set myself to write.

"I shall take him to see Aunt Sally," I thought.”

 

I think about that night meeting with Aunt Sally, walking along the Vieux Carre, the hot summer going on forever.

 

Labor day was coming,

sitting telling stories with the family,

kids growing, people coming, and going,

Al telling stories about Jerry Garcia and John and Darryl, coursing through centuries of laughter.

 

Stories of things that we could have done better,

Or should have tried.

As we endeavor to live.

“The freedom to love other people and not to hate ourselves,” says Wolfe.

I underlined that in 1988, reviewing the markings on my old copy.

“To understand that we are a rough sketch – perhaps meant to be thrown away, perhaps to be taken up again: we have no control over that.  It worthy in a human being to laugh at this fact.”

 

Anderson finished with a simple acknowledgement:

" I kept thinking of Aunt Sally and of my native State, Ohio. "Lordy, I hope she comes from up there, but I don't think I had better inquire too closely into her past," I said to myself, as I went smiling away into the soft smoky night.”

 

I hope she comes up from there.

I hope we all can join those centuries of laughter. 

  































































































































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