Looking Glass Archeology
“Memory is fiction!” — Zena Kōan
ONE — Birth
“It is not that I am mad, it is only that my head is different from yours.”
― Diogenes of Sinope
Make note of that facial expression!
That confused, questioning look on this relatively new arrival to the planet is, I suspect, the same mug he will bring to the exit doorway at the other end of his life journey.
Hold still for the camera.
For this creature the panorama will just get wider and wider over time. A reserved grandstand seat at the circus— always surrounded by daredevils and clowns. Right before his eyes, repeatedly and thoroughly, the non will assert itself before sense.
A poet once wrote:
Behind us: nothing; we come in through a door.
The game is very much already in progress.
Perhaps it is thus.
As each of us arrives to join this game, this cabaret, we get to grab one of a number of different umbilical strings—the selection of which will determine the specific location in the multiverse that we will happen to drop into.
What else could he do but hang on as he slid into the awaiting experience at Bellevue Hospital in New York City at the tail end of 1951. The nurses passed him around above their shoulders singing For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow before handing him down his mother. The doctors nodded in agreement that he was completely different from any that had ever come before—or any of the approximately 266,800 others born that day. It was 8:31 in the morning, three days before Christmas.
“There is nothing more important than appearing to be religious.”
― Niccolò Machiavelli
God arrived at a movie theater on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. There was a baby in a basket bobbing on the water, a burning bush that talked, a stick that turned into a snake, and a pillar of fire. And—wow!—the Red Sea splitting open in VistaVision. The disobedient were rewarded with phenomenal death.
Now was the time for all good boys to study and learn. There is handwriting, math, and learning the manipulation of the sacred beads—which contain Mysteries: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious.
If only one person believed any of this they’d lock them up—and for daring to verbalize that skepticism one of the Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil would smack you a good one.
What we’re after here is angelic innocence. But do always keep in mind that that original Adam/Eve/apple/snake-devil debacle has left a permanent stain on your soul. Figure out what to confess to the Father in the Box later. Disobeying parents is the archetypical sin for this age—and no is surely the best answer to that one priest who always asks if you’ve touched yourself.
Okay, now hold it for the camera.
A year or so later Sinbad arrived at that same miraculous location, on that same flickering screen.
This time there was a magic lamp to rub, a chained dragon, a handmaiden turned into a snake, raging cyclopes, and a sword fighting skeleton. The good people were rewarded with the cyclops’ treasure. Prayers were answered.
THREE—Life Isn’t Fair
“Show me somebody who is always smiling, always cheerful, always optimistic, and I will show you somebody who hasn’t the faintest idea what the heck is really going on.” ― Mike Royko
Don’t just stand there pouting. Which of the available Cavalcade of Illusions have you stubbed your mind against this time.
Expectations. Disappointments. Injustice. People repeating “Life isn’t fair!” You can at least be reassured in the fact that you are not alone. Grow-as-you-go is the standard operating procedure—nobody bothers trying to read the illegibly small print on the Social Contract beforehand.
The death of Santa is indeed a mind-fuck, but hey—the presents still keep coming, and—it will be years before you move up the ladder to where providing the gifts is your obligation.
The god thing is getting complicated and a bit blurry too.
They promote it like it’s mathematics but that prayer game’s strategy and odds definitely do not work by any similar rules to Checkers or Monopoly or Chutes & Ladders.
Injustice. Confusion. Tough stuff—but hey, wait til you’re fifteen and your father dies in his sleep. Then you’ll have something.
“Don’t just teach your children to read…Teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything.” — George Carlin
Bunia spent many weeks working with Butterick paper patterns, sewing on her treadle machine, making the costume.
Why must you always ask so many questions? Can’t you leave well enough alone? They’re going to call you Mr. Smartypants when you grow up.
Looking down on Avenue C from the apartment window at the pageant below—making sure not to knock off the pointy hat.
A man is carrying a huge chunk of ice with tongs into the building with the Bar & Grill sign. Cats scurry across the street and under cars. Garbage men spin the trash cans on their edges, up to the curb and then hoist in the contents which the garbage truck mouth chews up.
Hymie is the man who runs that wooden vegetable cart. A Puerto Rican family has moved in upstairs. They have a pet monkey in a cage in the hallway.
Outside the apartment door the clang of seltzer or milk being delivered.
OK, smile—hold still for the camera—arms akimbo!—and give us a nice natural smile.
Perfect. They’re going to call you Mr. Fancypants when you grow up.
FIVE — Nature
“The country is lyric, the town dramatic. When mingled, they make the most perfect musical drama.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
They call it fresh, the air up there—in the idyll of the country. Arcadian. Bucolic. Pastoral. Rustic.
Heading up for a couple weeks into the Catskill mountains of upstate New York.
A summer break from readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic.
And from the Ford Motor Company assembly line in Mahwah, New Jersey.
And from the office charwoman evenings on Maiden Lane.
Load up the Mercury Monterey and off towards the grass, bugs, birds, skunks—and adventures in the magical realms of trees.
There’s a smoking cigarette resting in the ashtray of the car dashboard. The radio’s signal returns as the car emerges from the Lincoln Tunnel.
Little Darlin’ by The Diamonds and Tammy by Debbie Reynolds. Then Laurie London proclaims that He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.
Sometimes he feels that way himself. Other times a gust of life sends it flying and he gets out of breath chasing it.
SIX—The Old West and The Young East
“Thankfully, dreams can change. If we’d all stuck with our first dream, the world would be overrun with cowboys and princesses.” — Steven Colbert
Father Knows Best that People are Funny — but I’ve Got A Secret . . . This Is Your Life.
Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, Wagon Train—all stampeding through the Lower East Side—inside that box with a window in it. Westerns.
Stetson hats, boots with spurs, pistols and rifles, vests, and duster coats.
But this series is an Eastern—and this lone ranger wears lederhosen. Left his holster and cap guns at home today.
He does have a box with cowboys and indians in it, who originally coexisted in a cellophane bag at Woolworths. They all have guns or bows and arrows—so what else can they do but fight. When there is a lull in the shootouts he finds their heads are kinda fun to chew on.
Just because it’s not raining doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do like that song says and Let A Smile Be Your Umbrella. Come on, lean on the bench, cross your leg over — now hold still. You’ll appreciate seeing this when you’re old.
© AleXander Hirka 2020. All Rights Reserved.