Sunday, November 07, 2004

Mark Howell

The following piece of prophecy comes from "Pic," the last novel by Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) and told in the voice of a 10-year-old black boy from North Carolina whose full name is Pictorial Review Jackson. Here is the chapter entitled "Times Square and the Mystery of Television," with Pic recalling for his Grandfather the words of a "speecher" on a New York sidewalk in 1947:

"'Ladies and gentlemen of the world, I have come to tell you about the mystery of television. Television is a great big long arm of light that reaches clear into your front parlor, even in the middle of the night when there ain't no shows going on, that light is on though the studio is dark. Study this light. It will hurt you at first and bombard your eyes with a hundred trillion electronic particles of itself, but after awhile you won't mind it no more. Why? Because while electricity was light to see by, this light comes not to see by but to see ? not to read by but to read. This is the light that you feel. It is the first time in the world that light has been gathered up from the sources of light and shot through a tube in a way that it can be watched and studied instead of blinked at. And it has taken the shape of men and women who are real flesh and blood at the studio but come streaming into your parlor in light. What does this mean, ladies and gentlemen?

"'It means that man has discovered light and is fiddling with it for the first time, and has released concentrated shots of it into everybody's house, and nobody yet knows what the effect will be on the mind and soul of people, except that now there is a general feeling of nervousness among some, and sore eyes, and twitching of nerves, and a suspicion that because it has come at the same time as the ATOM there may be an unholy alliance betwixt one and the other, and both are bad and injurious and leading to the end of the world, though some optimists claim it is the opposite of the atom and may relax the nerves the atoms undid. Nobody knows!

"'Yes ladies and gentlemen, I seen a salesman on television last night who put on a mask for fun and yet his eyes looked awfully scared peeking from behind that mask at a million other better-hidden eyes. What does this mean?

"'The day shall come when one giant brain shall televise the Second Coming in light and everyone in the world shall see it in their brains by means of a brain-television that Christ Himself shall cause to be switched on in a miracle and no one shall be spared from knowing the Truth, and everyone shall be saved forever, and men and women of the world I warn you, live as best you can and be hereinafter kind to one another and that is all there is to do know.

"'We all know this.'

"It was as strange as that, Granpa."

I've mentioned Mark Howell before. He's a columnist for Solares Hill, one of the two "liberal" newspapers in Key West (the other would be Celebrate!). The piece above is a portion of his weekly column this week. The link will take you it.

We're in the coffee shop this morning. Janet and Diane are talking about life in general, and Diane just told a cute story about herself and Theo. They met in California not long after he arrived in the U.S. (he's Dutch) more than 15 years ago. He was selling flowers wholesale, and she was managing a flower shop. He wanted to date her almost immediately, but she held him off for seven months before going out with him. Her reluctance, he later found out, was that she didn't understand some of the cultural differences in the way that the Dutch do things, like sit with their legs crossed knee over knee instead of the more "masculine" ankle on knee position favored in America. And there was the matter of the way that a European holds a cigarette while smoking, especially that part where the head goes back and the smoke is released from the corner of the mouth. After they knew one another well enough, Diane told Theo of her concerns. Theo told her: "I'm not gay. I'm Dutch! (Not there's anything wrong with that.) They've been married for 15 years, owned several flower shops in Southern California, and moved here after traveling around the U.S. and Caribbean looking for a place to live and work.

We went to an air show yesterday at NAS Key West, about six miles up the road in Boca Chica. The Blue Angels were the featured performers, but there were several other performers demonstrating the capabilities of some of the very advanced aircraft in use today, as well as demonstrations by some older planes, including a couple of really startling aerobatic performances. Picture this: a one prop bi-plane going up almost vertically to several thousand feet, then hanging on it's tail for a couple of seconds until it stalls, then rolling over to nose-down position and diving straight down for a couple of thousand feet into a horizontal positioning loop. The pilot is Fred Cabanas, who offers scenic flights over Key West and sometimes does a bit of aerial advertising during the Sunset Celebration. There were quite a few ground displays of older Navy and other aircraft. The Department of Homeland Security was showing off a couple of their AWACS radar-equipped planes that are being used for both early warning and for drug interdiction (the Coast Guard landed here a couple of days ago with 75,000 pounds of cocaine, worth $2.5 billion. There were also two parachute jumps during the day. The only problem we had all day was with parking. The Navy had lots set up all over the base and were finding it not easy to coordinate traffic flow.

Janet is standing in front of me, zig-zagging though conversation with a couple of Parrotheads. I got a report from them that they had a good time here. I also had a report from Diane that she sees the frugality for which they are justifiably famous. Over in It's Only Key West, Captain BK has promised to try to get into Key West just so he can overtip some server who almost surely got seriously under-tipped over the past few days. The Parrotheads are a cordial enough group, but they carry the reputation of being thrifty tightwads, definitely not high-rollers when it comes to venturing out into the community from their controlled event venues, mainly the Casa Marina and, of course, Margaritaville.

Soon we'll be off to Schooner Wharf for Greer's birthday party. Janet is buying her a gift here at the Coffee Plantation, so we'll be able to move on as soon as we both finish our coffee.

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