The ghosts of ten thousand take-out meals hover in my kitchen, a haunted cubicle. I wander into the apartment one day; I'm innocently staring out the window, when quietly, secretly, a vindaloo from 2002 calls to me, a wild vindaloo downed with beer and a giggle, the memory of my friend telling a story while my mouth burned; but trying to speak over it, yelling like some irascible Jewish lady at the deli, is a miserable meal from Teriyaki Boy, a quasi-Udon from the turn of the millennium, and with its raspy uninviting styrofoam-encased memory it attempts to remind me that not all take-out is pleasure and conviviality; most is grim, lazy Necessity. There they are, the consumed spirits, auras arguing in the kitchen; each having made its way into my body and out and somehow (somehow!) determined the course of events, the course of now and the course of future years; but all variables are still in play (except the years now past? ... perhaps even they are in play). Just two days ago, I gazed at the withered remains of a corned beef sandwich, in transition to ghostliness. Have I betrayed you too?, I wondered ... we deserved each other less than we hoped. The meal as pure joyous ritual: I have betrayed that ideal, time and time again; though I believe it is not entirely my fault.
But upon arrival in London you should have seen me in the Marks & Spencer, the way I scoured the aisles. How delightful to find a new food paradigm. There they were, banks upon banks of sandwiches in little plastic containers, and with my child's fervor I smirked as I chose exotic titles only partly for their flavor-appeal:
Wensleydale Cheese Sandwich with Caramelized Carrot Chutney
Hoisin Duck Wrap
Black Pepper Potato and Lentil Crisps
Gala Apple Juice
Milk Chocolate Digestive Biscuits
It seemed impossible they (the nameless clerks) would even let me purchase such an odd assortment. Cross-legged on my hotel bed, clicking the clicker, I giggled and punctured and ate, until my coverlet was stained, tell-tale, with brownish-orange smears, the guilty wake of passionately spilled carrot chutney, a sandwich to which I made such love as I deemed appropriate. How many times have I tiredly wiped my eyes and stroked an eyebrow and moaned wearily of how much the classical musician must travel, but really I'm a terrible hypocrite. Even a foreign sandwich can send me to ecstasy.
As if the chutney-Wensleydale weren't enough, I could probably compose a passionate ode to the potato crisps; oh wait, "inspiration" is coming on:
Oh spirit of peppercorn
Blinking on an oily horizon:
Spice which sank a thousand ships:
Bless me once more.
Make this potato sing.
One symptom of traveling is the loneliness of watching other people's reunions. I was waiting for the Heathrow Express train with a youngish couple, who ended up sitting across from me. They were evidently and manifestly very happy to see each other again, and thus their physical contact increased exponentially with distance from the airport. The dimensions and contours of the seats were their only limitations. I tried looking away, thinking of other things, but the girl's foot ended up in a curious place, and matters were getting--so to speak--out of hand; the train thankfully pulled up at Paddington Station. This couple bounded out the door, enlaced, deeply impatient to get where they were going... and I looked up at the arching roof of the station, and sighed with my luggage. I had too much pride to plod, but I walked pensively, and searched the vast space for some relief; as you have read, I sublimated their energy into sandwiches. It was the available option. You must always accept what is available, as a starting point.
To conclude this rambling post, I would like to ask my readers to offer their suggestions what to do with a barely used copy of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. I was ambitious and hopeful; I thought to myself "stop being a fuddyduddy and read something young and hip and current;" I began reading with (a perhaps somewhat contrived) enthusiasm, which quickly dampened. It is futuristic and dark (one might say darkly comic?... whatever) and rather monotonous, and even more overwritten than Think Denk. I skipped forward three hundred pages or so, and found more of the same. And it is written in the manner which I am so displeased to find as the modus operandi of the modern novel: each chapter leaping to a new story... using the opportunity to set an entirely new scene, go into yet another "backstory." Ack, so tiresome; if there are many strands to the story, is there not a way (a less lazy way) to weave the strands into a more continuous narrative? This is not always possible, but consider music as the model? Whatever other stories you have to tell must be connected within the ongoing fabric; the second theme has its own story but must be created out of the momentum of the first, etc. The continuity of a musical work is its discipline, and I guess I'm just a fuddyduddy who doesn't like too much leaping around in my novels; I am not a dog, I don't want to be jerked to and fro; the novelist does not control me, I'm my own man and I have my own sense of time, my own demands; and the point is I loved my Wensleydale sandwich so much more than Infinite Jest and if you have any ideas what to do with a huge, unwanted novel, please let me know.