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Wednesday, March 23, 2011


The title of this essay is also its illustration. It is a rainy day --not the title, the title is the upper-case alphabet. I mean I am in a rainy day-- and what happens on rainy days is I can't go outside and fix something on the world. I used to, no matter what the weather, go out in storms and do vigorous things. I had measureless confidence, immunity to discomfort and the figure of a discobolus. Now rain inspires me to hole up with fluency, ease and artistic fervor. Such is the changing intellectual climate of age and the lure of comfort. With age also comes reflection, sometimes in so many directions it makes no sense, so I will limit this discussion to two distinct streams of thought.

Not an easy prospect. It is late March, usually a time for sitting in the sun thinking of nothing while woolly-ants trumpet and gallimaufry blooms. I believe I have just described idiocy, but that is my approach to clear-minded meditation. However, it's raining and I am in here, doing this. What is this? A response to friends' oft-repeated scolding that I ought to seek wider readership. I figure people read what they want and don't what they don't, but maybe if I offered something sensational they would gain in number. Unaided human flight sounds good. I just added it to the title. Let's try that.

First, let's talk about architecture. Too much coverage is given these days to international belligerence, elitist power-grabs, scandals, social upheavals and too little to architecture and the upper-case alphabet. One can be full of good intentions and mechanical know-how and still accomplish nothing because of architectural ignorance. Consider the Golden Gate.

There is a strait in California defined by headlands of the San Francisco and Marin peninsulas. When it was discovered, in 1769, by Jose Ortega, he wisely turned his party back until a bridge could be built. They circled nearly 170 years, which seems a lot until we consider what went into the project. Schools of mechanical know-how had to be built and operated until they produced architects. Meanwhile, Sgt. Ortega hiked all over the state founding things named Ortega. My Stunt Double grew up on Ortega Street, which I mention only to show we were born much younger than people are now and weren't so nervous about details.

Point is, mechanical distribution of gravitational force through the science of architecture saves many lives. Motorists who tried to drive across the Golden Gate before there was a bridge pretty much lost everything. Those who survived blamed their calamity on fog or misinformation, but make no mistake, gravity got them. Then came architecture, a beautiful orange bridge, and millions of lives get saved every week. Similarly, literature has been saved by the invention and arrangement of the alphabet.

The basic mechanics were there, and the know-how, but literature escaped us for eons. Chief reason humankind was so late to it is each letter had to be forged individually by blacksmiths. They were heavy, cumbersome and a lot of them couldn't stand up by themselves, nor could the letters they forged. But there are certain details that cannot be detected at ground level. You need an overview of the whole alphabet to see why it begins and ends as it does.

From this vantage, you can see that A and Z are the best choice for containing the thing. Neither letter will tip easily, even when Y topples or C heaves back. Midway, you'll notice sturdy-looking M, N, R, and a businesslike boot under Q to keep P upright, especially after O rolls into it. T, U and V are so inherently unstable it takes both W and X to keep them off Y, which, as we've seen, has its own problems. From a bit higher up, we can see F will never stand on its own and I will fall off anything, given the opportunity.

If you leave off admiring the sound architectural principles of the alphabet --which held it still long enough to serve literature-- you'll notice you are flying. Don't be alarmed, but as I write, the rain has run to thunder and lightning and it's best we land now and go indoors. Age seeks its own comforts, and I think it's time for a good cackle in the chimney corner.


  1. Lovely rainy day ruminations, Geo., reflecting the architecture of your mind. As the deluge continues here today, I'm glad to read these meanderings, even if we lack the usual "woolly-ants trumpet and gallimaufry blooms."

  2. Thanks Will, but I was trying for self-indulgent and offensive. Hate being cooped-up.

  3. HeeHee! Well you certainly saw my own such feelings in what will blessedly remain a private communication. And outside here it's even more of a deluge today!

  4. Gosh yes, and the WIND! I was reading Annie B.'s blog this a.m. about urban sunflower-sowing in Ohio, which I recommend. But if I threw seeds out today they'd come down in Seattle.

  5. The Urban Sunflower Mission actually originated with the Gorilla Gardening folks but I will spread some in Ohio, possibly before fleeing here oonce again for the west coast. Then I'll plant more there. The overcast and unending cold here have me in the same headspace as y'all. Where the heck are ye spring?


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