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Saturday, May 20, 2017

1968 A True Story Of The Infinite Negative

You came by. Troubled. It was 1968 and I lived with 3 other guys at Palomar Apartments. There was a party going on .  I suggested we repair to the little kitchen and sit at the table. We sat across from one another. You admired the tablecloth.

"It's Indian," I said. "Got it at Pier 1."

"Cheap?"

Of course it was cheap. None of us had much money in 1968. The name of it got me spending more than I should have: Floral Kavita.

"What's Kavita?
"Hindi for 'poem'."

"Where is the poem?"

At this point people staggered and barged into the kitchen, looking for libations and smelling of  cannabis. I suggested we clear the table.

"Then what?" She asked.

"Then we drape the tablecloth over our heads and go outside to find the poem."

We did so, felt a sudden privacy under the fabric, left by the kitchen back door and found a lawn that gave onto 14th Avenue. I led us to a bench. We sat.

"Tell me what's on your mind." I said. We could see the lights of cars and porches, but no details through the cotton. We heard only each other.

"I've been thinking about Harry. He wants to get married."

"Congratulations.  How do you feel about that?"

"Like an ornament."

"We need a poem, eh? No? What then?"

"All I can think of is an old song, Geo."

"Please."

"We couldn't carry Harry to the ferry.
 We couldn't carry Harry to the shore.
 Reason that we couldn't carry Harry
 Is we couldn't carry Harry anymore."

I was charmed and astonished. "Where did you learn that song?"

"From my parents when I was little. They would sing it and laugh."

"It goes beyond syntactic double negatives into the grammatically infinite. I'll try to remember." We then did a synchronized somersault off the bench and the table-cloth stayed with us.

5 years later, I was working downtown and encountered her and her sister in the alley where my shop was. They were on their way back to the legal office they worked. We were happy to see each other. I was emboldened and asked, "Did you ever marry Harry?"

They both rolled their eyes and said, "Nooooo!"

Through peripheral sources, I've learned she became an elementary school teacher and married someone she is truly happy  with. Happy retirement, dear friend, wherever you are.
 
 

27 comments:

  1. I am glad that she didn't marry Harry and love the poem which was always contained in Floral Kavita. Love the lyrics contained in the repeated intricacy. I have to ask, do you still have it?

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    1. Dear EC, No, I don't still have it but a recent gift of a mouse-pad (pictured by webcam)reminded me of that tablecloth pattern and the whole evening returned from its half-century. I left the cloth there when I went to live alone, but hope it imparted some poetic lessons to those who remained at Palomar.

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  2. That is a wonderful memory from a tumultuous year. A narrative and poem still being written.

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    1. I hope so, dear Tom. Looked up lyrics and found they're from an old song that's been added to and subtracted from for at least a century, but her version was unique. My duty was to remember.

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  3. A truly charming memory. To be distantly a part of that, through your telling of that event, is heart warming.

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    1. Thank you, Tom. It was a strange time, but friendships and exchanges of ideas and understanding pulled us through. I hope such fundamental human interactions will always sustain us.

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  4. What a nice story of someone who passed through your life and left a sweet memory. 1968, we were young and those were very interesting times.

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    1. It was a time of changes, indeed --subtle and momentous-- a world teaching itself to us.

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  5. Hi Geo,
    I love that her parents taught her the song. It's like a warning from the future. Or the past. I get confused when it comes to time.

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    1. In any time, it's a fine song to sing under a table cloth.

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  6. Harry was not for her...I hope he found love though.....there SHOULD be someone for everyone, even Harrys. May they both find happy retirement.
    A tablecloth poem to cover every situation. I like that idea.

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    1. It was certainly a time of searching, of encountering --finding kindred spirits. Still is.

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  7. This simple story touched me deeply. It is beautiful.

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    1. There's a fine value in simplicity, and a lasting one. Thanks,Emma.

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  8. This is a wonderful memory, with a happy ending (which is all too rare). I love the verse and feel it might easily be adapted to different names as the occasion warrants ...

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    1. The tune is much used by UC Berkley Marching Band --their lyrics are harder on Harry, Though. Have also heard it was used as an old Navy drinking song. Both versions include more names.

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  9. I've always maintained that every aspect of life contains some form of poetry. You have proven it.

    For what it's worth, I certainly remember Pier 1 and did a lot of shopping there in my wayward, poverty-stricken youth.
    Candles, baskets, brass incense burners..... to me it was reminiscent of an exotic museum.

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    1. Thanks, Jon. Pier 1 was sure busy when we boomers got let loose. It offered so much variety for personalizing our little spaces. I just read your comment to Norma and asked when last she shopped Pier 1. She said, "I bought our big brass garden Buddha there." I asked if they were still cheap and she ran out of the room.

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    2. I had no idea that Pier 1 was still in existence. The store I particularly remember was on Lincoln Blvd. in Anaheim. I used to frequent it from when I was about 18 through my early 20's.
      I have no doubt that it's a lot more expensive now than when I knew it...

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    1. Sometimes we made it look like more fun than it really was, but truly there was memorable joy.

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  11. I'm so glad I decided to visit some old blogging friends this morning. I love this story of your earlier days and recall a few of my own. My first apt. in Mpls was furnished (I use that term loosely) from Pier 1. Knowing it was a good idea to, "go outside and find a poem," shows great insight. :)

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    1. Thanks, Teresa. Good to hear from you again. And yes, you are no stranger to finding poems outside.

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  12. Very nice story!
    And the flowers in the hair were replaced by a normal, regular (?) life, and there you are.

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  13. Thanks, Ana. I'm another part of the age spectrum now. But still, when I think of Scott McKenzie's (1967) song, "San Francisco", a wave of nostalgia overtakes me.

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  14. Oh Lord, I remember 1968 and "those" parties! I didn't have much money for at least two more decades. I enjoyed sharing your memory of that time, and I'm glad that your friend married someone who would make her feel like an equal partner and not an ornament. I often listen to Scott McKenzie's song "San Francisco" because it reminds me of a time of great hope and innocence. The world feels much less hopeful and innocent now, but I retain much of the idealism of that time and believe that somehow we will bumble through.

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    1. At the time, my friend had suffered some blows to her confidence and was gradually regaining it. I was relieved to hear she made good. I agree with your take on hope and this modern times; progress is possible --or at least bumbleable.

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