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A Life in Hypertext

Public and Private

Corporate middleman to his new best buddy, P.D. Acistant:

"You mean I have to type the actual date?"

"You could always configure a macro--if you took the time to learn the built-in programming language--or spend seven hundred more bucks for the slicker machine." New best buddy had a pretty slick hairdo himself, black waxed.

"Hmm. Well, on the other hand, this default paragraph format ain't too bad...now if I can just get these fingers and brain to work, I'll have out a Bovary or Copperfield in no time."

"Yeah, but you need to get your learning curve around the function keys, the body posture, the demands of your stomach and wife...then we can talk about how to pay attention to the clicking of the clock; the heartbeat; the silent breath. So for now, how bout just practice: it's like learning a new instrument, y'know, a second language. When you're ready you'll do it, I'm sure. What? No, it's not a matter of exile. It's more like: not taking too much forethought. Just a moment's notice into what is becoming: the bird in the now-dawn: the faint light in the south. Have you heard this mystery?"

"Uh, not as such. Hold on a sec, will ya? I've got somebody else on the other line. Okay, now run that by me again?"

"It's a slower, simpler agenda: one word, even just one letter at a time. To think in such microscopic terms is called poetry, by your superiors, and so you'll need to encrypt all your files..."

This by way of preface, for in truth there is nothing else but preface, introduction, beginning. Tomorrow's task is far away in this day, and I am now to fish in this gray dawn for an understanding of suburban childhoods and their dramatic crises--for starters, anyway. In the public square meanwhile the rhetoric takes over (wherever, that is, free speech is permitted to penetrate the musak) while in the shops and cars all along the boulevard, the mainstream news channel obliterates the airwaves, where there might have been more pungent energy to enjoy, finer rhythms on which to dance.

As it is, I come to disparage this past, those histories public and private that adorn our otherwise dawns as dreams only. Looking forward then neither too far nor back down the road we crawled or skidded along to get here, you reach to me through only a thin veil of pixels, aknowledging the light of the golden-wooded breakfast table I tap on, the tiny screen and keyboard registering the operating room like so much input data, monitoring progress in neural associations to certain repeated keys, bringing into focus the icon called "Data" at a touch but having trouble with the location of that gosh-darned hyphen and that elusive period...at least I can see my way clear to the contrast button when necessary and begin again to get to the root of the middle ground, the well of tears or the grand canyon, the time of what it is, now, to come out of that suburban hell--or whatever other ring of paradise you want to call up from the collective imagination called history. Where you came from: a far cry from that jungle whose Tarzan called across your screen, or the arctic adventure series you lived through in your second adolescence; while not so far at all from a later experience in chicken-farming, you return to your roots in the handheld moment.

My earth-mate is sleeping while we commune, or say rather that she and you and I are sleeping together, birds of a feather bed, whose downy dawn is marked by ticking song, whose father's name goes by Thomas, or Bill Sr., or simply "Daddy," while in this cold nation's Constitution the Bill before the House now calls God by his alias of yuppie fantasy, "Intellectual Freedom." Did we all come home to the drunk scenes at the table, the mother screaming?

Earth Day, every day, but I won't stay in the public square denouncing, nor defending anymore, because it is rather this closer-in agenda I want to report, not the wars out there between past and future.

In the now alone is peace, where considerations of cause and effect, linear progression and abstract judgment are laid to rest, where the still-life and the raging river are as lamb and lion in garden primeval, where you are my Eve and I your snake-man, obliterator of dreams, caller to the beauty of what is.

In this blue world of dreams we borrow to enjoy one by one, are reminders, cue cards, cheat sheets and help screens, keystrokes and shortcuts: hyphens under O's, apostrophes over periods, commas over help and under questions. Did you get that, brain, and thereby understand and communicate that it's not about remembering, but doing, simply practicing?

Yes, I know, this is getting rather onto the subject of Performance: the daily soap opera for men.

Is it all too much, as with daylight everything changes? Does all become public and political, so that the keyboard clatters like a stock ticker and the steady clock is overwhelmed like a worm at first spring by flocks of returning birds, or at best a jungle of weeds?

There is something to be said, the stockboy remarked in the hallway after coffee, for paper and pencil: the colon coming into play as the easy arbiter of false ends, the indexing of one comma after another, the period to the bird-finger, the hyphen a function of the circle, another day at the races, the vodka bottle, the girlie mag...

Is this, I wanted to know, what he taught you when you came home from school, and that "corporate middleman" was the title of choice?

Yes, you replied. And one more thing. He told me if I had such a big mouth I ought to run for the Senate when I grew up, if I ever did.

Prophetic Dialogue between Son and Father:
My cat will yowl cantankerously, your dog will bark into the next night and the next, and we'll part ways with an incomplete resolution of our differences.

Light has fully grown now, yet insists on a certain dimness of color, a vague chill. Is this syndrome compatible with an empty wishlist, an infinite desire to travel, a yen for yet another batch of chicks to be housed and guarded in yet another series of temporary coops and runs, so eventually as to imagine their tender flesh simmering in a stewing sauce in the oven pot all the more clearly? Isn't this what elected Roosevelt, who in the end would slide to hell, or so the grandparents said, on the butter he rationed away from them and to their sons he was sending to virtual or bloody death? Oh, the simplicities of history, the simple pleasures of the idle rich, the luxury of these uncharged moments, these conundrums of time and space known as the waking household, the alarm set for school, the mom going to work and this dad on the sax, how could it all cohere, except by universal necessity, the arbitrary willingness to say so, the thread of rhythm weaving around the steady central pulse, the tick and tock and creak of waking bed, the chime of bird and salute of young hemlock crooked to the brightening sky, the interplay of every moment each to the next, mirrored in these instruments, historic clock, letter-making machine, stylus on clay, whisper in ear, what is private and what public, when "it's all political," and at the same time not at all--but rather central at every point, where every hyperlink eventually leads to every other?

© Nowick Gray

Prefaces and Introductions Without End
- By Nowick Gray

Fiction and Nonfiction
Performance and Freedom
On Autobiography
Keyword Matrix
The Program
Public and Private
Willingness: A Life Aesthetic
Invocation: The Hunt
Yet Another Preface
Wordwebs: Core Topics
Story of My Life

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