Ordinary language is all right.
One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.
We sat in the outfield grass and shared a bratwurst and fried mozzarella sticks. My first Dylan show: K. took me. It was the tour with Willie Nelson that hit minor-league ballparks. Like so many things with K., it's hard for me to place. There were too many uncertain times. At some point, before I'd told her I loved her, maybe wishing for some more acknowledgment of something I guess, I must have had to point out that I knew she knew how I felt about her—telling her without saying it, because it wasn't something she wanted to hear. Or, sometimes, I suppose, wanted to be: loved, in that way. Always such complexly unsettled mixtures of intimacy and distance, with K. I vaguely remember this show as one of those times, especially after the pleasure of the show, on the way home, where maybe I felt on notice not to be too affectionate, not to count on a relationship that promised to persist, existed too affirmatively. Maybe you can see why I would especially associate her with Dylan. But also just because it was time—those remasters had just come out, confirming me, and confronted with lively grizzled old Dylan, I was coming around to his 00s run—and because she had her Dylan, too. She had such a personal relationship to so many things, her Dylan included, that being with her changed my Dylan. We shared his records, like she liked to listen to Nashville Skyline in her car in the morning, dropping me on her way to work: literally, by listening together. Bob must have even helped me get laid. Because we did that a lot, listened to records. For a long while at the beginning it was practically the only way I knew to get her into my bedroom, on my bed. I don't know how to say that without coming off like an operator. It's exactly the opposite: I had no idea how to make a move with her, how to tell what she wanted. At the very least, the music provided a pretext for moving our long conversations elsewhere. The why, I suppose, I came to understand later. But at first, music seemed to help with the how: a good reason to tarry, to share time listening, letting something happen. She was always so jealous of her time that our more languid moments were sometimes tinged with wariness, for me, that she might suddenly remember herself, that self, the one distinct from the one I came to know, and rouse herself to get back to whatever, back from our state of exception. Not that I knew her Dylan, with that special intimacy I knew her with. We listened together but we each knew our separate Dylans, which is exactly right for Dylan. Who can talk about what he means to them?
Tell Tale Signs just postdates our time together. I could hardly begin to say how it sounds now: how deepened because of her and her Dylan. I'm not sure I care to; it's mine.
—Human beings, the kind of animals who will even break up when they're not even together. Who are together even when they're not.
A sudden impulse, to reconnect with a missing person, led me to dig up some correspondence from a pen-pal from the previous decade, S., a disarming, unconventional stunner and peculiar intellect who I'd 'met' somewhere online, 'seen' around, gotten to exchanging missives with. (Migration and re-encounter are as much a part of internet life as any other, maybe more so, because the disappearances can be so abrupt, so total, the trails to follow non-existent.) And I dug up myself: in different caches of correspondence from different periods, I find me, or someone signing my name, talking about two different women. Ten years ago, E. (or 'C.', at the time—I must have switched conventions), who S. had read about me meeting and dating and loving and abruptly and callously dumping because S. had all along been reading the diary I was keeping then, had said (I recounted to S.) that the only reason I was able to make it as far as I did with her before dropping her was the massive self-delusion that had control of everything else in my life, that was the only reason I could hold such a constantly low opinion of myself. A while later, after one of those natural internet lulls or migrations or whatever it was (the traces are gone), seven years ago, near my birthday, I tell S. that I had received, from K., 'my old love, my most recent and worst and best love', who I hadn't seen in nearly a year, a birthday present, a ticket to a show that K. hoped I would meet her at, if I could bear it—because our split had been hard and slow and unbearable and unwanted, because we couldn't work out how to be what we each wanted from, to, each other, but she couldn't take it anymore and had to try to keep me in her life on some terms (and herself in mine, as she—with such graciousness and perceptiveness—always knew full well mattered just as much to me). So what I did, I tell S., was to agree to go, and then to talk to K., and get anxious and realize nothing had changed and so to back out.
Saying so, just that, to S. likely did little for me. I said at the time that it was just the kind of thing that underscored everything unhappy about my life, which is just what someone looking to actively maintain their own entanglement, enmirement, in an unwelcome mood would say—couldn't see how not to say despite what little it does. As with what I said about the self-delusion that E. faulted me for. Then, at least. Because even if I disclosed these intimacies to my remote, partial stranger, my correspondent S., to only nominal discharge of the burdensome emotions attached to them, or to little to no shift in my actual understanding of myself, I did disclose them—I articulated something. Looking back now on those relationships, I feel stupid. Emotionally stupid: possessed of feelings with little to say about them, little sense of whatever deep wells of articulacy they might harbor were I to know more about how I now am still those me's then, or how not, or how I now stand toward E. or K. or toward my memories of them, toward the places they have in my past, my heart, or literally what exactly it was I lived through, did, said, thought, felt, back then. Because I hardly know. Perhaps for good reason: a grief like K. had died, untouchable on pain of days of sadness and resurgent anxiety, seemingly at best ignored, left undisturbed in hopes that it would be forgotten, dissipate of itself, be displaced, filled; or a far more obscure shame at not even really knowing myself, knowing my own feelings with E., knowing how to feel, how to be a person who feels, who relates, connects. In a frame of mind, in a mood, a stage of life, like those, one weathers. Ducks. I weathered. Only sort of. Often I feel like I still am.
But whatever the me back then didn't get, or was not ready to get, by sharing with S. back then, she's given the me now something from all the way back there. I find that even a year earlier—so, about eight years ago—I had reached out to detail what was happening with K., to try to somehow describe what, then, I noted would be called a breakup except that we had not even gotten back together so as to break anything up (so this had been going on a while, reconciling and parting). Reading 'me' now, I'm struck by how articulate I was about the tenuous understanding I had of my situation. How articulate about perceptions, motives, interpretations, how situated in a history of a relationship and engaged with K.'s view of herself, with her own life and past. How private! (So that I am struck by my own capacity to know another person, however inaccurate it might end up proving on inspection, and so that I almost think it must be some sort of betrayal, to know another person that well and relate it in any way to a third, even though I was hardly indiscreet in doing so. Strange.) My own words are something more like a document to me now, though I see how I might use them, emotionally, to re-connect with that 'me' and simultaneously take advantage of his nearness to and my distance from what he felt, and knew.
'The immediate occasion for writing this book was Max Horkheimer's fiftieth birthday, February 14th, 1945. The composition took place in a phase when, bowing to outward circumstances, we had to interrupt our work together. This book wishes to demonstrate gratitude and loyalty by refusing to acknowledge the interruption. It bears witness to a dialogue intérieur: there is not a motif in it that does not belong as much to Horkheimer as to him who found the time to formulate it.
The specific approach of Minima Moralia, the attempt to present aspects of our shared philosophy from the standpoint of subjective experience, necessitates that the parts do not altogether satisfy the demands of the philosophy of which they are nevertheless a part. The disconnected and non-binding character of the form, the renunciation of explicit theoretical cohesion, are meant as one expression of this. At the same time this ascesis should atone in some part for the injustice whereby one alone continued to perform the task that can only be accomplished by both, and that we do not forsake.'
Mingus on Ornette's horn, or anyone on Cecil Taylor's piano, 'it doesn't matter what key he's playing in—he's got a percussional sound… it gets to you emotionally, like a drummer'—and yet, there's an actual drummer drummer, too. So what are you doing, hearing 'percussive' playing from non-drummers? Maybe, you hear another way to be jolted, struck; to get going. And you wouldn't have thought you could get that; not there.
At times the rapidity and brevity of the Stellar Regions Coltrane's return to tranquil playing, just at the very tail end of an otherwise unrelentingly turbulent piece, seems not at all perfunctory, not just a pretty coda; it is an utterly composed—that is, calmed, settled—assertion that this playing and what preceded it are the same, derive from the same source. You are moved by an equilibrium you thought could only be restored through rest, through a long silence after such a racket, but which comes through playing just as intense, even if suddenly quieted.