Monday, August 24, 2009

'What is "Great" about Jay Gatsby?' - (Part 1)

At least the post was on time. One of the letters was addressed to me. It contained a note: C♯, or was it D♭? I knew this cryptic note held a deep dark secret. For some reason it reminded me of the noise the automatic doors at the local library make when they open and close, and go for lunch at a deli across the street.

When I entered the library it was half-full. Two police officers were at the scene. An officer was reading the library its rights; the library was charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI). I overheard it got the alcohol from a nearby second-hand book store. It looked on the verge of collapse. It was drinking coffee, and eating pretzels.

I approached a librarian; a tall, dark-haired woman with bright eyes, a generous mouth, and an old woman's face. I watched her place the old woman's face in a drawer which she immediately locked. She put the key down her considerable cleavage. She looked at me and said nothing. I cleared my throat.

'I'm looking for a book ..."

'And I'm here to ensure you leave satisfied,' she said, with a swift smile.

She lent over the desk, her ample bosom lit by the desk lamp. I could see the key was in a warm and safe place.

'My instinct tells me you're looking for a novel that has "Great" written all over it. Short, prose infused with lyricism. Ingrained with wonder, romance, realism, amorous pleasure ..." As she spoke she gazed upward as if to obtain her flow of words from an outside source.

I felt hot and dizzy. Her confidence overwhelmed me.

She pointed to a section of the library. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. You'll find it in the "Classics" section.' Then she added, softly, 'I recommend you look at Chapter 5, page 88". We exchanged glances, then she smiled, "I promise, you won't be disappointed.'

I found the book and sat at one of the old oak tables. After sniffing the book, I turned to page 88. A message was written in pencil at the bottom of the page: Bemelmans Bar, 9.30 p.m. I looked again at the message. Who had scribbled the note, when, and why? Then I thought: All relationships that evolve into love, explode into conflict.

I met my first wife through on-line dating. I think it was a niche site. DateAGolfer, DateAPedalKayake - some subspecialty site. She uploaded a picture of her sister which set my pulse racing. I had to chase it for two blocks before a fellow citizen kindly intervened to contain it.

The problems in our relationship started when I met her for the first time. She always wore "underwater flippers", and carried a rudder when she played golf, attended classical concerts - especially, Mahler - and the odd time we attempted copulation. Once her rudder stuck in my mouth, and I had to be rushed naked to a hospital. The doctor's though I was straight from a masonic meeting. Her leg muscles got so large they slept in their own room. Our marriage became dull: she blamed the lack of light in our home - I removed every light bulb - and having our beds in single file.

As I left the library the librarian smiled enigmatically at me. She was the opposite of my present wife - female. A well-proportioned lady who radiated uninhibited sensuality.

It was exactly one o'clock. I had a meeting with my analyst at 2 o'clock. I could hardly breathe, and had a lot to think about. Suddenly I heard a strange sound. I turned round and discovered it was my old friend, Hedvig Oppenheimer. He was laughing, but looked overly anxious. As he spoke saliva dripped from both sides of his mouth.

"I can't stop thinking about Gina Lollobrigida. You know, the Italian actress. I mean it's the sweetest name I've ever heard. She was a looker. What do you think?"

"What about Jennifer Lopez. Isn't she from the Bronx?" I said, thinking about other things.

"J-Lo? You're joking . . . It hasn't got the ring of Gina Lollobrigida!"

"What about Sophia Scicolone?"

"Who the hell is that?"

"Sofia Loren. You know . . ."

"Not in the same league."

It was a hot day. I watched Hedvig walk toward the town square. His mouth wide open, crying, "Gina. Darling, Gina . . ."

I walked with quick steps towards the office of my analyst and was glad of the company. Perhaps she could answer some of the questions racing round my mind? For instance: 'What's it like to be a human being?' 'Who wrote the first book?' and more importantly, 'What was so "Great" about some guy called Jay Gatsby?'

 Reflections: Everyone has enemies. Even enemies have enemies. At work, where you live, in your social life, in your bed, in your socks, in your shoes. The strange thing is that some of those enemies may be individuals you have never met, conversed with, or corresponded with. Am I the only person to believe that humankind is in a terrible state of decay and has stopped evolving?

Some people feel it necessary to judge quickly with a deep sharp thrust to avoid judgment of themselves. How shall one know them? Their faces and minds reflect emptiness; their hatred is as clear as crystal.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What is "Great" about Jay Gatsby? - (Part 2)

Sometimes life plays tricks when you least expect it, or need it. As I walked towards my analyst's office, LIFE decided to play a virtual game where the supposedly 3D "me" became an extension of the real "me". I began to float in some hard-to-pronounce netherworld, where you can dance, chat, play, and hang out with other nuts in 3D. Not my scene. I'm 2D - always have been; always will be - at least, until I receive confirmation my current wife has vaporized, and I can't stick hard alcohol.

Suddenly, I stop floating, shiver, then smile. I remember my pal, Jesse (named after Sitting Bull's left leg, and Standing Bull's left ear) only drinks wine, and it has to be the most expensive on the list. He's sixty-two, tall, with tousled white hair in his pocket which magically appears on his head when he thinks he spots a female.

Jesse's eyesight is poor, and he refuses to wear anything to improve it. I believe it stems from a bad experience with colonic hydrotherapy. For a while he didn't blink, or exhale after smoking, and said repeatedly, "It was a giant enema, I tell you. A GIANT ENEMA! Who's playing the bagpipes?!" He's been arrested twice for sexual assault. Once, for attempting to copulate with a Marlin Lever Action .22 Rifle, and, on another occasion, for inappropriately touching an organic drink at a health-food convention.

As I walk I pass a bridge. I make a note to change my diet; eat more wheat-grass. One of my ex-mother-in-law's - an ex-wrestler, who dresses as a rabbit when she's not in the ring - told me, "Eat green, and be self-sufficient! And never sit on a flowery sofa!" She's a compulsive collector of people who shake their hair in public just for effect. She's over ninety, but you wouldn't know it. At the last count she had over six hundred people on her farm; mostly female. The last time I visited she was excavating the lawn to extend the house's basement. Her ardour is undimmed. I think she gets her warm, mischievous humour from eating raw artichokes.

As I enter the premises of my analyst, Milena White, I start to sound and look like an injured dog. If I said I was in love with Milena, it would be true. But not as described, and portrayed, in books and magazines; films and television. I will confess to desire, passion, jealousy, and my own definition of love.

We are all different; think differently. Milena is blessed with large brown eyes, an elegant nose, high cheek bones, and long and shapely legs which she displays to enliven, or disarm me. If she has a weakness, I'm not aware of it.

The lady at reception - glossy white hair, and well-manicured - welcomes me. She advises Milena will not be in attendance today. A woman called, Lee Mailer, will take the session. Suddenly, I feel cold. The lights in reception become sharp, and I close my eyes. I bite on a knuckle, and an elderly man in reception hits my face with a magazine. In fact, he follows me to the door of the consulting room, ranting, "You could have rabies, anything ... you degenerate!"

I hurriedly closed the consulting room door. I felt the bitter taste of mortality in my mouth, and toyed with the idea of pretending I was a trapper walking downwind, upriver, to get away from a bear walking upwind, downriver. I couldn't remember what language to speak; English, French. I believe I smelt a sniff of overcooked weasel as I hit the carpet.

"I read some of your notes while you slept. You seem tormented by fear, anguish, desire, and a guilty conscious? You're obsessed with sex, and this has driven you to constant bouts of infidelity? How many wife's? Six, at the last count .... honestly! ... you better get up. There's only twenty minutes of your session left." Her voice was warm, courteous, with a hint of good-humour. I sat in a chair opposite her and looked at her face for the first time. She was strikingly beautiful, extremely sexy; like a young Jane Russell.

I tried to impress her. "My body has become a silent companion. Indeed, my soul is locked in a cage, and the key is misplaced, or, worst, lost."

She sat back in her chair. Her smile was swift and dazzling. She give a dry, pure laugh. "Who sent you to me, the Devil?"

My anxiety faded almost at once. She made me feel happy, because she was happy; or full of mischief. I didn't care.

"What's it like to be a human being?" I asked.

"Wrong person to ask. I'm an alien."

She leaned over the desk. "I read that your third wife locked you in a cupboard under the stairs as punishment. Why would you let her do such a thing?"

"It was either that, or watch her weight-lifting while dressed in a skin-tight leotard."

"Don't be surprised, or upset, by what I'm about to say." Her voice was soft, controlled. "Most inhabitants of cities tend to be, or become - I'm sorry to say - invisible, anonymous, part of the mass. I'm not preaching powerlessness, shallowness and hypocrisy, but take a good look around."

She then spoke in a calm, friendly manner. "Search for the important things in life -truth, integrity, fairness, loyalty, courage, strong friendship, partnership, love, wisdom and learning, humour - plan your life with great care. Remember, no-one is indestructible." She sat back, and winked at me. "And don't believe anything you hear, unless it's a horn." Again, she give a dry, pure laugh. I was stunned into silence. She seemed to eliminate my anguish and turmoil.

"Have you ever read The Great Gatsby? I asked.

"Why, yes. Why do you ask?"

"Why was Jay called "Great"?

"Have you read the book? And you still don't understand? My advice is to read it again. Then you can tell me, tonight, in your own words, what is "Great" about Jay Gatsby. I'll meet you at Bemelmans Bar, 9.30 p.m". She leaned towards me. "My friend, Julia, give you a copy of the book at the library this morning and directed you to page 88. She knows the type of man I like. Totally unprofessional, of course, but invigorating just the same."

I left the consulting room, ran home, and read The Great Gatsby ceaselessly. As I waited in Bemelmans Bar I felt tense and anxious. When Lee arrived wearing a thin, black dress, and shoes with very high heels, her face radiant and beautiful, I felt a gentle wind touch me, and suddenly life tasted better than ever.

The End?

Reflections: Some people find music - in all its guises - tedious, because they don't take time to truly listen. Some people don't read books; they find it laborious, regard it as a luxury, rather than a means to gain insight to different thoughts and viewpoints. Most cities and towns are littered with libraries, bookshops, art galleries, museums, which some people - to their loss - refuse to experience by simply walking through the door.

We are inundated daily with junk television, junk films, junk magazines, junk advertising & marketing, junk websites, junk blogs [sic] and junk rubbish. The list of junk is endless. It's strange how some people are swift to criticise individuals for eating a poor diet, but not for "not reading" books, novels, or obtaining differing perspectives to events happening around, or to them, or other human beings around the world. It might just lift the conversation/debate to a higher level and help push the bigots and bullies to the sidelines.