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Thursday, March 6, 2014

#Calvin and I. By John von Daler

                                  I can feel that old, dry hand reaching out of my mind to point out the way for me. On the skinny arm I can see the worn, black sleeve, clean but threadbare. I can feel its thrust, see its angry trembling.                
                       "You are doing it again! Wipe that grin off your face!"

                Whenever that righteous hand surfaces from within me, I also hear the monotonous voice chanting admonitions, even as the pictures on my walls start to melt and slide down, the bright colors running together in the middle of my being to form an ugly, rancid, stagnant pool.
                "Icons! You and your icons! Look in yourself and find the emptiness to meet your maker! Forsake your snickering symbols and embrace the truth!"
                I struggle to force back the grasping hand as the music in my ears crescendos to a deafening roar only to be silenced once and for all by the swipe of the hand of this inner conductor, cutting off all sound and leaving the air empty and vacuous.
                Then the little voice comes back.
                "Fun! Having fun were you? Who do you think you are?"
                And I must admit: guilty as charged. My whole career has been fun: the reading of the great classics with teachers who had just gotten off the phone with Geoffrey Chaucer or had just sipped coffee with T.S. Eliot.
                Then the bookshop with the milling revolution outside in the square, the books about structuralism, the discussions that flowed in from the street and wound back, book in hand, to talk some more. It was fun!
                The lectures on Karen Blixen and Flannery O'Connor, Malamud, Updike. God how I enjoyed it!
                Then the playing that never stopped, the river of notes that flowed, enticing tributaries into the sea of sound, the jazz, the blues, the poignant classics, the tangos and the discos and the avantgarde: the audiences that laughed and cried and danced and clapped.
                And now the words come galloping, flopping into my life like some friendly avalanche, full of stories and pictures and possibilities.
                As I feel those same old chuckles rising in my throat I know that the grim voice is in there too and I search it out, confront it, reach out my own inner arm, the friendly one that raises children, cooks the meals, raises a glass or two. I embrace with it my inner Calvinist and warm him with the heat of my joie de vivre. I turn towards the dwindling, dry little anachronism and whisper, "Let's take a walk on the ceiling! Let's eat oysters while we float on our backs in the waves! Let's make up a play about a butterfly that wants to box! Let's sing strange sounds into a glass! I know, let's seduce the world and impregnate it with laughing babies!"

                Then the little, wizzened, black arm reaches up and closes the lid of its own small box and the creature, whimpering, falls alseep somewhere behind my heart. Later, it is a lot easier to write again.

                My book, Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude (WiDo Publishing) is now available. Order through, the publisher or your local bookstore. Click to buy Pieces at the top of the blog. Please feel free to write a short review of the book in your own language at or GoodReads. Thanks for your support!

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