We just got back from an exhausting and wonderful trip to the frosty mid-West, where we visited with Ethan's relations, most notably his brother Spencer. For more on Spencer, see my earlier post.
I begin to see why people like producing children. Being with Spencer activated a new love center in my brain, which pumped out compassion at an alarming rate. It felt ennobling but also it hurt like having my bones exposed to the air.
SPENCER'S TOP TEN THINGS IN LIFE
1. Ethan (and hearing Ethan play music, esp. boogie woogie)
2. Vacuums (To Spencer's delight, and because we find it difficult to refuse him anything, we let him vacuum our hotel room in Two Harbors every night. We were sort of scared we would be discovered illegally vacuuming the room and ejected from the facility.)
3. Lawn mowers
5. The past
6. There are only five things
After Spencer went back to Duluth, Ethan and I went on to the twin cities, where he and the Bad Plus played some awesome shows at the Dakota (more on this in part 2). On a morning off, we took a trip to visit one of Ethan's high school friends, who has one of the largest collections of Transformers action figures this side of planet Cybertron.
Ethan and I had been discussing collecting and the impulse to collect, which he says massages a part of the ego that is wounded from childhood. Ethan keeps his collecting impulse controlled, but it does manifest in certain bookshelves full of crime fiction.
I felt honored that the Transformers collector, a gentle and brilliant man, not only let us tour his city of steel but also spoke with us about its psychological connection to his childhood. This was profoundly moving. Also, he let me transform the dinobots, who are my favorites.
How cute is Slag?
I really relate to him; both of us are angry nearly all the time and we are compactly built. Also, kids at school used to tease me by calling me Tri-Sarah-tops. Grr.
"Me Slag no like anything." -- Slag
The collector also gave us a DVD set of the Transformers cartoon, which I used to watch regularly with my brother. Watching it again, I'm struck by the genius of the creators of the toys and the show, who managed to put together so many things that little boys love into one package (cars, jet planes, robots, dinosaurs). There is only one human character, the inoffensive and perky Spike, who gives the viewer an entry point into the magical world without distracting too much from the robots in disguise. Optimus Prime is the ideal surrogate father for the latchkey children of our generation -- large, wise, all powerful, issuing his firm commands in a gravelly bass voice -- and, unlike one's own father, he turns into a truck!
I have never been a collector; I throw things away. Sometimes even things I need, like my return airline tickets.
Once, after a horrible breakup, I left all my books out on a street corner in Bushwick. This was before Bushwick had become even as slightly gentrified as it is now. No one was going to come save my grandfather's old copy of the Decameron or the beautiful hardcover Lidell and Scott that had seen me through so many translations. It still makes me sick to think of them sitting there in the rain like abandoned dogs.
I thought I was being evolved by letting go of the objects, but unless you also let go of the cravings, it's not an act of virtue. It's like ripping off fruit that's unripe, or pulling off a scab before the wound is healed.
ONE ART by Elizabeth Bishop
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.
--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.