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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Four Odes

Rachmaninoff, circa 1918.

Sergei Rachmaninoff
Watch out, Grandpa!

When the world seems a little gloomy, I try to picture Rachmaninoff, not playing his Third Piano Concerto to a feverish international acclaim, but instead trying to cross the street, bent over a little bit with an aching and saying, “Eh?” when someone riding a wicked fast horse yells, “Watch out, Grandpa!” and then because he doesn’t watch out the horse plows into him and knocks him on his rump and it smarts.

Even though this never happened, it does for me, and quite often, too. Usually before I fall in love, or before I fall in love with a catchy tune, or fall down, a little pretentiously, as though I were Rachmaninoff.

* * *

Blind Blake, circa 1927.

Arthur ‘Blind’ Blake
Sad, and in the snow

I once read about a bluesman named Blind Blake who fell down in the snow and he was so immense, so amazingly immense, that he couldn’t get back up. and so he just stayed there and died.

When I read this, I considered the following:

  1. His hat probably fell off. Did someone take it? That’s pretty mean.
  2. The whole thing might have looked somewhat queer. Like he was making little snow angels.
  3. “This was no suicide,” ace detective Nick Charles declared. “This was murder!”
  4. He must have sounded like this: MMM-FF-MMM-F-M-F-M-PFFT-M.
  5. I bet he thought: “I’ve never written a song about dying in the snow before.”
  6. I will always carry a signal flare with me in the winter.
  7. And then he thought: “First I’m blind, and now I’m dying. I don’t mind the birds walking on top of me so much, they don’t know any better. But if those kids do it, I’m gonna scream.”
  8. If you can scream, and you feel like you want to do it, you probably should. Most people have a good hunch about the right time and the wrong time to scream. Carpe diem, I always say.

* * *

S. Johnson, circa 1722.

Samuel Johnson
Goddam hell

The year 1747 was made more distinguished by his writing of the DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.

I once asked him by what means he had attained such an astonishing knowledge of language and he replied:

“How in the goddam hell should I know?”

Which is to say: not the effect of a particular study, but that which had grown in his mind insensibly.

I was, understandably, a little surprised at his curt tone, his abrupt, and somewhat taciturn response, and his uncharacteristic lack of curiosity about my super-slick, shiny-chrome, modern time-transport machine with the wavy silver lightning-bolt lines on top.

* * *

Ava Gardner, left, in Mogambo, 1953.

Ava Gardner
Safari of love

When Ava Gardner turned around to face Clark Gable, I realized that he was sporting fully erect nipples al fresco. Clark Gable was unaffected by same, and remained so throughout the movie. And so, accordingly, he revealed nothing. There is nothing to reveal. Ava Gardner responded to his lack of affect, while remaining unaffected in kind. Ava Gardner, unmoved, revealing nothing. There is nothing to reveal. For eventually, and for such, the heart gives out and it secretly resembles a red bell pepper that is not terribly fresh or appealing—perhaps even stinky. And yet, when Clark Gable stood against the wall while the native Congolese threw spears at his toned body, he did not flinch, but oh how his eyes did twinkle! While deep beneath the haut couture lingerie, as such spears flew, Ava Gardner’s bright red bell pepper, fully inflated and fragrant, danced a native beat, deeply moved. For love, it seems, upon its precious moments, remains bright and sparkly and, if not steadfast, at least unaware of nothing.

Ricky Garni is a writer and illustrator living in Carrboro, North Carolina. He has many illustrations and poems available online as well as at Recently when he went to the dentist, the dentist said, "Whoa Doggie!" when Mr. Garni opened his mouth. Dentists in the South often say "Whoa Doggie" when their patients open their mouths.