Thursday, November 08, 2007

It's Pledge Week. Let's Rerun a Classic from Thirty Months Ago

Hello, Memory My Old Friend. Good to Talk with You Again

Oh damn. Next month I will be 61, and so I'm thinking about the things I said I would do during my days of 60 that I have not done.

I've done the blog. Good. I have not done the novel, which is not necessarily bad since I have a weakness for happy endings and where's the truth much less the art in that?

But most vexing I have not redeemed my pledge to reestablish contact with those old old friends from college days, grad school days and down South working days, all the friends all those times before we moved here more than 25 years ago. Haven't done it.

It's hardest getting back to those friends from the time when I was a good Christian boy because I have "fallen away" so great a distance since those days. It's not as if I have become an Episcopalian or even a Unitarian. If anyone pressed me on the question -- and no one has pressed me, so this comment is the expository equivalent of gratuitous nudity -- I would have to say I'm a generic agnostic and a Christian atheist. Yah, my old Christian friends would sure like hearing that. That will rekindle old feelings.

I was such a good boy. Let sleeping memories lie.

As for my post-Christian friends, it seems to me that there are three ideal shared elements when it comes to maintaining sporadic touch, and those are: new mates/ex-mates; children; jobs. These three categories enable correspondents to celebrate and bemoan simultaneously. No one likes a Christmas letter, since Christmas letters tend to be triumphal marches. But a nice email or phone conversation in which the participants deftly mix the good and the bad is very pleasant. It's like a tennis match in which the point is prolongation. A soft shot (my A student) gets a soft response (my gifted musician). A hard shot (my ex who disputes visitation rights) gets a matching hard shot (my ex who won't get a job). It's a nice dance, the point of which is that life is a compound of sad and glad, and that's something we still have in common even if shared experiences have grown dim or have been forgotten altogether.

But what if: same wife, no kids, a job whose pleasures and pains are subtle to the point of evanescence. That's me. Oh it's easy enough to reestablish contact -- once. But where do you go from there? (Face to face is easier. Just get drunk and remember the dead.)

Now this blog -- which is one long Christmas letter, kind of -- might be a way of maintaining touch with some old friends, and I've tried to use the blog for that a time or two. What those attempts have underlined is how much impersonality there is in a blog, how much I haven't exactly been honest about, if only through omission. This friend knows about that trouble at work, but that friend never did. She has heard all about that difficult moment in the marriage in the Eighties, but I gave him the impression my wife and I never had a sharp word. Even knowing only a little about the real You, blog-reading friends know just how thick the mask is and how much it disguises and misrepresents.

So my dear old friends, let us talk via the email. More digital photos of cats and vacations, more forwarded jokes, more comic birthday cards from the Hallmark collection -- that's just about enough, don't you think? I love you to death, but my body has completely reconstituted itself four times since those margaritas at Lenox Square. Who are we? Who were we? But let's keep in touch. Really.

Oh. If you get a Pulitzer, please just let it lie. We have plenty of mutual friends who will call me to rub it in. But if your wife shoots you in the leg, hey, I'm here for you.


Professor Of Pop said...

From one religious atheist to another -- *nice* post!

david silver said...

yeah, that's a post.

great paragraph on blogging. i concur.

there's a couple of lines - if you don't see them, let me know and i'll point them out - that make me hear the narrator in fade to cat. are you aware of that?

....J.Michael Robertson said...

Yes, a good post, a post in which *the voice* speaks. Now, if I could only do so well every two out of three times.

Cracker and proud said...

What a crybaby. Just becuase USF totally rules IN FLORIDA! Drown yr sorrows on Castro Street tonight, you old queen.

david silver said...

ahh, anonymous comments - oh joy. it's amazing that "cracker and proud" reads your blog regularly. what does that say? don't they have anything better to do in florida?

i'm still curious about what would happen if you could harness *the voice* and do what you did in fade to cat (images and narration drive a story) to your years at the chronicle. imagine the voice talking about some of the stories you covered interspersed with newspaper headlines and archival materials.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

This post was shared with a variety of people with this message:

All of you will be amused for different reasons. Ethics Class and David: I *think* informal blog ethics demands I not delete this post. Modern 15-minutes-of-fame ethics suggests that any attention is good attention, so of course I won’t delete the post. What say you, David??

david silver said...

super informal blog ethics say: it's your blahg and you can do what you want with it.

silver sez: keep it.

i'm serious, i think it's fascinating that this person continues to read your blog. maybe he (it could be a she but most jerks are male so i'm comfortable saying he) will stick around to say something useful one day.