Monday, April 30, 2012

fame ... connecting the dots

Every week, the local newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, runs a tab called "Hampshire Life." The inserted tabloid is full of events and small stories about musical, artistic, culinary and other creative endeavors. Stuff to see, stuff to listen to, stuff to eat, stuff to do, stuff to buy... adventures in discretionary income of which this region, despite the economic woes of the country, has quite a bit.

And one of the tab's pages is devoted to something entitled "id A personal Profile." No, not Freud's id, but rather I.D., meaning identification. The person being profiled offers brief answers to brief questions and in those questions and answers provides a rough sketch of who they are. It is like the children's puzzles in which numbered dots invite the child to pencil in the connections between one and two and three ... and come out with a picture of a fire truck or a horse. I enjoy reading these profiles because it allows me to wonder and connect the dots and fill in my own blanks: If someone describes who they are, there are implications that fill out a picture that can never be accurately filled out by the numbers. It's fun ... like watching a TV program that is better than mere drivel.

Where were you born? Where do you live? What do you do? Who lives under the same roof with you? What's the dumbest thing you ever did? What book would you recommend to a friend? What's the best advice you ever got? Do you have children? What are your hobbies? Name five things you can't live without. What do you like to do in your spare time? Who's your favorite athlete? People who knew you in high school thought you were? What gives you the creeps? Favorite TV shows or movies or places to eat out. And a "parting shot."

There are other questions as well, each requiring three or four lines of response. More dots for me to try to connect. I like doing it and always read the profile, even when the responses don't interest me much. It's like people-watching ... trying to guess from a stoop or park bench what passers-by are really like based on very spotty information like looks or gait or hair style. Any picture you paint is, of necessity, incomplete and possibly wrong and yet ... well, I do it anyway as a matter of habit or enjoyment.

But the other day, as I was reading the latest profile, I thought how I might like to see my own profile in the paper. Fifteen minutes of fame -- that sort of thing. What dots would/could I offer up for someone else's gossipy delectation? For a whispering wispy moment I wanted to be famous and yet could not honestly conjure up the elements that might constitute a worthiness to be noticed and famous. Naturally, I was famous in my own mind -- who isn't? -- but as a matter of public consumption ...? I was stumped and vaguely sad.

Ferdinand the Bull
At first I thought perhaps it was simply my age and employment status. Seventy-two and retired is not very interesting in a world that reads its newspapers based on action and interaction. Where many readers may be are places I have been. No one wants to hear that the places in which they find themselves are no longer compelling to someone else. I have read books and eaten out and seen things that touched me, but at 72 much of that is in the past and far less etched and compelling than it once was. I don't stand on the peace picket line on Saturday mornings because I imagine that "peace" is something I could talk anyone into. I don't write because I feel I have some prismic vision or gimlet eye without which others will be lesser (wo)men. The 'greatest' or the 'best' or the 'dumbest' or the 'smartest' are possibilities, some of which bang my chimes, but more often represent dots that lead me to other dots. There is no fire truck or horse ... no one wants to hear that: It's too upending and perhaps depressing from where they sit in the eye of the storm -- the vortex of excitement and action and meaning and importance. No one is interested in a "Ferdinand the Bull" who would rather smell the flowers and sit under a tree than rush across the hot sands in a vain and ultimately fatal attempt to gore a red cape.

Vaguely sad. I feel vaguely sad to have little or no 'id' fame and yet it also feels more realistic and more contenting somehow ... though perhaps that's just fooling myself. From the I-want-to-be-noticed point of view, it feels anti-social and dreamy and self-serving and unproductive. When did sitting under a tree ever accomplish much, let alone invite the applause of an attentive and approving audience? No one in the 'id' column ever seems to be beyond a certain age ... 30's, 40's or even 50's. And if I am any example, I can see why. Memory may suggest that getting out there, getting involved, keeping active and all the other feel-good nostrums are where it's at. But, even when I am not content, still sitting in the cool shade on a hot day makes sense to me. I have eaten in world-class restaurants around the world but none of them can hold a candle to a good bowl of soup, the ecstasy of real chocolate, a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, or an honest piece of bread. I do love excellence, but the excellence no longer requires neon. There is enough magic in the world without ballyhoo-ing 'the magic.'

At my age, what makes sense makes better sense than fame.

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