Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Pilates Appointment in Samarra

I'm sitting in an Internet cafe in Vermont composing a blog entry on my MacBook.  I have a cup of Free Trade Panamanian coffee on one side of my gleaming laptop and an iPhone on the other.   My hat bears some indecipherable indigenous symbol from Guatemala.   I'm wearing Blundstones -- the only shoes I ever wear -- and a Patagonia SPF-50 hiking shirt.  I'm suddenly transported to an April day in 1975 in East Lansing, Michigan.  I was hanging out in an off- campus beer pub at midday in my Roman sandals, bell-bottoms, flannel shirt and ponytail reading the collected indecipherable works of Ezra Pound when it suddenly occurred to me that I was an idiotic and embarrassing cliche.   I made immediate emergency plans to drop out of college, hitchhike Out West, and become a hard-drinking-hippie-redneck-vagabond-itinerant-worker-Neal Cassady-Jack London-Woody Guthrie-anti-literary-working-class-hero.  Cliche that you popular culture bozos!

My how time wounds all heels.  As I sit here mortally re-infected with main stream cultural sensibility and style I realize there is no place to run this time.   At least no place I'm willing to go.  I'm reminded of the parable passed along by W. Somerset Maugham that John O'Hara used to title his novel Appointment in Samarra.  This is all there is to say about that.

A merchant in Baghdad sends his servant to the marketplace for provisions. Shortly, the servant comes home white and trembling and tells him that in the marketplace he was jostled by a woman, whom he recognized as Death, and she made a threatening gesture. Borrowing the merchant's horse, he flees at top speed to Samarra where he believes Death will not find him. The merchant then goes to the marketplace and finds Death, and asks why she made the threatening gesture. She replies, "That was not a threatening gesture, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra."


Anonymous jacqueline church said...

Too perfect! Now I want to read that book or story...?

I was posting as "Mac Kerouac" in my recent four day cross country road trip. No Moleskin for me, the Macbook and iPhone. Twittered a bit, too. (See "Yermo Be There")

The first xc road trip I've done since the near-disastrous one 25 years ago. It might be worth posting on that story. Took this long to laugh about it, now that I can perhaps others should benefit...

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep. "No matter where you go, there you are" is such a painful truth. You keep bumping into that dratted mirror.

7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm reading this blog, while sitting at my desk on the campus of MSU, in East Lansing, MI. I suddenly feel compelled to go have lunch across the street at what I suspect may be that very same off-campus beer pub. Here's to you, Tom

10:27 AM  
Blogger Morgan said...

Is it simply that we become wiser or more comfortable?

6:44 PM  
Blogger kalliek said...

The Peanut Barrel... How many years since that name erupted from my deep gray matter? On my sofa in Maui, MacBook blazing slightly stuck to my thighs, thank God for (electric) fans. Nearly late for an appointment, yet stealing a moment to howl with recognition and relief, at the cliche I almost managed to escape. Time to grab my purse and go ;) Mahalo fo' da break braddahs!

9:50 PM  
Blogger Cabbage Babble said...

I enjoy your blog. And you make me want to reread Appointment in Samarra.

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be at the barrel this coming Friday - hope to see you there!

5:27 PM  
Anonymous TimF said...

You can't dodge the Golden BB. It will always get you right between the eyes.

1:41 AM  
Blogger Tom Bodett said...

I remember the Peanut Barrel, but the pub I had in mind was Beggar's Banquet. It was the moodier of the two. And the chili was great - rated daily for hotness on a scale of 5. If you could eat the 5 you got that and your beer for free. I developed a great tolerance for hotness to get to the beer. Is Beggars still there?

7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Beggars is still alive and well in East Lansing. As is Peanut Barrel.

8:25 PM  

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