Saturday, May 09, 2009

The one i love.

This is the opening gambit to a found object novel, Love Letters, I'll probably never complete. Still the opening was pretty fun to create and might mean something to folks who spent part of the 80s or 90s in the Bay Area.

Call me Ishie. Ishie of Dorkmandy. I used to be sorta like the King himself, Tommy. No not that deaf, dumb and blind kid, the MTX one, Tom H., Chi-Mo, Sheepie— that one. But then I grew up and left the whole rock star dream steadfastly in the rearview. Of course, Ishie's not my real name. But then Moby's not the real name of that short bald guy who made millions with Alan Lomax's or was it Harry Smith's [ed. Alan Lomax, Sounds of the South box set] musical offal. As Stubbsie said, or was it Simon? [ ed. Paul Morley, actually, in Words and Music: a history of pop in the shape of a city (2003), p. 199] an "example of corporately sponsored, fake-ethnic, ambient business blues." Melville that, Holmes!

It all began when I bought the aging Victorian on Portrero Hill 2 blocks north of Fritz Maytag's Anchor Steam Brewery. You see I was a young buck at Pillsbury Madison & Sutro or at least a new legal librarian with a freshly minted MIS degree from Florida State. Ironically I'm something of a Luddite or at least a retro fetishist.[1] Thus I use the old proper name for the SF half of the new über-global firm Pillsbury Winthrop LLP. Well … we can still see who was the Senior Partner! Take that you Pompous, Stuffy Manhattanites . . . Of course, coming from someone in PMS' employee that's the proverbial kettle calling the pot black. Ha, "PMS' employee" describing a guy, that's a good one [ed. Puhleeze!] Can you say "White shoe firm"? Good, I knew you could.

O.K. O.K. Back to the story at hand. So I had found this neat, nearly affordable three story house (think Michael Keaton in Pacific Heights, which by the way was shot on Portrero, O.J.'s original 'hood). With my new PMS salary (sorry can't help myself) [ed. "Apparently not!" said archly] and a small familial bequest I could just swing the down payment and make the monthly mortgage, assuming I went on a 5-day-a-week Top Ramen diet for at least 2 years and ate out only once every three months, but not at Chez Panisse, Ernie's, The French Laundry, The Lark Creek Inn, Geordy's, Boulevard, Alain Rondelli, Fleur de Lys, Woodward's Gardens, Restaurant Gary Danko, Masa's or any place of that ilk.[2] Instead I feasted on Rillette du Périgord—$5 at Café Claude—or an 8-oz cheeseburger topped with avocado—$5.50 from Slider's Diner—or the best yet: a Super Burrito—$3.50 at El Farolito in the Mission.

To begin again it all began after a late night walk/stumble home from the Bottom of The Hill in late January 2008. The Angry Samoans, I think? Or no? maybe it was The Mr. T Experience? Or perhaps even more obscure old school like a Samiam show? Don't really remember, do I? You get the picture though. Loud three chord punk rock with witty lyrics and the occasional sweet harmony. A Bay Area staple since B4 Penelope Houston & The Avengers hit the Mabuhay Gardens in '78 with a proof sheet from J. Neo (Marvin). Kinda reminds one of Darby & The Great Society, better yet The Mojo Men, "She's My Baby". Or some other Lenny Kaye approved Nugget™. Anyway, well Nevermind, that doesn’t really matter, does it? So let's continue shall we. [locks fingers pauses, and takes a deep OHM-like breath to clear the chi while searching for the lost chord] I'd been moving in slowly over a long weekend. The former owner had mysteriously left town in a hurry (rumor had it there was at least one woman involved)—some said an unwanted pregnancy, others hinted at something even more sinister no doubt inspired by Mr. Keaton's cinematic exemplar (I still shudder at the cockroaches)— there was kinky talk of non-baseball triple plays and swinging—just not for the fences, but the lone romantic on this sunny hillside—a sixty-something little old lady from Pasadena and solitary shut-in—assured me over tepid Paul Masson California "sherry" and brie slices on Carrs® Sesame Table Water® crackers that it was all (more or less) on the "up and up", while claiming convincingly or least with a kind of confident authority one never knows whether or not to trust, that "the 'couple' had 'eloped' [elaborate scare quotes made with both hands] to her hometown of Chicago and the quaint Andersonville neighborhood." She added conspiratorially, "She really didn't look Swedish you know? Beautiful yes, I mean truly drop dead gorgeous, curves where they should be—none of that modern model stick thin garbage but like a real women should. You know the type Lollobridgida, Mansfield, Ekberg, Monroe, Loren, Anouk Aimée the REAL beauties—and her with a mega-watt smile to boot, But Swedish never, too dark, too Latin." Whatever. What do I know about the intricacies/ethnicities of Chicago neighborhoods I've never heard of before?[3] So they ran away together, so what? Sounds like much ado about a henpecked you all intellectual to quote George Gordon [ed. Lord Byron, Don Juan, Canto I Stanza XXII "But – Oh! Ye lords of ladies intellectual,/Inform us truly, have they not hen-pecked you all?"]. Anyway to recommence, the house was in pretty good condition except for one room way in the back on the third floor; it seemed to have served as some kind of office cum library cum random storage space. It had taken me the better part of two half days to clear out the detritus that still remained in this "office". One sole cardboard liquor box of stuff remained to be culled through for any "treasures".

That's when I found the notebooks—Mead Composition 100 sheets wide ruled, the kind with the faux marbled black and white cardboard cover stock. 3 of them. Preternaturally genetically curious and with over 10 years training as an archival researcher …. Oh yes, I forgot to introduce myself, didn't I? So very sorry about that! That's Dr. Geoffrey Quillerman Beinstock IV to you; GQ to my oldest friends from down south except for the really witty ones who just yelled my surname "Beinstock!" like they were Joan Shawlee's Sweet Sue in Some Like It Hot. Then there was that eating club asshole in Cottage on Prospect who just wiggled four fingers palm backwards and did the head nod thing when he wanted to take my attention away from the traditional beans and franks at lunch. But then he was Wellington Dumont Percivall the Fifth and you know how bad "the Fifth's" can be, don't you? Did I mention I'm really into movies of all ilks? Merde, even some nouvelle vague French ones. Back in the mid '80s I did a MTL PhD at Stanford; Dissertation Title—My Brother Fought In Nicaragua and all I got was this lousy t-shirt: Life As A Faux Contra in Berkeley. Committee: Regenia Gagnier, Chair, Russell Berman, Marxist Interventionist and close reader extraordinaire, and Hans Üllrich Gümbrecht, "token" European theory type (get your umlauts here 2 for the price of 1). Not only did I win The Little Shop of Horrors (aka Roger Corman) Memorial Dissertation Fellowship, but I also actually won a tenure track job at a big Cow College near home, kinda like the one in Moo except way more fetid ("It's not the heat, it's the humidity"), But as you might imagine, it REALLY REALLY wasn't a very good fit at all.

My personal mid-life crisis entailed going back to school. Because library jobs were plentiful, my training and temperament suited the profession, and I'd been interested in the law ever since I saw Inherit The Wind as a 10 year old, rapidly devouring Irving Stone's Clarence Darrow for the Defense the next week, I decided to pursue an Information Systems degree and sell myself to the biggest/richest law firm I could find in a city I could stand to live in for at least five years. Like Mr B, I guess I too left something in the Bay Area [ed. We can only assume it wasn't a heart]. Thus I managed to crib the holy grail of Legal Librarian jobs, a junior position at Pillsbury Winthrop nee Madison & Sutro [ed. probably an Ivy league summa pedigree, Cambridge "starred" first at Milton, Darwin and Schama's Christ's on a Marshall Scholarship then followed by the Stanford PhD had a little something to do with "earning" this coveted position]. So where was I? [consults his handwritten ms] Oh yes, ahem "Curious and with over 10 years training as an archivist (yes much better more succinct, direct, and to the point), I dove into the last cardboard box. A bunch of legal documents, some bank records and then the mother lode. Those 3 inconspicuous black composition books entitled, in handwritten black ink, probably from a Sharpie®, LoveLetters. There was an Act I, an Act II, and an Act III. What follows is my recreated case study of In Re: HFM vs. Jane Does 1–3. Without further let or hindrance [ed. We told him to cut the legal mumbo jumbo . . .sigh], we begin . . .

[1] Luddite a term from 19th century English history referring to anti-industrialists who destroyed looms as well as wool and cotton mills in the Midlands first (Nottinghamshire), but then primarily in Northern England (the west Riding of Yorkshire and Lancashire); one of their primary defenders was Beinstock's culture hero Lord Byron. More recently in his epochal The Making of the English Working Class, E.P. Thompson has forwarded the thesis that Luddites were not anti-technology but rather were worried about the abolition of set prices and the introduction of the free market.
[2] This is a rather curious list for 2008 as Ernie's, Geordy's, and Alain Rondelli had long been closed, but then we assume Beinstock dined there during his halcyon graduate school days. Elsewhere he has written rhapsodically about an earlier memorable meal at Chez Panisse (2nd seating) with his Princeton college roommate Chauncey Frobisher whose Lazard Frères expense account covered the bill.
[3] More than most people! A trait at once infuriating, charming and somewhat unique. Beinstock defines knowledge and the art of knowing a bit about some topic differently than the average person; when he says he doesn't know about something be very wary because chances are he knows a lot more about it than you do. He just defines "knowing" something as being considered close to a last word expert on the topic: "anything less is NOT KNOWLEDGE" he once (in)famously exclaimed to a student who was complaining about the difficulty of his final exam for a split-level junior, senior, and master's candidate class on the 17th century.

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