Friday, June 24, 2016

A Translation of "Bis einem Hören und Sehen vergeht" (Thomas Bernhard silently interviewed by Kurt Hofmann)

Until Your Eyes and Ears Fail You

I can go for weeks without writing anything at all.  Months.  Years.  Then all of a sudden something’s there again.  Then I look into my drawer, into my little treasure chest.  I really don’t do anything else; I open up a little safe, and once again there’s a manuscript inside.  Somehow something coalesces once again.  As long as people are just merrily scampering all over the place, they’re not even interesting to write about.  Why should you write?  Because there’s something not right about the people you write about.  It makes absolutely no difference whether you believe you’re writing something about them that’s authentically true or if you think it’s completely erroneous.  It’s just your view of them when you’re in the mood you’re in when you’re writing.  This view might be completely different a half an hour later.  Then on top of that someone else, a reader, will come along later and see it completely differently in his own right.  So what sorts of people are these, these characters who scamper all over the place?  They really have nothing whatsoever to do with reality.  That’s why all of them always feel falsified.  Thomas Mann and other such people have of course always written about people who still exist.  These people have always complained because they’ve had nothing in common with the characters in the books.  They write about people who are still alive, and I write about these encounters which are thirty years old or even older, which don’t impinge on me at all anymore.  It’s the same as if I were stumbling across some random rock.  Or a calf in a stable.  That really doesn’t impinge on me either.  Of course I don’t know what the truth is either; I myself really don’t know it at all.  Above all it’s a thing that is; the way it is and the way you describe it are of course two different things.  Even if you feel the urge or the mania to write a hundred percent truth now, you won’t succeed, because to do that you’d have to be able to slap reality down on to paper, which is impossible.  But the moment you set to work with your stylistic resources and language, it’s something different and in any case a falsification, but at the same time perhaps an approximation.  Probably the will to truth is the only thing you can put to use, probably, but the truth…A description is anything but the actual fact, so it’s of no use at all, no matter what turn you give to it.  Or even with facts it goes awry.  If I say, “Three people met their deaths,” it’s different, as if death itself could be published, but that’s impossible.  And after reading a newspaper article, every reader has seen and assimilated a different truth.  For any given thing there are as many truths as there are people who have experienced it.  Assuming that they even desire the truth.  But truth is drivel in any case.  I obviously see myself differently than you see me, and you see yourself differently than I see you, and everything keeps crisscrossing, so even while something’s still happening it’s already been displaced, displaced, and it’s something quite different.  Every time somebody writes something, it’s a new truth.
One fine day I sit down and write a prose text, and next I write something different.  You catch the scent of something, and then you simply get in the mood for it, and then you’re stuck being in the mood for it.  I certainly never have any kind of overall scheme, like Heimito von Doderer.  He made proper drafts of his books; he designed his books like an architect, at a draftsman’s table and using multiple colors: the positive chapters he designated the green ones and the negative ones—when they still hardly had anything in them—the red ones.  He called one of his books The Diamonds.  But I never managed to find a single diamond in it.

You want to produce something good; you take pleasure in what you produce, like a pianist.  He starts playing; at first he just practices playing three notes, then he can play twenty, and then eventually he can play all of them, and he keeps perfecting this as long as he lives.  And what other people do with notes I do with words.  To a turn.  Nothing else really interests me at all.  That’s the alluring thing about every kind of art.  Art is really only ever about playing better and better on the instrument that you’ve chosen.  That’s the fun of it, and you won’t let anybody take it away from you or talk you out of it, and when somebody is a world-class piano player, you can clear the entire room in which he’s sitting at his piano, you can fill it with dust and bombard him with bucketfuls of water, and he’s still just going to keep sitting there and playing.  And if the house collapses over him, he’ll keep playing, and it’s the same way with writing.

I’m basically a musical person.  And the act of writing prose is always bound up with musicality.  One person breathes through his belly—singers of course breathe exclusively through their bellies, because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to sing—another person has got to, you know, transfer his respiration up to his brain.  It’s the same process.  Of course you’ve got lots of lungs inside you, probably a couple of million of them.  Even now.  Until they collapse.  Because blisters pop, and the air sacs are blisters, so they collapse.  When you step out into the street, all that stuff goes to work for you.  You don’t need to do anything whatsoever; you don’t need to do anything but open your eyes, open your ears, and walk.  You don’t need to do any more reflecting.  Then when you get back home, all that stuff will find its way into whatever you write—provided that you make yourself autonomous or are autonomous to begin with.  If you’re tensed up and stupid or try to strive for something, nothing will ever come of it.  If you’re living in life, you don’t need to add anything to it; all that stuff comes into it on its own, and it will precipitate into whatever you do.  You can’t learn this.  You can learn to sing if you have a voice.  That’s a basic prerequisite, right?  A person who is congenitally hoarse and is stuck for life with his hoarseness can hardly become an opera singer.  That’s just a universal given.  Without a piano you can’t play the piano.  Or if you only have a violin and try to play the piano with it, that obviously won’t work either.   And if you don’t switch to trying to play the violin, you’ll just end up playing nothing at all.  Everybody must assimilate and reject as much of everything as possible.  Most people make the mistake of sticking with one caste and class, and they fraternize exclusively with butchers, because they’re butchers, or exclusively with bricklayers because they’re bricklayers, or day laborers because they’re day laborers, or counts because they’re counts…I’m my own man, so I don’t need anybody else.  Because nobody can teach me anything or say anything to me, I don’t need to go see anybody.  Because human beings are intrinsically hypocritical and eccentric, I don’t need a writer.

And I have no idea how anybody becomes what he is.  You can’t get away with asking an athlete how he manages to jump six meters eighty centimeters; if you do, he won’t be able to jump afterwards.  Nobody knows how he jumps, how he manages to pull that off.  Franz Klammer suddenly started thinking about how he took off, and now he can’t do it anymore.  You can’t get away with asking a dancer how he dances; you can’t get away with yelling at a sleepwalker.  It’s the same thing.  I think it’s like Claudel, who went into the cathedral in Rotterdam and was standing in front of a pillar, and suddenly he described how the pillar sprouted wings and then Jesus rose up before him.  So in my opinion it’s really cheesy and it’s really stupid.  But it impresses people.  When a stone pillar sprouts wings, it’s somehow not only plausible but actually completely clear.  And then, after walking into the cathedral in leather shoes, he walked out of it in silk shoes.  That was also his birth as a great poet: Paul Claudel.  You don’t need to strive for anything in the world, because something will, you know, bump into you.  A striver is truly an atrocious thing.  The world has an undertow, of course.  It carries you along with it; you don’t need to strive.  If you strive, you become a total striver, a brownnoser.
Whenever you’re writing you need something around that enables you to write.  Whether it’s solitude, a tree or a dung-heap or a human being, anything you’re fixated on.  In the final analysis it’s almost always on yourself.  Everything else is hokum.  Of course a dog also seeks out a tree or the wall of a house when he pisses.  When you write it’s like when you pass water.  You seek out some such thing, and most of the time you piss on yourself, because that’s the thing that’s nearest to hand.

I've never given any thought to form; that has always emerged on its own, from the way I am and write.  Of course one has mentors and narratives.  But I think that before Frost at bottom there had never really been anything in that vein.  It was the first time anybody had written in that vein.  Literature after the war had of course been oriented towards all the famous literature that had come out of America and England and France.  Back then, apart from Nazi poets, quote-unquote “Nazi poets,” everybody, even the most well-known writers, wrote nothing but novels that were set in Oklahoma or in New York.  Nobody had yet hit upon the idea of describing where they lived and where they’d grown up and things they actually knew something about.  The main character in the novels of those days was always somebody called Joe or Miss Temple or Plempl or Plampl, and because of that the literature that was written in the first fifteen years after the war ended up being a complete pile of shit.  Because it was worthless, because it stuck to being nothing but a blind, cheap, apish imitation of the Americans.  After the Americans became famous and were published in huge print runs, the writers over here believed that they should write like them so that they could drive around in a Cadillac.  But they just sullied our literature and never got to own a Cadillac either.  So it was completely pointless.

I did some stuff along those lines, but not with Joe and Miss Temple; instead I exploited certain local phenomena and genres that I had read about, along with some things from the French surrealists.  I was enthusiastic about Julien Gracq and such people, who were famous back then; of course nobody knows anything about them anymore today because they’ve completely vanished.  After that I didn’t write anything at all for years and I thought to myself that I should forget all that stuff and throw it away and that it was basically nothing.  Either it works out and you sit down at your desk and write the way you just are and what you know and what you can.  Once I started doing it that way it was authentic.  And the poems were basically nothing as well, because they were ultimately just a spastic attempt at thrusting myself into the limelight.  The stuff that came out of this attempt just wasn’t poetry, and so you end up disconnecting yourself from everything you’ve learned from reading.  You’ve simply got to allow yourself to vanish through a kind of trap door, but of course not everybody has the strength to do that, because it means keeping quiet for years at a stretch.  For five years I wrote practically nothing, because I’d realized this is bollocks, it’s nothing.  In a word: even though I had previously been convinced it was the most exalted and greatest thing ever, suddenly a light came on, and I told myself this is utter rubbish.  So all told a hundred poems, and at bottom it’s nothing.

I really was quite anxious after the first book.  Well, in any case, you get that every now and then, this feeling; it keeps coming back periodically.  It’s nothing new.  Then you tell yourself there’s absolutely no reason for it, but then it keeps coming back.  What else would I do?  I’ve basically got nothing else.  It’s basically been constantly shrinking for decades.  Because you’ve really got nothing but that and you just keep stirring the porridge…Most of the time there are way too many insights and ideas.  Then you’re powerless.  Most of the time, of course, you can only start to write again when you’re totally spent.  Of course I’d always really like to be writing ten books at once.  But I can’t.  Of course you can’t have ten themes and then—you’re on the verge of killing yourself.  Until another one occurs to you.  But it’s always the same process.  Of course in the final analysis it’s always interesting.  Of course you can get ideas anytime.  Of course they come to you spontaneously.  Whether they’re potent or not.  Because the inside has always got to be covered by the outside, and above all, you’re obviously always standing there naked, and you’re constantly trying to put your clothes on with everything you write.  But it never works out; the more you try to get dressed and put your clothes on and keep warm and wrap yourself up, the more naked you’re left standing.  But on the other hand it’s also a thrill to expose yourself and just run naked down the street.  Because after all, what else are you doing when you have your books published?

I’m not thinking, in fact my mind’s a complete blank, when I write; I’m not reminiscing about any books, not even about any that I’ve read; there’s really nothing there at all.  I really don’t devote any energy at all to literature.  I read all that stuff fifteen, twenty, thirty years ago; I don’t remember a thing about Stifter’s works.  Of course everything you write has ramifications.  You can ask me about my own stuff; there are lots of sentences I remember verbatim; well, at any rate, I can remember that I wrote them; I remember that quite clearly.  But most of them…I don’t even remember the basic gist of my books at all anymore, because I’m not in the slightest bit interested in them anymore.  And so, sure, I have a rough idea, but I don’t often know for sure; is it in The Lime Works or in Gargoyles where the woman is paralyzed?  So it’s like that.  I just really don’t get attached to the stuff.  Because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to write anything new.  I of course want to leave myself free of entanglements.  All that stuff gets thrown overboard, like ballast from a balloon.  You cast away bags of sand, which are your books, and then you can climb higher.   And so with every book you throw out on to the ground you really should climb higher.  It’s quite a lovely image!   But when you’re throwing the bags away off the left side and think you’re climbing higher, you crash into a rocky reef on the other side and it tears the whole thing to pieces.  Or you have a wife, who when your back is turned cuts the rope as you’re soaring blissfully into the sky.

A stupid writer, a stupid painter, is always looking for subjects; to find those all he needs to do is live his life.  He tries to stay the same forever, but he also tries never to write the same thing twice.  And that is really what it all comes down to, if it comes down to anything at all. But if from the beginning you travel around with your writing like a trouser-salesman and also live off of it, you just end up doing something along those lines.  A typical writer, a typical German writer, thinks like that.  He even says all that as well.   He says that he lives like that and writes, and so on.  I’ve never felt like a writer in that sense; I have in fact always wanted just to write, but it was only later on that by chance that turned into being a writer.  That’s by no means terribly essential, because other people make you into one from the outset.  There’s no writer’s academy later on…a place where you would get a little piece of paper where it’d be stated that effective today Mr. Soandso is a licensed writer.  Just like a pianist or an actor; they can carry all that home on their license.  When I’m writing, I write everywhere, it makes absolutely no difference where.  I can write at a tavern, I can write in a block of flats, I can write in Paris in the middle of traffic, it makes absolutely no difference.  If I’ve gotten that far, that doesn’t bother me in the slightest.  The question is only ever whether I’ve gotten that far.  I actually can’t get started in a place that’s peaceful and where nothing is going on, because I can’t get into the groove.  To begin with I need stimuli and some kind of chaotic incident or something like that.  Chaos is a great pacifier.  For me anyway.  And in the newspaper everything is obviously chaotic.  But it’s very taxing, because you’ve got to rework all that.  To begin with you’ve got translate it into something imaginary.  In today’s newspaper it says that a boy was walking his dog—have you read it?—on a leash.  Then he tried to climb some hill somewhere; unfortunately the leash got pulled over his head, the dog probably ran three paces ahead, and the boy was strangled.  Right, so you imagine something afterwards.  But when you describe something, it’s rubbish, because of course it’s nothing special.  You’ve got to rework it or come up with something to add to it.  The strangled boy in relation to Troilus and Cressida; that might have worked.           
The main thing is for it to sound good.  That pulls the reader along from the very beginning, the way a dog pulls along a lead.  It’s of course always important to pull it all together, to compress it, to be able to throw it away.  And being able to separate yourself, radically, from your own stuff, so that you can see that this needs to be thrown out.  The more you cut out the better it actually gets.  If I now write, for example, something about somebody who goes on a sea voyage because it’s his life’s goal, and something doesn’t fit into the overall project…so it has to be the sea, but then the sea often gives you a block that lasts for months, and on top of that it would be so simple to rework it.  A completely logical thing to do, which you haven’t thought of doing, because perhaps you haven’t wanted to do it until now.  And then it works out, the project does.  You think.  And then an actor comes along, or whatever, and we do that, and then yet again it becomes something completely different.

Of course after every project I fall to pieces.  After the last play, because it was just such a project, I lay in bed for three weeks in a kind of boardinghouse and I was completely knackered.  But of course it’ll come to a natural end, so you don’t need to be worried at all.  I already think my stuff has been written in a way that’s never going to become dated.  At one point the themes are ahead of their time and at another point they’re behind the times, you know that of course.  For decades people don’t read any Hamsun at all, and then he makes a comeback.  That happens with everybody.  But it’s certainly, without a doubt, deliberately being written in such a way that people will still be able to read it even in a hundred years.  Because the style is such that it basically can’t become dated.  You learn that from your personal experience: that for a while you devour caviar and probably that comes to an end after three weeks, a sudden end, and then you eat blood sausage.  For years.  But of course caviar always makes a comeback, even if for just a short time.

But somehow, somewhere, the adventure comes to a close.  Now you look for subterfuges and write, say, plays or, say, construct a prose work that bores people, because they say: “I think that’s way too silly, a three-page sentence.”  And that’s actually the appeal of the thing, that it makes people go, “Ugh!”  And you also find it appealing that you’ve done something that people reject and that gets their hackles up.

Perhaps it’s comparable to a child giving his grandmother a fright every morning and also getting his jollies from it.  Perhaps it’s a substitute for that, because of course that’s not possible anymore.  When I was a child, there was a curtain, in front of a little broom cupboard, and I would stand inside it with my hand raised, and when my grandmother had just walked past I would let my hand fall out.  She was scared to death, every time!  But this wasn’t every day.  Once I got the feeling that “Now she’s forgotten the whole thing; now I can do it again,” it always worked.  And now I can’t do that anymore, because there’s no grandmother here anymore, but I still do things exactly like that.  Or say somebody says, “Come pay us a visit; read something to us,” and I say no.  Then I have the time of my life.  To be sure, I also think to myself, “Good Lord, you’re stupid; you’ve lost the money, the lot,” but perhaps then the fun is even greater.

Basically that’s the way it is, and so such things happen.  Otherwise of course everything would be horrible.  If I humored everyone all the time, it would obviously be terrible.  And so you have to construct something for yourself on your own; obviously nothing is coming in from outside.  There’s no war, and there’s nothing else; we’re not living in some border zone, where something is going on.  And those stories about nukes are all tedious, because they end in nothing.  And so you should wander off somewhere, with a satchel.  You’ve got to construct Afghanistan and things like that, substitutes for them, yourself…when you get antagonistic the way I do, something interesting comes into being.  Somehow after doing that you’re surrounded by elements of tension again.
Of course an illness is always a great blessing as well.  Every illness that you’ve beaten makes for a terrific story, because nobody can tip anything remotely like it into your cup.  But you can’t count on it, because at some point things are going to take a nasty turn.  That doesn’t make any difference anyway, though, because of course by then you won’t be around anymore, and you won’t be able to notice it.

Of course it wasn’t all that long ago that they still spelt literature with two tees… litteratus!

My life is of course altogether clear-cut; I do my work; everything that impedes this work falls by the wayside, and whatever facilitates this work I am in favor of.  It’s just that simple, now and forever.

I haven’t been fated to do anything impossible; what I intend to write hasn’t been decided by fate.  I don’t feel the least bit ashamed or anything like that; obviously I can’t feel that way anymore.  If you stop working, you’ve got to go outside and set fire to something or other.  At first you do this as if you’re walking in your sleep, and afterwards you yourself wonder how it ended up going the way it did.

But I’d still like to do or see something different; I don’t mean something new, because of course there’s hardly anything new left; but of course it’s a pleasure to look at everything everywhere, until your eyes and ears fail you.  Maybe you don’t want to keep living through all these periods that you keep living through and want to kill yourself; probably everybody’s felt that way, of course…but in spite of all the hardships, probably everything is actually getting more and more interesting and also more beautiful.


Source: Kurt Hofmann, Aus Gesprächen mit Thomas Bernhard. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1991, pp. 20-35.

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2016 by Douglas Robertson

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Every Man His Own W. G. Sebald

Pointedly Not Subtitled “The Rings of U****s”

In February 2014, when the piscine days were just getting their tails in gear, I set off to traverse the 21201 ZIP-code on foot.  I was undertaking the trek or peregrination at the instance, if not exactly the advice, of my doctor, my so-called physician or general practitioner or primary care provider or head leech, Zdenĕk Ķeðzeþ, who the previous month had diagnosed me as a sufferer of a condition, disease, or disorder officially (i.e., AMA-) known as epipygial hyperkeratosis, a condition, disease, or disorder suffered almost exclusively by single, non-car owning middle-aged men with infinitesimal disposable incomes.  Dr. Ķeðzeþ had tried to bring home to me a sense of the personal symptomatology of the condition, disease, or disorder, a sense of the havoc that it was wreaking in and upon my own organism, by drawing a circle with an indistinct outline on a piece of paper.  “It looks,” I said, upon giving a good once-over to the sketch, “rather like a blister under wallpaper.”  “Indeed it does,” concurred the good doctor, “but it looks even more like a blister on the bum or ass of a single non car-owning middle-aged man with an infinitesimal disposable income.”  By that point I thought that I had been, in the Canadian idiom, hosed, and I was not in the least grateful for the conjectural hosage.  “Why couldn’t you just come right out and tell me I need to get more exercise, Doc?” I testily remonstrated.  “Because, sirrah,” he or she1 no less testily counterremonstrated, “it is not a lack of exercise that has induced the eruption of these blisters on your bottom; this eruption is owing, rather, to a lack of geographical diversity.”  “In other words,” I asserted as if proffering a firm conviction, whilst actually having a strong hunch that my inference, although the most plausible one ready to mouth, was miles wide of the mark, “you are saying I just need to get out of the house more often.”  “No, and you should know better than to suppose that I am saying that because from your unfailing requests for notes of excuse over the past eight years I have been able to gather that you are regularly reporting to some place other than your own abode.  The trouble would seem to be not that you haven’t been getting out of the house often enough but that on leaving the house you have invariably been going to the same place or handful of places.” And dad gum it or blame it if he or she wasn’t right!  For whilst ever since settling in Apt. ### at #### St. Paul Street in April of 2003 I had proudly styled myself a resident of the Tri –ZIP-Code Area, comprising the postal districts of 21218 (my home one), 21210, and 21211—since the dawn of the second decade of the millennium I had in point of fact been confining myself exclusively, at least in my non-bulot alimentaire-orientated hours, to the 21218 ZIP-code.  To be sure, my bulot-alimentaire required me to repair five out of every seven days to the 21201 ZIP-code, but I never tarried in the ’01 a millisecond longer than the exigencies of the BA exacted, in other words a millisecond posterior to the drawing-level of the first No. 3, 11, or 61 motorbus with the bus stop at the intersection of Charles and Baltimore Streets posterior to my invariant off-clocking time of 5:30 p.m. (a.k.a. 17:30) EST/EDT.  As for the sole intervening ZIP-code, the 21202 ZIP-code, through which each of the just-mentioned bus routes passed in conveying me to and from the BA, why I knew it no better than a regular and steadfastly loyal Concorde-using 1980s Pond-crosser would have known Tenerife or the Azores.  When, for example, was the last time I had stopped by the Club Charles or the Kinothek Sangriaria for a(n) happy-hour sock monkey or where’s the bathroom?  2005?  2006?  2007 at the very latest.  Six years ago at the most recent.  The longer of the two so-called World Wars had lasted fewer than six years.  Entire countries—nations, principalities, republics, even empires—had come into being, risen through the ranks to skipperdom of the Weltgeist, and collapsed into geopolitical nonentity in shorter spans of time.  Clearly such longstanding alienation from key sectors of my virtually immediate Umwelt had not done and was continuing not to do any good for either my mental or my fundamental hygiene.  But Dr. Ķeðzeþ had a much more radical cure in mind than a mere re-acquaintance with my virtually immediate Umwelt: “Why don’t you take a trip somewhere?,” he or she asked, and added, “the more distant the destination the better.”  “B-b-but,” I splutteringly demurred, “what about the infinitesimalness of my disposable income?”  “That is admittedly a sizeable impediment or obstacle,” conceded the good(ish) doctor, “but it is hardly an insuperable one.  One always has means of economizing ready to hand.  Say for dinner you’ve been eating carryout submarine sandwiches every night.  Substitute pressure-cooked bottom round for three out seven of those dinners”—here I got the distinct and positively unheimlich feeling that words to this effect had been spoken before in connection with me, and that at the same time I had never heard those selfsame words being spoken—“and you’ll easily save up two thousand dollars over the course of a year, and with two thousand dollars you can easily cover the cost of a round-trip package tour of one of the more tourism-hungry third-world countries—The Ivory Coast, for example, or Mongolia.”  I nodded and smiled complaisantly at this suggestion, but there was no way in h**k I was going to make even a single subway-token effort at kicking my 24-inches-per-day submarine sandwich habit.  Besides, I had already made up my mind that the aforementioned re-acquaintance with my virtually immediate Umwelt was just what the doctor should have ordered, that it on its own would suffice to put paid to my epipygial hyperkeratosis for good.  Only the vector of the re-acquaintance session needed to be determined.  A 21202-vectored session certainly had much to recommend it: at the very least, owing to the ’02’s abundance of respectable watering holes, it held forth the inviting prospect of a mile-long (and hence perhaps all-day) pub crawl.  On the other hand, there was no way of avoiding the geographically apodictic certitude that any ’02-vectored session would terminate in the ’01 ZIP-code, one of the very two ZIP-codes that the entire enterprise was supposed to take me away from.  A 21210-vectored session, on the other hand, would no less inevitably terminate in the 21211 ZIP-code, and thence, if I continue pursuing the vector, I would necessarily find myself in ZIP-codes thitherto almost completely unknown to me, and hence conjecturally a fortiori even more salutary vis-à-vis my epipygial hyperkeratosis.  To be sure, vis-à-vis my basic neuro-cardio-skeleto-gastro-logical integrity, an integrity in whose absence any alleviation, let alone remission, of my epipygial hyperkeratosis  would be unattainable, these ZIP-codes were conjecturally far less salutary, or perhaps indeed not salutary in the slightest; but it was to be hoped that the 21211 ZIP-code could mark the Ultima Thule of my epipygial hyperkeratosis-centered peregrination, that, indeed, long before entering, let alone exiting, the ’11, I would begin to notice a palpable softening and smoothening of my fundamental derma, and thereupon feel justified in ever-so-tentatively proclaiming the peregrination a success and heading back to the ’18, with any luck (provided I had set out before midday) arriving at my apartment just in time for afternoon beer.  As it happened, I managed to set out at 11:59 a.m. on the dot or nose, a close shave if ever there was one.  

After shouldering my rucksack and stepping out on to the portico of the block of flats in which I resided (and still reside), I headed up (i.e. north) along the pavement to the southern side of the intersection of St. Paul Street and University Parkway, the latter six-lane thoroughfare being the conduit, the veritable Phlegethon (or perhaps Acheron; I confess my Infernal geography is a bit rusty) that was destined to convey me out of the ’18 and into the ’10.  To my great and on the whole pleasant surprise, on reaching the intersection I found a friendly white Walk Man beaming steadily at me from the other (or west) side of St. Paul.  I call the surprise experienced or undergone by me at that moment only pleasant on the whole because while the course of action invited by the presence of the Walk Man was less undesirable than the one that would have been invited by his absence (i.e. the presence of the unfriendly red Don’t Walk Hand), it was still far from being positively, absolutely desirable eo ipso.  To be sure, the invitation to cross St. Paul at the south edge of University obviated my crossing it at the opposite or north/east edge of University [the slash in the direction indication is necessitated by University’s diagonal northwest-to-southeast orientation], a crossing made uncomfortably, and in this pedestrian’s view, unnecessarily, implex by the interloping intrusion of Greenway [Greenway What, you ask?  Greenway Street, Avenue Lane, autc? The answer is Greenway Nuttin’, or Greenway Tout Court or Greenway Plain and Simple, the notion in the namer’s noggin apparently having been to contain the genre of passage constituted by the ’Way in its very name.], which, after eastwardly echoing the graceful curve of St. Paul like a dutiful but discreet chaperone for the bulk of its existence, well to the north/east of University, starts unaccountably zooming towards its charge in its final super-Universitian block, and having only just avoided colliding with it at the aforementioned intersection, subsequently and sub-Universitianly emerges from the now (i.e. sub-Universitianly) rectilinear St. Paul’s west side, conveniently well to the south of the twice-aforementioned intersection, and thereby, as aforehinted, effectively reducing the would-be crosser of St. Paul’s mandatory mental calisthenics to those imposed on any would-be crosser of any three-lane rectilinear street at an intersection with another rectilinear street.  This as against the mental calisthenics imposed on the would-be crosser of St. Paul on the north/east of University, who, owing to the aforementioned interlopage of Greenway, had (and has) to contend with two crosswalks and two walk signals, which (owing to the angle of incidence of the interlopage) are neither ever simultaneously visible nor always simultaneously alight.  To be sure, if one wishes to be absolutely safe (or, at any rate, absolutely within one’s rights to spend one’s final seconds infuriatedly thrashing with one’s umbrella the hood or bonnet of the car bearing down on one), one can make the crossing piecemeal by first waiting for the one Walk Man to invite one across Greenway, and then for the other to invite one across St. Paul.  But not being (as far as one knows) immortal even in the safest circumstances (and one would have to have only barely figuratively all the time in the world to effect such a piecemeal crossing more than twice in a blue moon), one immediately clutches at other expedients—at jaywalking the Greenway stretch and heeding only the signal covering the St. Paul stretch, or even at provisionally scoping out both lanes of the St. Paul crossage before stepping on to Greenway, in so doing naturally bracing oneself for the down-barreling of the quasi-proverbial speed-limit doubling Mac Truck that, on account of the sinuosity of the road and the umbrousness of the o’erarching trees,  may very well occur for all the thoroughness of one’s out-scoping.  But all of this meta-strategic palaver about the crossing of Greenway and St. Paul on the north side of University is, vis-à-vis the crossing I was obliged and indeed compelled to make on the first leglet of my expedition into the 21210 ZIP-code, is quite unregenerately by the by.  For as I recently not only hinted but boldly stated (albeit in slightly different—i.e., elegantly varied—words), a would-be crosser in my position at that moment effectively had to worry about no more than a would-be crosser of any multilane North American road at its stoplighted right-angled intersection with another multilane (and perforce North American) road would have had or ever has to worry about.  But that no more was still a great deal.  For the friendly white Walk Man at the south/north-west corner of University and St. Paul, like tens of thousands of his brethren at tens of thousands of intersection-corners all over the United States (save perhaps New York City), was a brazen, shameless, flaming-pants-sporting liar.  For he signaled to me (as to any other would be crosser-over to his station) that it was perfectly safe to cross the street as long as he continued to shine because in turn so long as he continued to shine the street legally and materially belonged to me qua would-be street crosser, whereas in point of both legal and material fact during the episodes of his (the Walk Man’s) symbolic pseudo-luminescence-stroke-non symbolically genuine incandescence, the street belonged to my competitors and adversaries, the motorcar-drivers, very nearly as nearly fully as it did when the unfriendly red Don’t Walk Hand was ablaze (i.e. both symbolically and genuinely incandescent).  For during these episodes (i.e., of the Walk Man’s symbolic pseudo-luminescence-stroke-non symbolically genuine incandescence) the motorcar-drivers in the rightmost lane of the south/east-bound carriageway of University were entitled to turn right on to St. Paul and thereby either to block my way if my pedestrian trajectory had not yet intersected with their vehicular one, or to run me over if it had.  Oh, I know that by law right-turning drivers are required to yield to pedestrians crossing at the invitation of a Walk Man or Walk Word-Signal (incidentally, for what it is worth [i.e., zilchissimo], straight ahead-barreling and left-turning drivers are no less firmly legally bound to yield to pedestrians crossing in defiance of a Don’t Walk Hand or Don’t Walk Word-Signal), but any pedestrian who behaved as if this requirement were generally being adhered to—namely, by setting off across the intersection at an ordinary walking pace the moment the Don’t Walk Signal changed to a Walk Signal–would not survive for a single solar day in any American community (save again perhaps NYC) more populous (and hence, more car-congested) than Philomath, Georgia.   In reality, of course, the typical right-turning motorist is almost as insensible of his legal obligation to yield to pedestrians as a great-white shark in all its actual biological unanthropomorphized alinguistic stupidity and ruthlessness would be of a legal obligation to yield to herrings; in reality some force much more inexorable and implacable than the traffic code and certainly than mere etiquette requires the pedestrian to yield to the right-turning motorist in the most abject and shameful manner, by adopting attitudes and performing gestures that in direct, face-to-face encounters between human beings have perhaps not been trumped in point of abjectness and shamefulness since the days of the old oriental empires and sultanates; he (the pedestrian) must ever so slowly and tentatively (no matter how few seconds are available to him according to the count-down clock on the walk signal [supposing it has a count-down clock {and the one at the south/north-west corner of University and St. Paul lacked one in February 2104 and still lacks one now}]) approach the lane(s) on to which the right-lane turners are intending to turn (usually, but not always, only the one adjoining the curb to which one would like to cross) and indeed are hell-bent on turning, and stop short of its outer border by a distance of at least five feet.  At that point, one must not only doff one’s hat or cap, if one is wearing one, but also decline one’s head as far as it will go without rolling forward off one’s spinal column, lower one’s shoulders until (ideally) one can feel one’s knuckles grazing the tarmac(adam), bend forward at the waist as far as one can without performing a so-called face-plant, and wait—wait, that is, until, if ever, one can hear (for needless to say one’s field of vision at this moment is confined to one’s own shoes and the immediately circumambient road or street surface) the sound of a car’s motor reducing to idling speed.  Then and only then may your raise your head—without, needless to say, allowing any other part of your anatomy to cease to give the impression that it is combating G-forces on the order of those encountered on the planet Jupiter—just far enough to allow you to take in or suss out the attitude of the driver of the idling vehicle.  If he or she is glaring, sneering, or sporting any other expression expressive of unmediated hostility or contempt, you must—I repeat: must immediately—I repeat: immediately—re-lower your head and begin listening out for the next idler.  Any attempt to tough out such a show of side from behind the windscreen, to assert your so-called pedestrian rights (which de facto-ly speaking are as fictitious as the Unicorn or Santa Claus could only ever dream of being), can only end very badly for you.  One might think that we Americans’ proverbial litigiousness would deter a driver from barreling into a more or less defenseless pedestrian (I say ‘more or less defenseless’ because the above-mentioned umbrella, when one happens to be carrying it {as I did not on the early Piscine day nominally now in point} can function as a kind of very slightly more than symbolic lance), but one would be very wrong to think such a thought, and I have got the scars, the permanent soreness, the slightly grindingly misaligned joints, to prove this; and a friend of mine who likewise once took a right-turning driver’s complaisance for granted found himself hood-butted on to his bottom and subsequently threatened (!) by the butteur “ere he drove out of sight” as follows: Donchoo touch my muffuckin’ car! I kill you if you touch my muffuckin’ car ’gin!  But anyway, as I was saying, if the driver looks as though he doesn’t want to let you proceed, you must wait for the next idling engine.  But if and/or when and/or when and/or if the driver meets your newly uprisen gaze with one of the seemingly only two other possible gazes feasibly sportable by a driver in such a situation [I say seemingly feasibly sportable because aside from those two and the ones of the contempt-stroke-hostility-omiter I have not seen any others, but there is of course a first time for, if not everything, then at least a blooming shedloadofthings], viz. the sort of shut-eyed, allbrow-furrowing, chin-beneath firmly shut mouth-lowering expression borne or worn by a cinematic eighteenth-century aristo waiting for a footman or maidservant to disburden his outstretched palm of a brimful chamber-pot, and (or should that be or?) the sort of grinning, slack-jawed, bug-eyed expression worn or flaunted by a youthfully elderly Italian-American male stereotype straight out of an Olive Garden or Ragu commercial immediately after his dispensing an appallingly n*****dly tip to the plyer of some occupation nominally forbidden to receive gratuities but actually accustomed, and indeed jadedly inured, to receiving them (e.g., a bagboy at a chain supermarket outlet), an expression unequivocally expressive of the contextually insufferable sentiment Who’s gonna know?—then, and absolutely only then, you may proceed to the other side like the parabolic chicken.  But mind you don’t dilly-dally, lest his Lord- or Ladyship change his or her mind and suddenly quasi-reflexively remove his or her foot from the brake pedal just as you are drawing within ass-shot of his or her left bumper-flank.  And of course you must remember to wave in acknowledgment before setting out (doubtless a full-fledged Elizabethan courtier-style bow-cum-forelock smiting would be exacted if it were not perforce so ravenously devouring of his Lord- or Ladyship’s incalculably precious time), lest the driver take it into his or her head to floor it, as they say, and make short work of you before your effrontery sets a dangerous, nay revolution-triggering, precedent for the non-auto-mobility.  Of course, in meta-jurisprudential or ethical terms, there is no reason, let alone obligation, for you to do anything in acknowledgment of the driver’s enabling you to cross, for according to such terms one is rationally authorized (although not morally obliged) only to acknowledge the granting of favors, which is to say allowances or indulgences over and above those required by the law.  If anything the driver should be waving in gratitude to you for not making the crossing at an empirical snail’s pace, as you are legally entitled to do.  Anyway, “So what,” you are probably wondering, “does one do if not a single right-turning driver flashes you one of the two grudging permission-granting expressions before the walk signal expires and the light(s) faced by the other set of drivers, the ones presumably far from patiently idling at the intersecting street, turn(s) green?”  And the answer to your wondering query is, “Why, one resigns oneself to being crushed flat as quiescently (because it is of course all too easy to be quiescent once one has utterly renounced hope) as one would do if one had just parachuted on to the opening ten-foot stretch of the Indianapolis speedway during the last few seconds before the firing of the starting gun for the fabled 500 race.  Of course, from the mere quasi-fact that I (who will indeed be so altruistically frank and candid as to unmask myself as the “one” of the preceding sentence) am writing about such an unfortunate predicament as one who has experienced it and survived it, one (i.e., in this rare and perhaps even unique case, you) may gather at minimum that one (me again) is not inevitably or invariably crushed flat upon finding oneself in it.  But before you (see what I mean: you’re already no longer a one) go flogging the preceding sentence to your neighborhood car-manufacturing CEO as the greatest piece of ad copy available to the automotive industry since the discovery of Fahrvergnügen, let me remind you that being caught above ground in no-man’s land during the bloodiest moments of the Battle of the Somme did not inevitably or invariably lead to one’s being Swiss-cheesified by a machine gun or blown to bits by a mine, grenade, or chunk of tank ordnance.  Yes, one does indeed generally survive, and one qua the present writer has heretofore always survived (knock on Naugahyde) being caught in a post-steady-Don’t Walk-signal blitz, but one’s survival thereof never simply happens automatically, as a consequence of some sort of Red-Sea-like unison cessation of traffic, and it (one’s survival) always calls upon resources of concentration, judgment, and self-command that genuinely do bear comparison to those exacted of a soldier under fire and that indeed cannot be called upon with much frequency without inducing that condition variously known as PTSD, shellshock, and MYOG(D)B.  First of all, meaning initially in temporal sequence if not necessarily in traumatickness, one has to contend with the imprecations, both non-verbal and verbal, of the drivers of cars in the lane that one is already occluding—the Dopplerizing horn-honks, the ejaculations of “What kinda blindass dumbass didjo momma raise?” and the like.  In order to appease these stark-raving pissed (not only in the American sense meaning angry but also quite often in the British sense meaning drunk) berserkers, one of course needs must relocate to another lane, but this relocation is seldom a straightforward so-called process, for first of all, meaning most interestingly if not necessarily either earliest or most traumatically, in order to avoid hitting you, a berserker will often, in lieu of stopping, switch lanes himself, thereby temporarily blocking one of and possibly one’s only escape route(s); and even once the blockage is out of the way, one is very poorly advised simply to sashay blinkeredly into the freshly clear patch of lanage, for although the berserker would not have made the lane change if he not had plenty of rearward clearance for his own purposes, because cars move much faster than pedestrians, the vehicle behind the berserker may very well declarify the clear patch before one reaches it, or what is of course infinitely worse, just as one is reaching it.  And to top it all off, time does not afford one the luxury of focusing all one’s attention on a single escape-lane: one cannot simply look to flee into the lane(s) that one has not already traversed, the lane(s) leading to one’s original destination, the opposite street-corner; no, one must simultaneously consider and administer the option of retreating back on to the lane(s) one has already traversed, and therefrom to one’s original starting point, the non-opposite street-corner, and consequently (if one is lucky) of obliging oneself to re-essay the crossing when the friendly white Walk Man next appears.  “But surely at such a rate under such a quadrivial dispensation, one would be lucky ever to enjoy the right of exchanging a toast with the parabolic chicken.”  Indeed one would and one in fact one was on the day nominally in point.  In order to take the enjoyment of that right for granted at a sub-intersection as broad, busy and implex as that of the south crossing of University and St. Paul one must try to cross at an hour when it is statistically not improbable for an entire light-cycle to be run through without a single right-turner appearing at the stoplight—in other words, between about midnight and four a.m. on weeknights-stroke-mornings (Sunday night being the first weeknight and Friday morning being the last week-morning) or between about four a.m. and seven a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.  At all other hours, one’s crossage is very much a touch-and-go affair.  And from this well nigh pan-chronographic touch-and-go-ness one is certainly within one’s rights to conclude that the powers that not only be but, even more appallingly, be universally acknowledged as legitimate (for the present screed to the best of my knowledge contains the sole protest as yet lodged against these powers qua implementers of the traffic laws), the pedestrian is a figure on the order of an acolyte of some ludicrously antiquated religious cult who deserves at best to be half-heartedly humored, a figure who is certainly many fathoms below the so-(and for the most part quite rightly)called physically disabled2 in point of officially acknowledged accommodation-worthiness.  If a wheelchair-bound person suddenly gets it into his or her head to travel to the other side of town, or even ten miles into the suburbs, for any purpose or indeed no purpose whatsoever, inside ten minutes he or she can find himself or herself on a gratis state-funded minibus to take him or her to his or her destination.  Merely because you are physically disabled, your excursion or errand is deemed worthy of expedition and facilitation by the State.  Nobody asks the wheelchair-bound person if the excursion is really necessary or if it need be undertaken with such inexorable post-haste-ness; no: the assumption is that the wheelchair-bound person simply deserves the excursion, because in being enabled to take it he or she is merely being vouchsafed a degree of mobility supposedly enjoyed as a matter of course by Joe or Jane Fully Functioning Biped.  But of course, as I have demonstrated, Joe or Jane Fully Functioning Biped qua fully functioning biped (as against qua fully functioning driver) enjoys only the most negligible degree of mobility thanks to the very same law that affords such speedy and wide-ranging mobility to his bipedally non-fully-functioning fellow citizens.  “If,” that law effectively proclaims to Mr. or Ms. Fully Functioning Biped, “your errand or other piece of business were of any importance, you would be undertaking it or traveling to it by means of a car”—by means, in other words, of a machine that effectively renders the distinction between functional and non-functional bipedality superfluous, a machine whose partial operation by the feet is a purely contingent and fungible (as the mere existence of hands-only cars for the disabled eloquently attests) design feature, a machine that is basically just an oversized motorized wheelchair “—and as you are not thereby undertaking or traveling you must be content to wait—until the crack of Doomsday if driverly need be.”  So the entire system is as perverse and unjust as Judge Judy (or her male counterpart whose forename escapes me) doing a handstand with no knickers on: for while the non-bipedally fully functional depend on the exertions of the bipedally fully functional to enjoy their non-ambulant (!) mobility, the bipedally fully functional are prohibited from making the maximally productive use of their bipedal full functionality by inter not unprominently alia the very vehicles supposedly intended to supplement the non-bipedally fully functional’s non-bidpedal full functionality–one of which vehicles cut me off from the very late pre-midday crossing nominally in point.  Not that I wish to single this Mobility minibus out for special treatment—or, rather, mistreatment, or, rather still, very slightly more than condign chastisement—for I was also cut off from the same crossing by a so-called smart car (an automotive abomination seemingly calculated to realize the pygmocratic dystopia only murkily envisaged in Randy Newman’s “Short People”), a so-called Checker cab (which I suppose I must describe as a Checker cab sedan now that New York City, the world capital of so-called Checker cabs, has adopted the Checker minivan as its taxic standard), and a Tastycake delivery van (which I actually could not help admiring as the fashion-flouting stalwart holdover from the 1960s or even earlier that its boxy shape and visible riveting proved it to be).  Finally, just after that terrifying, well nigh anal-sphincter dilating moment when the unfriendly DON’T WALK hand turns unfriendly in earnest by ceasing (utterly without warning) to flash, i.e. remaining lighted, a sexagenarian female driver of one of those longish and more or less interchangeable vaguely killer whale or porpoise-shaped-and-colored vehicles that under the auspices of dozens of evanescent manufacturer, make, and model designations quite unconvincingly proclaim themselves the heirs of the stalwart American so-called luxury vehicles of yore—the Lincoln Town Car, the Cadillac Coupe de Ville, etc.—let me cross via the who’s gonna know? look-cum-posture.  I alighted on the sidewalk just in time for the unkenneling (i.e., green-lighting) of the drivers on the north side of University, as I could confirm by the welter of horn-honks and dumbass-containing expostulations reaching my ears from back south-southeast.  “Poor bastard or sod,” I muttered in immeasurable commiseration (hence the italicks plus quotation marks) with the unfortunate laggard, but I durstn’t look back, not because à la Lot (i.e., vis-à-vis the just-mentioned sod) I was afraid of being turned into a pillar of salt, but rather because à la Moses I was deucedly keen on getting my fellow-chosen person over to the Promised Land, and I knew that nothing could more expeditiously siphon away his or her presence of mind, every last microliter of which he or she then stood in the most desperate need (of), than his or her making so-called eye contact with a spectator on his or her plight.  Consequently, to this day, I don’t know whether he or she made it across alive, let alone in one piece.  “Why surely,” the reader may now be quasi-indignantly demurring, “you would have heard about it if he or she had not done.”  To which I must counterdemur that there is virtually no class, genre, or instance of event of which I would have been less likely to hear.  To be sure, any sort of fatal traffic accident initially draws a fairly large and conspicuous crowd, a sort of caravanseri or Roman camp of policepeople, paramedics, and assorted onlookers--loblollymen, losels, and louts of every stripe and walk of life—and their associated vehicles and paraphernalia, but at all but the most garishly gore-strewn sites the settlement is of astonishingly brief duration, lasting two or at most three hours.  Most often all that remains of the disaster—for all its appallingness—immediately after the appointed agencies have concluded their work and cleared out, is or are a few fragments of bumper-plastic and a smattering of beaded window glass, themselves almost always indistinguishable and inextricable from the ever-lingering after-debris of the preceding butcher’s dozen such disasters.  But weren’t, the reader now quizzically quizzes, you planning to get back to your apartment in time for afternoon beer, i.e., well within the two-hour clean-up window?—such that if you arrived back at the expected terminus ad quem you must have noted the presence or absence of the usual post-accidental personnel-cum-materiel?  Indeed I was thus planning, and indeed I needs must have done.  But the truth is that on the day now nominally in point I did not get back to my apartment in time for afternoon beer, nor even in time for evening port—although I was back well in time for midnight sherry (and an exceptionally delightful midnight sherry at that: the caramelized Jahrlsberg-and-minced agouti canapés in particular were exquisite).  To specify why I did not get back in AB-worthy time, in other words to supply the efficient cause of that instance of tardiness, without merely stating the tautologous argument that my trek through the ’10 took longer than six hours (11:59 a.m. + 6:00 = 5:59 p.m., the last minute of the afternoon), lies not within my powers (I am delighted to observe that I am a poet at my insu on account of my feet’s being namesakes of Glenn Gould’s favorite car), for as near or far as I can now tell, at scarcely no stage of this trek, even if the length of each stage be confined to the picayune interval separating one artificial (i.e., original, deliberate, rectilinear) sidewalk crack from another, did I fail to encounter or undergo some phenomenon or experience that may not plausibly be reckoned the decisive Spaziergang-prolonger and Heimkehr-retarder.  The stage at which I had arrived upon crossing St. Paul very much constitutes and instantiates a case in point.  This was the brief stretch (or stretchlet) of Universityside sidewalk leading from St. Paul to Charles Street, a stretch bordered for most of its non street-abutting length (i.e., as far as I was concerned on the very early afternoon nominally in point, its left side) by some former church now long-since semi-deconsecrated and rechristened an interfaith center by its secular owner, the university that I shall not name, and most striking from a pedestrian’s eye view on account of its stained glass windows, whose various saints, apostles, et al., can be seen from this perspective only in extremely rough outline, as only the most vaguely anthropomorphic bubble figures, via the contours of the presumably lead sutures separating them from their fellows, such that the overall composition of each window acquires a highly stylized, almost Keith Haring-esque aspect.  I cannot but imagine that many or perhaps even most other churches’ and former churches’ stained glass windows look equally crude from the outside, but the administrators of these other edifices must be doing quite a good job at keeping their windows hidden from outside view, inasmuch as the interfaith center at University and Charles is the first such edifice chez which I have noticed the phenomenon (or epiphenomenon).  On the very early afternoon now nominally in point I noticed another phenomenon (or paraphenomenon [though not epiphenomenon]) of the interfaith center, namely that it was directly across the street, that is to say across University, from another church, the not altogether unimposing (at least by tri-ZIP-code-areal standards) Gothic re-revival Episcopal cathedral, which led me first, and dispassionately, to wonder whether the interfaith center had not originally been an Episcopal parish church, and then, more feelingly, to reflect that if only I had exited my building (the building I reside in, not the building that I own [not that I own any]) from the rear and consequently started out by crossing University at Calvert instead of St. Paul at University, I could now be wallowing in the orthopedic largesse of the rubber sidewalk—that’s right, a rubber sidewalk, a succession of rectangular well-nigh veritable trampolines—that fronted the cathedral grounds, a frontage that was presumably the fruit of some sweetheart concession by some not-too-long-deceased non-Popish, non-Jewish, non-snake handling former mayor (Schaefer?).  But in the immediate train of this reflection came the forehead- smite-worthy realization that it never would have occurred to me to cross University at Calvert, inasmuch as to have done so would have exposed me to the sight of perhaps the single most demoralizing object in the history of my tri-ZIP-code-areal Lebenswelt—the Oakenshawe neighborhood-identification sign just to the left of the leg of Calvert debouching on to University, a sign that implicitly yet unmistakably proclaimed that the neighborhood of Oakenshawe began to its immediate north; in other or further words, that everything south of itself, including my building, was not part of Oakenshawe.  This dyadic proclamation pained me no end, because all the official and quasi-official maps of the city I had ever consulted assured me that Charles Village, the neighborhood south of Oakenshawe, ended at 33rd Street, two full blocks south of my building, and that immediately east of my building Oakenshawe extended to 33rd Street.  But my building itself had always been left in limbo by the local (or locally tolerated national or international) cartographers, in being suffered to fall without the boundaries of both neighborhoods.  Hence, the only quasi-truthful means by which I could affiliate myself with Oakenshawe was by saying that I resided in South Oakenshawe or that I was a South Oakenshavian.  “But why the blazes did you even—pardon my Queen’s French—give a tallyman’s toss about what or which neighborhood you lived in?  Why weren’t you equally content to describe yourself as a North Charles Villager?”  First of all, pal, the correct—meaning the citywide-ly acknowledged—term for an inhabitant of Charles Village is Karlsdorfer; such that the correct term for a resident of this fictitious burgeme of which you are unaccountably so gung-ho for me to be a special tax-paying resident needs must be Nordkarlsdorfer.  Secondly, you must understand that owing to its propinquity to the main campus of the university that I shall not name, together with its inclusion of a large chunk of real estate belonging to that university, Charles Village is Baltimore City’s flagship college neighborhood, a neighborhood of a genre understood to belong exclusively to university students and their preceptors—e.g., but not quite i.e., university professors.  Ever since absenting myself from the university so-called community in the mid-late 1990s, I had ceased to derive any pleasure from the notion of living in a college neighborhood, and from at least the early mid oughties, my crescent aversion to college neighborhood residency had been accompanied by a likewise crescent positive hankering for what for want of a better word (if indeed a better word be needed) I shall term bourgeois respectability, for being thought to be the sort of person who was too old, tasteful, and well-heeled to be leading anything even vaguely approximating a ramshackle, hard-scrabble bohemian existence—an existence of which genre college neighborhoods are perhaps the closest urban geographical metonyms next to so-called artists’ neighborhoods, of which I daresay Baltimore has not had a single proper exemplar since the late-late 1990s subsidence of the so-called SoWeBo neighborhood near H.L. Mencken’s house into the circumambient de facto Baltimorean landscape of liquor stores, check-cashing salo(o)ns, and boarded-up residential terraced houses; such that I cannot but imagine that most of Baltimore’s self-styled artists have settled in Charles Village as a pis aller, and thereby redoubled my disinclination to style myself a Karlsdorfer.  This is not to say that I actually want to own a house (or any other sort of building), but merely that I wish to be thought of as the sort of person who might own a house, and in describing myself as an Oakenshavian I would undoubtedly be thus thought of (at least to the local-geographical cognoscenti), for to the best of my knowledge the Oakenshawe neighborhood as delimited by the sign in its present location (for it has indeed not shifted an inch in the year-and-two-thirds since the early afternoon now nominally in point) consists overwhelmingly of owner-occupied terraced and semidetached houses, and indeed even its sole apartment building smugly proclaims itself a condominium, which is to say “a building containing flats which are individually owned” (the 1990 Concise Oxford English Dictionary, in which the usage is flagged US, whence my compulsion to gloss it, tho’ for all I know condominium in this sense has gone the pan-Anglospheric way of apartment by now).  If only that bastard or those bastards at the helm of the of the Oakenshawe neighborhood association would do the right thing and move that sign to the intersection of Calvert and 33rd!  With each passing day the official assimilation of the M********r A***tm*nts to Oakenshawe becomes more (and more) exigent, as another non-gowned oldster moves out or dies (and hence is forced to move out) and is immediately replaced by some very-early-twentysomething yobtarf or yobtarfess manqué(e)  and the building—which was almost a de facto old people’s home when I moved into it—becomes more (and more) of “a dorm,” as a certain quinquagenarian gentleman (by now probably the second-oldest resident) irately (and aptly) styled it to me in the lobby during one of our seemingly bimonthly fire scares (at a slightly later one of which I made the acquaintance of our presumptive first oldest resident, a gentleman who identified himself as a seventy-year-old), at which he, the quinquagenarian, also, after asking me what I was reading (I had Bruno Walter’s memoir of Gustav Mahler with me), avowed his love of seventeenth-century French writers.  For the briefest soupcon of an instant I thought I had alighted upon a so-called kindred spirit; but then (i.e., an instant-soupcon separator-length later) I reflected that the only two seventeenth-century French writers I really liked were Pascal and Molière, and that the gentleman would not have said he loved seventeenth-century French writers tout court if in addition to P & M (or, indeed, possibly even to the exclusion of them) he did not like the general run of seventeenth-century French writers.  And what a wan, insipid, blafard bunch they were—Corneille, Racine, Voiture, Scarron…to be sure, of the insipidity of these four, that of the two playwrights alone was familiar to me at first eye, but no writer whom Dr. Johnson depreciated as grouchily as Dr. Johnson had Scarron (almost as if he resented the loss of ink involved in spelling the man’s name) or as insouciantly as Stendhal had Voiture (albeit by way of equally inscouciantly depreciating the much more formidable Voltaire) could have been worth my attention, and any aficionado of either writer’s work needs must have been le plus froid des poissons froids.  Such, at any rate, was my appraisal of the quinqagenarian gentleman at the end of that earlier fire scare.  But then a few weeks later—meaning perhaps only a matter of days from the fire scare at which I met the septuagenarian (though not on the day thereof, as I am certain the scare occurred on a day when I was off work and consequently did not have to take the motorbus)—I saw the quinqugenarian on the Number 3 motorbus reading—get this—a French translation of the Canterbury Tales!  So not only was the guy a philistine: he was also a liar and a pervert.  “OK,” you say: “liar I understand, even if I do think it a bit harsh: Chaucer is an English writer hailing from the fourteenth century, not a French one hailing from the seventeenth.  But in what sense was your quinquagenarian a pervert?”  Why, because he was reading Chaucer in French even though he was a native English speaker.  “You never said he was a native English speaker.”  I’m sorry if it makes me come off as a charter member of the American equivalent of the BNP [I shall pass over in silence the obligatory right-Pondside leftist retort of “Don’t you mean the two American equivalents thereof, viz. the Republican Party and the Democratic Party?” knowing as I do that it is a purely reflexive, utterly intentionless bit of mimicry of a bit of dialogue from a certain fifty-something-year-old Beyond the Fringe sketch, and no more worthy of considered reproof than a belch or f**t would be], but whenever in these pages I do not identify a speaker’s accent, the reader must assume that the speaker’s accent is that of a native speaker of American English.  “So I must assume that, for instance, Dr. Zdenĕk Ķeðzeþ is a native speaker of American English?”  Oh, who is being the crypto-BNP member now?  Why should a person with four so-called special characters in his or her name [Incidentally, that’s a cryptodysphemism if I have ever seen one—special character: it’s obviously intended to trigger associations with children with special needs] be any less likely to be a native speaker of American English than Bob Smith or Suzy Jones?  In all frankness and candor, though, I must admit that I am not certain that Dr. Ķeðzeþ is a native speaker of American English.  I am, however, quite certain that his or her English could give William Howard Taft’s or Howard Da Silva’s a run for its money (its American Silver Eagle dollar if you will) as an example of the standard American variety or super-quasi-dialect, and I am equally certain about my quinquagenarian, and nobody who speaks any super-quasi-dialect of English that fluently has any business reading any English-language writer in any foreign language.  The reading in translation of a book originally in a language in which one is perfectly fluent may indeed without the slightest exaggeration be described as perverse, and a person who does something perverse is technically as well as popularly known as a pervert; hence my quinquagenarian is very much a pervert in the technical as well as the popular sense.  But getting back to the Oakenshawe sign—
“—Oh, haven’t we had done with the s*d*i*g Oakenshawe sign by now?”
Very nearly, but fidelity to the microhistorical record obliges me to mention it exactly one more time, namely in stating that by the time I reached the end of the block still nominally in point, viz. the southern so-called unit block of East University Parkway, the block bordered by the north face of the present interfaith center-cum-possibly quondam Episcopal parish church, I heartily wished that I had somehow made a truce with my abhorrence of the Oakenshawe sign and started out by crossing University at Calvert, for had I done so I undoubtedly would have spared myself a good deal of trauma both qua pedestrian and qua spectator of the tri-ZIP-code-areal landscape.  My plan on starting out by crossing St. Paul at University had been to continue along the southern side of University for a good quarter of a mile, and to cross over to the north side only at Canterbury Road, mainly, for reasons that I don’t care to divulge at present, for reasons that I don’t care to name, so as to avoid walking directly alongside and beneath the so-called Inn at the Colonnade, whose southern and western flanks ended at Canterbury.  But the scene I discovered at the intersection of Charles and University made it immediately and devastatingly clear that my intended trajectory-cum-itinerary was going to have to be at minimum radically modified.  For starters, as they say, a ten-foot(or feet)-high chain-link fence spanned the entire six-lane expanse of Charles Street from the very lip of its eastern sidewalk (the one on which I was then walking, or rather, by then, standing) to the very lip of its western one, thereby, inter multissima alia, barring me (or my) access to the crosswalk.  Then, as if in deliberate, peremptory-cum-preemptive administration of a two-finger(ed) (or middle-finger[ed]) salute to any scheme I might be entertaining, any design I might be over-mulling, of skirting or ledge-footing my way across the southernmost inches of University, several (i.e., three to five [which numeration reminds me that my very lately introduced digital metaphor is understaffed to the tune of one-to-four digits, but any more numerically correct vehicle {e.g., “a possibly not quite complete set of brass knuckles”} will hardly do) short man or average woman-sized horizontally white-striped orange plastic barriers had been placed in a slipshod or drunken impression of a row or queue along the north side of the fence.  Each of these barriers looked like nothing so much as a decapitated, orangesicle color-schemed dalek and was every bit as much (albeit also every bit as little) menacing as its Whovian ringer.  Foiled and flummoxed as I was in every conceivable sense, system, and register, I had no choice but to shoulder my rucksack and cross University to the northeast elbow of Charles, a traversal which, by some miracle that had placed my eyes in the direct trajectory of a white Walk Man and my person clear of the trajectory of any left-turning vehicles, I was able to set out on instantaneously and conclude in a matter of, at most, two-dozen seconds.  

Once alighted at my destination, I immediately, by mere yet ineluctable force of conditioned reflex, looked over at the pedestrian cross-signal in the crook of the northwest elbow, and equally reflexively began panting with impatience for the disappearance of its implacably steady red hand.  But the memory of the horror I had just beheld but very imperfectly and from a miserably inadequate vantage-point very soon wrested hold of my attention and caused my gaze to tack about some forty-three widdershins degrees, in other words, until it come to rest on the lateral face of the above-mentioned chain-link fence, through whose reticulations I could now comprehensively behold and appraise the state of Charles Street south of University.  If one had somehow been made not to know any better, as they say—if, that is, one had been forced to see the street in the middle of a black void like some sort of detached component of some improbable (and therefore presumably both already extant and wildly successful) computer game whose sole objective or goal consisted in matching up bits of road with their most appropriate geographical settings—one would have placed this section of Charles in the middle of a North American desert during the days of the so-called wild or golden west.  One would, in other words, have imagined it as eminently suitable as a segment of the east-west highway along which the San Antonio (?) to Santa Fe (?) stagecoach ran—along with Pony Express riders (or, rather, their horses), of course.  For it was indeed nothing but one undifferentiated thirty-foot-broad expanse of beigeish-brown or tannish-yellow sand or dirt.  What a far and wretched cry this was from the noble prospect of yore (i.e., as recently as ca. May 2012, when I had last ventured as far west as the corner of University and Charles)!  The immediately south-of-University Charles Street of yore had been a three-lane one-way northbound semi-thoroughfare flanked on either side by a single lane separated from the main body of the road by a so-called median stip.  The westernmore of these lanes, the one fronting the campus of the university that I shall not name, was southbound, the easternmore, the one fronting a column of residential and universitarial properties, was northbound, and together, along with another such alienated lane on the east side of St. Paul—a lane that, like its directional counterpart on Charles, was northbound and hence, unlike that lane, ran against the grain of the traffic on the main body—they were known as the chutes (or perhaps The Chutes [for I have never seen the nomination in print]).  The chutes were by no means citywide features of Charles and St. Paul—to the contrary, they partook of these streets’ courses for the puniest of fractions of their total lengths, from 31st street at the south end to University Parkway at the north; in other words, between six and eight blocks or a quarter and a third of a mile. (It must be remembered that as University Parkway describes a northwest-to-southeast diagonal, the westernmore and westernmost chute are—or, rather, on the day nominally in point, had been—perforce slightly but not trivially longer than the easternmost one).  And although epistemic limitations preclude my framing in good faith the clause subordinated to the that immediately below as an assertion, as I have surveyed with me own-cum-borrowed optics only one of the punier fractions of Baltimore City’s 80 square miles (i.e., perhaps some 8 square miles or one-tenth thereof), I nonetheless have a very strong hunch of a certain Johnsonian sort (see his remarks in Boswell’s Life on Mrs. Montagu’s essay on Shakespeare and pair pack thread to the analogeme chuteless streets running between liquor stores, check-cashing salo(o)ns, and boarded-up residential terraced houses) that those 18 to 24 total blocks of chutage on St. Paul and Charles are the only ones that have existed in Baltimore City since my settlement here.  And such seemingly being the case, it further seems to me that the region or sector of the city including the chutes ought to bear a name that somehow draws attention to this apparently municipally unique feature.  The chief obstacle to such a name’s ever being proposed at a city council meeting, let alone officially adopted, is of course the exact homophony of chute and shoot, a word decidedly unbeloved of the chamber of commerce and its sister organizations in a municipality as notoriously gun crime-ridden as Balto.  The most obvious contenders, Chuteville, Chuteton [a virtual homophone of shootin’], Chute Hill, Chute Close, Chute Knoll [shades of 1963], and above all Chute Kill [for all its knickerbockerish quaintness] are all obviously also right out.  But set phrases that put one exclusively in mind of the non-fusile item in the verbal diptych are appallingly rare; in fact, I can think of only one—Chutes and Ladders, and unless the chute-penetrated area comes to serve as the site of some remarkably large hardware store (q.v. the account of the so-called Hopkins Store below) or its women and drag queens take en masse to wearing tights and stockings with runs in them, I cannot imagine it will ever be distinguished for its abundance of ladders.  Still, I remain sanguine that somebody will come up with a suitable toponym eventually (supposing, that is, the area still deserves such a toponym [see the sentence below beginning “Regrettably, immeasurably”]).  Perhaps not quite needless to say, I would cheerfully renounce all my Oakenshavian aspirations if I could be known as a resident of such a chutonymic neighborhood or mini-district.  “Even though that neighborhood or mini-district would consist in part—perhaps the so-called better or even so-called best part—of territory formerly belonging to the college neighborhood you so heartily contemn, and the entirety of this neighborhood or mini-district would be within pi*s**g distance of the university that you will (sic [that is the interjector or in-butter’s [i.e., the DGR]’s sic, not the author’s, although qua fellow grammar pedant the author endorses it every bit as heartily as he contemns Charles Village qua college neighborhood) not name?”  Even so.  For in point of aura or nimbus-augmentation there is simply no comparing the chortles of delight at my metonymic cuteness that would ineluctably be elicited by my reporting that I lived in Chutes-&-Ladders-ville, or, rather, whatever the equally ineluctably cute chutonym turned out to be, with the silent, tight-lipped, decidedly approving but nonetheless decidedly frowning nods that would greet my announcement that I lived in Oakenshawe.  For fudge’s sake, I could live in a stinkin’ tent in the chutonymically named place, and garner more friends, and friends of a much higher niveau of every sort and stripe, than I could in owning outright—that is to say, having paid off my mortgage on—the most spacious and highly appraised house in Oakenshawe.  Regrettably, immeasurably regrettably, the city government, doubtless(ly) in collaboration with some Maryland state agency [“Obviously the department of transportation,” you, DGR, sniffingly butt back in.  “There’s nothing obvious about it,” I brayingly counter- or outbutt, “for the department of transportation is but one—and quite possibly not even the highest-ranking one—of at least four state agencies that have some authoritarian bearing on the streets and roads of Baltimore City.”] have up-bollocksed all my chutotopic hopes and bidden fair to up-bollocks them even further, for first(ly), and upbollocksian already-spilt milk-wise, although they have restored the trifurcated apportionment of carriageways and traffic vectors on Charles Street, it is by no means self-evident that they have concurrently restored that street’s two chutes, for at least in the eyes of this chute-area resident, the two outer carriageways have the appearance of being at least a good two feet broader than the old chutes, and if this appearance corresponds even approximately to the actual geometric state of affairs, then these two carriageways no more deserve to be termed chutes than Rikki Lake deserves to be rechristened Twiggy, or the Grand Canyon to serve as a stunt double for the Cumberland Gap.  But how am I to determine whether my eyes are not deceiving me—whether, for example, I am not being misled by the substantially greater breadth and height of the present chute-area’s admittedly impressive granite curbs into thinking that the predecessor chutes were correspondingly narrower?  To ascertain the breadth of the present chute-area Charles Street’s outer carriageways obviously requires nothing more than a tape-measure and sufficient testicular (or ovular) fortitude to outface queries of What the fudge aut cet. are you up to? from any conceivable party.  But to ascertain the breadth of the previous chute-area’s carriageways, of the chutes indisputably appropriately so-called, obviously requires a bit more nous or wherewithal.  For even supposing the latest G*****e map of the chute-permeated sector is sufficiently (i.e., at least three years) out of date (a supposition not likely to be borne out vis-à-vis any part of the central city of a so-called major metropolitan area), one must still contend with the mensural shortcomings of the so-called software platform, which does not allow the viewer to measure with precision distances of less (or fewer) than 100 feet.  Of course the present writer has known, or at least has heard tell, of satellite cameras capable of reading car license plates since the mid-1980s, but as such technology has not yet become free for the general use of the public—doubtless for reasons of political rather than technical expediency—the amateur surveyor who, such as the present writer, is without a personal gonnegtion at that federal agency that it is doubtless less safe to name here in its home metropole than anywhere else on the planet is as they say up chute creek (a.k.a. TSOL) chutewise.  Secondly, and upbollocksian milk-yet-unspillt-wise, within the past year there has been official and quasi-official talk, in the setting of certain neighborhood-level convocations answering to the hyper-emetic appellation of town meetings [seriously, f**ks, I don’t know why they don’t just go b**ls deep f**ksiness-wise and lop off the gee in meeting] about turning long stretches of  St. Paul and Calvert Streets, including the stretchlet of St. Paul that includes its chute, into orthodox two-way streets evenly divided between northbound and southbound carriageways.  Whether the talk has since metastasized into a full-fledged plan, let alone into, horribile dictu, a full-fledged project with a so-called timetable is non-accidentally beyond the present writer’s ken, for since receiving in his U.S-Postal mailbox the flyer announcing the proposed alteration (and the thereupon-pertaining so-called town meetings) he has studiously studied not to learn anything further about it: needless to say, he did not attend any of the town meetings, and beyond that he has quasi-reflexively averted his eyes from every mention of the contemplated bi-bifurcation in the hyper-local media—i.e., in default of the coming to mind of additional examples, that publication called the Charles Village Something or Other [even to term it the Charles Village Rag would be grossly to overestimate the importance in the present writer’s lifeworld of this periodical, which, if he has ever read, he retains no memory of the lecture] whose headlines he occasionally cannot avoid catching a glimpse of en route from the checkout lane to the exit door at Eddie’s Market, owing to the invariable presence of a stack of CVSOs on the midget’s window seat running all along the inside front of the store.  And it is not his chutophilia alone that inspires him thus to resile from all allusions to the two-way-ization of St. Paul and Calvert; no, if anything, he is even more flatively inspired thereunto by his even more passionate love of the one-way street.  “But if,” the DGR now quite speciously remonstrates, “your attachment to the one-way street is stronger than your attachment to the chutes, then any skin that may be taken off your nose by the two-wayification of St. Paul Street axiomatically was taken off long before you ever settled in the chute-penetrated area, indeed very probably long before you settled in Baltimore City, and quite possibly (tho’ admittedly paradoxically) long before you were born.”  To this (again, quite specious) remonstration, the present writer abjectly begs to counter-remonstrate that though the chute does undoubtedly technically introduce a second way into any street in which it participates, the pleasures and charms of the chute can be appreciated only within the ambit, purview, bailiwick or (I pinch my nose before typing such a downmarket sociologeme, which must nevertheless be included in the catalogue as the only item likely to be understood by any empirical reader in this downmarket sociologophilic age) context of the sublimity of the modern central-urban one-way street.  The central-urban one-way street is the modern urban throughway and thoroughfare par excellence: in its ruthless, imperturbable, peremptory, single-minded forward orientation, it signifies that all who travel along it both mean and embody business, that their destination is not only the only one that matters to them personally but also the only one whose legitimacy qua destination bears acknowledgment by anyone.  The central urban two-way street, on the other hand, is a kind of interloping pimp acting in or on behalf of the unregenerately idle suburban Sunday driver, for merely in confronting the bloke or blokess behind the wheel windshield-to-windshield with drivers headed to points diametrically and indeed rectilinearly antithetical to the one to which he or she is bound, it imposes upon him a Weltansich intrinsically undermining of the sense of the importance of his or her own business (if business it indeed deserve(s) to be called); Hell, it adjures him or her to interject to himself or herself: if so many f**ks gots to get to da place I just done done me darndest to scarper from, why den shawly it ain’t got to matter an Etruscan shrew’s scrote hair wheddah I get day o’ not.” What is more, the face-to-face orientation of the drivers in the antithetical carriageways imposes on them a courteous, almost courtly comportment vis-à-vis one another (or each other); the street becomes a sort of automotive analogue to the sidewalk or the office corridor, such that it is all the drivers can do to refrain from slowing down long enough to doff their caps (or unhood their heads) to each other (or one another) en passant.  The car-owning reader reared and continuously resident in one of our newer metropolises—Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix, autc.—naturally will be sceptical of the rustifying powers of the central urban two-way street.  But this is because for him or her a two-way street is by default a well-nigh Mississippi-width’d eight-to-ten-lane affair wherein the two carriageways are separated from each other by at minimum a four-foot-wide median strip, such that the only moment at which he or she is brought into cap-doffworthy vis-à-vis-ness vis-à-vis another driver is while waiting to execute a turn or to preempt a turn—a moment at which, needless to say, neither driver is more favorably disposed to the other than a bull to a matador (or vice-versa).  In any central urban street of an older north American metropolis, on the other hand, once one has deducted sufficient horizontal space for a column of parallel parkers one is left with at most [at most because nowadays one must often also deduct an additional half car-width for a sodding bike lane {on the topic whereof I will not allow you to allow me to get started: suffice it to say my tirade against mobility buses would look like a short and snappy billet doux when juxtaposed with any tirade against cyclists that came within spitting distance of doing justice to the acrimoniousness of my grudge against the velophilic mobility}] two lanes or car-widths to play around with as they so vulgarly say nowadays (but as the would-be around-players number among this vulgar they, it behooves me to use such a vulgar idiom), such that there is no room for anything broader or sturdier than two four inch-wide bands of yellow paint to serve as a divider between the two traffic vectors.  Whence the necessity for the leisurely, Sunday –driverly comportment of the traffic on such a street.  And if I am going to have to reside at an address in (or in the most current American idiom, on) such a street, I may as well foutre le camp and move to some unabashedly unurban merely nominal city like Ames, Iowa or Columbia, Missouri, or Lawrence, Kansas (or Williamstown, Massachusetts? [No, (n)or Norwich, Connecticut, (n)or Montpelier, Vermont for that matter: for virtually all unabashedly unurban merely nominal cities to the north of Baltimore are even less affordable than Baltimore itself]), to one of those municipalities that is so unapologetically easygoing that it has perpendicular mall parking lot-style parking on the busiest streets in the middle of its downtown; for between (or among) the riots and the endless harassment by the populace (not only the native supposedly poor minority youth but also the supposedly well-to-do, non-native, white college kids) and my aforementioned near-nonexistent disposable income, the round-the-clock propinquity of one-way streets is practically the only genuinely urban geographical feature of Baltimore in which I am both financially and constitutionally capable of taking any unalloyed aesthetic pleasure whatsoever.  And in each chute-including block this pleasure is not paradoxically but dialectically facilitated and enhanced by the chute itself, which, in being horizontally dominated by parallel-ly parked cars, can scarcely serve as a through-way at all; one pulls into a chute either hoping to park or resigned to waiting for others to park, and the would-be automotive chute-user inexperienced or foolhardy enough to try to shoot the chute as 16th-cetnury London watermen shot the (London) bridge, to use a chute as a kind of one-lane limited-access highway soon finds himself on the wronger side of a so-called fender bender.  So in the chutes traffic almost invariably moves at the hyper-relaxed pace of the outermost side-street in Anysmalltown, U.S.A.  But meanwhile, only a few feet away, a de-facto three-lane one-way street is raging, whooshing, whizzing, honking, and Asshole!-ing along with all the aforementioned implacable single-minded fury.  And yet we happy few within the chute are untouched by all this Wagengetummel, “our withers are unwrung.”  Our pleasure may be eminently unlicentiously likened to that ascribed by Alban Berg (according to Theodor Adorno) to a woman nuzzling up against her (male) lover’s freshly shaven face: she savors the smoothness of his skin, but she also revels in her awareness that the rough, sandpapery beard is already sprouting afresh beneath that smoothness.  How could the dickheaded powers that be be so spiteful or perverse as to wish to deprive us chuteside-dwellers of a pleasure at once ineffably sweet, totally innocent, and utterly infungible?  “May I please play dickhead’s advocate for a moment?” Sure.  Knock yourself &c. “Perhaps the principal motive of these powers that be is not spite or perversity but a nobly beneficent regard for you and your fellow-pedestrians’ safety and well-being qua pedestrians, the regard whose lack chez certain powers (albeit not necessary the ones immediately in point) you have already lamented ad nauseam in these pages.”  Oh, I am sure they have always said that that is the reason they’re so keen on their design, because of course any change of such a sort and scale must be justified in terms of its improvement of somebody’s well-being, and at first blush—or, at any rate, at the first blush of the non- or only very occasional- pedestrian (or, to be more precise, the self-styled-cum-self-imagined driver, who may in fact do a great deal of walking in the city but cannot be compelled to regard his or her own urban pedestrian activity in a serious light; who regards pedestrians, because presumptive members of the so-called urban poor, as others to be pitied, rather than as fellow-enjoyers-cum-sufferers of a single phenomenal-cum-material experience), who constitutes the sole demographic stereotype who must be humored by would-be alterers of urban street design—a two-lane street is more pedestrian-friendly than a one-way one.  “I.e., on account of the already- twice adverted-to lazy Sunday driving tempo.”  Exactly.  But all gains to the pedestrian garnered by the reduction of the ballistic momentum (or momenta) of the vehicles are more than offset by the extra demands on his attention and alertness made by the necessity of looking in two directions rather than in one before crossing, or, alternatively (and, in my view, more rashly), looking in one direction before crossing and in the other whilst crossing, or, rather, whilst standing just shy of the horizontal middle of the street and waiting to cross the street’s second horizontal half.  Admittedly, to the uninitiated--or to be more precise, he or she who would refuse to admit that he or she was initiated (i.e., the abovementioned self-styled-cum-self-imagined driver)—the demands would appear to be so infinitesimally slight that even the doubling of them could not render them more than sub-negligible, but in point of fact it is all too easy when preparing to cross a two-way street to get one’s bearings reversed, to swap one’s clear-cum-safe and blocked-cum-dangerous compass rhombs, and consequently finish up (often in the most final and fatal sense) impaled on a hood ornament.  One looks to the left and sees a car bearing down upon one from only a couple of dozen feet away; one looks to the right and sees that the coast is clear and instantly applies this coastal-clarity to the entire breadth of the street, insouciantly alights from the curb, and is immediately run over.  Such a catastrophe is axiomatically impossible when crossing a one-way street because there is only one coast that has to be clear.  If it be objected that only a dumbass of superlative obtuseness could confound the carriageways of a two-way street, it may be counter-objected á la Ernst Lubitsch that each of us is every second (in the geometric sense) as obtuse as that at least once a day; for example, in slipping his or her left foot into his or her right shoe, or in tossing a piece of waste-paper into the laundry hamper, or in (what is perhaps the most celebrated example of such a sottise) donning a pair of knickers, panties, boxer shorts, or briefs with the arse-accommodating end facing forward.  When we commit these conneries ourselves, we laugh them off and forget them within minutes; when others commit them in our sight, we tease the committers mercilessly for an hour, a day, a week at most, and then commit the commissions to an oblivion as total as that reserved for their counterparts chez nous.  But when we hear of a person who has been no more obtuse than we have been on countless occasions, but has merely proved far more unlucky than we have so far proved as a consequence of his obtuseness, viz. in alighting from a street curb directly on to the hood of a moving vehicle, it is all we can do to restrain ourselves from inquiring after the resting place of his or her body against our exhuming it with our trusty grave-digger’s shovel and hacking it into extra-gamey steak tartar with our trusty sugar cane plantation-worker’s machete.  At minimum we cannot refrain, if the person was still of child-bearing or -begetting years and yet childless, from opining It was a durn good thing that that dumbass was kept from reproducin’,  or if the person was still of child-bearing or –begetting years and yet childful, I’ll be durn sure not to write any of that dumbass’s children a letter of recommendation for admission to Harvard, or if the person was past child-bearing years and yet childful, It’s a gashdurn shame that that dumbass wuddn’t run over afore he or she had a chance to spawn, or, finally (I believe I have exhausted every possibility by now), if the person was past child-bearing years and childless, It’s a gashdurn shame that that dumbass wuddn’t run over afore he or she was even born.  There is no more widely or aggressively reviled species of supposed dumbass than the person who obliviously steps into the path of a vehicle in motion.  To this day the great (i.e., not merely famous) nineteenth-century Belgian composer César Franck is known first as a guy who was run over by a bus and only second as the composer of his D-minor symphony, and the equally great twentieth-century French literary critic Roland Barthes will probably never regain the preeminence of reputation he enjoyed before being hit by a delivery van.  And in the light of the universal opprobrium with which such supposed dumbasses are regarded, I am rather mystified that the powers that be here in Baltimore are (presumably) interested in protecting them; one would think they (the powers) would be all for doing their bit to thin the herd of these undesirable defective members.  In any case, any salutary benefit derivable from the slower traffic stream (presumably) envisaged by these powers would perforce be restricted to the stretches of streetage between intersections and stoplights, in other words to zones in which one can cross on foot only by committing that ticketable offense known as jaywalking.  For when crossing with legal permission at a stoplight, one is always, barring the statistically insignificant completely clueless joy-rider, dealing with cars that either are stationary or have only just begun to move; and the trials and sorrows of crossing at stoplights, as epitomized above in my account of my crossing of St. Paul at the south side of University, emanate entirely from the twin (or quadruplet) facts that a moving motorcar is “unsafe at any speed,” that in view of a motorcar’s multi-pachydermish mass one is highly ill-advised to step in front of a motorcar moving even at sub-tortoise speed, and that turning drivers at stoplights are aware of this and cannot resist literally throwing their weight around by refusing to yield to pedestrians.  Such being the case, all other things being equal, one would never cross at stoplights and always cross by jaywalking, and I am hardly an ardent enough fetishist of the traffic laws as to cross exclusively at stoplights, or enough of a Germanesque fetishist of setting a good example für die Kinder to stand at an intersection waiting for a friendly Walk Man to appear when not a single moving car-bonnet (or hood) is in sight.  But one can jaywalk safely only when the traffic stream itself, quite apart from individual drivers’ wills or inclinations, is cooperative; in other words, when the volume of traffic is light enough and sporadically enough apportioned that long-lasting multi-lane stretches of carlessness open up with reliable frequency.  If one is confronted as a would-be interstoplightial pedestrian with anything remotely approaching so-called bumper-to-bumper traffic, meaning traffic of a pace and volume in which a car could not come to a sudden complete stop without eliciting horn honks of resentment from the driver immediately behind it—of resentment mind you, not panic; meaning that this rearward driver would have of plenty of time to avoid a collision with the frontward car (though not with a pedestrian)—one will find the hope of crossing the street as a jaywalker as forlorn as that of fording the Mississippi by walking across its frozen surface in mid-July.  And inasmuch as, as more or less already stated, traffic in the chute-permeated region’s streets is almost always at least quite proximate to bumper-to-bumper pace and volume, the only real remedy for the region’s pedestrians’ plights lies in a prohibition of right turns on red, and the powers that be here are too vehicular in their orientation and too scornful of the pedestrians ever to issue such a prohibition.  Such that their (presumable) affectation of solicitude for the chute-permeated region’s pedestrians in proposing and indeed fast-tracking and railroading their two-way traffic scheme is downright insulting to those selfsame pedestrians’ intelligence and Menschenerkenntnis.  In any case2, the real impetus to this scheme presumably is not concern for pedestrians, but rather the impetus common to all Baltimorean Lebenswelt-altering schemes proposed from on high by so-called experts in our age, viz. the intraprofessional (or intrapseudoprofessional) drive to keep up with the intraprofessional (or intrapseudoprofessional) equivalent of the Joneses.  In one of his later novels, The Old Devils, the elder Amis brilliantly both depicts and descants upon the phenomenon, specifically as manifested in the hyper-rebarbative interior design (“all metal…Walls, floor, tables, chairs, bar, the whole thing.  Bare metal.  Matt, not shiny…Naked metal”) of a certain pub in the novel’s setting, Swansea, Wales, in the 1980s. When one of the eponyms opines that although such starkness may not be to their geriatric taste “it appeals to young people,” another retorts, “It’s not meant to appeal to anyone.  That’s not the idea.”  The idea, rather, he explains, is to gratify the whims of the interior designer, to whom the pub’s owner has given carte blanche out of sheer laziness, and whose whims are in turn dictated by his need to “get noted through having photographs of things he’s designed published in Swedish magazines” and to stay “noted through winning prizes from international committees sitting in Brasilia.”  So it presumably is with Baltimorean street design, even down to the specific non-local geographical locales referenced by Amis.  The Baltimorean street designer presumably needs to get noticed by having photographs of streets he’s designed published in magazines originating in some foreign country and to stay noted through winning prizes from international committees sitting in some foreign city.  Of course, the country and the city need not be Sweden and Brasilia, respectively, specifically, but they must share with that country and city certain qualities for which that country and city are respectively famous (or notorious)—smallness and thinness of population, ethnic homogeneity, and ruthlessly equitable efficiency of government in the case of Sweden; and sterility, modernity, and artificiality of settlement and purpose in the case of Brasilia; as these are all qualities manifestly lacked by the United States and Britain, respectively, and Swansea and Baltimore, respectively.  So, yes-stroke-in short, one imagines the two-way traffic plan now nominally in point having originated at a city council meeting at which some civil engineer-cum-landscape architect explained with almost breathless enthusiasm how he has just flown in from a conference in Singapore, where a colleague from Canberra “gave a massively compelling talk on that city’s two-way-ifying of that city’s outer suburbs, which had reduced traffic fatalities in those suburbs by a jaw drop-inducing three per cent, and because, as we know, the Australians do everything better than we do, and have none of our ethnic and civil strife, unless, that is, you count the occasional tussle between law enforcement officers and some kangaroo that has cluelessly wandered in from the Outback [here the room will have been gently but amply filled with appreciative chuckles from all in attendance], we have no choice but to two-way-ify every last gosh-damn one-way street in this city.  But with which street and block, you ask, are we to commence this glorious Canberrization of Baltimore?  Jeez, I don’t know; have any of you folks got a dart I could borrow?”  But as of the early afternoon now nominally in point, I was still blissfully unaware, as they say, of that conjectural dickheaded urban civil engineer-cum-landscape architect’s conjecturally utterly arbitrary obliterative designs on my beloved St. Paul Street chute, but this oblivion was perhaps affectively more than counterbalanced by my blissless awareness that my scarcely less beloved Charles Street chutes already no longer existed, an awareness that coexisted with a perhaps no less devastating complete absence of any reason to hope that those chutes would ever be resurrected.  “Ubi sunt?” I asked myself, “and what possibly or even conceivably could have caused them to disappear?—what, if not the insatiable urge for destruction that rages everywhere that one visits now, regardless of the country or continent?”  But even as I rhetorically queried myself thus I caught sight, or rather took cognizance, of a rather large yet manifestly temporary so-called landscape-orientated rectangular traffic sign that had perforce been without my field of vision before my crossing of University, for it stood directly in front of and parallel to the Charles-straddling chain link fence, just past the last of the headless orangesicle daleks, at the southwest corner of University and Charles; in other words, on the corner catty- (or kitty- or cater-) cornered to the corner at which I was now stationed.  Might the sign not provide me with some clue as to which form, species, or flavor of the insatiable urge for destruction was responsible for the immediately aggrieving swathe thereof?  There was only one way &c.  And so, shouldering my rucksack (twice), I made that way across Charles and back across University, a bipartite passage that I must concede was rendered perhaps twice as easy as in the old days by the fence-enforced absence of any traffic feeding into or emerging from Charles’s sub-Universitian segment.  The better part of the sign’s surface was occupied by the city’s seal—which like Edinburgh according to Samuel Johnson, is “too well known to admit description”—and the name of its then (and still) mayor, a name too well known (and by now specifically notorious) to admit repetition but not too illustrious to be spared d*****ation (and I don’t mean damnation [count the asterisks]) for its surnominal double-barreledness, a quality worthy of censure as the trashiest of parvenuisms when sported by any name hailing from anywhere but one of the English Home Counties; the worse by the identification of the wasteland behind the fence as the or a “Charles Street Resurfacing” and of the timetable of this resurfacing as “Summer 2012 to Summer 2014.”  Appalled and demoralized though I still was by my discovery of all the Caroline rubble, I could not forbear letting out a laugh, a great big brewery-cistern capacity’d belly laugh, at the sight of this timetable.  For after all, the start of summer 2014 was but a scant four months away, its end a scarcely less scant seven, and yet the state of the street made it embarrassingly evident that work on it (to the extent that any purely destructive effort can be called work) had scarcely begun.  And yet if the start date was to be believed (and why shouldn’t it be, as the sign perforce could not have been erected while the street was still in use), that work had already been going on for nearly two years.  One could not but conclude that the project was proceeding at a molasses glacier’s pace and most certainly would not be completed in the then-present calendar year, that indeed even by the most pie-in-the-sky shamanistic estimate the new and doubtless unimproved Charles Street would not be ready until the summer of 2015.  And yet nobody could be bothered—no, could have been bothered—no, had been botherable (how one repines at the grammatical defectiveness of our language’s modal auxiliaries!) to cover the 4 with a slip of paper bearing a handwritten 5, let alone replace the sign with another one organically sporting the more realistic timetable.  “Or perhaps, I reflected, some motive more sinister or ludicrous than mere sloth is at work here.  Perhaps the mayor and her cronies or myrmidons really do believe that by some miracle, some freak of fate, chance, or providence operating in cahoots with some administrative loophole, the work will somehow get done in the next two-to-six months.  Perhaps they are hoping some federal-governmental bigwig in town for any number of plausible Washington propinquity-effecting reasons will catch simultaneous sight of the sign and the rubble, and perform the same rudimentary act of mental arithmetic I just did, but that this fellow or fellowess rather than blame the laggardliness of the work on the slothfulness of its executants at every level, as I naturally was inclined to do, will ascribe it to inadequate funding and secure some executive order authorizing an immediate doubling of the wages and salaries of every bean counter and steam shoveler involved, who (according to the sentimental lights of this scenario) will subsequently, out of pure gratitude, begin reporting to the site as many as four days out of every work week.  Or perhaps they are hoping that some Chinese businessman or -woman-cum-Chincom party apparatchik in town for any other number of &c. will &c. but that this China(**)***, while blaming the laggardliness on the slothfulness, will see therein a wonderful opportunity (or “crisis” [for who chez (or parmi) us hyperoccidentals does not know that these two word-senses, like the colors blue and orange, are indistinguishable chez (or parmi) les Chinois?]) for swelling his own coffers (not austere hyperoccidental coffers, adorned with nothing more alluring than a padlock, but Chinese coffers, intricately titivated all over with gilt dragons and mah-jong tiles and whatnot) and securing some civil-engineering intelligence for his or her government at one go, and offer to contract the job out to specially imported Cathayan teenagers working for fan-tan beans 18/6.7 [“Why not an even 18/7,” you ask?  Why, Sir, because on Wednesday, the Confucian Sabbath, they are required to work only 16 hours and 50 minutes.].”  Time and again, I reflected, as one walks across the most straitened urban environs, one passes red-brick academic buildings and fenced-off areas such as this one, areas within whose purviews are being hatched or embroidered designs by means of which, if an emergency should arise, whole countries and continents can be transformed into heaps of stone and ash in no time.  No sooner did this notion take possession of me than I was hit by a sandstorm.  By that no-sooner-than moment my gaze had vagrantly alighted upon, and was relieving itself against (I must get a leash for the confounded thing!) the squat (<.8 metre) jagged-crowned trunk-stump of what had once been a majestically tall (>5 metre) tulip poplar tree just inside the other chain-link fence immediately in view, i.e., the permanent one enclosing the unnamable university’s baseball field, a tree that had been split into two dramatically unequal parts by the derecho of June 29, 2012, which has been described by the inline fact-checking source of first resort as “one of the most destructive and deadly fast-moving severe thunderstorm complexes in North American history,” a description that positively thrills me, as it gives me a warrant to bang on about my beloved derecho as lengthily as a certain Norwich, England-resident German writer banged on about the so-called great storm of 1987, which he with galling erroneousness termed a “hurricane.”  I tell you, boyo, she was a right proper frog-strangler, that thar derecho.  “She? Even with my mere single semester of middle-school Spanish I know that in that language a noun-termination of o is an infallible sign of the masculine gender.”  Why, so it is, madam, so it is.  But the derecho is a very special kind of storm, you see.  It is derived, philologically if not meteorologically, from the tornado, because in contrast to the twisting motion of that baleful tempest, it favors a straight ahead or direct (derecho) wind vector; such that one may indeed with some not only philological but also meteorological legitimacy think of the derecho as a tornado posing as a series of thunderstorms, and hence as a highly flamboyant meteorological drag queen, and hence further as deserving, nay, fairly demanding to be anthropomorphized or personified via a she rather than a he.  “As you wish, Skeletor.  So, this derecho was a right frog strangler.”  Aye, that she was, laddie.  I’ll seldom forget where I was or what I was doing the moment she blew into the 21218 ZIP-code, namely at home right here in my South Oakenshawe bedsit, and clearing away the evening port things in preparation for laying out the midnight sherry things.  “So this was at some point between, say, 8:00 p.m. and midnight.”  Indeed, indeed, specifically at 10:07:24 EDT according to my digital alarm clock.  It began, as far as my initially purely aural vantage point was concerned, just like any thunderstorm—indeed like any shower, right on down to the humble, inconsequential, half-minute mid-afternoon midsummer drizzle of so-called liquid sunshine—viz. with the soft, slow, irregular tattooing of individually countable raindrops against the top of the metal casing of my window-outjutting air conditioner-cum-heat pump.  After ten seconds at most of this, the drops ceased to be countable, and a none-too-distant and none-too-brief, though still none-too-menacing, rumble or peal of thunder was heard (by me).  Ten further seconds on, and the thunder-peals were as numerous and frequent as the raindrops had initially been, and also naturally interspersed with lightning-flashes, each of which handily outshone the four or five hundred cumulative watts with which my bedsit was artificially illumined at that cluster of moments.  Ten further further seconds on and the lightning flashes and thunder claps were as uncountable as the raindrops had been twenty seconds earlier—the effect was sublime, comical, and exasperating all at once; it was as though some five-year-old Olympian tyke had gotten his wantonly mischievous mitts on some instantly reflickable lightning and thunder-dispensing switch.  How long this virtual bisensory stroboscope remained in play I cannot say; all I know is that it was eventually attended by two other quale, likewise one apiece for the eyes and ears, of an unalloyedly sinister aura.   The sonic one was a sort of steady, extremely low-pitched, basso profundo moan, such as might have been produced by a very deep-voiced bloke (e.g.,  Willard White) betaking his lungs to a didgeridoo.  I had never heard its like before, but a few days later the penny dropped, as they say, when I remembered having been told by one of my grade-school teachers just before one of our seemingly biweekly tornado drills that a storm of this genre in immediate propinquity sounded “like a train.”  Having never been (to my knowledge) in the immediate propinquity of a tornado, or of any other kind of storm with tornado-speeded (or –sped) winds, as of the night immediately in point, I had never been disabused of the notion that such a storm sounded like what I had always known trains to sound like, from my experience as a passenger and resident of various north American locales with a few miles of a stretch of train tracks—viz., the semi-rhythmic clatter of flanged wheels against rail-seams when heard from within, and the dopplerized legendarily wistful protracted blast of an air horn, i.e., a train’s whistle in motion, when heard from a mile or so of distance.  But of course neither the clatter nor the whistle can be said to be what the train really sounds like, each being only partial and perspective-dependent, and presumably trains sound quite different when heard from other aural vantage points as yet (now, ever) unknown to me e.g., from that of a hobo about to board one, or of the resident of a house sited literally no further than a stone’s throw from a railway embankment, and in reflecting on the sound I had heard during the derecho, I concluded that a train might after all sound something like that in certain circumstances.  Perhaps, indeed, the teacher that had told us tykes that tornadoes sounded like trains (and I no longer remember which teacher it was) had grown up in one of those railway embankment-abutting houses, or had indeed hailed from a family of hobos (for the hoboes are a far more numerous tribe or sub-nation than is often supposed, and in North America at least they almost certainly outnumber the gypsies); at any rate, while such a so-called back-story went far towards explaining the description of tornadoes as trainy-sounding, it went not an inch towards excusing the description itself, for she (for though I cannot remember the name of the teacher, I am sure she was a she) should have been thoughtful or courteous enough to specify which sort of train sound was to be listened out for—by, for example, moaning in anti-falsetto through the nearest didgeridoo.  So much in the way of the in hindsight-futile attempt to describe the sinister aural qualia of the 2012 derecho chez moi.  The description of the visual qualia in contrast is probably (at least in foresight) eminently attainable, for this qualia emanated from certain objects immediately in view, viz. the several (probably exactly four) electrical light bulbs which were switched on throughout the tempest’s onslaught.  “Let me guess: they all suddenly became encircled by that uncanny bluish-orange halo that mariners formerly (i.e., until 1985) styled St. Elmo’s Fire.”  I wish, as they say.  What they actually did was simultaneously become perceptibly dimmer for a few seconds at a time—meaning not that they kept getting dimmer and dimmer at terraced intervals, but rather that they got dim for a few seconds, resumed their former brightness and kept it for many seconds, resumed their former dimness for a few seconds, resumed their former brightness &c.  This fluctuation in lumenage may not sound particularly traumatic, and residents of Karachi and Lahore in particular may be inclined to reach for their air violins (or air sarods) upon reading of it.  But if he or she will consider that at the moment nominally in point the fluctuation affected me principally not as a variation in the quality of my electrical service but rather as a portent, perhaps he or she will manage to summon up a soupcon of sympathy for (or with) me.  “Do you mean you saw it has heralding the apparition of a ghost?”  Yes, in a manner of speaking, I suppose I did.  You see, DGR, for all the varieties of incommodiousness I have had to endure at the M********r over the years—the seemingly monthly water shutoffs, the aforementioned seemingly bimonthly fire scares, the central heating switch-offs during zero-degree (Fahrenheit) cold snaps, &c.—an unscheduled electrical power outage is possibly an unprecedented event there.  Doubtlessly the building management is in no way thankable for this; doubtlessly it is entirely owing to some one-off, many decades’-ancient investment in extra heavy-duty timber or extra heavy-duty cabling by the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, but whatever the cause, it seems to take a much stronger force of nature than a mere single thunderstorm or snowstorm of even the longest duration and greatest intensity to cause the M********r’s lights to go out—at least whenever I happen to be at home.  Indeed, the only other time I have yet noticed them even recurrently dimming in the above-described fashion was (or has been) during the so (and rightly called) superstorm Sandy (a right proper hurricane, mind you, Herr Professor WG “Max” S) when I was concurrently treated to the spectacle of the ceiling and floor immediately behind my supposedly storm-proof front (and only) windows none too slowly darkening and puddling, respectively, with rainwater, a spectacle that suggested to me that the entire front foot or so of the building might suddenly at any moment peel off in one piece like the freshly coffee-dunked portion of a slice of sponge cake.  (To this day, it fairly galls me to think back on the perverse smugness, the flagrantly sham there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-ness with which every inland-dwelling central Marylander I heard speak either in person or over the airwaves in the weeks following the hurricane’s passage descanted on how lightly we had been hit by Sandy.  Sure, I conceded and continue to concede [inwardly, not outwardly, of course], we didn’t suffer nearly as much damage as the poor saps in Cape May and Ocean City, but that was because we were sited on average two hundred feet above sea level, not because the storm itself spared us so much as a microjoule of the violence it inflicted on lower-lying climettes.  The 21218 ZIP-code is sited within a minute’s latitude of Cape May, and the very center of Sandy’s eye passed within seven miles of the 21218 ZIP-code; hence the 21218 was axiomatically hit both very nearly as hard Sandy-hit as Cape May and very nearly as hard-hit as it ever could have been (or indeed could yet be) by a storm of such magnitude.  If the 21218 ZIP-code was spared the worst (albeit by no means all) of Sandy’s depredations, namely severe flooding, this was owing entirely to a geographical attribute—namely, a relatively high land elevation—that placed it well beyond the reach of that depredation, such that the resident of the 21218 ZIP-code and other medium-lying central Marylandian locales has no juster grounds for being grateful to the mercy of Sandy than the victim of a scrupulously evenly apportioned double knife attack has for thanking his assailant for leaving him less severely blood-drained than his hemophiliac fellow-victim.  End of Soap Box Tirade No. 2,543 for 2015.)  But on the night of the derecho, the assault of Sandy was still a good three months in the future, and so the recurrent light-dimming was then unprecedented in my M********rian experience, and so like all unprecedented unpleasant phenomena, however slight the unpleasantness eo ipso (cf. on the personal-physiological plain the very slight headache that somehow feels different from every migraine or so-called tension headache one has ever had, or the minuscule dermal irregularity that is somehow neither rash nor boil nor mole nor pimple), it seemed to presage total, all-destroying disaster.  At the very least, of course, I thought, the lights will go out, along with the power to all other electrical appliances, most signally the refrigerator.  Of course that will make for a dashed inconvenient scenario here in Apt. ***, a scenario evenly divided between sessions of fumbling around in the dark in search of the bathroom, and sessions of  munching one’s way through eighteen pounds of ever-more-gamy roast agouti by way of saving it from the dustbin.  But Apt. *** is of course but one of several hundred apartments in this building, and so the inconveniences presented by a power outage to a resident of this building qua resident of a specific apartment can only be compounded several-hundredfold by his propinquity to perhaps a thousand other people suffering no less acutely qua residents of specific apartments.  In short, if the power outage lasts long enough (and the seven or eight hours now separating us from dawn could be more than long enough), we (and preeminently I) could be facing a homo homini lupus-type situation straight out of the writings of J.G. Ballard, at least insofar as the account of these writings given in the secondary literature on Joy Division is an accurate one.  But in the event (whatever that means), there was no power outage; indeed, at the end of a gratifyingly brief interval—one of certainly no longer than ten minutes’ duration—my light bulbs resumed burning steadily, and the concomitant subsidence of the lightning-and-thunder tempo to the undramatic once-or twice-each-per-minute pace of an ordinary thunderstorm intimated to me that I had perhaps been a trifle hysterical in entertaining the Ballardian scenario even qua proverbial worst-case one.  And by the start of that night-cum-morning’s midnight sherry, at 12:11:35 a.m., only the unusually laggardly timing of the meal served to remind me that my Friday-cum-Saturday Allnacht had been interrupted by a storm of any kind or appreciable intensity.  But the havoc wreaked on my Alltag the following morning (or, if you prefer, much later that [i.e., Saturday] morning, i.e., 11:35:35 a.m.+) sufficed not only to remind me of the storm but to assure me that it had been no ordinary Maryland midsummer sleep-spoiler.  As on any other Saturday morning, I headed south along the chute-bordering east- or odd-number-addressed-side St. Paul-Street sidewalk towards the odd number-addressed 3200 block with the intention of buying a cup of coffee at the antepenultimate address on that block, an address occupied by a link of the chain of coffee houses that for all its hyper-naffness must be named lest the reader should think that my animus against the university that must not be named is directed against some general class of entities (e.g., corporations irrespective of their for-profit or non-profit status) and not at that university in particular—viz., Starbucks.  But before I had even come to the end of the 3300 block, the block abutting on 33rd Street, a four-lane, two-carriageway east-west th(o)roughfare –yes, the same 33rd Street that constitutes the northern border of Charles Village and hence by all rights should constitute the southern border of Oakenshawe—that by all rights should be dubbed the Deadly Hume [g’dye to all my mites dine ahndah] of Northeast Baltimore, if not the Deadly Hume of all non-limited access streets or roads in all Baltimore, if not in all Maryland, if not in the entire Eastern so-called seaboard [for all twenty of my digits and footfingers would not suffice to enumerate the collisions I have witnessed while waiting or trying to ford it]—I found myself inconvenienced by the first oversized breadcrumb in the “trail of trauma and degeneration” left by the derecho, viz. a fallen tree branch or bough whose sidewalk-spanning interposition forced me to take a temporally brief but spatially substantial detour into the chute [N.B., above-mentioned and -cursed city street-planners: under a conventional two-way Pauline dispensation I very well might have had to wait until the branch had been cleared away, presumably days later, before proceeding on my rectilinearly southbound way].  But this was as nothing to the devastation I encountered on the 3200 block itself.  In the first and in many ways most chilling place, the circular neon “Open-24-Hours” sign in the window of the University Market (formerly, when housed in a long-since demolished row-house on the even-numbered side of the same block, the University Mini-Mart) was unilluminated, very probably for the first time in its eternal flame-like five-year existence.   My first inference from this sight was that like many a dozen or even hundred seemingly prosperous Baltimore City private retail shops with which I had been acquainted over the half-decades, the University Market had simply seemingly unaccountably gone out of business quasi-literally overnight (i.e., since my last by-passage of the boutique in question, which seldom took place much longer than a night before my first noticing of the out-of-business-ness of that boutique).  But a glance only a few feet farther  along the shop-front immediately cast strong suspicion on this inference, in revealing that the door of the Market was unlocked and open, and indeed wide open, with its outside-side being held flush against the shop-front by a so-called breeze or cinder block, while within a trio or quartet of the young probably Palestinian men (for the shop was and, as far as I know still is of Palestinian ownership) who had run and guarded its cash register in uninterruptedly successive rotation were busying themselves about the shelves and coolers—seemingly in stocking them rather than in emptying them.  I might have stepped thereinto, had any of these young [insert Palestinian Arabic word for “buck” here to forestall imminent reduplication] been at his usual station, which was vacant, and, more materially, had I ever been bound thither in the first place.  Between the Market and the Starbucks lay (?) three other commercial concerns—the god-awful all-ages ice cream parlor Stone Cold (sic) Creamery, a mobile phone vendor, and a restaurant brazenly purveying nothing but so-called flatbread. [The mobile phone vendor and the flatbread restaurant have long since gone out of business, and their premises subsequently consolidated into a single piece of retail real estate for the usufruct of a chain pizzeria that, to judge by the merely nominal queues one sees within it at peak dining hours, bids fair to go belly-up in its own right any day now.  And yet the god-awful Stone Cold Creamery continues to prosper, with punters galore reliably dashing with rabid gourmandise through its entrance up to and perhaps even beyond its 10 (or perhaps even 11) p.m. closing time each and every day, and in the setting of every conceivable sort of non-power outage inducing weather event, including the coldest of cold snaps.  One cannot fail to see damning, or at least darning, proofs of one’s historically conditioned Gnosticism in a hyper-local Providential dispensation that finds room for such a dynamo of perversion as an all-ages (and all-seasons) ice cream parlor but cannot brook the perdurance of a single halfway decent pizza parlor (for the pizza at this chain pizza parlor, in contrast to that [or those] of its two rivals in the 21218 ZIP code, is indeed halfway decent).  “Oh come now: an innocuous widdle ice-cream parlor a dynamo of perversion?  Surely that’s a bit harsh.  Surely, indeed, the only real reason you object to the perdurance of the Stone Cold Creamery is that you personally, solipsistically—nay, onanistically—happen to prefer pizza to ice cream.” Indeed it is not, although I do frankly and candidly admit that I prefer pizza to ice cream, although yet again I do frankly and sincerely (if not quite candidly) believe that my preference is shared with virtually everybody else, or at least with virtually every other North American adult, inasmuch as I frankly, sincerely, and candidly believe that if faced with the prospect of a day without a dinner food like pizza and a day without a dessert food like ice cream, virtually every other North American adult would, like me, prefer to do without the dessert food.  Indeed, perhaps there is no more nearly fool-proof definition of a North American adult than “A North American who has come to realize that dessert isn’t all that it is—or, more often, is not—cracked up to be; who realizes that it is, as Polonius says, but ‘the fruit to the great feast,’ i.e. (as the very late Elizabethans were apparently frank and candid enough to acknowledge [their degree of sincerity on this as on all other points obviously remains beyond the pale of conjecture]) an object as gustatorily uninteresting as a raw, unpeeled apple.”  This is what makes the prosperity of the Stone Cold Creamery in concurrent juxtaposition with the failure of the chain pizzeria next door to it so perverse—the ineluctable conclusion that the 21218 ZIP-code’s allotment of North American adults is/are habitually forgoing a greater pleasure for the sake of indulging in a lesser one.  “Well, perhaps they are forgoing this greater pleasure not for their own sake but for their children’s.” I would venture to say that in general they are not, for whenever I glance through the shop-front of the Stone Cold Creamery during one of my almost-daily traversals of the odd-numbered side of the 3200 block of St. Paul, I invariably espy far more adults than children therein, and not infrequently espy only adults therein.  In any case, even supposing your conjecture to be well-founded, it hardly lets the North American adults of the 21218 ZIP-code off the hook.  For if they had any inkling of the true essence of their vocation as parents, they would not be dragging their children out of bed at ca. 9:45 (or perhaps even ca. 10:45) p.m. for dedicated sallies to the ice cream parlor; rather, they would be calling them in from the front yard, or up from the rumpus room, at ca. 6:45 p.m. or, at the latest, ca. 7:15 p.m., for a provisionally dedicated sally to the pizza parlor, i.e., for dinner and dinner only, to be followed by a side-sally to the ice cream parlor for a proper post-prandial dessert only if each of the children behaved with impeccably good form throughout dinner (e.g, did not pitch a fit on learning that the pizza was to contain but a single meat topping, or refuse to eat a single slice because the meat topping was not some locally unobtainable one like venison or agouti), a side-sally that would be over and done with by ca. 8:45 at the latest, i.e., more than early enough to allow the tykes to be tucked into bed by the latest respectable tyke tuck-in time of 9:00 p.m. “This is all very plausible, but in such matters one must ultimately put one’s money where one’s mouth is, as they say.  When was the last time you dined at this pizza parlor whose survival seems to be of such exigent interest to you?” Oh, I suppose it must have been about three months ago, or possibly as many as four. “Just as I thought.  So much for your championing of the great North American institution of dedicated out-dining.”  Now hold on one minute {he remonstrated in stern but not unfriendly Jimmy Stewart-like cadences}: you don’t know the whole story.  The truth, whole-story-wise, is that I was an assiduous frequenter of the pizza parlor in question during the first few months of its existence (if existence be an attribute possessible by an outlet of a chain).  During those first few months the parlor advertised on its entrance-cum-exit door a Friday and Saturday closing time of midnight.  I would typically show up at around 11, and even atypically no later than 11:30, early enough to pick up my pie by 11:45 at the latest, and hence plenty early to sashy my way through the just-mentioned exit-cum-entrance door well before the advertised closing time.  And yet by about the middle of my second month of frequentage, I began finding that door locked upon my attempted egress and consequently having to ask a so-called member of staff to let me out.  It was obvious what was happening: the so-called staff had concluded that a midnight closing time meant that they were entitled to finish dealing with customers in any manner by midnight at the very latest and were determined to insure that they never would have to by blocking their (i.e. the customers’) entrance to the restaurant beginning several dozen minutes before midnight.  On deducing this lamentable but for all that ultimately accommodatable manifestation of chutzpah, I resolved to begin leaving for the restaurant about fifteen minutes earlier than my established wont, lest, owing to some common cause of quotidian delay (e.g., a wallet inadvertently left at home and only very belatedly noticed to be absent, or an impishly repeatedly self-untying shoestring), I should on some night arrive after the lock-out, whose exact time I could not specify.  Happily, no such delay-causes supervened, and I managed to arrive before 11:15 several times in succession—and yet, and yet, I found myself having to ask myself to be let out on each one of those several occasions, and on the last of them I managed to dash in only just as the outlocker was approaching the door with his keys.  Again it was obvious what was happening: as all the would-be regulars such as I were now showing up well before 11:30, the so-called staff had concluded that they were within their rights to shut up shop by 11:30, the advertised closing time be roundly rogered.  Patently there was nothing for it but to try to show up even earlier next time.  And so next time I arrived at the well-nigh family-friendly hour-cum-minute of 10:30, assuming as I did that however quickly the hours of openage had receded in the meantime, I would still be more than slightly ahead of the curve (or tide, or whatever the appropriate metaphoric vehicle is).  To my in-hindsight rather gullibly great surprise, the door refused to yield when I tugged at it, and I found myself consigned to the ignominious ranks of the out-locked.  In my fury I glanced down at the posted hours in quest of the acutely gamely masochistic thrill reliably derivable, in the then-present circumstances, from that oh-so-smug jauntily serif (Rockwell?)-fonted “12:00 midnight”.  To my even-in-hindsight-quite-understandable appallment, I discovered in place of that “12:00 midnight” nothing but perfectly transparent window glass; discovered, in more vulgarly objective terms, that the dash to the right of “11:00 a.m.” under FRIDAY (or perhaps SATURDAY [for those were the only two even ostensibly midnight-closing nights]) was followed by nothing, exactly after the manner of the right-of-the-hyphen dates on the plinth or headstone of a pre-purchased cemetery plot.  For the third time it was obvious what was happening, or rather, as this chronographic void seemed to mark the start of a permanently unvarying state of affairs (yes—a state of affairs not unlike death), had already happened: from the ever-earlier arrival of regulars the staff had concluded, No matter how early we close up this joint, business tends to peter out a half an hour ahead of that closing time.  Such being the case, why don’t we just eliminate the official closing time and shut up shop whenever business starts slackening off.  If in the flying-pigs-esque event that from 11:00:00 a.m. to 11:59:47 p.m. (albeit not merely 11:59:46 p.m., ’cos that would really be pushing it) customers uninterruptedly tumble  in through the front door like self-renewing passels of ten-pin bowling pins, we’ll stay open until midnight.  But by that same tokefest, if in the death-and-taxes-esque event that by 11:00:46 a.m. (albeit not 11:00:47 [What do these c*n*s take us for, sodding chronographic Mr. Moneybagses?]) five seconds have passed without a punter’s crossing our threshold, we reserve the right to close the restaurant and not reopen it until 11:00:00 a.m. the following day.  And once I realized that such an operational dispensation was in effect chez my pizzeria of first resort, I categorically resolved to deny it my custom thenceforth.  “Categorically?  That seems a bit harsh.” Oh, does it indeed?  Well, then consider what, materially speaking, continuing to allow it access to that custom would have entailed.  It would have entailed my resolving to have pizza for supper immediately after hitting the off button on my alarm clock at 7:00 a.m., my usual workday rising time, then calling in sick to work, then re-setting my alarm to wake me up by, say, 9:30 a.m., in time for me to perform my matutinal ablutions in time to make it down to the pizzeria by 11:00:46 a.m.  Is even the best pizza in the world, let alone in a mere ZIP-code, worth such a brutally barbaric overhaul of one’s Alltag?  “No, of course not, but it need not have exacted such a brutally barbaric overhaul of your Alltag.  All you needed to do was to turn up at the pizzeria at some pre-midnight minute and take your chances that it would still be open.”  And supposing it wasn’t? “Why, then, you just would have had to settle for supping on the offerings of one of your ZIP-code’s myriad—” –not myriad, but rather butcher’s quarter-dozen— “—well, then, at any rate, sufficiently numerous eateries.”  But why should I have been or indeed (excuse me while I switch gears from the preterite conditional to the far less clunky present conditional) should I ever be obliged to settle for such a n*****dly gustatory settlement?  Why is it incumbent upon me to accommodate my personal schedule to that of the workers in the culinary branch of the so (and quite wrongly)-called hospitality industry?  Of what inestimably expensive precious metal is their time composed, such that the mere gold of which mine is composed must perforce yield pride of place to it?  Why, having presumably contracted to work a certain number of hours in succession, can they not be ar**d to stay at their posts for the full duration of their shifts?  After all, it is not as if I am allowed by my employers to mosey on out of the office and jump on to the northbound 3, 11, 61, or Circulator each and every time ten task-free seconds have elapsed at my desk. “Ah, but at least you get to work in an office.” And since when has the office been the celestial antipode of semi-fast-food eatery in the Dantean cosmology; since when has every dusty, gnat-ridden, underheated, under-airconditioned, sweat-piss-shit-armpit odor-and halitosis-reeking cesshole of an office become God’s office and every short-order kitchen, be it ever so temperate and spotless, become hell’s kitchen?  Since when, in other words, has simply being in a short-order commercial kitchen-cum-dining area become a dire enough health hazard that anybody who cannot be a**ed to spend five or six hours at a stretch in one of them automatically merits everybody else’s boundless and unalloyed commiseration?  For Pete’s and indeed pizza’s sake, it is not as if they are being (ostensibly) required to stand neck-deep in dead canaries in a coal mine; rather and merely they are being (ostensibly) required to spend a modest fraction of their day in an ergonomically neutral so-called working environment, and to defer the satisfaction of certain decidedly non-exigent whims and velleities until that fraction has elapsed.  And it is not as though they have to stand at perfectly static attention like guards at Buckingham Palace or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier while they are waiting for customers; indeed, they may even while away the interval by picking their proverbial a**es, provided they wash their nonproverbial hands thoroughly the moment a punter appears.  But diabolical demiurgic anti-Providence evidently hath determined that it is more important for a handful of organic teenagers’ drug-scoring, coition-scoring, child-making, and social disease-spreading projects to proceed unimpeded at all hours of the day and night than to than for an entire ZIP-code’s fund of productive, clean-living full(y)-fledged adults to be allowed to decide more than five minutes in advance whether they are going to have pizza or submarine sandwiches for dinner; and that selfsame fund seems to be more than content to let that selfsame anti-Providence have its signeuerial way with it.  And this laissez les gosses faire-cum-laissez nous s’enculer dispensation-cum-ethos seems to be spreading in the ’18, for although none of the code’s several other eateries has been so brazen as to advertise an open-ended closing time, all of them have intermittently intimated to me that they are de facto-ly adhering to or espousing such a policy.  Take, for example, the comportment of the chain submarine sandwich shop (incidentally, the chain in question is not that chain, i.e., the Starbucks of submarine sandwich shopdom) in the space immediately south of the 3200 block Starbucks: their advertised closing time on every night of the week is 10:00 p.m., and one midwinter-2015 night I showed up not a microsecond later than 9:30 to find its trio of inorganic teenage hobbledehoys performing their post-closing sweep-up routine behind an unbudgeably locked pair of entrance-doors.  “A pair of entrance doors to which presumably was affixed an 8-1/2” by 11” (a.k.a.  A4)-sheet of photocopy paper (q.v. immediateishly below) explaining the early closure.” You presume awrong, sir or madam: there was no such sheet (n)or any notice of any other kind.  To be sure, earlier that day the ’18 had received an inch or two of snowfall—hardly a rare or catastrophic meteorological event in central Maryland, but (presumably rightly) presumably a good enough pretext, in the hobbledehoys’ eyes, for hewing ca. three-quarters of an hour off their work shift without tendering so much as a proverbial BYL or reach-around to the puntility. Take, for another example, the greeting I quite recently (ca. midsummer 2015) received on telephoning a certain 3300-block (a.k.a. solidly South-Oakenshavian) non-chain diner-cum-carryout a full forty-five minutes before its advertised closing time and asking if I might place an order, viz. “We’re closed.  After 10 things got a bit slow, so we closed.”  Can you believe the confounded cheek of the fellow (for the voice was or had been that of a male)—and even more damningly of his employers!?  On a roughly contemporaneous occasion, an occasion occasioned by my abovementioned forsaking of the abovemultimentioned pizzeria of first resort, I phoned in an order to my pizzeria of second resort nearly an hour before its advertised closing time.  I arrived to pick up the order exactly a half an hour later; in other words, nearly a half an hour before the just-mentioned advertised closing time, to find my hyper-recent telephonic interlocutor murderously glowering at me.  “Why you take so long?” he spluttered: “I call you fifteen minutes ago to tell you order ready. [Of course, fifteen minutes earlier I had already been on my way and out of earshot of my sole and non-mobile telephone.  But even if I had managed to take the call, why should the readiness of the order have mandated my instantaneous teleportation to the restaurant?  What business was it of theirs or skin off their noses if I elected to collect my food in the last ten seconds of their advertised open hours?]  We closing.  You ruin everything for us!  Everything!  Everything!”  The more often I am so flagrantly snubbed, remonstrated with, and gibed at by the minions, myrmidons, and flunkies of the culinary sector of the so-called hospitality industry, the more nearly fully I am convinced that it is by the historical moment at which such snubbage ceased to meet any effective resistance (i.e., quite possibly, the very minute and second at which I am typing these very words) that posterity—if there is one—will mark the irrevocable sunset of what until then had managed in good lighting to pass (if only just pass) for Western civilization.  For in the first place the snubbage itself delivers a two-finger salute to the golden rule and the categorical imperative at one go, a gesture whose elegant efficiency one would admire if it were not directed to such an evil end.  The snubbers do unto others that which they would never tolerate for an instant if it were done unto them, and they behave in a manner which, were it ever accepted as a general rule, would bring “the entire system of life” not so much to the proverbial grinding halt as to an instant yet temporally perceptible universally dog turd-revealing meltdown.  And the snub(b)ees, the would-be, erstwhile, or sole potential exponents of the rule and imperative, for their part, receive the fingers into their anal cavities with a grateful and indeed ecstatic supinity that buggers belief, specifically their own belief that via such digital penetration they are merely getting their comeuppance for the commission of quasi or pseudo-crimes to which their contribution is in fact so remote and infinitesimal that it could never be empirically distinguished from the contribution made thereunto by their supposed victims (i.e., the snubbers-cum-digital penetrators); such that in styling themselves the perpetrators of these quasi- or pseudo enormities, they are comporting themselves as arrogantly, as bumptiously, as parvenu-ishly, and, indeed, as tackily, as the English accountant, quantity surveyor, or estate agent who flaunts his descent from some pre-1066 monarch with whom genealogically speaking he has less in common than many thousands of Yank, Aussie, and Kiwi bail bondsmen, pimps, and stevedores. A habitus of fauxblesse oblige has gained an apparently ineluctable and irreversible ascendancy over a socioeculturoeconomic superclass far too massive to characterize using any of the old moth-eaten Marxist terminology—a superclass comprising all persons who have at least a shaky grasp of irregular past participles or happen to be employed in an administrative/clerical setting or happen to be “working towards” any sort of educational accreditation (i.e., much more often than not, absent-mindedly flushing thousands of dollars down the toilet while screwing around on one’s mobile phone as at other times).  Why can the members of this superclass not accept or acknowledge the eye-burstingly self-evident fact that merely in virtue of existing under the auspices of a socioculturoeconomic dispensation such as ours they are entities as fungible and disposable as rayon dishrags and of a much more ignoble and despicable moral standing than short-order whores, and that accordingly they have no right to tolerate impertinent shiftlessness from those who have been contracted to “serve” them, which service in practice simply means all-too-briefly relieving them of a tiny fraction of a not merely metaphorical burden (consider how much unremunerated lifting and hauling by the householders themselves goes into the maintenance of any present-day household) under which they would otherwise sink to the ground like so many hogshead-toting coolies in a Malaysian heat wave (other not quite-first world Asian countries with exclusively tropical climates are available).  In short, the socioculturoeconomic superclass in question needs to start adopting as its guiding maxim the following antigraph of Nick Carraway’s father’s advice: “Whenever you feel like refraining from criticizing anyone, just remember that most other people have not been deprived of any more advantages than you have.”  This is not to say that I condone, let alone endorse, the sort of lordly-ly niggling bearing towards culinary hospitality-industrial personnel that one witnesses so often in one’s fellow customers in the meal assembly-line queue, especially the organic ones, e.g., “I want(s) just a little bit o’ hots.  A little bit mo(re) than that, a little bit mo(re) than that…[50 iterations of “a little bit mo(re) than that”]…no that’s too futatin’ much!  Start all the fut over agin, you futatin’ [ethnic slur unprintable less on account of its intrinsic slurrishness than of its damningly laughable geographical imprecision]!”  Such lordliness in this setting is of course no less misplaced or unethical than the sympatric servility against which I have been inveighing so heartily and copiously, and while I slap one or both thighs (my own, not my sofa-mate’s, I hasten to add!) no less bruise-inducingly than the next man, wo or otherwise, while watching the “Soup-Nazi” episode of Seinfeld, I believe there is much to be said for the comportment adopted by George Costanza during his return visit to the eponym’s establishment, viz., in prescriptive terms, State simply and exactly what you want, make sure that that is simply and exactly what you get (i.e., not that, e.g., you have not received a microlitre less mayonnaise than last time, but rather that, e.g., green peppers have not been substituted for pickles), pay your reckoning, say Thanks, and leave.  Any small talk, any would be-palsy (that’s palsy as in “characteristic of a pal,” not as in “apoplexy-induced tremors”) chit-chat, is tantamount to a human rights violation.  “Speaking of virtual human rights violations…” …Yes?  “Well, I should think keeping one’s reader immured in a digression, nay, a sub-digression, as long as this one must be worthy of a citation from Amnesty International.” My, but aren’t you being snippy!  Looks as though somebody hasn’t been [the usual sexocentric blah-blah-blah].  But your objection eo ipso is well taken.  Let us return to my account of the aftermath of the Derecho of 2012.  “Yes, let’s, like Barry.  But before we do—” My but this is rich coming from the dude or blokess who but ten seconds ago regarded himself or herself as my political prisoner!  “Agreed, but this second objection only just occurred to me in the last four of those ten seconds, and believe you me, it’s a real doozy (sp.?).”  Very well.  Do tell on.  “Well, it has just occurred to me that all your moralistic kvetching about the 21218 ZIP-code’s neglect of the chain pizzeria on the 3200 block has had the ground quite unceremoniously yanked from under it by your more recent no-less-moralistic kvetching about the insolence of the staff at that selfsame pizzeria, and about the 21218 ZIP-code’s supine acquiescence in the face (or, as you would have it, fingers) of that insolence.”  How do you figure that?  “Why, essentially merely by recollecting my earlier adjuration of you to put money where your mouth is or was vis-à-vis your own frequentation of this pizzeria.  If, as you argue, people cannot be blamed for not giving their custom to a business with an open-ended closing time, then axiomatically they cannot at the same time be blamed for the failure of such a business, however intrinsically custom-worthy the commodity it is purveying may be.”  True enough, I suppose.  But my second polemic, if it prove the more adhesive of the two, most certainly does not let either the culinary-industrial consumers or the culinary-industrial producers of the 21218 ZIP-code off the hook (or suction cup); indeed, I think it rather tends to force the hook even deeper in (or make the suction cup even suckier).  “How do you figure that?”  Why, essentially merely by plugging my second polemic into the second component of my first polemic, viz. the component directed against the Stone Cold Creamery.  If the Stone Cold Creamery continues to thrive, and to remain open each and every night of the week till 10 or 11 p.m., in the teeth of a 21218-wide bidigital customer-goosing culinary-industrial habitus, then one or both of two things must be happening: 1] the adult residents of the ’18 want their ice cream, perhaps specifically their Stone Cold ice cream, so direly and in such numbers, that they are consistently showing themselves willing to tumble in through the front door of the SCC in the abovementioned self-renewing ten pin bowling pin-esque fashion, 2] the presumably teenage employees of the 3200 block’s Stone Cold outlet are so enamored of the idea of slinging ice cream (rather than, signally e.g., pizza) to their contemporaries and elders that they are willing to stay at their posts to the bitter (and perforce bitterly cold) end in rugged, dogged, positively Odyssean defiance of the hankerings and cravings for debauchery that they perforce share with their pizza et al.-slinging siblings, and to which, as we have seen, these siblings almost reflexively succumb; a microlocal sub-state of affairs that inductively implies the scandalous but by no means implausible inference that a substantial proportion of today’s youth are on the whole so unspeakably naff, lame, and infantile that they find merely being in the presence of ice cream more pleasurable than coiting and consuming intoxicants, both of which are at least properly grown-up vices.  Now, back to the derecho:] The entrance-doors of these establishments were not propped open with so-called cinder or breeze blocks, but rather emphatically shut, and each of them sported, or, rather, flaunted, a piece of 8-1/2” by 11” (a.k.a. A4) photocopy paper on which the phrase “CLOSED DUE TO POWER OUTAGE” or words to that exact effect if only in apparent intention (e.g., “CLOSE DO TO NO POUR”) had been scrawled in felt-tip or ballpoint.  The Starbucks itself had gone to the trouble of laser-printing its brazenly non-apologetic explanation, but the explanation (itself) was substantially the same, as was its upshot.  At that moment, there was seemingly only one thing for it (i.e., the apparently block-wide power outage): I would have to press on to the odd side of the 3100 block, see if it was electrified, and, in the event that it was, procure my coffee at one of the two businesses therein that supplied immediately drinkable Joe–the faraforementioned Eddie’s Market, or Donna’s, a rather froofy bistro whose perpetual perduration I quite foolishly took for granted simply because it was almost as ancient a fixture in the tri-ZIP code area as myself, having moved into its spot at the very southern tip of the block in early ’96 at the latest, and under at-the-time baffling and even now merely conjecturable and fundamentally inscrutable circumstances; for you see, on the day of my arrival or touchdown in the tri-ZIP code area, viz. August 30, 1994, that end-of-the-block spot had been occupied by a non-chain hardware store, from which—at least so it seems to me now—I (had) during the first few days of my TZC-areal residence bought a few of the sorts of DIY-ish gewgaws one tends to need right after moving into new digs; but after that brief period of indispensability to me, the hardware store (had) passed into a stage of well-nigh boar teton-like vestigiality as far as I was concerned.  And so it was or had been with no great amount of chagrin, and certainly without lugubriously doffing my hat, if I wore one in those days (and I’m not at all sure one way or the other), albeit with a great deal of bemusement, that at some point in late 1995 I beheld in the door of what was no longer the hardware store an A4 (i.e., 8-1/2x11”) sheet of paper bearing not some mopily understated message merely announcing the store’s permanent closure and ‘thanking our loyal customers who have supported us over the years,’ but a highly impassioned mini-rant to the following effect: “AFTER 20 YEARS OF DEDICATED SERVICE TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD I HAVE BEEN UNCEREMONIOUSLY THROWN OUT ON TO MY ASS WITH ABSOLUTELY NO PRIOR NOTICE.  ON TO MY ASS, I TELL YOU!  AND WITH ABSOUTELY NO PRIOR NOTICE!  THIS IS AN OUTRAGE, I TELL YOU!  A GODDAM OUTRAGE!”  And then, a few months later, Donna’s moved in.  In longish, i.e. post-ca.-1998 hindsight, it was at least conjecturally obvious to me what had taken place: the holder of the hardware store owner’s lease had run into Donna (for I am pretty sure Donna’s was actually owned by somebody named Donna) at the Club Charles or 13th Floor, where Donna had then laid on him or her the scheme of opening a rather froofy bistro in Charles Village, a scheme with which he or she had been positively smitten, especially inasmuch as he or she happened to own “just the place for” it, such that he (had) consequently and subsequently, perhaps as soon as the very next morning, terminated the hardware store-owner’s lease.  But when I first caught sight of the above quasi-quoted protest of eviction, the quasi-literally overnight (q.v.) disappearance3 of the hardware store as a commercial entity struck me as a kind of abrogation of some law of nature, and even long after Donna’s moved in, I failed to put the two of the hardware store’s eviction together with the two of Donna’s’s accession to the occupation of the space, and even long after I had put those two twos together, I failed to see the eviction of the hardware store for the mundane epiphenomenon of the vicissitudes of the urban commercial real estate market as which it now strikes me rather than as a personal-cum-geographico-political scandal-cum-catastrophe (if not for me then at least for the store’s owner [q.v. Footnote No. 1]) worthy of dramatization in some New Deal era-style plutocrat-bashing flick à la The Grapes of Wrath or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  The mundane epiphenomenality eventually came home (wherever that is) to me upon my consideration of the nature of a lease, and my reflection(s) that a lease was, after all—except in certain marginal cases as the ground-rent lease, which is/are/were justly held up for Golly!-accompanied wonderment in television shows and newspaper columns devoted to eliciting such wonderment—a document of comparatively brief legal duration; and that presumably the typical lease would not be of such brief legal duration if it were not advantageous to both parties to it to have the option of getting out of it at fairly frequent intervals, such that in all legal-empirical fairness one ought not to be surprised at, say, finding one’s pedestrian way blocked as often by the movables of loathly evicted shopkeepers as by those of enthusiastic apartment-vacat(e/o)rs.  And in cities with seriously bullish real-estate markets—New York, London, etc. [Paris is the only third city I would essay with any confidence, and that much enfeebled by the interfaith turmoil visited on the French capital in recent years]—one presumably does routinely witness commercial evictions; presumably in such cities, the commercial eviction is a yawn-inducing set-piece of the drama of gentrification.  But I had never witnessed anything of the kind where I had grown up and attained my majority, viz. exurban west-central Florida, where the opening of every new retail shop always seemed (and seems) miraculously to coincide with the unwrapping of a mint piece of architectural infrastructure (in most cases a new so-called strip mall erected on land previously never devoted to any human-serving end but tree-farming or cattle-grazing); and from what I have seen here in Baltimore, even in the city’s most (supposedly) upmarket neighborhoods, the narrative of commercial succession almost invariably proceeds along the following lines: one business founders for mere lack of frequentage, for mere lack of revenues from customers, and elects not to renew its lease; the space it occupied then remains vacant for a time ranging from a month to several decades (case in latter extreme point: the Chesapeake restaurant on Charles Street, just north of Pennsylvania Station, which closed up long before my arrival here and reopened [I write “reopened” out of a kind of Kripkean metaphysical scrupulosity because the new restaurant is also called the Chesapeake, although there is presumably no continuity of ownership, and the rechristening cannot but be regarded as a tribute to the deserted ruins of the old restaurant (to whose sagging and soot-blackened brick facade every jauntily black-letter and white-painted character of its name miraculously managed to cling throughout the long commercial sleep) rather than as a tribute to the old restaurant itself, inasmuch as any living person old enough to have had anything to do with the old restaurant, whether as a proprietor, an employee, or a customer, is now presumably—nay, almost perforce and axiomatically—too moribund and der Welt abhanden gekommen to concern himself or herself with trendy urban commercial revival projects] only some three years ago); then a new business moves in, sets up shop, muddles along for a year or two, and de capo ad quasi-infinitum.  And now Donna’s itself, as if in belated karmic retribution for its interlopic flouting of the old narrative nearly a generation ago, has just—i.e., a mere two-weeks-and-change ago as of this writing (February 11, 2016)—been ruthlessly assimilated to that narrative, for the piece of A4 now posted in its front window is indeed a mopily understated announcement of closure-cum-thank-you note rather than any sort of mini-rant, and the Almighty Scots Demiurge alone knows when we shall see Donna’s’s like—or even its unlike, e.g., the blokeyest of sports bars—in the same site again.

Not that I was ever anything in the way of a traitorous patron of the joint, let alone a loyal one—on a butcher’s half-dozen occasions I had spent a few dollars there as a consequence of having to constitute part of a group whose more central members had already agreed on our convention there, and I recall desserting there exactly once solus on some remarkably good bread pudding, and finally, before the Starbucks opened I would pop in every fourth or fifth Saturday or Sunday for a large takeaway coffee—but it had always pleased me to keep Donna’s in reserve as an extremely local place at which I might creditably dine in company with a so-called date, should my disposable income ever again afford me the luxury of going out on one (sic on the zeugma, and assurances to any prospective date in the first sense that I have no intention of treating her as a veranda or diving-board); now that it is closed, my nearest plausible dating venue is Petit Louis, a not especially froofy but extremely twee bistro sited way up in the northern reaches of the 21201 ZIP-code.  Not that I mind occasionally shelling out a few Lincolns in round-trip cab-fare even now, qua infinitesimal disposable income-holder cum receiver, but that a non car-owning gent always finds himself one down at best whenever—i.e., by no means exclusively vis-à-vis prospective so-called romantic so-called partners—he openly avails himself of proxy wheels in a setting (such as the northern reaches of the ’01) in which parking poses no substantial logistical problems.  Donna’s, unlike Petit Louis, was sited not only in the middle of a parking nightmare, but also so close to my residence that it would have been madness to repair thereunto by any other conveyance than shank’s mare, such that I might, however improbably, have been able to keep my carlessness a secret from the young, middle-aged, or ancient lady or woman in question at least until I had secured a second rendezvous with her—and beginning with that second rendezvous I would have got(ten) my head (sic) in the door; by then, indeed, she perhaps would have taken enough of a shine to me to allow me to expound to her my long-mulled over and detailed case for her (or any other car-owning woman [for I conceive of the woman in question by default as a car-owner, simply because I conceive of her by default as a commandress of irregular past participles {and no, Mr. Ms., or Mademoiselle Smart-Arse or Ass, you are not catching me out in a contradiction in observing that I, despite being a master of irregular past participles, am not a car-owner, for my correlation of maitrise of irregular past participles with car ownership is merely contingent and statistical, and I by all means welcome the compagnie of that rarest of birds {apologies for contingent sexist overtones of “bird”}, the non-car owning commandress of irregular past participles])’s continued involvement with me despite my carlesseness—that I would not by any means or under any circumstances begin treating her as a mere ride ticket, that indeed I pledged to accompany her as a passenger in her hoss only on jaunts proposed by her, and to refrain from proposing any jaunts that could not be undertaken by bus or cab (and, in deference to the norms of gallantry, to cover both our shares of many if not most if not all consequently accruing fares); that in any case non-car ownership was the wave of the future, that all the hip young urbanites were chucking their cars and resigning themselves (as I had done more than two decades earlier) to confining their Alltage to a compass of some five square miles, &c.  But now, thanks to the recent nipples-aloft-ment of Donna’s, tout cela est foutu, and I am going to have to go back to the drawing board, as they say—presumably by fetishizing some central-city froofy or twee bistro qua neighbor of my place of work; but of course the place of work presents a host of problems qua starting point for a rendezvous—notably on the front of personal hygiene. [“Problems on the front of Personal hygiene? Whatever the D***l do you mean?” I mean, at ass or arse (and not merely figuratively), that one likes to take a shower before a date, and that the office at which I work—and I think it is quite typical of offices in this respect–does not have showering facilities.  “Well, why should that make any bally difference?  Surely one can simply shower at the gym between the end of one’s work shift and the beginning of the date.”  I leave the penning of my riposte to this demurral as an exercise for those readers (if any there be) who are not about to be sent scurrying away with finger-pinched noses by the revelation that I do not have a gym membership.]  In short: thanks a so**ing or f**king lot, Donna’s, for shutting up shop so abruptly and unceremoniously!  “Talk about shades of your lamentably self-oblivious protest against the prospective closure of the chain pizzeria!”  Shades of my lamentably self-oblivious protest against the prospective closure of the chain pizzeria?  Whatever the D***l do you mean? “ I mean, at arse or ass (albeit strictly figuratively), that you evince a more than R rating or Certificate 15-worthy abundance of cheek in chastising Donna’s’s closure a mere butcher’s quintuple-dozen lines after brazenly admitting that you stopped even infrequenting it the moment the Starbucks just north of it began accepting custom.”  In all Iranian censor-worthy cheek-concealing modesty, it is you who deserve the R rating or Certificate 15, if not an outright X certificate or rating, in blaming me qua Joe Takeaway Joe Consumer for contributing so much as a microjoule to Donna’s’s closure—in the first place, because a single large serving of takeaway coffee is outnumbered in point of price by the average froofy bistro menu item (e.g., a paté-and-cheese plate or a portabello mushroom and arugula sandwich) by a factor approaching ten-to-one, such that to blame Joe Takeaway Joe Consumer for the financial failure of a froofy bistro is tantamount to blaming the financial failure of the world’s biggest diamond mine on Joe Occasional Purchaser of a “World’s Biggest Diamond Mine” Snow-Globe from the World’s Biggest Diamond Mine’s Souvenir Shop.  In the second place, if Donna’s had been so gosh-damn keen on keeping itself afloat on takeaway coffee revenues in the teeth or face of the encroachment of Starbucks, it presumably would have assed or arsed itself to offer a brew of coffee that was competitive in point of taste with Starbucks’s coffee.  Instead, it contented itself with serving up a muddy, earthy, sooty concoction that in hindsight one imagines Sergeant Yemana from Barney Miller’s notoriously undrinkable coffee must have tasted exactly like.  “I take it, then, that on the morning after the derecho you didn’t opt to stop in at Donna’s.”  Indeed I did not.  “Well, then, did you stop in at Eddie’s?”  Indeed I did not either.  “And was Eddie’s’s Joe every bit as Yemanaesque as Donna’s?”  No, although it was not quite up to Starbucks coffee’s niveau.  But it certainly would have done in a pinch—and in much more (or less [for the precise sense of the idiom eludes me]?) than a pinch now (February 13, 2016) that I have semi-dramatically cut down on my so-called caffeine intake—had not the size of its maximum serving been a paltry sixteen fluid ounces, i.e., at least allegedly a full four fluid ounces shy of that of the notorious Starbucks venti.  “In order to get a drinkable coffee that large,” I reflected, as I stood with my left foot still poised three or four inches aloft of the surface of 32nd Street, the fittingly numerated border between the 3100 and 3200 blocks, “I shall have to head northward and westward and penetrate a good eighth of a mile into the 21201 ZIP-code; I shall, in other words, have to head to the Café Unomundo.”  And so I did, and it was in transit to the Unomundo on that late post-derecho morning that I caught sight of both parts of the aforementioned tulip poplar, the selfsame tulip poplar whose sole in situ part, viz. its aforementioned trunk-stump, I caught sight of perhaps merely milliseconds before that sandstorm hit me on the February 2014 late-morning nominally always in point in these pages.  “So how or what about that sandstorm?  Was it a real frog-strangler in its own right?”  Of course it wasn’t, inasmuch as no sandstorm in history has ever been a real or even a fictitious frog-strangler.  Just consider the vehicular nuts and bolts of the idiom: a frog is a creature by nature accustomed to living a good part of its life immersed up to its nostrils in water, hence more than sufficiently cut out to weather a mere average rainstorm; hence, a frog-strangler is a rainstorm of such suddenness, force, and magnitude that it does not even allow a frog time to get its mouth shut and its nostrils above water. A sandstorm, by or in contrast, in virtue of involving no water whatsoever, presents no such strangulatory hazards to your average or even below-average frog.  “True enough, I suppose, but all the same I don’t find myself much more strongly envying the frog caught in the gentlest of sandstorms than the frog caught in the most torrential of rainstorms.”  Understandably enough, and yet I don’t think you have much cause to pity that selfsame latter frog, inasmuch as sandstorms tend to occur in places either permanently unfrequented or long-since vacated for the season by frogs—viz., of course, arid, sandy places.  Such that when designating a particularly powerful sandstorm you really have to avail yourself, qua metaphorical vehicle, of an animal proverbially inured to arid, sandy places—say, a rattlesnake or a Gila monster—“or better yet, because more froglike in shape and size, a moloch”—yes, yes, yes, a moloch, and now that I recall that the moloch is famed or abhorred exclusively for its impermeable, spiny, plate-mail armor-like skin or hide, it occurs to me that some other lethal action than strangulation must be ascribed to the storm.  “Will excoriation do?”  To a turn old fruit or bean, to a turn: a moloch-excoriator—henceforth that will be the epithet of first resort in designating a particularly powerful sandstorm.  “So then was this sandstorm, the sandstorm by which you were hit on the late-morning in point, a real moloch-excoriator?”  In all overstatement within tickling distance of truth, I really must concede that it was not even a pretend moloch-excoriator, let alone a real one.  Indeed, perhaps I have been (or been being) licentious even in describing it as a storm; perhaps it would more aptly be termed a mere stormette or glorified squall or gust.  In strict phenomenal-lay meteorological terms, it was generically identical to a kind of wind-involving phenomenon that I seemed to behold much more often as a youngster in west-central Florida than I have as an adult here in central-central Maryland; a phenomenon that indeed for whatever perhaps-in-principle-not-empirically-inscrutable reason I cannot recall witnessing at all (apart from on the February 2014 late morning now in point) since I was about the age of ten.  The archetype and most spectacular example of it that I have ever seen must have occurred when I was between the ages of five and seven, because it appeared or took place on the grounds of a nursery school or so-called day care center into whose care I was committed only from the beginning of kindergarten until the end of first grade.  Specifically I was in the back yard of the center, a playground-like area with so-called monkey bars, swings, a slide, and whatnot, during some sort of recess (the precise Alltag of the place is murky beyond reconstruction to me now, but I am still certain that it was not the sort of nursery where the children spend the bulk of their time outdoors, for we had naptimes, meals, and TV viewing-intervals during a time-slot that could not have been any longer than three hours) on a cloudless if blustery non-summer afternoon, quite conceivably though not very probably the afternoon of the very day on which I learned from my teacher that tornadoes were supposed to sound like trains (for I was conveyed to the center only at the ends of school days), when a meteorological something suddenly made a pile of dead leaves rise up from the ground and fashion themselves into a shape very much like that of a tornado for a few seconds, then moved on a few meters to an oversized umbrella forming part of something that memory represents to me as a miniature carousel with motorcycles instead of horses but that in the light of the downmarketness of the establishment (La Petite Academie it weren’t or ainted!) was probably just a canopied picnic table, uprooted it, whirled it about a few times, and dragged or tossed it all the way to within jabbing distance of the low-slung chain-link fence constituting the rear border of the yard.  And then, a grand total of about thirty seconds after its arrival, the something was gone.  The meteorological something that attacked me on the late-morning always nominally in point in these pages seemed to behave in exactly the same way, and to be of exactly the same scale and duration as the meteorological something in the quasi-playground thirty-five years earlier, but its media of choice were sand and a certain pair of objects that I do not yet have occasion to mention (no, they were not knickers!) rather than dead leaves and an oversized umbrella.  Naturally, the sand was provided by the abovementioned under-construction (or, perhaps under-destruction [but by no means under-deconstruction]) Old West-ernized stretch of North Charles Street at the northern terminus of which the reader by some unaccountable miracle may recall that I was standing when I caught sight of the stumpy remains, or, rather remain, of the derecho-bisected tulip poplar.  By the time I caught sight of the compact funnel of the stuff barreling up the block towards me, all possibility of obviating myself from its path was out of the question; luckily, though, I had just, if only just, enough presence of mind to stoop over and shut my eyes.  The ensuing onslaught felt very much like a genre of one that I had endured a few times before, during several of Baltimore’s quite uncommon if not quite rare freezing-rain storms (or freezing rainstorms)—viz. very much as if dozens if not hundreds of squadrons or armies consisting of dozens if not hundreds of tiny shards of glass were successively bayoneting one’s flesh—specifically, one’s face-flesh—and instantaneously vanishing, one (i.e., army or squadron, not shard) after the other.  It is—and was—not a particularly pleasant sensation, but it isn’t a particularly alarming or distressing sensation either, although one supposes yet again that it would become both highly alarming and highly distressing if one ever had to put up with it for more than a few minutes at a stretch, as I thankworthily have so far not had to do.  Anyhow, I had been patiently—and, as already implied, more or less painlessly—weathering the storm (or whatever it was) in self-imposed blindness for twenty seconds or so when I heard a sound that stood out quite strikingly from the white noise-like din of the wind-driven sand (or, if you prefer, sand-driving wind).  It was exactly like the sound one makes in emptying a trash- or garbage-can (or dust- or rubbish-bin) into which one has unpardonably neglected to put a trash- or garbage-bag (or bin-liner), such that one is obliged repeatedly to thump the sides of the thing by way of cajoling the stickier bits of trash, garbage, or rubbish (albeit not dust) into unsticking themselves from its interior.  This sound was obviously not an unfamiliar or intrinsically disturbing one, but in the then-present setting it seemed decidedly (and perhaps at least slightly disturbingly) out-of-place.  Why in Sam Hill, I asked myself, would anybody be emptying a garbage can [and only “garbage can,” for whilst in the coolness of deliberation or reflection I can be as pan-Anglospheric as Alistair Cooke, in moments of crisis I turn as ultra-Yankish as George M. Cohan] in the middle of a sandstorm?  Nay, even before the storm, why in Sam Hill would anybody have been emptying a garbage can here, in the exact middle of what even in its present truncated form is still one of the busiest traffic intersections in Baltimore?  For all my acute castration anxiety (you know--the whole Freudian Steptanz about the blinded Oedipus), I couldn’t resist having a wee horizontalized vertical smile-eyed peek in the direction of the conjectural can-thumpage, viz. towards my immediate rear, viz. directly northward.  What I saw made me give a great gulp and ask myself if Hell might not after all not really not not (sic on the double-not) exist.  

Two of the far above-mentioned headless dalek-shaped orangesicle-liveried bollards, each of them still upright, were hovering a good eight feet off the ground and within a few inches of each other—this just for a second or two, at the end of which they were made to lean in towards each other and bring their tops together three or four times in rapid succession (whence the  basso can or bin-emptying noise) rather as if they were head-butting or kissing (or, rather, head stump-butting or performing an act that I pray the sexologists have not yet even dreamt of naming) each other.  Then, whilst still within mutual stump-butting autc. distance, they were spun round an uncountable number of times with dizzying rapidity like a skating couple, and finally unceremoniously dropped, but—and here is the truly great gulp inducing part—they did not hit the ground; rather, just before hitting it, they were lifted up again to precisely the same height and spot as before, where they performed exactly the same sequence of movements, including and concluding with the skaters’ dance, and were dropped once again—but this time, as if the stormette wished to exit on a high note—i.e., by not inuring me to the quasi-miracle by repeating it a second time—they did hit the ground, on to which, as the wind subsided and the glorified squall or gust moved on—presumably farther northward along Charles Street—they settled horizontally and vaguely at foot-joined right angles to each other and, after oscillating slightly a few times as if in spasms of immediately post-coital (or immediately pre-mortal) bliss, became perfectly still.  At this point, what was there for me to do but shoulder my rucksack and continue on my foot-trek?  Horror remained, but all emotion was spent.  “Paul Celan, ‘Todesfuge,’ as translated by Michael Hamburger?”  No, Robert Layton, liner notes to Bernhard Haitink’s 1983 Decca recording of Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony, in the original English.  So, anyway, as a necessary propaedeutic to this shouldering, I unstooped myself, in the course of doing which, I felt what seemed to be a metric microton(ne) of sand cascade from a kind of shelf constituted by the collar of my shirt (a proper, full-fledged turned-down collar of a so [and rightly]-called dress shirt, not the mere fray-forestalling bum-flush collar of a so [and wrongly {because insufficiently disparagingly}]-called T-shirt) down to parts below, most signally the parts beneath and between my knickers—“I thought you said that the unmentionable pair of objects above weren’t knickers.”  And so they weren’t, but rather, and quite obviously, the decapitated dalek-shaped traffic ballards—and the (from a sand grain’s point-of-view) bare skin of my waist.  My first impulse on sensing the sudden sandiness down under was manually to attack the affected parts such as they were then immediately available—in other words, to brush the palms and sides of one hand or perhaps even both hands repeatedly and dismissively against the upper seat of my trousers, exactly as I would have done if the sand had been affixed to the outside of that selfsame upper seat—and doubtless to devastatingly efficacious effect, had the sand indeed been affixed to the outside thereof, but as it was in fact affixed to a combination of the inside thereof and the skin of my upper buttocks, all my brush-down succeeded in achieving was the mass migration of sand grains even further downward and hence into parts both immeasurably more secret and immeasurably more discomfortable.  Amid my shame, chagrin, embarrassment, and of course and above all, discomfort, I could not forbear ruefully animadverting on the irony that in seeking to alleviate my epipygial hyperkeratosis I had undergone a species of physical trauma that was virtually guaranteed to aggravate it significantly.  The most efficacious means of forestalling (or at least minimizing) such aggravation naturally would consist in my doffing my trousers and Unterhosen and giving them both (or all four, depending on your system of enumeration) a few hefty shakes, but although the ’01 is famously (or notoriously) one of the most liberated ZIP-codes on the Eastern Seaboard, its inhabitants are not quite broadminded enough to turn a blind lorgnette on the spectacle of a middle-aged man presumably stark naked between his waist and his ankles (I write presumably, because given that, as mentioned before, I was wearing a dress shirt, the ’01-ers most certainly wouldn’t have been able to see anything not legally exposable [for I am (and was) after all a middle-aged man and not an elderly one {the reader who cannot comprehend the significance of age in this setting should count himself or herself fortunate}]).  And so I would have to do one of two things—head back home or repair to a business establishment with a public restroom.  To head back home I was highly reluctant to do, inasmuch as it would effectively spell the in-throwing of the towel on the trans-ZIP-codial foot-trek and necessitate its postponement until the following Saturday at the earliest, for the odds of my persuading my perhaps clinically agoraphobic self to venture outside a second time in scarcely as many hours were statistically nonexistent at best.  As for a restroom, the nearest one that I was entitled to use was the gents at the Café Unomundo, one block to the north and two blocks to the west, at University Parkway and 39th Street.  (The nearest restroom full stop was the Unomundo’s ladies, sited ever so slightly eastward of the gents).  But as the Unomundo is and was a restaurant, I knew that in order to use their so-called facilities I would have to spend more than a penny in a more than metaphorical sense (perhaps I could have gotten away with dashing in and out without ordering anything in the extreme unlikelihood that I attracted no attention or that nobody who had ever waited on me in any capacity there had been on duty then [as ultimately proved to be the case {i.e., the case proved to be that no such person was on duty}, as the reader will see]; for even the slightest modicum of disapprobation from anybody one already knows and expects to have to deal with again is sedulously to be avoided), and that certainly did not please me, as I had envisaged and budgeted that day’s foot-trek as an entirely expense-free outing.  But then it suddenly occurred to me that despite the by-now post-matutinality of the hour, I had not yet had my morning coffee, that, indeed, I had quite simply forgotten to have my morning coffee, an instance of performative oblivion that I found intrinsically horrifying, for it was not one of the common garden-variety sort, wherein we fail to remember to do something that we were trying not to forget to do, and hence axiomatically had no independent inclination to do, such that in forgetting to do it we are—or, at any rate, may very well be—only giving our will its head (sniggerers please note the idiom-transforming its just before head!) rather than helplessly yielding to the incompetence of our faculty of memory.  A performative oblivion linked to a habit is immeasurably more troubling, at least qua oblivion (for there is no doubt that forgetting to do something one has habitually been inclined to do may be quite salutary qua lapse in a habit, inasmuch as many, although perhaps not most, habits are bad ones that one at least wishes to be trying to break), for it bespeaks a kind of  dementia of the libido, a syncope in the will that may (albeit only may) ultimately be more fatal to one’s sense of subjective integrity than the more lugubriously and vociferously ballyhooed referential oblivions (instances of  the forgetting of, for example, the names and other attributes of persons one has known well and for a long time).  What hope, one is likely to query oneself immediately after a habit-linked performative oblivion, is there of my continuing much longer to abide in this sublunary world, if I cannot even manage to keep time or in radar contact with my pleasures, which collectively comprise the veritable basso continuo or ocean floor of the concerto grosso or submarine expedition that is my sublunary existence?  And thus did I query myself immediately after that February-2014 post-midday habit-linked performative oblivion, and with sufficient pathos momentarily to banish all discomfort occasioned by the gludial and perineal sand and grit, although not to postpone more than momentarily a rush of delight at the realization that I could now both have my cake and eat it--i.e., both spend money at the Unomundo and not go over-budget on my expedition, inasmuch as the money I would be spending would be money that I would have spent on any other Saturday—although of course the possibility of having and eating actual cake was foreclosed to me, not only because the allsamstagliche outlay was earmarked for coffee but also because the Unomundo’s cheapest cake-slice was at least three times as expensive as its large to-go cup of average Joe.  Emboldened by this delight-rush, I shouldered me rucksack and set off like so-called gangbusters for the Unomundo, without, however, quite managing to make a so-called beeline thereunto, for no sooner did I set my ever-so-would-be gangbusteresque left or starting foot on to the bit of sidewalk abutting on to the crosswalk connecting Charles to University, than I felt a pang of negative nostalgia that set me reflexively heading westward in lieu of northward, ie., along the sidewalk running along the south side of University Parkway, a trajectory that I knew would convey me no less directly to the front entrance of the Unomundo, i.e. via. the south side of the intersection of University and Canterbury Road, than the trajectory I had originally been reflexively entertaining, viz. the north side of University via the north side of the intersection of University and Charles.  “And what occasioned this pang of negative nostalgia?”  Why, the realization that in order to press on to the Unomundo via the north side of University, I would have to pass directly in front of—nay, do my darnedest to avoid grazing my right shoulder against the bumptiously sidewalk-invading eponym of—the hotel christened the Colonnade.  “And why, provided your darnedest had proved efficacious, would such close passage have deprived your right shoulder, let alone your nose, of any skin?”  The answering of that question must, I sincerely regret, be postponed to a more propitious moment.  “And I don’t suppose,” you query, in a tone of anticipatory disappointment, “that this time round the unmentionable answer will have anything to do with knickers either?”  Indeed, it most certainly will not.  Indeed, I guarantee with the gusto of a Cajun chef that if knickers are ever again mentioned in this screed (and they may very well not be), it will only be in connection with the above-mentioned sandstorm-afflicted knickers and moreover in connection with their affliction by the above-mentioned sandstorm.  At any rate, suffice it to say for the moment that I expected my spiritual morale to suffer more than negligible damage if I proceeded to the Unomundo along the north side of University.  So anyway, I booked it, as they say, to the south side of the intersection of University and Canterbury Road.  From there (“thence” somehow sounds awkwardly curt at the beginning of a long sentence) my transit to the north side of University was like some kind of science-fiction or fairy-tale instantaneous teleport by comparison with the hellishly slow and hazardous transit of St. Paul Street described or recounted far above, for the pedestrian crossing signals at the intersection of University and Canterbury, unlike those at St. Paul and University and virtually or perhaps even actually all others in Baltimore, actually tend to mean what they indicate, albeit presumably purely fortuitously and perhaps even in defiance of the intentions of their designers: a Don’t Walk signal at University and Canterbury really does tend to mean that you really shouldn’t walk, for the fortuitous but eye-burstingly obvious reason that University Parkway is a broad and busy six-lane thoroughfare seldom bereft of very speedy (by city standards) traffic at any hour of the day or night; and a Walk signal at University and Canterbury really does tend to mean that you are perfectly safe to cross over, for the fortuitous but eye-burstingly obvious reason that Canterbury is a pokey little two-lane by-byway that may go for hours at a stretch—even rush ones—without disgorging a left-turning vehicle on to University and hence athwart the intended path of a would-be University-crosser.  So, anyway, I found myself virtually teleported to the north side of the University-Canterbury intersection, in other words virtually thrown through the front or University-facing entrance of the Unomundo, which entrance is separated from University by only the both horizontally and vertically briefest of step-flights—really just a pair of riserettes scarcely deep enough to accommodate the toes and foot-balls of a so-(and rightly) called little person.  But fortunately I had enough presence of mind not simply to fling open that entrance door without breaking my stride either before or after, the presence of mind to pause and consider if that would really be such a good idea, as they say.  And a momentlet’s meditation sufficed to persuade me that that really would not be such a good idea, given that my so-called number one priority or (s-c) first order of business in entering the Unomundo was to use its gents, and that its gents was situated well to the aft of both the service counter and the bar, such that if I marched in through the front entrance and thence straight to the gents I would be flagrantly advertising an apparent (albeit not actual) intention to exploit the café’s boys’ W.C. gratis, and would thereby give the ambient peasants enough time, whilst I took care of my grattement, to rustle up pitchforks, torches, and nooses and assemble themselves into a sufficiently sizeable lynch-mob.  If, on the other hand, I entered through the side entrance, a couple of dozen feet ahead on Canterbury, I would have a much better chance of evading notice qua supposed free piss-moocher, for in marching through the door of that entrance, one very soon, and without taking a single turn, finds oneself standing alongside the door to the gents, with nothing but one’s blitzartig traversal of the intervening fifteen-odd feet of the passage from the bar to the dining area’s exposing one to the gaze of the staff and puntility in the interim.  And even should somebody take notice of one qua aforementioned pseudo-capacity, why then, provided one’s looish business has not been especially chronophagic, one can expeditiously rectify the misconception by marching straight from the gents to the service counter, slapping one’s trio of Washingtons on to the tessellated stonework (or perhaps ceramic-work), and manly-ly (or at least mannishly) declaring-cum-ordering, “I’d like a large coffee to go, please.”  So without question, a side-entrance entrance was indicated.  And so without a momentlet’s hesitation beyond the abovementioned meditative one, I marched, strode, or minced along the abovementioned pair or trio (though certainly not-quite quartet) of dozen Canterburian feet; and extremely brief though that Spaziergang was, about halfway through it I found myself getting bored enough—if only just bored enough—to go questing for visual distraction, distraction that I naturally, and perhaps even biologically ineluctably, sought out at the forward horizon (doubtless some sodding ophthalmoloproctologist has already won or will soon win a sodding Nobel Prize [along with a sodding Booker Prize for his or her novelisation of his lab notes] for having proved [as if it needed proving rather than mere conjecturing of the sort that I have just performed], that our eyes ineluctably gravitate by default to the forward horizon, a quasi-discovery that doubtless has already been said or will soon be said to promise breathtakingly revolutionary repercussions in such supposedly world-changing and New Jerusalem-in-ushering, and therefore indispensable, and therefore endless fellation-exacting, sciences as paleoproctology and proctobotany).  And there, at the old For-Haitch, my gaze alighted upon a spectacle that certainly would have given any shoulder-brush against the Colonnade’s colonnade a run for its money in point of spiritual demoralization.  A grim, low-slung, but laterally massive stone or brick something, a veritable masonric (sic) Leviathan, was sitting, or, rather, hulking or squatting, plumb in the middle of the next intersection, the intersection of Canterbury and 39th Street, an intersection that I had always—i.e., for nearly twenty years—thought of as the smoothest, flattest, and most level intersection in all of Baltimore, if not the world.  At this moment, all thought of my gludial-cum-perineal sandiness-cum-grittiness was whisked away, as if by a whisk-broom or sand-blower; I simply had to find out what the obstruction was.  With any luck, I thought, it would turn out merely to be a shed load awaiting away-clearing by the unspecifiable but reliably dilatory authorities, but my hope in this luck was not very strong, as the firmly squared off contours of the thing, together with its abovementioned plumb (i.e., rather than merely vague)-centeredness, suggested that it was something of both deliberate and permanent erection.  And indeed, it turned out to have been very much apparently deliberately installed for the very long—perhaps even geologically long—haul.  It consisted of a circular sort of platform or dais about three yards in diameter, rising to a height of perhaps two decimeters, circumscribed by a hoop of concrete, and topped off by a layer of red bricks laid out broadside-upward in the familiar “sitting Indian” configuration.  My first conjecture after interpellating the thing as a platform or dais was that the thing was not a platform or dais at all but rather a seal or cap such as one places atop decommissioned nuclear missile silos or former decommissioned nuclear missile silos new-modeled as receptacles of nuclear waste.  But then I naturally reflected that no nuclear silo had ever been in place here, and that in any case, the so-called green light (which, incidentally, had never shone at the intersection now in point, as it was a stoplight-free one) had most likely never been given for the storage of nuclear waste in an urban ZIP-code, at least not in such an upmarket urban ZIP-code as the ’01.  My conjecture- engine having run out of presumably radioactive decay-engendered steam, I scanned the immediate environs for clues as to the nature or identity of the awful thing, clues that turned out to be neither far to seek nor anything short of clinching.  For my gaze immediately alighted on a sign, a small white sign sited well clear of the sidewalk and hence patently placed to capture the attention of a motorist rather than that of a pedestrian, a sign on which had been inscribed (in black) a circle composed of a trio or quartet of widdershins-oriented curved black arrows placed nose-to-a*(*)*(e).  The upshot of this glyph was self-evidently to instruct motorists to pursue a circular driving-cursus, which could not but mean that the circumscribed stack of bricks immediately to hand was an accursed traffic circle, also known (and accursed) as a rotary or roundabout.  Never in my wildest and most baleful imaginings would I ever have imagined that such a perverse, froward, counterproductive, aggravating car-corraller as a roundabout could ever find a place in such a right-thinking, toward, productive, and pacifying ZIP-code as the ’01.  Until that moment, the moment of my espying of the sign with the circular arrow-glyph on it, the roundabout had formed a member of that ever-diminishing set of things whose absence from these shores made me glad (abeit by no means proud, let alone smug) to be an American.  For from my years of listening to various outlets of BBC radio, I had heard plenty of things about roundabouts in the British Isles, and none of them were the weest bit endearing or encouraging.  Indeed, as near as I could tell, in Britain the roundabout seemed to be a kind of symbol or metonym for or of the hemorrhaging of valuable time by the vampire of gratuitous futility.  “I’m terribly sorry I’m probably not going to be able to make it to your wedding/briss/christening/graduation ceremony,” this or that sitcom or soap opera character spluttered on virtually every day I tuned in, “as I’ve been sitting in perfectly static traffic at the [This or That Insufferably Twee Pub Name] Roundabout for the past three hours, and there’s so sign of movement in the remotest offing.”  And now this hateful metonym or symbol had touched down here in the hypergemütlich ’01, like the inaugural pod of an invading Martian army, destined to worsen every square inch of the local, or regional, or perhaps even national geography.  No sooner did I think this lugubrious thought than it was empirically seconded by the comportment of a vehicle, a well-preserved late-1980s white hatchback compact—perhaps a Plymouth Horizon or Dodge Omni—just then jauntily approaching the intersection along 39th  Street from the east.  The very next instant after it reached the intersection proper it seemed utterly nonplussed and gobsmacked, which is to say (and mind you, I am speaking here of the physiognomy of the car and not of the driver, whose face I never thought to seek out and examine, as the behavior of the car was absorbing enough to me in its own right) on reaching the intersection it started to execute a so-called Hollywood stop that it had doubtless become habituated to from the infrequency of north-south traffic at this crossroads in tandem, naturally, with the ordinary red-and-white stop sign that had doubtless been still rooted there the last time the car passed through the intersection, perhaps only a matter of a few days before (when the roundabout, though virtually finished, might have been occluded by, say, an utterly poker-faced orange nylon-and-fiberglass tarpaulin), but then, apparently on catching sight of the sign with the circular glyph on it (and simultaneously realizing that it had replaced the stop sign), all its jauntiness vanished as it converted the Hollywood stop into an ordinary (Peoria?) stop that lasted much longer than any such stop needed have done at such an intersection at such a moment.  Next, as if still groggy from the above-mentioned smack on the gob, it resumed driving, but tentatively and unsteadily, and rather than describing a graceful arc around the roundabout, it headed straight towards it, reversing just in time to forestall a collision with it; whereupon it reoriented its front wheels ever so slightly and made another attempt, which once again set it on a collision course for or with the circle, from which it reversed just in time to make a second reorientation and a third and collision-doomed attempt; but this time, instead of reversing, the car stopped for a few presumably deliberative seconds and then ploughed ahead over the circle like some utterly gormless but fiercely determined draught animal—most likely (in two senses) an ox, after which it proceeded along 39th street absolutely implacably but also quite slowly and without a trace of jauntiness, as though it had been not so much demoralized as brutalized and degraded, metamorphosed—quite unbeknownst to itself—from a dashing, sporty (albeit economically-priced) proper car into a mere plodding unroadworthy utility vehicle like a tractor or golf cart.  At this moment, all my indurate rancor against automotive traffic yielded pride of place to a boundless and bottomless combination of pity and despair at the realization that at this intersection alone hundreds if not thousands if not tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of vehicles must subsequently undergo this same degrading, deautomobilizing, and doubtlessly suspension and tie rod-devastating (and hence auto mechanic-enriching) ordeal.  “What possibly or even conceivably, I asked myself, “could have caused the Baltimorean street designers (q.v. above) to inflict such an ordeal on the drivers of this city, and to begin their auto-da-fé at this most quiescently good-natured and inoffensive of intersections?—what, if not the insatiable urge for destruction that rages everywhere that one visits now, regardless of the country or continent?”  Whereupon, scarcely giving myself enough time to de- or un-shoulderize me rucksack beforehand, I hunkered down on to the hams of my back-bottom and wept, if not quite like a child, then at any rate like a disturbingly gamine young adult, for a good five minutes, at the end of which I hankered for nothing so ardently as (for) a good bracing encounter with a world-class (and consequently no-class) proprietary name by way of consoling myself for the annihilation of place to which I had just become privy by means of a forthright emblem-cum-emissary of unregenerate placelessness (the principle is very much the same as that of hair-of-the-dog, only with the whole dog rather than just a bit of its hair).  Regrettably, the very nearest bearer of such a name (and only a probable bearer of such a name at that), the lately deautomobilized white compact, was already if not miles then at least a mile-and-a-quarter away, and past catching up with even if it were still moving at tractor-or-golf-cart speed, and the same went a fortiori for all the other cars in the area (it somehow did not occur to me to check any of the cars parked just a few dozen meters away, along the curb of University), such that I was irresistibly impelled by default to cast about for an emplaced proprietary name, a proprietary name attached to this or that piece of stationary real estate (and no, DGR: “stationary real estate” emphatically is not a pleonasm).  Super-regrettably, and indeed lamentably, the only two such emplacements that came to mind were the aforementioned Starbucks outlet and a link in the million-fold chain of restaurants signalized by a pair of aureate echoes of the gateway to the West at St. Louis; and the first lay, as mentioned before, deep in the bowels of ’18 ZIP-code, a ZIP-code officially off-limits today, the second (at ca. 39th Street and Falls Road), shallow(ly) in the esophagus of the 21211 ZIP-code, a ZIP-code whose border I could suffer myself to penetrate only posterior to the end (or posterior) of my trek through the ’01.  Fortunately just in the nick of time—i.e., to forestall my launching into a fresh bout of sobs—I remembered that I had stowed away in my rucksack an object to be used in just such an emergency, and so I unzipped (my rucksack not my trousers) reached in (to the rucksack, not my trousers), gently brushed aside the only other object therein, namely a rolled-up Hubertus coat that I had brought along in case the weather took a turn for the extra-chilly (for now my ten-year-0ld Stalin-collared charcoal wool pea-jacket was affording more than adequate protection), and took hold of and extracted my lifesaver-cum-water extinguisher.  This was nothing more or less than a 20-ounce bottle of Cherry Zero Coke, chilled to an ideal drinking temperature by the seasonably temperatured mid-Atlantic mid-winter air.  I drained the bottle slowly, à très petits coups, as though it were a beakerful of water from the Hippocrene spring, or better yet, a lowball glass of 15-year-old Glenlivet, or better yet still, a snifter of 30-year-old Talisker, as I equally slowly retraced the few-dozen yards leading to the side entrance of the Unomundo.  No sooner did I cross its threshold (and secrete the now-empty bottle in me rucksack) than I became aware of a singular and singularly disturbing lack of purposiveness to my presence in the restaurant.  I mentioned above that the sight of the roundabout had dispelled all discomfort issuing from the sand in my nether regions, and perhaps miraculously that discomfort had not since returned; this left the acquisition of a takeaway coffee as my sole raison d’y être, but the compellingness of this reason had for its own part been largely dissipated by my consumption of the Cherry Zero Coke, which, although containing a good deal less caffeine than a large takeaway Unomundo coffee, had contained more than enough to induce a bona fide case of the jitters if immediately postfixed by the ingestion of such a sized cup of coffee, or possibly even of a smaller-sized one.  Now that I knew that I had Fanny Adams’s excuse for being at the Unomundo, the most rational, sensible, prudent, and above all conscientious course of action would have been to step straight back out through the side-entrance door, turn right on to Canterbury, walk to the end of the block, turn right again, and proceed westward along University—in other words, to continue the ’01-crossing by the most expeditious and least circuitous route ready to foot.  That I ultimately or even short-termedly did not pursue that course of action was (and still is), I believe, ascribable to two failings, foibles or possibly even vices (hereafter FFoPEVs), either of which on its own perhaps would not have dissuaded me from doing the right thing; but as on this occasion they were acting in concert they proved ineluctable.  “So it was just like the counterfactual case of your consuming a coffee on top of the Cherry Zero Coke.”  Just like it indeed, only precipitating in wanton gourmandise and pecuniary expenditure instead of the jitters.  The first of these FFoPEVs strikes me as idiosyncratic, which is merely to say that I have not so far met another person who has owned to being prone to or afflicted by it or any other FFoPEV conspicuously comparable to it.  This is the FFoPEV of being loath, to the point of nausea, of exiting a certain type of retail business establishment (hereafter RBE) without having previously transacted a transaction of the sort to which it is dedicated.  This may seem merely to be a reiteration of my afore-dwelt upon reluctance to use a gents without remitting some cash to its owner, but it is not, because no gents-use or indeed the use of any other service is involved, and because it applies only to a certain type of RBE.  To specify the nature of such an establishment in strictly philosophical terms is no easy matter: both a restaurant and a barbershop emphatically do qualify as such an establishment, whereas a bookstore and a clothing store emphatically do not (in other words, to repersonalize this, whereas I can cheerfully sashay into a bookstore or a clothing store, spend several hours therein, and equally cheerfully sashay back out without having bought a book or an article of clothing in the meantime [unless I have used its gents in the meantime], the instant I enter a restaurant or a barbershop I feel duty-bound to get a meal or a haircut), and one is hard-pressed to discern any hard-and-fast ontological, deontological, teleological, or otherwise metaphysical property shared by barbershops and restaurants but not possessed by either bookstores or clothing stores.  After all, unless we have made an appointment or reservation beforehand, the barbershop or restaurant has no more legitimate entitlement to our ducats than the bookstore or clothing store.  “Perhaps the distinction has got something to do with this whole business of making appointments and reservations.”  How can it, when I am perforce implicitly treating of occasions on which one has not made an appointment or reservation?  “Why, because the barbershop and the restaurant are places of a sort at which one might make or sometimes makes an appointment or reservation, whereas one never thinks of making an appointment or reservation to visit a bookstore or clothing store.”  And why would one think of making an appointment or reservation at a restaurant or barbershop but not at a bookstore or clothing store?  “Well, the most obvious reason would be that access to service is more competitive at a barbershop or restaurant, that the danger of not getting what you want if you just turn up unannounced is greater at a barbershop or restaurant than at a clothing store or bookstore, but every consumer’s experience hath shewn that this is by no means universally or even generally the case—that the jam-packed clothing store or bookstore with perspective-defying queues to the cash register and the vacuum-empty barbershop or restaurant in which the barbers and waiters are left to trim their nails whilst waiting for customers are equally common features of the retail-commercial landscape.”  In short, not only is there no discernable metaphysical distinction between the two types of establishments, but there is also no discernable economic rationale for treating them any differently from each other, at least as far as the consumer is concerned.  “That’s right.”  So what other possible register of explanation is left?  “To my mind only the anthropological and sociological, which are effectively merely two different liveries of the same explanation, the anthropological livery being the more desirable for those who regard the ant farm or manure pile in which we all live as a culture and the sociological for those who regard it as a society.  As I find society the less nauseating of the two glorified fig leaves, my explanation will perforce be sociological.”  Be it anthropological, sociological or proctological, do please tender it forthwith, sir, miss, or madam! “Right: so, I think that the reason you shy away from lingering at restaurants and barbershops but brazenly linger away at bookstores and clothing stores is that in our society a meal out or a haircut is not a high-street (or Main-Street)-browser’s genre of public commercial event; rather it is a public commercial event whose geographical setting is expected to be sorted out before one leaves the house (or whatever other sort of place one’s point of embarkation is).  After all, in our society Joe or Jane Middle-Shelf 750 ml does not post-coitally address his or her so-called partner Jane2 or Joe2 Middle-Shelf 750ml, thus: ‘Do you want to go for a drive along the high street [or along Main Street]?  Maybe we’ll spot a place where we’d like to get a haircut or have dinner.’  Rather, he or she post-coitally addresses his or her partner thus: ‘You look as though you could use a trim [obligatory bawdy banter centering on the various construable senses and capillary quasi-referents of trim omitted].  Shall I take you to Floyd’s [other classic barbershop names may be available]?’ or, ‘What are you in the mood for for dinner?  Shall we go to Borfeo’s for batsteaks or wolf down a pu-pu sack at Lupu’s?’  Such that the casual, undecided dinner or haircut-consumer who just pops in to take a look around the place and pops right back out after having presumably decided that it’s just not right for me today cannot but come off looking like a bit of a wanker.”  Which is presumably what I would have looked like had I popped into and out of the Unomundo on the February-’14 early afternoon nominally in point, even though my motives would have been radically different from those of such a wanker. “Indeed.” I see.  Thanks for clearing that up for me.  From now onwards I am going to do my utmost to quash this FFoPEV, given that in all craven modesty vis-à-vis myself qua rugged, flannel-shirted individualist, I can resolutely aver that what other people think as such carries no weight with me (cf./q.v. my intolerance of schedule-flouting by restaurateurs and their minions).  “You’re welcome-stroke-glad to hear it.  But what was the other FFoPEV, the non-idiosyncratic one?”  Ah, well, this is the FFoPEV that amongst many other so-called factors makes me despair of the survival of (or revel in the prospective annihilation of, depending on my mood) the human race as long as there are any great number (say 50+) of atomic weapons around.  It is the seemingly universal and universally succumbed-to tendency to put every single available resource or instrument to its traditional or appointed use, in pigheaded heedlessness of the question whether that use is itself of any use, rather than suffer the purportedly insufferable pain of seeing that resource or instrument go to waste.  It is/was in abject panty(not k*****r)waist deference to this tendency that the recently diagnosed diabetic, having bought a handsome septet of gold-needled syringes, turns to heroin use on being told by her doctor that she will not need to inject insulin after all, that the rabidly heterosexual he-man elects to have a complete, package-removing sex change upon inheriting a multi million-dollar collection of cocktail dresses from a maiden aunt, and that I ran up a ninety-dollar bill at the Unomundo on the baleful February 2014 afternoon nominally in point upon realizing that I had no need of the caff’s gents or coffee.  The sight of the naked vacancy of all four of the bar-area’s four-chaired tables to my immediate left was enough to snag me ineluctably.  To the best of my recollection, I had never beheld any of these tables unoccupied, and whenever I had elected to dine-stroke-sup at the Unomundo (as I had indeed done on average once a week for several years, until my disposable income dwindled from smallness into infinitesimalness round about the beginning of 2011), I had counted myself lucky if I found a seat at the two-chaired table bum-flush against the front entrance, at which station I would invariably, at least in the winter months, be assailed by a gale-forced sub-zero (centigrade) draft each and every time a punter emerged from or debouched through that entrance, such that I had often been obliged to dine or sup swathed in my Stalin-collared charcoal wool pea-jacket, and not infrequently even in my Hubertus coat.  And now I had my pick of these expansive four-chaired tables; there would not even be a trace of the awkward feeling that automatically ensues when one chooses the last empty multi-seated table, or even the last multi-seated table but one, the feeling that one is usurping the spot rightfully belonging to the next multi-person party that happens to show up, for if such a party did show up during my occupation of one of these tables they would have three other such tables to choose from.  And of course being a good twenty feet inland from the front entrance I would not need to wear my pea-jacket, which I would enjoy the luxury of draping over the back of one of the three chairs not supporting my back-bottom, leaving the third one free to support my rucksack, and the fourth to support my heels in the event that I turned boorish enough to prop my feet up, as I had not done (and indeed still have not done) at a restaurant since 1990, at a twenty-four hour Wags at Fletcher and Dale Mabry Avenues in northern Hillsborough County, Florida, where the waiter sternly adjured me to remove my feet from the opposite banquette of the booth at which I was sitting (and no, I was not drunk, being a teetotaler back then, which of course makes my boorishness all the more scandalous) quite heterodoxically next to my senior prom date—although I have long since forgotten whether the very early morning in question was the one after my (but not her, she then being a junior) senior prom.  So far, though, all this mensal exploitation remained at least technically hopelessly marooned within the force-field of the conditional mood, like the Duke of York’s ambitions to kinghood prior to his son Richard’s tendering of his fallacious but irresistible case against the bindingness of the duke’s oath to King Henry (see III Henry VI [Arden Edition, Second Series], I.ii.10-35), for, as effectively mentioned in different words many times before, in my itinerary I had made no fiscal or temporal provision even for continental-brunching on a featherweight to-go rice-rusk, let alone dining out with full service and its attendant gratuitousnesses (chief among them obviously figuring the gratuity).  But my inner “misshapen Dick” (see ibid. V.v.35) was quite marvelously expeditious in adducing an argument against whose sweetly corrosive blandishments even my inner Humphrey of Gloucester proved not to be proof.  Is not the hour of afternoon beer swiftly approaching? this serpent (or schlong) whingingly whispered to me.  Yes, I doughtily rejoined to it, but for roughly three years running afternoon beer has been a meal taken by me exclusively at home.  Well then, the whinger wheedlingly counter-rejoined, don’t you think you’re well past due for a holiday?    And what would one widdle afternoon beer out on the town amount to financially speaking when weighed against the cumulative financial outlay exacted by all those lonesome mona(ni)stic—nay, hermitic—homebound ones, if not a droplet counterpoised with the ocean (albeit the Atlantic and not the Indian or Pacific, but that’s still a pretty formidable chunk of saline solution).  And you yourself have already noticed the unprecedented  windfall of multiple unoccupied four-chaired tables…By then I had been conquered; by then one would, as the idiom goes, have been welcome to stick a fork in me on account of my apparent ontological inalienability from the author of “A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning,” although one would have been well advised to choose a fork of sturdier make than that of one of the Unomundo forks—but I am getting ever so slightly ahead of myself.  For now, it beho(o)ves me to relate that I chose the table nearest but one to the side entrance (or farthest but one from the front entrance), set my rucksack down on the table’s wall-braced south-pointing chair, draped my pea-jacket over its wall-braced north-pointing chair, lowered my back-bottom into its non-wall-braced north-pointing chair, and then reflexively—i.e., as if in conformity with some primeval instinctual summons like the one that impels a dog to circle X-number of times before settling down to sleep, but in actuality probably merely in conformity with a habit of no greater antiquity than my earliest visits to the Unomundo, which on reflection now (i.e., since mentioning the circling dog) strike me as quite primeval indeed, at least vis-à-vis the modest span of a human life, as I must have then, in February 2014, been coming up on my fifteenth anniversary of the first of those visits (inasmuch as the Unomundo opened in ’99 or ’00, and I, like so many others in the tri-ZIP-code area, all but stampeded the grand-opening ribbon of the joint in my eagerness to forsake the execrably uninviting Karlsdorf Tavern on the odd-numbered 3100 block of St. Paul in favor of a more hospitable local)—at the television set suspended above the northern elbow of the bar.  Comme presque toujours, the set was tuned to CNN or MSNBC (the vegetarian hippie-lefty ethos of the place naturally precluded its being tuned to Fox News), which comme tous toujours was reporting or descanting on some news event the nature of which  could not but escape me utterly (and therefore be utterly beyond recovery now, save at a pinch via a conceivably nearly exhaustive search of the February 2014 shelves of the inline archives of CNN and MSNBC, a search that I am naturally not about to undertake), as the sound was (comme presque toujours) switched off by way of not interfering with the tuneage blaring at typical pub volume from the house stereo, which to my indifference now seemed for a change to be channeling some sort of internationally syndicated radio station rather than the house CD player (or *-*o*), as I surmised when, after the conclusion of the tune that had been playing when I took my seat(s), the execrable “Jane Says” by the equally execrable Jane’s Addiction, a chipper English-accented male voice announced as much, minus the execrables and plus the year of the song’s initial public release, 1988 or 1989.  The voice sounded extremely familiar, and the cause of that familiarity was almost instantly revealed when the voice announced that it or he was one Dave Kendall, a so-called VJ (and by now perhaps merely former VJ) whose voice I had almost certainly not heard even once in the course of the preceding two decades, as my most recent memory of him centered on his imminent descent of an amusement park slide in the company of the super-JA-ially execrable Live during that ensemble’s first efflorescence of fame, in the first half of 1992 at the latest.  I was at once mildly relieved and intensely irritated by this revelation—mildly relieved qua relatively old person at a fellow relatively old person’s apparent ability to hold down a job (albeit not a single position) for the very best part of a quarter of a century, and intensely irritated that this job centered on the serving up of the very same makes and models of electro-percussive turds that DK had served up on MTV’s 120 Minutes at the very beginning of that selfsame virtual quartile.  Of course, my inner arch-Whig, my inner Lord Macaulay if you will—needless to say a very different sort of fellow or gentleman from my inner Richard III—smugly murmured in my mind’s right ear (the reader will recall that I was sitting in the left chair), you would have been no less intensely irritated as a 39-year-old in ca. 1980 by Casey Kasem’s or Wolfman Jack’s spinnage of a Chuck Berry or Eddie Cochran single.  To which I furiously rejoined, Indeed I would have been much less intensely irritated, inasmuch as the phenomenon of so-called oldies radio, for all its intrinsic abominableness, was then only half a generation old, whereas now [i.e., then, i.e., in 2014] it is a full two generations old, and I happen to have been aware of it for nearly two and three-quarters of those generations, and to have had to bear with hearing the sub-musical ephemera of six decades [i.e., the 50s through the (n)oughties] being brazenly puffed as Homerically timeless classics.  One would have thought that by now somebody besides me would have gotten tired of the format, and indeed of the very notion of a classic pop tune, that indeed in the eponymous words (mutatis mutandis) of an ensemble exactly contemporaneous with and in its heyday nearly as popular as Jane’s Addiction and yet somehow (and yet again all too fittingly) never included in 90s oldies playlists such as the one immediately to ear, “Pop would have long since eaten itself.”  I had been inwardly carrying on in this relentlessly philippic vein, by then my default inward vein, for nearly exactly ten minutes (a figure at which I have arrived by adding together the time-lengths of Jane Says”’s three immediately succeeding tracks, viz. the Pixies’ “Debaser,” Dee-Lite’s “Groove Is in the Heart,” and the Farm’s “Groovy Train,” towards the very end of which I resurfaced from my inner polemic), before I finally noticed that nobody had yet stopped by the table to take my drink order, offer me a menu, or indeed do Fannie Adams’s sweet antithesis else; that, indeed, nobody at all had come into view at all since my arrival, such that for all I knew I was the only soul, living or dead, in the entire café-cum-bar.  But by and by, just as the closing strains of “Groovy Train” were yielding to the opening strains of La Tour’s “People Are Still Having Sex,” a startled young woman emerged from the thickening shadows in the background (i.e., from the kitchen), limped up to my table, and asked if she could start me off with something to drink.  I told the young woman, whom I did not recognize and who was unpardonably dressed in the style of the early twenty-oughties (you all know exactly what that style looks like, I trust?), and avoided eye contact (either her gaze remained fixed on the floor or she looked right through me as if I were not there) that I would have an Allagash White with a slice of orange (“And I don’t want one of your usual chicken-poop, namby-pamby pseudo-slices with the look and texture of a steam-rollered gumdrop; I want a generous, sinewy, Texas toast slice-thick segment of an orange.  You got that, Mamsell?” She nodded silently whilst biting her tremulous lower lip), and added—because I did not know how long I would have to wait for her reappearance—that if I would not be troubling her overmuch (I believe my exact words were “If I won’t be puttin’ yinz [sic on the polite plural form, a Pittsburghian genteelism] to too much stinkin’ trouble”) I wished to order my food now (a.k.a., then) as well.  Of course, she had still not presented me with a menu, but that effectively made no difference—or at least with any luck (i.e., if the menu had not changed) would make no difference—as I already knew what I wanted, as I always already knew what I wanted, and it was always already the same thing—namely, the nachos with axiomatically vegetarian chili.  To be sure, it would have been nice to have the option, as they say, of ordering something else, and every time I dine[d] or sup[ped] at the Unomundo (the bracketed-in past-tense forms are there partly as a kind of wood-touching sop to Providence, for every first-person utterance in the customary present smacks at least faintly of hubris, and amounts to a kind of unwarrantable boast that one can “make” many a “hair white or black”; and partly a woodie-touching sop to my own will, as I am by no means certain that after the quasi- or pseudo-events of the early afternoon nominally in point I wish ever again to return to the Unomundo) I like[d] to have a good shufti at the menu just in case the macaroni and cheese or black-bean burrito should turn out to be more than mildly tempting for a change, but I wasn’t about to ask her to fetch a menu just so I could have that shufti, for whilst I may be a knave I at least fitfully aspire [“Or, at any rate, have fitfully aspired,” he hastily corrected himself whilst crossing himself] not to be a very rogue.  And so I merely confirmed with the girl that “you’re still offering the nachos with vegetarian chili,” told her, “Well, I’ll have that then,” and sent her on her limping way back to the kitchen with a curt wave (of the left hand, not of anything else) that I tried to make as eloquently expressive of civility-annihilatingly fierce impatience as possible, for everything that I had at least affected to experience here in the preceding butcher’s half-dozen minutes exacted at least another butcher’s half-dozen wafer (or cud)-munching minutes in the sole company of what a more bumptious typer would style my own thoughts.  That afternoon, I thereupon reflected, I was evidently, though not the sole soul, then at least the sole guest in the bar area, if not the entire café-restaurant, and the strange young woman was evidently the only person working in the café-restaurant at the moment (for if there were any help in the kitchen, why would she be spending the best [in both senses] part of her time back there rather than out here [“Perchance to snog or even coit with that selfsame help?” you ask.  Possibly, but that didn’t occur to me at the time.]).  Why was only one person holding down (why not holding up?) the Unomundan fort now?  And why should this tyroess, this “wee McClarty,” this laughable prospective attender of a turn-of-the-millennium fancy-dress party, of all people, be the fort-downholder?  Where were all or any of my beloved Unomundan stalwarts?  Where was Molly Sugdin, the veteran manager-cum-waitress whose penetrating discernment of my Plutonic lifestyle I had celebrated a mere five years earlier in Every Man His Own George D. Painter?  Where was Rod Champion, the burnished leather-voiced principal bartender—whose curious-cum-admirable ungarrulous affability-cum-unsententious sagaciousness, in combination with his undoffable apron and unshavable mutton-chop sideburns, had provoked my old friend Dixon Bergdorf to remark that he seemed to hail from another century (Indeed, I had bluffly concurred: the twenty-second century)? Where was Suzy Stewart, the wise-cracking, happy-go-lucky young mop-headed lesbian of a serving-maid who always wore head-kerchiefs of exactly the same make and pattern as those my grandmother had favored, and had seemed to be on enviably close terms with the elderly gentleman who had played Gomez on The Addams Family, an Unomundo semi-regular (or perhaps by now merely former semi-regular)?  Above all, where was that really tall, black-haired other barman whose name I could never remember—the one who had been in that band with the reduplicative moniker brazenly evocative of the Mussolini regime? Ubi fuerunt? Sub ubi?  And where were all the punters?  During my most recent previous visit, on a late Saturday evening-cum-early Sunday morning, the place had been an absolute or veritable zoo, bedlam, or overbooked Tasmanian devil-delousing clinic.  Atop the very table at which I was now (i.e., then, in February 2014) sitting, a Tolstoy-bearded, tartan-shirted so-called hipster,4 whipped up into an ineluctable terpsichorean lather by the abovementioned house CD player’s unfurling of some unidentifiable post-millennial combo’s unspeakably macaquine cover of “Stayin’ Alive,” had performed a two-or-three-minute-long Airplane-worthy trepak dance in the course of which not a single one of the minuscule ad hoc dance floor’s butcher’s half-dozen brimful highball and (American) pint glasses had renounced a single drop of its contents.  Atop the table immediately ahead of me (i.e., immediately northward), upon the supervention of a slightly later song in the playlist, the Bangles’ own version of “Walk Like an Egyptian,” a sultrily-complexioned, shoulder-length-curly-coal-black-locked beauty (undoubtedly a graduate student in sociology or anthropology) had hiked up her blouse and wowed the rest of us in three or more ways with a so-called belly dance complete with metal-castanetted hand gestures (apparently she had just carried the castanets in her handbag wherever she went, on the off chance that the belly-dancing jones would seize her).  And finally, atop the bar itself, and to the accompaniment of no tune of memorable identity, some dude of no memorable description had dropped his trousers and undertrousers and dunked his bare scrotum in a snifter of cognac whose owner (a frostily-complexioned earlobe-length-straight-maize-ginger-locked nurse still dressed for the hospital) had then sportingly quaffed it to the dregs as the dunker leant over and licked the bald pate of her seatmate and presumptive paramour.  And now, a scant butcher’s dozen-and-a-half months later, a procession of tumbleweed would not have been amiss in what was now apparently the most utterly forsaken café-bar in the world.  What could account for this transformation, this metamorphosis, this Verwandlung?—what, if not the insatiable urge for destruction that rages everywhere that one visits now, regardless of the country or continent?   At length (i.e., presumably more or less immediately after the wafer or cud-munching session, as I don’t recall any interval of belly-rumbling, finger thrumming impatience), the McClarty returned with my beer, nachos, and chili, or at least the remains thereof, for thanks to her limping gait, a good third of the beer and a goodish eighth of the chili ended up on the floor before she reached my table.  Apart from the spillage, the presentation of the beer was excellent, with the orange slice being more than adequately sinewy and Texas toast slice-esque, and the beer itself more than adequately chilled (perhaps even more to my public discredit than my non-fandom of The Wire, I hold that even the most recherché and subtle-nosed beers taste best just a degree or two above freezing), and the same, mutatis mutandis, could be said of the chili, wherein the rice, barley (?), and beans were exquisitely equipoised as if in some kind of trivalent proteino-carbohydrate force-field, and the cumin and the coriander subsisted in an uneasy truce that was all the more gustatorily gratifying for its uneasiniess.  But as for the nachos—well, suffice it to say, in two or more ways, they told a different story.  In the preparation of any serving of nachos worth its salsa—at least any not making use of that fondue-like cheese sauce known in its proprietary manifestations as Velveeta (and for all the naffness of the topping itself, nachos topped with it are often the very best ones) in complete lieu of shredded cheese—there is I will not say an art (for it is one of my most ardent and abiding desires to see the whole rubbishy notion of cookery as an art firmly discredited), nor will I say a craft (for craft is unhappily an exact homophone of the name of the most prominent American cheese-producing corporation) but rather or at any rate a knack (which I will say, for who apart from perhaps Dave Kendall gives any thought anymore to a certain one-hit wonder of the late 1970s) to the disposition and treatment of the cheese.  One must be generous with it in the aggregate, of course, but one cannot put very much of it on any one place, lest first of all it should not melt thoroughly, second of all it should blanket the chip and thereby make it impossible to get a purchase on with the fingers, or third of all transfix or effectively glue the chip to the surrounding mass of ’choage and thereby make it impossible to alienate in its integrity from that mass.  Ideally, one should be able to eat an entire serving of nachos without once having recourse to knife and fork (which is not to say that it is ever good form to serve ’chos—or indeed any article of so-called finger food less intuitively wieldly than a one-layer ham sandwich on standard sliced Anglo-American bread—without those utensils) and without leaving the merest soupcon of cheese behind on the plate.  Even at their best, the Unomundo nachos fell (and presumably still fall) a great distance short of this ideal, but not so far short of it as to be not worth their modest ticket price (eight or nine dollars without chili, twelve or thirteen with) or worth utterly polishing off, on account both of the high quality of the cheese and other toppings (the chips themselves were merely so-so, being self evidently straight out of the restaurateur’s bulk bag [a truly first-rate nachoreia will make its own chips, but it will also know how to make them; all too many fourth- and fifth-rate ones, instead of recognizing their limitations and prudently sticking to the bulk bag, produce purported tortilla chips that are little better than soggy cornmeal saltines])—black olives, shredded onions, diced red peppers, and some sort of lettuce other than iceberg (only a gringo’s gringo, a so-called Lubbock lubber, will serve nachos with iceberg lettuce), all of which harmonized well with judicious dollops of the chili.  But as for the nachos I was served at the Unomundo on the early (or perhaps by then early-mid) afternoon now nominally in point, why, they were an absolute abomination before G*d.  At first sight of them I was actually in some doubt as to whether they even were nachos at all, for they much more closely resembled a slightly oversized chicken pot pie with an anomalously cambered deep brown crust, and perhaps equally closely, in the light of their ceramic base—i.e., the cobalt blue plate (barely) containing them—a grotesquely oversized butter dish with a lid of seared rawhide.  Of the non-fromaggial toppings—the olives, the onions, the peppers, and the lettuce—there was nary a visual trace, apart from a tiny speck of black that might have been part of an olive, and an equally tiny speck of red that might have been part of a pepper or onion—to say nothing of the chips themselves, which were evidently so deeply submerged and so nearly fully flattened that not a single one of them had managed even ever so slightly to complicate the smooth texture of the crust’s cheesescape with the protrusion of a single one of its spiky montane corners.  It was obvious what had happened to produce this culinary atrocity: the cheese had been piled on top at the very end of the cold phase of preparation, in a single blizzard-thick layer, and then the entire concoction had been baked or broiled at an excessively high temperature at excessive length.  And yet, I reflected, as grim a wreck as this patently was, some minute quantum of gustatory gratification might yet be salvageable from the wreckage; for after all, at bottom (in two [but no more than two] ways), the proof of the nachos, no less than of the pudding, is (and was) in the eating, even if, as in this case, a substantial dossier of evidence may be assembled (and in this case had already been assembled) in the viewing alone.  Tentatively, I tapped the flank of my fork against the fromaggial armo(u)r-plating.  Horrifyingly, it (the plating) returned a kind of matte echo, as though it (the plating) were nothing but a hollow shell, as though whatever had originally been beneath the cheese had simply evaporated (for game in principle though I was [and still am] to entertain a belief in the efficacy of witchcraft merely for the sake of standing shoulder to epistemological shoulder with my beloved Sir Thomas Browne, I dared not even fleetingly entertain the conjecture that there had never been anything beneath the cheese to begin with, that the cold shredded parings had been made miraculously [or, rather anti-miraculously, i.e. by the agency of the D***l] to levitate above an empty plate).  When I immediately thereupon attacked the shell frontally, with all the peremptory vigor of a Vanuatuan spear-fisherman, the prongs [a.k.a., as I had been brought up to call them,  and always had called them until this bloke name of Hulse set me straight on this prong-tip, tines] of the fork bent on it, and the shell remained entirely intact.  By now there was nothing for it but to bring the knife into play, and by dint of sawing away with it for a good minute and a half, I managed to open up a two-inch long vertical incision in the shell, and by dint of grabbing hold of each side of this incision with a thumb and forefinger, I managed to peel back enough of the shell to afford a reasonably extensive view of all that lay beneath it.  Some chips did indeed turn out to be down there, but they were disposed in a single layer that rose no higher than a few millimeters above the surface of the plate, and with the exception of a few of those at the outer perimeter, which had doubtlessly been insulated from the worst of the heat by the flanged design of the plate’s rim, and consequently retained substantial patches of the fool’s golden-brown hue much sought after by nacho connoisseurs, they were uniformly charred a patently inedible shade of dark, dark chocolate brown (a sort of brown very nearly approximating that most beloved of Crayola-crayon shades next to periwinkle and cornflower, namely, raw umber).  The most gustatorily rational thing to do at this point would have been to pull away the crust from the plate entirely, tear it up into a collection of fruit roll-up-esque strips, and mash each of these strips up one at a time in the bowl of chili, thereby concocting a more or less enjoyable if not especially visually prepossessing vegetarian chili spaghetti (minus the spaghetti of course); and to consign the chips en bloc (along with, very probably, the plate, unless the Unomundo had a very thorough dishwasher indeed) to the trashcan (a.k.a. dustbin).  But in my well-nigh-Ahabbian pigheaded idealism, I was hell-bent on at least nominally fashioning the meat-free shambles in front of me into a genuine order of nachos, which perforce would necessitate including at least a nominal portion of the remains of the chips in every fingerful or forkful I deposited in my gob and at least attempted to ingest.  And so, after inserting knife and fork together into the aperture in the shell, I endeavored, much in the manner of a surgeon, working mainly by touch, to graft the abovementioned smattering of fools-golden brown eminently edible chips at the perimeter on to the manifestly inedible ones at the center, and thereby produce a chippial hybrid that would be at least eminently half-edible.  The result, as tested via a single mouthful, was so revolting that I was compelled to drink my remaining half-(American) pint of Allegash in one gulp by way of forestalling the realization of my impulse to spit the whole noxious slurry of saliva and cornmeal soot on to the table.  I tried once, twice, thrice, again, à plus et plus petits coups—aided in point of palate-cleansing now solely by the Unomundan-obligatory glass of ice water that I should have mentioned earlier, but did not even think to mention, stuck still as I am in so many ways in the 1980s, when water was still automatically offered at every American restaurant table as if in lubricious shorthand for the fatal impaling of an Ethiopian newborn—but in vain, for with each and every half-forkful, I was put in decidedly unwelcome mind, thanks to the raw umber bits, of the blackest, most massive cat turd I had ever beheld, and even the fairest of the fool’s-golden brown bits could not avoid disclosing to me a hint of the fart that lurked within them.  The plate was a hideous mess once the whole ignominious operation was over—or, more properly, suspended sine die.  I no longer recall how long I sat in the front dining room with its gaudy bits of for-sale local art before the nervous young McClarty perforce haltingly scurried out from the (still) thickening shadows in the background to clear the table.  She may have appeared the moment I put down my knife and fork, or perhaps a quarter of an hour had passed: all I can remember are the scarlet blotches which appeared from the neckline of her unconscionably retardataire blouse and crept up her throat as she bent for my plate—that and the double Grand Marnier on the rocks I simultaneously ordered by way of consoling myself for the abortiveness of the nachos.  Of course, it would have been much cheaper simply to ask for a fresh order of nachos at no additional charge, but I had not the heart, or rather, hearts for that—i.e., the hearts implicitly to lecture her for fudging up the nachos, and/or to put her to the trouble of preparing them all over again, and/or to explain to her what she must do to avoid making them inedible that next time.  And of course as it was still very much the afternoon, I should have simply ordered another Allegash, but in my consternation I insisted on having something solidly post-prandial, something that would allow me to go through the motions of having eaten a full lunch or early dinner.  After this one Grand Marnier, I told myself, you will switch back to beer and stick with it.  But as is the way with these things—these things being expensive drinks—upon finishing that first Grand Marnier I found that I could not do without a second one, and after that second one a third, and so on as the afternoon gradually slipped away into early evening.  At some point during this slippage the McClarty must have switched the television from CNN or MSNBC to some non-news channel, for I distinctly remember taking in (after my own drunken-daydreamerly fashion) an entire episode of a situation comedy whose last episode had been filmed, or, rather, at least prevailingly, videotaped, well before the dawn of the present millennium.  The opening-title sequence began, as almost all antemillennial opening-title sequences did, with an aerial shot of the show’s setting, in this case a large North American city whose central business district abutted directly on a body of water that obviously was not a river because its opposite bank could not be seen, a city whose skyline was dominated by an unusually tall, black, terraced building crowned in Satan-esquely sinister [or incongruously Texan {for the city was obviously too big to be one of the Lone Star State’s few non-inland cities (e.g., Corpus Christi)}] fashion by two pointed white radio antennas that must have been a good fifteen storeys tall in their own right.  

This shot was succeeded by (or formed the inaugural component of) a montage sequence evidently intended to showcase the town’s most celebrated institutions and folkways—a concourse of tens or perhaps even hundreds of thousands of pigs (actual quadrupedal pigs, not policemen) in a garishly lit room the size (and shape) of an aircraft hangar; some sort of food preparation that as initially presented, i.e., from above, appeared simply to be a square or slightly rectangular sheet of white cheese divided into mutually equal-sized squares; but then the camera’s point of view cut to a lateral shot wherein a hand holding a sort of trowel cut off one of the squares and placed it on a plate, revealing the cheese to be dripping with some kind of red sauce and infrastructed by a thick layer of bread.  Then there was a cut to some patently ancient (though not black-and-white) videotape footage of some sort of protest or riot, wherein a row or phalanx of policemen (actual bipedal policemen, not pigs) was or were bringing their truncheons down on to the shoulders of a passel of beardy young men in jeans and T-shirts; at a given point the footage was freeze-framed and the camera zoomed in on a single upraised truncheon, which promptly morphed, in the embarrassingly crude antemillennial fashion of which one finds scads of risible instances in, for example, the video for Michael Jackson’s 1991 hit “Black or White,” into a truncheon of a slightly different shape, tapering inwards from its slightly bulbous tip to its presumptive handle (not visible because presumably slightly [and only slightly] outside of the frame); this truncheon suddenly snapped into motion, sending a small white ball into the manifestly outdoor air, as the truncheon’s wielder, a young gentleman dressed in what looked just like a Mack Sennett prison uniform, but with much narrower black vertical stripes, tossed it (the truncheon) onto the ground and began running across a kind of field, while the ball descended into a kind of very small buff cushion held aloft by another young gentleman in a uniform that was just like the other one, only solid gray rather than pinstriped.  Then there was a cut to a frontal exterior view of a three-storey freestanding brown clapboard house with bunked bay windows and a peaked roof, and thence to a series of non-static but slow-motion head-and-shoulders close-ups of people, all evidently members of the cast, and all apparently African North-Americans: first a pudgy-faced, moustachio’d, middle-aged gentleman, then a thin-faced, straight-permed middle-aged lady, then a trio or quartet of beaming children or teenagers, and finally a smugly smirking younker with grotesquely oversized spectacles, an electrically color-schemed tartan shirt, and suspenders (in the American sense).

At the sight of this young scamp, my heart sank far deeper than the grandest, the most stalwart, of mariners, the dabbest of hands with the old trawl and the old block and tackle, would ever be capable of raising it.  For it (the sight, not my heart) could not but put me in mind of the earliest moment of my awareness of the existence of this younker as a character on this show, a moment, nearly a full quarter-century in antiquity, when I was compelled, some would even have said forced, to take cognizance simultaneously of his dramaturgical function as a trailblazing petit-bourgeois African-American stereotype (i.e., the nerd, geek, or dweeb, formerly allegedly seen exclusively in prevailingly non-black contexts) and of the exact homophony of his name with that of a minor character in Dostoyevsky’s [The] Possessed (which we in the Anglosphere are now enjoined with inquisitorial peremptoriness to refer to as Devils [“What—not even as The Devils?”  I afraid nyet, comrade, for definite article like linking verb tool of Anglophone linguistic oppression—underratedly pernicious successor of bourgeois capitalist oppression qua Russophone bugbear]), namely, Erkel.  It was, I now reflected, perhaps by this moment more than by any other that I had been precipitated into the profoundly (or perhaps merely tediously) pessimistic Gnosticism that has been my religion of default since my late adolescence; for although at the time (i.e., back in ca. 1990) I had consciously registered the Urkel/Erkel homophonic convergence merely with a faint tremor of po-faced disgust, in point of fact, regardless of the hermeneutic-cum-ontological light in which one interpreted this homophonic convergence, it pointed to a devastatingly bleak cosmological-cum-theodicical state of affairs.  Suppose, on the most extreme situation of the simpler hand, that the convergence had been purely coincidental in provenance—suppose, in other words, that the sitcom Urkel’s deviser—here naturally conceived as some mullet-headed over-the-hill borderline illiterate lout of a Hollywood producer in a(n) Hawaiian T-shirt and Joey Buttafuoco trousers or not-un-Urkel-like Ray-Bans and burgundy velour track suit—had never read The Possessed and indeed had never met anybody who had read The Possessed or anybody who had met anybody who had read The Possessed, and so on to the umpteenth degree of remove, such that the name Urkel could not but have derived from some non-Dostoyevskian source, perhaps indeed the original source (Urquell) of the famous pilsner, with which the devisor perhaps had become acquainted during one of those cultural embassies that were so popular throughout the latter half of the so-called Cold War, when no opportunity of allowing the allegedly politically progressive well-to-do Yank’s hankering to prove to himself that the poor downtrodden mobility on the other side of the so-called Iron Curtain were “just like us” (minus the name-brand blue jeans and the obligatory condo in Malibu, of course) was ever suffered to go unexploited: why then, this was effectively the strongest, most water-tight and cast-iron, imaginable proof of the ingenuity and power of the almighty evil Demiurge; for how could the application of a single set of phonemes to the nomination of such vastly metaphysically mutually discrepant entities be explained but via the agency of a virtually omnipotent and malevolent intelligence; for the emergence of Erkel/Urkel as simultaneous Dostoyevsky walk-on character and very late twentieth-century bottom-shelf sitcom flagship character-cum-niche stereotype, was (according to the lights of this extremely situated hand) very nearly as statistically improbable an event as the composition of Hamlet by the unthinking and untutored typewriterly efforts of a single monkey (as against the proverbial simian milliard).  Suppose, on the extreme situation of the other, more complicated hand, that the deviser of the Urkel character had been the Anglosphere’s most dedicated, knowledgeable, and perceptive student of Dostoyevsky, a man or woman-cum-poor sod who despite his or her well-nigh unsurpassed devotion to and understanding of a writer-cum-thinker of such world-historical importance as Dostoyevsky, had been forced to cobble together a hardscrabble existence as a freelance up-polisher (here I employed and employ the jargon of the biz known as Show) of third-tier sitcom scripts, and managed to contrive but the most pathetically negligible of sops to his or her Dostoyevsky-mania, viz. the slipping of a low-key Dostoyevsky reference into every ninth or tenth script he or she revised—why, then, the sovereignty of the almighty evil Demiurge was no less nearly incontrovertibly proved, for what sort of Providence but one directed by a would-be annihilator of Geist would have consigned an exemplary bearer of Geist to labor in the most Ungeist-purveying stratum of the culture industry?  And as if this meta-Gnostic revelation weren’t spiritually devastating enough, I was reminded by the sight of the sitcom Erkel of a certain airplane trip—the second northbound one in my lifetime as of its time and the fourth airplane trip of any kind in that entire lifetime as of now (i.e., April 2016)—from Sarasota to Baltimore—via Atlanta, in late-February 1994, a trip during whose second leg, i.e., the Atlanta-to-Baltimore leg, a diminutive African-American male child in oversized spectacles had1 (i.e., in February 1994, relative to February 2014) been sitting immediately behind me.  The child had seemed neither to be quite well nor quite comfortable, and I had distinctly remembered a pair of snot-trails descending from his nose.  The spectacles, in combination with his blackness, youth, and maleness, had caused me instantly to dub him Urkel (merely silently of course) and almost as instantly guiltily to attempt the futile act of retracting or annulling the christening on realizing that in point of fact he really looked nothing like Jalil Falafel, or whatever the actor who played Urkel was called, and was in any case at most half that scamp’s age.  But when subsequently, shortly after takeoff, all three or four of the stewardesses, one of whom herself had been African-American, had begun calling him Urkel as they billed and cooed over him in maternal solicitude for his manifest unwellness, all my guilt had evaporated, and I had felt at fully complacent leisure to devote my attention to the number of the Atlanta Journal- Constitution that I had purchased at a shop at Hartsfield Airport during my half-hour layover.  But the paper had afforded no relief from the prevailingly lugubrious tenor of my Fahrtsgeist, for the first item I had alighted upon therein had been a column or editorial piece by Lewis Grizzard, the AJC’s resident humorist, whose painfully unfunny screeds I had2 (i.e., in the years, months, days, and hours leading up to my February 1994 plane journey) long been resentfully subjected to thanks to his syndication in my home metropole’s leading daily, the St. Petersburg Times, and whose equally painfully unfunny book titles—e.g., Elvis Is Dead and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself—had2 leered out at me from the shop-front shelves of Waldenbooks and B. Dalton Booksellers for the best (and hence worst) part of a decade.  Anyway, the particular LG piece not only now1 (i.e., in April 2016) but also then1 (i.e., in February 2014) and then2  (i.e., in February 1994) in point had not even attempted to be amusing but made a beeline for hankie-exacting mawkishness from the very beginning; for two hundred or so words Mr. Grizzard (had) castigated himself for having in his younger years poured scorn on settled-down married men with children, then bewailed the fact that he was then2 divorced and childless, and finally wistfully perorated that the settled-down married and childful modus vivendi now2 (i.e., in February 1994 still) struck him as the most enviable one that could be practised or possessed by any man, if not any human being, if not any conscious entity.  What a load of old cobblers, wheelwrights, and joiners! I had ejaculated to myself upon reaching the end of the piece, and thenceforth I had not taken a single further look at the paper [“What?  Not even to do the crossword?”  No, not even to do the crossword, although back then2 I was still capable of taking pleasure in crossword-puzzle like alleged diversions, for example computer Mahjong solitaire, and therefore might have done the crossword in the AJC if I had been in a better mood; whereas now1 or for that matter then1, the difference between being left on my own with any sort of solitary alleged diversion and being left on my own tout court is nil; I genuinely would much rather twiddle my thumbs (to say nothing of the various proverbial naughty and revolting alternatives thereunto) than play a solo game or try to solve a puzzle], consumed by then2 as I had2 been with my infuriated outrage, or outraged fury, at the confounded sitting-duck-shooting fatuity of the Grizzard piece.  I had1 not been able, for the so-called or proverbial life of me, to fathom, first, why as a youngman Grizzard had taken such pleasure in taking the mickey out of patresfamiliarum, nor why as a self-styled (albeit also in re) middleagedman he affected to be racked by such soul-consuming regret at not having become a paterfamilias by then2.  Surely, as Philip Larkin had said, quoting somebody or other (allegedly Samuel Butler [the younger, presumably], I see now1, although all the websearch-hits for the sentence point only to Larkin), Life is an affair of being spoilt in one way or another.  Surely the real reason Grizzard affects to be racked by such soul-consuming regret at not having become a paterfamilias by now2 is not that he is a middleagedman but that he is a dyingman [for LG had2 never made any secret of the precarious state of his health owing to a quite serious congenital heart condition], and his middleagedmanness is serving merely as a front or beard for his dyingmanness.  Qua would-be singlenondyingman, the singledyingman affects to suppose that the singlemiddleagedman is racked with regret at having taken the road less traveled yet ultimately less rewarding.  But the truth can only be that the healthyman of whatever age, and whatever his marital or parental status, sometimes sees the married and childed-state in a favorable light, and sometimes in an unfavorable one.  He may affect to vilify or ridicule it as hell or a farcical henhouse, or extol it as heaven or the noblest of stations, but in point of fact, he is always entertaining the contrary state to his actual own as an entertainable modus vivendi.  The healthyman, I reflected then1, is always in the position of one of the two dudes in the New Yorker cartoon [I write this as one who as of now1 can still smugly style himself a non-New Yorker reader, having not only never had a subscription to the magazine but also never looked into an issue of it outside of doctors’ waiting rooms or the living rooms of exceptionally boring or n****dly party hosts; but the cartoons do rather tend to cling to one’s brain like this or that proverbially unappetizing thing to this or that proverbially essential appendage] who says to the other, “Why settle down?  You’re only 56.”  The dyingman, in contrast, is only ever genuinely preoccupied with the imminent dissolution of his organism; the perdurance of his official co-coitionist or progeny after his death affords him no consolation, and he, like Shakespeare’s Cardinal Beaufort or indeed Messrs. both Hall and Oates mutatis mutandis, would “pay the Devil” for ten minutes’ prolongation of his own life.  Of course, I then1 reflected, Lewis Grizzard had snuffed it within a month of publishing the obnoxious AJC piece then1 and now1 nominally in point.  But (I then1 reflected) among American newspaper humorists of the 1990s he had hardly been alone in his it-snuffage.  Erma Bombeck, Ann Landers, Art Buchwald, and Mark Royko had all died long ago, and most not long after Grizzard.  During my childhood and adolescent years in the 1970s and 80s, all of them had seemed both to have been around for ever and to bid fair to survive eternity.  And all of them, to the man and woman, had had, like Grizzard a singularly graceless rapport with the guy in green tights, the so-called Grim Reaper, had left the world of the living in a way, manner, and attitude that had cast a pall of retrospective shabbiness on their writerly achievements, such as they were.  Bombeck in particular seemed to offer the Schluss to the Geist of the entire Gestalt of dead and late-ish American newspaper humorists (i.e., Der (or Den) Amerikanischezeitungstotenhumoristengestaltsgeistschluß).  In particular vis-à-vis this Schluss I remembered the front cover of her last collection When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It's Time to Go Home, in which she (or her photographer) had gone out of her way to highlight the ravages her by-then terminal illness had wrought on her by then emaciated countenance—had made her face into a scraggly blue cheese-patterned parchment of bruises and shadows.  The point evidently had been to bring home to EB’s readers that she was fundamentally or at least partly a very serious person with a mind directed towards futurity and centered on her imminent corporeal dissolution despite all those zillions of earlier column-inches about pep-talking little Suzy on her first attack of acne, or finding a bathing suit one could wear publicly without embarrassment, or finding a used condom underneath Junior’s pillow for the first time, or Lord alone would have known what other manner of petit-bourgeois perimenopausal materfamiliasial persiflage, but the title of the book was at manifest cross-purposes with the gravitas of its ostensible subject-matter, much as the title of Grizzard’s Elvis had been at cross-purposes with its ostensible subject-matter, or at any rate, a subject-matter that Grizzard had been unable to forbear dwelling on, namely the ineluctable relative imminence of his own death from cardiac failure.  Mind you, I reflected, my own inclination to pathos presumably being ratcheted up second by second by the presumably ever-increasing alcohol content of my bloodstream, it was not as though either Bombeck or Grizzard had ever had an easy life, had ever enjoyed a moment’s peace—to the contrary both had “set sail on the ocean of life” perilously deficient in point of health, a possession of which Walter Shandy says, apostrophizing it in the second-person singular, “He that has thee, has little more to wish for;—and he that is so wretched as to want thee,—wants every thing with thee.”  And yet as writers they had deferred confronting the precariousness, the ever-imminent moribundity, of their physiological state as long as possible, instead perpetually fulminating on the minute vexations of mid-to-late-twentieth-century American petit-bourgeois existence, as though a bulwark of heaped-up kitchen sink garbage dispose-alls, golf-club bags, and laundry hampers could withstand the inexorable assaults of the aforementioned guy in green tights’s titanium scythe.  And ultimately the putrefactive futility of their fetishization of petit-bourgeois life had irredeemably tainted my own conception of that modus vivendi, that Dasein, such that now1 I could not hear any of my contemporaries autofellationarily (or more often autocunnilingularly, or even more often reciprocally analingularly) animadverting, as they never ceased to do, on the supposedly unprecedentedly ineffably arduous travails of parenthood or home-ownership without getting the nauseating feeling that I was in the presence of an unaccountably chatty corpse that had had the accursed temerity not to keep its noxious and noisome exhalations to itself.  Whether these contemporaries were like me conversant with the malodorous landfill of mid-to-late twentieth century journalistic literature on American petit-bourgeois life and were consequently either merely shamming their own awe at the supposed novelty of their own Dasein, or, even more horrifyingly, paying homage to Bombeck, Grizzard, and co. by aping their platitudinous elegies to-masquerading-as-jeremiads on this Dasein; or they were utterly oblivious of that landfill and genuinely believed themselves to be breaking new experiential ground in being deprived of more than a minuscule fraction of a good night’s sleep by the importunate milk-hungry wailing of a newborn, or in sacrificing more than a minuscule fraction of their employer-allocated leave hours to the equally importunate creditworthiness-hungry carping of a mortgage banker—was quite beside the point.  It was quite beside the point in the first place because for all their mutual incommensurability, all these conceivable discursive standpoints were equally reprehensible.  The conjectural ignoramuses’ (or, rather, oblivians’) standpoint was blameworthy purely on account of its ignorance-riddenness, as all manifestations of ignorance of the tradition or pseudo-tradition from which one is emerging are blameworthy; the shammers’ for its cowardice, its supine discursive line-toeing; and the homage-payers’ for its excruciatingly unsubtle aesthetic habitus, a habitus trumpable in this register only by the fandom of a dyed-in-the-taxidermy-job Jimmy Buffet aficionado, a so-called parrot head.  And secondly, and more materially, it was quite beside the point because perforce or willy-nilly, in the admittedly increasingly unlikely event that I myself ever became a parent, husband, or so-called homeowner, I would perforce and willy-nilly be obliged to adopt one of these standpoints myself—perhaps at the end of a fifteen-minute-long intracopular conference scheduled for the purpose of making sure my spouse and I were on the same page, as they then1 still said (but now1 probably only used to say), on this choice, and wedged between two other intracopular conferences devoted to, say, the selection of a paint color for the walls of the lunarium (“It’s like a solarium, only for nighttime,” the real estate agent would have raved) from 1,500 shades of off-opal, and the up-beefing of Junior’s (or Suzy’s) nine personal statements for his (or her) preschool applications, respectively.  The possibility of my acceding to and occupying the paterfamil(ias)ial seat unselfconsciously, as a matter of course, as in the stately days of the old republic; the possibility of being on such almost tweedily frank and easygoing terms with my wife and children as the likes of Hank James and Clare Day, Sr. had been with theirs, the possibility of not regarding every market-dictated and hence perforce contingent and ephemeral minutia of domestic administration as a necessary, ineluctable, primevally ancient and inexpungeable station in the ever-unvarying multi-milliard-legged Calvary-bound procession of husbandhood, homeownerhood, and fatherhood—the possibility, above all, of merely unceremoniously catapulting the five-year-old Junior or Suzy into the front office of the local public elementary school, be it the top-ranked institution of lower education in the Western Hemisphere or the Milton Academy of future Angola-lifers, and letting its principal and his or her successors do with him or her what they would for the following dozen years—was perforce foreclosed to me, merely in virtue of my having come of age during the epoch of Bombeck, Grizzard, &co.—or, rather, at the very close of that epoch, for, as it then occurred to me for the first time during that afternoon’s reveries, the airplane-trip then in point had occurred towards the end of the ante-antepenultimate month of my undergraduate educational cursus, and hence a mere two or three months before my graduation, which had accordingly taken place well to the aft of Grizzard’s death; and in the present epoch (or perhaps, inasmuch as I was and am after all dealing with a stretch of time getting on for spanning two generations, era) what more definitive end to one’s of-age-coming could there be than one’s graduation from college, particularly when, as in my case, that graduation had immediately segued into enrolment in a  pre-professional, or at least quasi-pre-professional, course of post-graduate training?  What was more (I continued reflecting) the plane-trip in question had carried me for the very first time into the immediate neighborhood of the university that I shall not name, the host or exponent of the quasi-pre-professional course of post-graduate training in question, my acceptance into which a mere two months before my graduation from college (i.e., certainly within days if not minutes of Lewis Grizzard’s death) had to that day (and has to this) marked the pinnacle of my respectability in the eyes of the world, from which lofty station it had been a series of fairly precipitous consecutive drops first into the lower heights of quasi-respectability, thence into the lowlands of non-respectability, and thence, finally (though still only six years after my airdrop on to the pinnacle) into the bog or mire of sub-respectability, into which I had been sinking ever deeper for the preceding fourteen years (and in which I have by now1 been totally submerged for the best part of eighteen months, such that I very most likely will not be seen, let alone acknowledged, by the world ever again).  It occurred to me further that my first and only stay at the Inn at the Colonnade directly across Canterbury Road from the Unomundo, and indeed my first and so far only so-called business stay at any hotel on my own—yet another rite de paysage (sic) that I had foolishly regarded as the first of thousands of events of its genre (In my beginning is my end, that Inn at the Colonnade stay would have dolefully said to me, if it could have talked)—had taken place during the self-same plane-trip, which had included a per diem (another simultaneous first and last) that had allowed me to dine at the hotel’s restaurant, the Polo Grill, then undoubtedly the poshest, the most exclusive, the most upmarket restaurant in the Tri-ZIP-Code area (the hyperlocal standing of the hotel’s present restaurant, the fourth or fifth one since the Polo Grill’s demise in about 1998, is unknown to me).  It had been a lonely experience, tucking into my half-chicken à la quelque chose emmerdante and mashed potatoes in the Polo Grill’s barroom, but also a highly romantic one, for that in-tucking had afforded me my first and so far (i.e., as of then and now1) only hassle-free participation in the lifestyle (no, not modus vivendi) of the upper 51%.  To see all those solidly middle-class, and occasionally even upper middle-class, middle-to-upper-aged people boozing and schmoozing in their Saturday-evening best—the men all in suits and ties, the women all in bespoke frocks and shirtwaists—had been equal parts edifying, gratifying and heartening.  Mutatis mutandis it had been exactly as though I were Terry Jones in the Swamp Castle episode of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, standing alongside his father (Michael Palin) as he proudly and confidently declaims, with a grandiose sweep of his index finger across the vast tracts of land visible from the window at which the pair are stationed, Someday, lad, all this will be yours.  I remembered particularly relishing a moment of vicarious solidarity with my future self as augured by a lean Ralph Bellamy-voiced (though by no means Ralph Bellamy-faced) quinquagenerian gentleman upon his receiving the news from one of the wait staff (who had3 doubtless just been paged by the maître d, who had in turn doubtless just been paged by the main reception desk, who had doubtless directed the news to the restaurant rather than the gentleman’s room on the preprandially delivered instructions of the gentleman himself) that a certain rendezvous partner (presumably a business associate), though running late, was already on his way.  “Where’s he flying from?” the gentleman had politely though a tad stroppily queried.  The server (had1) cringingly said to him, “Pittsburgh.” “Pittsburgh?” the gentleman (had) spat back in borderline-shirty incredulity, as though Pittsburgh had been fifteen hours rather than an hour and fifteen minutes away by air.  Yes, I had thought, someday, mutatis mutandis, that is going to be me—hanging out at the bars of swanky restaurants as a matter of course, being routinely paged by the wait staff, being pissed off as hell at having to wait a piddling hour and fifteen minutes for the arrival of a business associate, and possibly—supposing he was not only an associate but also a subordinate—telling him on his arrival that I didn’t want to hear any chickenshit excuses about how fog in Philadelphia had necessitated the rerouting of the first plane to Pittsburgh, and a connecting flight to BWI hadn’t become available until three hours after their touchdown in Pittsburgh; “Nosirfuckingreebob,’ I possibly can look forward to remonstrating, ‘if you got a 9:50 meeting to get to, you better damnfucking make sure you find a way to get to it by 9:37 at the absolute latest; you grow a pair of wings and a fucking beak if that’s what it takes, you hear that, laggardyass?”  That will indeed be, as they say, the life—and it will be mine, all mine.   And now (i.e., in February 2014), twenty years later perhaps to the very day, I was sitting on my lonesome in the barroom of, not an upmarket hotel restaurant, but a mere midmarket condominium-building café, without the faintest soupcon of an excuse for being here rather than anywhere else, or indeed for being anywhere at all.  To be sure, I was drinking very probably twice if not thrice as heartily and upmarketly as that quinquagenarian gent of February 1994 (and perforce infinitely more heartily than my February 1994 self, who, like his 1990 predecessor, had been very much a teetotaller), but entirely on my own dime, and at a rate that would assuredly bankrupt me if kept up for longer than a handful of consecutive weekends.  All the same, I reflected, as long as being alive counted as doing better than being dead, I was doing better than a lot of my fellow class of ’94-ers—Lewis Grizzard for one, obviously, and pseudo-Erkel from the Atlanta-to-Baltimore plane-flight (of whom I was once again put in mind by the concluding titles of Family Matters, an altogether unworthy complement of the opening titles—orange electro-stenciled ascriptions of credit to cameramen and executive assistant production unit managers and suchlike people foregrounded against the usual premillennial series of seemingly randomly selected and arrayed video-stills from older episodes) for another.  “You don’t mean to say that…”  Indeed I do.  “But surely the tyke’s illness was—excuse me, had2 been—just a cold or an eminently un-life threatening case of flu.”  Why surely?  People die at all stages of life, in all sorts of settings, and of all sorts of ailments.  Mind you, I can’t be sure that young pseudo-Erkel perished in the skies over (say) the upper-middle Tidewater, but the circumstantial evidence of such an expiration is quite robust; for within a half-minute of my debouchment into the arrivals concourse of BWI, I (had) found myself being overtaken by a wheeled stretcher, a so called gurney, fronted and backed, respectively, by an ominously unworried (albeit hurried) pair of men in so-called scrubs, and laden with a figure in a completely opaque so-called body bag which barely filled out half the stretcher’s length–and which, even more tellingly, was surmounted or, rather, stridden, at its fore or head end by a pair of grotesquely large-lensed spectacles.  And when we reached the passage from the concourse to the main terminal, a passage marked by a drop of five or so feet, the gurney-bearers, instead of traversing the drop by the gentle declivity of the wheelchair ramp, opted to shove their wheeled cargo unceremoniously down the three or four steps for (so-called) able-bodied people, a manoeuvre that sent the head-end of the body-bag grotesquely jerking upwards and downwards (and yet somehow, quasi-miraculously, failed to dislodge the spectacles from their perch or saddle).  It had indeed been a spectacle of horror, the sight of that presumptive pseudo-Erkel-corpse being manhandled so brusquely by that pair of orderlies.  But what (I continued reflecting) in point of horror, qua memento mori, was the memory of the dead pseudo-Erkel to the still-living image of the real Erkel, grinning sententiously over the final frame of the credit sequence, above (inter alia) no other copyright year than MCMXCIV?  For what did the horribly dated look of that freeze-frame, and of its domination by a personage as irredeemably always- obsolete, as dramaturgically stillborn, as Erkel, signify but that 1994, the year that should have marked my Rastignac-like entry into the great-wide-world, a year that I had always since regarded as the quintessence of the hyper-modern, ultra-forward-looking, and edge-of-the-cutting-edge, was now a year populated solely by the dead qua congenital failures-cum-spiritual cul de sacs, among whom I could not but count both my former and my present selves?  This was a truly vertiginous reflection, but not half as vertiginous as the one that rounded out that late-February afternoon’s final moments of (now) recoverable consciousness, namely that if we were now indeed in the last week of February 2014, we were at most a fortnight’s distance from the tenth anniversary of Clara[Who she?]’s father’s splenectomy, and that I really had to remember to pick up some flowers for the old gentleman.

  1. I employ the disjunctive pronoun not because I do not know whether Dr. Ķeðzeþ is a man or a woman but because I do not care to let the reader know which one he or she is.

  1. Perhaps not quite needless to say, I do not harbor a grudge against the physically disabled, and the tirade which follows is directed at accommodations for them solely qua facilitators of mandatory motorized automotivity and not qua accommodations of the disabled eo ipso.  Certainly I have no beef or quarrel with non-motorized-automotivity-facilitating accommodations of them (e.g., ramps at the entrances of buildings).

  1. I term the disappearance “apparent” because it did not amount to curtains for the Surnominal-Core-of-the-Name-of-the-University-That-I-Shall-Not-Name Store (for such, mutatis mutandis, was the name of the hardware store in point), at least not immediately: within about six months of the closure of the store at the foot of the odd-numbered 3100 block, another store bearing the same name and solely staffed by the same short, bald, middle-aged gentleman or churl (a dead ringer for Renfield in Murnau’s Nosferatu)---evidently the proprietor of the business--who had single-handedly manned the old store, opened in a basement space at the head of the even-numbered 3100 block—i.e., a spot exactly catty-corner(ed) to the old premises.  It remained in business for two years at the very longest, after which the space it had occupied entered what seemed an almost geologically protracted phase of commercial dormancy and desuetude.  The space now houses a non-chain café that I think of as a slightly less than brand-spanking new addition to the neighborhood, which probably means that it has been there for about ten years.  Interestingly enough (at least according to my doubtless multifariously blinkered lights), the hardware store’s apparent proprietor has outlasted his business’s tenure in the ’18 by nearly two decades, for I have caught sight of him in the ZIP-code scores if not hundreds of times since the up-shutting of the basement hardware store, including at least twice in the past six months; and from his infallible well-groomedness and composed (and decidedly un-Renfeldian) demeanor on each of these occasions, I have inferred—perhaps erroneously but surely not unreasonably—that the store was something closer to a hobby than a livelihood for him, and when I am feeling especially fanciful, I like to fancy that he is the brother of that granddaughter (or perhaps great-granddaughter) of Theodore Roosevelt who famously whiled away her late middle age (and for all I know is whiling away her middle old age) as a graduate student in the Classics department of the university that I shall not name, and that the grinding of keys and tallying of wall-hooks must have consoled him for his genetic-cum-political epigonehood in much the same way as the sonorous periods of Tully and the irregular measures of Pindar presumably consoled her for hers.
  1. I.e., a hipster in the ludicrously restrictive post-ca. 2010 sense of the term according to which a beard is a prerequisite for entry into hipsterism (at least among males; I am unaware of what the female equivalent may be, although I’m all but sure there is one–perhaps a certain cut of bangs, a.k.a. fringe), now understood, for the first time in its half-century-old currency, as a proper subculture with a specific canon of consumables; in my day hipster was simply a one-size-fits-all designation for anybody enthusiastic about some recherché corner of post-ca. 1940 Americana—be it song poems, jump music, or automats—in the same wildly obsessive manner as a geek (or, more commonly in the first decade or so, nerd or dork) was obsessive about computer games, comic books, science fiction, autc.  Perhaps the fact that we have not been living in the twentieth century at all for some time now accounts in some measure for the semantic shift.