Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I explained to the directors that I had never been much of a scholar, and that what they were asking me to do in regards to the new edition of the museum brochure was probably way beyond my meager capabilities in that department. Sure, I probably could have come up with a couple paragraphs of rank mediocrity, but the museum and its patrons deserved better than that.  Don't you think?  I took my sack lunch out of doors and wandered around the periphery, ruminating, unfocused, but eventually came to rest in an old picnic shelter and slowly munched my cottage cheese, cookies, and apple, gazing all the while out into the adjoining wilderness area, pretty sure that my backwoods fantasy would remain precisely that: a mere fantasy.  I still suspect that the board had civil society's better interests at heart, even if that stuff pertaining to the practice of bottling ditch water and selling it at 20 dollars a pop in the museum cafe was so efficiently swept under the rug.  The whole enchilada at one time is too much to be borne with any measure of dignity.  That gives the pen time to note and the palate time to reorient. I don’t see it but I hear it there lurking behind me.  The silence.  Sometimes people refer to it as a gift from above.  The proverbial voice from the whirlwind slithering out into the public domain.  So much for the much-touted art and devotion to craft.  I did all that the board of directors desired.  Initially I desired it too. For them. For the patrons.  For the bio-region itself!  Whenever they desired something so did I.  Automatically.  They only had to say what that thing was and I was pretty much off to the races.  When they didn’t desire anything, oh well.  In this way I didn’t live without desires.  No way.  If they had desired something for me personally I would have desired it too.  That seems obvious.  Happiness for example, or an elaborate tree house, say, built on the pattern of the immortal Swiss Family Robinson.  I only had the desires that they manifested and imparted to me.  Over the course of my internship they must have manifested close to 100. All their desires and needs, which at the time seemed virtually endless.  When they told me to bottle ditch water and affix labels implying far-off artesian sources, I hastened to do so. For some reason I drew enormous satisfaction from this.  For a brief period there we must have had the selfsame satisfactions. The same needs, the same dreams, and the same satisfactions.  And yet, one day they up and told me to leave the museum. It’s the verb they employed.  The institution must have been heading in a new and exciting direction. I don’t know if by that they meant me to leave for good or only to step outside onto the front steps for a moment. I never asked myself that question. I never asked myself any questions but theirs!  Whatever it was they meant I made off without looking back. Gone from reach of their voices I was gone from the museum.  Period.  Perhaps it was that which the board of directors truly desired. There are questions you see coming but don’t ask yourself with sufficient sincerity.  The institution itself must have already veered off in another direction entirely. I on the contrary was remaining true to the original course. I wanted to be more like Johnny Appleseed.  That's how I got the job in the first place! 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'm not sure what else to call it, except maybe some kind of atypical wilderness.  I don't know if there are others.  The answer is probably 'yes.'  Reports from the field have been inconsistent at best.  On the one hand, sure, there was talking, and then, on the other hand, no prob, there was listening.  These activities were sometimes even carried out simultaneously.  Some people are better at multi-tasking then others.  I'm not sure how else to identify the core of the issue, except maybe by venturing out into what has sometimes been termed the 'primordial wilderness.'  I don't know if this line of thinking makes sense to others on the neighborhood outreach committee.  If I had to guess, the answer would probably be a slow, barely articulate 'yes' delivered along with a weary shrug and a stony gaze out into the distance. Incoming reports from the field have been making no linear sense whatsoever.  At times there is wild laughter, like you might expect from a Dostoyevskian maniac, and at different times, there is prolonged, perfect silence, like you might expect from a slightly more reserved type of Dostoyevskian maniac.  To say that these bio-fantasias might dwell simultaneously in the breast of the self-same internet user is to imply that multi-tasking is not only the probable wave of the future, but that the entire space-time matrix has been secretly coded onto what has been advertised recently as the New DNA Interface.  I'm not sure what else to call it, except maybe some kind of sea-green lagoon of endless meditation techniques and after-commentaries by eminent rishis on Youtube Turbo 7.  I'm not sure if anyone else on the committee has buckled under the weight of that ancient tradition.  If forced to guess, I would most likely settle once again on that old fall-back, 'yes', probably just writing the word out on a scrap piece of paper this time and saving all parties involved the effort of contending with spoken language mechanics.


Monday, September 9, 2013

I was informed of important things via telephone.  There was a story underway about one of the urgent questions swirling around the front office and/or what if the academy is no longer considered successful or relevant by the websites that mediate our concerns in these matters?  I sat at home in my arm chair, brooding, up in the attic, by the window, listening to my cousin Jay prepare food down below in the main living area.

If it was a matter of talking vs. listening there would be no hesitation or conflict.  We would venture out into the public and interview random people about their opinions concerning the museum's ongoing importance to culture.  Did they know about Johnny Appleseed?  Did they care about Johnny Appleseed?  Did they have any interest whatsoever in learning about Johnny's legacy and what it means for us in the year 2013?  The answer to all these questions was usually a half-hearted "yes", so we continued on with our labor and research.  

I don't really mind living alone up in the attic.  Jay is often gone from the apartment for days at a time and he doesn't mind if I lurk about the common areas in his absence.  His own bedroom remains a no-go zone, however, and I honor that faithfully, despite my long-standing inclinations towards eavesdropping.  I wish I could go back to social media and tell people all about my latest ideas!  The backyard, the front yard, the mailbox, the staircase, the bookshelf.  These are all important realities that will not just reveal themselves!  It is my job, as a greeter, to make people feel at home and at ease.  If they want more information there is an information desk expressly designed for that purpose, staffed by a highly-trained person who knows virtually everything there is to know about Johnny Appleseed's legacy.  If they want to silently browse for awhile on their own that is also perfectly fine, taking the exhibits in, one by one, at a pace of their choosing, reflecting on the many contributions that Johnny Appleseed made to this region.     

an upcoming article

The title of my upcoming article for the neighborhood newsletter had to be kept a secret up until the very last minute, and the editor, Reggie, was none too happy about that!  I don't feel like saying right now if Reggie is a man or a woman so for now I'm just gonna go with hir as a possessive pronoun.

I worked for awhile at the New Johnny Appleseed Museum in Pittsburgh.  It was a strange and difficult period.  Presently I am living in my cousin's attic in a minor suburb of that fair city.  Thankfully, my anonymity is still almost completely intact.  I no longer engage with any social media and I concede that this is probably a major mistake.  I don't know what people's name's are.  I don't know what their occupations or areas of interests are, either.  I know nothing and no one, essentially.  A desert island existence.  Confused and humbled beyond all proper measure.  If there are other people out there like me, and I'm sure that there are, I will most likely never become aware of their innermost secrets, and that's something I'm just gonna have to get used to.

I was told by people on Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter that I was making serious errors, and that I probably needed to go off by myself for awhile and reflect at length on what those errors consisted of.  I was a greeter at the museum.  I sat in a desk chair just inside the front door and greeted people, in full costume, dressed as a middle-aged Johnny Appleseed.  When there was no one to greet I was allowed by my boss to read books, because apparently Johnny himself went in for that kind of thing.  The only stipulation was that they had to be well-worn 700+ page monsters, published before Johnny's lifetime, so as not to break character.  Books that Johnny might have actually read himself, if he'd wanted.

It was a bizarre job, indeed.  I'm not ashamed to admit it.  People must have thought I had some sort of psychological problem.  I guess that's not totally far from the truth!  I learned about some of these things from Robert Burton's encyclopedic The Anatomy of Melancholy.  If you know what I'm referring to here, send me some sort of message.  Drop a letter off at the museum and tell them it's for William.  They will understand what you are saying and happily comply with your wishes.  Believe it or not, I was fairly well-liked by my co-workers.  


Thursday, September 5, 2013

(from an article by Marge Debussy, great-great granddaughter of the famous composer)

"...confession: our white-water rafting guide Ustava is a person who once assumed the guise of a young Johnny Appleseed, which she apparently decided to do after learning about the tricks of Rosalind and Celia in Arcadia National Park back in the 80's.  Her real name was allegedly along the lines of Joan Claribel Chapman. Nobody is entirely sure where she came from.

She and her beloved snow leopard Turtledove wandered well beyond the orchard's periphery with no sense of a clear starting point or fixed destination.  The seasons whirled around them.  The cycles were relatively familiar.  The cool of autumn began to erode the stagnant pool of summer, and in return was reduced to splinters by the black and brown bears of winter, who had spent weeks and months gathering insulation and lantern oil, and carefully studying texts like The Existential Burrow Patiently Carved Out By Franz Kafka's Long Distance Cycling Coach.  (Note: If her name was not Paula Bunyan or Rogera Waters it would have been something else, naturally.  Things and people need names.  Identification Science is a Helpful Science that should never be underestimated.)

We only begin to share these strange things at this particular juncture, untoward as they may or may not seem in this context, not because it is Apple Season, and not because the mariner Francis wants to melt into any other legendary, ancient disguise.  I accept the task I have now, which is to sort out the recycling.  This game preserve is as good an environment as any I've stumbled across in my cyberspace journeys.  That other person, simple Ustava, was happy indeed living the life of young John Appleseed for a summer. She thinks you might be also, if you ever decide to give it the old college try.  You probably think she's being ironic or whimsical but no, she takes basic education very seriously.  Ignoring the tabula rasa will only get you so far in this era.  

(Note: say for instance your inclination is to wander around alone for hours in primordial wilderness.  Say it, and Huckleberry Finn's avatar will most likely visit you in your dreams.  We hold to rigorous standards.  We are steadfast and reliable.  The declarative sentence sometimes appears out of nowhere, or the vapor, and is sometimes followed, inexplicably, by the interrogative sentence, or fragment, which is explained by many instructional videos easily searched for and enjoyed on a channel like Youtube.)

Yes, I interviewed Ustava, and she admitted to wishing that her intuition was stronger.  And yes, she hopes that certain parts of her character study will become more developed.  Is it simply a matter of quietly invoking the wisdom of a person like Buddha?  Time is still on her side, she thinks, despite what Syd Barret's agent said earlier about the Raft of Utter Abandonment.  He admitted later to being very melancholy when he imagined that forlorn device of the English, and besides, it doesn't even make linear or logical sense!  The fact that it got printed up in cheap newsprint brochures with all his other random musical improvisations is something art historians are shaking their heads about to this day..."