Wednesday, June 17, 2015


The old man next to me at the bus stop fell asleep with the hint of a smile on his face. There had been reports that morning of yet another Barbelith sighting. I was waiting for the #12 because I had an appointment at the local community mental health clinic. Not for myself, mind you. It was simply to serve as a character witness for an old friend who had been acting a little bit strange as of late. His formal education had been suspended for a couple of years while he tried his luck as a voice actor in commercials and video games. Captain Crunch, Captain Energy, Toucan Sam, Chuck E. Cheese, Spacedog, etc. Our little berths at the rooming house were supposed to be temporary. Now, 15 years on, we were revising certain key parts of the game plan. The old man sleeping next to me appeared to know something we didn't. I gently shook him awake and asked him if he would be willing to mentor me. He said he'd need some time to think it over. I didn't exactly look like the most promising fellow on Earth, he explained. I agreed, saying that was precisely why I needed some mentoring. Barbelith's role is like that of a placenta in that it connects the hologram of our subjective reality to the realm beyond space-time, the domain of the Magic Mirror & Disco, and helps confused folks like myself and this actor friend I was going to testify for to realize our true natures beyond the highly conditioned concept of "self", he continued, before muttering something about tuition hikes at the Invisible College and drifting off back to sleep, chuckling now and then in the midst of his dream.

I then also leaned back and tried to doze for awhile. The #12 was obviously taking its sweet little time. Before I closed my eyes I saw Barbelith hovering momentarily over some trees. It had rings now, like Saturn. Not surprising. The next atomic swerve in effect. I remembered reading somewhere that data from the Cassini space probe indicated that the rings of Saturn possess their own unique atmosphere, independent of the home planet itself. The atmosphere is composed of molecular oxygen gas produced when ultraviolet light from the Sun interacts with ice and dust in the rings. The resultant O2 and H2  are so sparse and spread out that even if the entire multiverse was somehow condensed onto its surface, the resulting net mass would only be about 25 micrograms!!! Magic Mirror & Disco, indeed. Suddenly I snapped my fingers several times and burst out laughing. I was not asleep or dreaming! I was awake and alert! And didn't the old man indicate he might mentor me? And then, to top it all off, for reasons well beyond my meager powers to grasp, I had just invented a word! A brand new word, never before conceived of in any known human language! Sitting there, at the bus stop, with all of this time on my hands, it's no wonder that I wouldn't finally accomplish something of unquestionable cultural value. The word was 'kuboa.' It was of my own coinage entirely! Kuboa... yes... kuboa... destined to become one of the truly great and indispensable words... a grammatical heavyweight... of this much at least I was certain! I sat with wide open eyes, amazed at my discovery and almost weeping for joy. Barbelith, baby, this is all because of you, I quietly whispered up to the sky.

With the wildest leaps in my thinking, I tried to ascertain the meaning of my new word. Kuboa. Kuboa. This was by far the biggest responsibility of my life heretofore. I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths. Spirit of Language, Archangels of Meaning, Holy Possessors of Semantic and Mystic Conjunctions, do not forsake me in my hour of need, I beseech thee. Kuboa. Kuboa. It didn't have to mean 'lattice' or 'carnival'. No, that was the wrong track entirely. Furthermore, it didn't have to mean 'antiseptic mouthwash'. Not a chance! I clenched my fists angrily and shouted "It shall not mean antiseptic mouthwash or anything remotely related to oral hygiene in general!" All things considered, it was not even necessary that it should mean 'padlock', 'marsh', 'comfort', 'gutter', or 'factory.' Only a total lunatic would proceed down that road! For a second I thought about linking it to the good ol' #12 in some way, but then I remembered my upcoming appointment and decided against it. Best to keep certain things close to the vest. I kept sitting there, chuckling. I'm surprised I didn't wake up my mentor. This was turning out to be one of the most important days of my life. Finally I rose to my feet, clasped my head with both hands, and bellowed "ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! NO!!!  That is simply IMPOSSIBLE, letting it mean 'pier' or 'credit' or 'frying pan'. If it could mean something like that I would have made up my mind long ago, and just rode the #12 out to the very end of the line, and then back again, over and over, allowing the Evolution of Language to stagnate at the very moment when a quantum leap such as 'kuboa' was necessary!"

The old man next to me at the bus stop woke up suddenly and coughed violently into his sleeve. He then removed a flask from his coat pocket and looked over at me for several minutes in silence, before murmuring "You want a drink of this, son? I think you're ready for a drink of this. No? Are you sure? Suit yourself. Ok, then, today, lesson one: you become, for better or worse, Jim, a kind of living vocabulary. A word in commerce with other words. Yes. A network. A waterway. A creative helmsperson at your own vessel's tiller. A machine in the ghost, to quote a phrase. Ah. Have just a little taste, Jim. This flask is silver, you realize. Treat it with the care it deserves. Feel its shape. Go on, Jim. You were the one who asked me to mentor you. It's an object. A vessel. Like you, a living, breathing vocabulary. It's a two-pint flask full of amber liquid. Actually more like half full, it seems. So it goes. You wanted to learn about quinoa as well? I can help you. No problem. I may not be like your old rooming-house friend Captain Energy, but don't you worry, Jimbo- I still know a thing or two about cereals. So- quinoa is a species of the goosefoot genus, chenopodium, a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, as it is not a member of the full-on grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beetroots, spinach and tumbleweeds. Get out of here with your kuboa, Jim. Bring it all back home with the quinoa. In their natural state, the seeds have a bitter-tasting coat, but most of the grain sold commercially has been processed to remove this coat. Ok? Are you listening? I am. Good. You know anything about snowshoes? Not really. Well then listen up, Jim, because this is the crux of the matter: You wear snowshoes for a reason. Correct? Sure. Tell me. Uh... ok... you wear snowshoes because... uh... when the snow is really deep, the webbing within the snowshoe's... uh... circumference... distributes the wearer's weight over a wider geographical area? That's correct, Jim. And a bus’s circular steering wheel is not only much larger but is set at an angle of incidence more horizontal than any taxi, private car or police cruiser’s wheel I have seen heretofore and the driver turns the wheel with a broad all-body motion which is resemblant of someone’s arm sweeping all the material off a table or surface in a sudden fit of emotion. Uh, ok. And if the appointment is AM then the driver sometimes keeps a newspaper folded in a hutch by the automatic coin or token box which he tries to peruse while idling at stoplights although it is not as if he will get much of his daily reading done in this way. Do you follow me? Yes. I have evolved the theory that the driver peruses his newspaper and reluctantly refolds it and replaces it in the hutch on green to signal the dislike he feels about his job and a court-appointed psychologist might diagnose the newspaper as a 'cry for help', as it were. Kuboa? Yes. Kuboa. Maybe the connection with the #12 was not so far-off after all, Jimmers!"