Thursday, September 30, 2010

real boy

Your eyes paint the picture they see. They cook and feast at once.

-- Don Cupitt,
Life, Life

Seventy-six Fahrenheit, and the weighted air does not move. I can’t breathe. I stand quite still and sweat, as they say, like a pig, though I think pigs must sweat with more elegance than I. Sus domestica is an intelligent and dignified animal, and might resent the comparison.

Some of my people say that I’m a man of God, that I carry the Spirit with me. But the spirit grunts and moans in this slow-cooked flesh, longing for a cold shower and a change of clothes.

These bottom-of-a-fishbowl days, trials of endurance that cannot be blamed on a thermometer, are among the city’s climatic pranks, its special contributions to meteorology. We carry on our affairs in a tidal estuary – nothing is ever washed out to sea; everything churns and sours. What goes around comes around. Karma. Until the autumn breezes come to save us, we live in our own effluence.

My colleague thinks I have a fashion sense. She flatters my “muted greys and browns” with an esthetic interpretation.

I never thought of myself as relevant to fashion. I place myself in the category of things strange-looking but presentable with some effort. Who was it said, please God, make me normal? Perhaps I am learning, at long last, to look normal. That’s what I hope for as I choose the day’s clothes, or as I buy those modest vestments from catalogues and discount stores. My younger presentations were often misguided, peculiar. Passing for ordinary, if that’s what I’m doing, would be progress. Has Pinocchio finally become a real boy?

I’ve learned that I must respect the physicalities. In a day’s campaign I might walk a few miles, climb twenty or so flights of steps, adjust to the climatic terrors of a half dozen subway cars, and stand on as many steamy platforms waiting for those cars to open. I’m a walrus and, if I begin the day in a suit and tie, then by noon I’ll look like what the cat dragged in. And smell that way.

So I’m a bit informal. I’m big on linens and breathable fabrics, stuff that won’t be ruined by a little moisture. As the Fall comes on, some may think I’m dressed too cold but, like Dave Letterman in his frigid studio, I’d rather not be dripping on the script.

In recent years I’ve discovered an intuition for colors. So on a given day, among the prosaic alternatives of trousers (pleated or tropical), turtlenecks, polos, blazers, tropical shirts (monochrome or fine-print), I choose an ensemble. I learn from the day’s predicted high temperature which wardrobe I should deploy – winter, summer or transitional. And then the work of decision begins, among the exchangeable alternatives of a template.

There are two ways to organize by color. The first is by gradation, and the second is by contrast. When I wear my lime green tropical shirt, should I show above the top button my tee-shirt of paler green (or hunter)? Or should I show the goldenrod, or light brown? Under my black shirt, a tee of black, or grey, or cardinal red? I ponder on these matters. It isn’t just any old shirt, any old tee, and any old pair of pants. There has to be a plan, a concept, if you will.

When my colleague thought I had achieved a semblance of fashion, I thought I might have finally passed for prep. Which I never quite achieved when I was a prep.

These colors matter. I’ve known people – they seem always to be vegetarians – who wear nothing but brown. Vegetables are more colorful than the people who eat them. I’ve also known people who wear nothing but black. Some others are addicted to pink. Enough said.

Colors matter. But they do not exist. They are among the qualities that Descartes called “secondary.” Monet has proven how such things change in the light. Though L. L. Bean assures me that this shirt hanging in my closet is of cardinal red, Nature did not sign it so. It’s just a fabric, treated so that light of certain frequencies does not reflect from it. I find it quite exciting, but my kitty, brilliant as he is, doesn’t know the difference.

And rainbows don’t exist. Our crippled eyes filter out all else, and what’s left of the sun’s refracted radiation appears to us in an arc of all possible colors – by which we mean the colors it is possible for us to see. In God’s eye there a million more colors, and she casts them in vain – unless there shall be wiser, more perceptive creatures than ourselves to follow us, and receive the blessing that has been so long on offer.

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