The Long and the Short of It

I see an old photo of myself and I think I can return there. A previous year, another existence, is merely another place I have visited, lived in, breathed the air of. The 1990s are only as far away as a bus ticket whose price is a bit out of my reach; I think I can visit 1979 as easily as visit Phoenix if I would just save up for a couple months. I am going to see Vermont again, I am going to visit Iowa again; I have not seen the Pacific Ocean yet, but I know I will. Next year, maybe.
I know what the 1980s sounded like, what food tasted like then/there, just as I know what Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or Poughkeepsie, New York, sounds like. The ability to visit one (Poughkeepsie) but not the other (1983) offends me.—The Gad About Town, “So It Goes …

Now is all we have and Kurt Vonnegut knew this, knew it better than most. Reliving the firebombing of Dresden in February 1945 was necessary for him and he engaged that memory, both in print and in his psyche many times; coming to understand that February 1945 and November 1918 and March 2016 all co-exist in an Eternal Now is spiritual, somewhat. But my finding myself frustrated at the expense of a bus ticket to 1983 is Hell in its exquisite pointlessness, its empty longing.

In one of his last interviews, recorded in October 2005, Vonnegut told public television’s David Brancaccio the point of it all. What life is too short for and what it is too long for.

He said that his wife asked him why he would go to the store for “an” envelope. Apparently he used to make his errands last all day: buy one envelope at his favorite stationary store, bring it home, put the letter he needed to mail in it, drive it to the post office, and then treat the next letter with similar time-wasting and experience-saturated care. Vonnegut:

Oh, she says well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope.
I meet a lot of people. And see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know. The moral of the story is, is we’re here on Earth to fart around.
And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we’re not supposed to dance at all anymore.

Futons arrived here today. I lugged them in alone, because I do not move enough, do not over-exert myself enough, do not twist my back enough, do not dance enough. These will be a part of our house here, when Jen moves in. Our first furnishings. Now to get them upstairs …


The WordPress Daily Prompt for March 3 asks us to reflect on the word, “Longing.”

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  1. Leigh W. Smith · March 3, 2016

    “Dancing animals.” Ye gods, to write like that! But I have to agree with Vonnegut. I’m not a great ‘homebody’ (as my writing no doubt evidences!) and my errands out usually end up being 4-5 hours, where they should have been maybe 2. Life through the window and in the mind is not always as exciting (or harrowing or annoying or…) as the “real” experience. On another note, whew, you need to call up some musician-type friends with dollies (usually reserved for their amps and assorted gear, like miles of cable), Mark. In any case, good luck with the moving stuff; don’t injure yourself! (sorry for the ‘motherly’ comment there; force of habit.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. loisajay · March 3, 2016

    I love all that accompanies the ‘going out for an envelope’: ooh, new place opened up for me to check out; that looks like a great photo op; look at that cat in the window–I have to pull over and snap his picture.’ Not so much now as I get through this cancer but soon! What is life without the adventures? It’s just living and LIFE is to short for that.
    I liked this Mark. Ah, your first new furniture–let the fun begin.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lifelessons · March 3, 2016

    I love that quote, “We are here on earth to fart around!” Ha. It occurs to me that my favorite kind of day is one with no set appointments where I can fart around and run into people and do things spontaneously…I think that is my favorite new quotation. Thanks, Mark.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Anton Wills-Eve · March 4, 2016

      You know, Judy, I love to think that was what the Good Samaritan was doing when he spotted the poor chap across the road! 🙂 Anton

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Relax... · March 3, 2016

    Well done — and how exciting! You crazy kids 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Anton Wills-Eve · March 4, 2016

    I can only use four fingers at the moment so can’t do long blogs – voice recognition software is cheating – but I can comment. One point from that great series of thoughts, Mark. We can only wish for what we can have now. I’ll never have my adorable wife and lovely baby daughter again until I reach Heaven. That’s real longing, still craving the untouchable tenderness of 46 years ago, when the two people who were my whole life were killed in front of me and are forever out of my earthly reach. But I can hope to play Liszt again some day when my stroke corrects itself completely! 🙂 Ciao. Anton

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mark Aldrich · March 5, 2016

      Thank you for writing this to me, Anton.

      You have at least one skinny, shuffling guy in upstate New York rooting for you playing Liszt again.

      Much appreciation for your wisdom and for continuing to share it with me.


  6. Pingback: NaPoWriMo – Day 15 – “A Second Shot at Redemption” – A Poetic Duet by TooFullToWrite & A Shade Of Pen | toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

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