Accounting


© Eric Claridge

I’ve got a budget budget budget 5 minutes 2 dollars for lunch (one cup of green chile stew to go please – no tipping better that way). I’ve got quarters for cardigans, a few bucks set aside for psychotropics, hallucinogenics, or front row tickets to Noam Chomsky. Whatever I think I can handle.

Drop the magic pill of distraction and head out for the evening. Watch the budget fade away, this column of dollars and sense giving way to a lush tropical forest, cocoa beans hanging from deep green chocolate leaves and I can say honestly without regret that I would give $100 for that painting, me in a Gauguin, but without the syphilis or self-doubt, just swinging through tangerine groves on vines wearing George of the Jungle cruelty-free all cotton leopard-print jammies.

I’m forgetting about budget, about allocation and conservation of resources; the budget’s gone to parakeets, happy budgies with hungry little mouths flitting from room to room in my palatial cabana of love. I eat bananas, maraschino cherries, drink dark black rum – the island boys are dancing in the firelight on the beach.

There hasn’t been a war on this beach in so long they have no word for it, no innate inalienable inimitable glorification of one above all others, no imperialists pressing their thumbs on the jugulars of the proletariat, with spitting angry mouths and bulging foreheads screaming bloodlust and oppression. No word for it, just miles of white sand, blue water, salt and sweet flowers, ginger, proteus, bird of paradise.

I’m forgetting why I’m here, something about Noam Chomsky and budgets, Quicken sucking me into a sand trap incrementally, one dollar at a time. I see Noam’s face floating out there just ahead of me – grizzled, grey. He looks like an accountant, not a radical. Then I look at the accountant sitting across from me and he looks more radical than Noam, and I feel betrayed by this nobody-looks-like-what-they-are-ness. The waitress looks like a programmer, the kindergarten teacher looks like a talk show host, the barber looks like a southern intellectual.

All of a sudden I’m on my feet saying Noam, it’s not innate, none of it – not language, not radical politics or the power elite, it’s not innate at all. It’s all learned, it’s all reflection, refraction, direction, elucidation — what you see depends on who’s been holding the light, from what angle, and how steadily.

Noam’s standing at the podium, blinking and staring. I can’t help thinking he looks old and startled, an old bear waked unexpectedly mid-winter, a miner come up from the underworld, and I am so sad at this wizened intellectual slave driven by pursuit, a hirsute gnome, a grizzled dwarf, no freedom in digging for that same slippery vein, gold dust and justice, your whole life through.

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6 Responses to “Accounting”


  1. 1 Lollyloo January 18, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    Maybe the barber really IS a southern intellectual, mmmm?

    Poor Noam, though, really. All that striving. I’m sure he would rather be in an imaginary version of Tahiti, as well.

  2. 2 Teresa January 18, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    I know, it’s not really fair to pick on Noam. He just happened to be in town. And set off the painful remembrance of grad school linguistics. I’m sure he’s got his wild side. It’s just not in the textbooks.

  3. 3 truce January 23, 2007 at 4:38 am

    Reminds me of that scene in ‘When Harry met Sally” when Harry is explaining how nobody called Norman (for which read also Noam)could ever have a wild side: he was doing an impression and going “Oooh, yes, do it to me Norman!” and it just sounded so ridiculous! Maybe that’s Noam’s problem, too.

  4. 4 ellie January 25, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    yes, but maybe Noam has a nickname. Maybe his nickname is “Hotcakes.”
    I am going to be a librarian, and I have several nicknames. And I like rock and roll music, and dirty jokes.
    But seriously, how could I visit that Gaugin-painting-like beach? Without even a word for war… Where I could lie around on the beach, listen to rock music and tell dirty jokes?

    ellie

  5. 5 Anonymous January 26, 2007 at 7:56 am

    We are thinking about going to Cancun next year (Kate’s plan) — care to join us? Cold beer, hot beach?

  6. 6 Teresa January 26, 2007 at 8:06 am

    Well, what do you know, anonymous was a woman. Me, in this case.


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