trembling blue stars - "abba on the jukebox" (from the her handwriting lp, import available for purchase here.)
(here's another track once intended for a mix.)
in the moviegoer, walker percy's protagonist, binx bolling, engages in experiments he calls "repetitions," which he describes as "the re-enactment of past experience toward the end of isolating the time segment which has lapsed in order that it, the lapsed time, can be savored of itself and without the usual adulteration of events that clog time like peanuts in brittle."
on the way to another location, under the influence of my reading, i underwent my own percyan repetition, returning to a place i hadn't been in nearly a month. bolling visits a movie theater, where he feels as if the v. seats "had waited to see what [he] had done with" his time; i went to a park and wanted to see if there was anything remaining of the winsome times i had spent there, if the park benches had wondered where i had wandered off to.
there are no names inside hearts on a wall--none that we'd left anyway : such a thing always struck me as pointless and self-defeating, as if you needed to leave a mark, something behind, b/c you knew that you and your love would never make it. of course, that didn't stop someone from carving "MANNY," large and all caps into one of the benches; this was a new development. also new was the increase in foliage which made everything that much shadier and everyone that much more aware that spring was on the march.
the first major difference, the most obvious one was that i was unaccompanied. so when i sat down, i was disquieted by the silence that followed; there was no vibration indicating that anyone had settled in next to me. it struck me that this was a mistake; that i should have continued to my destinations undeterred, w/ no detours into the recent past.
i should have listened to stendhal, for whom the marginal notes he re-encounters when picking up a favorite book is enough to send him into unhappy reverie : "if i come upon a marginal note describing my feeling as i read old mortality in florence three years ago, i immediately plunge into my life story, into a comparison of my happiness then and now."
i should have listened to bobby wratten, whose "abba on the jukebox" w/ the trembling blue stars tells of the difficulties that come from just this sort of thing. listening to "abba on the jukebox" is itself a repetition b/c i recall the first time i heard it, eight years ago, and the large number of firsts that came w/ that : it was on the first mixtape i received from the great and good tom ewing; it was my first package to have a uk postmark; it was an induction into indie music; and what's more i was on the brink of falling in love. i loved the tune then for its inspired music : the heart-flutter drum track; the steel guitars like God-sized teardrops; the mixture of repetition and subtle variation that make its seven-plus minutes pass so quickly. in other words, it never occurred to me that he was singing a/b anything.
eight years later to today and time passes markedly slower, and the song's message is tattooed on the back of my eyelids, visible while i sleep. back then, it seemed to me that bobby & his girl had a swell day, accomplished a lot of things; now, it's only obvious that he's making mental repetitions, recalling "stations frozen in time" lost to him for good, polaroids in the imperfect tense of happier days. but, eight years later, i bring something to this, my knowledge of the music of bob wratten, recorded under many guises, but always w/ the same sensibility--my knowledge, too, of precisely what he's singing a/b.
it was a beautiful day and, since i was in a park, i tried to do some reading, but i felt distracted, haunted by the ghosts flickering in the corner of my eye, ghosts that inspire many feelings, but never fear.
i did it : i made a carving into a bench, eventually squaring away my moral problem w/ defacing property. i did the standard her initials <3 my initials and added a comma before etching the word "once" as legibly as i could. as i did it, i understood precisely why other people do it, that it is a spur of the moment thing, intoxicated by an emotion; and that while those letters may not convey anything to the gen pub, they mean everything to the people whose initials or names they spell out. it's precisely the kind of carving i'd like to see, something that provokes thought, like a good used-book inscription : it makes you wonder just who these people are, when they were, and what happened to them--why the word "once"?
perhaps, too, i carved it to delay the inevitable. it's a steep decline down to the small parking lot; it had become a tradition that i'd carry her down on my back. i did not look forward to the feeling of weightlessness. i would miss the pain in my back, a weight i'd happily continue to have borne, as it was translocated to an organ that doesn't bear such burdens easily (an organ, i'd read, that shouldn't be able to cause much pain). the first step, naturally, was the most difficult, w/ each step, though, i was glad of the decline, which once made the trip perilous : it quickened the pace and brought my car ever nearer. this would not, by bolling's reckoning, have been a "successful" repetition, but i'd endured. and as he says himself, "the enduring is something which must be accounted for. one cannot simply shrug it off"--neither the enduring nor the yoke of the past.