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Stupid Romantic That I Am

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

Back in the days when we saw our movies in cinemas, sometimes sitting there in the dark I realized that the film wasn't going to get any better. Deciding not to throw good time after bad, I'd get up and leave. I have dozens of such partially watched movies on my Netflix account. Last night the same thing happened with a book I've been struggling through.

Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar chronicles a group of unlikeable, bohemian expats, the detritus of intellectual life, wafting with their artistic pretensions through a cold, wet, ugly Paris. The plot, such as it is, is a series of absurd vignettes, a sort of stream of post modernist consciousness, rubbish, whose only point seems to be that there is no point.

The final insult, before I discarded the volume on my nightstand, has the anti-hero, recently skipped out on his girlfriend and her sick child, going into a piano concert to get out of the rain. There are eight or ten others in the audience, all of who, one or two at a time get up and leave during the show, because the performance is horrible. Tossing aside the book, turning out the light, laying my head on the pillow, I thought of G. and a similar concert I helped produce for her.

Men are attracted to women in high-heels for the same reason that big cats focus their attack on the weakest of the herd; their crippled way of moving makes cat and man think (but really it is something much more primitive than thought), "I could get that one." A similar sense of easier prey draws men towards "dumb blondes" and crazy women.

G. was dark, beautiful, smart and mentally unhinged. I've dated a few women with psychiatric diagnoses. G.'s was mania or schizophrenia or both. I deny that my motives were predatory, but I will admit to being stupidly romantic. Mental illness can be quite poetic, as long as you don't have to live with its dark side. qqq

I attracted G. with delicious food, reasonably good marijuana, sparkling conversation, motherly concern and genuine sympathetic understanding; I can be crazy with the best of them. She lived in the neighborhood and mine was, for the short while we knew each other, a safe harbor in her storm-tossed life.

Making sense as best I could of G.'s disjoint, paranoid telling of the tale, her circumstances involved her running off and her family wanting her, if not back in the hospital, then, at least, back on her medication. I had no influence whatsoever in the matter.

She was highly charged. I remember her like some kind of ball lightening flashing around my house. I remember her borrowing things and never returning them. I remember her abandoned laughter and impulsive, erratic animation. I remember surfing her passion as it swelled and broke like those big Hawaiian waves.

The effort to get to the polls or to request an absentee ballot dissuades those who really don't care. Those with little or no political interest never get around to casting a vote. In ancient Athens people were paid to vote. But I am of the opinion that if you are not motivated enough to make the effort, then I'd rather you didn't vote. It's a culling of the herd. While sending out ballots to everyone who is registered isn't fraud, it certainly does skew the result.

Similarly, the cost of renting the theater and the expense of buying advertising function as a brake, inhibiting these with little talent from making it to the stage. But G. wanted to perform, to sing and, detached from reality as she was, she plunged forward, her fantasy gaining traction when the Treatro Santa Ana gave her a date in exchange for only a share of the ticket sales and I gave her free publicity. Stupidly romantic that I was, I had never even heard her sing.

As in the concert in Cortázar's novel, eight or ten people attended G.'s performance. As in the novel, it was a flop. Beautiful under the spotlight, elegant in the dress I bought her for her debut, she was more than a little intimidated out there all alone. But her vulnerability never translated into sentiment. Her presence never gelled. Her voice failed on a variety of levels. After five or six songs she gave up. On the walk home we talked about things other than her performance. The next day I got an incredulous email from a women who had attended the show, someone on my mailing list, asking if there weren't some sort of screening process for these performances.

I lost track of G. for a year or two. When I saw her next, it was at the Saturday Market, I hardly recognized her. Shepherded around by a kind-looking older man in a cowboy hat, her face had blown up like a balloon. Quite thin when I knew her, she had gained a lot of weight. Some of her awkward rotundity was bloating, water retention associated with the psychiatric medications she was obviously taking. She was docile, completely transformed, chemically straight-jacketed. I offered the standard pleasantries. She smiled in awkward, embarrassed recognition as if she were apologizing for her new, domesticated self. In that moment I saw in her eyes, I'm sure I did, a spark of her old, wild fire.

I understand the "freedom" of Cortázar's bohemians wandering the streets of Paris. I understand the rebellious messianism of protesters today. I was once stupidly romantic myself. Still, the choice cannot be, as it was for G., between erupting like a display of fireworks or being buried under a wet blanket of conformity. There are those who are destined to blaze forth in an almost super-human way. The rest of us, at best, are fated, and more kindly so, for a quieter creativity.

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Dr David and his merry band believe that the new expanded Lokkal will change the world, city by city.

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