Wednesday, March 20, 2013


    Understanding that life is short, and becomes shorter the longer you live, I elected this morning to  do a Proust on my croissant, and remember all the croissants I have enjoyed in my life.  The best of them was, of course, in the south of France, where I had the luck and joy to spend a number of my Springs, when I was still springing.  Gazing across the Bay of whatever Bay it was, or maybe it was a Gulf, alongside or in front of La Gorille in Saint Tropez, I could see the serenity of sails enjoying the breeze, if a breeze there was, all of them on a slant.  Or maybe it was me.
   But the hard thing, the thing that brings me up short, or maybe long, is that I can't remember, having lived for the number of years I have, what it was that Proust tasted that gave him his moment, which has certainly lasted longer than Proust did.  I know there are a lot of Proustian scholars, among them a friend from Haverford I thought I would keep forever, who could tell me in a Proustian second.  But when I tried to rekindle my once totally committed and borderline intimate friendship with him, I saw that what he had become was an old scholar, lacking passion, which I regard as the first thing you should have when gazing out to sea, or bay, or gulf, or whatever it was.  What you miss by not really paying attention, or caring, is probably infinite.
     Still, I remember the glitter on the water, as brilliant as thought at its best, and brighter than memory.  But the bitch is I can't remember what it was Proust was remembering.  
    So I Googled him, having gone to the installation of the new Google set-up in the great building at the head or maybe it's the foot of Columbus Circle, where they are giving away Google cups as a part of a promotion because apparently Google hasn't made enough money as compared with the creep who started Tweeting, so that we are quickly becoming a planet of Twits.  Or the woman who's taken over Facebook, one of the mindless inanities that's captured the imagination, or what's left of it, actually becoming a subject or maybe it's an object of a Sixty Minutes Feature.  In order to get my Google cup free, I would have had to write fifteen restaurant reviews, something I did for the Wall Street Journal Europe for a bit more of a reward, and several wonderful new relationships, as I rode the world with a badge that cried out "Republican man in a tightly buttoned suit," a label that quickly disappeared when the subjects of my pieces met me.   
    Still, I think of them all as I eat my croissant, or try to think of them all, and not finding what it was that reminded Proust of whatever he was reminded of on my computer, do find the following quote from Marcel soi-meme, which I believe is how you say Himself. 

     This saddens me more than the fact that I am not now and may not ever again be looking out at what sides or bottoms Saint Tropez:  I have received an e-mail from Carolyn McIntyre, who passionately(an important quality, as already noted)decries the New York Times having finally published a piece on the front page of its highly regarded newspaper, that the libraries are in BIG trouble, the land beneath them being sold off for the benefit of developers, which the article apparently didn't mention.  That there are no more bookstores to wander through, the vast majority of them having been replaced by Century 21s or the like, is one of the great tragedies of our lifetime.  Playgrounds of the Mind they were, someplace we could spend hazy afternoons smelling the aroma of freshly turned pages, feeling the cut of them under our fingers.  That the institutions that carried them and made them available free to children may also disappear is unthinkable.  
     But we better start thinking about it.  Will all that remains of the brilliance of Benjamin Franklin be electricity?  Even his post office sinks.  How long is Forever when the Forever Stamp crumbles under the weight of a need for more revenue, and we are forced to send things Fedex?
     But I digress, as did Kurt Vonnegut, another of our great dreamers.  Back to what Marcel said of childhood. "No days ...lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book."  Do we look to a future... maybe not even the future, but what's right in front of us... spent with our children and their children, eyes fixed on that pathetic little screen in their hands, missing life, missing thought, missing the ships in the bay, or maybe it was a Gulf.
   Ah, yes, I remembered what it was that he tasted that brought back everything.  It was a madeleine.  The name of my daughter.  It's her birthday on Friday.  Do you know where your children are, even if they are no longer children?  Well, there's one thing I can be sure of: she isn't in a library.