The Skirl of Clarinets

Some while back, I went to the LA Central Library to hear Will Self speak. My mom originally brought the event to my attention on account of Self's interest in psychogeography, but what I remember most is Self telling of his arrival in Los Angeles: He cleared baggage and set off walking down Century Blvd. He walked clear on through to Watts before he met whomever he was supposed to meet, and spoke well about the strange quality of being a pedestrian in Los Angeles, especially along the space of Century Blvd.

It all comes to mind because I've been back at cleaning my desk and found another brief note scrawled on a small scrap of paper: deep sadness to American poverty because of America's ideology of success... "The skirl of Gershwin clarinets and we'll believe in the dream of possibility once again..."

Self's name is left at the bottom, but I have no idea where the quote is from, much less when it's from. Strangely, I'm almost inclined to believe the note isn't from Self's lecture at all and comes from the days when I used to work at Townsend Bertram & Co. in Carrboro - as distant a world as it sometimes seems - and that I might have been slinking about the internets on the computer at the back of the shop when I ought to have been helping customers. No way to know, really, but it's always interesting to reflect on the way in which words, writers, names touch on a life.

The figure much loved by Badiou (reading for another class) is that of the trace, and there's something of that in this note: Well-creased, folded many times and slipped into stacks of papers, something that's endured over the course of three thousand miles, two moves, fits of organization, and sheer absent-minded-ness, the note might be a trace of another life touching mine.

And more to speculate on: Our present rhetoric of economic crisis and middle-class relief, and the way in which Self's comment might throw light on Obama's inauguration and our collective hope that change has come.

The skirl of clarinets.


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