..First Glyph

March 7
8 p.m.

Today was to be of paintings and of cafes and of Shakespeare and of scribblings and of relaxation. Instead it was of walking. Walking and more walking. But such walking is one of the threads through the pattern of my life. A constant it's been for me, across my few years. Miles of Guadalajara I walked to see Lety. Miles of central Kansas I walked as a student without a car. And miles of Mexico City, of course, working and lost. And of El Paso, and of San Diego and Tijuana. Such walking can irrigate the mind. For the body is occupied when it strides a long distance. And the body finds a rhythm, a pulse when it strides a long distance. And the body can arrive even at a sort of meditative state when it strides a long distance. The spirit and psyche are freed by this meditation, by this pulsing limbo of the soma. This happened to me today.

I woke this morning and I smiled. I woke this morning and smiled and took a deep draft of the morning air. I woke and smiled because I remembered waking in the dead of last night and deciding not to work today. Today, I would be free. Yes, and so, smiling this morning, breathing those drafts of morning air, I reached for my guidebook. I thumbed for an art museum. An art museum. Before I even crawled from my bed this morning I thumbed for an art museum. This is how I began my day.

Chilaquiles, then. Chilaquiles verdes in an unbusy Sunday Sanborns. Chilaquiles and As You Like It and coffee. And then, fully-breakfasted, fully-caffeinated, I located the nearby plaza where I knew stood a tourist booth. A nice lady with a square face and a blue cap bustled in that booth. Very helpful, she. She advised me away from the museum of my guidebook. Not the best, her square face confided. And since the Orozco murals are not available until the Cabañas opens at midday, she said, try this one. She circled a corner on a map. She gave me the map. She told me the number of the bus that would take me there. I followed her advice to the letter. Twenty minutes later I was cursing before a building with a cerrado placard in its window. Closed, the museum was. Thirty minutes later I entered the museum suggested by my guidebook. But to what disappointment! The lady with the square face had been right! German opera posters were being exhibited. Exceedingly unimpressive. Barely had I begun. Already I stood foiled. And so commenced my walking.

Walking. Back toward the center of town. Walking. Though it would be a very long walk. Walking. And my body became occupied with it, with the walking. Walking. And my body found its rhythm, its pulse. Walking. The soma entered its limbo. And my mind was freed. And not fifteen minutes passed before I witnessed a scene, a scene resolving, one from The Don Quixote Piece. Then another scene resolved. Then a third. Crystal clear, they were, these scenes, as vivid before me as the street I trod. Two were of Lucia the French Girl and Beth. Their dialogues ringing brightly in my ears. I listened to their dialogues. I replayed their dialogues again and again as I strode. Finally I came upon a small corner plaza. A bench, I found there. And in the shade of a narrow tree, hunched up on that bench, I scribbled the two scenes onto sheets of looseleaf. But as soon as they were scribbled the third scene flowered--Jacob's penultimate. I drafted it. In a single breath, I did. Spent, I was then. Dry. Breathless. I reviewed what I had scribbled. What I had scribbled was good. I looked up from my looseleaf sheets, flushed with my visions. I recalled then riding on the San Diego trolley some months back. I recalled reading on the San Diego trolley The Adventures of Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel Cervantes. And as I had read the great work a sense of this Don Quixote piece had come to me. It was a particular episode that had given me the sense, "The Curious Impertinent." In it a man is lured into doubts about his wife's fidelity. Eventually, the man, in order to test his wife's fidelity, has her seduced. Even before I finished reading the episode, even as I sat there on the San Diego trolley reading the episode, I was scrawling madly in the margins of the book. The wife's fidelity struck me. The wife's complete devotion to her husband struck me. And Cervantes' framing of the story triggered something in me. I found myself undoing it. I found myself turning it inside out. I reversed the roles. Fidelity, yes. But it would be the husband that is seduced in my piece. And not just the husband, but the husband's ideas, his philosophy, his very art. Will the husband betray his wife? But more importantly, will the husband betray himself? A ballet dancer, of course, the wife would be. She, unflinchingly convinced of her husband's fidelity. Unflinchingly, that is, until her best friend challenges it. Eventually, the wife takes up the challenge. She bids her best friend seduce him. I added to Cervantes' version a predisposition in the seduced husband to failure. I added to Cervantes' version the viewpoint of the seduced husband. And therein really lies the soul of my piece--in the husband's trial of conscience, in the husband's trial of self-control.

Since that day, that day of my feverishly scrawled notes on the San Diego trolley, I have not been able to shake this idea of The Don Quixote Piece. Just enough of a hook it has that I've not been able to forget it. I am exorcising it now, scene by scene, finally squeezing it out of my system. I feel somewhat relieved. Just the last of its scenes remains now to be scribbled. Just that last scene hangs still unfinished and pregnant before me. In any event, after the passing of those giddy reflections, I rose from that shaded bench in that small plaza and continued on my way, continued my walking.

Walking. Still toward the centro I walked. Walking. Now to the Cabañas, I walked. But it was closed already. I was too late. Orozco denied me again. Walking, walking and fatiguing now, hungering. I arrived at the sidewalk cafe where the boy shoe shiner posed all the questions to the businessmen before. I retreated beneath an umbrella. I consumed a light meal. I rested my feet. I grew restless again finally--again. And, again walking, I hopped a bus to the Plaza del Sol. Twenty minutes later I was walking the Plaza del Sol. I walked the Plaza del Sol looking at the shop girls. I looked at the shop girls. O, Dulcinea! I reflected on Jacob's penultimate scene. I liked it. I savored Jacob's penultimate scene. I tried to see Jacob's final scene. But the final scene would not resolve. I cannot see it. So I watched the shop girls. I watched them and I thought about a man seduced toward betrayal. I began to feel lonely. I found myself walking again, walking back toward the centro, back toward the centro from the Plaza del Sol. This would be a very long walk. For some reason I wanted to walk it. The loneliness, maybe. The shop girls, maybe. And that feeling. That feeling coming over me, the one that prods me to leave, to move, to move on, to continue on, to flee the loneliness. "Change cities," the feeling prodded. But I know the advice specious. I recognize the advice as specious. I dismissed the advice as specious. And my body found its occupation then. And my body found its rhythm then and its pulse. And the soma then found its limbo. And my psyche then took flight. Semi-consciously I looked forward through the remains of this journey. Through Mazatlán and Sonora, I looked, through Tijuana and San Diego. Through, to the end, I looked. Tucson, too, and El Paso, I saw, and finally Albuquerque. Albuquerque, I saw. I envisioned myself moving there. I saw myself driving the Winnebago to Albuquerque from western Kansas. I envisioned myself finally settling in for awhile, in Albuquerque. I would stay put there for awhile. I would catch my breath there, yes, there in that city where I've never lived. Albuquerque. And I called Albuquerque a denouement, suddenly. A denouement, I called it. A falling action. An afterhaze. A relaxing after a violence, after a climax. But if Albuquerque is a denouement, then what is the climax? This trip, I thought. This journey is the climax. And I walked. And I walked. Yes, this journey, the climax. The climax to this phase of my life, to this stage of agitation and vigor; to this phase of restlessness and groping; to this stage of insatiable hunger and curiosity; and of unflagging energy and wonder; and of yearning. This trip is the great climactic expression of all of these, I realized. Each, herein, finding its fullest expression. And so each, hereafter, emerging transformed, in different guise. It's inevitable. All of these aspects of myself will have to be commuted by this trip. To what form, I can't know. But a different one. A less frantic one, maybe. A less aimless one, maybe. A more mature one, perhaps. And I continued my walking, my walking down that Guadalajara boulevard. And I continued my marveling at how this phase of my life was coming to a close, at how this trip was its last expression. And I realized then that I was thinking these things in terms of how I might scribble them down here in these notes. And suddenly, I was annoyed. And now, sitting here on this hotel bed, eating this bean sandwich, eyeing my liter of rum, I cannot decide whether thinking these things in terms of these notes is healthy or otherwise. Does not organizing my thoughts as I consider them inhibit their flow? Or does organizing them give me a richer soil from which to expand? But when I arrive at my thoughts organized do I not then stop thinking? And suddenly I am wanting this scribbling to cease. Suddenly I am wanting these entries to end. Maybe I should take a break from them. Maybe I should halt them altogether. They addle me, it seems. They affect how I process everything, it seems. And all the different elements of my work are getting mixed up too. For days and days now I've found myself re-writing and reshaping my setting descriptions into these entries. And in this very entry even, here, up above, I spent time dwelling on my draftings of The Don Quixote Piece. I dwelt on it. The borders between my works seem to be breaking down. Is this good? In a way it feels right, liberating. In another way it feels frightening, as if I am losing control. Control. Yes, control. Too much control and inspiration is stifled. Too little control and you edge toward gibberish, toward the abyss. The right balance I need. Yes, control, balance. And this is not the first time I've come upon this point. I remember Siqueiros painting Yevtushenko. I remember that morning in that Mexico City museum, watching that video of Siqueiros painting Yevtushenko. I was provoked by it to a like observation. He seemed to control his inspiration, yes, but not to over-control his inspiration. And the grandness of Mexico, too, I remember, leaning out of my Mexico City window. There I observed how the grandness flourishes and flourishes but never so freely that it destroys itself. From these then I will grope now toward a second conclusion. I edge now toward the conclusion that balance is important to the mystery--and control! They must be! That energy of life, that shudder and sparkle of life. That may be the touchstone to the mystery, but it is how one taps that energy, I think, the degree to which one controls it and finds balance with it that defines its expression. Yes, this has to be right!

So I walked and I kept walking. Finally I stopped at a small restaurant for a Sopa Azteca and a mineral water. It was expensive. It was light. I was still hungry. So I walked and I kept walking. Finally I stopped at a Gigante. Bread bolillos, I bought there, and beans in a can, and rum, and grapefruit drink and apples. Then on I strode. Then here I arrived. My feet ache, my legs. Here on my hotel bed I marvel at my aching feet, at my aching legs and I cross them on the hotel bed as I spread canned beans onto bolillos with the blunt end of my can opener. I wonder if I will ever remember to buy a knife. I drop crumbs on these sheets of looseleaf as I scribble these notes. My gringo neighbor coughs a lot. My gringo neighbor urinates more than anyone I know. But he has quit humming while he urinates. This is good. And again--the adulterer, the adulteress, their adultery above. I'll read over my three new Don Quixote scenes now. Shhh. Shhh. The rum should help me sleep.


John Dishwasher

The Gods of Our Fathers