It seemed portentous. I closed the last page, Joyce’s Ulysses, looked up and saw that an email from my lawyer had landed in my mailbox. Jolted from a remote thought about a particularly vibrant and whimsical strain of the celebrated short sighted feminine sense of chronology, I held my lawyer’s card between my fingers, formerly used as a bookmark to Ulysses. I felt I had exited humanity in two ways, one of the messiness of the Molly Bloom and her all-encompassing literary mortal lot, and two, as immediately the email turned my attention towards my own person, I subsequently read the final version of my divorce papers, pouring over the demise of my marriage and all that was before present in writ of my social status past. I’ve thought, and still think, I can simply exit all this overload in the world and write a few books, sing a few concerts and retire or retreat from the rest without much bother. Suffice it to say I am not a Molly Bloom.
I also wasn’t carrying a spade. This fact singled me out from the village’s local population. I do have a dog, much like most of the local population, sparse. “Watch out,” I was warned, “city dogs think they can walk on algae like Jesus.” To escape the party of the Gay Pride Two Week Euro Festival, a part of which had landed on my doorstep, I had pleaded to be taken into the countryside, into a friend’s house in a small Dutch village. A long strip of pathway set into a canal, or two canals bordered by an accompanying grey line of pavement. That’s about it, a stretch of budding metropolis in a boggy landscape. An intersection where the bus stop meets the hub of the village set out along the canal that would be the focus point of potential congestion problems and perhaps, in future, a rotunda. Dog walkers abounded. My pooch delights in green grass, seldom seen in the corner of Amsterdam in which we rotate. Every opportunity to defecate upon fresh and dewy was appreciated. I had plastic bags with me and had spotted two garbage receptacles in the village, one by the playground and one by the park.
“There used to be spades for communal use attached to the bridge poles in the village.” I was informed. “But they disappeared.”
I checked where my dog was standing, a short distance behind me. My head swiveled towards the community house and the small metal locker to one side of the door under the eaves that had “Book Exchange” hanging above it. Curious as to the literary tendencies in the village, I made a move towards the locker, and heard the sound of something hitting the water that sounded heavier than a duck.
I ran to the water. I didn’t see anything at first, but then my dog emerged paddling blindly, heading under a bridge. At the other end of the bridge I pulled her out of the water. Dripping, she immediately released her bowels in the grass. Another dog walker, carrying a spade, came up to me, “I was wondering what you were doing.” He commented dryly. “Shall I dip her in the other side?” He gestured towards the clear water of the canal opposite the bright green canal. The dog’s coat had turned from caramel color to dark grey.
“You are welcome to stay, but he likes to start practicing at nine in the morning.”
Not a problem. He used to be a trombonist. Retired, he’s taken up the euphonium and the tuba. “How much do you practice a day?” I asked over a cup of coffee.
“Ah, on a good day 6 hours but most days 2 to 4 hours is about it.”
“You cannot imagine how great it is,” a French friend explained to me who stopped singing, “not to have to faire la voix everyday.”
Well that will be next, but not quite yet, first Finnegan’s Wake.