Saturday, July 7, 2012

"They can not be here forever"

My eye surgeon works hard, as 
a 2nd year Fellow at the Univ-
ersity hospital, an élite desig-
nation for the most promising
residents, who will not remain. 
I met him in an emergency last 
Sunday, 3 visits ago, and wrote
about it then and again, not ex-
pecting to do so today. I asked
him yesterday, if he could take
a weekend off this week, and he
said, no. It is, he said, the
birthday of his daughter, and he
has not been able to go shopping
for her, and will miss most of
her day.

To me, of course, this is ter-
rible. In a way of changing the
subject, I told him I had just 
been reading about an automobile
for him, out in the waiting room
as my pupils were turbocharging.
Yes, I said, it is made by VW
but it is called a Bugatti Vey-
ron (by pure sentiment, as in Ab-
ercrombie and Tummy), and it 
is very fast. He has no free 
time, he needs a way to extract 
what others derive, more quickly
and with greater concentration.

He said, Ah, I used to love Los
Angeles; I could drive 90 miles
per hour, everywhere. Everybody
does, he said; and the only real
problem is when you miss an exit.
I told him I could well imagine
this, and that I'd grown up in a
town so small in Los Angeles, it
didn't have an exit of its own.
Were you at UCLA, I asked. No,
at SC; and I said, oh, my,
I was so close, in San Marino.
Oh, so you are a Californian,
then, and I know I smiled when
I said, yes. I always do; and
he was smiling, too, remember-
ing South Pasadena.

Then he said, you know, my daugh-
ter was born in Huntington Hos-
pital. (This is an establishment
akin to everything named Hunting-
ton in that small world, every-
thing of the name being in San
Marino, but for the grande dame,
the neighborhood hotel, in Pas-
adena). That's where I was born,
I lighted up, as if subscribing
to membership in an obscure and
tiny team; but such things are
important to children, when they
learn about them. He said, yes,
my daughter was born there on
07/07/07, and he was sparklingly
pleased about that, too.

And what is her name? Nahla, he
said, spelling it out for me,
and I could envision a bright
and pretty little feminine ver-
sion of himself, a little Syrian
girl of infinite dark eyes. She
must be very proud of you, and
understand why you are away from
home a lot. She knows I am an eye
doctor, he said, allowing that
she was happy about that.

Then he said, his mother and his
father were there, but that they
would be leaving for Syria on Mon-
day. I said, oh no, it is very 
dangerous, as if this small detail
might have eluded a busy fellow.
Yes, he said, he knows he might
not see them again. But they can
not be here forever, it is home.

Happy birthday, precious Nahla.

ii  Photography Beth Nelson

Friday, July 6, 2012

Ernest as a parlour game?

Tassos Paschalis

    I haven't any interest in seeing 
    the new edition of Farewell to 
    Arms being played as a publicity 
    coup, a conspiracy of the auth-
    or's heirs and his Princeton-bred
    publisher (now subsumed in S & S), 
    to keep his name in lights. But,
    with the new edition offering 
    some 47 of the known variants 
    which the writer considered 
    for ending the novel, it's on-
    ly innocently true, that once 
    again scholarship resembles a 
    parlour game for dinner parties
    in a Whit Stillman demographic.

    I don't think I'll play; I ad-
    mire that he wrestled the thing
    to ground at all, never mind how
    well. Not every excision from a
    draft manuscript is probitive,
    except of being unchosen. An un-
    used phrase is not rejected, it
    is unused. But the cardinal fact,
    underlying everything else tend-
    ing toward caution in the use of
    such manuscripts, is what a flim-
    sy compass the stoutest of them
    is, for what had flickered through
    and behind the creative screen.

    Our best guide to precisely that
    making, is what he had chosen to
    say before: each choice, in him,
    reinforcing terms of notorious
    "simplicity." Pretty cool? There
    is our game, far above the deftly
    fallen waistband and the archly
    rugged buckle of our stance, in-
    side the eye that's blinded by
    the retina that pulls away from
    focus in the strain of being con-
    sistent. To haul our story to the
    ground calls now upon that memory
    which is the raw act, revisited
    through the flow of blood. Then
    do they read.


iii  Jeremy Young

Sunday, July 1, 2012

And now July

I can't deny, this has been an
amusing Sunday in the mode of the
recent past. While shaving this mor-
ning, I found myself endeavouring
to splash from a corner of my left
eye an apparent bit of English cock-
er hair, resembling a small dollop
of seaweed as I blinked the water
from my eyes. It turned out not to
be superficial, but something swirl- 
ing about in one's vision pool,
so to speak. After showering and
dressing, and refreshing my ban-
dagings for a surgery previously
reported, I thought to call a 
friend's mother, in medicine in
town, who said, oh yes, floaters;
of course, that could mean a
detached retina; you probably
ought to have it examined.

Not one's plan for the day.
Telephoning the ophthalmologist
on call for this Sunday at the
University hospital, I was cor-
dially invited in for a glimpse,
given that I could be there in
a few minutes and the day was
not terribly busy. 

In this entry I do mean to affirm
a boy's fascination with optics -
or rather, at least my boyhood fas-
cination, whether this is a prov-
ince of boys or not. I have a 
thing for lenses and their en-
thralling properties, their clev-
er behaviours, their offerings of
resolution. I admit, a large bit
of my interest in photography is
shamelessly devoted to exploiting
the delight of playing with glass.

Within a couple of hours, I was
back on my way home, having had
two tears in my left retina treated
by laser optics, to re-affix this
vital little tissue to the optical
wall where nature originally laid it.
I could not be more pleased to have
had this telephone conversation with
my friend's mother, whom I called
immediately thereafter, with an in-
vitation to come on out to this 
farm and take up residence for a 
while, just to notice what else 
might be escaping my notice of de-

Do you know what happens when
people speak to each other, divided
by a million dollars worth of optics
but no more than four or five inches
of space? I noticed, in a smashingly
exotic optical array from Berne,
Switzerland (exquisite machining),
an effect on the voice which the
lenses really do account for, in
part; and I noticed it again, in
the laser panoply of optics from
(can you believe it) Italy. First,
precision optics impress upon the
organs of discourse a great quiet
of concentration and an enormously
calmer rhetorical flow. Second, 
their existence as a barrier per-
mits the tenderest and softest
tones to intervene because the
impersonal aspect of the exchange
is so expensively protected.

Do you know this feeling, as you
focus your camera? You may very well
know it, macrophotographically, as I
do. But you may also know it from
framing a portrait; and you exper-
ience this envelopment in caring as
an element not merely of precision,
but of selection.

If no one living, knows about you
in this world, you may synthesise
this relationship with the inter-
vention of optics. I have always
felt a great debt to the optics I
was born with, however, and I was
glad that for the moments in which
their use lay in the balance, other
lenses configured a rapport I could
hear and with which, by the grace 
in part of their genius for intim-
acy, I can read in my own sight.