Letter: Communication and solitude
To the Editors:
Here was me at the Georgetown Saloon last Friday night, a “soft opening” where a group was playing made up of guys from Rare Earth and Average White Band. For a while I sat next to one of them.
I said, “That’s quite a pair of boots you’ve got.”
And they were. Sparkling black and white rattlesnake skin, a sewn seam up the center of the boot, top-threaded with rolled strands of white snake belly. These boots deserved to be noticed, and I noticed. Any dressed-down musician with jeans and an untucked shirt might be expected to pour a couple grand into a pair of boots. That’s how you’d know that, despite the casual topside from the cuffs up, whatever the posture, whatever the fitness or dissipation above the cuffs, down below the cuffs, that’s how you knew you were looking at a musician who got good work. It was just a moment between his sets; his eyes were on the cell phone in one hand while the other hand was tapping.
The thing about this age is communication, private communication that stakes a claim to solitude. It’s continuous and ubiquitous, meaning you can find it anywhere and everywhere. The problem with ubiquitous, though, is that it doesn’t quite express the depth and breadth of the everywhereness that private, solitudinous communication really is. Cosmic could do it, but that’s usually an expression of scale that sounds like you’re talking about an exploding star. So when you want to say it’s everywhere, what is it that says: as many reflective surfaces as can bounce radio waves, and as many devices as can produce those radio waves, and as many solitude moments as can express the content that these waves and devices traffic in, and as many devices as are constantly on, never off, continuously ready to capture the solitude to which private communication stakes its claim, when you can find that concept in a word, that’s how you tell of the current scale of interpersonal solitudinous communication that characterizes the enfolding rapture of our era.
I’d leaned in his direction from my corner of a wall-bench, leaning toward just the other side of a doorless threshold where he sat on another wall-bench like mine, with a table in front of him like mine. Whatever it was he was thinking, the thoughts were streaming through his hands to the tick sounds beneath his finger, skinny, aging musician sitting alone with heavy glasses and Fu Manchu hair on his chinny-chin-chin, and those boots. Probably he didn’t hear me, but there was no reason for me to say more unless I wanted to make an issue of it, which I didn’t. So I leaned back and thought about communication and he tapped.
But still, that was quite a pair of boots he had.
Wilton, Sept. 29