A Grave Dance

[This is content recycled from my now mothballed website, www.excitablemedia.com. Please enjoy!]

It goes without saying that the three paragraph essay is dead and gone. You can take that to the bank, stick a fork in it, and tell your 9th Grade English teacher to shove it to boot. As if she didn't already know. They danced on the grave early last year, as far as I can tell, tamping down the loose dirt with some fancy footwork, and now there's hardly a trace left of the party, an empty beer can here and there, dead soldiers, so to speak, occasionally the faint footprint in the shape of a foxtrot. I need not eulogize. Rather, it's all the rage to be percussive, abrupt, hasty, unkempt, disheveled, superficial, unrehearsed, ambivalent, unabashed, ambient, atmospheric, sporadic, slipshod, ramshackle, unfinished, extemporaneous, unstudied, random, helter-skelter, loosey-goosey, downtrodden, happy-go-lucky, carefree, careless, foppish, and stochastic. In other words, expectations of expectoration of expectancy, broad strokes all about the page hoping for an emergent Rorshach butterfly.

But hell even that is yesterday's news. If anyone knows when exactly we hit the fragmentation high tide, would they please let me know? For now all I'm aware of is this strange sensation down below my knees, an invisible, inevitable undertow pulling at the heels, a sort of structural grasping. Something somewhere is demanding refinement. I know there are whole hordes of people yearning for order. I know the type. House walls laden with clocks, rolodexed desktops, galoshes in case of rain. They're sitting around their rock gardens, pruning the hedges and dreaming of grammar lessons, something like My Fair Lady, by jove. And I think I found what they were looking for the other day while walking down Nicollet Avenue, after I did a double take and found myself face to face with the man who repaints the fire hydrants. He told me, with a smile that was missing a few teeth, how there are 800 hydrants on his route, and how, optimistically, he can get to 200 per summer, making a hydrant repainting as common as an olympic game or presidential election. Each little red jobby gets a thorough hand cleaning, inside and out, ball bearings are oiled, and a fresh coat of OSHA Red is applied patiently from the back of a City of Minneapolis pickup truck. Yes, folks, like it or not, structuralism still claims a few square feet of metaphysical territory, lurking underneath the cultural radar just below the sight line, waiting for a 2 alarm chance to prove its mettle.

But try telling that to Uptown crowd, comfortably oblivious to the greedy harangue that's part and parcel with the obsequious smile of an Indian restraunteur prompting the loitering to leave and then clearing the table for the next well-dressed cultural career hound . . . all that goes almost unnoticed. Be sure to take a handful of those little colored caraway seeds as you leave. But for my money, if it doesn't come in a 25 cent crank bulbous dispenser it ain't really worth it.

A quick point of contrast, if you'll be so kind. Jump away to the woman haranguing at the butcher shop up the block, who I am certain likes nothing more in life than ordering her cut of meat. She relishes, savors, sucks the marrow from the moment like any seasoned hedon, for example the habitual Carribean sensual massage-goer (you know who you are . . .). As far as I can tell, she's there daily, with talking points, a ritual litany, a professorial critique of last night's vitual. "I really wanted something closer to the center cut, kind of like the flank from last week, you remember, Friday, cut along the grain close to the femur oblangata, and something a bit younger, don't you have anything from Kansas, they always do such a nice job, oh, wait, now I remember, I was going to serve it with string beans so I really want something a bit softer, less heavy, you know . . ." She knows the beef steak chart like the back of her eyelid. That's one woman for whom skeletal structures still apply.

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