Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cape August

August is at odds with deadlines. But deadlines are the tide I'm rowing against. There's a man with a drum over there. Telling me I've got to beware. Meanwhile, if I could look out of the porthole of this galley, I would see a cool, changeable coastline, something like Maine or the Maritimes, with migrating shorebirds and performing acrobats, a mariachi band, kids on stilts, a guy in a kilt who's standing in a thoughtful dapple of sun under a tree, spinning a pair of comets...

I am back at Spinjam, on a soft Monday evening in Killian Court, the field of dreams on the MIT campus. Spinjam, you may remember, is the impromptu perpetual motion machine of hoops, poi, clubs, and other spinning things, that magically coalesces here between 6 and 8 and becomes something more than the sum of its parts. There's the guy in the kilt, a woman snapping a long red whip, a girl lying in the grass, spinning a hoop from one ankle to another. And somewhere in the midst of these extras from La Strada—I can just see his red clubs flashing briefly over the top of the big sculpture where people sit or dump their stuff—is my teenage son, who is happy to be just another juggler here.

It wouldn't be the same if I were one of several dozen writers scribbling away in a variety of notepads. (Shades of Monty Python's philosophers' soccer game.) This is about kinesis! Bullwhips! The body electric!

The galleymaster, bless his coal-black heart, has followed me here. In fact, he's delighted to try out his "boom-boom" on these improvisational rhythms. We exchange a knowing smile. The deadline is not on holiday. We will rendezvous at my laptop in a few hours.

Meanwhile, I spin my words. At least I'm writing this and not compare/contrast questions, like
I was a few nights ago at El Potro, a Mexican café in Somerville, which drew me in with its FREE WIFI sign. There I sat at a table peering at my laptop and nursing a flan and a coffee while around me roved a mariachi band (And how are the multiple choices going tonight, señor?) playing bright peppy tunes on accordion, trumpet, and guitarron. And then the fireman rushes in, from the pouring rain. Very strange!

The whips are cracking around me like gunshots. A woman in red Doc Martins and a brown homburg is particularly impressive, snapping three consecutive sonic booms, right–left–right!
Even the galleymaster is cowed, let alone any tigers in the vicinity. My wife is circulating among the spinjammers with a camera, collecting inspiration for the video class she teaches. My father-in-law is sitting under a tree, catching ideas with more levity than Sir Isaac Newton's (whose name is on an adjoining building). My son is keeping his spheres in the air, avoiding the law of gravity altogether. And me, I'm lying back in the grass, looking up at the creamy clouds, a tiny flash of an airplane, a momentous silhouette of a gull. And for the moment, anyway, it's clear that we are all rowing in the same dream: rounding the Cape of August merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily....

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