Sunday, March 27, 2011

Good Old Days

I have this compost of jottings, some of them decades old. Some of them molder in the Word document where I left them, others in my scribble, usually a black ballpoint, on a small library of pads and notebooks. (In dreams I am always finding my writings in odd places: flea markets, antique stores, Dumpsters, strangers' waste baskets.) Do they serve a purpose, composting in a file cabinet? Are they in some way nourishing this writing in a secret evolution by osmosis? Or do I owe them a shot at the big-time, a "cup of coffee" in the majors, so to speak?

I have already rescued a couple of more-or-less finished pieces, giving them a shave, outfitting them in an
Old Hatch's Almanac uniform, slapping them on the butt and sending them out there, like a 40-year-old rookie. "Hurry Up, Cows" was one. "Jimi Hendrix and the Jolly Jumper" was another. This one is called "Good Old Days" and hearkens back (some day I'd like to try hearkening foward) to a November day a few years ago.


Lately I’ve been writing brief entries in my “journal,” my book of days, that begin “Good old” whatever the day is. Today it’s good old November 30. I am looking out at it, through the tree, which was not possible a couple of weeks ago; but November has done its work of erasing and it leaves the world browner and colder and barer than it found it.

I started this “good old” business on my birthday, which is the one day I’m personally entitled to get chummy with—me and my fellow 10/27 passengers.

There are other days, holidays, semi-holidays (anniversaries, beginnings of seasons, big football games) that warrant an extra dose of respect, attention, or excitement: “Today’s the big day!” “TGIF!” But that’s not quite the same thing as “Good old…” It’s possible, I’ve found, just by writing an entry that begins with those words, to make a day more your own, especially a day that has no apparent distinguishing features for you. (My own good old October 27th may even be that day for many others, difficult as that is to believe.)

Take this day, which happens to coincide with this writing, an accident of time. I write “Good old November 30”—taking the “good old” purely on faith—and glance out at it to see what might justify that affectionate squeeze. Like a loyal dog the day looks back at me, eager to reward my friendly overture. Behold the wizened leaves, trembling in a light breeze. Behold the flat-bottomed fleet of scow clouds. It happens to be sunny. The light lies in musing planes on my black recliner like an old man recalling his youth. The day has a story, or at least a personality. Nor am I talking about the usual almanac stories each day contains (“On this day in 1888…”) I mean this day—which has a name, true, November 30, and a history, things happened on it on previous go-rounds, but I mean this good old brand-new day, especially when contemplated in the morning, before anything terrible has happened that might cause you to unfairly blame the temporal container of the event, which is as unfair as blaming the spatial one, but we kick the day like we kick the chair. Yet, conversely, when things are going well, do we praise the day? Do we say, “Way to go, November 30?” Not really. We congratulate ourselves, or the turn of events, which is fine, mazeltov, we should all have such days, but I repeat, I’m talking about the day, the boxcar, the one you befriended before anything wonderful or lousy happened in it.

Having befriended the day, it’s easier to go out into it or proceed through it with something of a companionable feel well into the afternoon before you forget that you forged a rleationship with it, which you probably will. Though even after you do, some good residue may remain. Consciously or unconsciously, you may find yourself looking up at the sky, the day’s face, with a collusive or collaborative appraisal. Or nothing in particular, just the invisible wind of minutes scrolling by—friendly minutes, seconds you were introduced to several hours ago when the day was good old November 30 or January 19 (cold and overcast and unlovable) or March 3. These are the good old days.

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