Stare.
 
2000 Notebook: Transition XXIII
 
   
6 July 2000
Au Reservoir, Australia
This is the last day of my first trip to Australia. Ordinarily, I’d try to spend my remaining hours experiencing everything the country has to offer, but this is an unusual continent in that it feels like a nondescript suburb of North America and Europe. I think I’ll go to bed early.

I won’t miss Australia. Like Hawaii, almost everything I like about the island is just offshore. In the case of this vast expanse of sand, heat, and dust, that means the Great Barrier Reef. Even so, I doubt I’ll come back unless someone again pays me to travel here. I hear New Zealand is another story, but I’ll have to see about that later.

7 July 2000
Space-time Continuum Shortcut
I left Sydney—the city, not the actress—at eleven this morning and arrived in San Francisco at seven o’clock on the very same morning. I arrived before I left! Apparently, the clever pilot accomplished this feat by flying through yesterday.

I know very little about the sciences in general and geography and navigation in particular. Nevertheless, it seems obvious that air travel would be more efficient and enjoyable if all airlines took advantage of such gaps and warps in the space-time continuum.

I’m going to savor one of my four bonus hours meditating on an El Farolito burrito. I’ll then review all the notes I made on the plane to see whether or not I can figure out what happened to the missing time.

8 July 2000
Leonardo’s Repeated Fortune
All the fortune cookies at Marge and Dave’s wedding had exactly the same message: “The function of muscle is to pull and not to push, except in the case of the genitals and the tongue.” —Leonardo da Vinci

I wonder how this sort of blunder can happen in a modern fortune cookie factory?

9 July 2000
Concealed Sculpture Piece
I just heard that Franta Belsky died a few days ago. I never appreciated his work, but I did admire his methodology. Each sculpture he made contains an empty Guinness bottle, a copy of The Times, a coin, and written confirmation that he was the artist.

What a great piece!

10 July 2000
Garlic Aftertastes
I want out to dinner last night at a restaurant noted for its excessive use of garlic in almost everything on the menu. I anticipated that the cooks would put much too much garlic in everything, and I wasn’t disappointed. As with chili peppers, my primitive palate translates “much too much” into “just right.” Yum yum!

After the scrumptious meal, I walked down the street with a golden garlic glow. Naomi didn’t share my high opinion of the fare; she confessed that all the garlic she’d consumed “made her breath hurt.” I felt sad that she couldn’t share in the delights of excess. Oh well, I suppose excess in general and excessive garlic in particular are acquired tastes.

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11 July 2000
New Camera Warnings
Thanks to two of my generous benefactors, I have a new camera today. It’s one of those fancy and ridiculously complex new digital cameras. I’m afraid I’ll have to spend a lot of time learning how to use it before I can enjoy the “Superhigh-Performance” promised on the box.

I’m not too intimidated by my new machine, though, in that those inscrutable engineers at Nikon apparently expect their creation to be used by people even stupider than me. For example, here are a few of the warnings contained in the operating manual.

    Do not walk while looking through viewfinder
    Walking while looking through the camera’s viewfinder or color LCD monitor could result in a fall or other injury.

    When using the viewfinder
    When operating the mode dial with your eye to the viewfinder, care should be taken not to put your finger in your eye accidentally.

    Do not place camera strap around neck
    Placing the camera strap around your neck could result in strangulation.

Since I have, for decades, simultaneously photographed while walking, twisted camera knobs without poking myself in the eye, and hung up to five cameras around my neck without strangling myself, I should be able to figure out how to use the new camera.

Eventually.

12 July 2000
Pay-per-view Art
Enrico told me that one has to pay to see paintings in some Italian churches. In such cathedrals, a visitor has to put a coin in a slot to temporarily reveal a painting. I forget how the system works; I think it involves motorized curtains or something like that.

The actual technique is irrelevant. For me, the concept itself is of the greatest interest. I think it would be wonderful if I could go to a museum and, instead of paying ten dollars to walk through the door, spend a couple of dollars to see only the pieces of interest. The marketing people would love it: statistics galore! The popular artists would also like such a policy; the viewing reports would provide numerical proof of their public appeal. Of course, the less commercially viable artists would probably be pushed even further into the background; who wants to risk their money discovering someone?

Since this is the millennium of marketing and statistics, I imagine I’ll be seeing lots of pay-per-view art. And, thanks to Enrico’s tip about looking over people’s shoulders, I’ll be viewing most of it for free.

13 July 2000
Chinaco Reposado Tequila
I’m sitting in a dim room with Anna and a sealed bottle of Chinaco Reposado Tequila. The bottle itself is quite impressive. Someone has apparently used a pen to write the serial number of the bottle on its ornate seal. Although this indicator of craft and personal attention was probably generated by a machine, I like the idea of one of Guillermo Gonzalez’s descendants sitting in a cool adobe room with an old fountain pen somewhere in Tamaulipas. I can see him (or is it her?) patiently numbering bottles all day; it’s a beautiful picture.

The bottle itself is quite lovely. The glass is full of tiny bubbles, as if it were blown by hand. To complete the impression of craftsmanship, all the text on the bottle is painted on the glass; the hand-numbered seal is the only piece of paper in sight.

Later, after taking the first few sips, I even forgot that the bottle, its painted label, its recently broken seal, and the blue agave concoction inside probably came from some factory in New Jersey. I delight in the temporary suspension of disbelief.

After a while, I became curious about the small, ornate text on the back of the bottle. I tried to read the fine print, but it appeared to be in Spanish. I assumed it was some romantic story about how noble workers transformed the mighty cacti into this finely-crafted and perfectly distilled bottle of tequila, but I was wrong.

Anna volunteered to translate the text for me, and that turned out to be a big mistake. She said the copy on the back of the bottle was a legal disclaimer that more or less said, “drinking this product may cause blindness.”

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14 July 2000
Night Visionless
I was disturbed to discover that I couldn’t see anything when I woke up in the middle of the night after a horrible nightmare. It’s never completely dark in the lab—most of the electronics have some sort of little green or red lights that never go off—so I should have been able to see something.

I was confused; I panicked. I wondered if I had some sort of weird medical condition, one of those bad brain things that attacks in the middle of the night. In the rush of adrenaline, I wondered if I was experiencing a total lunar eclipse, even though I knew that I was sleeping in a windowless room. I reached for the lamp, missed, and sent a large glass of water crashing on the floor.

That’s when I opened my eyes. I can’t believe I forgot to open my eyes when I awoke; that’s never happened before. It’s like Martin Mull said, “None is so blind as he who cannot see.”

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©2000 David Glenn Rinehart