January 14, 2010

Deeper


The record-breaking Florida cold snap, two-weeks long and just now starting to dissolve, has kept
me if not housebound, close to it. I ventured out yesterday for a brisk walk to the post office,
bundled in a down jacket.

Citrus trees all over the state have suffered heavy damage, and many crops have been completely
lost in the freeze. There has been a massive die-off of snook. They go into shock when the water
dips below 60; it's been 50. They're washing up on shore all along the gulf coast. Heartbreaking.
Their excellence, for both the food and the fight, is such that selling or trading them in Florida
is illegal. Their fishing season is short, and catch-size restrictions are strict. Recovery may
take years.

For those interested in Jeauxology, I came across this postcard in my recent dig. It was damaged,
along with several old letters, in a Staten Island apartment flood.




This requires some background. You’ll notice it’s addressed to Joseph. Even though Walter’s
partner’s name was Joseph, he took a fancy to calling me Joseph as well. So there were two of us
at the farm. Joseph and Joseph. Inflection and the like, as it happened, became remarkably
effective in keeping it sorted out. Once in a while I’d respond to something he was saying to his
Joseph. “I was speaking to the other Joseph,” he’d say. “I’m not other Joseph,” said Joseph,
feigning vexation. “You are if I talk to him first,” said Walter. 2... 3... 4... Somewhat to my
chagrin, the appellation stuck and followed me to New York for quite a while. I got used to it,
but it’s really not me. Of all the homo formalizations - Michael, Robert, Philip, - Joseph may be
the most formal of them all. Just as Joe is so informal it’s a staple of many a catch phrase. By
the time I moved to Staten Island, I was dedicated to getting my Joe back. Among other things. And
when I started making new friends I quickly did.

Anyway, the postcard. Walter was hanging out in London with William Empson when it arrived in my
mailbox on Vestry Street. And to bring this long digression around to its point, Walter’s
handwriting is a doppelganger, with some minor variations, of mine. Very close friends often share
these uncanny ringers, a DNA of the soul, manifested in the flesh. I was quietly pleased, though
not surprised, when I first noticed the resemblance. There was a resonance between us from the day
we met that had nothing to do with romance. I had, in fact, been trying to put a move on Joseph.
Tauruses generally like each other, but Walter and I fell into a comfort zone that is what the
word soul mate was invented to describe, despite the twenty year difference between us. Joseph
tolerated this very well, a corollary to my indifference to their romantic connection. We
functioned, the three of us, with an intimacy and mutual deference, deeper than any family, that
seems now to have preexisted our having met. I’m tempted to call it a karass, it reposed in such
sweet inevitability. It comes closest to describing the grace that permeated it beyond any
apparent purpose. They'd lived, all along, a half-hour drive from the house I grew up in. They’re
both gone now.

A distant cousin of that tribal paradigm, although attenuated and a little pale, reappeared in my
Vestry Street years. I have a few photos. We’ll talk. But today I’m eager to greet the return of a
semblance of summer. Get a little sand in my shoes.



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