RIP David Berman

Leonardo da Vinci, St. Jerome

I was operating the elevator when the repairman came aboard. After a lot of small talk he let me in on an industry secret: the “door close” button is not wired to anything. “It’s just a pacifier,” he said.

On a normal day I think in questions: “Should I quit my job? Why can’t I relate to people? Where am I going?” I can never answer them conclusively and only wear myself out. When I’m high in the back of a club listening to Son Seals play I only think in answers: “I’ll move to El Paso this fall. These solos are wandering into every unused space. My girlfriend is pretty good looking after all. I should see about buying a mausoleum.”

A municipal concession to human psychology: The insides of buses are lit at night because people will not sit in dark rooms with strangers.

I bought some greeting cards in a Nungessers junk shop last night. They’re not much more than twenty years old but the sentiments are already foreign. Fluff from other eras always turns my stomach. What if no one feels these feelings anymore. Do they go down in history like famous clothes?

I wonder if Jackson Pollock unconsciously designed so many of these canvases to have the same dimensions as U.S. paper currency, accidentally imbuing them with some concrete power.

Working at the museum is changing the way I look at everyday objects. Eating at an Italian restaurant, I look at the red and white gridded tablecloth and wonder that all the dishes have their owned unnamed coordinates.

All the guards are freaks. That is a fact. Wouldn’t standing alone in a corner six hours a day over many years change you?

David Berman, "Clip-On Tie," The Baffler No. 6 (December 1994)

Adventures of Munchausen

We sailed from Amsterdam with despatches from their High Mightinesses the States of Holland. The only circumstance which happened on our voyage worth relating was the wonderful effects of a storm, which had torn up by the roots a great number of trees of enormous bulk and height, in an island where we lay at anchor to take in wood and water; some of these trees weighed many tons, yet they were carried by the wind so amazingly high, that they appeared like the feathers of small birds floating in the air, for they were at least five miles above the earth: however, as soon as the storm subsided they all fell perpendicularly into their respective places, and took root again, except the largest, which happened, when it was blown into the air, to have a man and his wife, a very honest old couple, upon its branches, gathering cucumbers (in this part of the globe that useful vegetable grows upon trees): the weight of this couple, as the tree descended, over-balanced the trunk, and brought it down in a horizontal position: it fell upon the chief man of the island, and killed him on the spot; he had quitted his house in the storm, under an apprehension of its falling upon him, and was returning through his own garden when this fortunate accident happened. The word fortunate, here, requires some explanation. This chief was a man of a very avaricious and oppressive disposition, and though he had no family, the natives of the island were half-starved by his oppressive and infamous impositions.

The very goods which he had thus taken from them were spoiling in his stores, while the poor wretches from whom they were plundered were pining in poverty. Though the destruction of this tyrant was accidental, the people chose the cucumber-gatherers for their governors, as a mark of their gratitude for destroying, though accidentally, their late tyrant.

-- The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, by Rudolph Erich Raspe