Saturday, December 09, 2006
The Liquid Life (installment six)
WHEN THE ACADEMY AND THE STREET MEET
The most obvious thing about the salon was its size. An expansive thing both horizontally and vertically, it was a small palace done in the French Normandie style, with a few innovations not seen elsewhere then or since.
There were few, if any French Normans in that neighborhood. Elendele could afford the rent because it was low, because sometimes she carried a gun just to and from her car for safety. But that wasn’t the worse thing, she’d bemoan.
“The worse thing is this goddamn music at whatever hour of the morning or evening they please. It doesn’t matter we’re only ten feet across an alley from them. Nobody else matters,” flowed her typical stream of intolerance and hypocrisy.
Elendele’s building was higher than the neighbors’. She, being on the top floor, didn’t have to look straight into another apartment, across the alley, and actually had a pretty good jazz rooftop view.
But when the latest brass and banana offering from Sonora would explode in yellow across the night, Elendele would rage, go into a closet full of bottles she’d stored away and launch her empty Molotov at the ledge of the window from where the music was coming. She was a good shot. Sometimes it worked. Other times it just made them play louder, or worse yet, longer.
“I think you’re going against your own liberty principles, Elendele,” scratched the Saturn cat over her breakfast beer. “I detect a slight trace of the race thing, too.”
“And I don’t think you would know a principle even if it had a dollar sign stamped to it,” came the block and counterjab.
That wasn’t fair, but Elendele was scored by the criticism. So, she husked me down to the city library where she desired to delve into the topic of freedom, because she was confused about its boundaries and valuations. What she found was that most everyone to ever pick up a pen had written something on the topic. She was overwhelmed, but took what she needed and locked herself in a room, and for a few days, Saturn and I were forced to consider the limited possibilities of the twosome.
It took a week before she emerged with her latest revelation.
“I must say that I’m pretty surprised at the influence of Locke and Rousseau and their finding rights out in nature, like figs.”
“Oh yey!” cheered Saturn. Rousseau was one of her favorites.
“I learned,” Elendele lessoned, “that while not very glamorous thinkers today, the two of them could roll kings’ heads in their time, and that many of the basic assumptions that define our daily dealings are a direct growth of their mind-seeds.”
And that was all she said, before she reopened the bed so that the games could re-begin.
Some days later, we three slept: Elendele bookended by me and Saturnina, when the midnight mambo broke loose like an old Dutch dike. Sound was flooding everything with the smells of some ranch in Oaxaca.
The curly menace swung about and elbowed me in the nose, and somehow hit Saturn across her right cheek. She flashed to the window, slung it up and got a gun crack sound from the impact, which caused the band to stop.
Then she yelled into the night, as always, finger in the air, “I have been vindicated by Locke and Rousseau. Nowhere! Nowhere in the theories of these possessive individualists is there any mention of man’s right to play his music as loud as he likes, and whenever he wants, in his fruitless pursuit of happiness.
And the neighbor told her, “Das no my prolem, homegurl. Das you problem.”
There was a pause and then she closed the window quietly and climbed back into bed between us. “I’m trying. I’m trying to understand,” she explained, and then locked her mind shut to sleep while Saturn and I nursed each other bruises.