Sunday, February 11 2001
This morning after I woke up I was sitting around in Bathtubgirl's living room reading a book about the not-especially-exciting surrealist art of Renee Magritte. Rebecca Firecracker came out and I asked her if she enjoyed herself last night. "What do you think, of course I did!" she proclaimed. Her take on parties is that there is no such thing as a bad party: they are what you make them and sometimes you have to bring your own entertainment. That's apparently what she did last night.
Bathtubgirl attempted to have a show entitled "The Church of Love" at around noon but her webcast stream kept dying on her. Eventually she coaxed me into the tub so I could be "cleansed," "purged" or "healed" in some way. Without any bathing clothes, I just climbed into the tub totally naked. At first Bathtubgirl and I danced while standing, but then I just wanted to lay on my back in the water. She stood over me with a big golden wand in her hand. Though I was still totally naked, she was like an angel in a vintage white full slip she'd inherited from her grandmother. We were talking a little bit about this and that, occasionally lapsing into nostalgia and conversations about our families. For some reason the experience was emotionally overpowering for me. It wasn't so much that I was missing our relationship, but I felt like we were finally tapping into the core essentials of human society and in the process healing the considerable damage between us. I'd smoked some pot this morning and it had brought back all the super-ego-heightening-senses of the ecstasy, but these were senses tinged with considerable melancholy, the kind of melancholy you're left to feel when you're powerless to change to world and too impressed by its sublimity to even want to. I began to cry uncontrollably, occasionally so strongly that I found myself choking back sobs. I didn't really want to be seen in such a pathetic state, so I put a liquid-filled therapeutic mask over my eyes.
Bathtubgirl left me by myself for awhile, turning on the colored lights, the strobe, and playing Dead Can Dance's "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove." It's an incredibly powerful song (download it from Napster while you still have a chance). The part of the song that I really like, the part that supports the entire weight of the rest, begins and ends with these lyrics:
I love slow . . . slow but deep.
Feigned affections wash over me.
Dream on my dear
And renounce temporal obligations.
Dream on my dear
It's a sleep from which you may not awaken.
There I was, naked in the colored water and colored light, with this intense music playing and warm water washing over me, and up there on the wall was the unblinking eye of the wired world looking down at me, a human being. It was creepy: biologically, chemically and technologically, like being in a test tube and studied by aliens on a distant world (picture the planet where The Tripods come from). But that was just a subconscious feeling. At the time all I could say to relate the feeling was that it was "like being in the Matrix."
I was thinking about drugs and other pleasures of the flesh, and how different they can be from one generation to the next. Every generation likes to get fucked up, of course, but going back only one generation, to my parents, the decadence seems so innocent, quaint and even sweet, especially when viewed in the context of how the traditions of decadence were passed down to me. Mine was not an excessively puritanical family, but certain subjects were simply avoided as if taboo. Nobody really talked about sex or specific sex acts except with a detached unease, the implied subtext being that people who did these sex acts were other people, usually perverted in some way. My parents were not much into hugging or other physical forms of affection, and as a consequence neither am I, though many people have suggested to me throughout my adulthood that my attitude about these things is unusually cold and perhaps even "flesh hating."
I think of the two, my mother was somewhat more open about bodily pleasures than my father. Unlike my father, my mother had a suite of little pleasurable rituals that she would engage in and even proselytize to me. One of these that I reflected on today and thought of as incredibly sweet was her habit of taking glasses of brandy with her when she'd go off to take the occasional baths that my father would ration from the feeble household supply of collected rainwater (stored in a large basement cistern). Even when I was quite young she would encourage me to be sure to take a little brandy to the bath with me. It was as if she didn't want me to miss out on this pleasure she'd either inherited or discovered herself. I wonder what she'd do if I tried to get her to take ecstasy at least one time in her life. It seems kind of sad to think of her going through life without ever having had that experience.
I found myself pondering the relationships and tensions between Platonic friendships and sexual relationships that bear children. One particularly interesting case that immediately occurred to me was the Platonic relationship between my father and my uncle Bob, both of them professors in Chicago. Though they were best friends, as heterosexual men they realized (in a certainly unspoken way) that there were limits to their alliance. There was, most obviously, no way they could bear children. And yet, their friendship was a powerful thing. On some subconscious level perhaps they also did want to produce offspring. Anyone with cursory knowledge of genetics will tell you the solution to this problem, and I'm sure the animal subconscious is well-tuned to making all sorts of calculations based on genetics. When my father married his best friend's sister (my mother), he was guaranteeing that his children would be as closely related to his friend as if his friend were one of their grandparents. That's as good as you can possibly get under the rules of sexual reproduction in a world comprised of two sexes.
But what about my father's friends who were left out by this genetic transaction? Whenever two people decide to have a child together, they are cutting themselves off from other people with whom they might also want to bear children. Take for example my father's other professor friend, Ralph. The decision to pick the genes from Bob's family precluded genes from Ralph's family being in my father's children. The only healthy solution to this problem (and I'll address the word "healthy" in a moment) would be for my family to remain close to Ralph's family and hope for Ralph's children to eventually interbreed with my generation. As I lay there in the water pondering this thought, I found myself unnerved by the idea that perhaps the two old professor friends were maintaining a glimmer of hope that I might one day hook up with Ralph's daughter Nina, thereby uniting all three professors in a third grandchild generation. Our genes, and all the unknown and outsourced hopes, aspirations and community they seek among themselves, rally, unite, and conspire with great political savvy across the generations. We're merely hosts for the communities they compel us to construct. It's a profound thought when you loose your mind to ponder it.
Interestingly, one solution to the one-choice limitation of reproductive decision that seems obvious at first has decidedly negative consequence down the line: the parenting of numerous half-siblings. While it's true this would give my father's genes the ability to commune with the genes of one family in one child and the genes of another family in another child, the two collections of genes must still be kept apart because of the danger of inbreeding. In essence, then, the parenting of different half children leads to a division of gene community that is too dangerous to reconcile.
The best solution to the inbreeding problem is to accept the mating choices made by each generation within that generation, without parents making an attempt to fulfill the alliance plans they may have had in their generation or the alliance plans of their grandparents. This of course means that the pair bond choice is decisive one, cutting off all other worthies from potentially contributing to the gene community. The next generation will make up their own minds about with whom to breed, and might move a long way away before making that decision. This is precisely the pattern that has been followed in every generation of my ancestors of which I am aware. My grandfather Clarence DeMar was relocated as child to Boston, Massachusetts from Cincinnati, Ohio and eventually wed a woman in that town who was not of his ethnicity. My paternal grandparents were both of Germanic ancestry, but one was from Austria and the other was from Bavaria. And when my parents finally met, my mother was living in Arizona and my father was living in Chicago. And it seems doubtful that I will ever so much as live in a town occupied by any of my few near cousins.
What a terrible waste, then, of all the peripheral alliances which are abandoned because of reproductive choices. The only groups that seems to be able maintain their genetic alliances across generations are dynasties of royals and certain groups (such as polygamous Mormons) who practice arranged marriages. But such groups usually fall prey to the trap of inbreeding at some point.
Forgive me, by the way, for the paternalistic viewpoint I used for examining the reproductive choices discussed above. I'm sure subconscious "genetic community" decisions happen among both genders.
Anyway, all these thoughts filled me with a profound sense of human tragedy. Everybody is struggling along, collections of genes that they are, simply trying to preserve as many constituent memes as they can, wasting nearly all of their effort along the way.
Around this time Bathtubgirl had me try to get the webcast working, but no matter what I tried, I was a failure.
When Snow came back from walking Sophie he found Bathtubgirl and me both in the bathtub totally nude. We weren't doing anything treacherous; it was just a continuation of the healing we'd been doing. But it's not easy to behold your girlfriend nude with some other guy, even if that other guy is pretty familiar with being naked with your girlfriend. Our culture doesn't really allow for that sort of thing. So he was kind of uncomfortable about it in his own low key kind of way. His reaction played right into my sublime sense of human tragedy. It's a bummer being human. When you're in love you hurt all the time.
Eventually Bathtubgirl took me home to my West LA condo, bringing to an end one of the longest stints of civility the two of us have ever experienced. It had been a magical happy weekend, flavored with just enough sadness to make it meaningful.
In the evening the guys known as "the Muslim Mafia" came over to ask me how difficult and expensive it would be to program a bunch of Arab card games in Java. I don't think they had any idea what sort of work was required, and when I told them it would take one developer "months" to make what they wanted it was something of a rude awakening. They'd talked to other developers but no one had ever told them anything so pessimistic before. But for my part, I've been in this business long enough to know the value of managed expectations.
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