I’m revisiting two very corny jokes my father used to tell when I was probably at an age of discovering a delight in language and the joy of a joke. The first was:
Q- How many tons does a subway weigh?
A-Two tons, up-ton and down-ton.
And here’s the second……
Q- If you were stranded in the desert what would eat for lunch?
A-The sand-which-is there.
Ah, the elasticity of words. My fascination never stopped. Both these puns depend on audible language. My Dad had one faculty he didn't pass on to me. He could play a tune by ear on his mandolin. He heard a certain musicality in the sounds we make; a poet who never wrote. He once told me a long name for a milkshake: a frothy saccharine concoction of a lacteal secretion of a graminivorous quadruped. I let it roll it around my tongue.
I remember a fight I got into with another eleven-year old kid. I called him a fucking-bastard-son-of-a-bitch. I might just as well have called him a bucking-fastard-bun-of-a-stitch. The words had no meaning for me but there was a lyricism in the rhythm of it. Sort of like a poem.
A few weeks ago I wrote of a terrible incident as a kid in which my friend, Johnny Kassabian, accidentally had a knife go through his arm resulting in nerve damage to several fingers. My father had me look up the scientific description of this condition in one of his medical reference books. We came up with a term which brings back that moment: Palmer fascia aponeurotic expansion of the palmeris brevis. Whether this makes any sense I don’t know but the sounds still cling to me.
Recovering these early encounters with language is a form of archeology. Shards of broken moments make up a vessel. The collected and recollected are clues to how I became me and you, you...if we invest meaning in them.
One final recollection. When I was seven years old a hit song on the radio was, Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar. I thought it was about child abuse. You really didn’t, did you? Yes, I really did. Just as I thought, I Found a Million-Dollar Baby in the Five and Ten Cent Store, was about a kidnapping in Woolworths. There is a time in childhood when you take everything as literal. Then suddenly you don’t. You get it.
Imagine going back to that aha moment when you discovered the moon wasn’t made of green cheese unless you wanted it to be.
e once HHHHB