Of Sanity and Sanitary

Little significance I found in riding in a yellow vehicle called a Hummer in a yellow land called California, mile after mile after mile after mile of streets filled with lookalike cultural paraphernalia: quick stop and go snack needs shops; gas filling stations; forests of telephone poles with crisscrossing wired canopies (but on select boulevards the wires now buried in tunnels, electronic catacombs, poles sticking up through the cement, independent flag poles topped with lights such that no bird got a good night’s sleep); strip malls, movie theatres, bowling alleys; cafes, diners, coffee boutiques; bars, taverns, pubs, breweries; car lots, parking lots, big box stores; churches, schools, parks, amusement arcades, golf links; clinics, hospitals, fire and police stations; refineries, manufacturing enclaves, buildings so tall one could no longer imagine leaping one in a single bound, nor imagine what went on in those buildings; hotels, motels, mattress and furniture stores; underpasses of concrete massive waves, railroad crossings, onramps, offramps, turnabouts; banks, auto repair shops, storage units; alleys full of graffiti covered dumpsters, fences, walls, two and three story buildings with only a ground floor; concertina wire and barred windows and doors. But up and down the side streets modest early or mid century dwellings built as single family homes, with well kept yards, only the cars in drives and lining the streets testifying to the current date. Maybe we should just go home, Sylvie said, leave the rambling to ramblers, but where was home, what was home, and of what value. Join a church, she said. Go to the spaghetti dinners, the crab feeds, the social dances, the concerts and one act plays and bingo nights, the little festivals, visit the sick and elderly, help the poor, volunteer to sweep the floor, whatever needs to be handled. We passed under another overpass where a tribe of homeless had gathered their tents and tarps and carts together, where a laissez faire system no doubt prevailed, and a true democracy existed, no one represented by another, but each deciding how they would live, under what conditions, and what beliefs, but still connected to other individuals, each with different wants and needs, even if under the state’s non exhaustive unavoidable uncaring umbrella, free, even if that freedom came at the cost of sanity and the sanitary.

“Of Sanity and Sanitary” is episode 69 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Epizeuxis, epizeuxis, epizeuxis! in Thoreau’s Walden

Writing is repetition. Listen to the keyboard. Each key produces its own, unique sound, repeating, the sounds given emphasis by the relative strength and position of the fingers, but we recognize the collective effort as someone typing. Suddenly, the sounds grow faint, decrescendo. Perhaps the typist has reached the required length. Then, suddenly, suddenly, like a cat in flight, the ideas spring like birds from the grass, then scatter, some alighting on wires, others landing on roofs, others lost within thick trees, trees, trees.

Typing sounds. But that’s not writing you say, but typewriting, echoing Capote’s criticism of Kerouac’s On the Road, the first draft produced on a single roll of paper fed through his typewriter: no yoke.

And repetition is instruction, to repeat, to teach or learn, often with little relief, as we are made to recite or duplicate. But in the distance we hear the stammerer, needlessly repeating, though stammer he must, to get it out, battology, swinging away in the batting cage, practice, repetition, swing, swing, swing. If the ball is claim, the bat grounds, flight is assumption. Going, going, gone! And a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose, said Gertrude Stein, and we can imagine her writing teacher’s penciled comment on little Gert’s paper: “wordiness.” Yes, but, well, isn’t that what she’s getting paid for?

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!” rants Thoreau in the “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For” chapter of Walden (86), an example of epizeuxis, (ep i zeux’ is), a figure of repetition, a word repeated in succession for emphasis. Yet two sentences down, Thoreau seems to realize a mistake, or maybe he’s just tired himself out, and he says, “Simplify, simplify,” twice only, without the exclamation. But he’s followed his own advice, having simplified his epizeuxis, for now, diminishing the repetition by one. But, at the same time, a contradiction appears, for he’s up to five.

Thoreau repeats the word simplicity ten times throughout Walden, the word simple, twenty-five times, but the imperative, simplify, the argument of proposal, he repeats only twice, but in the figure of repetition, epizeuxis, which is to say, he says it simply once.

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