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Last night someone started reading from one of those little books of questions you can pick up as you wait a few days in the barnes and noble check out line. These books, and books quite like them only representing answers, or parallels, or ironies, seem to always be available there, like bags of chips, only in wee form, calendar form, day-runner form, pop-up form, water-cooler form —

Here’s the thing: last night’s readers scanned the pages without speaking aloud, little looks of disgust growing broader on their faces until they would wordlessly throw the book. Somebody would pick it up and we’d say

OK.
*You* read another question.

There may have been no suitable questions in the book of questions. I made up my own:

How did I get here? The room is filled with talk, food, drink, music, laughter and I’m being drawn up into the corner by the ceiling by some Dream Supervisor, moonlighting in the wrong area of human consciousness. It’s New Year’s Eve so everyone is moving in a soft light with vaselined edges, but the provenance is missing. I try to get the Dream Supervisor’s attention, but she’s furiously scribbling on her clipboard.

What was the Austrian medical researcher thinking when he opposed the establishment of a neonatal clinic in Lhasa? Let them die, he said. I was hearing this third hand and I imagined his eugenic-al accent. Still, I did not shriek. I turned my head and opened my mouth, then closed my mouth, my mental picture Koyaanisqatsi-style fast forwarding through the industrialization of Tibet (left side of the screen) and the return of my industrialized neighborhood in East Oakland to wetlands after we are removed by a fast-acting hemorrhagic virus (right side of screen).

and then, in a rush to re-anchor:

Where can I find that hack to permit dubbing new audio tracks onto DVDs? plus the follow-up Does the phase “permit dubbing” always sound like a euphemism of “unlawful tampering?” I need to know, so I can take the work from 2003 and repackage it in 2004.

I asked that last one aloud, and wrote the answers on a piece of paper I can’t find now.

Outside on the deck we assembled in a circle, each holding a candle. While lighting the first candle and each in turn, we were invited to speak of the expiring year, offer a wish for the oncoming one, or not, but, like so many chain letters, do not bust the flow. We didn’t. The neighborhood crackled with explosions, all very, very benign.