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Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Catfish Hunter

In my dream I was going to look at a restaurant owned by Catfish Hunter, the baseball pitcher, to see if I would buy it. It was a decrepit and very small building, in Davis where I grew up. It was more or less where fluffy donuts used to be, though it was a detached building and not part of the mall where the donut shop actually was. (Hunter was a pitcher for the Oakland A's when I was a kid, though in my dream he said he confirmed to be that he had pitched for the San Francisco Giants). He was supposed to give me $75 just for agreeing to look at it, and was selling it for a suspiciously low price of $5,000. I was thinking to ask whether he rented or owned the building, and asking to taste the food. I wanted my seventy-five in cash, not a check that his wife was trying to give me. I remember thinking irrationally that if this were a dream it would be better to be paid in cash!

The interior of the restaurant was cramped and crowded with shelves of dusty knickknacks. I argued with them, mildly, about whether their interior design was good, which it obviously wasn't. The visual detail in the dream was more precise than I've ever experienced, though now it is a bit of a blur.

Catfish was a very nice man in my dreams, with a folksy manner about him but excessive pride in his horrible looking restaurant. He even looked more or less like the real Catfish Hunter did as an old man, though I probably never thought about him in more than 30 years.

I politely refused to buy the restaurant, saying something like "This is more than I can take on right now." I remember being very proud of my tact and the way the sentence was the perfect response to the situation. I never did get the money, since of course I woke up and none of this was real.


Obviously this takes me back to my childhood, when I watched him pitch for the A's and lived in Davis and went to Fluffy Donuts. The idea of taking on another responsibility right now is frightening to me. The cramped space resembles my home office (and my campus office) where I am working long hours. The promise of a small sum like $75 can be childishly satisfying, whereas $5000 is about as much as I could spend in an emergency. Dreaming this felt both unpleasant and satisfying. I was creating a narrative in my unconscious mind with disparate elements that ended up having a definitive shape to them, in their new Gestalt.

If he said he played for the wrong team it was because I wasn't sure, and he simply confirmed my own mistake. Of course, I knew he had pitched for the OTHER Bay Area team once I was awake.


Thomas said...

What kind of literary fact is the affinity between these two strings of words:

I politely refused to buy the restaurant. "This is more than I can take on right now," I said.


Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. For Lucy had her work cut out for her.

It seems to me that it should have a name.

Jonathan said...

I don't know. I'd need a third example to know what you're talking about.

Thomas said...

I'm not sure I know how to construct (or find) another one.

It would consist of two sentences. I guess the first would describe an action (or inaction) and the second would describe conditions that make it necessary, preferably a gesture at already having too much to do.

Or perhaps the first would describe a decision to act or not, a refusal or a resolution.

Woolf was probably very proud of herself when she came up with that first sentence as a way of starting her book. You had (rightly) the same sort of pride in your dream.

We can think of rewrites that align the paradigms more closely:

Professor Mayhew politely refused to buy the restaurant. For it was more than he could take on.

But at this point it pretty much becomes pastiche, and that is not the quality I'm looking for.

Lucy politely refused to get the flowers. "I have my work cut out for me already," she said.

I think I'm trying to get at whatever it is Borges says "creates a precursor". Somehow, when I read your sentences, I felt the influence of Woolf. But there probably was no influence at all; rather, your sentences made me think of Woolf's and notice something in them (or project something on them). But what likeness is it that I'm seeing?

The juxtaposition makes me feel a bit like this. Though I'm told that here there's probably also not talk of "influence" either.

Jonathan said...

I think it's a fairly unremarkable sequence of sentences in either case. The comparison is also excessive, given that I'm no prose stylist on that level. But I think it's interesting in the way that Pound discovered a narrative device in Homer that he had first thought Henry James invented, the imaginary observer (I'm probably not remembering this right, will have to look it up.) What made this become visible?

Thomas said...

Well, Kafka had the idea that even when he wrote an unremarkable sentence like "He looked out the window," which I guess you could find in a Harry Potter book, there was something of perfection in it. I'm sure that whatever it is is in the eye of the beholder.

I think there is something very stylish and literary about the sentence "I politely refused to buy the restaurant." Probably precisely because it seems at once ordinary and like something that would only happen in a dream. There are many things that we wouldn't think twice about someone refusing to buy, but a restaurant?

Sean Cole has that great line, "Mr. Joel. /
I beg you: tear down this Italian restaurant."