SA4QE 2014 - Diana Slickman - Chicago Illinois, United States
On Tuesday, it was cold and windy and snowy, as it has so often been this winter, here in Chicago. In the morning I selected my quotes (two this year) and wrote them out on authentic, yellow A4 paper from Ryman's (purchased in London in September, specifically for this purpose) and headed out to work. As usual, I chose my quotes more or less at random, and as usual, I wasn't sure where they wanted to be left. At the end of my work day, I found the right spot for this one:
Under the bed Death sat humming to itself while it cleaned its fingernails. I never do get them really clean, it said. It's a filthy job I've got but what's the use of complaining. All the same I think I'd rather have been Youth or Spring or any number of things rather than what I am. Not Youth, maybe. That's a little wet and you'd hardly get to know people before they've moved on. Spring's pretty much the same and it's a lady's job besides. Action would be nice to be, I should think.
Elsewhere Action lay in his cell smoking and looking up at the ceiling. What a career, he said. I've spent more time in the nick than anywhere else. Why couldn't I have been Death or something like that. Steady work, security.
This I left taped to the inside of a bus shelter on Peterson Avenue, that butts up against the fence of Rosehill Cemetary (http://www.dignitymemorial.com/rosehill-cemetery/en-us/directions.page), a large burial ground not far from my house. Waiting for the bus, particularly the #84 Peterson bus, is something of an existential excerise, during which one (or I, at least) often contemplate death, from various angles. I thought this a fitting complement.
I headed on to The Brixton, a little bar/restaurant on Clark Street, which I thought had an appropriately London-related name. It was my intention to raise a glass to Russ, have a little bite to eat, and leave a quote behind. It was surprisingly busy for a snowy Tuesday night, and I took a seat at the bar. I ordered a perfect Manhattan and the potato soup - as close to potato pancakes as I could get at the moment. "Absent friends" I said to the man sitting next to me, as I lifted my glass. He looked at me and smiled vaguely. It's not a very common toast in America, so who knows what he made of it. I drank my drink and ate my (fantastically delicious) soup and paid my tab, after getting an oddly enthusiastic high-five from the bartender for, I guess, the excellence of my choices and my efficiency in ordering, consuming, and settling up. It was a strange moment. I'm a middle-aged woman, one who is rarely invited to give or receive high fives by anyone, and this wasn't a particularly high-fiving sort of establishment. And yet, as I asked for my bill, up went his hands and like magic up went mine; slap, smile, and "all right! I like it!" from the bartender. On my way out (bemused) I stopped into the ladies room and slipped a yellow paper, folded, between the folded hand towels next to the sink. The quote on that one read:
Holding on to the world is mostly an act of faith: you see a little bit of it front of you and you believe in the rest of it both in time and space. If you're scheduled for a jump to Hubble on Tuesday you believe in you, in Hubble, in the jump, and in Tuesday. Sometimes it was hard for me to believe all of it.
I suited up for my reentry into the night and the cold: coat, scarf, hat, gloves. Off I went.
As I am every year, I am delighted and amazed at all the contributions to the SA4QE this year. Thanks to all of you for taking part and thanks to Mr. Cooper and russellhoban.org for hosting us and most of all, thanks to Russ, the founder of the feast.