Yesterday morning, and for no apparent reason, I was feeling rather agitated. After-all, it's easy to do these days. Once you reach marriageable age and have pills to pay, these twin curses focus their hideous gaze and swiftly cheat you of your hard earned money. So, as previously noted, I was feeling agitated, which in this great ape, tends to rattle his lavishly appointed cage. Maybe, now that I have reached a certain age and have participated in said "Rat Race" for a couple of decades, I can, at times, bounce off the walls and nervously pace .
But help was on its way. I picked up a freshly painted copy of The New Yorker and turned to page 68: "In 1943, when I was a fifteen-year-old schoolboy in Danzig, I volunteered for active duty". I went back to bed and read "How I spent the war", by Günter Grass.
Just the same, when I saw the "Tin Drum" in 1979, at a Paris matinee, I remember feeling similarly oppressed and agitated. The theater was Parisian small, and packed with the unemployed and the disenchanted, or was it a Saturday?
For lack of a better day, I had gone to see the "Drum" with a classmate I had just befriended. I can't remember his name as we did not remain friendly for long; after-all I was on my way upstate. On his being the pompous spawn of old Parisian money, I remember going to dinner at his parents' well appointed hotel particulier, where less than public servants served us dinner in white gloves and tails; on silver plates.
What struck me most was that Grass's Oscar (our tiny protagonist) had remembered his birth date. Not long before seeing the movie, I had had a dream where my only and very still view of the world consisted of a grey metal dresser, pale yellow walls, an open window and in the distance, a reddish-grey-brick mural, upon which a faded ad had long ago been painted. A sunny day.....
I remember waking up and feeling that this was the room where I had spent my first uterus free day. I walked downstairs to talk my mother and described this fuzzy dreamscape and this is what she said: " That's where you were born Olivier". She looked a little dazed and our conversation quickly ended, which seemed a little strange given my mother's more than garrulous ways. May be she remembered that day, as if in a postpartum haze. Unfortunately, my first earthly day had almost resulted in making it: Her last day. She had bled profusely while her attending was away, delivering someone else's birthday cake. She was close to death when my father finally came in and alerted the ward's nurses. They managed to stop the hemorrhage and someone else's blood saved her from her impending fate.
When we walked out, it was one of those dark and dreary French winter days. My schoolboy date wanted to chatter in a Montparnasse cafe but I felt irritated and only listened to him halfway. I finally came up with an excuse to run the hell away . He, no doubt, followed his golden crumbs back to his well appointed home and pontificated.
When I finished reading Mr.Grass's essay on his days as a Waffen S.S, I was, magically; no longer agitated. So, if your mother lives ten thousand miles away, and you don't want to wake her up to help you sooth your nervous ways; read a little Grass in the middle of the day.