Tuesday, September 15, 2009

think of the kitchen table when you're not there

A day in the Chair’s office can mean, alas, precisely that, a day in the chair’s office, with too much business to move away from it except to the bathroom; lunch a packet of cheese crackers left over from the Department’s welcome party (I’ll do better tomorrow: there’s some cold beetroot curry – made with coconut milk, that looks and tastes a lot better and less weird than it sounds. I just need to remember to take it in). And it wasn’t even until I was on the way home that I remembered I hadn’t yet taken a photo; and somehow I couldn’t quite bear to do so in Stop & Mope, where the customers were their usual bizarre selves (Alice quite right pointed out that it would need Diane Arbus to do justice to many of the inhabitants of Highland Park. There was a particularly bad tempered elderly lady in the car park outside S&S today, who cursed – happily in a language I couldn’t understand – at my Obama sticker, probably apprehensive that our President was about to have her up before a death committee. Typing that I realize that I haven't ever stopped to consider whether there was a residual holocaust fear behind some of these crazed right wing objectors to their mythic version of the health care plan, which does give me a moment's pause about the visceral base on which fear builds).

So that leaves me with – well, with what? The kitchen table: a good fall-back position to find something photographable – and also a good photographic challenge in its own right: find a slightly different angle on something familiar. Kitchen tables came up in class yesterday as an example of that very Bloomsbury group question - is something there is you can't see it? I was talking about the opening of Forster's The Longest Journey, where a group of Cambridge students sit around discussing whether a cow is in a field whether one's there to look at her or not. "It was philosophy," Forster explains, possibly with one of his habitual selfmocking digs at his own seriousness. "They were discussing the existence of objects, Do they exist only when there is some one to look at them? Or have they a real existence of their own?" And by the time we get to To the Lighthouse, Andrew tries to explain his father's philosophical research to the puzzled Lily by saying that it's about "Subject and object and the nature of reality...Think of the kitchen table when you're not there" - as though that phrase will stand in as a reference point for a whole philosophical debate. I loved to think of the kitchen table when I wasn't there, today - above all, in the sense that I was looking forward to getting home to it.


  1. Over the summer I spent just about every day in Stop & Mope, as my only alternative was C-Town, and I'll take bizarre customers over rotting produce and a terrible fly infestation any day. Plus, it's quite the step up from the Shop Rite I used to work at in Stirling, where we had this wonderful event called "senior citizen day" once a week. Each Tuesday, group of 40 or so senior citizens took a bus over from the local assisted living center and did what they liked to call "grocery shopping," which essentially means each aisle was crowded with older couples pushing empty carts around the store for a few hours until they either got bored or someone actually decided to purchase an item (which, for some reason, was almost always a jar of peanut butter). Someone really needs to bring those people to Las Vegas or something because no one should ever consider that suitable entertainment.

  2. The truly bad NJ combination would probably be S&M, Shop Rite, or whatever they have on the outskirts of Atlantic City (where, you'll be un-surprised to hear, I was once told NOT to take photographs inside the casino - not that I was gambling, but on a RU NJ bus tour [!!])