Rated PG (language)
“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 20—The Crux of the Biscuit
‘Might is write,’ I wrote. God that sucks…
I wasn’t writing during much of this period when Katy was younger. Instead, I concentrated my creative efforts on photography, and even did some paintings. On the surface, a picture was worth a thousand words. Underneath, I knew that a thousand words could be used to express almost anything. To shape a mental image within the friendly confines of verbiage was a much trickier and more sublime undertaking. Words had to be so specific… The visual arts were more of a pastime for me, until the real thing opened up and spilled into reams of perfectly strung words.
I paced myself, hovering on the fringes of my ultimate desire: to write. When I wrote letters and poems to Babe during our secret affair of several months they were inspired by a new love that was trapped in an old bubble. Sentences escaped like air from a deflating tire, rather than like helium raising a balloon. The suffering was there, and it vented like a hot radiator onto page after page of emerging thoughts about life and happiness and fulfilment, and how to get them all to line up into the perfect paragraphs of my existence. But once the heartfelt suffering was gone, the words went with them.
That’s what I was waiting for, the return of the words, but it wasn’t happening. I refuse to suffer for the sake of writing! That’s an old fart’s tale! I truly believe. But… but… where is it? Where do I get this inspiration; enough to overflow with the rich texture of language at my command? When I asked myself What do I have to do? the answer always came back: Nothing.
I’m in the bathroom, looking for ideas. I sit backwards on the john and face the wall. Then I wait. It usually doesn’t take long, typically less time than it does for me to take a shit, actually, though I don’t want to brag. It’s not that I have a writer’s block thing going, I’m just more confident on the john. The bathroom settles my mind; it’s where the bubbles rise…
Back again? my oft-creative, inner voice asks.
“You know why I’m here. Hit me with it,” I think, therefore I wait. I’m not impatient, this always works.
Hit you with what?
“I don’t know, make it up,” I muse, silently staring at my bath towel.
You didn’t run out of ideas, you just can’t remember some of them right now.
“True, then remember them for me. Please.” I add politely.
Pause. Nothing. Still nothing. Followed by nothing. Nothing is following anything.
Say it like: No Thing.
No thing. Still no thing. Foll—
Say: No Thing is following Any Thing… when, in fact, it could just as easily be: No Thing is preceding Some Thing.
“Fuck that!” I shake myself. “C’mon man, talk to me!”
Listen to yourself, I’m told. You’re like your old, addict self. You’re practically detoxing with the need to write something, aren’t you?
But it reads better that way, don’t you agree?
Good, I’m glad we agree.
“Where were we?” I ask myself, calm now.
Followed by more of No Thing…
Not ‘No Thing.’ Write ‘Apostrophe’ instead.
Pregnant pause, followed by a double space…
“Oh yeah!” I remember now. “The Zappa song!” I ruminate about this for a time while staring at my towel, making sure I don’t have to whiz as long as I’m there. I know immediately where I’m headed with this, Stink-foot.
Maybe you should take some of Fido’s advice, comes the voice in my head.
“Should I add another ‘Pause’ here?”
If you wish.
I do, because it sinks in then what I’m telling myself. I am referring to what I think is perhaps the best verse in rock ‘n roll, the verse in Frank Zappa’s Stink-foot that goes like this (italics mine):
Then Fido got off the floor,
and he rolled over and looked me straight in the eye,
and you know what he said?
Once upon a time
somebody say to me
(this is the dog talking now)
What is your
Well I told him right then, Fido said,
It should be easy to see.
The crux of the biscuit,
is the apostrophe…
I puzzled over the riddle of those lyrics for literally decades.
Do you get the point?
I didn’t want to but yes, I did. I didn’t have to think anymore, or listen. I just had to look at my towel. It’s brown.
I knew what the verse meant to me. Even if Zappa didn’t write it for my interpretation, this was the way I chose to understand it and it hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks. So much so, I felt I must surely be cognizing the artist’s intent.
Say ‘a ton of feathers’ instead.
“What? No one will get it.”
“God I love Zappa…”
You’re always in awe of his work. Even songs you’ve heard for, what is it, thirty-seven years now?
“Please don’t remind me,” I plead.
They never get old, do they?
“Not like I do.”
Ha-ha! That’s funny….
“Okay. Look, I get the point. You’re telling me to go back out and shut the computer down.”
No, leave the music playing if you like. Just don’t write anything.
I understood. The apostrophe is the space between the sounds. As such, it represents (to me) the existential stillness of life. It symbolizes the ‘No Thing,’ if you will, between the Other Things. It’s the ‘Be Here Now’ spot between the letters used to spell life’s stuff. It stops you before you carry on with the rest of the word; if only for the split second it takes to make the transition.
Not only that, it’s the ‘crux of the biscuit,’ too, as Fido said. Without the apostrophe, the break between, everything runs together and there’s no rest. Everything needs rest; witness Light resolving Darkness, and Stop always follows Go. ‘Rest’ is the analogy of drawing back the bow and arrow. The further you pull it back, the longer the arrow flies — the more powerful it is. Without rest, you soon have nonsense.
The apostrophe is that spot on the wall where the ball changes direction, before it goes the other way. The crux of the biscuit is to Be Here Now, and what better way to represent that than with the ages-old, reliable, important and trust-worthy apostrophe? Our old friend— who knew its sublime signifigance all this time? Zappa did, that’s who, as well as any loin-clothed yogi meditating on the banks of the Ganges would have — though it’s not likely they’d be listening to a Stink-foot raga for that bit of revelation.
Maybe I will whiz, as long as I’m here.
So what are you going to do now, as if I don’t already know…
I laughed. “Sure, I’ll stop for awhile. I get it, right after I write this down.”
Are you hopeless? Are you addicted to writing?
“Well, no. And yes. Maybe. Does it matter? Are you saying I’m addicted to writing?”
Well, I, er…
“What does that mean, exactly, and does it matter?”
Let’s just say you’re ‘compelled’ to write, and leave it at that.
“So what’s the difference between being compelled and/or addicted?”
Nothing, I guess.
“So shut up.”
Sure, sure, whatever you say…
“Yes, I know.”
It’s only compulsion when you have something to say. Without that, it’s addiction. That’s why you’re here, in the bathroom again, looking for something to say so you can satisfy that ‘compulsion’of yours.
“I think I see the point…”
Probably not all of it. You also want validation, recognition and remuneration. In the meantime you treat it like your other oral addictions. Think about it, if you’re not smoking or drinking coffee, gin, wine, Irish Mist, cognac or tea, then you’re doing both. Have a Raisinette.
“So is that a bad thing?”
Could be worse.
I think about that. “I don’t think I’m addicted to sitting backwards on the toilet seat.”
That would be worse.
The Rookie walks through the bathroom door, poking it aside with a paw stuck through the crack. She is fast becoming Teenage Cat.
“Hey, you wanna play cards?” she asks me.
“I gotta go…”
I know, we’ll talk later.
Nods to Zappa. Stink-foot © 1974 Rykodisc.