Ulysses and Me

A long journey back and I find myself at the typewriter, well past midnight on the college campus…trying to make sense of it all.  One of the most intriguing classes I took those many years ago was a wonderful little episode called Modern British Fiction, as taught by one Dr. Paul LaChance.  Little did I know the journey he would take us on with a sharing of Ulysses by James Joyce.  Somehow, it was the culmination of what I had begun a few short years earlier and this one book helped immensely with my burning desire to make sense of it all.  Life happened quickly after college and armed with my experiences, I got down to business with whatever I began doing.  I still haven’t made sense of it all, but I am pleased with the journey.  My journey with writing took on more form, more deliberate notions. However, during that brief space of time I was gladly naïve and pleasantly unaware of the limitations that life can bring.  Herewith, then, is an accounting of that study with Joyce…and spiritual thanks to Paul for opening doors.


The Graduate - December 1981

Ulysses and Me

Where do I begin?  Somehow this has all got to make sense, even if it’s only a partial understanding into the fabric of those pages.  Christ, so many weeks end on end spent trying for that quick glimpse of Beauty between the covers.  I’m grabbing space in this room holding solemn serenity and a green pen wondering how to say it. – Monday night kicks off the week and I rush through the day meeting my appointments with lecture hall psychologies and the Romantics, withholding my full force of energy.  Pete and I in the Lane Center kicking around the idea of Arts and Letters and memory perception and anxious to be somewhere other than we are then Wham! under heavy skies the day shoots past and I find myself in the library holding down the 9 to 5 till 10 and doing preliminary reading.  I had a system.  It was always interrupted.  Jump into timelessness, then, as reality becomes motionless and I nail Ulysses before my eyes with cigarettes, matches, soda, junk food, a blanket, a dictionary, suspended judgment, a bit of cocoa, and a taste of something more to get me through the night.  Energies released and the mind blows every word up to the size of a full page.  I stumble and grope with words I’ve never heard before, nuances of language neatly placed on the pages and everything takes on different meanings.  I find myself looking up definitions to words I’ve known all my life, but they seem to be something entirely new to me now.  There!  The Beauty is in the language, right there in the hills and valleys of paragraphs and the cliffhangers of dialogue.  No way to reproduce what I see.  It winds alone and I hunt and peck and dig deeper into this holy mess unable to tell if I will make it through the night.

Grab that alarm clock Gabriel!  Stop the blam de lam.  Damn!  What time did I slip off last night?  No matter.  Three hours before class and what to do?  I ran out of soap last week but a cold shower to boost me up is what I need.  Quick!  Boil some water and ingest some of that coffee.  Grab Joyce and start in again.  With a frantic fever I’m plowing through the pages once again.  Sorry, no time for timeless beauty.  Just try to place the episode in context.  What?  Delectable Immortality of the…hey?  Why did he pick his nose?  Whatever.  It’s okay with me.  Just accept what’s going on and don’t try to force it.  Still, I wish I had some more time to figure this out.  Can’t waste time.  Must think while I’m moving.  There’s that feeling of What? and Please! with this love/hate of everything pressing down some kind of heavy and…shit!  Forgot to brush my teeth again!  Poor Stephen…Sit down slowly and let everything run through my mind one more time.  The all file in gaily now.  I wonder if they feel the same as…those three ladies in the front row…no, I don’t think they…here comes Annette.  Incognito as always.  I know she can relate…too bad there’s that faction going strictly by the point system…they’ll be caught.  Karma will deal with that…uh oh!  Here comes Paul.  What’s that smug grin he’s wearing.  Must know something.  “Question number one…”

Hooray for Utopia.  The hour is here for all good men to come to the aid of their own design and to gather all the implements of creativity at their disposal.  For now we unite.  Unbroken golden strand stretching for miles of endless thoughts in my brain.  Looking to the east I think I see the faint beginnings of sunrise.  A three-masted ship awaits my arrival and I leave with admonishments and exhortations which I can only hope are heeded.  The hour is come.

Arched slightly forward with arms tucked in close to the body I see him walking along using his ash plant as a feeler.  With a cold scorn emphasizing his wisdom he is deep into his thoughts and I wonder what is on his mind.  Lost in the suffused radiance of warm moon glow my mind pulsates with the motion of the waves.  Visions barely perceptible caress my blanket of being and in irregular motion penetrate the flow of my existence.  Suffice to say these are fragments of some indefinable Beauty which I have somehow managed to capture and use for my own design.  Yes, he is right.  The allegiance one bears must be to one’s self and to no other.  This, the reality of the soul and Reality merely the soul in quest.  At point blank range the soul becomes the living Beauty of the acquired truths and with frozen perceptions the vision possesses all into itself.  Turning the head slightly so as to change focus I adjust the glasses on the bridge of my nose and settle myself more firmly into my chair.  But what of Stephen?  His ponderous ruminations inebriate my thoughts and leave me gasping for air as I try to comprehend the journey he is on.  Underneath his search I believe Stephen to be not a little afraid and quite nervous about his surroundings.  Given to intellectual premises his fear manifests itself into some sort of educated scorn for humanity, something which perplexes me.  Without malice, he severs the cord from his existence and humanity’s womb leaving me to believe that his journey will be somewhat fruitless.  Stephen is soaring dangerously high and almost inescapably over the edge.  He has moved the vessel of his thoughts in the clouds capturing a piece of the sky, but there is a tie to earth he cannot dismiss himself from.  There is Beauty in the flight itself, yet there are times when we must land to reclaim our embodied existence, an inseparable part of us, and while Stephen steers his soul with precisioned accuracy in the heavens, he wanders aimlessly on earth.  By using his cold scorn of wisdom, Stephen is able to barricade himself from the storm of reality around him, but somewhere in the tempest a father’s voice comes whispering through.

*          *          *

The calibration of time measured out in the rhythmic to and fro.  Must be something to do with heartbeat.  But then, if man is time then he must be eternal.  Or might the big clock stop?  Well, anyway, they say time is of the essence so I guess it’ll happen someday.  Wonder if it will stop all of a sudden or just slow to a halt?  Better stick to what I was thinking about in the first place.

There is a feeling of watching an old Chaplin film when Bloom comes to mind.  His thoughts are like dialogue to the silent films and although his situation is at times precarious, I see him somehow (that word again) finding his way to the end of the reel.  Bloom, the Hungarian-Jew living in Ireland, the double-bladed exile.  There are those who take pleasure in twisting the knife on occasion.  Like that newspaper editor.  Nannetti?  No, I think that’s over reaching.  Crowfoot?  Yes, that’s it, Crowfoot.  That Keyes ad Bloom was working on and old Crowfoot more concerned with pub appearances.  Politeness didn’t pay off for him.  Leopold Bloom so misunderstood pleasantly aligns his day with great resourcefulness and precarious determinism.  Aside from the fact that he had a considerably large number of townsfolk who pay him slight heed as well as dealing downright rudeness to him he still occasions to peg most of the ole chaps for what they are.  Well, close enough.  There are times when even a third eye reader has to raise a little eyebrow at his puzzling antics.  For instance, resourceful as he is, why he could have fixed Boylan’s wagon through some clever this or that when he…perhaps he could have sent some errand boy over to the house just about the time.  Yes, now that would have been something.  Caught with the drawers down.  Ah, but then he would’ve been persistent and arranged for another appointment with her.  Must change things through her.  Divert her interests.  Ah, Bloom.  That’s the long way around the mountain you know.  Still, Bloom, the amazing trapeze artist does well with what he has to work with.  After all, that’s the trick isn’t it?  All power comes from within and without that little tick tick of the brain to come up with a solution to whatever may lay before us, why then, we’d all be doomed, eh?

There’s a bit of the Bloom in all of us.  Our near misses and occasional flubs embarrass us, but we’re still persistent.  We each of us rationalize our peculiar, individualized eccentricities maintaining the best posture we can considering…and there are breaking points counter-attacking the slanders hurled at us in which we strike out in blinding rage.  And sure, it’s all comical in retrospect.  We are each of us wandering, trying to get back to somewhere.  We live it all each day and are closer on some and farther off on others.  The search continues.  We come home to roost for a while, but then are back off again so our tales go.  And there are sore spots too each holding on to memories of dead Rudy’s of past sorrows we heap the blame on ourselves and try to think how it might be different if we could go back and change things, but whatever, we have our present journeys to contend with and breathe in and forge ahead.  Wandering Bloom of weary, woeful Whatness and it’s all in a long day’s journey…

*          *          *

Yes it all becomes so confusing in those long hours just before dawn when the sounds outside take on a new significance I was just about to capture her somehow in my thoughts when who knows what use it would be to figure her out she’ll forever be the mysterious force I worship and hate what about her can I let myself unroll inside her long enough to discern her tch tch she has me all unwound with her preoccupations and her smug disregard for her marriage when after I’ve been through this whole book hating her I’m supposed to now lay out some sort of compassion because yes she really isn’t manipulated by others just a bit influenced well I can see how a marriage like that can become a strained situation but good heavens when one doesn’t try and then the other the chain reaction starts and pretty soon a hot summer day in Gibraltar wouldn’t thaw out the frozen mess that thing with her and all the men well yes I can see it and I know she’s a fine figure of beauty and why let all that talent go to waste but what happens when the truth is bared on the rug and it all hits the streets well then no excuses no matter how divine will untangle the knot it seems that all this power unto oneself and individualized concept must still needs be somehow in connection with a conscious effort towards humanity but then she does say Yes and Yes is written from the past to imply the future yet the game has been played for so long that only some kind of full release from the clutter can afford the possibility to come clean.

Molly where are your interests when you jump to and fro why play the game when you think that’s all you have don’t you realize that for heaven’s sake we are all in this together and best to remain true to our commitments rather than rely on ourselves to carry on burdens I like the way you unfold yourself drawing from the past like that and yes things are exactly real compassion like other people who might depend on you well I guess I’m in a little deep and I know Poldy hasn’t been much help lately but see it just goes to show you how things get so muddled forever and on and on the constantly swerving track we somehow take the wrong train and end up some place other than where we should be it’s just that I understand why you would feel that way I’m a bit down to earth myself still somehow again the word doesn’t all this tell us that our revolving spheres have to shed some kind of light on each other.

*          *          *

How do I get out of here?  I never was much good at articulating everything I wanted to say.  That is, all the little details, every spec, are just as important to me.  Oh well.  Somehow I’ve managed to stumble my way through the book and at least now I can say I went far enough to say Yes, I’ve truly been there – but the journey goes on and I’ll forever keep Ulysses in my breast pocket with constant re-thumbing so as to keep the main chance.  My head is all cloudy and I’ve got the feeling I’ve been out all night to Nighttown exposing myself to ceremonial journeys of nightmarish hell and overblown ego trips.  I really can’t lay out the significance of all the details.  Like Bloom, I can only venture an educated guess and, then, there, it’s all what you make of it, isn’t it?  Yes, I want to fly and will remain forever flapping golden wings, but somehow I must remember that I am at this point in time tied to the earth as well.  The journey is fluxional.

*          *          *



About pmwallis

A writer, musician, traveller of the soul and investor of the truth...
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