With or without a camel caravan

TRAVELING WITH A LINGUIST, somewhere in Eastern Europe … perhaps the Balkans … or perhaps even parts of Asia, such as Kurdistan. At any rate, he was explaining the addition of syllables to a place name to indicate our destination as we headed toward the train station or a marketplace or the like. We were in crowded towns, of dark brown shades, all the same.

As the scene unfolded, we agreed to part, planning to reunite, which left me to wander on my own for a while. Of course, I became confused but not panicked. At one point, I actually saw him and another – maybe even an old girlfriend of mine – walking a street below me, though I was unable to catch up.

Somehow, I became part of a wedding party reception. An old girlfriend, in fact, maybe even the same one I’d glimpsed earlier, though we were now quite distant memories of one another. Still, when our paths crossed in the crowd, we acknowledged each other’s presence, yet I’m not sure either of us wished the other well. Still, I was dragged off to festivities at a long bar with seats all around, like the Tiki bar at Lobster on the Rough, only larger. It was late afternoon or early evening – dark, that is, with twinkle lights – a Renoir kind of scene. I was told to order dinner, but getting a menu was another matter. All of the menu-like brochures said nothing of the food, as far as well could tell, much less the prices. As I hesitated, I told the waiter to go on, I’d catch up to him. Finally, it came down between a steak at $60 and lobster, also $60. I ordered the lobster. I went over to the waiter, whispered my decision to him, and was told, “Wait,” and soon a lobster on a platter was handed to me, right there. I was also told, by my neighbors at the bar, to go ahead and begin eating while the food was still hot, so I was one of the first to do so. It was a large lobster, over two pounds, served with a kind of chili on the claws. (We’d had a bean soup earlier that evening, reminding me of chili.) The father of the bride was picking up the tab, probably $8,000 for the event. (My first lover’s daddy? Maybe because I’d come across his obit again earlier in the week.) Even so, I was aware that I was one of two or three “poor boys” admitted to this affair.

The next morning, perhaps, on a lawn overlooking a lake, I was told by another participant how much he enjoyed my presence, that I was one of the few people who could carry on a conversation, who had something to say, who had really done things. So that’s why I’d been admitted.


TRYING TO CONSOLE a deeply depressed Prince Charles. (Well, in some ways he was more like Mick Jagger. But when a dream imposes an identity, we stick to it. Besides, we were both much younger than we are now.) Considering the circumstances, we were getting along quite well. He even asked for a long hug before running off to jump on the mattress, like a trampoline, and then a set of sofas as the scene morphed into a hotel lobby as others, including the girl, drifted into the setting.

It started off when a woman I was involved with (a contra dancer?) who worked in his household or some other organization of his wondered if I would ask him, when he arrived, what he thought of her. Well, he and I hadn’t been introduced, so I was reluctant but now see that as an American, for me that wasn’t the problem.

Since he was essentially alone, I was able to strike up a conversation, however awkwardly it began. He did indeed recognize her name (Kate, never mind, not his daughter-in-law but more like Kate Moss) and rattled off a list of statistics and the like – nothing of an emotional nature, but still thoroughly informed.

A while later, I asked if he was a reader, and he assured me he was. I was beginning to tell him of Nicholson Baker’s work when we were interrupted.

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