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The Philosopher [21 Jul 2006|09:28pm]
I.N. Lukas, the great Hungarian-Mancunian philosopher, once wrote that "Reason is a disease and awareness a terrible agony; only in the certainty of death is there any hope of release." Scholars regard this rare burst of cheerfulness as an anomaly in the man's work; normally, he was much more pessimistic.

The Libel of Birth, and Other Stories for ChildrenCollapse )
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They put him in a suit of lights [21 Jul 2006|04:35pm]
Today we buried Brendan Klemp, thus putting the seals on a life that had come to be regarded - on the rare occasions it was regarded at all - as a farce, having long since lost, in the minds of all concerned, the necessary dramatic heft to be considered tragedy.

The burial - I hesitate to call it a funeral - was a sparsely attended affair. At the graveside, there were only a groundskeeper, a clergyman of some sort, a shifty-eyed man who looked like a bill collector, and me, acting in my unofficial capacity as town historian.

In some ways, my presence there was the most anomalous of all, because it had been many years since Brendan Klemp was the kind of person likely to earn a place in the town annals. But this venue is hardly the massive thrusting official text that annals are made of, and besides which I was on my lunch break, and it was a lovely day.

The clergyman said a few words that were indistinct enough to confuse me about his religion (Zoroastrian? Brownist? Green Lantern?), and we left.

I noted the absence of music from the ceremony, and reflected that it was particularly unfair. Because once, Brendan Klemp had been more than a bloated wastrel slumped over his keyboard while an Everquest adventure played out on the screen in front of him. Once, he had been a bard.

I wish that I could push a button / and talk in the past and not the present tenseCollapse )
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On Curses [30 Jan 2006|01:48pm]
Manchester, being an old town, endures its share of curses.

In general, these are the personal, everyday fare common to disputes between lovers, neighbors, and co-workers the world over, and hardly bear prolonged scrutiny.

We curse each other every day, although few of us think of our actions in those terms. "I hope his next girlfriend treats him the way he treated me"; "You deserve to get cancer"; "I'd like to see that cop get into a car accident"; etc. All are curses, but, in our enlightened age, present themselves to us as idle wishes.

People in Manchester are more likely to believe in the power of curses, though, because of several very public examples which virtually everyone in town is familiar with.

There is, for instance, the matter of Black MaryCollapse )
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Burning Bartle [16 Jan 2006|11:20am]
I often forget how strange Manchester can sometimes seem to people who aren't from here. Someone who grew up in Manchester is almost bound to take things like the road race or the Peach Festival for granted, while to transplants or outsiders they may seem remarkable or exciting or quaint.

This is probably true everywhere. I once visited a town in northern Britain where huge sections of Hadrian's Wall were still visible. I was amazed by this historical treasure, this living eruption of the past in an ordered and placid present, but the natives barely noticed it. Cows grazed next to it in pastures, while at the bed and breakfast where I stayed, children kicked a soccer ball against it.

Not that Manchester can compete with the splendors of Britain when it comes to history or culture. But we do have our share of quirky local features, something I was reminded of last year when it was again time to burn Bartle.

A quaint New England customCollapse )
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The Hills of Home [16 Jan 2006|10:58am]
It was January, and long past the time when Manchester's sanitation contractors were willing to pick up Christmas trees from the side of the road.

This presented a problem for the woman I was seeing at the time. There was very little that was sentimental about her, except her childlike attachment to Christmas. She never fully explained it, and in my self-absorbtion I never fully questioned it. But one of its symptoms was that she let the holiday linger long past people in Manchester thought it was decent (she was herself from Colorado Springs, which seemed as distant to many of my fellow citizens as Samarkand or Mandalay).

So, in January, she called me to ask if I could somehow devise a way to get rid of her tree, since the garbage collectors wouldn't take it.

"No problem," I said. "Just leave it on the curb. The Dolomites will pick it up."

A strange, insular peopleCollapse )
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This Town Sounds the Way a Beehive Feels [16 Jan 2006|10:57am]
When visitors spend any serious amount of time in Manchester, when they spend more than just an afternoon at the mall, or a day lazing in Wickham Park, sooner or later they all remark on the same thing:

The music.

It's not the kind of thing you notice at first. The only venues in town that regularly feature live music are shitty bars. Aside from that, there's the various school concerts, the band shell at the community college, and an old concert hall in the southern end of town that Horace Greeley once spoke at. It's like any other town in that respect.

But if you're walking down, say, Tanner Street on a warm summer evening, and enough people have opened their windows to bring in the refreshing breeze, you'll hear it: the crash of dozens of drums, the bleating of countless horns, the strumming of electric guitars by people who barely know how to play. And you'll hear voices.

A clamor, a tumultCollapse )
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My Enemy [16 Jan 2006|10:55am]
When I read in our newspaper's obituary section that George Feffer Neale Cardumon had died, my first reaction was relief. This was almost immediately replaced, however, by a growing disquiet. In the time that I had come to know him, I began to regard him as something of an archconspirator, capable of stooping to any level to see his plans carried out. Could this be one, last grand subterfuge? Could he have really faked his death in order to better enact what he ominously referred to as "the final phase" of his campaign?

The occult hand behind my life's misfortunesCollapse )
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