Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Jonathon Sees An Old Book And Remembers Certain Things... 12/23/14

These recollections appear in larger script so that none shall be troubled by deficiencies of vision , or any other distraction.  I do this in reverence of the material presented. I am Jonathon. The memories are mine and they are important to me.

I entered the bookshop. I went into Philadelphia After Dark... The couple expected me. Some things are meant to be. The woman invited me to sit down and wait, while her husband, the blind one, retrieved the book. She was a practiced lip reader and also somewhat telepathic, so we had no problem. 

I said - How will your husband find the book?... She busied herself with clerical duties behind the old oak counter and said - He tastes the bindings with his fingertips. We mark each new arrival with a unique solution and dab it onto the spine. Certain 'tastes' indicate novels, or treatises, or spell books, or essays. Additional nuances provide detail... an alphabet of flavors..... Like the ancient Incas and their quipus... an alphabet of knots and colored yarn? - I asked....... She nodded and said - Everything is everywhere...

Then she went back to her ledger book. I looked around. What a snug, little refuge this is... the worn hardwoods... narrow, maze-like aisles... the old, bookcase-like shelves. Such a magical place to spend a cold winter night.  And (not counting the proprietors) I had it all to myself. No one else would enter. There was a small light above the door. When it's green... cognoscenti know they can press the buzzer and wait to be let in. When it's red, they know otherwise. Few violate that rule. That's just how it is. After more than three hundred years people understand. They used candles in the early days. Slip a small, green-glass hurricane lamp over the flame for yes and a red one for no. I remember those times.

After a time (apparently the book in question was downstairs) I settled into the soft, club chair and began to inventory the small, stuffed beasts arranged on random shelves hung on the wall behind the counter. They shared the space with antique wall clocks... Snarling weasels and wombats (even a poised to attack red-legged tarantula) glaring down imperiously from amidst their tick-tock neighbors. Always liked that wall... invitingly cozy in an Addams Family kind of way.

Then he was there, right before me (the husband) holding the book. He said - Go ahead. Take it..... A moment later, it was in my hands and I began to taste things too. I felt the thin, carefully oiled wooden binding....the thick, dry, sheepskin pages within... Not vellum. No fine calf skin this, but the thick hide of a sheep... an inexpensive thing made for children... made for school... a copy book... and it was mine. 

How the memories flooded back. I was five years old, bathed and dressed for my first day of school. So dignified in my new brown gabardine cassock. My mother kissed me and kissed me and kissed me. She made sure I had a red string tied 'round my wrist. I can tell you that. And my long, dark, wavy hair was carefully parted and brushed. Then a servant, not Johannon; he was still too young, picked me up, followed my father and we were off, parading through the sunny streets of Cordoba. People smiled and clapped as we passed, both Children of Israel and Children of Ishmael, for the customs of both were quite similar. And then we were there...

The school looked ordinary from the street, a clean, neat stucco building approximately forty cubits (18 inches) on each side. My father stopped. The servants stopped too. A young boy (though not so young as I) stepped forward and knocked. Yes, it was Johannon. He was already with us by then and proud to help in this way. I viewed him as a special friend, much like an older brother.

A thin, old man let us in... not ordained, but the sexton of this place, for learning is a holy act.... We followed him into the courtyard. Another man, ordained (indicated by his white prayer cap) met us, introducing himself as 'Rabbi de Luria.' I walked forward, helped by eager hands. My father said - And this is my son, Jonathan (Yo-nah-TON). I nodded. The rabbi patted my shoulder. Another functionary showed us seats 'round a wooden table in a shaded arcade. The rabbi smiled. He gestured for me to step forward. My father smiled too. The rabbi said - Come boy. Sit on my knee. I hesitated. My father mouthed - Go on... So I did. Then the cleric picked up a small, rectangular slate with the Hebrew Aleph-Beit on it. He asked me if I knew my letters. I whispered - Yes.... He gave me the slate and said - Splendid. Show us..... So I tentatively picked my way through the twenty two letters ( vowels are represented by shorthand-like dots and strokes) much to the delight of my doting father. Everyone was glad.... The rabbi took the slate and poured a tiny drop of honey from a special, small vessel used just for that purpose, on a clear, clean spot near the top, right hand corner. Then he held it before me and said - Taste it..... I did. What small boy doesn't love honey? You know, in those days, sugar was largely an unknown commodity.... After that, the rabbi said - May learning ever be sweet.... I think my father cried a little.... We had lunch. Mine was special... roasted eggs with Biblical passages, carefully inscribed round the smooth, creamy shells. The adults talked. I listened to a conversation that effortlessly flowed from Hebrew to Spanish to Aramaic and Arabic. The later was our everyday tongue and much of my education would be in that language too.... Then we walked home. Nobody carried me this time..

We stopped by the banks of the greatest river in all Iberia, the Wadi-Al-Kabir, know to Trinitarians as the Quadalquivir, basically only the accent differs. I held my father's hand, watching somewhat scaled down,
lateen (Latin styled) sail craft carrying goods up and down the broad water way....

And my father said - Behold the current. See the flow. It has neither end, nor beginning, may such be your success and knowledge. 

At that point all I wanted to do was go home and eat a plum, but I nodded and said - Uh huh.

Just before entering our street, we turned into a commercial thoroughfare, stopping at a shop specializing  in clerical supplies (in those days the term meant office supplies, for religious clerics were the most learned men in society). My father purchased three pots of ink and a matching number of fine, camel hair brushes.... He bought four, wood framed, slates, some chalk and five pristine copybooks. One of which I hold right now.

Most leaves are filled with boyish attempts at smooth calligraphy with maybe a few pedagogical corrections.

But the last page was written by an angel. I know, for I saw him one night, a being made of moonlight, as he did it. Though the visitation frightened me and I never told a soul.

And now I hold the selfsame book in my hand. After roughly nine hundred and forty three years we are reunited.

Some things are meant to be...

A link to browse.feedreader.com/c/Billy_Kravitz_vampire_wonderland usually connects to a list of all episodes. But something seems to be wrong and I don't think it's working. If you want to try your luck and dive in you can google Vampire Wonderland by Billy Kravitz and ad almost ANY word...literally, almost ANY word. It'll find something and you might be surprised and have fun. Keep changing the word. It's like a game.
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