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Tuesday, 4 February 2003

Dave Awl 2003

Inspired by the valiant efforts of this year's other SA4QE participants, I decided to kick my efforts up a notch and do better than last year's single yellow paper left in a freezer case at the supermarket. And all in all, the evening of Feb. 4 was most productive: While my journeys weren't nearly as extensive as those of the peripatetic Mr. Cooper, I did manage to 4Qate in four separate locations and two different neighborhoods. (Yes, I've decided that the proper verb form of SA4QE is "to 4Qate" -- pronounced like "fork you ate." I 4Qate, she 4Qates, he 4Qated, we are 4Qating. Can be either transitive: "Oh yes, I 4Qated that cafe last year," or intransitive: "My assistant kept a lookout while I surreptitiously 4Quated in the poetry aisle.") And I got this year's 4Qations on film.

As I started to choose quotations for this year's yellow paper, I found myself drawn to a number of quotations that seemed to revolve around a common axis I couldn't quite articulate -- something about time, history, and one's place (or absence) in one's own story. I got interested in arranging a series of quotations to form a sort of oblique narrative, like finding a story in a sequence of Tarot cards.

Once again I was fussily disappointed by the yellowness of the yellow paper I was able to obtain locally. Compared to the more relaxed and self-possessed yellow paper on which I have letters from Mr. Hoban, the yellow paper I am stuck with seems to be trying too hard, an insincere look-at-me "yellow" as opposed to a quietly thing-in-itself yellow. Never mind, get on with it.

I finally settled on the following six quotations, in this order:


Two of the turtles at the aquarium are green turtles, a large one and a small one. The sign said: 'The Green Turtle, Chelonia mydas, is the source of turtle soup...' I am the source of William G. soup if it comes to that. Everyone is the source of his or her kind of soup. In a town as big as London that's a lot of soup walking about.


A story is what remains when you leave out most of the action.


More and more I find that life is a series of disappearances followed usually but not always by reappearances; you disappear from your morning self and reappear as your afternoon self; you disappear from feeling good and reappear feeling bad. And people, even face to face and clasped in each other's arms, disappear from each other.


One assumes that the world simply is and is and is but it isn't, it is like music that we hear a moment at a time and put together in our heads. But this music, unlike other music, cannot be performed again.


There is only one place, and that place is time.


'Why are you weeping?' said Bembel Rudzuk.

'I am suffering from an attack of history,' I said.

'It will pass,' said Bembel Rudzuk.

I set each quote in a different font and added a footer at the bottom, which read:

Compliments of The Kraken - SA4QE 2003

My first stop was the Jewel-Osco supermarket in my home neighborhood of Andersonville, where I left last year's yellow paper among some boxes of frozen macaroni & cheese. There I picked up a disposable camera with which to document this year's 4Qations, and also snapped a picture of the freezer case from last year (see Dave's 2002 quotes below). I was attempting to inconspicuously snap a picture of the front of the store, bustling checkout counters and all, when a Jewel-Osco staffer appeared out of nowhere and issued me a curt "Excuse me" in a tone that clearly translated as "I am onto you, sirrah. It is clear that you are engaged in some kind of Shameful and No Good activity. Be away with you, before I am forced to summon The Law!" She clearly meant business and I didn't relish the idea of trying to explain the SA4QE to that stern countenance -- and besides, it seemed like explaining would be breaking the rules of the game, in a way. I slunk away.

My first official 4Qation of 2003 took place at Cafe Boost a couple blocks south of the Jewel. Once in the door, I realized that since the place is just one open room, and there were people in every corner of it, there was really no way to drop my yellow paper without being seen, and taking a picture without being fingered as Shameful and Up to No Good seemed out of the question.

Fortunately, at that point I discovered what many other Krakenistas may already have realized: washrooms are an ideal place to 4Qate. You can close the door behind you, position your yellow paper artfully on the towel dispenser or tuck it into the frame of the mirror, snap your photo and slip back out again with none the wiser. (Just be sure to lock the door so that nobody walks in on you while you're 4Qating, which would of course be awkward for everyone involved.)

I had a nice lemon-poppy seed muffin to celebrate the evening off to a good start, then moved on to Specialty Video, my friendly neighborhood video rental store. I had decided it would be fun to tuck a yellow paper behind the display box of a film. The shelves of the Foreign Film section formed a nice little semi-enclosed area that would afford me some privacy from the eyes of staff members and other patrons as I 4Qated. Of course, once confronted with the shelves I realized an agonizing decision was before me, as the choice of film would undoubtedly be seen to make a statement. What to choose? I did briefly go in search of King Kong in the "Sci-Fi" section, but its movie box was missing, substituted by a piece of brown cardboard with an amusing marker drawing with labels and arrows to the key elements of the cartoon: "Monkey." "Building." "Airplane." Very entertaining, but it was its own creation and didn't need the accompaniment of yellow paper. So I returned to the Foreign Film alcove and contemplated the possibilities. Wings of Desire? La Dolce Vita? Don't get too precious, now. Just choose a movie that you like, and that other Krakenites would probably like, too. I finally tucked the yellow paper behind City of Lost Children, took a snapshot and made my getaway.

I then whisked up a few doors to my neighborhood's other cozy little cafe, Kopi. After pretending to browse in the candles, incense & dangly earrings giftshop at the back for a few minutes, I made a beeline to the washroom where I 4Qated quickly and efficiently, but not, I hope, without feeling. I left my folded yellow paper perched on the chalk ledge of the blackboard where Kopi patrons scrawl graffiti du jour.

Having thus 4Qated all over Andersonville, I hopped a bus down to Wicker Park, an arty/trendy neighborhood where a friend was DJ-ing at a punk bar later that evening. (Those who saw the shamelessly Americanized John Cusack film version of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity will have seen a somewhat cleaned-up caricature of this part of town.) It was virgin SA4QE territory as far as I knew, so I figured I could 4Qate a little and then go hear my friend spin. I decided to drop into Quimby's, an edgy little zine & underground comic book store that displays its immense taste and discernment by stocking What the Sea Means. I considered 4Qating on the shelf with the Robert Anton Wilson and alien abduction books, labelled something like "Paranoia, Paranormal and Psychosis" but that seemed to be putting too fine a point on things. I moved to the shelf of literary journals and placed the folded yellow paper behind the first copy of a quarterly called OPEN CITY. I wasn't familiar with it, but on flipping through it I was greatly entertained to see Parker Posey listed on the masthead. Parker, meet Russ. I asked permission of the woman behind the register to snap a photo of the store, "for a Web site," and when she asked me what Web site, I furbled something about "a literary site called SA4QE." This was strategic on my part. It is part of the code of honor in neighborhoods like Wicker Park that, when confronted with a cryptic and obscure name like SA4QE, one doesn't let on that one hasn't heard of it. She asked no more questions and gracefully gave me permission to photograph. I snapped my final 4Qation of the evening and headed off to a nice Chinese dinner before carousing with friends.

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