Dreamed 1994/2/21 by Chris Wayan
National Public Radio interviews Alan Lomax, who recorded classic bluesmen in the Depression. He calls the Old South "America's version of Nazism." In the Bahamas, he lived worked and danced with black people, they made him welcome; in the States, even an ethnographer couldn't do this: sheriffs would dog him simply for being a white guy hanging around with black people. A few blacks even sold information on him and others to the cops and Klan. The blues--and bluesmen--he recorded were disdained, not just by whites but by respectable blacks. "My goal was just to let black people tell just how bad it was. Respectable blacks stifled themselves; even among each other, most folks denied it so they could go on living..."
I'm in the Infinite Hotel. Purely a staff joke to call it the Hotel Borges. In the local dining room, the tables are arranged in a big circle under the domed roof, and they dine in togas. It feels like the gods on Mt. Olympus. Grecian classicism is in right now--our rich clientele love its clean purity (at least in their make-believe version). The latest fad, though it'll only last months; things always return to baseline: a Well-Run Hotel circa 1910. It's what the residents want: comfort and service, with no challenges. No excitement.
I'm an explorer and inventor. The last great voyage I took across the sea, I explored the unknown wings of the great hotel, and brought back technology that made the current hotel system possible. The laundry and kitchen and lighting and plumbing are much better. The residents now think of these amenities as givens, so much so they've forgotten I had to fight to introduce them not so many years ago.
They don't like me, for I mean change. Trouble! They love the benefits of my changes, yet give me no credit at all for bringing them.
In this comfortable time, when they see no need for change, they like me less than ever. So they residents get together and sign a petition demanding that I leave! I'm "spoiling the atmosphere." Atmosphere I made possible for them! Of course it's impossible to leave the Hotel Infinite, but they want me to leave this continent, move to a distant wing. Angrily I pack my food and belongings. Not much food, and I announce that as if they're at fault (or did someone accuse me of food-profiteering off my inventions?) : just coconut milk and dried pineapple. Not much for an intercontinental voyage.
I'll do what I've done before. Go down to the poor wing, down by the docks, and see if anyone else shows up with other food, and pool the ingredients. It's a custom here. Maybe I can get some tips about ships heading overseas that could use an extra hand. My name may get me a berth: poor people, washing clothes and dishes, stuck in ill-lit factories--they remember the truth about life before electric light and phonographs and washing machines and water heaters.
Down on the docks, Odysseus isn't always a dirty word.
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