Interlude: Pete’s Glasses

(May 2020)

You see that young lady over there? You see her?![1] SHE’S writing a book about me! She’s the one!!

… and so she wrote, with a deep feeling of responsibility that could no longer be suppressed, which could supersede any doubt or shame or fear that he was wrong.

He’s never wrong.

… and so she kept writing.

I knew before I asked that he’d protest, but I still gave it a shot. After all, knowing-without-knowing, pure and distilled intuition, and trusting the beautiful, perfect, yet entirely unpredictable AND inevitable unfolding of events into the most benevolent outcome for all parties immediately involved and endlessly peripheral…

These hypothetical principles are not only the central tenants of Pete’s theory of Evolved Collective Fludity #ECF, they also serve as the foundation upon which our dynamic is built. And so, to a large extent, the relationship I have with Pete actively (and, true to form, tacitly) excludes explicit discussions of its theoretical parameters. We simply know how to interact with one anotherwhich is how we found each other in the first place. And so with Pete, there are no real questions, because the answer is always the same…

… although its enunciation through which anecdote, tone, mood, or word choices he uses changes every time. Such consistent changeability reminds one of what the legendary astrologer Linda Goodman quipped about the star sign Aquarius: “They’re either changeably stubborn or stubbornly changeable; take your pick,” she writes in the brilliant Sun Signs. Pete isn’t an Aquarius, but he IS a Leo[2] —and Leo and Aquarius are diametrically opposed on the zodiac wheel, forming the complementary 7-7 vibration in which one sign lacks what the other craves, and vice-versa. Worth noting is that the author is an Aquarius Ascendant, which ancient astrologers conceptualized as being more indicative of one’s overall “personality” than the presently accepted notion of Sun Signs. 

Indeed, this serves as a pithy case study of how equal is opposite, and opposite is equal: ideas discussed in a forthcoming article on Pete’s theories of Mathematical Signature Shapes. The relationship to astrology, itself a science of shape and relation, further illustrates this point.

So anyway, I asked him, in as sweet of a voice as my Libra Sun could wheedle, because if I’m gonna try, I’m gonna pull out the big guns, you know?

“…No,” Pete says softly.  “NO!” He laughs, then sighs and looks off, faraway, to a place I know well.  His voice softens: “No. I… no. Look at you, you’re beautiful. I hate to say no to you. You know I never want to say no to you. I can’t. But I’m sorry, young lady, I never, EVER do this. You know, I’ve never done it in my whole life. Nope, not once. I’ve never done it. No. I cant. Not even for you. I’m sorry… I don’t, yeah, I don’t do it. I can’t. That’s the one thing I won’t do, I CAN’T do.”

… and so I looked at him. Because that’s all I was really asking to do in the first place: to LOOK. To SEE. To UNDERSTAND. And so I told I him I understood, and continued to stare at him from my place in The Office: the three or four seats in the back-left of the bar where Pete insists his “VIP Visitors” sit. Of course, there are many VIPS: people like me who come to this kitschy bowling alley in an area of Brooklyn that, for better or worse, won’t be uncool for that much longer to visit this oracle of a man, this living legend, this cult figure, this energetic hot spot. People come to see Pete for his raw energy, his positive radiance… and the wisdom he imparts, though oft delivered with such rapidity that it’s difficult for most to keep up.[3]

Pete’s beautiful, snowblue eyes dazzle at me from the other side of his glasses, and before seeing the smile spread on his face and his eyes reach up to grab the frames, I felt it from looking at him… from SEEING him.

He sighed. “I can’t believe I’m doing this. I NEVER do this. But I’m doing it for you. I know. You know. You know.”

And he took off his glasses, and gave them to me to try on.

My own eyes surely lighting up – with equal and opposite glee — a feeling of honor akin to having my doctoral hood placed around my neck at the Cornell University PhD graduation ceremony the year prior flooded my stomach and chest. And then, with humility, deliberate awareness, and a swelling sense of deep responsibility… I tried on Pete’s glasses.

The glasses were warm and heavy, filled to the brim with Pete-ness: thoughts, feelings, essence. Classic Coke-bottle lenses with wires sturdy and firm that slid easily over my ears and quickly locked into place; make no mistake, these are the goggles of true scientist. As I pushed the lenses up my nose to glance through them for the first time, the world I saw come into focus was, predictably, decidedly OUT of focus. But in actuality, this was exactly the perspective I have wanted to see for as long as I’ve been trying to get my eyes tested, but somehow get 20/20 results everytime.

What I saw was watery and delicate, like looking out of a foggy windshield into a sky dripping with wet, globby snowflakes. It felt alien, insofar that that world looked like a vague system of interlocking shapes, colors, and energies interacting seemingly at whim but also in graceful symmetry. As soon as I saw this, I suddenly understood Pete all the more. Of course this is what Pete sees! A watercolor world of hazy shapes and fluid interaction… a world of suggestion, of possibility. Of course a man who sees the world this way would theorize about the universal truth of what he would come to call Mathematical Signature Shapes, and how all mathematical, scientific, natural, and metaphysical phenomena are metaphors for something greater… something beyond what we see.

After leaving the bowling alley that night, I couldn’t help but wonder: do glasses actually correct our vision? Is blurry vision something to be fixed, or simply the biophysical representation of how one sees the world? The inkling I had to ask Pete about trying on his glasses in the first place solidified my hyophethis into something closer to a theory that glasses do not fix, but rather allow their wearers access to a standardized visual matrix: itself devoid of any real meaning, and fundamental distraction from the greater truths of the universe. Indeed, the idea of a mutually negotiated reality is one expounded upon, among others, by phenomenological linguistic theorist Jaques Derrida, who supposed that semantic meaning does not inherently exist, but is agreed upon through mutually recognized signs and symbols.

To try one Pete’s glasses, then, is a means of seeing the world as Pete, and to gain a (literal) glimpse into how he (literally) sees the world. And not only is there no wrong way to see the world in general, Pete’s particular way is a gift to the rest of us… and not just those of us who crowd around in The Office at Melody Lanes, but for everyone else who can be potentially positively impacted by the accessibility, power, and truth of his vision.

And yes, in more ways than one.

What I saw when I looked through Pete’s glasses was completely new, but also utterly familiar. None of this is surprising, given the foundation for the relationship that Pete and I share. Indeed, our mutual (and tacit) insistence that we connect purely in-sync with the powers of ECV inspired me to not tell him my name for the first four months of our liaison-ship. After all, what’s in a name—really? Our agreement mystified all but us, who laughed with affirmation that we had both finally found another person who understood that words are, again in congruence with the theories of Derrida, mere symbols or signs—but not meaningful in and of themselves.

The jig was only up when I missed one of his calls and he heard my voicemail message. But that only prompted him to do some research on who his mysterious, anonymous “Scientist” who mutually (and tacitly) agreed to do this project together, and my credentials seemed to please him.

“YOU,” he has exclaimed on more than one occasion with varying degrees of humor and exasperation, “ARE PROOF that I’M NOT CRAZY.” Which is honor to hear besides, but hey, anything to put that PhD from Cornell sitting in a box in my living room to use…

Yet looking through Pete’s glasses transported me to the feeling of “home,” not just because the glassy, soft sheen it cast on the world reminded me of the colors of a northern Vermont winter, but because it gave me the chance to see the world in a way I’ve always dreamed, but could never visualize for myself. I don’t have prescription glasses, but I’ve long been convinced that I should. Yet every time I go to the eye doctor, I get told I have 20/20 vision or even better. So while I can see the world clearly, when I allow my eyes to lose focus on the material details of the third dimension and drift into a watercolor world of hazy shapes, of fluid interaction, my body relaxes and my face un-strains, and aaaaahhhhhhh

… it’s that feeling of home.

And looking through those Coke bottle lenses also allowed me to see – SEE – Pete in a new way, because I detected a faint loneliness… the melancholy that comes from being on the outside looking in. In his groundbreaking work in the burgeoning field of existential anthropology, Michael Jackson (the scholar, not the singer) has supposed that those of us who become ethnographers – ethnomusicologists like myself, cultural anthropologists, anybody who writes about the lives of others, or themselves – have perhaps always felt alien: different, unable to truly participate in society blindly, and on the outside looking in. This certainly resonated with me when I was preparing the literature review in my doctoral thesis, where I justified the ethnographic approach to my research.[4] But it also hit home – literally – on a personal level. After all, being raised in a ramshackle farmhouse on the dead-end of a dirt road in a rural Vermont border town with French Canada isn’t exactly something I’ve had in common with most people I’ve encountered in adult life. Add in the fact that I basically grew up outside in cold, biting, soft, gorgeous, unforgiving, austere, milky, harsh and gentle, gorgeous, wistful, remote, did I say gorgeous part of the country — notorious for long and bitterly cold winters with feet of snow on the ground for a good five months of the year — and my consciousness seems even more faraway in comparison to the common societal denominator. Further considering that winter has all but disappeared with global warming, and that many in the common societal denominator seem to celebrate this possibility with gleeful quips about how winter is terrible,[5] and it feels like the place I think of as “home” doesn’t really exist anymore.

But it did when I put on those glasses.

How brilliant it is that this is the world that Pete sees, naturally. How Pete’s vision so vividly – and literally – puts the third dimensional reality into perspective: the plane where we may see objects for what they are, but not how they interact… a plane of materiality that can trap us into the meaningless merry-go-rounds of excess, vapid and ephemeral pleasure, excess, and greed. Pete’s glasses, then, are effectively a translator so that he – existing on both the material and the mathematical-spiritual planes[6] — can function as the conduit he is, espousing timeless universal truths from behind the bar at Melody Lanes.

Coda: On Snow

Pete was young—in first or second grade. His teacher had given a writing assignment to the class to describe what they wanted to be when the grew up, and why. Pete was sitting at the window at his grandmother’s house, in Brooklyn’s notoriously old-school, notoriously Italian Bay Ridge neighborhood.[7] His grandmother used to cook him meatballs and give them to Pete on a fork, which he would then proceed to eat like a candy apple. Pete loved his grandma because, like any good Italian grandma, he coddled him. She didn’t spoil him, but she did indulge him—she comforted him, she believed in him, she loved him, she trusted him, encouraged him. She SAW him.

Looking out of the window at the snow falling and cumulating on the sidewalk, Pete suddenly realized what he wanted to be when he grew up:

A snowflake.

A snowflake, when it falls at the top of a hill or mountain, starts out as just one. But as more snow falls, more snow cumulates and starts to stick together. And then that one snowflake and all of its snowflake friends sticking together may even make a snowball, and when the snowball rolls down the hill or mountain it gathers even MORE snow. And by the time it gets to the bottom it’s this big giant ball with millions and billions or even trillions of snowflakes, and even though it started out as one, it was really part of something bigger… something whole.

Something collective.

And that the little snowflake not only never had to be alone ever again, but never wasalone in the first place.

So of course in a parallel dimension – not even necessarily decades later, because linear time is an illusion (and a concept to be discussed in forthcoming articles) – in the hilly pastures in front and back of the ramshackle farmhouse on the dead-end of the dirt road in northern Vermont, with harsh winters that remind all those people from New York who looooovvveee Vermont because it’s soooooo beautiful that you can’t have the other seasons without the snow so DEAL WITH IT or GET OUT, there she was: a little girl wading her way through the snow. Sledding, making snow balls, eating it sometimes with maple syrup (real, of course) on top, throwing it, jumping in it. Laying down, heads and wool hats, looking up at the velvet night sky, watching the stars… knowing there is something beyond what we see—


— here in the third dimension.

#evolvedcollectivefluidity #ECF

Oh, and it turns out Pete’s teacher thought his ideas about the snowflake were too sophisticated to be written by someone his age.

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