Friday, May 21, 2010

Lobster Man

Since today was short on heroes, and tomorrow had more than one, we are going to engage in a little time sleight of hand. A hero from tomorrow will have to serve his duty a day early. The fellow above is one Gerard de Nerval born May 22nd, 1808 in Paris, France. I am sure he would not mind be celebrated a day early for the sake of art. The son of an army doctor, a few of his formative years were spent being raised by a grandfather. When his father's army travels were over, his rearing was finished by his father. Like a lot of fathers, Nerval's wanted him to follow in his footsteps and become a doctor. Like a lot of sons, Gerard was none too keen on that idea, and decided to become a poet. He believed that poetry, like sleep, allowed people to open doors to invisible. Writing that "in sleep we enter a new life, free of space and time." Clever idea there, of course, sleeping is critical to enter that world. He was a great friend of another hero of mine, Charles Baudelaire, and both were "card carrying" members of the Club des Hachischins. You can well imagine what kind of club it was. His poetry is sometimes some really far out shit, and it shows his longing for a spiritual world. His opinion of the material world was far from pleasant; "This life is a hovel and a place of ill-repute. I'm ashamed that God should see me here." Not sure I disagree with him too much there. He experienced his first of what was to be three, breakdowns in 1841, and there was even a mock obituary of him printed after he "disappeared" for a while. He was one odd duck. He had a pet lobster named Thibault which he would take for walks around Paris at the end of a blue, silk ribbon. It seems he had "rescued" Thibault from a lobster trap while on vacation, and upon being accosted by the mayor of the town, who wanted de Nerval to apologize for stealing from the lobster traps, he decided to make "reparations" and bring the lobster back to Paris with him. He has been quoted as saying, in defense of his choice of a pet that "Why should a lobster be any more ridiculous than a dog? ...or a cat, or a gazelle, or a lion, or any other animal that one chooses to take for a walk? I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea, they don't bark, and they don't gnaw upon one's monadic privacy like dogs do." I guess there is some (twisted) logic in that way of thinking. After his third mental breakdown, he was found hanging from a window grating leaving behind a suicide note (addressed to his aunt) saying "Do not wait up for me this evening, for the night will be black and white." I suppose, in some ways, most nights are black and white. So, for some lovely imaginative poems, and some surrealist prose works, and for being one odd duck, Gerard de Nerval (May 22nd, 1808-January 26th, 1855, at the age of 46), you are my (268th) hero of the day.

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