Wednesday, February 07, 2007


I want it to be this or that. One or the other. But it isn't.

He's an interesting old man. He truly loves a certain set of painters and paintings and he has beautiful books. When he sets one in his own cookie crumbs, he's nearly frantic - dusting them off with puffy hands, fussing and clucking about how those bits of flour and sugar will embed. He opens the books, one by one, handling them like treasure. Shows us the plates and talks about how only a truly fine artist knows how to use white, how the artist didn't like the subject of this particular portrait, how he was sad when he painted another. His passion for it keeps my hands folded and my gaze attentive.

He's a tyrant and a snob. He's worked this promised donation of books (many of which our library already has and some of which we don't actually want) into several years of attention. He's demanded that someone catalogue the collection. We send a student to list the books. He's called repeatedly, wanting to lecture formally. Truth is, he's not qualified. But he's been so insistent that he's involved everyone from the president's office on down to the library.

The informal presentation - tea and cookies in the library - several art history professors, the president, the dean, the secretary from art history and myself volunteer to be the audience. There are occasional exchanged glances. Although the dean acquits herself like a pro, the rest of us lurch and stumble, surreptitiously check our watches.

I give myself a generous number of brownie points for volunteering. At the best of times, unless I'm obsessed with something, I don't do sitting still very well. But my boss, who agreed to this over groans and protests, is out sick - and nobody, least of all the staff member who dealt with him in person before, wants to do it. So, I'm taking it for the team.

And I'm taking it for an old man who wants to talk about a powerful, sincere love.
And I'm taking it for an arrogant, snobbish old tyrant who bullies and pushes and can use up the time of people who have no time at all.
I'm taking it because the tyranny alone is an interesting study and because maybe, some day, I'll be an old tyrant who fears that no one will love the magic I saw in something.


zhoen said...

Good Karma day to you.

But, ugh. Please, if I get like that, let someone have the guts to say "This is not needed. Not wanted." And I had this conversation this week, "Please, if I am going to a lot of effort to help, in a way that is more of a problem, stop me." Honestly, yesterday.

LJ said...

Zhoe - I've often wanted to write out a please-shoot-me-if clause in some legal document. We fight with these traits. I couldn't see it, I don't think, if I wasn't guilty of it sometimes. Best we can do, I figure, is try like hell to notice it - and stop. Before we hit 86.

herhimnbryn said...

I have had several people ( family/friends and myself) say 'please tell me if I am turning into a nag/my father/my mother/a tyrant.
I think we start to say this ( myself included) when we realise deep down that we are behaving in a way that is an anathema to us! We know and we don't want to admit it or change the behaviour.
As we get older maybe we don't give a damn anyway

But as Z said, good karma lj. And what an opportunity to people watch.

goatman said...

I once donated a book to a local library in the hopes they would include it in their collection. A friend who was dying of lung cancer let us go through his collection before he died and I picked out duplicate copies of a book by a geologist who flew about the American west identifying the structures and rocky assemblies of the exposed strata. Lotsa pictures and tales of his camping in the desert were included.
I still don't know if the library accepted my submittal. {one day I'll check}.

Minor Deity said...

You're already a tyrant, LJ. Or should that be "benevolent despot"... ;)

LJ said...

I hope they did catalogue it Goatman.
And I presume that you did not demand lecture privileges?
MD - Darling, as we said as small children: Takes one to know one. And "benevolent despot" is much nicer, thank you.