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The Essay
Show #73
The Neon Charm of Ramatek
David Gunn
  • Contemplative ham / noisy caféed trenchermen / Zenwiches to go
  • Late for the movie / date pondering Suzuki / Miss InZensitive
  • The thinking manís shoe / slips silently through the woods / says the moccaZen
  • Thoughtful cityscape / midwestern meditation / in Zencinnati
  • Thirsty simple mind / enlightening beverage / rum and arZenic
  • Spark plugs? who needs íem! / intuitive car repair / on the HoriZen.

A selection of 17-syllabled Japanese verse by famed Zen haikuer Matsuo Munefusa, who died in an uncharacteristically unmetrical manner three hundred two years ago today while shopping for felt in a Tokyo haberdashery, the particulars of which are at best circumspect and at worst the plucked parts of the crow. Munefusa, or Basho, "the whacked one," as both his fans and detractors called him, had been summoned to Tokyo on his 50th birthday by the Emperor Schneider to compete in the Third Annual All-Eurasian Poetry Meet. Minstrels, troubadours, bards and doggerelists from 30 countries crammed into the tiny Ramada Shinto ballroom on that late 17th century Saturday night -- a warm night, with the zampa trees oozing phosphorus and the pommelhorses sleeping rapidly with all four hooves pawing the theatrical air. Munefusa, as always prefering the brevity of the haiku, had already jotted down enough pithy five and seven beat phrases to fill a Wasabi catamaran's bucket seat. Up by 50 points in the first round and feeling supremely confident, he took a breather from the competition during the forced elimination bard-a-bout. Across the street from the Ramada was Zucciniís Haberdashery, to which he repaired in good spirits. And repair was an appropriate word, for the fedora he sported -- his traditional headpiece at poetry events -- was tattered, badly stained, and in desperate need of substantial felt restoration. The proprietor, Hideo Zuccini, took one look at it and escorted it into the nether recesses of his shop, whence soon issued the sounds of hammering and spirit gumming. Growing bored, and a beard, Munefusa pulled out his notepad and wrote down 13 words which to him manifested feltness, then he rearranged them into a new haiku. Meanwhile, Hideo was becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of cooperation the despoiled fedora was giving him, and he began to shout at it. Not wanting to attract undue attention, he resorted to cursing in a language unfamiliar to most Tokyoans, Equatorial Guinean. "Shadquip gonglou!" yelled Hideo, followed by "planvy ktarrh!" It was no secret to the patrons of his establishment; he was mad. But it was a secret to Munefusa, who was lost in haikuian thought. But when Hideo screamed "Basho!" -- the Equatorial Guinean word for *@#$%!, which is printed in balloons over the heads of angry cartoon characters worldwide -- Munefusa got up and peered into the back room. It was very bad timing, as his fedora, with felt flaps fluttering, came flying towards him, propelled by a ten pound darning needle. It struck him full bore on his nose and he wheeled around in surprise, impaling himself on the recently sharpened hatrack by the cash register. Sadly, he died minutes later. The AEPM executive committee, not wanting to exclude him from competition, accepted the still-warm haiku from his notepad as his entry in the semifinals. It read "My pen is my sward / hats off to the apricot / le flambeau oriange." What? The audience was stunned! The last line had six beats! Basho was ignominiously and post-humorously disqualified. Fortunately, the incident had been long since forgotten. Until today.

It's "Circle of Arts Day" on the 73rd edition of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar. The anniversarial achievements of no fewer than six musical Arts grace this weekend; seven, if you include Equatorial Guinea. The birthed winners are Art Tatum, Art Blakey, Art Garfunkel and Art Nikisch; the deathbed celebs are Anton "Art" Bruckner and Edith "Artsong" Pilaf, noted chanteuse and rice-steamed-in-bouillon dish. Art also reposes in the animetrical and protospherical playlists of our own artmaven, Kalvos.