Gone Glimmering

I had one of those moments of convergence, where disparate occurrences of information in life or memory are spontaneously united at an unanticipated confluence. Imagine being a Quebecois furrier in your squaw-‘n-victuals laden canoe paddling after your pelts down one watery byway or another, memories of a mythical and antedeluvian France reflected endlessly across the water and among the halls of your mind (a private, endlessly liquid Versailles), and somehow impossibly, rounding a copse of maple and a bend in a tributary you find you’ve followed an animist beaver down its hole, as it were, and sailed right out of Canada and onto the Seine. Two things, once separate but real, are now connected and mutually reinforcing.

The confluence:

NYC 90’s rock outfit Chavez, whose 2-album canon was recently re-released with reposado especial treatment by label Matador, called their screeching, angling, mathematical space rock album debut Gone Glimmering. I have to thank my friend Todd for being a longtime champion of this form and initially exposing me to Chavez in college- along with, in the years that have followed, bands like Hum, Shiner, Centaur, and recently Pinebender.

Scott Fitzgerald was a writer from St. Paul, Minnesota, that sure-footed metropolis on the Northern Mississippi that’s twin to the wider-avenued Minneapolis just across the river’s expanse. His themes of choice were the degenerate tendency of the rich of the gilded age and a fascination with the inherent difference in makeup between those nursed by leisure and those not so fortunate. His narrative voice was piercing, beautiful, philosophical and yet stiletto-concise, the fruit of the labor of hanging out of a window on the human soul and looking on and looking on, taking a therapist’s notes.

He wrote a short story called Absolution, in which a priest hearing a boy’s confession for having taken communion without first having had confession suddenly dies. The priest loses his grip on his senses:

For a moment longer the silence persisted while rudolph waited, and the priest struggled to remember something that was slipping farther and farther away from him, and the clock ticked in the broken house. Then Father Schwartz stared hard at the little boy and remarked in a peculiar voice:

“When a lot of people get together in the best places, things go glimmering.”

Rudolph started and looked quickly at Father Schwartz’s face.

“I said-” began the priest, and paused, listening. “Do you hear the hammer and the clock ticking and the bees? Well, that’s no good. The thing is to have a lot of people in the centre of the world, wherever that happens to be. Then” – His eyes widened knowingly – “Things go glimmering.”

“This man is crazy,” he thought, “And I’m scared of him. He wants me to help him out in some way, and I don’t want to.”

“You look as though things went glimmering,” cried Father Schwartz wildly. “Did you ever go to a party?”

“Yes, Father.”

“And did you notice that everyone was properly dressed? That’s what I mean. Just as you went into the party there was a moment when everyone was properly dressed.”

…”My theory is that when a lot of people get together in the best places things go glimmering all the time.”

“Please listen to me!” Commanded the priest impatiently. “Stop worrying about last Saturday. Apostasy implies an absolute damnation only on the supposition of a previous perfect faith. Does that fix it?”

“Look here-” He came nearer to Rudolph, but the boy drew away, so Father Schwartz went back and sat down in his chair, his eyes dried out and hot. “Did you ever see an amusement park?”

“No, Father.”

“Well, go and see an amusement park. It’s a thing like a fair, only much more glittering. Go to one at night and stand a little way off from it in a dark place – under dark trees. You’ll see a wheel made of lights turning in the air, and a long slide shooting boats down into the water. A band playing somewhere, and a smell of peanuts – and everything will twinkle. But it won’t remind you of anything, you see. It will just hang out there in the night like a colored balloon- like a big yellow lantern on a pole.”

Father Schwartz frowned as he suddenly thought of something.

“But don’t get up close,” He warned Rudolph, “Because if you do you’ll only feel the heat and the sweat and the life.”

So, there was my confluence- a hanging question of a hitherto unexplained album title and the sudden emergence of that strange phrase in a short story.