ARTS

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May 25, 2004

Pearls of Wisdom

Dear Lila Pearl,

As Uncle Joe's regulars for the past three years, we've had the privilege of observing the various Sexual Cultures of the second floor coffee shop and the corresponding Geographies to which its various Types of Patrons flock. To simplify: There are the flirty pool boys (in the middle, by the pool tables), the staff sexual cesspool (by the counter), and the Back of the Shop antisocial types.

Now, here are our questions, Ms. Pearl: Given the Sexual Cesspools of Uncle Joe's, would you say that there are other similarly divided spots within the Oceanic-Whole-of-U of C-Sexual Cesspool where such marked differences in, let's call it "cross-socializing", can be observed—possibly through binoculars—in order to create a sense of objectivity and scientificity? And what kind of advice can you give to New Fish who want to come swim with the Uncle Joe's Big Fish (the Regulars)—or anyone who wants to infiltrate similar Scenes—without getting eaten alive by these Sharks, or written about in an advice column question?

Swimmingly,

UJ's Doyenne Fish

Dear Fish,

Don't socialize—study. What about your two 20-page papers to write? And that take-home exam you have to read 1,000 pages for? And what about graduate school? Nobody ever got accepted to study musicology, aesthetics, chemistry, and economics at Princeton University because they learned how to "infiltrate" various social scenes "without getting eaten alive."

[Panic races through body…must self medicate…]

No, my sweet little fish, the sad truth about the advice column is of course, and finally, that no one really cares about etiquette anymore. Grades are what matter. Reminds Lila Pearl of that old quote, "Ahhh, the U of C…where the only thing that will go down on you is your GPA."

Okay, perhaps that is a little extreme (Lila Pearl has been known to be a touch too too at times). The problem, she fears, is that you're approaching the whole game from the wrong end of the pool. What's the point of successfully infiltrating a social scene? Why avoid getting eaten alive? At least the belly of a shark might feel different. If you survived the digestive processes, it might turn into a truly fulfilling, aura-fluffing, chi-gathering experience. On the other hand, you might turn out dead. But, to paraphrase any number of different people, isn't death the next great adventure?

Is it really advice you want? Then read Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino: "The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space."

Vigilantly,

Lila Pearl

Dear Lila Pearl,

I'm in love and my loved object doesn't love me back. Help!

—Hopeless

Dear Lila Pearl,

I'm in love but my lover is crazy. Help!

—Tearing my hair out

Dear Lila Pearl,

I'm lonely and I have no friends and it's springtime and I'll never have sex again!

—Helpless

Dear Lila Pearl,

My significant other is mean. And I'm a loser. Help!

—Bruised

Dear Hopeless, Tearing, Helpless, and Bruised,

If there is anything to be said about anything, let this be said about happiness: Don't fall in love with people who don't exist. Don't let your loneliness crush you. Always check your underpants for scorpions.

This may be the last time we ever speak together. Far be it for L.P. to be one of those dreary people who doesn't believe in closure, but endings are always so difficult to pin down, aren't they? Conclusions? Lessons learned? But how did it all get started?

BEGIN FLASHBACK

INT. MAGIC SHOP -- DAY

A dusky store, filled with old-fashioned magic items. There is a wall of distorted mirrors. A variety of taxidermic animals line the other three walls. Five MEN, all ageless and white-haired, sit around a spindly table playing cards. ALBERT, also ageless, with bushy, coppery-white hair and huge wire glasses, sits on a stool and knits. LILA PEARL, now 16, enters the shop.

ALBERT

If you wanted the Chinese Dragon set,

we're out. We're also out of the chain o' fire. And the doves.

Lila attempts to speak, but Albert interrupts.

ALBERT

And we don't have any handcuffs, so tell your boyfriend sorry.

LILA

Sorry? Um, excuse me. I think, are you…?

ALBERT

(interrupts)

Come on. Is it taxidermy you want to learn? You don't exactly look like the type, but you never can tell. Come on kid. Let it out.

LILA

Um. Are you the shopkeeper here? Albert? I heard about you. From. Uh. Ernst Hamerstein.

ALBERT

Ernst sent you? How is Ernst?

LILA

Fine. Well, actually, he's dead. I need to learn to escape.

Long pause.

ALBERT

(nods)

What's your name, kid?

LILA

Lila.

ALBERT

You sure about the taxidermy? This owl, for example—doesn't it seem alive to you?

FADE OUT.

LILA (V.O.)

From then on, every live owl would seem dead to me.

And what is advice, anyway, but this combination: A little bit of taxidermy and magic?

Sincerely,

Lila Pearl