"It was hanging by a slender strand before my eyes, this possible event, twisting slowly in the light, and fascinating me. Enslaving me." 1
"The Slender Strand" is that thread by which career success hangs suspended, over the abyss. It's not guaranteed to hold; it snaps easily.
Look at me, for example. Here I am, sitting in a distracted state at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, wanting to think that the Rolling Stones were coming to Long View Farm, my recording studio, and becoming very attached to this prospect, mind you, yet having to reckon with the equally likely outcome; namely that I'd never hear from the band or this fellow, Alan Dunn, again.
The fact is, I'd been working on this Stones project for only 72 hours, no more than that, but I already had a good taste of what might be in store for me personally — a quick radical upwards transformation. Real power, conferred on me as though by magic. My friends were astounded; they didn't know what to think. People calling me up who wouldn't speak with me the day before. Girls, reporters, flash bulbs, people asking me what Ithought about things. Great stuff, right?
And I could see the rest of it coming my way, and well, I could taste it. And, I had to admit, I liked it a lot. The attention. The activity. The action. The feeling of success. Even as I sat there, surf pounding outside the large screen doors and deck, there were two teams of strong men tearing my barn apart 150 miles to the west — putting in electric cable, and lights. There was another man spending all his time ordering supplies. Timber, large nails, mike cable, linseed oil, carpet, appointments, stained glass, a complete set of Rolling Stones records, four new stereo systems, a new telephone system, 12 new telephones, a new communications cable from the barn to the house, a new water pump in case the only one we had broke down. Electrical cable down to the pond for possible security applications. The list went on and on. People were doing it already.
And yet Alan Dunn had seen fit to call me twice that very day to warn me that it all might not happen. That it probably wouldn't happen. Jerking me around, I thought. Or was he?
This was a very weird situation. Even before the Rolling Stones had arrived at Long View Farm — even before I knew there was a good chance that they might arrive at Long View Farm — the world had begun to treat me differently, perhaps in anticipation of using me as access to the Stones. I wasn't sure. In any case, my phone was ringing, and people were scrambling to patch up relations with me when no patching up was required, and I suddenly began to wield an influence over other lives which, even a few days before, would have been unthinkable. The world was treating me as a different and as a more important person. But I knew it wasn't me. There was nothing new about me — no change in me as would explain the additional attention I was getting, and the peer respect which was now mine. It wasn't me. I was the same person I was three days earlier. I knew that.
Instead, it had to do with the arbitrary and unpredictable decision of the Rolling Stones to come to Long View Farm, or not to come to Long View Farm. If Mick Jagger were to be run over by a truck in Bombay, the event would not occur, and my phone would stop ringing within 48 hours. If Keith had some aversion to Cessna 402's, then the event would not occur, and my new friends would vanish. If there really were, "ah, budgetary problems," then the event would not occur, and the whole charade would be written off as a ruse, or as a publicity scam bearing my fingerprints. There were a thousand reasons why the event might not occur. It was hanging by a slender strand before my eyes, this possible event, twisting slowly in the light, and fascinating me. Enslaving me.
So much then for the fame which was now to be mine for a while. So much for the power I was to enjoy in making the dictates of my will known to the world. Neither could be taken seriously. There had been no personal battle won, no victory scored, no baffling problem solved on behalf of mankind. Nothing like that at all. These adornments were absurd beings, fashioned out of darkness by events which might or might not occur.
So I would not cling to them — these new little baubles of mine — not let it ruin my life if something went wrong, and they were snatched away before I got to try them on for size.
They weren't mine, and I didn't want them, either.
They belonged to the Rolling Stones.
Yes," I said to myself. "That's it: can't take this fame and power seriously." And, lo, I felt something building in my breast that night on Cape Cod — something which must have been scorn. Yes, scorn for fame and power, and it felt pretty damn good.
That calmed me down a bit — that little exercise — and I made my way out over the dunes to the ocean, which was now black under a starry sky, and at low tide. I waded in slowly until the water closed over my head, extinguishing for a moment all thinking about the Rolling Stones, and of any probability quotient relating to their arrival at Long View Farm on the 17th of August. I was really trying to stay free of this one. Or get free of it. This one could grind me up, if I let it.
It had to be "business as usual," instead. That's it, business as usual.
1 He wrote this essay last. He kept on saying to me, "Hold a place for an essay called 'The Slender Strand'. It's got to fit in during the time I was down at the Cape, just after my return from Rome." Other than that, he wouldn't tell me anything about it. Instead, he kept me waiting for it right up until the end, when we were hassling over the pictures, and how much I'd get to say in these footnotes. He kept on saying that this essay was maybe the most important one in the collection, and he wanted it to be right.
It reads like all the others, if you ask me. B.S.
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.