Corpse Re­viver

Who are th­ese “per­sons with rel­e­vant knowl­edge”?

Geist - - Contents - Michał Kozłowski

Last sum­mer in Van­cou­ver I went out for din­ner with a cou­ple of friends in Chi­na­town.

The restau­rant had white con­crete walls and chrome lights dan­gling from the

ceil­ing that gave the place an op­er­at­ing theatre vibe. The waitress wore a plain white T-shirt and round glasses with gold frames.

We or­dered pizza with or­ganic sausage and lo­cally for­aged mush­rooms.

A few seats away a man said, taste is the phe­nom­e­non as­so­ci­ated with the tongue, whereas flavour in­volves the whole im­pres­sion, the way it tastes and feels, its aroma.

The speaker was a pale-skinned, blond man in a white shirt. He was speak­ing to a brown-skinned, black­haired man in a black shirt. Each had his hair parted at the side, cropped close at the neck and ears.

The black-haired man leaned in. The blond man swirled his glass around and let the wine rise up and then he watched the wine run down the in­sides of the glass.

Flavour per­cep­tion has a huge role to play in aes­thet­ics, the blond man con­tin­ued, much big­ger than is of­ten talked about. It’s a whole new ex­cit­ing field and Van­cou­ver is the place for it.

At home that night, I looked into the idea of flavour and aes­thetic in the works of Han­nah Arendt, who makes a dis­tinc­tion be­tween the “com­mon” senses of sight, sound and touch and the “pri­vate” senses of taste and smell. Taste and smell, ac­cord­ing to Arendt, can­not be shared or rec­ol­lected, be­cause we ex­pe­ri­ence those senses sub­jec­tively, in­side our bod­ies.

For ex­am­ple, the blond man went on, there are many more flavours than there are movies. I can tell you my favourite movie, but I would be hard pressed to pin down my favourite flavour. You see, with flavour per­cep­tion, you get far more fine-grained than with the other senses.

The waitress came by and col­lected our plates. How are we feel­ing about dessert? she asked.

The black-haired man said, by the way, what do you think of the wine?

Not my first choice, the blond man said, but it’s okay.

After din­ner we went for a stroll up Main Street. The sun had set and I sug­gested that we go to a bar by the train sta­tion that I knew would be quiet. We en­tered through a green door and climbed the flight of stairs.

The ceil­ing was low, made of dark wood, and the walls were painted a dark green; a dark wood bar oc­cu­pied a cor­ner of the room. The bar­tender wore sus­penders and his mous­tache was turned up at the ends.

The room had the vibe of a New York speakeasy, or at least the New York speakeasies I’d seen in movies.

Groups of bearded men and tat­tooed women sat around a dozen ta­bles.

We or­dered three Corpse Re­vivers No. 2.

The bar­tender rat­tled the mar­tini shaker high over his shoul­der, a se­ri­ous look held his face, eye­brows fur­rowed, his eyes fixed on the mid­dle dis­tance in front of him.

Is this a hip­ster place? asked my friend, who was in his six­ties.

Of course, I said, this is the night­time hip­ster joint, the place we were be­fore is the day­time hip­ster joint.

My friend said that he had been read­ing about hip­sters in a book by Mark Grief. The essence of the hip­ster, my friend said, is the quest for su­pe­rior knowl­edge. In North Amer­ica the process of­ten takes the form of dis­en­fran­chised peo­ple from the dom­i­nant cul­ture, his­tor­i­cally it’s been white men, re­ject­ing the dom­i­nant cul­ture and turn­ing to non­dom­i­nant cul­tures for knowl­edge. They then trans­form that knowl­edge into art or lit­er­a­ture or music, or even restau­rants and bars, and then re­lease it back into the dom­i­nant cul­ture, which in turn gives them le­git­i­macy as agents of the avant-garde. In a way, my friend said, the process of hip­ster­ism re­sem­bles the process of colo­nial­ism.

Three Corpse Re­vivers No. 2, said the bar­tender.

Then a woman be­hind me said, I heard there is a woman who is des­ig­nated as the alien am­bas­sador for Canada. So if the aliens came she would be the one to make first con­tact. Ev­ery coun­try in the world has one.

At home later that evening, fol­low­ing up on th­ese com­ments, I found no ref­er­ences to a Cana­dian am­bas­sador to ex­trater­res­tri­als, but I did stum­ble on the web­site of the In­ter­na­tional Academy of Astro­nau­tics, a (Un-rec­og­nized) group of hun­dreds of sci­en­tists from around the world who have drafted the “Dec­la­ra­tion of Prin­ci­ples Con­cern­ing Send­ing Com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Ex­trater­res­trial In­tel­li­gence,” which says that in case of con­tact with ex­trater­res­trial life forms “States par­tic­i­pat­ing in this Dec­la­ra­tion and United Na­tions bod­ies should draw on the ex­per­tise of sci­en­tists, schol­ars, and other per­sons with rel­e­vant knowl­edge.” The dec­la­ra­tion says noth­ing about who con­sti­tutes a per­son with rel­e­vant knowl­edge.

The woman con­tin­ued, the rea­son that all th­ese alien sto­ries are com­ing out about Area 51 is that all the guys who worked there are now re­tired and old so they can con­fess what they saw. Like, they don’t have to worry about get­ting fired any­more; they can just say what they know.

We or­dered three more Corpse Re­vivers No. 2.

The bar­tender shook the mar­tini shaker and poured the drinks. Three Corpse Re­vivers No. 2, he an­nounced.

We fell into an ar­gu­ment about whether the proper ex­pres­sion should be corpse re­viver num­ber twos or corpse re­vivers num­ber two.

And what of the other sev­eral dozen Corpse Re­vivers, 1 or 3 or 27? Why did we stick with 2? I re­called then a story my grand­mother had told me about the time that she and my grand­fa­ther trav­elled from Krakow to Dubrovnik in the 1950s on their hon­ey­moon. The sights of Dubrovnik were en­chant­ing, she said, but the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of ev­ery­day life were chal­leng­ing. We could not read the lan­guage, and so, in restau­rants, we or­dered the only dish that we rec­og­nized on the menus, namely, wieners. We ate wieners for lunch and for din­ner, for two whole weeks. After that, your grand­fa­ther re­fused to eat wieners again, she said.

The woman be­hind me said, in an ex­hausted tone now, if god put us here, why didn’t god put peo­ple on all of the other plan­ets? Why just here?

Michał Kozłowski is the pub­lisher and edi­tor-in-chief of Geist. Read more of his work at geist.com.

“Lunchtime” by Amélie Jodoin ( ameliejodoin.com). Pa­per col­lage, 2017.

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