The Slender Strand
"It was hanging by a slender strand before my eyes, this possible event,
twisting slowly in the light, and fascinating me. Enslaving me."
"The Slender Strand" is that thread by which career success hangs
suspended, over the abyss. It's not guaranteed to hold; it snaps
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 I
about things. Great stuff,
And I could see the rest of it coming my way, and well, I could taste
it. And, I had to admit, I
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
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
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
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,"
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
They weren't mine, and I didn't want them, either.
They belonged to the Rolling Stones.
Yes," I said to myself. "That's
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 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
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.