The philosopher loved the flicks, periodically needing to empty himself in that laving river of light in which he could openly gape and forget.
Following one of his three-hour lectures, exhausted by his own ceaseless inquiries, he would hook one of his young men by the arm and ask with a faintly pleading look:
Care to see a flick?
The Tivoli was just down the street from Trinity College, Cambridge, rarely crowded. Wanting to avoid chance meetings in the queue, the philosopher would let the film start before he went stalking down the darkened aisle, audibly saying in British English with a German accent:
For this you must get up close -- fourth aisle at least.
They were watching "Top Hat." Craning back, spellbound as Fred twirled Ginger "Cheek to Cheek" under a temple of sound stage moonlight, the philosopher turned to his companion and said delightedly: Wonderful, how the light empties over you. Like a shower bath.
The young Englishman, precise in inflection, his top button buttoned, carefully smiled in the affirmative as his mentor continued:
Now, no one can dance like this Astaire fellow. Only Americans can do this sort of thing -- the English are entirely too stiff and self-conscious. Astaire always gets the girl and of course it's utterly without pretense. Oh, it makes no sense whatsoever. Like the antics of that American mouse and his animal acquaintances --
The young man perked up. Mickey Mouse, you mean?
Yes, that one. Entirely creditable and charming. Also the duck. I very much like the duck. A wise guy, as the Americans would say.
Donald Duck, you say?
No, no -- A quick up-down look, amazed that a young man could be so removed as not to know this. Not Donald -- Daffy.
But then the philosopher wondered if the young man was instead making a veiled philosophical point about the indeed curious fact that these two excitable ducks spoke with sputtering lisps. Ah, thought the philosopher. His companion was pointing out that the two ducks were of ambiguous, even synonymous, identity, like the curious duck-rabbit he had shown in his lectures, a drawing that could be seen as either a duck or a rabbit before it dawned on the viewer that it was both or neither, or just one continuous line. -- From The World as I Found It, by Bruce Duffy. Copyright
1987 by Bruce Duffy. Reprinted by permission of Ticknor & Fields, a Houghton Mifflin Company.