September 25th, 2006

Magritte - Treason of Images

Vague Urge to Hang up a Shingle

The subject of business cards came up the other day, and I mentioned that on my next set, where "job title" goes, I'm probably just going to put "Forbidden Lore."

In fact, as I look at empty commercial real estate sometimes walking or riding by it, I occasionally get a vague urge to go into the business of Forbidden Lore. Or, more to the point, to pretend to. There are probably still office buildings in the inner ring suburbs of this town, probably some of them even still close to me, that have old-fashioned offices that were meant for people to use as dual use, a single-person-practice office for a lawyer or an accountant or whatever in front and a small apartment with a 3/4 bath and a daybed in the back.

If I could get a space like that, in an area as convenient to grocery shopping on foot and catching buses as the place I'm living in, at approximately the price I'm paying now, I think it would be an absolute hoot to pay a business license and get the front door stenciled, "Hicks and Associates, Forbidden Lore." List myself in the phone book that way. And then see what happens. Which would probably be nothing. And a fair number of people who walked in through that door I'd send right back out with a recommendation that they hire a private eye or get a library card or do a quick Google search.

But I can just so easily see myself setting behind a desk (with a paused computer game or the manuscript of that book I'm some day going to write on it on the computer screen, not that the client needs to know that) in vaguely seedy business-casual clothes, with a trenchcoat and fedora on the coat rack behind me, leaning back in an ancient and disreputable-looking office chair and saying, "yeah, I can find that out for you. The first thing you need to know is that if I take the case, I get $100 a day plus expenses." Eris only knows if I'd ever take on any actual clients; the SSDI would continue paying my living expenses. Who knows what kind of questions people would bring to a guy listed as an investigator of Forbidden Lore these days. Expert witness in censorship cases? "I think my kid's in some kind of secretive cult?" Reporters with requests for briefing papers about the Skull and Bones club?

Heck, I'd have to have a standard hand-out on the Templars, and it'd doubtless have to start with Umberto Eco's famous observation in Foucalt's Pendulum, the one that says you can tell the difference between a serious researcher into occult history and a crackpot by one rule: for the crackpot, it always comes back to the Templars.

More likely, without putting more advertising out than I'd even want, let alone be able to afford, I'd never have any clients and I'd spend my days the way I spend them now. But then, even more than now, I could say I was professionally insane. It makes an entertaining fantasy.
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