When I was younger I commonly played mental games when I was performing mindless acts like sitting and waiting or walking across town on crowded streets. One game was naughty: I would observe ten women and then would pick the most intriguing or exotic or erotic. I could play this game for hours … it was similar to the standard automobile trip games of counting horses or finding the alphabet on roadside signs (in order, of course). Another game I played was totally within my head and involved perceived causality. I would consider the sidewalk, for instance, and envision the sweaty workers smoothing out the concrete that had been delivered by the big truck which had been filled at the concrete plant on the outskirts of town where the now-dry river once snaked between the cotton woods that I had first experienced in the mid-west when an apparent snowstorm in August was actually the cotton woods sending out there spores and I was walking in the park on the way to the zoo … ad infinitum.
You ever play mind games like these?
One of my favorite authors, Georges Perec, wrote a short piece called An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris. I absolutely recommend this work to all readers and writers. It’s not one of the more available pieces by Perec but if you need to read an English translation, Wakefield Press currently has it in print (reading it in French, however, is preferable). This is what is posted on the back cover of the Wakefield edition translated by Marc Lowenthal:
One overcast weekend in October 1974, Georges Perec set out in quest of the “infraordinary”: the humdrum, the nonevent, the everyday—”what happens,” as he put it, “when nothing happens.” His choice of locale was Place Saint-Suplice where, ensconce behind first one café window, then another, he spent three days recording everything to pass through his field of vision: the people walking by; the buses and driving-school cars caught in their routes; the pigeons moving suddenly en masse, as if in accordance to some mysterious command; the wedding (and then funeral) at the church in the center of the square; the signs, symbols, and slogans littering everything; and the darkness that eventually absorbs in all. In An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, Perec compiled a melancholic, slightly eerie, and oddly touching document in which existence boils down to rhythm, writing turns into time, and the line between the empirical and the surreal grows surprisingly thin.