Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday train

They meet in the same train car every morning for a quick debate, and every afternoon for a beer and a cackle. Three men, two women. Today they are exchanging gifts. A toy version of the mustang he always wanted but kids are in college so there's no cash for that; a little tree ornament that is also a shot glass. A t-shirt, a notepad with ironic messages at the top, a hat.

"we're going to breakfast, right? Oh please tell me we're still going to breakfast!" there is an overlap of voices, gravelly with twenty years of commuting and having quit smoking together. Odd memories of the interstitial parts of life. How so-and-so got their name: odd story, let me tell you. "she doesn't NEED a man..she's 82 years old!" She had the best. She had my father! Why does she want more?

Let me tell you.

They will never meet each other's families - may have not shared cell numbers. But they KNOW each others' families. Love and misunderstanding, like group therapy but without the pathetic veil of "safety." someone might get hurt. Opinions sting. But not for more than the time spanning two train rides.

These relationships would have worked just as well 100 years ago. Would that all relationships be as reliable as trains. It's painful not knowing until the next day - "hey what happened to you yesterday?" Daughter in the emergency room. Traffic was Terrible - accident on the beltway. I just had a hard time getting moving this morning. They worry, but in that perfunctory way you worry about acquaintances. Maybe a little more. Enough to buy gifts. Enough to have breakfast and share stories, and do a great deal of speculating on the controversies that don't survive past the train ride. Look over the year, brag about bonuses and kids.

I am envious-

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Location:MARC 419

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

for goodness' sake

I sat next to a charming man named Richard tonight at dinner, at a symposium on greening historic communities. He’s in his mid seventies or thereabouts, has been married for around forty years, and has four sons, all of whom are successful, in completely diverse careers, and love each other, and their parents, whom as adults, they treat as friends. I asked him somewhat awkwardly what has made his marriage work after all these years. I really had to know. Being in a young marriage, and for the second time, I have concerns. I worry, will it work this time? It’s hard, everyone knows that in theory, but you don’t get much from canned psychology and friends, who won’t admit to anything because you’re too close.

Getting advice on love from strangers always seems best. So I asked him this question after the conversation had revealed that we’re both of a liberal persuasion, have similar world views and both think that Michele Bachmann is a disingenuous, frightening megalomaniac with designs on being Vice President to Mitt Romney. He got my jokes, and patted me on the shoulder. He said a few very useful things, but started with, “you know what happened? when we first met, we lived together. After about five years, my wife said she wanted to get married. I wasn’t ready. She said she wanted the commitment. So when I wouldn’t commit, she left. I was terribly disappointed. Knowing she could just leave at any time made me really pay attention to her, what she was saying, and really listen. It made me an attentive husband.”

The subtlety that is so hard to portray after the fact is that he wasn’t cowed in some way or threatened, he wasn’t attentive out of insecurity, but out of the pleasure of doing it. He realized this woman knew what she wanted and meant business. If he was a part of her life, he’d be able to be a party to her greatness. “She left and went and bought a house.” By herself. In 1972. She is an attorney, and after some years of marriage, went back to graduate school to become a clinical psychologist, and she’s a novelist. He couldn’t let her go. A woman that strong was worth committing to. He was intrigued by her , and maintains that that foundation of individuality is what made it work. He went on; I could see tears forming. I had to steel myself; it was touching how much this man loves his wife.

You don’t hear much about that these days. You hear about jackasses, mostly, politicians and celebrities, (polebrities?) who really don’t deserve to be married. I would have more hope if I knew that Richard was more common. That he’s a type, and that I will over time see that I married that type. I think I will. I think I already do, but he’s also got forty years of retrospective, it’s happened over time, the goodness, the will power. The deliberateness of loving someone for a very, very long time.

Other things that make marriage work in the long term according to Richard’s experience are a common aesthetic and a sense of adventure about it, and communication without fear. “not the brutal brutal truth, but the un-doctored truth, with some gesture toward each other’s feelings.” Tell me the whole truth, but do it in a nice, gentle, respectful way that fosters trust. That’s not easy. That’s what makes marriage hard. It also, I’d like to believe, makes it worthwhile.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Beyond The Pale

I confess, it was the "hot body" contest she entered at a sleazy bar, nary a hip shake after her daughter was murdered in cold blood and dumped in a Florida marsh, that damned her in my mind.

I try to put myself there, an attempt to imagine the woodsman she would have us believe was sent forth to cut out the heart of snow white - how cruel, and at best indifferent, to the mother in her, the mother in me that howls at the idea of anyone laying a finger on my one and only. I cannot deeply go there. It's too much.

Caylee was, by definition, defenseless. The difference of course (if you will leap into the fairy tale analogy for a moment) is that the queen had no daughter, and she had her realm to protect - and snow white had come of age. It was a war between age and beauty. Control and freedom. It's a huge motive for escape, absolution, murder even. War.

Knowing that that battle wages in each of us, however deeply buried or fully resolved is useful knowledge. Self awareness. Something can be done. Thete are outlets. We all learn to cope, and often thanks to the little ones, enjoy reliving youth vicariously with the benefit of experience. We can chuckle at it all. Some even go at it alone, and they are twice the heroines.

And then there are the other mothers.

At war with aging, with the shackles of responsibility, with "lost years," with themselves-
Perhaps wanting once again to be queen of the realm with no little trouble maker in tow, no consequences, and no cover at the door, free drinks for the ladies-

When I think of dancing with abandon, I don't think of spring break debauchery. I think of three year old girls. They love to take off their clothes and run around, tease everyone and giggle at the dog staring at them with a mildly worried expression from across the room. They love life, trying on dresses, making mischief and dancing with abandon.

What exactly was this woman missing?

Having just read The Psychopath Test I do wonder. Fairy tales are full of psychopaths. Reminders to not lie, to enjoy youth and springtime and beware the stranger offering sweets. But there are no useful parables here. Just a woman that refuses herself to grow up, and the little girl that now never will.

No more bedtime stories for Caylee.

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Location:Somewhere other than The sunshine state

Saturday, April 09, 2011

I don't want to live on the moon

I have to believe that things will get better for everyone.

I was up at 7 this morning mopping the kitchen floor, listening to my daughter giggle at sesame street - the few minutes of the day that, with sticky banana hands, she will tolerate being strapped in a chair. The episode changed mercilessly to Aaron Neville and Ernie singing "I don't want to live on the moon" and without any warning of this haunting, I was transported to some early spring day in the late 70s, when I might have heard it for the first time, sung by someone else. It was ok to wear red pants and a green shirt. Crayons were probably toxic. And I didn't understand why my mom would cry when she heard certain songs, standing in the middle of the kitchen. Mopping. I think my parents' generation had lost something then, maybe everyone loses it, from time to time. Maybe it's having children that make this time travel possible. The tremendous feeling of loss and simultaneous fullness you can get living in times like these can be overwhelming. I don't want to live on the moon. I don't want to fill a mansion with things. I want to live on earth, at home - I think that's what the song means. I'd like to visit some neat places, but I want to live at home. For everyone I know, life is harder right now. In one case, Eviction-notice hard. But if you are lucky to still own your own dirt, you can still grow things from nothing but seeds on a window sill. Though it may seem impossible now, like this shitty time will not pass, it will, and I know it. I can feel it - it's only a moment away. So I'm taking care of things at home, keeping it straight. Crying along to the Cat Stevens station I just set up on Pandora. Tending to seedlings. Laughing at my daughter laughing. Getting ready for the day things turn around. They will.

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Location:My kitchen floor

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

May I suggest

Rediscovering Twin Cinema by the New Pornographers

Rocking my commute, and my world. I don't even feel silly for wearing this enormous raincoat on what will be a rainless day. I think.

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Location:On the Amtrak headed for Union

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Old Traditional

She ripped her way out of the dress, borrowed from Mrs. Monroe. Everything was borrowed from Mrs. Monroe until she herself was Mrs. Monroe. The restaurant would call for Artie to fetch the fur. She shouldn't have left it, she could have sold it. "Stupid," she thought to herself, deciding to make a late trip back to retrieve it. It was worth four hundred dollars, a third of her father's yearly salary as a college professor. She finds a one of his mother's traveling suits and steps out the back door, brown from head to toe and marching.

Long, hurried walk to the Avenue. Drunken streetcar sooty mess the son-of-a-no-good- what in heaven's name am I going to do if he sees me coming back in...Too much time to think on the trip back to the restaurant, she piles a shoulder into Theo before he can turn to open the door for her, out of habit. He steps back instead and lights a cigarillo.

"Really," she says to herself, bowing her head through the bar to the coat check, "The trick is to not have desires, or be numb to them. If I have my hair just so, and wear this dress, he will want to hold my hand. If I use irony effectively, he will want to kiss me. Be smart, and it will get me some small gold thing to wear. There was a cold progression to it. She thinks she's too emotional to pull this off.

c(ath)arly simon

You walked into the party
Like you were walking onto a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf, it was apricot
You had one eye on the mirror
As you watched yourself gavotte
And all the girls dreamed that they'd be your partner

You're so vain
You probably think this blog is about you
You're so vain, you're so vain
I'll bet you think this blog is about you
Don't you?

Oh, you had me several years ago
When I was still quite naive
Well, you said that we made such a pretty pair
And that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you loved
And one of them was me
I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee

You're so vain
You probably think this blog is about you
You're so vain, you're so vain
I'll bet you think this blog is about you
Don't you?

Well, I hear you went up to Saratoga
And your horse, naturally, won
Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun
Well, you're where you should be all the time
And when you're not, you're with some underworld spy
Or the wife of a close friend

You're so vain
You probably think this blog is about you
You're so vain, you're so vain
I'll bet you think this blog is about you
Don't you?