Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Alex's mom hates that I'm not a good housewife. Even back when I worked full time it irked her that I didn't ever really make anything nice to eat and that the linen closet was just a big pile of ripped sheets and beach towels and expired Ibuprofen bottles all mixed together. Now that I'm home with Wally all day, she finds it intolerable.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
We've been mostly cut off here from cell phones, emails (isn't it annoying when people write that, but obviously they are on a computer writing it now? Sort of like -- too busy to write back yet compulsively checking emails. Although to be honest I really do have a full Inbox now (mostly Spam most likely) and haven't read them b/c I see these work emails mixed in that give me the stomach plunge, and Alex and Wally are outside waiting for me to go roast marshmellows.) And it's been great to be out here BUT there is this strange looming thing which is that Saturday, at the end of our vacation, is the wedding of one of our one-time best friends Joe from Bayonne. And it's a wedding I partly set in motion, and we're not going for a whole bunch of reasons, mostly misunderstandings and a missed trip to Spain. Have this image of somehow crashing, just for a second, as they're walking down the aisle, to catch Joe's eye and try to make up for three years of barely speaking and see if he still believes in highways to ride, guitars to play and lots of room.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Tours of Places You Used to Live
Do you like to give tours of places
you used to live?
Do you take it personally
when the scenery has changed?
“There used to be a swing set over there,
that was rotten and creaked a lot,”
you might start to say,
rolling down the window
to point to a certain gathering of trees.
But I can tell you right now—
the swing set doesn’t matter
to anyone else on the tour.
And they certainly can’t be bothered
with knowing exactly
where it used to be.
used to be bigger, which houses
which church had one time been painted
a bright, Easter-egg yellow,
and is now a dull gray—
None of these is important.
Neither is the fact
that you once lived down the block
from a neighborhood pool,
that first thing in the morning
you could hear kids shrieking
as they cannonballed in.
All these people on the tour can see is a fence,
and a block of concrete.
Whether the pool is closed now for good,
or just for the season,
has little bearing on them.
They are checking their phones,
wondering how long it will take to get home,
starting to worry about work the next day.
To them progress is not a personal snub.
Let’s say for example the town got a lot of money
to modernize the library.
Now it's shaped like a ship,
with all this light streaming in,
and big comfy couches instead
of those sterile little cubicles.
Someone in the group keeps saying,
“Wow” and thinks it’s impressive,
for such a small town.
You want to punch them
because they are missing the whole point.
You liked those sterile little cubicles,
and the water fountain
that never gave more than a trickle.
You liked the dark little children’s room
with a worn-out wooden dollhouse
and the animal books with
the bindings completely shot.
Most of all you miss the fairy-tale stone steps
in the back, leading down
to a field full of goldenrods
Someone else points out how cool
the train playground is.
“Was that here when you were little?”
Nope. No. They are just not getting
how much you loved
that wild field,
how sometimes in early spring,
while your dad was gathering books on
tax preparation and your mom
reading Bartlett’s Quotations,
you and your sister would wander down
that impossibly long stretch
to the almost-woods where
you knew you weren’t supposed to go.
There you’d look for ladybugs
or four-leaf clovers
and other surefire signs
of good luck.
Or let’s say in the place where
the pool-hall burned down,
now is a festive Mexican restaurant,
with local artwork,
and good happy-hour deals.
You can tell the tour group all about that crazy,
smoky pool hall where, in high school,
you used to run into the local guys,
who somehow had Boston accents,
how every single night without fail
“Hotel California” played on the jukebox.
But they’re looking at a sign
for 2-for-1 Margaritas,
the vintage clothing shop next door.
As you get back into the car,
maybe you realize
that you yourself are forgetting certain things.
Of course in the obvious Borges way,
like the bike paths that were huge and perilous,
leading off into the unknown,
are now simple dirt roads,
alongside the tracks of the commuter rail
to North Station.
But even things like the fact that
your house was never green,
it was beige at first,
then painted white,
But you could have sworn—
Or something like the fruit trees
that never bore any fruit.
But what about that perfect Empire apple,
after school one day in 5th grade,
you carefully picked off a branch that seemed
to be handing it
Before you attempt to go any further,
you should probably ask yourself—
Why are you giving this tour?
Is it curiosity, nostalgia,
just a memory-lane type thing?
Is it because you really do want
someone to know how it felt to be you:
a scrawny kid with a 10-speed bike
who loved her cat (the one buried behind…
which poplar tree?),
those January nights when she would curl up
in the living room,
whose mom would bring her hot chocolate
whose dad would sing Mr. Tambourine Man?
Did you last-minute swerve to catch Exit 27 off 495
so the guy in the backseat
wearing the Yankees’ cap
and one side of his ipod headphones,
(the guy who is right now wondering
if there’s a Roy Rogers
at a rest stop anywhere between here and New York)
will understand what it felt like to be that kid?
Or is it so that you can be that kid again,
wearing pigtail braids
and too-small pajamas?
Is it so your mom will bring you hot chocolate,
and you dad will sing Mr. Tambourine Man?
Because if that’s what you’re hoping to get
out of giving these tours
of places you used to live,
it’s no wonder you feel a desolate fury
as you finally consent
to pull away from the curb
and head back to 495.
Of course you are biting your lip
as you turn your bruised, lavender face
away from the watery view.
And no wonder you have to summon
the restraint of a caged Mountain Lion
to keep your voice steady,
as you crane your neck around
to tell someone in the back seat
(whose face you barely recognize)
“No, that was music store.
The donut shop was across the street.”
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
(Major breakdown happened here.)
At last Wally's asleep. The house is peaceful. I was glad to hear from visitors that the crayon on the wall and the toy cars scattered in the livingroom made the place feel cheerful and not gloomy at all. For those who don't know, we live in my grandmother's apartment, which is, other than the toys, pretty much the way she left it. (Made me think of Changing of the Guards: "The empty rooms where her memory is protected" -- of course these rooms are anything but empty) These have been the most slap-dash posts, done on a computer with a tiny screen that I can only see like one line at a time of and someone always interrupts me before I get a chance to read through or anything and now it's getting to where I hit publish post mid-sentence and quickly shut the computer as I hear someone entering the room so I don't get in trouble.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
It's late for Wally so I have to try to get him into bed, always a bit of an ordeal when we're all hanging out in one room and he can just see us right next to him, trying to fake him out, pretending to sleep.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Last night was the first dry happy hour I've ever attended. Tonight there's going to be pizza on the pool deck. On the way to the grocery store to get some stuff for Wally I asked my mom if she thought there'd be wine or beer or anything. She said "Oh no, of course there's not going to be anything like that." I bought a bottle of yellow tail pinot grigio and put it in the freezer just now. Wally's running around in swim diapers and most of the guests are just starting to arrive. The only scandals so far are a couple unexpected 2nd marriages, a few cold-shoulder greetings and one potential but unclear religious conversion.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Kids really keep you honest about how much time has gone by. Like when a friend of yours just had a baby and you finally get around to sending a baby gift and then one day out of the blue they send a picture from the first day of kindergarten, you say, “Wow, she’s already five” but five years haven’t passed in your own life.
Or when you have cousins that are teenagers and you know they’re not your age but you sort of feel in the same range. Their parents are your aunt and uncle and you have the same grandparents so you’re all sort of the kids but then they tell you most of their teachers, and some of their friends’ parents, are younger than you are.
I remember even back when I was substitute teaching at Middle School 54. I was two years out of college. The students knew I was younger than other teachers, but at their age the difference was pretty immaterial. I remember them coming up to me after class one day and saying, “I don’t get it. What do you do on weekends?” At that time I was out on weekends, partying and drinking and going to see music shows and playing in a band. So I thought I was you know I guess young and cool or whatever but to them it was just this suburban void of being a grown-up, like do you take care of your garden or go shopping at Costco’s or how do you spend your time? So I knew to them I was part of that far off and mysterious world of adults.
What was also strange was that the parents of the teachers I tutored would always talk to me like I was their peer, ask me for guidance about what to do about their kid. I felt like telling them they must have me confused with someone else, that they were the adults in the equation and they should just tell me what they want to do and I'd do it.
We've all noticed how around the age of 30, when you get past that, it all sort of blends together. Those distinctions of a few years or even ten or twenty are not that meaningful. Even as far as high school, two years was unfathomably distant -- the difference between an awkward, wobbly freshman and untouchably sophisticated junior wearing a red hat and denim cut-offs. In some instances those old habits and patterns die hard. Like I can’t get over that Alex is the same age as my sister. To me he’s younger, my age, and still needs advice on things like what kind of credit card to get or what to wear to a job interview.
And then of course there is seeing kids now and remarking on how tall they are or grown-up they look and then realizing you're one of those people making prosaic comments about how tall some kid is or how much older he looks. And you remember adults exclaiming when they saw you, giving you a hug as you came back from the beach on the 4th of July and saying, "How did you get so tall?" or "How did you get to be such a big kid?" You'd think, what an odd question, these people don't really have a good grasp of time, and they don't.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Oh yeah and one more important thing. The last american childhood doesn't refer to Wally's childhood. That would be just like the most obnoxious thing possible, I think. It does refer obliquely to my own (my generation's) but I have to get into that more. There's so much I want to say about it that of course I haven't said anything at all.
Alex has a much better attitude about so much of this stuff than I do. First, he doesn't feel sorry for stuffed animal displays that aren't getting enough attention. And second, usually when we leave some event where Wally was unruly and soaking wet and tearing the place up, Alex says, "He had more fun than any kid in there." Which is usually true.