Tuesday, September 22, 2015
The Empire State is just plain white today. I haven't looked at it in a long time. It's only when I write free-form that I think to look out at it, when I'm not writing about 18th century contingencies of colonialism or something out that makes me hunch over and (try to) block everything out. The last time I remember really thinking about it was a night my cousin Moira was here when they were projecting endangered animals onto it. August 3. Moira's in Spain now. I haven't heard a word from her. When I started this blog, she was just a kid. It's strange. It's also weird to think that Wally was a toddler then, a toddler who didn't really talk. And now he's like this essential person in my life and he changes the way I think almost daily. And I think, "Who who who is the person?" And that it makes me think of that scene from Sports Night where Dana interviews Jeremy.
I have to write a couple things that are due tomorrow. I have time. There's lots of time until tomorrow.
I'm having a completely different experience this year at grad school so far. I am on the one hand aware of how completely overwhelming it all is. I think last year I had some kind of protective layer where I just wasn't going to admit to myself that it was really pretty much almost impossible to manage, just switching from mom-world to student-world alone, from packing lunch and figuring out pickup to understanding what Hugh Grady means when he talks about the impure aesthetic in A MidSummer Night's Dream. This alone was some kind of circus act, and I felt like I was was pretending to eat fire every time I flipped from one to the other.
(Listen to this song while you're reading this post.)
This fall I am more aware of the crazy balancing act required, more patient with myself, more understanding of the time I have to devote to each and how much they each wear me down, but I am also just letting myself soak it all in. I know I most likely won't continue on in graduate school. I know—after dreaming for years of being exactly where I am—these three classes are very likely the last three I'll ever take. I can't do anything but enjoy it.
And here we are on the eve of Yom Kippur, long after the first three stars appeared in the September sky, on the last day of summer, and Alex is in the kitchen stirring polenta and a survey from Fordham today asked my religious affiliation and I answered that I don't have any at all, because the truth is, I don't. I am not fasting. I have never fasted. I don't have any great task to accomplish tonight. No one's talking in their sleep. But I did write a song about the day of atonement, and suddenly I am seized with trying to find it. I am still that same Rachel who played that song to whiskey-soaked crowds on Bowery back before New York became a Long Island strip mall. I am still that same Rachel, but in so many other ways I'm not.
Here are Wally and Petra on the first day of school.
Sunday, September 6, 2015
And here I am now in Bryant Park, and I remember the group drinks with the group I worked with briefly at my brother-in-law’s company way back in the early New York years. But layered on top of that is Bryant Park where two years ago I brought Wally to a yoga class one spring morning. Or before that, Bryant Park, where Kara and I first came to watch an outdoor movie, maybe On the Waterfront, something with Brando I think, years ago, with that glee and exhilaration that we lived in the city now where things like this were just every day things, movies outside in the summer and noise and commotion and people with so many places to be. In between there's Bryant Park where seven years ago I bought a pass to the Carousel that still has many unused punches that for some reason makes me sad. Carousels are something you grow out of faster than you want to let on. You ride them after they’re no longer fun so you end up putting on a performance for those watching you, smiling and waving each time you catch sight of your family smiling at you from the sidelines, blurry and ephemeral, and what the camera doesn’t catch is your face just after you’ve passed them by, the way the smile loses its spirit, becomes stiff, your eyes vacant.
But inevitably just as I am beginning to let these images swirl up and see how they might converge or overlap or string together, one or the other of miniature creatures that share our apartment appears before me, blinking and seeming to have emerged from the violet forest of a LateSummer Night’s Dream, and I am yanked out of that near-reverie, yanked into a bed too small for three people, with too many elbows, but a happiness too, undeniably a cozy happiness about it, too.
Yesterday I found a story called “A Time Before CBGB’s” in a literary journal published in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1999. The journal was sent to me by an ex-boyfriend because he was published in it, Vol 21. You’re in it, the ex-boyfriend had assured me in a hand-written letter, back in those final days of their existence. But I was in it in only the most insultingly inconsequential way.“And it turns out this ex-grrlfriend, Rachel, actually introduced David to Emily, the turning point of this story.” He reversed the name of my band then with the name of the song about him that he ruined at the only show we ever played together. He changed other insignificant details. None of it has any meaning for me now, not even nostalgia. I brought it down to the laundry-room book giveaway, and left it there, flies buzzing around. It was more the Pre-CBGB's title that struck me, in this post-CBGB's era. Which brings me to the streets of New York, where I am now. Where I have been...lost? Like in the Natalie Merchant song?
It's so much harder for me in writing sometimes to capture what felt graspable in music easily. So why am I pursuing writing now? Why have I all but given up writing songs? I'm so far behind everyone who spent all these years reading and writing about poststructuralist theory when I was listening to the sound of slamming doors and folding chairs. No, we never had anyone to slam doors or fold chairs—we did that ourselves, hauling our amps, spilling battery acid, thinking one day all this would make a great story if we could ever stop riding long enough to tell it. We were the ones who had to take things apart and carry them away.