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No, I won't be able to spend New Year's Day enjoying a meal outdoors surrounded by blooming roses and fresh, green edibles. And I won't be able to pop the cork on a reasonably priced bottle of bubbles, purchased at my local grocery store. Nor will I be able to hike through a fragrant drippy forest down to the ocean, stopping along the way to ogle a completely insouciant bald eagle. But there will be trade-offs, as there always are. As wise Kate said, wherever you are, you are always missing someone or something. But we get to choose.
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Booking tickets again, and fantasizing about the time when I won't have to keep leaving my life, when my life will (mostly) be in one place, and the leaving will be about traveling for fun and visiting beloved people or just escaping winter. For 24 years, I have done some form of back-and-forth, and I don't want that anymore. I don't want to have to debate which events are important enough to warrant a trip. I want to be there for the weddings and funerals, birthdays, holidays, school plays, ballet recitals and soccer games. There. I said it.
We FaceTimed today, you and I. You took the phone and toddled off with it into the other room, and I took you on a little tour of my then and there. I made my coffee and walked you through the kitchen and living room and showed you Zaidie's chair (with no Zaidie in it) and the dining room and the pantry and I even opened the fridge and showed you the fruit drawer, and you said "Apple! Apple!" You paid attention the whole time, never pressed the red button or mute, and then Dada said, Thanks for babysitting, Mom!
She surprisingly and not doesn't won't can't remember so many things, even the really obvious and the so very important (to me) and I can't decide if it's worth jogging her memory or just letting it be. I mean, does she really not recall that drawing of 18-month-old me, the one that hung in the same spot over Dad's dresser for 51 years? The one that even her dementia-addled sister recognized instantly as me? Should I be concerned? Worry would feel better than the shock and deep disappointment. Then I wonder which important things I will forget...
Ras el hangout and piri piri, dukkah and svaneti, za'atar and ayam... I inhale deeply, a heady mix of magic that comes from the earth. Who figured out that that this dried seed, crushed with those dried berries, and blended with just a bit of that pod and that leaf, could make food taste so delicious? I crave it more than candy, every color and scent, I want the yellow and the pink, that deep rusty brown and dull olive green, and some of what's in each of those prosaic white plastic buckets. Heaven is just a lifted lid away.
Doing the museum slow-step through an endless crowd (!) at SAM, gathering in stunned clumps before each precious rectangle of genius. A few slashes of pink and yellow across a violet path and you look for the sun behind the trees. Life and loveliness burst from the rosy cheeked face of a young woman just about to say something. I want to touch the sparkly fuzz on three perfect peaches. You can even feel the wind that whips the flags on the ships in the harbor on a sunny summer day. Once again, the Impressionists make their impression on me.
January earth smells minty and fruity and I honestly don't mind getting a face full of it as I shake out a clump of grass, salvaging every last bit of soil for a garden that isn't even mine. I thought we might do a favor for our P-Patch neighbors, the ones with the two small, endearingly chatty little kids (who took more of our raspberries than they should have). They worked so hard to build something out of nothing, only to raise a magnificent crop of weeds. We cleared it all, but now find they've given up their plot.
One day to spend alone in the location of your choice! So many options occur - the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay, Saint Mark's Basilica, Mt. Rainier, the beach at La Push, Old Montreal - but in the end, I find myself thinking about how the presence of people is what can make a place so attractive. I wouldn't want Paris without the Parisians, or Florence without the Florentines. I could do without the tourists, but that wasn't an option! And what would be the point of experiencing all that magnificence without being able to share the wonder with someone who cares?
We are an odd group: one married couple, one single gay man who has never had a serious relationship with a man, one gay woman (who has had serious relationships but has been single for some time), one single straight woman, and one single woman who would probably call herself bisexual. Over good food and wine, we explore life and death, our childhood and youth, our relationships, work, dreams, values, and choices. Small talk never even occurs to anyone, but we do make crosswords using themes of the evening, and classic show tunes always find their way onto the program.
Small observances in another ordinary day: I never followed David Bowie's life, music or movies, but I recognized his genius and am sad that he is gone. I'm impressed at the respect shown by the media: clearly, he didn't want his illness and death to be fodder for the feeding frenzy, and he appears to have had his way.
When I am alone at home in winter, I leave the heat on in all the rooms (not all at the same temperature) so that when I move around, I don't hit unpleasant cold pockets. I miss the central in central heating.
Pajama day. Back to bed in the midmorning in response to a physical cry too insistent to ignore. Sleeping, reading, cocooning on a wet, grey-curtained day. Succumb to tv temptation for some documentary enlightenment: Bill Cunningham New York, and Blackfish. And then sucked into the show that is the state of the union. One thing's for sure: 8 years in the oval office will turn your hair grey. He is still a magnificent and inspiring speaker and a very smart man, but predetermined divisions prevent so many from showing more than a smirk, ifthatmuch. And heavenhelpus, some are texting.
Writing out of order, not that it matters. If I back up a few days, does it make him not dead yet? Take it Easy, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Desperado, Tequila Sunrise, Lyin' Eyes, New Kid in Town, Life in the Fast Lane, Heartache Tonight, Wasted Time, I Can't Tell You Why, The Heat is On, Take it to the Limit, One of These Nights, Love Will Keep Us Alive, Best of My Love, Pretty Maids All in a Row, Hotel California. I'm sure I've missed some. But that's what's playing in my head. Soundtrack of my 20s and my now.
Southern California smells singular, like only itself. A warm breeze of eucalyptus and sand, rosemary and lavender, soil and salt. The house is cute but not small, and black and white and grey, just like they like. All that's missing is the sun, which shines in the back, where the alley is. All the backs are alleys and garages, so people live in their front yards, which, on the oceanfront path, is like being on display to the slow-moving human traffic jogging-walking-cycling-strolling-skateboarding by. Reminds me of Amsterdam red light district. Who is watching whom, exactly?
In the middle of Concussion, the projector stops, the lights come on and a loud, beeping alarm sounds, over which a recorded voice repeatedly tells us to make our way to the nearest exit, avoiding elevators. In Canada, I'd be sniffing for fire. Here, I'm preparing to duck in case someone starts shooting. My eyes dart around, seeking best hiding places. We find ourselves in the back parking lot, nary a cop car or fire truck - or employee - in sight or earshot. False alarm! We file back in and watch the rest of the movie as though nothing had happened.
In these parts, they name their waves. There's a famous one just around the corner called The Wedge. But, like our mountain, it's not "out" these days. Just ordinary surf, not even that exciting at this south end of the beach. Further north, the surfers are so crowded together - all ages, shapes and sizes - it's amazing they don't all go crashing into each other. From the pier we watch pelicans cruising low over the surf, ducks paddling and diving, gulls hovering on the air, and there, just beyond the mass of wetsuits, small dorsal fins that can only be dolphins.
We look up liquor stores and find the place that sells Everclear. Siri leads us there, we buy a bottle (and another one of Grey Goose) and head home to watch football and peel Meyer lemons from Jon's tree in San Francisco. Into the pitcher goes the zest, along with the whole bottle of grain alcohol. Plastic wrap over the top, a safe place in the garage, and we're off, leaving instructions behind. On day six, he makes the syrup, adds it on day seven, but in the end, it's just limoncello. And vodka is what he really likes best.
Back to the gloom of a Seattle 7 am. How is it possible that the in the same time zone it can be so black and inhospitable up here and so sunny and light down there? Pedaling an old bike along the oceanfront path - meeting joggers and walkers, singles and in pairs, grey-ponytailed women on skateboards, families on all kinds of wheels, moms (and dads) pushing lightweight strollers as they run, even seniors with walkers - sure beats the down coat and boots routine and cold wet car up and down the hill to Pilates in Magnolia in the dark.
Working makes me so sleepy. Or is it the off-grey sky and lulling hum of intermittent traffic on the street below, with a gentle background of light classical music in the living room? Am I sleeping enough? Nah. Most likely it is the lousy writing I am translating. How many of these crummy articles have I come across in my career? Written by hacks to fill space in a magazine nobody will read. But I still care as much now as I did decades ago and although tempted sometimes, refuse to let "garbage in, garbage out" be my guide.
"Transparent" is worth all the buzz. Compellingly cringe-worthy in its honest, no punches pulled approach. This is a Jewish family in all its flawed, selfish, boundary-less, secret-keeping, narcissistic, immature glory. I am fascinated, repelled and heart-broken; my empathy cup runneth over; I want to wring each neck, old and young, individually in its own special way. Jeffrey Tambor is implausibly magnificent, as is Judith Light. And the writing is simply magnificent. How do people come up with this brilliant stuff that sounds exactly like what these characters would say? Oh to have such powers of observation.
Sarah Palin? Really? I can't even watch the whole report, hitting pause in order to pick up the phone and call David to say, "That's it - time to move back to Canada NOW." But he beats me to the punch, answering the phone with "I guess we have to move back to Canada now, eh?" The pull was strong enough without even needing a push, yet here it comes anyway, like insurance. For added oomph, Trump today trumpeted some report that said he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot people and he'd still get votes. Ack.
Finally, we put on our Bubbie & Zaidie hats (which make us look not-so-vaguely like Bolsheviks) and after much fussing with lights and cameras and hidden sheet music, record a decent rendition of SkinnamarinkyDinkyDink. Later, B calls to say Mia got hold of the phone and somehow, all by herself, found her way to the video and pressed Play. And sat there with a big grin on her face. Can't imagine any better instant gratification. Tomorrow, I'm going for the old lady who swallowed the fly. Zaidie finds it creepy, but that's because he was raised without nursery rhymes.
It must be very strange to live in Kansas. This week two things happened. Well, more than two, but you know what I mean. 1) The Kansas Appeals Court ended up in a tie over the abortion ban, which means the lower court ruling stands and second-term dilation and evacuation abortions cannot be banned because the ban would be unconstitutional in the State of Kansas. Wow. But then 2) State Senator Mitch Holmes, who chairs the Ethics and Elections Committee, banned women from wearing low-cut necklines or miniskirts when testifying before his committee. No particular rules for men.
Soul-baring, flayed-skin confessions of confusion and near despair. A kind of ecstatic agony, because of the relief it brings (or he hopes it will bring). The fact that we were willing to listen was all the encouragement he needed, and he went overboard, speaking about and for and embarrassing his no doubt long-suffering wife of 42 years, who showed remarkable grace and restraint (42 years don't happen by themselves). It was like walking into a therapy session we had not signed up for. My heart goes out to him, but boundaries will now have to be set.
Emergency pediatric dentistry at 9 am to extract a broken lower front tooth, whose semi-exposed nerve must have been unbearable all weekend. And yet she didn't even cry all the time. Even slept part of the time. Took three to hold her down, but it was all over in under 10 minutes and now she's happy little schmutzy face again, all unpleasantness forgotten (we hope). I still have memories of being pried out from between the sink and the wall in the dentist's office, after he promised I would "see the fairies" which not surprisingly just plain freaked me out.
I always wondered why he was so uncomfortable with his body. It was such a good body: whole and lean and well-muscled, coordinated, capable, swift-moving and strong. It built things, fixed things, created things, chopped wood, made art, propelled itself gracefully down a frozen canal. Yet, like a woman of a certain age, he felt compelled to keep it covered, choosing colorful plumage, to be sure, but ashamed of what was underneath, worried that if people saw, they would be repulsed. He was so much freer when nobody else was there to witness. Even I was an impediment.
It breaks my heart to think that he never tried to repair those broken relationships, never took the high and yes, difficult road of forgiveness. Instead, he let the chips on his shoulders weigh him down and let his pride be his guide. I have forgiven him (and myself), but I don't know if everyone else has. I wonder whether he thought of any of that in those last hours when the blood was leaking into his brain, whether he died in a state of regret or shame. I really hope it was a peaceful state of blissful un-being.
Self-loathing is a particularly insidious and corrosive kind of hatred that eats away at the sufferer and wounds all who fall within range of his or her acid spew. How difficult to watch the portrayal of one such man in The Disgraced. And even more shocking (yet not surprising, when you think about it) to see the thin veneer we drape over our gut-level biases and assumptions. The playwright scratched every character to reveal sadly banal human flaws, the consequences of which can be so devastating. If only we could all be aware of our button-response connection.
After listening to the audience responses, it occurs to me that the only cure for what ails (most of) us is a long walk in someone else's shoes. I mean, what do I really know about what it's like to be black or Muslim or gay or transgendered, or aboriginal, or disabled, or poor, or homeless, or unemployed even, or chronically ill, or mentally ill, or dying of cancer, or stripped of my rights, or jailed, or wrongly accused, or pregnant and alone at 16, or abused, or a refugee, or a pariah, or an addict, or a war veteran.
Nothing is without meaning, as though the opposite were ever true, but now the meaning of each thing is funneled into one of three categories: things I'd miss, things I wouldn't miss, neutral things. Finding the private little public place on the water today was in the first category. Where once there was a house? undeveloped brush? there is now a steep graveled path down to the water, with a picnic table under a big madrona, and flat-topped boulders for sitting and watching the waves and the clouds and the gulls, so tiny next to the bald-headed eagles.
Intelligent, articulate Jews seek meaning and connection by reading books and gathering to talk about them over bagels and coffee. It could be anywhere, any time in the last few millennia. I love that these are my people and our shared tradition, and the way I feel instantly at home in a room full of strangers. Of course, they are anything but strange. Their names, their facial expressions, their style, their gestures, their language, their warmth, their assumptions, are as familiar to me as the books on their shelves, the art on their walls and the magazines in their bathrooms.
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