This ain’t no never-never land

ImageNow that two people have expressed confusion, I must clear this up: the “L” to whom I’ve addressed several missives is not me, it’s a friend with whom I have quite a bit in common, including our first initial. It’s been wonderful to have her (back) in my life. Though we’ve traveled different paths, we have a fundamental understanding of one another that alleviates the need for lengthy explanation. It’s a beautiful thing.

Right, L?

The lyric above is from “Centerfold”, which I distinctly recall hearing for the first time when I was in sixth grade; the new kid, Eric Schmidt, was sitting in the lunchroom playing it on a box (radio) and singing along. Just thirty-two years later, last Friday night, Peter Wolf joined Bob Dylan on stage at the end of the show. He’s gangly.

On our walk this morning, Louie and I passed a group of day camp kids playing kickball. It brought me back to the horrors of gym class, which was perhaps one of my least favorite activities as a kid. I am not an athlete. Newborn giraffes have better working knowledges of how their limbs work than I do – and are far more graceful. I’m afraid of the ball. I’ve thrown “like a girl” since long before that was considered an unevolved statement. I can’t do a cartwheel. As such, I was often picked last for The Team. Thank GOD those days are behind me. I believe in fitness and health and that they should be priorities and that children should have physical outlets. But I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all method for achieving this. Being a kid is awkward enough without a jury of one’s peers to judge grace and athletic prowess and choose sides accordingly. Not to mention gymnastics – oy vey. To have eight-year-old me spot a classmate who’s balancing 12 feet in the air on rings is the antithesis of safety.

A couple of years ago a friend’s daughter was sent to physical therapy because she was uncoordinated. My friend, the father, said, “I was uncoordinated and, except for gym class, it never really mattered. I became a musician.” It’s all about nurturing what’s positive and moving on from what doesn’t work. Too often, though, we expend time and energy wishing for what we can’t or don’t have and disregarding what we can and do.

This post is not quite as disjointed as it seems.

Dream a dream with you

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This was a lovely weekend that began with music and included a trip to the ocean, a movie, and the requisite tears and laughter. Friday night we went to the pier in Hoboken  to see Wilco and Bob Dylan; there was an opening act followed by the cloyingly named My Morning Jacket, who are good musicians with unmemorable music — to me, that is. Apparently there are many people who disagree, as scores of fans were singing along. To each her own, says I. It took me a while to wrap my head around Wilco, despite the fact that I’d seen them play several times — I’m a good friend — but now I absolutely get it. They’re fantastic performers. (I’m such a good friend that, loathe as I am to admit this, I took a dear friend to see Dave Matthews many years ago as that’s what she wanted for her birthday. I’m sorry.) And Bob Dylan was excellent – clear-voiced and strong and we were close enough that we could see his blue eyes.

A few days before this show, a person I know who is undeservedly arrogant took great pleasure in telling my friend how much Dylan was “going to suck” and that he had it on good authority that the man is a hopeless junkie. This took place in the same room where I had the following conversation with a former friend a few years ago:

FF: What are you guys up to?

Me: We just had an amazing night – we saw Paul McCartney at the Apollo!

FF: I’d rather stick needles in my eyes.

Be that as it may, you pseudo-arrogant twit, what is it in your DNA that makes you derive pleasure from shooting down other peoples’ excitement? Or from trying to break their spirits? Can you – any of you – imagine saying to someone, “You’re going to Cancun? It’s going to suck.” “You’re dining at Babbo? That place blows.” “You got into med school? I’d rather skewer kittens on knitting needles!” It’s the opposite of schadenfreude, which, as we know, is the phenomenon of deriving pleasure from the misery of others. This is about deriving misery from the pleasure of others. Baffling.

Less baffling but quite irksome: people who spend the duration of a live musical event – or any event, for that matter – watching it through the screen of their SmartPhone. The uploaded concert is never as good as the event itself. Nor is the photo of the sunset. I take photos – I have some beautiful ones of the sunset in Montauk – but I do so pretty sparingly so that I can be in that elusive moment to the best of my ability. This Friday is the annual birthday sail for my friend E. One of the guests who usually attends (but isn’t this year, I’ve just learned) tends to spend the two-and-a-half hours of the trip photographing, tagging, and uploading. There’s a  feeling of  “if you can’t prove it it never happened” to this behavior. I love photos – I miss film, I love my digital camera. But unless one does something with them, makes a thing of beauty out of the evidence, capturing seems a poor substitute for experiencing.

Why am I so ranty today? I’m actually in a good mood.

Another thing. I really wish people wouldn’t walk their dogs off-leash in this town. The proliferation of off-leashers and the advent of the Citibike is an ominous combination.

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I know that for some of us, this moment is less than ideal. I know about the singularity of heartbreak and the feeling that it might never get better. I know about walking out on the street feeling entirely vulnerable and about never knowing when the tears might sneak up and fall without your being able to do anything but stand helplessly by. I know about the only solution being the problem itself, about pleading with the gods that the other person just open his or her eyes and see what seems so very obvious, and about waking each day with the sinking feeling that we’re right back where we started from. And, dear L, I know about walking headfirst into a situation that we absolutely know just can’t yet (yet!) be what we want it to be, and that has caused us pain and sadness, but that holds some sort of power we feel incapable of resisting. And I know how fruitless it is when people warn us not to do what we’re going to do anyway and worse, when they judge us and get mad at us and give up on us. I will never give up on you, sweet girl – on any of you, for that matter. I can’t fix it, but I can promise you with everything I have that you are not alone. And that, if you allow yourselves to have the faith that’s been challenged so many, many times, it will get better. In the meantime, know that I am here and that I want to be the best I can be and I want you to do the same.

Love yourselves.

See the sky in front of you …

ImageI try not to talk about the weather; it makes me self-conscious. BUT … it’s been awfully strange lately. After relentless heat and humidity for several days, it was autumnesque yesterday. Beautiful, but I was underdressed, and it smacked of that bittersweet change-is-in-the-air turn-of-seasons thing that makes me nostalgic. Not that most things don’t. I could feel, though, that tremendous transformation is taking place in and around me. The last two nights I went to bed early and had hours of pure, unadulterated sleep. It was blissful, and while I know we can’t catch up on sleep, I feel somewhat restored after two weeks that were far from tranquil. Which my friend who is an amazing Tarot card reader had foreseen when she read for me two Wednesdays ago. She told me to  brace myself for two difficult weeks, and she assured me that a new phase would follow them. Right on schedule – this past Wednesday was promising. She gave me a reading in late March, right before my vacation to Europe, and saw a couple of people who would come into my life – or rise in significance – one a few weeks after our reading and one the following month, and both proved accurate. She saw their age-ranges and the purposes they would serve. If anyone in New York is interested in a reading with her, I will happily put you in touch. She’s the real deal.

That change of seasons thing has always impacted me – not in a seasonal affectedness disorder way, but in a way that evokes decades-long sense memories. The summer-into-fall transition is about reinvention, starting over – probably from the school years of yore and the fact that I’ve started many new jobs in the autumn months. When it’s cool and sunny I also think of 9-11 (I know, I know, but I do), which was a beautiful and crisp day, and I think of studying in Paris in autumn 1990 – trying to get my bearings and wandering around the city looking for unoccupied phone cabinets so I could call home. Scary things were happening at home and I needed to be in touch. Those two years aside, though, it’s an optimistic time and I’m determined to capture and hold onto that optimism this year. Though I’m nowhere near ready for summer to end; yesterday was a brief reprieve. I plan to spend more time at the ocean and to soak up the sun as much as I can before the season fades.

If all goes according to plan, I will be seeing music tonight, a lineup that includes Bob Dylan, whom I’ve never seen live and always adored.

Happy birthday, Mick Jagger.

We’ve all gone crazy lately …

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Yes darlings, that title, too, is a lyric. I’m exhausted – look at the time stamp on this thing – but I can’t sleep and I think in part it’s that I feel the need to write right now. This thing has become a source of comfort to me, and I’m grateful for that. Writing out of necessity is something I hadn’t done in a long time until March. Thank the stars I’m at this point again. 

Sun, moon, stars … what poem is that? Whose woods these are I think I know his house is in the valley though. I memorize poems as a personal challenge – I don’t recite poetry terribly often, my friends and family much appreciate this – but I love to memorize blocks of prose and poetry. I’ve got a couple under my belt (that sounds really weird right now), Yeats and Frost and Buchwald … and I’m working my way through Annabel Lee. And The Raven, though that one’s been on hold because it’s l-o-n-g. Poe’s rhythm and meter or whatever the terms are (what are the terms, young Brit?) are magic to me. Gawd I’m tired. 

I have a new and somewhat exciting and entirely terrifying writing project going – tomorrow afternoon I have a meeting with someone who might be a necessary participant if I’m going to make this happen, and I’m nervous and inspired. These are good things to be in tandem. If channeled properly, they’ll cause me to keep on working and doing the best I can. I have made some tremendous strides in the past several months and have taken some enormous steps backward. Need to focus on the good good good and keep moving moving moving because I could easily get caught in the Sargasso Sea but there’s no point in that. It won’t achieve anything. 

Keep calm and carry on. That’s what I’m doing. And now I’m going to sleep. 

 

The wild and windy night

ImageHave I already used this photo?

Another reason, dear E, getting back to your question of what inspires (or possesses) me to write in this thang, is that I have to purge the me-thoughts to get to the creative ones and write what I “should” be writing.

By the way – there is no Rum Diary to focus on right now – we’re in a holding pattern.

I have kept diaries over the years – diaries that turned into journals once that seemed the more age-appropriate word – and in my experience it’s been a bit fruitless. Ironic though this might sound given what I’m currently writing, I could never really open up in them, convinced as I was that they’d be found before or after my end of days and at best mocked, at worst published. Some time ago I read through the ones I’ve kept since graduating to post-college life, and they were distressingly similar in theme from year to year. I need to quit X I need to start Xing I wish I hadn’t X’d last week. I’ve quit pretty much all that I’ve needed to and I’ve started to do the good things (exercise, do more cultural things, organize my stuff, write) and as I’ve said before, I’ve vanquished regret. So perhaps those decades of complaining in longhand were foreplay – lots and lots of it – for my finally leading a far-better-albeit-highly-flawed life, at last. I know better than anyone else that I still have a long road ahead of me on my quest for self-betterment. I plan to take it. I plan, as my parents and some of my favorite grown-ups have and do, to continue my quest for self-betterment for all of my days. Without things to strive for, without room for improvement, what is our purpose? My purpose is to write, live, and love. And those are all things on which I can continually improve.

Here’s a delightful story about keeping journals. Many, many moons ago I lived with a man I loved at the time. This was one of the most fertile writing times of my life. One of my journals was also a writing notebook, where I kept story ideas and fragments and characters and lines of dialogues I’d someday try to use. I’d started a story about a woman having an affair with her boss. It never went anywhere. I moved on.

I had a great job at the time – I was the writer and editor of an entertainment website and was one of a department of six – smart, invested people. One day we were in a meeting with someone important – don’t recall who – and I looked up and saw Boyfriend standing outside the conference room with a dour look on his face. Of course my mind went right to the notion that someone I love had died. I shakily left the meeting and went to him, and he said, “I know.” It took a minute to get what he “knew” out of him. We went out for a pint. I forgave him, for reading my journal, for jumping to that conclusion, for invading my workspace. I began writing everything in code. I don’t go to horrible places in my fiction. Not his fault. Not his legacy. But oy vey. That sucked.

Anyway. I fell in love with a seagull this weekend. They were right – first gay marriage, now this.

xo

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You wanna play mind-crazed banjo

ImageThis photo is from Pride. That was a festive and inclusive day. The night was different.

That night I gave gave gave to people who deserve deserve deserve not at all. Took one true and two false friends to dinner. That which does not kill us …

In any event. I slipped into the ocean this weekend, which is exactly what I needed. That’s the fountain of youth, M. de Leon. If I could, I’d live in a place where I could touch the ocean every day. I’m sure I wouldn’t actually do so, just as I don’t actually take advantage of everything this gorgeous town has to offer, but knowing it’s there would be rejuvenating, invigorating, and everything else Roget has to say on the matter.

Being out of town and seeing the stars, the moon, the horizon – this was necessary. I’m grateful. Enjoy your summers, my friends.

I’d build a road in gold …

Image…just to have some dreaming.

Actually, I slept beautifully last night – eight fairly solid hours – woke up once and fell easily back to sleep. However … you see one movie about a global war caused by marauding gangs of desperate flesh eaters, you have cataclysmic dreams for a week, apparently. Nothing I can’t handle – I eagerly await World War Z2 – but it’s been interesting. Last night’s featured explosions and falling buildings (no casualties that I can remember), but they were all part of films that I was watching. There was also a disturbing film about a little girl people were trying to save – that one felt far more sinister.

In the weeks and months after 9-11 I had regular dreams about things like this – and they weren’t films. I’d dream that buildings were exploding all over the city. I dreamt that I was in my parents’ old building and a Pan Am plane fell from the sky. These were much more literal. Although it still seems far too soon to delve into, perhaps the distance between that wretched day and today has enabled me to put a celluloid filter on my nightmares.

Going to touch the ocean this weekend and not a moment too soon. I learned to love it a couple of years ago (is six a “couple”?) – in Montauk, actually. Prior to that I loved the idea of it but found the execution to be overwhelming. Now it’s overwhelming in a good way. During my years with the wandering minstrel I had the great fortune of traveling on a relatively small budget – touring musicians of a certain level know how to do this like nobody else – and seeing parts of the world I might not have otherwise. When I encountered a body of water, no matter how cold, I at the very least waded in up to my ankles – and so I experienced the North and Irish seas. Some day I hope to encounter the Mediterranean and Adriatic. I’m very drawn to Croatia and I’m not sure why, but that’s on my list of places-I-might-someday-see. There are many, many others. As Andrew Marvell wrote, in a poem that was actually about getting the object of his affection to sleep with him, Had we but world enough and time.

Travel is good. It’s, to me, the best investment of time and money that there is. And so off to the Atlantic we go.

Bright blessed days … dark sacred nights

ImageApologies to my friends who saw me not at my best last night. To accept me is to understand my imperfections and, more importantly, my core, which is one of love and generosity and authenticity. However, yesterday was a day dominated by fear, and as such I probably needed more comfort and nurturing than being in this city sometimes allows. I love this city, but at times I wish I could instantly transport myself to the little patch of rocky beach in Maine that I love so much. Yesterday was one of those days.

I’m finally reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, inspired by the fact that an old friend and novelist compared my writing to hers. Very different subject matter, but I’m flattered and I see where she’s coming from. It makes me want to keep writing so that I can keep getting better.

This is what Strayed says about fear:

Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.

I read this before my appointment yesterday and tried to channel it as best I could. I had a bit of a meltdown after getting ready too early and waiting at my house to leave, and a slight one on the way over, but by the time I reached the hospital, where my mom was waiting for me (at her insistence; I accompanied her to her surgeries a couple of years ago. We’re both pretty good with other peoples’ crises), I was calm enough. It turned out I was not having the MRI I thought I was having; miscommunication from the person who booked the appointment; human error is unavoidable. Instead I had a consultation with a neurologist who went over my recent CAT scan with me. The MRI is pending approval from my ever-lovely and generous insurance company.

I’d had a CAT scan following a week-long fever and persistent headaches – headaches that lasted after the fever went away. I just had deja-vu. Turns out that the fever was a virus, but the CAT scan revealed something called ventriculomeglia (Jojo, is that right?) which means that part of me brain is larger than it should be for a person my age. It’s not extreme, but it is there – he showed me the CAT scan, which was fascinating and weird and my eyeballs looked quite round. And brains are gray. When a baby or young child has this condition it’s “water on the brain”; in an adult (maturity level notwithstanding), the causes can be many. Most extreme case is cancer. It’s possible I’ve always had this; I have to call the hospital where I was taken after my accident to see if they can send the records from that CAT scan. I assume I had one back then but honestly, it’s all a bit foggy. The neurologist said, “I don’t think we need to go in and perform surgery; I think we can continue to monitor this.” He gave me a battery of tests, which I passed. Next step is to have the MRI, see him again, and then make yearly visits with him.

This is all a huge relief, of course, and I know people have weathered far greater health concerns than this. However, this is scary for me. Yes, I can keep it in perspective but it is all relative. A few years ago I had tests on my heart. When it comes to the heart and the brain, regardless of outcome, the stakes are such that fear is a natural response. There’s been strange cancer in my family. One never knows.

As I said in the post I referenced above, I went about 40 years without surgery or a concussion – and then had three surgeries and a concussion in the course of a year. I’ve had lots of surgical procedures, have had every dental woe known to (wo)mankind (root canals, caps, crowns, the removal of four impacted wisdom teeth followed by complications I won’t name because my dear friend is getting his wisdom removed tomorrow but suffice it to say, mine was an extremely rare scenario), and have sprained and broken digits and appendages, but now we’re getting to the organs and it feels like a different animal.

Regardless, I am alive and I am going to have all the tests I need to have and I am in good medical hands and so we move forward. Like a shark. But where mortality and my mother and my emotions meet, things can get very murky. And so yesterday was an intense one for me, and I suppose I should have predicted that and planned accordingly. But I didn’t.

I love you, friends.

Health is important, which is something I’ve lost sight of at times. Never again – I’m keeping on top of things. I was very proud to say “no” when they asked if I smoked or took recreational drugs. Progress should be celebrated; perfection is a myth.

Let’s reboot.

Better think of your future …

ImageGetting down to our best versions of ourselves is as much about eliminating toxic people, places, and things as it is adding positivity. This is the lesson I’m choosing to take from recent events. I, too, could remain mired in the pain of past mistakes and past hurts and betrayals, and it’s taken quite a while to get to this point, but I absolutely refuse now to hold onto the darkness if I can possibly avoid it. The hours, days, years I’ve spent focusing on the inconsequential is time I can never recoup, but I don’t need to. Recent events have forced me to face uncomfortable truths about some of the people in my world, people I mistook for friends who made it quite painfully known that they’ve cared only about certain aspects of me. I could go over the past 16+ years of perceived friendship with a fine-toothed comb, could think of all the confidences I shared and kept, all the generosity I’ve displayed, all the hurt this should equal, but I am actively choosing to not do that. It’s not worth it, when the world is full of beautiful, amazing, and genuine people who would never dream of treating me — or anyone — this way. Like all of you.

Speaking of all of you … deep breath … I need lots and lots of positive energy sent my way. I have a medical test tomorrow, the results of which have a slim chance of being horrible. I know some of you who know me in three-dimensions will wonder why I’ve not told you about this, and the short answer is that I’ve put it out of my mind in order to function over the past couple of weeks. I’d like to say that it will all be fine but just to be sure, please think good thoughts. Thank you.

That was weird – someone I referenced not by name many posts ago just accidentally called me. I’ve not heard from this person in years and there was no message left. My initial thoughts on seeing the name pop up were simultaneously that they had a psychic vision about my tomorrow and that they were issuing a cease and desist regarding my post.

Tomorrow night I get to go see live music with two of my favorite people and one new friend. Music is playing a big role in my life again, and I’m very grateful for this.

Gravitate toward the light, my dears. Life is precious. Be good to yourselves.

Every moment of the year …

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Happy Bastille Day, mesdames et messieurs. In honor of the holiday I am sipping a glass of Austrian wine having just seen an extremely American movie much of which was shot, I’ve just read, in Wales. I do, however, love Paris when it drizzles and sizzles and everything in between, and I hope to visit much more of the country than I have thus far. Paris can be unfriendly and prohibitively expensive, but like most places, with a little bit of research one can experience the magic without facing these two sobering realities.

A friend who reads these words was not aware that the vast majority of my post titles are song lyrics, so just to clarify, the vast majority of my post titles are song lyrics. Not all, but most.

Today was a good Sunday. Healthy and productive and New Yorkish and fun. Reveling in the here and now.

I’ve reconnected with someone I don’t believe I’ve seen since we were in fourth grade and it’s been lovely (a word I overuse but use only when applicable). She is a successful writer and gave me feedback on my own writing that is inspiring me to get back into my novel-in-progress. I will. I will. We each have a specific memory of our time in fourth grade – actually, I’ve just realized that I have two of her – the second, C, being your birthday party, where we played Pin the Tail on the (non-battery-operated or digital or politically correct) Donkey. I can picture the wall where said donkey awaited our blindfolded attacks. I pinned the tail (with scotch tape) onto your brother’s gray sweatshirt. I’m almost certain it was gray. Funny what we recall.

Watching the Tour de France so I guess I am walking the walk on this holiday. Have a wonderful week, tout le monde. I’ll be in touch.