Quotidian News from the Back of Beyond

Twice a day Dusty T. Dog and Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog unfurl their inner-puppy and they wrestle and play. Never in the yard, always in the living room.

Since she ran away, Bear has been odd. I think she scared herself. She’s been more needy, more attention seeking, more destructive. It’s a situation where I wish I could have a one-to-one conversation with her, but she’s a dog. She’s a dog that clings strongly to a routine, too. And now that summer is FINALLY here (my subjective summer) and I’m doing different things, spending time with humans, painting rocks, trimming dead-heads off flowers, taking her for walks at random times, she’s uncomfortable, too.

But my neighbor is going to help me put up a fence in the side yard so Bear can no longer dive through the lilac hedge and that will be a very positive change in both our lives.

That’s the dog report for today…

Night before last and yesterday I hid my first few rocks and waited to see what would happen. The woman who found the tiger was THRILLED. Lots of people WANTED to find it which made me happy.

I hid the two cute ones at the playground in the park near my house — the bluebird and the turtle — and this was my reward.

I love giving away my art and this is really, really sweet. ❤ I have a couple to hide today.


On the side is a verse from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, the poem “O Me! O Life!” The scene is the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Sand Dunes ❤

Running Bunny with Carrot

Country Mouse


Love or Lust?

Oh how sophisticated we all were in our late 20s and early 30s looking at each other and saying, “That’s very interesting, but is it love or lust?” Of course, it was the 70s and the bill some people would pay for wild, random sex hadn’t come in yet.

“I mean, he’s gorgeous, but, Martha, he’s gay.”

“I know that.”

“Well? You can never have him.”

“I don’t want to ‘have’ anyone. But as for that, I think we have each other as much as any two people can. We know each other inside out. We love each other and we’re friends.”

“He’s gay.”

“That’s not all he is.”

“Gay” is a rather impersonal term when it comes down to it. It doesn’t describe anything other than the general idea that a person prefers sex with people of his own sex. There is a, uh, there is a whole RAINBOW of possibilities in that word and, ultimately, we love people — a person, an individual.

But the gay scene in the late 70s was a temple of lust. I found it refreshing. A bunch of guys going out looking for a guy to hook up with — not forever, no white dress, wide-brimmed hat and bouquet, but just that. Desire. I decided then — and I still believe — lust gets a bum wrap.

In the hetero world to which I belong, in those days, people straddled the fence of encouplement and free love. If you watch movies from the time you’ll see the dilemma. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is a good one to watch. It was the days of “wife swapping” and “open relationships.” People weren’t sure about NOT being in committed love relationships; they were afraid they were missing out but…

Things didn’t work out between the guy and me. They couldn’t, but we were a couple for five years. People continued to say, “It must drive you crazy! He’s so good-looking!”

“What drives me crazy?”

“You know. He’s gay.”

I learned to shrug. In the vast shag rug of love one of the filaments is lust. Our moments of tenderness in bed, our heart-to-heart conversations, our hours of laughter, our fights? OUR moments. No one else’s. Not the subject for debate or dialectic.

“I just want to know, Martha, if everything falls apart, you’ll still be here.”


Young Love, a Hickey, Weed and Embarrassment

Dusty, Bear and I were able to hike at the slough Sunday because it was a cool, cloudy day. No hot trail, cool wind blowing so no mosquitoes. We had a great time listening to the birds and appreciating being out.

On the way back, Bear and Dusty alerted me to people at the little seating area at the beginning of the trail. I leashed Dusty since most of the people who go there are walking dogs. Then I saw there were two people and they were headed our way. I took the dogs off the trail so the people could pass without having to interact with the dogs, especially if they had a dog of their own. My dogs are friendly, but Dusty sounds fierce, so I am always cautious.

It was a high school couple. I know this because the boy wore his high school T-Shirt. Both the boy and the girl were shiny and new. They were beautiful. Both were tall and slender, well built. Their faces were smooth and generally everything about them was perfect. They looked like they had just come out of the box marked “New adults.”

They liked the dogs. Dusty especially liked the boy and jumped straight up six feet and kissed him. The boy was calm; I can imagine most people would have freaked out. The girl had a brand new hickey on her neck. They smelled of weed. They asked about the dogs, what kinds they were, and the girl thought Bear was beautiful. Then they walked on and we headed to the car.

I felt for a moment like I’d entered a time slip. 49 years ago on a summer Sunday afternoon I could have been found in a similarly “remote” spot with a high school boy doing similar things (no hickey; I always thought they were unnecessary advertising). No weed, either. I wasn’t “there” yet.

I remember those intense drives that blocked out everything. They were extremely pronounced and equally incomprehensible. Like most New Adults, I felt I’d invented all of that and it was GREAT. I would not say exactly that they fade with time, but experience is a good teacher.

I really loved those kids. I hope their love is happy and, if it ends, it ends in a way that no one is hurt. I hope they have dreams that are worthy and that their dreams come true. I hope when they are my age they are walking together in some spot like that and run into an embarrassed young couple who cannot imagine that the old couple remembers very well what it is to be young. And, far from condemning and judging them, the old people are filled with love and good wishes for the Shiny New Adults.

Cleaned Out

I didn’t expect it to be fun. I even expected it to be painful sometimes, going through all the boxes of my parents’ lives. Most of the time I just went out to the garage, filled up the trash can and then put everything back. When the trash can was empty again, I attacked another box or two. Some boxes I hauled unopened to the thrift store when I knew what was in them and knew I didn’t want them — my mom’s crystal, my aunt Martha’s fancy clock.

It’s funny that the last box held my own past. Fitting and kind of cosmic, sort of saying, “OK, MAK, deal with your own life now.”

I lost my dad when I was 20. He was my best friend, my confidant, my teacher, my hero. He was funny and iconoclastic, brilliant, but, above all, brave. He had Multiple Sclerosis back in the day before Interferon and the other drugs that exist now, before they knew anything about autoimmune diseases, maybe before the term even existed. I was there for him, beside him and with him through all of it. When he died, I wasn’t really allowed to mourn. My mom was an extremely envious and possessive woman, very jealous of my relationship with my dad. My Aunt Jo told me this and that just corroborated what I already sensed, especially when my mom said, “Shut up. He was your dad, but he was MY husband.”

A lot of feelings got stuffed down, and I wrestled on my own to understand what had happened to my life. Thankfully I had friends and other family who were by my side and on my side as I went through it.

There is something, though. I wish I could have known him once I had grown up as I have some other members of my family. As I’ve gone through all these things, things that I did not myself pack or even know about, I’ve seen a little bit of my dad through my very adult eyes.

One of my dad’s most personal artifacts was in the second to last box, his wallet. Inside were the usual things — pictures of my brother and me as newborns, a photo of his parents in their 40s, a photo of my mom holding me when I was 1, identification for the government places where he worked, even his army discharge papers and a copy of his birth certificate. But this…

Dad's wallet

It took me a little while to figure it out. Then I realized it was my dad’s way of reminding himself that no matter what a crappy hand he’d been dealt, he wasn’t going to whine about it. He didn’t, either. Toward the end, he got very frustrated and angry sometimes, raging over the question of continuing to be alive when his abilities had been abridged dramatically, but he never — that I remember — played violin music.

I was not really prepared for the intensity of my reaction to these artifacts. Last night, it had all so penetrated my mind, that when I saw a friend outside when I began my walk with the dogs, and invited her along, I said, “The light on the Beartooths is beautiful in the evenings, I mean the Sangres. I’m in Montana in my mind, I guess.” I felt awkward and disoriented for a moment.

All today I’ve felt exhausted and sad. I don’t think that’s so strange. I’m glad I’m finished with this, I’m glad I did it, it was the right thing to do, but most of all, I’m most happy that I will never have to do it again. All that’s left is one last trip to Montana.


“What’s on the agenda today?” I asked, making coffee.

“You leave.”

“Sorry. Not until this evening. I wish it were sooner, but I had to stay forty-eight hours.”

“What time do you go?”

“Plane leaves at 7. I want to go to the Art Institute.”

“You have to go alone.”

“Why?” I asked, though being away from Mark was fine with me.

“I have to work. Paul’s gone”

“What do you mean, ‘gone’?”

“He’s gone to Colorado to buy boots.”

“Ah. You don’t have boots in Chicago?”

“We sell boots. They’re for the store.”

“Great! I won’t have to spend the whole day in the car.”

“I guess not.”

Mark was not happy. I began to see that he was tired, sad, drained. But then, I’d had no experience in the night with someone. I’d simply slept. I knew very well the hell of our day together, but no idea what had gone on between him and Paul, what conversations, fights, discussions. I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know. It was none of my business, and I sought no confidences.

“The other thing is, Paul has my car. I have his.”


“I don’t think Paul’s car will make it to the airport.”

“Call me a taxi.”

“You can’t afford it.”

“You can.”

“Fuck you.”

“Thanks anyway.” I mixed up some Instant Breakfast and poured my coffee.

We began to calm down and to talk sensibly for the first time that weekend. I walked around the bedroom, finding my things and packing. Mark watched and talked. 

“Did I tell you about the foreign service exam?”


“Well, I passed it. Now I’m waiting to hear where and when I take the oral test.”

“Why do you want to join the Foreign Service?”

“I just want to leave the country.”


“Why not? You’ve lived in France and Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. You’ve traveled all kinds of places. You’ve left the country, so you know what I mean, or you should know what I mean.”

“I don’t know.”

“I just want exposure, Mark. I want to see things, know things.”

“Honey, you’ve already seen more of life than 99% of most Americans. It’s not that great to go away.”

“Maybe you’re right, but I don’t know that.”

“I’m telling you.”

“I have to. I want to. All my life I’ve wanted to live outside the country, in some place with ‘less,’ with a different way of thinking, of doing things. I need to get perspective, experiences. I feel so blind.”

“Well, you’re not blind.”

“What about you?”

“I don’t know. I got a teaching job here. I don’t like working at the store; Paul likes it. It’s what he does and I’ll be teaching foreign students starting next week.”

“Full time?”


“What about your writing?”

“The store has kept me tied up, and I haven’t written anything in more than a year.”

“That’s not good. I love to read what you write, and not just because you wrote it.”

“Maybe I’ll have time after I start teaching. I’ll have afternoons, anyway, while Paul is at the store.”

“Not too bad.”

“No. It’s OK.”

I was packed. We went out to Paul’s decrepit VW which chugged its way to the store. The timing was off; the carburetor needed help, but not mine. Mark opened up the store and I stashed by stuff under the counter. I hung around until 10 when the Art Institute opened. Mark gave me instructions for getting to the El and I left, walking into the bright, cool morning.


This is an excerpt from a book-length work of creative non-fiction I wrote back in the 70s during another snowy, white-sky winter in Colorado. It is about the relationship between Mark and Adrienne (on one level) and it is about Adrienne’s search for the purpose of her life (the over-arching meaning of the story). The backstory here is that Mark has asked Adrienne to marry him. She thinks that’s a disastrous idea because Mark is (mostly) gay. Still, he flies her to Chicago from Denver to talk it over and see his parents, with whom she is close. Paul is Mark’s lover. They share a house. Mark did not tell Adrienne about this before flying her out so… The weekend is a disaster for them but hopefully not for literature. At this point, the weekend is nearly over… 

All that is happening with this story now is that I periodically retype it into new technology… 😉

The Overwhelming Excitement of New Years Day in Monte Vista, Colorado

The day began gray and somewhere in the 20s; unusually balmy for this time of year. The gray hung on, lower in some parts of town than in others, leaving behind hoar frost on a random tree and bush here and there. All the stores were closed except food stores, even the two liquor stores were closed. In fact, there aren’t many stores in Monte Vista.

After cleaning up the dog run, I grabbed the snow shovel and cleared the driveway. It was barely worth shoveling, but melting anything can lead to ice. It’s a pretty big driveway so it took a little while. Dusty and Bear barked at me through the fence and I told them to get over it.

I then cleared the walk beside the house and headed out to the front to get the walk from the front door to the sidewalk where my neighbor was sweeping away the snow with a heavy push broom. We shot the breeze for a while, said hello to another neighbor and his dog, then went back to our days. My main chore was going to the store and getting bananas and other necessary things that I was out of. The store was pretty full and I still have part of my California paranoia that people behind me in line are in a hurry. I was using the self-checkout (ha ha I think that’s a riot). I turned and apologized to the woman behind me. There’s a Bronco game today and she was all ready in her jersey, “It’s all right,” she said, “there’s no need to rush.”

No. I’m in Monte Vista. I’m in Monte Vista. ❤

Got home, ate lunch, rode the stationary bike, did my yoga, fed the dogs, talked to another neighbor on the phone (she’d passed by when I was calling Mindy from the front door), took a shower and now I’m writing this which sounds, probably, like a lot of NON-news, but…

A tranquil gray day is something to cherish. A neighbor who sweeps your walk is something to cherish. A neighbor who calls to make sure you got Mindy inside is something to cherish. The breaking clouds and sun on the mountain is worth a lifetime. A friendly smile at the not-so-supermarket is so much better than some angry guy yelling, “Why don’t you go through the checkout line with all that stuff?” and you only have 8 items… My third New Year commences here in Heaven and I think that, rather than making resolutions, it makes more sense to count the blessings of the past year. I won’t bore you with the list because, you know, it’s very, very long.

Montana Picnic

Emma carried the big, yellow Pyrex bowl filled with potato salad and covered with clean dish towel across the bit of pasture between her house and that of her daughter, Mary Ruth. Her ten year old granddaughter, Linda Louise, danced along beside her, proud to be going with grandma.

“Mother’s here,” called Helen who quickly put out her cigarette. It wouldn’t do for “Mom” to see her smoking.

Martha Ann looked up. Too small to be useful, but not too young to be interested, she saw her grandma hand the bowl to Uncle Hank and then lift the top wire and push down the middle wire of the barbed wire fence so she could come through.

“I’ll build you a gate, Mrs. Beall.”

“The day I can’t climb through a barbed wire fence, Hank,” she laughed.

But the next day, Hank cut the wire and put in a makeshift gate. A a year later, that section of the fence was wood with a gate that latched.

The late afternoon Montana light broke against the distant Beartooths. Martha Ann saw how the golden rays hit her grandmother’s white, white hair making a halo around the old woman’s face.

The potato salad was set on the table with everything else. Florence, Mrs. Beall’s oldest, arrived in her red Mercury with her youngest, Ed, and her teen-aged daughter, Harriet. Her oldest, John, had joined the service and was in Japan. He’d sent grandma gaudy silk pillow covers with Mt. Fuji embroidered on them.

“You still driving that old Merc, Sister?” asked Stocky, the husband of the youngest of the Beall girls. “How many miles on that thing?”

“It gets us there,” said Florence. Her husband had died the year before.

Mary Ruth was wearing Martha Ann’s favorite dress. It was chartreuse, with a beaded and embroidered pin that looked to Martha Ann like the Ford emblem on the front of the family car. She called it the “Tennessee Ernie Ford” dress and no one understood why, but it made sense in the logic of a five year old. Her little brother, Kirk, was trying on everybody’s hat.

“Hide your hats!” said his cousin Greg, learning Kirk was coming.

“Is the chicken ready? Why do you use that electric skillet?” asked Helen. “Frying that way adds a lot of fat.” Helen had recently been diagnosed with hypertension and high cholesterol. “I suppose you use lard?”

“Crisco,” Mary Ruth answered putting her lips together. 

“You should use corn oil. It’s low in cholesterol.”

“I suppose you use margarine, too?”

“Who made the pies?” asked Bill, Martha Ann’s dad. “Did you, Mrs. Beall?”

“No, Madylene made them.”

“Well, she’s done you proud. They look beautiful. You taught her well.”

Madylene’s youngest was still a baby, the next youngest, Lee, was almost three and fascinated with Martha Ann’s little brother, Kirk. Her two boys, Paul and Tom, were in Rapelje with their other grandparents.

Martha Ann was happy to get some red Jell-o with fruit cocktail in it and a chicken wing. The pie had been apple and raisin and everyone thought it was almost as good as grandma’s.

The meal was eaten, the sun sank lower, the paper plates went into the trash. Martha Ann stared a while at her cousin Harriet’s vivid, red and pointy fingernails and developed a life-long antipathy for the look (they scared her).

“I think I’d best go home,” said grandma to Mary Ruth, buttoning her pink sweater over her apron against the evening chill.

“David! Greg!” called Uncle Hank to his sons. “Go home with your grandma. See she gets home safe.”

“Can I go?” Linda asked Kelly, her mother.

“Sure. Maybe Martha Ann would like to go.”

Martha Ann was suddenly alert. These were BIG kids. Greg was 11 and so was Linda. “I’m only five,” she thought.

“Mom?” she looked at her mother who nodded.

They crossed the pasture through the tall grass. The grasshoppers leapt into the air with the crackling whir of summer.

“Goodnight, kids,” said grandma at the back door. “Thanks for seeing me home.” She held each grandchild against her ample bosom and kissed each on the head. “Now be good,” she said, sending them off.

The kids raced back across the pasture. Because she was too small to manage it herself, Greg held the wires of the fence, and Martha Ann went through. This had been the most grown-up adventure of her life so far and she couldn’t wait for more.

“You kids want Popsicles?” Mary Ruth called out the backdoor.

With grandma gone, everyone could smoke in peace. The grownups all sat in a circle in the backyard, their cigarettes glowing ends of day against the purple coming night. Stories, disputes, and laughter rose with the smoke and settled in the memories of all the children.

“Martha I YEARN!”

An unbelievably long time ago now, Denis Francis Joseph Callahan was in love. The object of his affection was a woman about 15 years younger, from a different generation completely from Denis who was a man of the 60s. I don’t know why, actually, as he was 3 years younger than I meaning that he would have been 5 when the 60s started and 9 when the Beatles began their ascendancy, but it was what it was.

Rebecca was all Blues Traveler.

Music is a litmus test for the success of a relationship. No, I mean seriously. My first husband hated Steppenwolf so much he threw all my albums into the dumpster and said, “There’s more to life than a 30 minute drum solo.” He offered no particularly enticing alternatives.

“The thing is, Gus,” (Denis’ nickname for me based on a nom de plume I sometimes used in fun, Augusta Lamont) “I yearn.”

Yearning is one of the best parts of being in love, I think. It’s the whole “Grecian Urn” thing. Nothing happens in real life and the lovers never disappoint each other or fight or get jealous or any of the other things that can happen after “capture.” Nothing is expected of either partner in the “yearning” phase. It’s all flashbulbs, fireworks, unicorns, hearts and My Little Pony sweetness and potential.

We spent lots of time together, meeting for coffee, dinner, a Sunday morning walk on the beach, mostly him talking to me about his unserved passion, but other things, too. When he summoned the courage to tell Rebecca his feelings, she responded with, “Thank you.”

“What does that mean, Gus?” he asked as we sat in front of a coffee house in Pacific Beach.

“It means she doesn’t feel the same way, Denis.”

“I’m going to call her and ask her.”

“Yeah, do that.”

“Really? It’s a good idea?”

“No. It’s a shit idea.”

“How do you know?”

“OK. Pretend I’m her. Call her.”

“Ring, ring.”


“Rebecca? This is Denis. Hey, what did you mean yesterday when…  I get it, Gus. I’d look like a loser.”

“All you got left is your dignity, Denis. Cling to it.”

“No one ever did that for me before. You’re a real friend, Gus.”

I was in love with Denis then. He was cute, very bright, very funny, literate, articulate, quoted poetry (and recited it with me!), bought me Njal’s Saga which changed my life, and he was a riot to hang around with. Unrequited love appears to have been a speciality of both of us. A few years later, when Denis looked around and noticed me, that ship had sailed.



One Pot

I was sitting at my desk in the development office of a law school (part of a large, private university) when my boss came in with one of the most beautiful men I’d seen in my LIFE. He was tall, moved gracefully, wore clogs (?!), smiled, had green eyes and dark hair.

“This is my assistant, Martha. Martha, this is Tom. Remember I gave you a letter to read from my college friend who was in Nepal? This is him.”

Tom had been on an expedition to Annapurna II.

Behind my desk was an enormous enlargement of a photo of T.E. Lawrence and Lowell Thomas crouching in front of a Bedouin tent. Why the photo? Lowell Thomas was planning to leave his fortune to the law school and the law school would be renamed in his honor. For me that was great. Lowell Thomas was one of my heroes and I got to meet him.

“Lawrence,” said Tom. “I’m reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom. What a monster book.”

“It is,” I agreed. “I read it when I was 11.”


“Yeah. I’d just seen David Lean’s movie and I was in love with Lawrence.”

“Beautiful film.”


My boss was tapping his toe on the carpet. Clearly he hadn’t brought Tom into the office to have a conversation with me.

“Let’s go,” said my boss. “I have a meeting after lunch. What do you want for lunch?”

“Something like that,” said Tom, pointing at the really lousy salad I’d gotten from the automat in the cafeteria.

“You don’t want this,” I said. “It’s gross. Go over to the art museum,” I then suggested. It was across the street and they had several really good salads to choose from.

“The ART MUSEUM?” asked my boss, incredulous.

“That sounds fun,” said Tom and off they went. Later that day, Tom called me from my boss’ apartment where he was staying and asked if he could write me. My first thought was “Why?”

Time passed, letters went back and forth, a few phone calls and I went to Albuquerque to visit him. I was terrified. What if he didn’t like me? Scarier still, what if he DID? I arrived to an empty house and didn’t know how things worked there. There was a note on the back door. “Come in, make yourself comfortable, I’ve gone to the store. Tom.”

I stood in the kitchen in a state of terror and waited. When he came in, he cooked dinner — tuna casserole. He prepared, cooked and we ate all from one stainless steel bowl he’d brought back from Nepal. After his expedition — during which he decided to become a medical doctor (he’d been a film-maker) — he had resolved never to acquire more stuff than he needed on his trip. So. One bowl.

That impressed me forever, and I remained a relative minimalist — easy for me, actually, since I hate shopping. There are some things of which I have too many (too many dishes, for one) and a few things of which I cannot have too many (Caran d’Ache watercolor pencils) but overall, I took that lesson to heart. Stuff complicates life — and stuff accrues without much effort. It takes effort NOT to accumulate stuff.

It was a relief to leave most of my belongings behind in California, to walk away from the concretion of thirty years. Even Tom could not maintain his simplified life. He explained it the next year saying, “One does need a little aesthetic, right?”

Of course.

For those who, reading this, will wonder, “Yeah but what happened with Tom?” Here’s what happened. I liked him VERY much. However, I wasn’t ready at that moment for a life-partner, and he was looking for one.


The Date

So then he said, “Do you have a photo of yourself when you were young, 16? 17?

I said, ‘Yes, but it’s nothing special.”

“Of course it’s special. There is a lot in a photo.”

I don’t know why he asks; I jump to a conclusion and get pissed off.

Alfred Lord Tennisball echoes, “That which we are we are,” and I know how much more THIS somewhat worn carapace is than that juvenescent carapace was. For one thing, THIS carapace, and the heart and mind it carries around, was quite expensive; the price was my whole life so far.

It is gold; it is worth so much more than all that shining possibility; it is the fruition of that shining possibility with possibility not yet dead inside it. Given a choice, I’d choose this carapace over that terrified wavering phantom.

I think of offering a choice, a picture or a future, but I already know the mindlessness of most conversation and that the meaning I ascribe is not always (not even often) right. I continue to sit, to listen, to smile, but the retreat is accomplished. I am not there any longer. I’ve lost interest.

“I don’t know what this relationship is going to be, still not yet,” he goes on, “but the moment of our meeting was something that never happened to me before.”

That, I think was possibly the pinnacle. I’m bored. I think, maybe it’s true that men don’t fall in love with a woman; they fall in love with themselves reflected in the love a woman feels for THEM, or, as trophies, the value the beauty of a woman lends to their value.

My mother’s echo, “let him feel you need him. Don’t be so smart all the time. Get a sexy nightie.” I am sitting with this man here and castrating him; I don’t like that I do this, but I hate  what he represents, what he IS. I won’t repeat this.

He talks to me about Kathryn Tate, how six years ago she was his instructor, and now she’s all cold and professional and old and “getting fat” he says. Who doesn’t? You will, too, I think.

“She’s lost her fire,” he adds.

Perhaps you drowned it, I think. Or you insist that she burn with yours; maybe she has her own. I look up to see myself floating beside this building, up about two stories, watching.

My dog lies here on the sidewalk beside me, my hope, my love, my gift from God; my never boring companion and friend, a challenge to my mind, the preserver of my soul. Ahhh, yes! There is no need for this bitterness.

Angry? Yes. Will I overcome it, get over it? I probably won’t. I know that, too. Too many kicks, too many fists, too much time alone, ignored and cheated on, too many remarks about my ugliness, my fatness, my lack of desirability.

You can believe it after a while, or, not believing it, still become tired of it and unwilling to risk it all again, and again, and again, especially at 50 which is where I sit here tonight. Or nearly — 49 years 4 1/2 months — 50!

I never imagined it would be like this absurdity; blue-jeaned, Doctor Martened, tattooed, socks with goats and a hairy gray dog, wild gray hair and bifocals — graduated lenses, if you please!

Downtown, with such a strange past, walking between fancy people, (like I was once, like I was raised to be) going to plays and restaurants, looking for a Chinese restaurant and fried rice.

My dog takes a shit on Market and Fifth and I’m proud of her candor. I watch skinny-hipped big boobed blonds and their rich fortyish balding boyfriends; a man drives past in a newer Rolls than my ex-friend Martin drove.

He blocks the intersection so my dog and I have to walk around him. I wonder about the homeless people but not much and not long; my stomach churns at the thought of what my brother might be doing.

I ask a Maitre’d of a fancy Italian restaurant where I might find a Chinese restaurant; my date —a fine artist—earns his bread in a parking garage. His life is chaos. I’m looking for dinner for him somewhere on the streets; wonder why he didn’t think of Ralph’s.

I like the walk, my dog likes the walk; horses go by and their drivers comment on my dog. “She’s beautiful,” they say, “I have an Aussie, too.”

“She’s only half,” I answer. I am proud of the Malamute in her as I’m proud of the Swede in me; indomitable snow people, my dog and I, drive on.

“Really! Well, that’s a beautiful mix!”

“Yes,” I say, “it is.” At Ralph’s I tie up my dog and go in; buy three apples, a banana, crackers — having returned to the parking lot kiosk to offer my suggestion that Jorge give up on fried rice and ask, “What can I get you at the store?”

“Why didn’t I think of that?” he says.

Because, I think, maybe you haven’t traveled alone with very little money in your pocket, a middle-aged woman in Italy, invisible in restaurants but hungry, all the same. My god, I like myself, I like my life, this whimsical peripatetic existence. I’ll cling to it as long as possible.

Jorge wants to mean something to me, but he doesn’t. I don’t know why; part of it is the gold ring on the third finger of his left hand. He has never mentioned a wife; I have never asked him.

He talks about all the things he and I are going to do; but I don’t believe any of it. I don’t believe we will ride mountain bikes, or go to the beach to drink wine, or go to Italy together to run after trains and look at frescoes.

I realize that where once I believed a man, a lover, was the vehicle through which I would experience life, I now see a man, a lover, as an obstruction. None of them were vehicles; they were all obstructions.

Who am I? What am I that it took so long to see these things? Walking down 2nd with my small bag of groceries and my gray animal, I run into a young woman with her own dog.
Dogs make people friendly, make them warm and unafraid. We pet each others dogs and chat for a minute or two.

“I am still an indistinct shape on the horizon of your life,” Jorge said once. “I have not taken you over yet; I have not become the sky.”

I thought, “Thanks for the warning,” even as I appreciated the poetry. I reach the parking garage and hand him the bag. Jorge talks about this and that and asks, “Why won’t you participate in the reading next week?”

I want to say, “I don’t have anything to say in front of everyone and I don’t want to.”

He says, “I won’t ask you why.”

I say, “You just did.” I use my brain to keep him away. I feel it zap him like a bug zapper whenever he gets too close.

Two horse drawn carriages cross the intersection and I try to muffle with my mind the sounds of the cars and Jorge’s voice to imagine being Goethe with this sound outside the window with no cars, no Jorge. I want the momentary time-transport of the clopping hooves.

“What? I’m sorry.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Maybe it does. I got caught up in a daydream.”

Things get busier in the garage and I sit in the cold night and worry about my dog’s arthritis. I haven’t connected with Jorge at all. I don’t mind. I just want to go home.

Tongues of desire have licked at me fleetingly around Jorge, but nothing sustained, nothing driven. I have no means of sexual expression, I think. The children around Chernobyl are not allowed to go to the forests, nor will their children, or their grandchildren; the radioactivity lingers long and dangerous.

Their fathers talk to them of hunting mushrooms, but it will only be a fable by the time people can go mushroom hunting again.