Young People! do NOT keep a journal!!!

I have twenty-four journals, books, with keepsakes, letters, cards, photos, quotes, hiking stories; worst of all, my own stupid personal conundrums written in convoluted and (apparently) infinite redundancy. I thought I’d found all the damned things but no; in the process of cleaning out the garage, I opened the LAST box. Guess what? A dozen more of the dumbass things.

You do not want to know when you’re 65 what an idiot you were at any point in your past life. Write the shit if it helps, then delete it. Do NOT commit it to paper or share it online. Do NOT buy one of those beautiful blank books that seems designed to embrace your every sacred thought because someday you’ll have to throw it all out. Save your money. Take a trip to some exotic locale you’ve always dreamed of and get out of your head.

And as I write this, my iPod plays…

 

‘alo

“Bison, honey. They’re not buffalo. Bison.”

“God you make me tired with your semantic bullshit. Who cares?”

“It’s important to be precise and accurate. I’m a scientist and correctly naming things matters to me.”

“OK then, more than actually LOOKING at the goddamned buffalo out there? Did you imagine in our lifetime that there would be so many in so many places? Remember when we were kids…wait, I don’t think you ever were a kid.” He took a long pull from the thermos of coffee.

“Oh stop. You know I’m just not the rugged, outdoor individualist you are, but it doesn’t mean I don’t think this is beautiful. Amazing.”

“C’mere punkin.”

Smooch, smooch, smooch…

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/buff/

Wounds all Heels

Time really does heal wounds, maybe not all, but many.

Long ago I was married to a guy I met in 9th grade. It was a terrible marriage. We were both too young, too broke, too a lot of things for what we’d taken on. His dad — one of the handsomest men I ever met — followed the Calabrese method of wife and child rearing. It was all my husband knew, though he did take it to new levels. Not dissing Italians AT ALL. It’s just that he came from a strongly paternalistic home where the husband physically enforced his role as the master of the family.

I finally extricated myself. That was an interesting process, and another blog post, maybe but probably not.

Years later I had been places. I’d been in China, married a different guy, moved to San Diego, far, far away from the scenes of my first marriage. I was with friends at a lecture at the art museum in Balboa Park. We took seats in the second row. At a certain point, I looked up and saw my ex escorting his wife into the auditorium. They sat almost directly in front of us.

I was stunned and bewildered. My ex seemed only vaguely familiar, though it had only been 10 years since our divorce. I said to my friend, “That’s my first husband.”

She knew some of the stories of the marriage.

“Oh my god,” she said, “What are you going to do?”

“Nothing unless he sees me. That’s over and done with it. In fact, I barely remember it.”

“How can you ‘barely remember’ being married to someone?”

“I don’t know, but I’m glad about it.”

He didn’t see me, so I escaped that moment in the easiest possible way, still perplexed and filled with wonderment that the intervening years and experiences had healed what had once been a gaping wound.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/heal/

I’ll Tell You about Desire…

Desire is temporary insanity that can last forever.*

Watermelon
Charles Buckowski

and the windows opened that night
a ceiling dripped the sweat
of a tin god,
and I sat eating a watermelon,
all false red,
water like slow running of rusty
tears,
and I spit out seeds
and swallowed seeds,
and I kept thinking
I am a fool
I am a fool
to eat this watermelon
but I kept eating
anyhow.

picassobloch1098-1

***

 

Linoleum cut prints by Picasso

*This is my definition of desire. To the best of my knowledge, no one else has said this. There’s nothing rational about desire, in my experience.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/desire/

Love

I was driving east on US HWY 160 on the weekly road trip to the big city for groceries — Alamosa, Colorado. It was a semi-bleak February morning, Sunday, somewhat early. I was armed with the coupons they’d sent in the mail, a bunch of good deals, as it happened. The envelope was covered with pale pink hearts against a dark pink background. There were even free things in there; free juice — my favorite brand, other stuff. Added up to a savings of more than $40. Not bad.

I hate shopping, but it’s a 25 minute drive and I have satellite radio in my car. It’s a luxury for which I pay $6/month. I was listening to the 60s station — uncommon for me — Paul Revere and the Raiders had just regaled me with “Kicks” (but they don’t keep getting harder to find). After that? The Association, “Never My Love.” I don’t think I’ve heard that since it was on the Top 40, and, for some reason, the song filled my car even though it’s not a song I ever liked.

I looked around at the mountains all around me, the white, white fingers of fog filling a high valley in the Sangre de Cristos, layers of random clouds all negotiating the future like a bored couple on a Sunday afternoon. “Shall we rain? Shall we snow? What do YOU want to do? I dunno, what do you want to do?” I thought of my novel in progress and how much fun it was last week when I finally FOUND the story. I thought of how I could organize the vastness of the narrative and got a good idea.

The song kept playing.

The mountains right now are snow-covered, white and indigo. I thought of my piano teacher in Nebraska who consoled me when I had to move away by saying, “Just think of the mountains, how much you love them and how happy you’ll be to be there again.” The family was moving back to Colorado.

The song was still singing, a full-on love song, and I remembered the moment I realized I was a writer. I sat on the floor of my bedroom in Nebraska, probably 12 or 13. I had my dad’s portable typewriter sitting on the closed case. Not a bad desk for a kid who liked to sit on the floor. I was writing a poem. I was SO happy. It was a love poem to the fields and forest where I hiked and played, to storms and seasons, to natural features, foliage, wind and sky.

The song moved closer to the ending, and then I saw it. I have always found a way to be near any mountains, out in any nature, that happened to be around. I have always written. Life without love? No.

What makes you think love will end
When you know that my whole life depends
On you…
***
fresco-of-the-triumph-of-bacchus-from-the-palazzo-boncompagni-viscoglio
Meanwhile, I move we return to celebrating this egregious paper holiday of disappointment in the Roman way. Bonum Lupercalia!!

Exposure

“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.”

“So?”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“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?”

“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?”

“No.”

“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… 😉

“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.”

“Hello?”

“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.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/craving/

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.”

11?

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

“Beautiful film.”

“Yeah.”

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.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/simplicity/

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.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/price/

Hot Potato

“What happened? I thought he was the man of your dreams!”

“Nightmares.”

“Last week he was ‘the one’. You were imagining lots of green-haired little kids with him.”

“Blonde”

“Whatever.”

“You know what? It’s just, I don’t know. I’m just not seeing Lamont any more. ‘Why’ really doesn’t matter. What matters is I got out of it before it got icky. Let’s drop the subject.”

“But you’re still sad.”

“Well, yeah. One hopes, right?” She stirred her Italian soda with her straw, mixing the raspberry syrup with the soda water before taking a long drink.

Trey nodded.

Rain hit the window, incandescent drops of reflected streetlights. The door opened, the Pakistani camel bells hanging from the door handle confirming what the blast of cold, damp air had already conveyed. Trey looked up, happy Mattie’s back was to the door.

Lamont swept in with a tall brunette, her absurdly toned midriff bared, her flowing Indian sari-silk skirt hanging on her hips. “I get it, now,” thought Trey, looking thoughtfully at Mattie who was pretty, but never the pretty that could make an entrance like that. The woman with Lamont was traffic-stopping-stunning. No wonder Lamont had dropped Mattie. “Mattie is saving face saying she dropped the guy. I see the whole story.”

Lamont and the woman stepped up to the counter and ordered. Trey saw the strong line of the woman’s back. His heart skipped a beat as she tossed her head and the swath of long brown hair wafted across the top of her skirt. “Jesus,” he said out-loud. Mattie looked up, followed his gaze, and saw Lamont and the woman.

“Poor guy,” she said. “Now that I’ve dropped him, he has to go for coffee with his bitch of a sister.”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/drop/