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Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly. ---- Harry Lime

Transience

The absolute worst thing about getting old is not the painful twinges in elbows and knees, or the dimming of eyes and hearing. No. It’s this sense that one is watching a parade gather. Soon, the parade will be marching into the West, but some of the marchers are impatient. They’re bolting from the ranks now.

The world is changing. The world has been changing my entire life, but now that's no longer a good thing.

I wonder why?
mongo


RTT has been doing carpentry jobs on and off all summer for Clinton. Clinton has been spending the last few weeks in Cooperstown.

Shortly after I got to Trumansburg on Monday, Clinton texted RTT, asked him to check on a roofing quote – which was somewhere in a notebook Clinton had left in T-burg.

RTT trotted off to do the errand. Returned 15 minutes later with a bemused look on his face.

“So, I had to look through the notebook,” RTT said. “Because I didn’t know where the quote was, right? I wasn’t spying on him! But the notebook was the weirdest thing! He kept writing all these weird things in it! Again and again and again.”

“Weird things like what?” I asked.

Simple. Sexy. Rock-hard cock.

Ben and I looked at each other and began to laugh.

“Over and over again!” said RTT.

“It’s an affirmation,” I said. “Like Angela Moss on Mr. Robot. ‘I am confident. I am powerful. My penis assumes the properties of granite whenever it is my wish!’”

“But why?” said RTT.

“Uh. Well… How old is this Clinton?”

“I dunno. Old. Like in his 50s.”

“Hmmm. As your mother, I’m not sure it’s appropriate for me to have that conversation with you. Simple! Sexy! Rock-hard cock!”

The three of us explode in laughter.

old men


I like T-burg. In Mississippi, the geezers congregate of a morning in front of the grocery store or a diner. In T-burg, they sit in front of Gimme Coffee, the ubiquitous Ithaca coffeehouse chain. Many of them are musicians or web designers. Often they have bicycles.

T-burg has two Masonic lodges – one of them active – and something called a “philomathic” library. It also has numerous churches, a small fairground, and many 19th century houses built of brick, stone, and wood, in the Victorian Italianate style. Many of the residential streets are still lined with old horse hitching posts.

T-burg is the place where digital music was invented. In the 1960s, an old brick building, just a few doors down from Gimme, was the Moog Factory where the original modular synthesizers were produced. Bob Moog and his family lived just a couple of miles away in an old house off Taughannock Falls (the highest single-drop waterfall in the United States outside Yosemite.) Bob Moog’s invention revolutionized popular music, but he went bankrupt in 1970. Today, the building is occupied by the Venice Cafe – one of five bars within a six-block walking tour of T-burg’s downtown.

Ben lives right on Main Street, right down the street from Gimme and the old Moog Factory. In an old mill that’s been converted into apartments. Frontenac Creek, which used to power the mill, is just a few yards from his porch. In the late fall and the early winter when the steelhead and salmon spawn, the river otters swim down the creek looking for them.

boy


On Tuesday night, Ben and I went to the Trumansburg Fair.

It’s a very tiny event as rural fairs go. RTT thinks it’s dinky.

I like it.

The Tompkins County Fairgrounds once stood in what is now the Big Box Store Ghetto along Meadow Street in Ithaca. It hosted a typical late August country fair with farm animals and produce, a carousel, a racetrack and sideshows. Meadow Street is the flood plain, though, for Fall Creek, Cascadilla Creek and its canal, Six Mile Creek and all the other tributaries that flow into Lake Cayuga. Maybe that factored into the decision to tear the old Fairground down. Or maybe Ithaca got too counter-culture-y. I don’t know.

In the 1990s, 24 acres of Cayuga wetlands were sold to Walmart. It increased the city’s tax revenues but there was a Butterfly Effect from the roadwork and various zoning variances necessary to support a massive superstore. A lot of small local businesses shuttered and closed. You can no longer ride a bicycle from downtown Ithaca up Route 13 to Cayuga Heights.

The Trumansburg Fair, in its 160th plus year, is still going strong, though.

The Trumansburg Fair features harness races – one of the very last country fairs in New York State that does – as well as a demolition derby, a monster truck rally, egg tosses, three-legged races, pie-eating contests, 4-H exhibits of animals and vegetables, and, of course, the midway with its incredibly tacky rides, cotton candy, and fried dough. What’s not to love?

french fries copy


Ten bucks seemed like a lot of money to pay for grandstand tickets when I knew it would all turn into a reflection in a hollow mirror after half an hour or so, so we spied on the demolition derby through a chink in a makeshift wall of tarps.

“You know, I’ve never seen a demolition derby before,” I said.

“Well, your life is about to become complete then,” Ben said.

If you’ve ever wondered who actually buys those old Camrys with 300,000 plus miles that are listed on Craig’s List every now and then, now you know. It was awesome watching them crash into each other, total bloodlust. I couldn’t stop laughing.

“What do you think they’re thinking about when they're behind the wheels of those things whaling on each other?” I asked Ben.

Ben laughed. “Simple. Sexy. Rock hard cock,” he said.

###


unnamed I spent as much one-on-one time with RTT as he would allow. A couple of months of therapy have mellowed him considerably. He no longer seems to be looking for reasons to take umbrage. He’s sophisticated intellectually, but emotionally he’s kinda young for his age. He still expresses affection by roughhousing, which is hard on my knees and elbows, and hard on my physical possessions.

He accidentally broke my phone charger one night, which was certainly No Big Deal – except that it was one of those phone chargers that lights up with different pulsating colors, and I had liked it.

RTT,” Ben said reproachfully.

“Yeah, right. It’s always my fault, isn’t it? I’m always the bad guy, aren’t I?” said RTT.

He’s kind of a master of deflection. He’ll fuck up and somehow, it’s always you that feels bad -- for calling him on it.

I didn’t call him on it, though. I merely excused myself and went off to bed.

Yes, yes: Very stupid to feel miffed over a phone charger that I can easily replace for fifteen bucks at Best Buy – except that I had liked that phone charger, and I didn’t see why I should be made to feel apologetic for liking my things.

Next morning when we awoke, though, it was all forgotten, and that alone was a major breakthrough since Before Therapy, little misunderstandings and miscommunications like this would have been magnified into a feud of epic proportions. He would have taken grave offense at my withdrawal from the social scene; I would have felt self-righteous and indignant because, goddam it, it was my property that had gotten trashed, and it’s natural to feel miffed over things like that. We would have stopped talking. Maybe for months.

I also spent one afternoon brainstorming with RTT on a novel. Well. Mostly, he brainstormed, and I played amanuensis, jotting his ideas down into 20 pages of notes. He has an excellent sense of plotting and story momentum, and he’s one of the most imaginative people I know. A natural writer; very, very talented. So we were able to talk shop about something we’re both passionate about, and that felt like a bonding experience, at least to me.

Milo2


RTT and I had to drive through Freeville on the way to Syracuse when I dropped him off to start his last semester. A difficult place for me to be, Freeville. I was so very, very miserable the three years I lived there. The present tense was such a trap.

I’m always very interested in why places are where they are. Less interested in how they originally got to be where they are. That almost always has to do with how easily they were to protect from foreign invaders (pre-Industrial Revolution) or how practical they were for the distribution of resources (post-Industrial Revolution.)

But why do some places survive while others die? What’s up with that?

Take Trumansburg and Freeville, for example. Both approximately the same distance from Ithaca, the driving economic engine thereabouts. And Trumansburg is thriving.

Freeville did okay right up till the beginning of the Second World War. Population in the single digit thousands, mills, factories, several newspapers, five grocery stores, hotels, restaurants, even a library along its Main Street, but then whoosh! It didn’t even fall into ruin. It all just seemed to… vanish. There are hardly any buildings left. If a fire or a flood that destroyed them all, there are no records of that event.

One of the old mill dams is still in place, but there’s no sign of the mill. There’s a Factory Street, which I assume is the site of the old cinder block factory that produced 1,500 cinder blocks a day, but the street runs through an empty landscape. The Southern Central Railroad ran through town, but there are no signs of a depot or a roundhouse or a turntable anymore. There’s an old railroad bridge behind a No Trespassing sign just off Johnson Street. I used to ignore the sign and take Milo for long walks along what was once a rail route between Freeville and Dryden, the tracks now long since silted over and overgrown with grass.

If anything, the town is even more decayed and creepy-looking than it was the last time I saw it. The little farm-to-table restaurant that some enterprising soul started the last year I lived there is now shuttered and closed. Though I understand economic development of a sort has returned to Freeville: It’s become Tompkins County’s number one location for meth labs.

I suppose since real estate prices in Ithaca are now so high and growing higher every day, inevitably developers will build houses here and within 10 years, it will become a tract development.

###

On the drive to Syracuse, RTT and I talked about the latest rape case making headlines – another white college athlete who molested two sleeping girls at a frat party and was let off with a slap on the wrist.

“That’s disgusting,” RTT said. “He should have been punished. He should be put on the sex offenders registry.”

“He should definitely have been fined and jailed,” I said. “I dunno about the sex offenders registry.”

That’s unfeminist of you, Mom,” RTT said.

“The way I see it is that the sex offenders registry was originally set up because certain types of sex crimes have a recidivism rate that’s practically 100%. Those are mostly sex crimes that involve young children. People who do those things are mentally ill. They’re never going to change. They’re predators, and it makes sense to warn parents about them.

“Someone who rapes two girls at a party, though. That’s not a psychological crime; that’s a social crime. It’s symptomatic of a toxic male culture. Toxic masculinity and male privilege.”

“So?”

“Well, the thing is this kid can change. He can learn to stop acting from a position of male privilege. He can redeem himself. I certainly think he should be punished for his actions and punished severely. But I also think he can learn to be a better person. And if you put him on some kind of permanent list, you’re essentially taking that opportunity for redemption away from him.”

RTT snorted. “Well, you’re just wrong, Mom.”

I shrugged. “Maybe. How do you deal with drunk sex?”

“What do you mean?”

“Would you have sex with someone if you were drunk, and she was drunk?”

“That depends,” said RTT. “If it was the first time I met her, and we were both drunk, then no. But if I already knew her, and we were both drunk…”

“Well, then, you could be setting yourself up for a rape charge,” I told him. “Because she can’t give consent if she’s drunk. And for that matter, neither can you. Do you explicitly ask for consent before you have sex?”

Mom!”

“Do you?”

“No! When you know, you know!”

I shook my head. “Not good enough. No one ever knows what they think they know. Simple. Sexy. Rock-hard cock!”

“Can we please change the subject please?” RTT said.

So we did.

Sloth Fest

chickory


The Great Sloth Fest continues.

I have been reading, watching endless loops of Vikings – interesting contrast and compare with The Last Kingdom since essentially the two shows reimagine the same history and the same cast of characters – playing Pokemon Go (Level 19!), exercising and doing very little else that could even remotely be described as “productive.”

In the middle of the night when I sometimes awake, I chide myself on living an essentially useless life, compare my accomplishments – or rather my lack of accomplishments – with everyone around me. But hey! I’m an inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary. I went to the Oscars twice. I have two magnificent kids. I’ve written three novels. Surely those things count as some sort of accomplishment.

I have the life right now that I've wanted for years – a room with a view and a door, and a small stipend. The secret to happiness is diminished expectations and the resolute avoidance of any cherished beliefs whose betrayal might cause spiritual or psychological anguish.

I suspect I will start being productive again in the fall.

Meanwhile, I’m off to the Southern Tier later this morning to see RTT before he goes back for what I sincerely hope will be his last semester of college.

The seasons accelerate in the Catskills, so I expect I will run into orange leaves on the journey west. The dusty roadside flower of the moment hereabouts is chicory – which always makes my heart ache for reasons that are waaaaaay too complicated to get into this morning.
If you haven’t seen The Statue and don’t want to see The Statue, don’t click this.Collapse )

I’m ambivalent. Yeah, yeah – funny. And true outsider art. Worthy of its own episode of Mr. Robot – which, funnily enough, is also dealing with a subplot concerning statue testicles right about now.

The statue makes me uncomfortable, though.

It underscores the fact that for all the current politically correct prattle about enhancing our sensitivity to human rights and getting rid of racism, sexism, gender and disability bias, all that’s really being proposed these days is a redistribution scheme in which white males are pushed to the bottom.

I’m not necessarily opposed to this. I’ve certainly suffered my share of indignities at the hands of white males over the course of a lifetime.

But I guess I just don’t like to see classes of human beings humiliated no matter how much some individual members of that class may deserve it. It bothers me. I don’t want anyone to be on the bottom of the brave new social order.

This is not merely a statue of Donald Trump. It’s a statue of an old white male. Hillary Clinton’s detractors would never get away with guerrilla art like this! It would be roundly denounced as sexism.

Plus, the depiction of aging bodies as ludicrous and ugly deeply bothers me – no doubt because I’m responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of an aging body of my own. I’m mildly obsessive about exercise, so of course, I’m under the delusion that my aging body is still serviceable, still pleasant to look at. But I’m not sure that any objective observer would find that to be true.

I saw a photograph of the artist standing next to the statue. He or she – I couldn’t make out the artist’s gender – is no illustration of human pulchritude either. “I looked up ‘saggy old men butts’ on Google to get a picture I could model Trump’s from,” said the artist. “There aren’t many.”

And something inside me just wanted to scream when I read that.

Yes! Bodies get old. And since this culture is obsessed with adolescence, the cultural standard for beauty is someone who is very slim with only the barest padding of flesh over nascent musculature.

But that’s not the way that most people look.

###

Pat was still dressed to the nines in a gorgeous tissuey blue gown and silver sandals when she dropped by for a glass of wine last night. She’d been to a bridal shower.

“Booby prize,” she said. “Someone my age used the term ‘booby prize.’ And someone under 30 clasped her bosom and asked, ‘What do you mean, booby prize?’ She didn’t know the term! She thought it had something to do with breasts!” Pat clapped her hands and laughed.

The half-life of slang seldom extends more than a lifetime.

And there’s no easier way for a writer to imply a character is completely out of it than by putting outdated slang in their mouths.

Some slang survives as idiom, though. What process determines that?

Booby prize!

The Oxford English Dictionary traces the use of booby to mean dunce to a Spanish word bobo, meaning stupid, itself derived from the Latin word Balbus, which was a family name belonging to an unpopular Roman consul who was also a famous stammerer. Thus political satire follows us across the centuries.

The word survived 2,000 years, but I guess it’s dying out now.

###

Before I went to sleep, I read a remarkably stupid New York Times article: Young People Explaining Nostalgia to Old People.

I’m sure I penned similar screeds when I was Of An Age although I lacked the connections or the cred to get them published in The Times. (I remember how jealous I was of Joyce Maynard because she somehow managed to publish an essay entitled An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life in The Times, and it was a singularly awful essay.)

I also remember reading similar diatribes from the Well’s cocky and insufferable GenX contingent in the early 90s.

I think maybe in the early 90s, I thought, Well, maybe they’re right! Maybe they are brighter, braver, better in some way than we were, a new evolutionary phase ready to jettison our influences, carelessly rubbing our faces in our own insignificance because we are insignificant.

Now, of course, I just roll my eyes and think, Tiresome. These people are really tiresome.

I’m thinking that there must be some reality deeper than this biological determinism, this need to brand one’s own age cohort as something bold, something different.

But there isn’t. There are different technologies, of course. But the cycle plays out exactly the same way with every new generation.

It's boring.

Though I would just love to be a fly on the wall 50 years from now, watching the author of that awful New York Times article out of all 6,000 of my compound eyes on that night as she sits alone in a room and sifts through her own (inevitable) catalog of disappointments.
zephyr


I should like Zephyr Teachout more than I do.

After all, her campaign platform is the right checklist of progressive solutions to looming problems, and she’s smart enough to be touting the Bernie Sanders gold star rather than the Hillary Clinton endorsement. (I think Sanders carried Dutchess County in the recent Democratic slam-off.) Zephyr took on the Evil Ogre (Andrew Cuomo) in the gubernatorial primary two years ago and unexpectedly won 34% of the vote thanks to hippy-dippy Tompkins County! And, of course, with a name like “Zephyr Teachout,” you just know she’s on sabbatical from Hogwarts, right?

On principle, though, I really dislike carpetbaggers. Even if they’re carpetbaggers who've enlisted in the Armies of Light and who've sworn to destroy the Powers of Darkness.

I have to think that they don’t know jack shit about any of the issues that are really important to the locals. That – gasp! – they’re more interested in consolidating their own political power than they are in representing the interests of the people who might vote for them.

I don’t think I’ll do any campaigning for Teachout though I’ll probably vote for her.

I was interested enough in her, though, to go to the opening of her campaign headquarters, which turns out to be right down the street from me in Hyde Park.

She is attractive, youthful-appearing, enthusiastic. No husbands, wives or lovers of either gender peeking out from the sidelines. Very much Artemis on the campaign trail is Zephyr Teachout!

Build Your Vocabulary

mooring


Lazy? Me?

Try “slothful.”

Try “indolent.”

Try “otiose” – which is a word ya don’t run across very often outside of 18th century theological tracts, derived from the Latin ōtiōsus meaning “ineffectual.”

It’s like I’m living inside a little globe sans artificial snowflakes and upside down miniatures of the Empire State Building.

It’s not a particularly uncomfortable state of being, just odd because I seem to have lost all ambition, any urge to be productive.

All I want to do is wander through the countryside and look at things and try to imagine what they looked like 300 years ago.

Like those stone slabs, which I came across as I was bushwhacking off-trail alongside the river. They must have been a boat landing of some sort back when, right? They’re too symmetrical to have been manufactured by nature.

I imagine my mood has something to do with the weather. The high humidity lends the light a kind of limpidity – I don’t have the words to describe it. This moment I inhabit doesn’t have windows that look out onto the future.

If I want to do any of the things I’m tentatively planning to do this fall, though, I’ve gotta get moving on the income generation front.

###

Imane didn’t show up for her appointment with us yesterday.

I’m not surprised.

Was it because she’s young and careless and imagines she can handle it all on her own? Or was it because something in her life had reached a crisis point?

I don’t really know, and I’m not going to put much thought into it.

One of my great character flaws is that I’m always looking for ways to solve other people’s problems so I can be a hero!

But, you know. Fuck that.

I don’t have to be Wonder Woman. I only have to get her to pass her GED.

And only if she starts taking our work together seriously and stops showing up late.

###

On an unrelated note: Why does Facebook think I care about Ellen Degeneres or Kevin Smith?

What Feels Bad Versus What IS Bad

imy


My feelings got hurt very early in the day yesterday.

Nine times out of ten when people hurt your feelings, they don’t mean to. It’s a joke gone wrong or some tiny flex of power like two cats growling at each other. Other people can’t be expected to understand the peculiar jerry-rigging of my psyche, right?

And so it was with this stray remark. It wasn’t intended to make me feel bad.

Still. It put me in a Mood. And the Mood lingered into the afternoon.

I started thinking about my mother. Which is never a good thing.

###

I’m fairly sure my mother had undiagnosed borderline personality disorder. Possibly other psychiatric diagnoses as well. She was fine and functional so long as she was able to maintain tight control over her little world. But if one little thing disrupted that control, the domino effect would precipitate a massive decompensation. At her lowest, she would lie in her bed and hallucinate, and refuse to get out of bed to pee – leaving me to change the sheets, try to cajole or bully her into eating, and do the rest of the adult/child role reversal shuffle.

This was all before I was 12, mind you.

My father walked out on us when I was three months old, so it was just my mother and me, the archetypal dyad.

From an early age, I knew my mother was crazy but I also knew that I wasn’t. My mother was incapable of seeing me as anything other than some sort of extension of herself, but I knew perfectly well that we were nothing alike, that I didn’t dream her nightmares, that if I could survive this, this childhood, that I would ultimately be okay.

One of the psychological torture techniques my mother liked most was to leave me on street corners, tell me, That’s it! I’ve had enough, you worthless piece of shit! Your father is coming for you. I’d stand on those street corners crying for hours. This was New York City in the 1960s, you understand. Nobody paid any attention to crying children on street corners.

Then three or four hours later, she’d come back for me: You’re lucky, I’ve changed my mind.

Anyway, it’s always exactly that same feeling of being abandoned on a street corner that sweeps over me whenever anyone really hurts my feelings.

A sense that I must have done something very, very awful for them to withdraw their love and approval so completely. Though honestly! I didn't have a clue what it was that I’d done.

And along with that sense, a feeling that I was very, very unsafe.

###

Mood lasted until early afternoon when I went off to tutor Imane.

And realized: Hey! I don’t have problems! Imane has problems.

Boy howdy, does she.

###

Imane’s living the life of Sara Crewe with a host family that’s actively cruel to her. No shit! They haven’t even given her a key to the house she’s living in. If she leaves the house, she’s forced to wait outside for hours and hours in all sorts of weather, rain, +100 heat indices, and one imagines snow once winter starts.

The host family has a daughter who’s a few years younger than Imane and who creeps up to Imane in the middle of the night clutching scissors, hissing, I’m going to cut your throat; I’m going to lacerate your face, leave long white scars, and no man is ever going to want you.

Part of the issue with the host family – I think: Imane’s English is not good, my French is not good – is that no one is paying any money for Imane’s support. Is this a common arrangement among Islamic families? That they foster one another’s offspring with no restitution? I have no idea, but however it may work in the rest of the world, it’s hard to pull off in the United States where things are expensive. The host family, thus, is resentful that Imane is putting a strain on already strained resources. Understandably resentful, I suppose.

Meanwhile, Imane’s father is putting pressure on her: Get a job. So that you can sponsor me to emigrate.

With Imane’s indifferent English, it’s unlikely that she can score a job on the books.

She has been offered a job off the books in a nearby restaurant, and later on today, Lois Lane and I are going by that restaurant – (a) to fly the colors for Imane; show that she’s not friendless; (b) to make sure some mechanism is in place whereby they will actually pay her; and (c) to make sure that no one intends to sexually abuse her since she’s such a cute young thing.

I’m afraid that there is very little else I can do for her in practical terms.

We’ve started on GED prep materials. The goal is to get prepared to take the GED early next summer, and to research college/university programs that might possibly give her a full scholarship. She’s bright! Has been picking up English very quickly, and, of course, is fluent in Arabic and French. She’s also extremely good at math.

But her life right now is very bad, and if she’s drowning – and she may well be – the hand I hold out is not strong enough to pull her back on shore.

More Words

I've been entertaining myself today by playing around with the stuff I did for NaNoMo. I have no idea what, if anything, I'll do with it, but its voice is noticeably different from most of the stuff I write, so I'm intrigued. I think partly that's because if I'm writing about Henry Miller and June, then I channel Miller to some degree and some of these descriptions do feel very Miller-esque to me (although my mind was completely empty while I was writing.) Of course, I'm a big fan of paragraphs, and Henry Miller was not.

DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU'RE UNDER 18, OR YOU PREFER TO AVOID SEXUALLY EXPLICIT PROSE.

This isn't at all erotic, but it uses sexual imagery with that Miller-esque sense of the grotesque.

Hidden for lengthCollapse )
Still in the throes of relentless activity. Upside is that I feel just like Maria in West Side Story, twittering around on my toes; trilling, I feel pretty! slightly off-key. Downside is that I tend to lose purchase of my own thoughts if I don’t spend at least a couple of hours every day sitting in a corner with my eyes unfocused. Maybe that’s some metabolic equivalent of mediation? Dunno. Anyway, I can feel my attention span growing shorter and shorter and shorter.

I am having fun, though.

###

Like, for instance, I had a totally terrific birthday weekend. L took me out for lunch at CIA’s excellent French restaurant where I had one of the most fabulous meals I’ve ever eaten: deconstructed pineapple upside down cake and BLTs as amuses bouches; a chestnut soup; a grilled dorade that actually, yes, melted in my mouth; Mimosas with mint; and a deconstructed lemon bar, which the restaurant comped (without being asked.)



Afterwards, I drove out to Rhinebeck and wandered around that quaint little town for an hour or so. Carmel on the Hudson, right? Scored a trio of exotic eaux de Cologne at a little tchatche shoppe that was going out of business plus a remaindered copy of Little Failure at the surprisingly good indie bookstore. (I’m a beeeg Gary Shteyngart fan.) Went to see Noah Baumback’s While We’re Young. (Five-word review: All About Eve Meets Williamsburg.)

Next day, accompanied Seraphina to Harlem for Ayana’s Natural Hair Expo. Almost bailed on that ‘cause you know – natural hair, not a White Girl thing. Plus my eyes needed unfocusing.

Very glad I didn’t, though, because I had the best time, not necessarily at the Expo itself (which was very badly organized though I walked away with an enormous number of samples, which now, of course, White Girl Hair or no White Girl Hair, I’ve got to try) but just hanging out with Seraphina in Harlem on a glorious, glorious day.



We sat on a stoop in the radiant sunlight waiting for the fashion show to begin and just gabbed about everything – childhoods, families, hopes and dreams. Talk fest continued over lunch at Sylvia’s and after the show, when we spent several hours shopping along 125th Street.

Back in my day, 125th Street – particularly its intersection with Lenox Avenue a/k/a Malcolm X Boulevard – was the heart of the riot zone.

Today, though, it’s one huge shopping mall.

Seraphina is looking to get out of the social services business and into the hair business, so after the fashion show, she carted me into half a dozen or so of the hair emporiums lining the Ave, and I scored five boxes of that cheap, cheap, cheap Revlon 112 Colorsilk Luminista, which is the only hair dye evah to turn my locks the deep aubergine I adore, and which, sadly, is not being manufactured anymore, so whenever I go anywhere, one of my quests – like finding the Holy Grail or that winning Lotto ticket – is to hit up every pharmacy in a five-mile radius in the hopes of hunting down a single box.

On the Metro-North ride home, we were surrounded by all sorts of bizarre people having bizarre conversations, which drove us into absolute hysterics. Don’t think I’ve lost it that hard since Susan and I got booted out of a Tai Kwon Do dojo 30 or so years ago for laughing hysterically through Master Bliss’s lecture on rising chi.

So much fun.

###

This is the final week of taxes, so I’m doing a lot of work in the Tax-Aide brigade, too.

Yesterday, for example, I had this client who brought in an oversized Manila envelope bursting at the seams with receipts, which he obviously expected me to organize. I mean, no shit – there were at least 200 of them. And they were all donations to Brother Parsley Jack’s Christian Brigade or Sister Amy Lordpraiser’s Hallelujah Life Mission. The absolute dregs of the TV evangelical channels, in other words.

He was a sweet little guy who obviously meant well, which is why I didn’t tell him to organize the damn things himself. He’d retired from some state job – probably as a janitor at some high school or something – and that pension combined with his Social Security gave him a rather substantial retirement income for a single man living alone in a mobile home park.

Took me an hour and a half to organize his receipts. They totaled something like $14,000.

At first, I was outraged. Wondered if I should call the Dutchess County Social Services hotline and report this as elder abuse.

Then I thought, Hey! It’s no business of yours how this gentleman chooses to spend his money.

Are these nonprofits to which he’s donating money complete scams?

Sure.

But then, so’s Hillary Clinton’s contribution pitch webpage.

Of course, I would prefer it if he was donating $14,000 to cancer research.

But, you know. I don’t get to make decisions for other people on how they spend their money.

###

I’ve also been reading RTT’s novel-in-progress. He sent me the first 120 pages.

It’s good. The kid has a natural sense of rhythm, momentum. That’s something you can’t be taught – you’re either born with it, or you’re not. Sure, it has issues. It’s gonna require a lot of line editing and some serious plot tweaking and reorganization of the info flow to the reader if RTT wants to snag an agent. But that’s stuff that can be fixed in a subsequent draft.

A rhythm problem can’t be fixed, ever. A rhythm problem means the person writing what you’re reading doesn’t know how to tell a story.

I was gonna tell RTT how great it was regardless of how great it was – I am his Mom, after all – but I was very happy that I could say it and mean it. I was really impressed.