Mar. 2nd, 2034




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

Feel-good moment at the local supermarket yesterday –

I was stuck behind some guy arguing with the checkout girl over the price of a six-pack of beer. The guy was on a mission – goddam it, the sign said the beer cost six dollars and three cents, and he wasn’t about to pay a penny more!

The customer is always right, right? But the checkout girl wasn’t authorized to give him his discount when the point-of-sales system insisted the price was something else.

The guy began to rant and rave.

The checkout girl kept trying to get various assistant managerial types to come over, but they all took one look at the guy – you could actually see the thought balloon forming over their heads: They don’t pay me enough to deal with jerks like that – and ignored her.

This went on for 10 minutes.

Guy was in his second rendition of, “This is how corporations like this make their real money, isn’t it? On the backs of the working poor!” when I finally said, “What’s the difference between what they’re charging you and what you think you should be paying?”

“Three dollars,” said the checkout girl.

“Fine,” I said, whipping out my wallet. “I’ll pay the difference,” I told the guy. “I’ve got too many groceries to load all of them back in my cart and find another checkout while you rally for social justice.”

“I just want to get home and bake my cookies,” said the woman in back of me. “I’ll throw in a dollar.”

“I’ll pony up a buck,” said the burly man in back of her.

And so it went all down the extremely (at this point) long line. Cash contributions were passed on down.

“Here!” I said, shoving the cash at the checkout girl. “Just ring him up.”

“I will not accept your money!” the guy thundered. “This is a matter of principle! I am doing you all a favor to stand my ground!”

“This is a Christmas gift!” I said. “It has nothing to do with principle! Just a tiny ray of sunshine in a dark world, you know? A Christmas miracle! If there were more shoppers like us, Isis would disband, Ebola would disappear, and Cuba would have been recognized 20 years ago when the Cold War ended!”

“You’re all sheep!” the guy screeched. He was very agitated at this point.

And all of us shoppers on line behind him spontaneously broke out into a rendition of You Better Not Pout, You Better Not Cry.

This finally got the attention of the Lord High Manager who came scurrying over to get the guy off the line.

We all got our money back.

We ended up waiting in that line for 20 minutes.

“You should seriously consider firing all those assistant managers,” muttered the woman who wanted to get home to bake cookies. She was seriously pissed.

###

In other news – I had another extremely long narrative dream last night, this one about how people are not reincarnated in any chronological order. Though most of the time, you’re reincarnated in the future, sometimes your subsequent life is deep in the earth-historical past, and sometimes it’s in the same present tense so that the same spiritual being will occupy two nearly synchronous lifetimes in the same continuum. The word for this is redivism and it’s the source of all love at first sight and all those other feelings of strong connection that defy circumstances.

In this dream, I’d happened upon someone in my time span who was close to me on the reincarnative cycle. Guy. Blue collar worker. Big belly. Not my type at all. But we met, immediately went to bed, and had the most amazing sex – I was straddling him on top; every time he thrust, he hit exactly the right spot and I could actually choreograph my orgasms – Not yet, not yet, now!!!!!!!

Pretty hot.

Also, I’ve been watching this documentary called The Story of Film: An Odyssey, narrated by this guy with a strange, deadpan Irish accent. Fifteen single-hour segments that trace the history of movies from Edison’s tiny New Jersey workshop to the multi-million set of Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Well worth seeing – kind of like a survey film studies class. Except that the director has a definite bias in favor of the directors and other cinema types who agreed to let him interview them. Who were mostly second-rate directors and cinema types! I’m sorry, but in no universe can the films of Stanley Donen be called “groundbreaking,” even if Donen consented to sit down and be interviewed.

But the series is particularly strong on cinema outside the Hollywood hegemony, particularly African and Indian cinema, so I now have a ton of new movie titles to check out.

Dreams and Travel Plans

Really, really, complex and odd narrative Dream…

There was a whole sequence of movies I had made – I was a cinema verite director, French New Wave.

Brad Pitt was in it – the young, dreamy Brad Pitt when he was still playing with personas – Should I be James Dean or Robert Wagner? He was toying with me romantically, and I knew he was toying with me, but he was a Big Celebrity, so it was okay. We were supposed to go to the beach, but then he got a phone call, his children on the phone, and I could tell he was beset with guilt.

“It’s okay,” I said. “We don’t have to do this.”

And he looked so relieved.

Then I was walking through Berkeley – the old Berkeley of my memory, frozen in time like a hippie Havana. I was carrying a large sack of expensive ground coffee, which I somehow spilled. And I thought, This shit is expensive, so I knelt on the ground and tried to scoop it up – and I realized the coffee had spilled on this nest of expensive-looking, Etruscan-style jewelry, so I tried to scoop that up, too – lovely silver amethyst earring dangles, an emerald ring. The coffee had spilled on the lost-and-found bin of a cinema art house, the manager came running out –

“You owe me a pound of coffee,” I told the manager. Coolly – so as to cover up the fact that I’d actually been stealing from the lost-and-found bin.

“Oh, get over yourself, Patty,” said a passerby.

I looked up and realized I knew the guy, but I couldn’t remember from where –

“Refresh my memory,” I said.

“I washed your socks,” he said. “Didn’t ask for an exchange for the service.”

He was a holdover from an earlier part of the labyrinthine dream.

He was walking with a beautiful young black girl and an earnest-looking young Latino guy. They were discussing art.

“See, real art is like sandblasting,” the guy who had spoken to me said. “You don’t create by adding. You create by taking away.”

“Right,” the beautiful young black girl said. “Plus the representation of something is always in some way its opposite. If you push off strongly enough from something, the strength of the movement will always get you right back to the thing you pushed off from.”

When I woke up, I still couldn’t recognize the man in my dream although I can see his face as I type this, and it’s at once utterly forgettable and utterly familiar…

In other news, the To Do list is now a page long, so I’m gonna have to buckle down and do some serious Errand Mongering today.

Wrist still aches. Did not want to drive yesterday. Did not want to flex the wrist.

It’s an odd feeling to know that I’m at a point in my life where I don’t have to do much of anything, really. I’ll still survive.

But survival is not the point.

I want to go to California in May. I want to go to Cuba, too, next year before American redevelopment $$$$ moves in. I want to spend a month in Xela in early 2016 learning Spanish. I want to do the Mitford tour that fall. And all those trips require resources.

Haven’t really worked on fiction since I got back from New Mexico. Of course, this time of year feels like everyone – including me – has just hit the pause button somehow. Plus, you know, the sun sets at 4:30. The lack of daylight is hard on me.

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The White Obama and a Big Owie

Max got his first law school acceptance – a mere four days after his application was received.

It’s a perfectly respectable school, too, with a distinguished public law curriculum. Not his first choice. But my guess is that they’re likely to sweeten the offer by throwing large amounts of $$$$$$ at him. The alacrity of the acceptance would seem to indicate they really, really, really want him.

Max wants to do public law. He’s interested in social justice. These days, his day job is “social worker.” He works with Alameda County’s homeless, trying to qualify them for SSI so they can get off the streets. He has many colorful adventures on Oakland’s mean streets. He wants to be the white Obama when he grows up! He thinks my politics are… batty.

“I mean, you don’t even believe in your own politics!” he tells me. “That’s why you do so much volunteer work.”

I believe in limited government,” I say. “That doesn’t mean I believe that people should be poor and miserable. Or suffer unnecessarily because of a lack of funds.”

“That’s not what Ayn Rand says.”

“I don’t like Ayn Rand,” I say. “She’s a hypocrite. She took full advantage of other people’s altruism when she first moved to this country. One might call her an opportunist. But the main objectionable thing about Ayn Rand is that she’s a truly dreadful prose stylist.”

Also, last night, this truly bizarre thing happened – I got home from a day of doing errands and my right wrist began to ache. Did I say “ache?” Actually, it began to throb with such painful intensity that I was all but incapacitated. I couldn’t even turn door handles without screaming. I wanted to gnaw off my arm.

There was absolutely no reason for my wrist to begin aching like this. That was the weirdest thing.

I iced it.

Nada.

I held it up over my head so that it would stop throbbing.

That did a little.

Finally I hit Kimberly up for some Tylenol. Maybe that did the trick. I don’t know. But it stopped throbbing as suddenly as it started. This morning, it’s sore and its distal aspect is obviously swollen (though there really isn’t much room on your wrist to swell), but it’s not driving me mad with pain.

It was just truly, truly weird.

Obviously, I injured it somehow. Classic tendonitis symptoms, right? As if I'd tried to break a fall by putting my hands out as I hit the sidewalk. Bibbit's bike accident!

But nothing remotely like that had happened.

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12 Monkeys



My own all-time favorite Christmas movie is 12 Monkeys, a dystopian fantasy about the end of civilization as we know it and an attempt to rectify the mistakes that led up to that end. Bruce Willis plays a convict given the chance to redeem himself by traveling into the past to investigate the origins of a plague that’s wiped out most of mankind, forcing the few survivors to huddle underground.

Never been a big Terry Gilliam fan. Brazil? Clunky. The Fisher King? Maudlin. The Monty Python ouevre? Spotty.

Problem with most of Gilliam’s work for me is that you’re always being fed two separate streams of information, the visual and the narrative, and Gilliam often seems to be struggling to find synergy or syncretism between the two. In 12 Monkeys, though, possibly because Gilliam is working from someone else’s script or possibly because one of the film's underlying themes is the unreliability of all remembered information, this approach works. Even the irrelevant becomes relevant.

The movie never changes, Cole tells Kathryn. It can’t change. But every time you see it, it seems different because you’re different. You see different things.

The film’s climactic scene takes place during the Philadelphia Christmas shopping rush in 1996. The holiday might seem incidental to the perceptual puzzle, except that nothing is incidental in this movie. The viewer has to pay close attention at all times, which is almost impossible to do in a single viewing. 12 Monkeys has to be seen at least twice to appreciate the world-building that went into it. I’ve seen it at least a dozen times, and it still amazes me.

One of the key strengths of 12 Monkeys is Bruce Willis’s performance. He plays Cole, the convict, as a simple, poignant Everyman, shyness and brutality in conflict, and it’s the acting highlight of his career. He is just superb. Madeleine Stowe is also excellent in the role of a kidnap victim called upon to be terrified but also magnetized in some essential way that disputes the core tenets of the Stockholm Syndrome.

Without these two performances, 12 Monkeys would be a less entertaining, standard issue Luc Besson movie about the colorful -- or colorless – future.

Throughout 12 Monkeys, Cole faces the paradox of his own death – a philosophical conundrum apparently inspired by a short French film called La Jetée. His death is revealed to him in a series of memories, which he thinks are a bizarre, reoccurring dream. He sees his older self die as a 10-year-old boy in an airport, watching the police gun down a crazy psychotic – who, unbeknownst, is the older version of himself, a philosophical DO-loop, an existential perpetual motion machine from which there can never be any escape. He doesn’t recognize his older self, he can’t recognize his older self, but the Madeleine Stowe character, who knows about the dream, recognizes him and there passes between them a moment that’s so complex and passionate and moving that it makes me shiver every time I see the movie.

I watched 12 Monkeys again last night. I’m still in hyperspace. Just very teary and – here comes my buzz word again – porous.

I’m writing a time travel story, so possibly this material is even more poignant for me than usual. Dunno. Sometimes I just feel like life is so fragile, and the most beautiful flowers grow in junkyards where no one ever thinks to look.



In other news, life continues to be good. On Sunday, I met up with A to see the Matisse cutouts at MOMA – they were interesting, but did make me ponder the whole function of art as a non-fungible commodity. I could make these cutouts! In fact, I have made these cutouts. I couldn’t, on the other hand, make One: Number 31, 1950, which actually has an extraordinary amount of composition behind its chaos.

Then I sat through the last two classes of tax training. Studying federal and New York State tax codes is a lot like studying Torah or the Qur’an. Or possibly the Upanishads. Just a huge amount of arcane information that makes no logical sense whatsoever but illuminates the bizarreness of the culture that cobbled them together. The codes dealing with the implementation of Obamacare are particularly arcane, and I predict a lot of crash-and-burn around the Affordable Care Act come next April 15th.

Ochlophobia, Plus Famous On YouTube

BB is out of town for a few days and so has very kindly given me the run of his Greenpoint apartment, which, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, is like my dream apartment – one enormous living space with skylights, plants, ropes of twinkle lights, a beautiful Bechstein piano, and a heated toilet seat!!!

I’d come into the city with the ostensible plan of participating in the Eric Garner protest march, but I chickened out when I hit Washington Square Park – there were just too many people. I haven’t been able to do crowds since I attended the infamous Altamont concert stoned on acid at the age of 17. (Altogether now: Just shoot me if I ever say, ‘Why, Sonny, when I was your age…' ) Crowds just panic me. Might have been able to do it if I was marching with someone else, but alone? No, no, no.

So I fought my way back uptown – every subway station was mobbed – and eventually found my way to Times Square, which was overrun with people dressed up in Santa Claus costumes:



It was just very, very, very, very strange. The juxtaposition as much as anything else.

Honestly, it makes me go into complete overdrive, it makes me freak to think that every single one of these people – protestors and Santa enthusiasts alike – has an inner life that’s just as complex as my own.

And not just the protestors and the Santa clones, but also the holiday shoppers mobbing Grand Central Station and the Avenues east of Park, and the rich old ladies walking skinny dogs in sweaters on the upper East Side, and the skaters in the Woolman rink, and the tourists in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the homeless beggers huddling with their shopping carts in the subway entrances, and the inhabitants of the outer boroughs – and of course, New York City is only one tiny blip in the sea of consciousnesses swarming over the globe, nine billion consciousnesses with nary a bridge between them because, of course, you can never know what another person’s inner life is like; I mean, you can infer, yes, but, really, that’s all projection –

I suppose that’s why I feel this consuming passion to create

Yeah, yeah. Part of it is ego, Here! Lemme take you on a guided tour of my inner life.

But part of it is this need to forge symbols that can somehow bridge the separateness between human beings –

In Hong Kong, the last protestors in the two-month standoff between the pro-democracy activists and the Chinese government flashed the District 12 three-finger salute from The Hunger Games to one another as their last camp was being dismantled. The District 12 salute bridged the moat between separate consciousnesses!

And reading about that, I thought, Wow! This instantly elevates The Hunger Games into the realm of great literature.

Although, it’s more than likely the protestors did not read the books but saw the movies.

###

I was pretty badly shaken up when I finally got back to the subdued bustle of Greenpoint where most of the conversations along Manhattan Avenue, the main drag, still take place in Polish. I wandered into a Polish botanica and whaddiya know? There were four boxes of the hair dye that turns my hair into a lovely shade of eggplant purple! They don’t manufacture this particular hair dye anymore, so I felt like the Universe was rewarding me for at least considering taking part in the Eric Garner protest! I bought them all.

I was much too unnerved to follow up on my evening plans or do any creative work for that matter, so I spent the evening dying my hair and reading The New Yorker.

My hair is now the lovely shade of aubergine that God intended!

The New Yorker had a fascinating article on YouTube and a video app called Vine. Vine is an entertainment medium where every unit of entertainment lasts exactly six seconds. It’s very, very popular among adolescents – who really don’t need any reinforcement for having short attention spans. It strikes me that Vine is actually rather dangerous – because, of course, we retain the thinking habits of our youth, so Vine is essentially breeding a group of trendsetters – who will one day grow up to become policy makers – who can’t sustain a thought for more than six seconds.

It also strikes me that while this may be an acceptable state of affairs for identity politics, it’s a very bad thing for anyone who’s interested in changing the underlying, oppressive economics of supply and demand.

So, I don’t know about the future…

Plus, you know, the kids who are doing these six-second videos don’t seem to realize that if they’re being written up in an old-guard publication like The New Yorker, they’re already on the downward slope of the trend. They might as well pack it in. The rest of their lives will be spent in the psychic equivalent of some bar at four o’clock in the afternoon, trying to cadge drinks by telling people, I was famous once on YouTube.
Not the first snow of the season, but the first snow for which I’ve been present:



And not even major snow at that.

W smokes, so this morning I trailed him into the local Smokes 4 Less outlet on Route 9. The whole place smelled like my grandfather’s car. A musty, somewhat sweet odor. Not unpleasant.

The woman on line in front of us was settling her monthly bills. “$254 for the utilities. Then I need a money order for $162 for the Verizon. Then I want five packs of the Marlboros –“

She had a rather witless looking kid of about six or seven with her.

“Gramma, get the ones with the camels on them –“

“The ones with the camels on them!” she hooted.

“They’re cool,” he insisted.

“They grow up fast, don’t they?” said the woman behind the counter.

“They do. My little great-granddaughter wants a makeup kit for Christmas. A makeup kit! She’s three.”

The two women laughed.

It dawned on me eavesdropping on the two of them that Smokes 4 Less is sort of the hub for a whole shadow lifestyle here in upscale Hyde Park because, of course, the poor eking out a minimalist existence, the paycheck-to-paycheckers, the Walmart shoppers, are not just in Poughkeepsie. They’re everywhere. They live not in the tony chalet-style houses (whose mortgages are still underwater) closer to Route 9 or along the Hudson River, but in the drywall shacks – one step up from mobile homes – that cluster along Route 9 or Pine Woods Road. In the warmer months, they have frequent garage sales.

The woman buying the Marlboros was easily 20 years younger than me. I don’t know which I found more appalling – that she had a great-granddaughter or that she used so many definite articles. I am such a snob.

###

Turns out that Ed, who lives right across the road from me with his wife Pat, is also taking the Tax Aide class, so we’ve been car-pooling together. Ed bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Rik, who, in his youth, was one of my Platonic ideals for male beauty. We also have very similar conversational styles and senses of humor, which turns our car rides into epic discussions of the economy, politics, and human foibles.

“Listen,” Ed said. “If you ever hear me preface a remark with, ‘Why, when I was your age…’, you have my permission to shoot me.”

“What if I don’t have a legal permit to carry a gun?”

“I don’t care. I’d consider it an act of humanity. Mercy killing.”

If I were capable of being romantically attracted to anyone – which, at this juncture of my life, I strongly suspect I’m not – I’d be very attracted to Ed.

Which makes me curious about his relationship with his wife. There’s an Updike subtext to be teased out here, I’m sure. Onion-like layers.

He grew up in New York City; she grew up in a farming town in Ohio. They met in college. He was the love object; she was the smitten. He led her a merry dance for a decade or so before he finally married her.

Once they bought the Hyde Park house – 30 or so years ago – he got a job as a social worker with the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. Commuted the 180 miles between here and Albany on a daily basis. Finally retired a year or so back.

“Is Pat thinking of retiring?” I asked. Pat’s a nurse practitioner.

“Oh, no. Pat’s not thinking of retiring,” he said. “And we don’t want Pat to retire. Because Pat is the type of person who needs projects, and if Pat retires, her project will become Ed. And we don’t want that to happen. I may have shortcomings, but they’re my shortcomings. And goddamit, I’m attached to them.”

Á deux, Ed and Pat came over two nights ago to attend an impromptu birthday celebration for Kimberly. Kimberly, Austin, and their three cats are the latest tenants of L’s tiny downstairs room. The running joke is that L is now operating a cathouse, and L chortles obligingly any time someone makes it. I have endless admiration for Kimberly who, at just-turned-21, is a real kickass and powerhouse. The other day when her truck broke down, I watched her singlehandedly back it up the Triple A tow truck’s 180 degree ramp.

“When Austin graduates from the Culinary Institute, we’re goin’ back to Tennessee,” Kimberly announced. “We love it there!”

“Eastern Tennessee is great!” I announced, although, of course, how could I possibly know? It’s not as though I’ve ever actually been there.

Nashville!” said Pat. “Do you watch that show?”

“What show?” Kimberly asked.

“Oh, it’s a TV show. About country and western singers.”

“Don’t know it,” Kimberly said.

“Do you know Friday Night Lights?” I asked.

“Oh, sure.”

“Well, Nashville stars Coach’s wife.”

Pat laughed. “Yes, after she got tired of being Coach’s wife, she ditched him, moved to Nashville, and became a Country Western star.”

“Do you do that, too?” I asked. “I do that. I don’t think actors and actresses should have lives. Just parts. And there should be continuity between those parts!”

Pat and I both laughed. Nobody else did.

“But anyway,” I said. “It’s time for me to go to bed –“

“But it’s only quarter to nine!” said Kimberly.

“I go to bed very early because I get up very early,” I said.

Pat nodded. “I always see your light on around four.”

“Habit I developed when I was working full time and raising a family,” I said. “I wanted to continue having some sort of creative life where I could do my own work, think my own thoughts, so I got in the habit of getting up very, very early. It’s still the time I think the best. Between 4am and about 8am.”

Pat and Ed sat next to each other, but they didn’t interact. No finishing one another’s sentences. No lobbing shared anecdotes across the conversational net. No touching.

I wondered when the last time they’d had sex was.

###



So, the New Mexico trip. It was fun, but not entirely without incident.

When I got home, I found this post in Robin’s Twitter feed from the day we flew out: It's 6:48 A.M and my moms already yelling at the shuttle driver while muttering racist comments into her 5th cup of coffee.

I’d only actually had two cups of coffee – very weak, watery hotel coffee – and I was speaking forcefully to the shuttle driver because he’d driven right past our terminal, leaving us with something less than an hour and fifteen minutes to catch our flight. All my latent OCD tendencies tend to come out in airports anyway, so I was sitting there on the shuttle, under-caffeinated, imagining the plane taking off without us. Those little foil packs of stale pretzels? None of them would have our names.

I certainly was not muttering racist comments.

Robin continual demonization of me in these ways would be hurtful if I weren’t so completely resigned to it and cut off from emotionally from Robin. He can’t push my buttons anymore because there are no more buttons labeled “Robin” to push, frankly. I do what I can to be a responsible parent. Paid his rent for two months when all his loan money got stolen (because he was too fucking stupid to bank it – and, of course, he couldn’t be reprimanded for this stupidity because, you know, he was too traumatized from having his house burglarized.) Give money above and beyond my agreement with Ben. Am lavish with gifts.

I love the kid, and would cheerfully throw myself in front of a speeding bus to spare one hair in his hipster goatee from being damaged.

But I can’t say I particularly like him either. What’s to like? I mean, there’s plenty to like, but he never shows it to me. He never talks to me. Throughout the long hours of the plane ride, he sat glued to his iPhone, reading Tucker Max.

In what universe is Tucker Max wittier or more interesting than me?

Robin sees me as a scarecrow. I saw my own mother as a scarecrow, too, so probably this is karma catching up with me.

Karma. She can be a beyatch.

The racist mime bothers me though, because I don’t think I’m a racist.

I do talk about race. I ask questions about it.

Is that racism?

Back when I was a nurse, I got severely chastised one day because I asked questions about hair and skin care for African American patients. Yo, white people! African American hair and skin have phenotypic differences from European hair and skin, and if you’re charged with doing personal care for someone, it’s important to know what these differences are!

Right?

Well, no. Apparently wrong. I was severely criticized for asking those questions.

Similarly, I asked Max on the drive to Santa Fe, “Does Liza –“ the Future Mother of My Unborn Grandchildren – “identify with being African American?”

I asked because Liza, who is biracial, does not look black. I’m similarly curious about Max’s friend Nick Markowitz, whose mother is Korean, and who looks completely Asian despite his middle-European name. I’m always curious about people whose labels read one way when their reality may be something quite different. I think it’s a perfectly legitimate curiosity.

“What kind of a fucking dumbshit racist question is that to ask?” Robin sneered.

“Can it, Robin!” I said furiously. “Just can it. Try get over yourself. For once in your life.”

“She identifies very much,” Max said mildly. Ever the peacemaker. “Although, of course, she’s not African American. She’s Caribbean American. You’d like her Dad, I think. He came here from Bonaire when he was 19. Lived in one of the whitest communities in the United States for more than 30 years. Always his own man.”

In Santa Fe, Robin’s snit deepened. When Max and I over-rode his insistence that we eat right away so that we could walk around for a bit and stretch our legs after an hour and a half in the car, he exploded. Max was a condescending asshole. I was a racist jerk.

“Okay! Robin, Robin,” Max said. “Let’s talk about this. I’m willing to own that I might be behaving in condescending ways. You know. It’s the Big Brother/Younger Brother thing. I’ll own it. I’m sorry you feel that way, and I’ll work to change my behavior. But, you know, you do things that disrupt the dynamic, too –“

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” Robin declared.

“Robin! We’ve got to talk about it –“

“No, we don’t! I don’t!”

At this, Max grew so frustrated that he wandered off into a silver shop by himself to hunt down earrings for the beauteous Liza.

Leaving me and the Bad Boy.

It was a rather gloomy day in Santa Fe. The storm which Accuweather had promised would hold off until we were gone appeared to be moving in over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

“Well!” I said. “Want to look at what the peddlers are selling in front of the Governor’s Palace?”

“No,” said Robin. “I wish I’d never come on your stupid trip.”

“You’re not having a good time?”

“The whole trip has been a complete bust. A complete waste of time.”

“What are you saying? We’ve had a lot of fun.”

“Maybe you have. And Max. Not me.”

“We’ve had fun,” I said weakly. “What about hiking in La Liendre yesterday?”

“That was okay.”

“And we went to the zoo.” I’d actually gotten stoned to go to the zoo with the boys. An exciting first. I’ve never been a heavy pot smoker, and I more-or-less swore off smoking pot when I was raising the boys. In the last five years or so, I’ve begun smoking occasionally again, though, and of course, I got stoned several times with Max summer before last when he and Liza visited NYC.

This trip was the first time I’d smoked with Robin.

That was practically the first thing he wanted to do when he got off the plane. He had a connection, and he wanted to score some weed.

He spent practically the entire trip stoned. Waking up in the morning and rolling a joint first thing.

Of course, Max spent practically the entire trip wasted, too. Why not? It was a fucking vacation.

It had been fun at the zoo. The three of us spent half an hour in front of the kangaroo enclosure, watching the joeys establish their social dominance hierarchy, laughing giddily. No doubt about it: Dope enhances one's ability to be entertained by kangaroos! You don't need to invest in that million-dollar study now, NIH!

“That was like three hours,” Robin sneered. “This trip has been awful. I wish I’d never come.”

And I wish you’d told me you didn’t want to come back in September before I spent so much time, effort, and money arranging the trip, I thought. But did not say.

“Okay, then. Well. I guess I’ll look at the Governor’s Palace on my own.”

I wandered off. I’ve always liked Santa Fe, but I had a hard time liking it today. The day was just so grey and off. The colors stood out like cinematography in a Luis Buenel film. Or something.

This was the end of the road with Robin so far as I was concerned.

Oh, I’d continue to send Ben Robin’s maintenance money. Give lavish holiday gifts. But hereafter, I wasn’t going to go out of my way to spend time in Robin’s physical presence. What was the point?

I didn’t feel bad or anything. Just as though I was drifting to another point on the compass, which had been exerting its magnetic attraction upon me for a considerable length of time.

Robin never went through that Fear of Strangers phase that babies are supposed to go through when they’re eight months or so. There was never a time in Robin’s childhood when he wouldn’t have cheerfully gone off with the nearest smiling stranger. I imagined his parallel life with all those smiling strangers – because Robin, as a small child, was absolutely adorable. On two separate occasions when I was wheeling him in his stroller near the Plaza Hotel – because I used to take him on a lot of my business trips when I was working for Time Inc – strangers darted out from FAO Schwartz with stuffed animals in their hands –

“Please. Here. Take this. I had to buy it for him! He is the most adorable child I have ever seen!”

Those two stuffed animals were still with us when I closed up the Monterey House. They were in good enough shape so that I felt okay about donating them to whatever abused children’s charity I ended up donating most of my household goods to.

Eventually, Robin, Max, and I reconnected. Went out to eat. Mexican food. There is no good Mexican food on the East coast for whatever reason. This is slightly bizarre because there are certainly a lot of Mexican nationals.

The mood turned cheerier.

“So I met up with this dude,” Robin told us. “He hit me up for a cigarette. Then he asked me if he could walk with me a ways because I was easy to talk to. And he was telling me about his life. Just out of rehab. No money, no job, but happy to be alive and in a good head space –“

Max laughed. “Careful, Robin! You could end up becoming a social worker. Like me!”

“It’s the family curse,” I said. “Being easy to talk to. When I was charging up my phone at the charge station in front of the air train to the airport, I encountered someone like that. He was having trouble charging his phone, so I tried to help him. Turned out, though, he had dropped his phone in a puddle so the thing wouldn’t work. Then he started telling me his entire life story – how he was getting chemo and radiation therapy. How he maybe only had three months to live but how that was a good thing because his wife was getting tired of taking care of him –“

“Wow, Mom!” Max laughed. “You got the whole two hour movie!”

"Yeah, really," I said. "Throw in the burning of the Atlanta and it could have been Gone With the Wind!"

“What did you do?” Robin asked. I think he may even have been genuinely curious.

“I nodded encouragingly. At that point, I wasn’t being called upon to do much. But when he asked whether he could borrow my phone to make a call, I said, No, politely excused myself and walked away.”

“Why?” asked Robin.

“I don’t like being hustled,” I explained.

“But I’ve seen you – “ Robin turned to Max. “Last time I was in New York City with Mom, she gave all this money to some random homeless person in the subway. It was like a lot of money! Twenty or forty bucks!”

“I’d forgotten all about that!” I said.

“I said, ‘Why are you doing that? He’ll just spend it on alcohol or drugs.’ And you said, ‘He needs to. He’s self-medicating!’”

“So, I did,” I said. “I remember that now.”

“So why would you give $40 bucks to some homeless person but not let that guy borrow your phone?”

I sighed. “That guy on the subway was just so palpably miserable. He was so down and out. You could just feel the hopelessness. I wanted to help him feel hope again. But that guy in the Air Train station was just trying to hustle me –“

“So?”

“I don’t like being hustled,” I repeated.

After lunch, we went to George R.R. Martin’s movie theater where I took this photograph:

LJ Idol: Week 30: Critical Hit

Fifty thousand people sat in the vast arcade of the great glass tower at the top of the world, watching Muldaur protect Asterask from the invading legions of the Mialtrice.

Muldaur chewed gum and listened to hip-hop while his fingers moved over the console keyboard. They moved quickly – a speed freak’s rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, a charmingly archaic piece that no one outside the Institute for Antiquarian Music had listened to for half a century.

Like corn on the cob
Don’t slob on the job


What’s corn on the cob? Muldaur wondered, but the thought cost him. Instantly the giant relief map of Asterask projected on the uber-dome flickered and shifted. A cascade of sparkling red points dominated the dark continent on the left side of the map.

Fuck! thought Muldaur.

A collective gasp emerged from 50,000 throats.

Crunch time, Muldaur told himself. He pulled off his ear buds. His left hand clicked the mouse furiously, dispatching Raffers to guerilla up on the Mialtrice invasion to the west, strengthening the infrastructure of mining and manufacturing operations to the east, moving workers away from the green agricultural lands of the south. The Mialtrice were not collectivists; the notion of suicide attackers who might sacrifice their own lives for the communal good was alien to them. Correctly timed, this could be the pull-ahead.

In the end, the strategy worked. Precisely two hours and fourteen minutes into the game, Muldaur succeeded in surrounding the Mialtrice Dominatrix. She quietly imploded, and the red dots on the giant map pulsated and swirled, flashing out one by one.

Applause from 50,000 spectators sounds something like the waves of a Category 5 hurricane breaking against a beach.

The first video jockey to corner Muldaur backstage was a cisgender female with yellow hair and large, pillowy breasts. She positioned herself so the front of her breasts in their thin ruby-colored chamois covering brushed lightly against the back of Muldaur’s neck.

“You did it!” she declared hoarsely.

“I guess,” said Muldaur mildly.

“But – I mean – no one has everHow do you feel?

“Okay,” said Muldaur. “I guess. Hey. Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure!”

“I mean, it’s a little embarrassing, but –“

“Anything!”

“Do you know what a corn cob is?”

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So-o, yesterday was a complete wash, literally and figuratively: A chilly rain fell throughout most of the day. I did necessary chores but found myself incapable of engaging mentally in any way. I did absolutely no remunerative work but instead watched several episodes of Foyle’s War and imagined what it might have been like to live in wartime Britain.

As young people we have a distorted view of history, I suppose because we recognize its irrelevance. What matters is now! We have always been at war with Eastasia.

I was born a mere seven and a half years after World War II ended – roughly the same interval between now and the beginning of the subprime mortgage crisis that catapulted the U.S. into a mini-Depression. To people born this year, I suppose the subprime mortgage crisis will seem irrelevant.

I remember reading some John Lennon biographical memorabilia in which Lennon talks dismissively about World War II vets, how boring and irrelevant they were – Yes, yes, yes. Always thus.

We never understand the events that shaped our parents’ generation. In fact, we actively disapprove of them.

Foyle’s War does a very good job of showing that British victory was by no means a foregone conclusion. In fact, in 1940 and 1941 – right up to the Battle of Stalingrad in which 1.5 million soldiers died – imagine that! A million and a half corpses!!!!! – it was seeming increasingly unlikely that the Brits would prevail against Hitler.

In the afternoon, I accompanied L to a Christmas craft fair at a local high school.

Because of the weird way I was brought up, Christmas craft fairs in suburban high schools seem very exotic to me, understand. So wandering around one sets off the same neurons that would be activated if I happened to find myself in a market in Western Bhutan. (Bhutan, by the way, is the only country in the world which uses Gross National Happiness as an economic indicator.)

Nonetheless, this Christmas craft fair made me sick to my stomach. I think that had something to do with the fluorescent lighting in the gymnasium where it was taking place.

I did retail therapy. Bought several pairs of extraordinarily beautiful earrings for myself. Bought this scarf made of iridescent strands of fabric for the Future Mother of My Unborn Grandchildren. It shimmers when you wear it. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I’d wear it myself except I’m too old and crone-like to get away with that.

Went to bed early. Woke up early. And here I am. Another Day. The great Western philosopher Scarlett O’Hara is fond of reminding us that another day will always come.

Rain and Fatigue

I was sitting in the middle of the Tax-Aide class, being droned at about railroad pensions and early IRA disbursements when I could feel it moving toward me – like a fast-moving fog bank or something. Depression. Peggy Lee setting up for the mike check in my corpus callosum: Is That All There Is?

Part of it was that thing that always happens when you exceed escape velocity for some brief interval of time and then gravity reclaims you. Trip – over. Now what?

Part of it was that I don’t want to be doing tax returns for rich white retirees who can’t be bothered with HR Block. I want to be doing tax returns for working class families for whom the $1,500 or so they get back from their earned income credit. It’s bizarre to me that Dutchess County -- which certainly has its fair share of poverty -- doesn’t sponsor any such program. I suppose if I pass this certifying test (by no means a foregone conclusion) and stick around Dutchess County for another couple of years (see previous qualifier), I could set one up.



It’s raining. It will rain all day. I have a ton of things to do. Necessary chores and money-making activities. I don’t want to do any of them. I’m tired. Not sure whether this is legitimate lack of sleep or the fact that I went to see It’s a Wonderful Life at the Culinary Institute last night – a rather bizarre partnership with a regional theater troupe because CIA has this huge building that they don’t know what to do with – and there was a dessert reception after a play. At a certain point, all those tiramisus, and gorgeous layerings of tapioca and mango, and hand-crafted chocolates, and lighter-than-air biscuits start to taste alike – cloying and sweet. I did have fun, but I kinda had to force myself.

I want to write about the trip, but I’m braindead.