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

Raymond Chandler in "Double Jeopardy"




A rare image of Raymond Chandler, one of the best composers of dialogue, metaphor and demotic detail in the American language. True, he sucked at plots…

Chandler is the guy who isn’t Fred MacMurray.

Still is from Double Indemnity, which is still the movie by which all other film noir must be judged and found wanting.

Chandler wrote the film with director Billy Wilder. Wilder originally wanted James Caine’s dialogue from the serialized novel; it was Chandler who pointed out that the dialogue wouldn’t work on film. Most of the film’s terrific dialogue is Chandler:

Walter Neff: You'll be here too?
Phyllis: I guess so, I usually am.
Walter Neff: Same chair, same perfume, same anklet?
Phyllis: I wonder if I know what you mean.
Walter Neff: I wonder if you wonder.

Walter Neff: I couldn't hear my own footsteps. It was the walk of a dead man.


From Chandler's memo to the studio execs:

Mr. Wilder was at no time to swish under Mr. Chandler's nose or point in his direction the thin, leather-handled Malacca cane which Mr. Wilder was in the habit of waving around while they worked. Mr. Wilder was not to give Mr. Chandler orders of an arbitrary or personal nature such as 'Ray, will you open that window?' or 'Ray, will you shut that door, please?'

Chandler ended up writing all sorts of nasty things about Wilder in his autobiography, too, but I suspect Wilder was actually rather fond of Chandler, as evidenced by the fact that he used Chandler as an extra in this scene.

Chandler kind of looks like an actuary, doesn’t he?

I always figured that Chandler named Philip Marlowe after the narrator in Heart of Darkness.

###


Watched Double Indemnity after spending the day at the Dutchess County Fair. I love county fairs! Strolled the 4H buildings, saw baby goats, milk cows, horses, truculent hogs. Watched a tractor pull and a kind of canine Special Olympics. Ate Grange-made fudge, watched a 150 year old turbine grind cement and a titanic soybean carbine thresh soybean stalks. Stalked the midway, neon Treasure Island!

Money came on time, too, so as of this morning, I am solidly back in the middle class.

I’m gonna celebrate by getting a hair cut and a manicure, and buying one of those nifty bed sitting pillows from Bed, Bath and Beyond.

LJ Idol Entry: Week 18: Disinformation

At noon on August 9, an 18 year old man was shot dead in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson. His ostensible crime? Jaywalking.

According to Missouri State law, pedestrians must use sidewalks if sidewalks are present.

The man was black; the community is two-thirds black.

The police officer was white.

The kid’s name was Michael “Big Mike” Brown.

A few minutes before the shooting, a man went into a nearby convenience store and walked out with a box of Swisher Sweet cigars without paying for them. When the clerk tried to stop him, the man pushed the clerk out of his way. A surveillance camera captured the interaction.

(Swisher Sweets, by the way, can best be characterized as nicotine Jolly Ranchers. They are beyond awful.)

The lawyer retained by Big Mike’s family has conceded that the thief in the video appears to be Big Mike. The lawyer’s name is Benjamin Crump. He also represented the family of Trayvon Martin.

The retail value of a box of Swisher Sweet cigars is $48.99.

The robbery was reported; the dispatcher radioed it in about ten minutes before the shooting incident took place.

That’s what we know.

After that, the storylines begin to diverge according to which witness you’re talking to.

###


The officer who shot Big Mike may have heard the dispatch.

Initially, the Ferguson Police Chief reported that the cop was responding to the robbery dispatch.

Afterwards, the Ferguson Police Chief revised his statement.

###


The friend accompanying Big Mike was a 22 year old named Dorian Johnson. The pair were on their way to Johnson’s house.

The cop pulled up in his car.

“Get the fuck out of the street !” he screamed at the men. Or maybe, “Get the fuck on the sidewalk.”

The two men refused.

The officer started to drive off. Changed his mind. Backed up, almost hitting the men. “What did you say?” the officer asked and began opening the door of his car. The car was so close to the two men that the door bounced off Big Mike and hit the officer as he was attempting to get out of the car.

Johnson saw the officer grab Big Mike by the neck. Big Mike tried to pull away. “I’ll shoot you,” said the officer.

A gun was fired.

The two men started running.

The cop chased after them and fired again, hitting Big Mike.

Big Mike turned around with his hands in the air, the universal posture of Dude! I’m unarmed!

The cop kept firing.

According to the medical examiner’s report, Big Mike was shot six times in total. The teenager was likely bending over when the last shot was fired because the bullet penetrated the very top of his head. This is the shot that killed him.

###


The cop says Big Mike assaulted him as he was attempting to get out of his car, that Big Mike lunged for the cop’s weapon. According to the St. Louis County Police Chief, the first shot went off inside the cop’s car.

The cop was later treated for minor injuries at a local hospital. He’s been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation into the incident.

Six days after Big Mike died, the cop was identified as Darren Wilson, a six year veteran of the force with no disciplinary actions on his record.

Wilson will have to undergo psychiatric evaluations before he is cleared to go back to work. Two of them.

###


There were other eyewitnesses at the scene. Two women named Tiffany Mitchell and Piaget Crenshaw. They saw Big Mike and cop in some sort of physical altercation. The teenager was attempting to extricate himself, and he was using the police car to push himself loose. After the first shot, the two young men took off running. Crenshaw says the men were 20 feet away from the car when the cop got out of his car, firing. Big Mike’s body jerked as though he’d been hit and he turned around with his hands up.

Wilson kept firing.

I can’t find any information on how many times Wilson actually fired his gun. Some witnesses report hearing as many as ten shots.

A second cop car arrived at the scene within minutes of the shooting, followed by a supervisor’s car and an ambulance that was on its way to some place else.


###


A news conference was held the next morning. Yes, Michael Brown had been unarmed, the St. Louis County Police Chief announced, but he’d been reaching for Wilson’s gun. (Cue song from the musical Chicago.) This had caused a shot to go off inside the car.

This is the point where the cop storyline starts to go dinky for me. Wilson was allegedly inside the car when the initial shot went off? Other witnesses report that the physical altercation took place around the car but that Wilson got out of the car as he continued firing? Huh? Did Wilson go back inside the car and then get out again? And if so, why? To radio for backup? To grab his gun? But wouldn’t Wilson have been wearing his gun?

Can you have a fight with someone if you’re sitting behind the wheel of a car and they’re standing next to a car? I mean, yeah, you can get punched in the face, get really pissed off, get out of the car, start shooting. Is that what happened?

Because that’s the only way the facts can be strung together that makes any kind of sense to me.

Getting punched in the face is not a good thing. But I don't think it justifies drawing a gun.

###


In the evening following the afternoon Big Mike Brown was killed, a candlelit vigil was held in protest. The vigil turned violent: A dozen or so small businesses were vandalized and looted; more than 30 arrests were made. Two cops were injured.

The next morning, a crowd of several hundred protestors gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department. Seven more arrests were made.

That evening, a crowd gathered on West Florrisant Avenue, the heart of Ferguson’s commercial district. Tear gas was used to disburse the crowd. Many more arrests were made. In response to protestor demands, the Ferguson Police Chief announced that the name of the cop who killed Michael Brown would not be released. (He reversed this decision two days later.)

The next day, Reverend Al Sharpton appeared on the scene.

Whenever Reverend Al appears and Jesse Jackson comes tumbling after him, you can be confident you’ve entered another dimension. Call it the Disinformation Zone.

The protests continued, escalating in scale and violence, but they suffered because they were now taking place inside the Disinformation Zone.

###


Disinformation is essentially another word for propaganda. Information that’s either highly selective or outright false, intentionally designed to mislead.

The facts in the Michael Brown shooting are disputed. In the information vacuum, two divergent Big Mike Brown narratives have emerged. One paints him as a gentle giant, a recent high school graduate, two days away from starting college.

michael-brown-ferguson-04

The other paints him as an aspiring thug flashing gang signs.





michael-brown-ferguson-pic-05

I suspect both narratives contain elements of truth. And elements of falsehood.

I’d be scared if I saw Big Mike bopping down the street in my direction. If the sun was starting to go down, I’d probably cross the street, possibly duck into a store. Just like President Obama’s grandma.

‘Course I’d cross the street if it was a white kid, too.

That's just the reality of being an elderly female in the US of A these days.

But I’d be equally as scared by Officer Darren Wilson, though I probably wouldn’t cross the street to avoid him. Cops terrify me! What if one caught me jaywalking?

They're bullies. Just like Big Mike.

###


Honestly, I don’t know why cops aren’t required by law to videotape each and every one of their interactions with the public. This would seem to be the most effective means of protecting the public from police violence and protecting police against unfounded accusations of police brutality.

In the absence of such a tape, it’s not possible to know exactly what happened in the Michael Brown case.

I’m inclined to fault Darren Wilson, though.

I’ve been in Missouri.

Obviously, no cop should shoot an unarmed individual even once let alone six times. For any reason.

And equally obviously, no cop should ever bait an individual, knowing that said individual is likely to respond violently.

No cop should ever snarl at a citizen whose taxes are either paying his/her salary or will be at some point in the future, “Get the fuck out of the street.”

That’s a setup. Respect is a very big issue for teens. Teens have an inflated sense of honor that wouldn’t be out of place at King Arthur’s court. Disrespect a teen, and you are practically handing him or her an engraved invitation: The Ferguson Police Department requests you to push the boundaries…

We can’t know for sure, of course, that Wilson framed his command using these words. That’s Dorian Johnson’s story, but Johnson has reasons to dissemble.

I’m inclined to believe him, though.

Because, like I said, I’ve spent time in Missouri.

But of course that’s me, using facts I can’t verify, to frame a narrative that can't be proven.

Pushing my own brand of disinformation, in other words..

Forty Percent on a Scale of One Hundred



Finished Cloud Atlas on a bench in Promenade Hill Park overlooking Claverack Landing, an old nucleus of swampy clover fields.

In 1783, a group of enterprising Nantucket merchants bought Claverack Landing lock, stock and barrel and renamed it “Hudson:” The Revolutionary War had essentially shut down the whaling industry along the New England coast, and the merchants were looking for safer enclaves in which to render their great decaying whale carcasses.

The merchants laid symmetrical grids over the farmland and created a town. Hudson is actually the last town on the Hudson River that still uses its 18th century city plan. After the 13 colonies won their independence, Hudson became the first city to be incorporated in the new United States.

For the next 60 years or so, Hudson became a whaling port (though even at its peak, its fleets were never the equal of New England’s.) By the 1840s, though, kerosene had replaced whale blubber as lamp fuel, and the railroads had been built. Hudson transformed itself into a distribution hub for the coal mined in Pennsylvania to points north. Textile mills sprang up, and the dolomite hills were ground down for cement. There were brickworks and ironworks, and a huge ice harvesting industry.

Hudson was also known for its red light district. By the 1920s, it had 15 whorehouses – all under the municipal protection of Hudson’s mayor and police department. Trains carried lascivious daytrippers from New York City and Boston. The town also became a center for bootlegging and high stakes, Nathan Detroit-style floating poker games, as well as a distribution center for illegal Canadian whiskey.

The whorehouse operations continued well into the 1950s when New York governor Thomas E. Dewey staged a massive raid.

And then the town just stopped.

Until some time in the 1980s when it was rediscovered by antique dealers.

The hipsters soon followed.

I must say, the town does have one of the most gorgeous collections of architecture I’ve ever seen – huge number of 18th century Federal-style houses side-by-side with Greek revivalists, Beaux Arts marble edifices, classic Victorians, Arts and Crafts cottages etc etc etc. It’s a very pretty town.

Yet, something about Hudson is intensely off-putting.

My internal woo-woo-woo alarms were on high alert. When a place has really bad vibes, I generally find it difficult to walk – like the air has turned to molasses or something. I literally had to struggle to walk up and down Warren Street past the antique galleries, the trendy restaurants, the Scandinavian skin treatment centers, the French patisseries with ovens imported brick by brick from the Loire River Valley etc.

In fact, the whole place reminded me of one of those Ray Bradbury Martian towns, Norman Rockwell scenes come to life, designed to ensnare nostalgic astronauts.

Except Hudson is designed to ensnare hipsters.

###


My favorite Cloud Atlas storyline was Robert Frobisher. I want to write more about Cloud Atlas, which is a brilliant, amazing novel, but I have to let my thoughts settle.

###


Also this week, met Kacinda when she accompanied her Dad down to Dutchess for her sister’s wedding. Kassie is the daughter who inherited Barbara’s madness. The other sister is the “normal” sister.

When I’d asked Chris about Kassie’s diagnosis the week before, he said he didn’t know. When I met her, though, it was clear that she is a high-functioning (for which read: highly medicated) schizophrenic. Kind of sad. Kassie’s really intelligent, a talented graphic artist and writer, and would be quite pretty if the meds she’s on hadn’t ballooned her up to 200 plus pounds.

She sent me one of her short stories. I was impressed. It’s much better than most of the stuff I’ve been reading on LJ Idol. She has a pretty distinct voice.

She knows how crazy she is, too, and you can see her struggling to keep balance. Funny thing, though, is that if she’s 100 percent on the craziness scale, I’m around 40 percent on that same scale – I could follow her thought processes so well that at a certain point, when she began talking about “Source,” I had to reel myself back because I realized I was giving her too much positive reinforcement for “Source,” the crazy voices in her mind. But really, how is “Source” that much different from the thickening of the atmosphere that I perceive as an actual physical phenomenon when I walk around in places like Hudson? It’s only a matter of degree.

Also Ellie, the Air B&B guest, showed up last night. She’s an up and coming young historian, on tenure track at a Chicago university with an impressive resume of publications, working on a book about the commoditization of higher education. Researching the GI bill at the FDR library down the block. Right up my alley, right? We spent two hours or so gabbing about economics. She’s incredibly gorgeous, too, so I got to exercise all my Sapphic lusts!!

Free Market Failure

I have a friend – some of you have him, too – who is brilliant, funny, empathetic, generous, and so self-destructive that he makes Nicolas Cage in Leaving Los Vegas look like Mr. Rogers and Under the Volcano read like Mother Goose.

He was the first person I texted when I heard about Robin Williams. Last night, he finally texted me back. Fifteen or so times.

I keep very odd hours. I generally get up around four in the morning, which means I’m usually fast asleep by nine o’clock at night. Last night, I had insomnia: Bad Date from last weekend is trying to get me to see Guardians of the Galaxy with him. All this requires is a simple No, you’re thinking. And that’s absolutely true. But I kept being haunted by Bad Date’s face in repose last weekend, his expression when he didn’t know I was looking at him – how sad he looked. How deflated. Plus he had my phone number. So I turned off my phone and didn’t get my brilliant, self-destructive friend’s texts till this morning.

(Instead I watched multiple episodes of Friday Night Lights. That Riggins. Is he a hunk or what?)

What to do?
Libertarianism isn’t just a political leaning for me. It’s a deeply entrenched personal philosophy. Not to worry: I’m not one of those Ayn Rand liberatarians! I believe that governments have a moral obligation to intervene when the free market fails, and that the free markets fail all the time. I just don’t believe in government intervention until the free market fails. But I hate telling people what to do. And I hate being told what to do.

So you can imagine what a difficult dilemma was posed when I read this from my brilliant, self-destructive friend (hereafter to be referred to as BS-DF): I’m really broken up. Not because HE did it, but because it’s been so close on my mind. Of late. At least I mowed the lawn, yeah?

In a psychology class I once took as an undergraduate back in Cretaceous times, I did a paper on the rhetorical differences between real suicide notes and fake suicide notes. It got complicated! Because, of course, some fake suicides turn into real suicides. And some real suicides are thwarted.

But basically, when someone is talking about killing himself/herself and it’s actually a gesture designed to get a head start on funeral planning by pinning down the the guest list, the suicide notes they write are little stories, displaying linear thinking and good grammar.

Whereas, when people are serious about hitting the Off Button, their notes are rambling and have no linear thread.

BS-DF’s texts made no sense.

Yeah, yeah. He was very drunk.

Still…

I called him after texting him, How drunk are you? Because I can’t talk to you if you’re drunk.

Summary of our 40 minute phone conversation: DUDE. You don’t know how difficult this phone call is for me to make but YOU NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP.

It’s like when I got so sick four summers ago. I came down with the flu or something and spent four days throwing up everything that went into my stomach, water even. I was amazingly dehydrated and weak and trembling all over and still vomiting every 15 minutes. And it finally began to occur to me, Hey! This is serious. I better go to the ER!

And the minute B showed up to take me to the ER, I began to slip out of consciousness.

I don’t know whether the decision to seek help gives one permission to let go or if sensing oneself letting go is the impetus to seek help. I suppose like just about everything else, it’s a feedback loop and an irrelevant distinction in functional terms.

Of course, BS-DF played Yes, but – Yes, but – on the phone.

So my phone call was for naught.

I am seriously frightened for him.

Tags:

Missing

I know it seems unlikely that space aliens came down in the middle of the night and stole my reading glasses, but they’re not where I stashed them last night, they’re no place else, and really, what other explanation could there be?


Apparently, Robin Williams had serious money problems.

This is the point where I make the joke that anybody faced with the prospect of making Mrs. Doubtfire II would kill himself.

And if it was anybody but Robin Williams who’d killed himself, you'd probably laugh. Or at least suppress the urge to laugh because, you know, suicide is serious, not funny, and if you feel the urge to harm yourself, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately etc etc etc.

(In fact, if I didn’t know better, I might suspect Williams’ death was a hit, planned by the Suicide Prevention Hotline, because so many people on Facebook are rattling off that phone number.)

This is the last known photo taken of Williams. He’s feeding a monkey at the San Francisco Zoo.

I know the San Francisco Zoo very well. While my mother was dying of cancer, I used to spend a lot of time there. Hang out with my mother as she chain-smoked cigarette after cigarette on her death bed.

And then escape to the San Francisco Zoo half a mile away for half hour or so. Wander around the cages, wondering who had it better: the caged animals or my dying mother?

Before returning to my mother’s.

I went there so often, I ended up buying a zoo membership.

###


He hanged himself. Like Don Levy. Like Justin.

I get suicide, by the way.

I disapprove of it less than is socially acceptable these days.

The generally accepted theory is that suicide is a symptom – one might say, an incurable symptom – of depression, and that depression is a biochemical disease. The brain is an interesting organ in that it’s more susceptible than other physiological systems to feedback loops. Thus, theoretically at least, depression can be alleviated by social validation (fame, fortune), exercise, full spectrum sunlight, and random acts of kindness as well as by drugs.

But I think there’s also a spiritual aspect to depression. Since we live in an age in which many intelligent people dismiss the spiritual (abandoning control of that realm to lunatics, fundamentalist fanatics, and preachers named Billy Bob, thereby engendering a feedback loop that reinforces their distaste), the spiritual dimensions of depression are seldom considered.

To me, depression is Jesus on the cross crying out in that ninth hour: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Which, interestingly enough, is a direct quote from Psalm 22, which in toto, reads like the transcription of a paranoid schizophrenic’s hallucinations, complete with tartive dyskinesia:

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels… My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death… For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet… I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.

How do you know whether your internal crisis is fueled by brain chemicals or a lapse in your relationship with God?

Well.

I don’t think you ever do.

But the surcease for spiritual crisis is redemption.

And redemption is a process that begins with self forgiveness. Not self punishment.

That’s what so many people get wrong.

###


I’m a funny person. Verbally funny. I don’t prance around with lampshades on my head or anything. But if you hang out with me, you’re likely to laugh at least once during the time we spend together. Out loud. Ha, ha, ha. My mind just naturally drifts into those reductio ad absurdum riffs our culture defines as "humor."

If I’m playing to an appreciative audience of sympathetic friends or hopped up on alcohol or drugs, I’m even funnier still.

I could never stand up on a stage and be funny. I tried doing open mikes a few times during the 1970s, the same period when I regularly hung out at the Other Café, the Holy City Zoo and similar San Francisco comedy venues. (My friends all went to rock concerts; I preferred comedy shows.) I sucked. I was beyond awful when confronted by a live audience of people I didn’t know.

Thing about being funny is that there’s always a refractory period. (In neuroscience, the refractory period is that time when neuronal membranes have depleted all their electrolytes so transport channels don’t work and the neuron is incapable of firing.)

During such refractory periods, really, all you can do is lie around and watch The Real Housewives of New York. Sadly, though, in the 1970s, when I was interested in performing, Andy Cohen was in elementary school and Sonja Morgan was still practicing BJ techniques on bananas. So really, the only option for refractory period recovery that was open to me was to do lots and lots of drugs.

Which I did.

And so did Robin Williams.

###


The scientist in me wants to go back in time with contemporary technology. Hook Robin Williams at the Holy City Zoo up to some kind of sophisticated resonance imaging machine. Watch the Christmas tree lights in his brain explode as wave after wave of comic genius pours forth from him.

Stands to reason that neurons that fired as fast and for as long as his did would have a prolonged refractory period, right? Hence a physiological basis for deep, deep depression, what flaxendandelion rather beautifully describes as the inner deficit: the outer surplus.

Of course, you could feed Robin Williams Prozac and that would temper, if not eliminate, his depression.

But his depression was the flip side of a coin. If his depression was tails, his genius was heads. I don’t think you could “cure” his depression without ruining his genius.

So much for the medical fix.

For many years, Williams tried to modulate the bad chemicals with exercise. He was a demon cyclist for a long stretch there. I imagine he had to cut back after his heart surgery.

I think religion might have done the trick for him, actually. Something like Graham Green’s Catholicism.

But I must hold that thought for now and toddle off to do some imitation of Meaningful Work.

Aug. 11th, 2014

Oh, my God. Robin Williams. I feel like someone just punched me hard in the jaw.

The most brilliant stage performer ever. I saw him so many times at the Holy City Zoo when he was just starting out in standup back in the 1970s. He had an amazing ability to riff effortlessly, seemingly unscripted, for hours. He was the most brilliant improv artist in the history of the universe.

Terrible, terrible loss.

I suppose like his idol Jonathan Winters, he was bipolar. And Peggy Lee was perched in his supramarginal gyrus, singing her siren song: Is that all there is?

Damn, damn, damn, damn.

Damn.

LJ Idol Entry: Week 17: Scare quotes

"Oregano"

----

Pasadera finally filed for Chapter 11 yesterday. Lead story in the fish wrap of the quaint-and-scenic California town where I lived for a decade (which I still read online.) Piece didn’t mention New Cities Development Group by name, but I imagine they’ll be dissolving soon, too.

Poor boy from East Oakland’s dreams of joining the landed gentry class – poof! Up in smoke. The Great Gatsby really is the seminal American plotline.

Of course by the time I met Buddy Newell, he’d been out of East Oakland for a long time. Trajectory went like this: East Oakland, basketball scholarship to UCLA, Boalt Law School, Tax Attorney, Land Developer. I didn’t exactly like Buddy Newell but I respected him because he made his money, he didn’t inherit it. I would have done a much better job spending that money, of course, particularly when it came to the Newells’ Carmel Valley mansion which if I may say so was fug-lee though large – very, very large – I once got lost trying to find a bathroom. But the place looked like a display model for an upscale housing tract, decorated in that high-end Southwestern décor that no matter how expensive it might be ends up looking like it came straight from Pier One. In a word: bor-ring.

Plus there wasn’t a single book in that whole house.

I had occasion to go to the Newells’ mansion often: Their son Travers was one of Max’s best friends at All Saints (middle school) and later at Robert Louis Stevenson (high school.) It was a friendship I didn’t understand until years later. Max and Travers were on the same football team, and the same basketball team. They both had opposable thumbs. Other than that… They didn’t have a thing in common that I could see. Max, though obnoxious the way all teenage boys are obnoxious, still had moments when his underlying personality came through. Travers didn’t have a personality as far as I could tell. He was a handsome rich kid whose eyes didn’t register a single thing he saw.

I’d taken Max out of the public school system in the 6th grade because I’d ID’d him as having a huge potential to get into trouble (read: start doing drugs.) He was my son, after all. Plus his stepbrother Beau had been in and out of rehab a couple of times by then, and I knew Max and Beau were tight whenever Max went down to Southern California to see his dad.

As it turned out I was a deluded idiot.

I’d wanted to put him back in the public school system for high school, but by then he’d made friends, and he wanted to stay with them. And he’s always been brilliant academically so RLS was willing to give him a sizeable scholarship.

Mr. Crane was his history teacher at All Saints. I’d always liked Mr. Crane a great deal – he was a Civil War enactor and had real passion for the subject he taught as well as the Shakespeare plays he directed once a year. In his senior year, Max played Malvolio in Twelfth Night – an inspired bit of casting, I must say, for any of us who’d ever read anything Max wrote. He’s since become a very good writer, but in those days his axiom was: Never use a short word when three convoluted polysyllables will do.

Mr. Crane had always maintained a highly skeptical attitude towards Max which surprised and upset me, because I liked Mr. Crane so much.

One night on one of Max’s first trips home from Deep Springs, we ran into Mr. Crane at an Indian restaurant. Mr. Crane had been fired by All Saints the year after Max graduated. All Saints had a new head mistress; she had a major stick up her ass.

Mr. Crane was certainly overjoyed to see Max. “So good to see you, Max! What are you doing?”

Max explained about Deep Springs.

“I was just thinking about you the other day,” said Mr. Crane. “You’re everything I miss about teaching. I’m so glad you turned out well.”

As we walked away from the restaurant, Max chuckled and said, “Mr. Crane! Remember when Travers and I got busted with the oregano?”

I remembered very well. In the 8th grade Travers and Max had been discovered in one of All Saints' bathrooms with a baggie full of oregano. They were trying to smoke it.

“I do indeed. Oregano! You guys were such innocents.”

Max laughed. “Oh, Mom. We had the oregano there as a decoy. We were smoking a joint, and when we heard Mr. Crane coming we flushed it down the toilet. Only of course he smelled it so he knew.”

“You what?”

“He knew we’d be kicked out of school, so he covered for us. But he told me, ‘I’ll be watching you like a hawk.’”

The reason Max hung out so much at the Newell mansion was because the Newell mansion was Party Central apparently, so large that even though Buddy and Susie Newell were nominally in residence, they never interfered with the boys’ drinking and drugging. The reason Travers acted like a zombie who never made eye contact was because from the 10th grade on, he was addicted to oxycontin.

The odd thing about this was that Buddy coached the basketball team Max and his son were on… and never noticed his son’s addiction.

"Oregano"!

Tags:

Second date not so successful as the first. Pants still tightly zipped and likely to remain so.

For one thing, he kept calling me “Pat.”

And then he’d say, “I can call you ‘Pat,’ right?”

And I kept repeating variations on, Well, no, you can’t.

Meaning, Well, yeah, you can. I don’t have a gun or anything to force nomenclatural compliance. But that’s not my name.

The fourth time he called me “Pat,” I said, “You know, I go by my full name. Yes, yes – very pretentious of me. But it’s my name, and I really like it.”

My name is Patrizia. Italian variant of the name “Patricia.” It’s not actually all that hard to pronounce: pa-TREETS-ee-uh. It’s not like Mr. Mxyzptlk from the old Superman canon, or Moon Unit Zappa, or Tyquoneisheaqua (pronounced “ty-quon-ish-EE-kwa”), the name of an actual patient I once had a billion years or so ago when I was a nurse in Highland Hospital’s ER.

I do have various affectionate nicknames. My immediate family and friends of over 25 years duration call me “Patty.” Tom used to call me “Z” or “Z-girl.” Mark used to call me “Treetz,” a nickname I passed along for use to Clark. Well-ites call me “pdil” (pronounced “pa-dill” or “pee-dill.”)

But Pat?

Never, never, never.

So that was a mild but persistent irritant.

The brighter red flag was the virulence with which he talked about his X-wife.

Dating note for all those guys out there in the television audience: Don’t put down your X-wife in front of someone you’re auditioning for the role! Or rather, if you must put her down, use some subtlety about it. Do so in a way that explains why you wasted 19 years of your life married to this abusive, ball-breaking sociopath.

He was telling me his life story. Once upon a time, he professed journalism at a Long Island university. As a white male with an MFA and no PhD, he stood zilch chances of scoring tenure plus all the other people in his department were gay and didn’t like him – he really said that! Red flag, red flag, red flag! So, he decided to write a true crime book, and since he couldn’t profess journalism and write at the same time –

“But lots of people write and teach at the college level at the same time,” I said.

“Well, I couldn't," he said. "I had to do a lot of research at the scene. Anyway, to say she was not supportive is an understatement –“

“Well. I mean. Did you discuss it with her?”

“She wasn’t working!” he said. “I had to keep borrowing against the house to maintain our lifestyle! She refused to work!”

Okay. Well, I could understand the frustration behind that complaint since for the largest chunk of our time together, B didn’t work either and I was the one pickaxing the daily salt. It gets to be a horrible grind, engendering deep, corrosive resentments.

On the other hand, when you’re married to someone and you’re contemplating a change of livelihood, you need to discuss that before you actually move ahead. It needs to be a mutual decision because, well, you’re married.

I understand that too, because in 2006 or 2007 (I’m hopeless with dates), B announced one day that he would be gone for the next three months or so because he was joining the circus!

Leaving me utterly alone to manage the house, the animals, and the Little Store.

B didn’t understand how this could possibly be an issue for me.

“She was totally unsupportive of me!” Prospective Beau raged. “She has never even read a single book I’ve written!”

Well. Yes. Passive aggression is like acid. Absolutely the most corrosive stuff you can pour on any human relationship. Your relationship has a far better chance of recovering if you go after each other with sledge hammers than if you refuse to kiss your partner goodnight because he’s used the wrong kind of garbage bag liners, or has decided to jeopardize your life style by quitting his job and becoming a writer, and you want to punish him.

Anyway, I was a bit dazed after the x-wife rant and the they-got-rid-of-me-because-they-were-gay-and-I-wasn’t rant.

(Earth to Prospective Suitor: Honestly! Gay people aren’t looking to round heterosexuals up and put them in forced breeding camps or anything. Trust me on this one.)

Then he started another rant about how the people at his synagogue drove him out after his divorce: “I thought they were my friends. They weren’t.”

And I thought, Yeah, one of the unfortunate consequences of divorce is that bystanders seem to feel compelled to take sides –

Still and all. This was his third iteration of a situation in which the world had conspired against him.

Maybe the world knew something that I didn’t.

At this point, we’d spent three hours together, which seemed to me to be a reasonable length of time so that he wouldn’t take umbrage if I said goodbye.

Came home and cooked manicotti. Grandma Fiore’s recipe.

Unlikely that I would want to have sex with this guy.

He’s entertaining enough when he sticks to non-autobiographical subjects and I would like to be friends with him. If that’s possible. I’m not sure it is. One way or another, whether we have the Let’s be friends conversation or I rebuff a physical overture, I’m pretty sure that I end up as one of the taxidermied Castrating Bitch heads lining the walls of his inner mental sanctum.

I dunno.

I really would like to be coupled again. I liked being married. I enjoy the cozy intimacy of domestic life. I like the thought that there’s one person on this planet who tracks me and who has my back.

But it’s seeming increasingly unlikely that this will happen for me.

And somehow that’s got to be all right.

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