He’s digging my grave For the dragon he pays With our nest, now shaved Tumbling into the abyss I visit the comfort robes of the past Monogrammed in stone
The will to relive what’s past comes at night
And must be excluded by daylight.
Of HUMAN BONDAGE
The sky hasn’t decided if it will let clouds overturn the sun, and I haven’t decided if I will pack the stack of books on the floor. No, I don’t feel the drive to lift and organize, my bed is warm and the house is not as warm.
I brought my coffee and peanut butter and honey toast upstairs, on a tray, I happen to collect trays, reminiscent of times when women ate breakfast in bed. Propped upright, I explored a movie about uneven love, tragedy, and resurrection. Of Human Bondage lit my taste, featuring Bette Davis and Leslie Howard. —– FILM MADE IN 1930 IN GRISLY BLACK & WHITE. Uneven love. Days now remind me of reading 1984 in high school, and Fahrenheit 451 on film. We did evolve from a simplistic, hand-carved culture, built on rebars of freedom to a house full of furniture, relics, gadgets, screens, gates, and beeps. The beeps for me, make me jumpy, not seductively strolling around my apartment lighting candles in peace. I really do shimmy every time I hear the beep. I chose Sunday to shut down all communication with the mainland, take the longest bath I can stand, and write. I need a rest, like a chaise lounge on a spacious veranda with honeysuckle, wisteria, and lavender, and then a mile away is the ocean, let me swim again.
I feel artists, and their works are not featured in the media, or maybe it’s because my scrolling is stuck on the essentials of living. In times of war, people must have known, see it now or never. Over two million working artists in the country, so google says, and when was the last time you discussed it at dinner, with anyone. I haven’t, and I don’t know why? Pop-up thoughts on life.
Writing somberly so if you’re not in a dreary mood, skip reading. Somber writing is akin to writer’s block. It’s not a block really more like a disregard of hallelujah holidays, maybe. Disinterest in shopping, village festivals, parties, writing, dancing, and eating. If I place all the options on a puzzle board, this leads to the center. The vortex of discontent is a punctured life.
A fractured life impacts emotional posture and is not unlike physical posture. We slump or stand tall. We love instead of neutralizing, we are inspired instead of stagnant, we romance our passions and we live to love. My heart is at the starting gate to love again, but the racetrack is missing. I’m undercover. I watch Blacklist or some foreign film in the evening. Most weekdays I’m circulating between finance, selling furnishings online, and writing.
The windows of my home reflect the splendor of nature that plays all day long in the winter. I’m spending more time watching sky stage plays: clouds still, clouds moving, colliding, changing colors, sculpted into aberrations of animals and faces, than cognitive thinking. The scenery is accompanied by my collection of records and CDs. Thank you to all my musician friends for the gift of mood enhancement. When I’m sorrowful I listen to Ennio Morricone, when I need a lift, Vivaldi, Sundays it is Turandot or some other Opera, and when I’m a go-go girl, Swing, Salsa or The Stones, when I feel alone, Sarah Vaughn, Nancy Wilson, and Etta James, for writing inspiration Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Annie Lenox .
I don’t see any remedy commercials for a fractured heart. By tomorrow the despair could vanish, like the rain that puddled us for the last two weeks.Everything I’ve experienced is good in the beginning. So, to begin the beginning, I’m going to listen to Begin the Beguine.
“Begin the Beguine” is a popular song written by Cole Porter. Porter composed the song between Kalabahi, Indonesia, and Fiji during a 1935 Pacific cruise aboard Cunard’s ocean liner Franconia. In October 1935, it was introduced by June Knight in the Broadway musical Jubilee, produced at the Imperial Theatre.
I’ve adopted a savant to facilitate making decisions. I don’t want to use the word hate, it’s useless, but this time I will, I hate making decisions. Whether to go out for dinner, or go to one of villages’ festivals, parades, or events, they rake up events during the winter to keep us off drugs. This weekend was a village-wide Friday sale for shopping, the lighted tractor parade, and appetizers at all the shops in town. Sounded pleasurable and I’m proud of the village to induct us into a community of we care about you. I didn’t go, but I did go out for Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant I’d never been to, festive crowded, and the tempting buffet twinkled like the first time I’d seen decorated food. It’s been five years since I’ve gone out for Thanksgiving so the jubilee of food was a bit musical. I ordered a glass of wine at the bar, the only customer as everyone had reserved tables for grandparents and children and the roar was melodious. My order to go would wait, the celebratory ambiance shattered my loneliness. The bartender, Jovida was like a lightbulb, she kept coming over to me maybe three times asking me polite questions, have you been here before, you must come on the weekends we have live music, while you’re having your wine can I bring you something from the buffet. I wondered if I’d be charged, she noticed my hesitation and said, No charge. So I choose smoked salmon, capers, onion, and horseradish. On m wish list if I’m allowed to eat in heaven, along with Gruyere cheese, tacos, salad, and croissants. The bliss, was a sandwich of bustlingeager activity, laughter, and the children. I remember our family Thanksgiving when my parents were divorced and we went to Nana’s home in San Fernando Valley, through that old tunnel. My mother’s mother is full-flecked Irish so the dinner was grand, and she was a dedicated cooking slave. She made mashed potatoes like I’ve never tasted since, and homemade pies, everything spiced with Nana’s kinship with making the family love her.
I left the restaurant after an hour later with a jubilant bag of turkey, fixings, and pumpkin pie. I found my seat on the bedroom sofa, and watched, ‘ The Train’ with Burt Lancaster. My thoughts were rested, abated for the whole evening, and then the next day, turkey revenge. I could not get out of bed, eat, or think. So I said to myself, it’s okay to do nothing and so I watched a romantic comedy, ‘ Cardboard Husband,’ with Norma Sherer and Robert Taylor, removed three-year-old lipstick and liners, shopped online without buying, saved for later my way of shopping. Then I threw the dice and I got seven. That is where my decisionsare now made. If I don’t get a seven with seven throws, I don’t go out or make a decision. If I get it once- I’m on!It was a perfect day for thanks. I think we should have a Thanksgiving Holiday three or four times a year.
Still flustering over how to save more money, and which expense she should solve; the dental appointment that’s six months overdue, the servicing of her car overdue since June, or elevated reasons to book a trip to San Diego. The urgency to decide sent her into a minor mid-afternoon tizzy and she decided she needed potato chips to solve her physical edginess. She does not use salt in her cooking, and from experimentation over the years realized that salt could elevate her dizzy thinking and lackluster posture. The momentary outdoor freshness stilted her, to stop moving, and breathe deeply like she was in the doctor’s office and they say, ‘ deep breath.’ The street is absent of walkers, workers, delivery trucks, and residents, it’s almost like a graveyard and this does not irritate Greta, she uses the bliss to engulf her creativity, and so she began to write.
PUZZLE OF SOLITUDEwill always be a puzzle because our lives, solo or mated, are puzzled by too much solitude, or not enough.
I contest what seems endless solitude with my Irish Russian temper; condemning irritants like street noise, absence of friends, short-tempered customer service reps, world news, and mindless tasks. After the first ice rain and snow, the fever dulled, and mindfulness triumphed. I imagined my basement of survival would sink. It did not. There is an inner exploration happening, unfolding like spreading new sheets on my bed, that solitude has befriended me all my life, in the best of times and the tedious. I have to find the frolic and follies in the world I created. I have to laugh alone so I watch screwball comedies, seek humor in my irregularities; wear a sweater inside out, pour coffee into a wine glass for a cocktail and chuckle up and down the staircase, because I keep forgetting where I left my phone. My head is elsewhere-daydreaming. I’ve learned how to repair house calamities; unscrew windows, seal up cracks, fix clogged drains, replace air vents, read the meters, and rejuvenate every wood board, handle, chair, and table with Old English Oil. As one pal commented on a visit to the house, ‘ It’s a perfect day for Old English! The winter forecast is blizzardy and full of warnings I haven’t experienced here; and how could I complain when half of Upstate New York is buried in SEVENTY INCHES of snow and no way out? At the end of the day, pleasure comes in the kitchen; my heart and spirit melt while stirring my weekly slumguillion stew while listening to Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, and swing music. Winter has in the past been a funnel that leads to writing.
I won’t get out of this unless I have faith in myself. If God does make miracles, I’ve used mine up. My wonderous, rewarding, illuminating, creative adventurous life was a row of blessings from people that erupted into my life at the exact right time like we had an appointment. Strangers one day, pals a week later, years later our rebar, supporting joists of our underpinning in life.
Loners were postured in film, books, and art as mysterious, untouchable, or approachable, they even became romanticized as people of superior cerebral awareness. I’ve met and gained friendships with several over the last few decades. My first high school boyfriend was a loner, he became popular but his soul craved mind expansion and he needed solitary confinement.
How this relates to the intensification of rancorous physical assaults in as many venues, streets, and shops as you can name is my pestering pursuit today. People are exploding with anger, frustration, and hatred. I understand the anger and frustration, but not the hatred. Are all these perpetrators unloved, or do they live amongst compatible comrades? People are shot because their hamburger wasn’t properly served on time, or they have a different opinion. I was living in Los Angeles in 2018, one day driving down Pico Blvd I noticed a sign, “Walk in Anger Management.” Maybe we need to convert a few drive-thru food diners to Anger Management centers. It sounds amusing, doesn’t it? If I was financially able, I’d open one in every major city.
What has happened to our culture is unimaginable for a woman who grew up in the Love and Peace generation, or even into the eighties and nineties. We didn’t shoot one another, maybe a fist fight, or a shouting match but not murder in cold blood.
Could this macabre movement be softened by friends who love you more when you are gentle and kind? It cannot be that simple, or could it? When I used to rage about some occurrence that ripped me personally my partner would come to me and say,
‘LouLou put your guns down,’ that always made me laugh, and then we’d talk out what triggered my fury.
Humankind is in recession, we need a John Lennon to lead us back to where we belong. TO BE CONTINUED
AS I LOOK OUT THE WINDOW, the stark undressed trees and branches droop with the weight of snow. Footprints form a hopscotch pattern on the snowy driveway and sidewalks. January is the month that reminds me most of Casey. That’s when she wore a mink coat, hat, and gloves. Her appearance was consistently Vogue print material.
Casey was a woman that threw the dice all her life. She gambled on her instincts as if they were already tested and approved. She never told me much about herself. Casey lived in the present moment and considered her past a private matter. Once I learned of her struggles as a young woman and the life she’d chosen, she became more real than when I’d known her. During the years we were friends, she handed out selected stories, abbreviated and censored. Being the inquisitive character I am, the shallowness of her stories bated me. I had to pry the truth out from other people who had known her.
Casey’s first gamble was at sixteen years old. She sent in a photograph of herself for the Redbook Magazine modeling contest. If she’d won, the Powers Modeling Agency in New York City would grant her an audition as a model. Casey was living in East Orange, New Jersey with her mother and sister. Her father had died suddenly, leaving the family without a financier. Casey’s mother was lost without her husband and unsuited to join the workplace. Casey didn’t tell her mother about the contest until she received the letter of congratulations.
John Robert Powers met Casey in his office on East 56th Street and signed her on as a Powers Girl. She was stunning to look at, she photographed like a movie star, and she was modest. John Powers did not look for aggressive, pouty-lipped, fearlessness. The Powers Girls were captioned, “Long Stemmed American Beauties” because they were wholesome, beautiful, tasteful, courteous, and virtuous. They were so far from the runway models of today, it is almost a reversal of the industry.
The models of the thirties were ordained to set the highest example of classic good breeding and education. John not only schooled them in fashion, and individual taste, he instructed them in moral integrity, independence, and community service. Casey went to school at John Robert Powers and became one of the top ten models in New York.
She was a blue-black-haired Irish beauty, with emerald green eyes and perfect teeth. She stood only 5’ 7″ in those days that was fairly standard. When I knew her, she was still thin and beautiful but she did not fuss about herself or spend a lot of time at her vanity. As a Powers model, Casey had a long line of gentlemen callers. Powers Girls were invited to all the nightclub and dinner show openings, sporting events, community galas, and fund-raisers. Social engagements were part of her job. Casey was not a woman of idle chat, in fact, a lot of people thought of her as restrained and unfriendly, maybe even snobbish. I think it was more secrecy. People were always prying into her life because it looked glamorous. There was another side to that glamour she didn’t want to put in the mirror.
One evening Casey had a dancing engagement at the Copacabana nightclub in New York City. She was on stage with some other dancers when a certain gentleman noticed her. The next chapter of Casey’s life began that night. At twenty-two years old, she fell in love with a man thirteen years older, of the Jewish faith, who lived in Hollywood. The consequences of her love forced her to change and adapt to a new lifestyle and different people.
She did not bury or rescind her love after she learned his business. She asked him to reform his criminal activities. He agreed if only she would marry him. We all know at twenty-two a woman believes she can change a man, and a man lets her think she can. Without that dream, many lovers would not have found their mates.
Casey did marry her love and spent her life trying to keep her husband and children from pointlessness, and harm. I met her husband just after he tried to reform, and was beaten down by the FBI. I called him Daddy.
I ROSE AT 3:00 AM to turn the heat on, pick up my writing journal, and discern the week’s theme. I wonder for a moment if I should boil water for tea or coffee, and settle on decaf. The street is hollowed like a tunnel, the light of day is shining in some distant country, and the sky appears tinted with primer. Somewhere someone is dressing for work, breathing by the tick of the clock until he or she ( can’t figure out the right pronouns) must report for work.
The draft of sleep lingers in my eyes, and my feet shuffle on the wood floors while I grind the beans and think through the remains of the week. There are themes to our lives. Sometimes a year, sometimes one single day launches the theme, or it may just tumble into our path unexpectedly and replace whatever we were holding on to dearly, and deliver something unpleasant, like sickness, or separation. The sensations leading up to my theme jilted my creativity, and the pages I wrote were jammed with contradictions, maybe they still are.
Thoughts begin to form and ruminate, what is important? The theme of my week began when I finally was in the Dentists office. It’s been a year, and at sixty that was enough. Now Dr. FX’s office calls me every six months because I am over sixty-five. Still can’t really grasp my age. When I was thirty-something sixty-eight seemed very old. Do you remember that?
Dr. FX is the Music Man dressed in a white tunic. When he comes into my cubicle, he sort of prances on his toes and gives me an elbow safe bump.
“ Hello, oh I see,” as he looks into my mouth that has been open too long and my cheeks start to stiffen. The hygienist takes that white suck-up tube out of my mouth.
“ She has some tarter that I can’t remove so I suggest she come back because her gums are so sensitive and nonvaccine her for the water treatment .”
Dr. FX nods and bounces out of the room. Now she begins to sort of authoritatively advise me again that I have serious tarter. I think this is the third time.
“ I think I got a little lazy flossing during covid.”
“And I also started snacking on those crunchy health bars at night.”
“That wouldn’t cause that.”
Now I am ready to leave and I’m elated to get out. The receptionist starts talking and advising me about Dental Insurance and she leaves her desk and meets me in the waiting room, and starts stretching.
“ I have to do this as much as I can, sitting in that chair all day long.”
“Oh, of course,” I raise my arms and swing my hips beside hers. I walked out into a day of clouds and a peek a boo sun feeling a mood change, a spark of energy from a few moments of improvisational dancing. We all crave an irreplaceable swarming of joy, that comes unexpectedly. I was awakened to my detachment from feeling truly alive.
Writing with a pen is so different from the keyboard, journaling is always with a pen, but columns are on the keyboard. I understand what tranquilizes all the peripheral complaints, mental pains, and wounds that lie dormant or at least manageable. Without thinking of the tormented hours, I think of the comforts of exhibiting my life on paper. My desk is sealed into a corner of the bedroom, next to a double pane window (original 1885) forty feet in length. It is not the act of writing with pen and paper moving along at a steady rhythm; it’s the activation of the heart and mind, collaborating to unravel the relevant from the irrelevant. To reach this state of matrimony a writer needs not a Tuscan Villa, or a Moorish Castle, but experiences that flake off the skin, or recall of the experience that gives it relevance.
I return to the porch for one more gulp of landscape that I share with the stars. The street is unfamiliar, a temporary scene like a bus stop, and I am merely waiting to move on. Some of the neighbors are friendly, some have no interest, one kind of spies on me when he thinks I’m not looking. There’s a reason for that but it’s too much of a separate story right now.
If I continue to roam around the task of writing this story, the intensity of irritation will escalate, my neck and shoulders will not loosen, my walk will be feigned, my smile forced, my heart longing for padding, my ego striving for recognition in the wrong places, and my soul roaming the hallways at 3:00 in the morning. I read a quote the other day on some website, to paraphrase: When I’m writing I know I can’t do anything else. The theme of the week is to bring back LouLou, a clownish, spirited, curious, joy seeker.
I’D LIKE TO RIDE A CLAIRVOYANT CIRCUIT INTO THE MINDS OF SINGLES OVER THE AGE OF SIXTY.
I’ve often questioned why advertisements; the media, and politicians do not address this segment of society. We don’t hear, the beginning of a statement whether it is legislative, political, social, or cultural, Singles around the country are not traveling, purchasing more products, refusing to get vaccinated are unemployed…etc. We are a minority class; I found statistics on The UnmarriedAmerican.org website. More searching led me to the American Association for Single People website.
There are 106 million unmarried adults in the United States. Singles constitute more than 44% of the adult population in the nation.
About 44% of the nation’s workforce are unmarried employees
The Census Bureau estimates that about 10% of adults will never marry.
I’m not going to make a huge leap into this as my thoughts are more about adventures in singleness.
This conversation is from a close friend, married for twenty-some years.
“You are so lucky you have no idea. If I were single, I’d move somewhere where life is simple, maybe Greece.”
“You don’t know about the loneliness, the awkwardness of holidays, the fear when you get sick and have no one to care for you, so many things really.
“I can think better when I’m alone.”
I told her I understood. That is the crucifix of making my pen my mate rather than a three-dimensional man( Temporary singleness). Some of my interactions go like this; going out to dinner,“Are you alone?” She or he leads you to the most obscure table. Then she or he removes the second table setting and suddenly aloneness is visible. An hour later another customer asks if they can use the spare chair. That’s when I ask for the check and leave.
Taking a road trip and feeling vulnerable when I’m pumping the gasoline and a stranger is gawking at me and I’m in the middle of nowhere. It is usually truck drivers and I immediately think of Thelma and Louise. More recently, I hired a new snow shoveling company operated by one single man. On the third plow last winter he texted me, “One night with you and I won’t charge you for the rest of the season.” A gal pal replied after relating this story,
“You should be flattered and he is twenty years younger! What does he charge?
“Seven hundred for the season.”
“That’s hilarious! Well, be careful and lock your doors, you’re all alone out there.”
I texted him that he should never make that kind of offer to a customer and I will not report you but you could lose your business or be sued. He agreed and I let him finish off the season as it was too late to find another one. I found a new company this year and he’s happily married.
Dressing for an event that I’ve never been to on my own. In my closet, I lay out three different outfits. Then I have a wary of decisions on which shoes, flats or heels. When I’m all dressed and ready to go self-consciousness billows up and I change the outfit. It’s a ridiculously amusing routine.
Living in a house that is a hundred and thirty-five years old speaks to me at night; a loose windowpane thrashes, a branch from a tree falls on one of the rain gutters, the mechanicals in the basement thump for some reason and I tiptoe around the house searching for an intruder.
Taking myself out for a cocktail just to get out of the house has numerous consequences. I end up sitting next to couples who are having a roaring twenties time of it and the only single man at the bar is fixated on his phone. Instead, the woman next to me strikes up a conversation about her boyfriend.
The other side of these dismal forecasts is; I have no arguments at home, (just interior dialogue) I can eat whenever I choose, watch what I elect on television, keep the bedroom light on, adjust the thermostat to my body temperature, and make all the decisions myself, the most infuriating and worthwhile to building courage, and self-reliance.
One of the lines in the Godfather struck me as an authentic gangster testimonial, “Women and children can afford to be careless, we cannot.” As a teenager one of the repetitive reminders my father said angrily was, “Watch what you’re doing!” This was the most relevant and truthful observation he made of me. Admittedly I am easily distracted and careless and ignore risk. Just yesterday I placed a skillet of homemade croutons in the oven and then decided to empty the trash. As it happened my neighbor, Lorraine was in her driveway so I said hello. The Adirondack Tree Surgeon had recently stopped by her house, as they did mine and marked one of my sidewalk trees for removal.
“Are they going to cut your tree down too?” I asked.
“The city is responsible for the sidewalk trees, but they cannot remove one on your property. They just came by to trim the branches since mine is on my property.” I was absent for ten minutes. When I entered the kitchen, it was smoked out and a small fire was burning in the skillet.
Without someone to look after my carelessness (I’ve been on my own now for five years) I still catch myself in these adventitious circumstances.
IT’S CALLED NON-CONVENTIONAL but on our own personal level, if you fall in that broad culture and it is a unique and historically significant tribe, especially in the arts and the military. Artists skip from creating to counting change, very few make a comfortable living. The Military are more unconventional than any other profession. I’ve tried to imagine choosing to fight our wars knowing I could be shot or tortured.
Do you think that not choosing the basics: family, friends and a comfortable living are enough? They are, now I know that.
How did this become my spotlight, like a bulb that flickered and whispered, you thought you knew more. Well, I didn’t and now I am adapting my fictional life to nonfiction. Beginning with: relinquishing luxuries, vacations, replacing outdated or broken furnishings, buying my favorite designer garments, and most important a monthly budget. Now instead of withdrawing from my savings account, I am depositing. Friends and family pose a more rigorous effort to the depts. I’m a loner. There is nothing glamorous or mystifying about this stain at least not for me, more like solitude for longer periods of time.
Photo by Philip Townsend. London 1964
As I watch and hear the interviews of Veterans, Gold Star Families, Military groups, former Iraq and Afghanistan Marines, Army, The Navy and Airforce, and the ones left behind because their hero was killed have one knot that holds them together, and it is their family, their comrades in arms and friends.
It’s raining, the tiniest little drops, like new bourns. The sky is a saddened muted white gray, like it’s in mourning. Hoagie Carmichael is singing Two Little People, simple lines that rhyme. Without music, and I don’t listen as much as I did a month ago, I’d be in bed today, it is a day for music medics to carry my pen where it sinks.
I was selfish, spoiled, and myopic, now I am awake to eternal gratefulness for being born American.
Trying not to watch the news as my heart needs a reprieve from Afghanistan. I’ve never appreciated, honored, respected, and loved our Military more these past two weeks. Do you know that feeling? What happens next? Eventually this presses to a USA attack.
I wonder what you all are doing this July 4th. The last year had pressed us closer, and friends from years past have knocked on my FB door. Someone switched the light on our lives and I for one will find pages of material as a memoirist to unleash all that happened within and without. What took me all the way down was seeing the number of deaths. NY lost more than thirty-five thousand people, that would be like all of Saratoga County.
I vote for a Memorial somewhere in the US, maybe a wall, inscribed with the names of those lost to Covid-19. Grateful is the word of the times. I wish you all a big, loud, closely adjoined unmasked party.
Looking west to a smear of dusty crimson sunlight, a young man of twenty stood on the shoulder of Highway 66 waiting to hitch a ride. A powder blue Cadillac pulled up and the lad was caught in a puff of loose gravel. When the dust settled, a woman dressed in a two piece matching suit leaned over from the driver’s seat. “Say fella, can you drive one of my cars to California? I’ll pay the expenses,” she yelled out the window. Another Cadillac pulled up next to hers with a jerk stop. The lad stared into the shine of the car. It looked like wet paint and he was tempted to touch it. “Sure will, yep I’ll do that. Should I get in now?” The young man answered. “I need to see your driver’s license.” She added. The man hastily drew out his license from a dusty plastic cover inside his billfold. She looked it over, and smiled. “All right Maurice, keep in close to us on the road, don’t get lost. We’re going far as Needles.” Maurice held tight to the steering wheel, ‘Geez, ain’t this great, what a car. I’m going all the way from Nebraska to California in a Cadillac.’ He’d forgotten about the sharp pains of hunger, and bloody sores on his feet. Now he was sitting on warm leather seats, with the cold night air off his back, and ten dollars in his pocket.
Sixty five years later, I’m walking down the street where Maurice lives. We haven’t met yet. I don’t meet my neighbors. I move before I have a chance to care about them. It comes easy to me, being a loner. Then I met Maurice.