Unless you’ve lived in a four seasons city, you just can’t understand how transformational and redivivus the vernal expectation of spring. My mind feels like someone has loosened the screws, and a willowy feeling fills the body so when I walk my steps waver, without any alcohol. This spring is like a substance prescription after one of the gloomiest winters of my life.
I’ve never been a woman who dated. There is too much pretense and preparation. My preference is to just meet him by circumstance, become friends for at least a few weeks, and then either we are inseparable or separate. Dates are like the holidays, a whoosh of expectation. Had my attitude been more flexible and my social presence more waggish, I could have met more men. They don’t have to be long-term commitments, or marriage, just friends.
The freedom of traveling solo was the prong of my selfishness in my thirties, not anymore. As the curtain drops on romanticism of solo adventure, it’s really second place to romancing with a partner.
Singleness after several years is feeling the chill , envy of couples embracing in laughter, staring into a wedding party as if it was a fairytale, dining alone with the TV, laptop, or music as my audience, but worse of all is wearing the wicked blue robe! The one that feels like a blanket and looks like it should be thrown out.
The actuality of my detachment from a relationship, is posted everywhere and it is neon bright in my head. When this singleness sinks my spirit, I take a bath. Women you know, if you drop down and eliminate, the room that may not be as you please, or a phone call, text, beep, and soak out everything, it is bliss.
Freedom is the bait and a rolling drum beat. I can do, go, think, act, without argument or alarm. I have always been more observer than joiner. Even in High School, in a gang of ten gals and guys I continually turned down invitations, or bowed out at the last-minute.
If you are a dreamer like me; youth doesn’t end, people don’t end, ambitions and passions still erupt and the blood in my veins boils to reinvent, and relocate. All of those choices are upon me.
It was a day like today, just after the rain soaked every blade of grass, and the world looked squeaky clean as if it had been mopped with God’s soap. I was sleeping in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar berth on a ferryboat that swayed like a rubber raft. I was awakened by a knock at the door. “Ma’am. We’re here.” I looked at the young man questionably.“Ireland,” he added and shut the door. “We’re here?” I twisted myself round in the blanket and raised my chin to the porthole.Oh my God– It exists. Look at that tiny little village and the little harbor and the colors.
I landed at the Port of Rosshaven from London where I’d spent two nights in a room the size of a cigarette holder. I loved London as much as I could in two short days; carrying thirty-five pounds of clothes. Part of one day I spent packaging up half my wardrobe to ship back. The plan was to spend one month in Ireland. Other than that, my itinerary was unplanned. In those days, I leveraged myself to the outskirts of foolery.I gathered my Northface garment duffle, shoulder bag, and departed the ferry. It was Sept. 5, 1987, and I was thirty-something, recently separated from a career in commercial real estate and my pad in the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego. Everything went into storage so I would be free to conquer whatever it was I thought I was conquering.
That first day I made my way to the picturesque village of Kinsale. The tourist office made the reservation for me and suggested that I rent a car. No need, I thought. I’d get around on my own for a while. She slapped a map of Ireland on the desk and pointed to several towns and then counted the miles between each town. “The buses stop running in September because all the tourists have gone home. You be wee on your own.” “ Well, I’ll look into it tomorrow. I’ll just get a cab to the Bed and Breakfast tonight.”
That night ended faster than any in my life. I woke up and decided to stay another. I could not part with the warmth of the Innkeeper’s country kitchen and the canary yellow bedroom, or the county road, the red barn and the miles and miles of rollercoaster hills cushioned in that indescribable Irish green. Her house was a quintessential B & B, blushing with the right bedding, Irish linen, French and English antiques and contemporary restaurant-grade kitchen.
I remember the Innkeeper drove a BMW, and her house sparkled as if it had been photographed earlier. That first day I walked into dreamland, and I did not come out until I left Ireland. This was my first solo trip to Europe. I began with Ireland because my friend, Kenny, insisted I go find the Casey in me. That’s my mother’s maiden name. Everyone thought I should be institutionalized for taking off like I did; mid-career on the rise and all of that.
That first evening I walked into town and ate at the restaurant the Innkeeper recommended. I wish I could remember the name of the place. It’s written in my journal, but the journal is in Taos, NM. Anyway, that dinner still rates in the top ten of all dinners, including all those four-star French Michelin Chateau feasts I found my way to later on in the trip. I hit a dozen villages between Clare, Kerry and Limerick. I took a seaweed bath at the seashore of Ballybunion, stayed in a folk singers
luxury hotel for a week because he wanted me to bring his tape back to America, attended an Irish wedding and the racetrack in Dublin. I watched the Farmers Matchmaking Festival in Lisdoonvarna and climbed the hill to the Cliffs of Mohr. On my hike up to the cliffs, I passed a man gardening in his front yard. He stopped and began to chat. His house was so beautifully Irish, handcrafted in brick and stone with acres of fertile land as his back yard. I told him it was the most beautiful home I had ever seen. He turned around in his rubber boots, leaned against his pitchfork, and said, “America, that’s where I want to go.” He said he would give me his house if I would take him with me. We talked for a long time about what matters, and as we parted I remember what he said, “Send me a postcard from America.”
ONE MONTH LATER ON THIS DAY she closed the shutters to his wanting eyes, and alchemized from a butterfly to a cocoon, beneath a circle of friends in tune. She removed the photos, gifts, and letters, put them in a box to reminisce later. Talking out loud, “She takes just like a woman but” she will not break like a little girl. No more hours fanning the past, on this day my view is spanning.” Into the night she sat peacefully by the fire and let her broken wing sing as she watched the wood turn to gold.
By darkness, she ushers in a memory, a solo sojourn in Old San Juan.
Lounging in the dawn by a hotel pool, he appeared at her side, talking as if they met on another day. “ You’re from the US .. let me see if I can guess, by the bathing suit I would say, Los Angeles. Am I right? His smile opened wide enough to place an apple inside, and his darkened arms were on his hips, his hair clipped his neck, he dressed in a floral shirt and jeans. He wasn’t fat or thin, a body well-fed, a spirit too combustible to restrain, so she let him continue on his strain. When she answered Los Angeles, he flung his arms wide open and immersed himself into a storyteller about when he lived in Los Angeles. The commonality swept him into a chair next to her and several hours later, they were paired in Old San Juan.
She finds breaking off pieces of her love life is like a tasting of sugary cupcakes, some better than others. The ones she is sure she will never see again are the sweetest.
He pushed her on a swing, so high she touched the sky, viewed the world through his eyes, lived for a time without lies, then as mystically he appeared, he let go of the swing, and she fell on her wing, broken but with the will to begin again. A broken heart hasn’t stopped her from loving him.
For ten days she stared unblinking, just thinking of her spoken words, how they made their way to his ears and returned the sounds she so wanted to hear. She wiped the tears as some people find love at the core of their fears. The strain of regaining her former spiraling spirit and beating heart may not come for months. She says to herself out loud, ‘it must, I must.’ As written, sung, painted, and performed for hundreds of years, love is undefinable as it is something supernatural.
Without a partner, lover, or relative nearby during our feared and festive flights of life, our ribs cave. You just cannot eat cake alone on your birthday, attend a funeral without a shoulder next to you, or celebrate a finished project without your best friend. During these times of divisiveness, a pandemic, our favorite restaurants and shops out of business, and vigilante violence, it takes courage to be alone. It is you I am thinking of and I know you are out there, isolated. I listen to a lot of music, from Opera to Salsa, shout myself out of bed, attend to mediocre mindless tasks and think about all of us singles, without children, or family and friends out of my reach in Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Scottsdale, Sedona, and Florida. Each one holds a podium on the telephone, as I listen to their feelings, they are variations of a Chopin or Bach recording. The sadness and fear each one is holding at bay, reveal their authentic character. Isn’t it an extreme tragedy that holds a spotlight on our soul and spirit? One friend reminds me to refrain from judging myself too harshly, another advises how fortunate I am to be in a safe small village, with very few deaths, and another says simply, I’m falling apart.
We are now forced to learn our supreme strength, our survival methods, and how to structure a new lifestyle. When was the last time you were tested? Remember that and you will forge ahead.
IN THESE TIMES OF DISTANCE, DEATH, DISCOURSE, AND ISOLATION what can I write of value? All month this puzzle chased my thoughts; nudged me like a pesky fly. At different intervals during the solemnness, my journal returned parched sketchy paragraphs, and books did not deliver the inspiration I craved. Listening to Beethoven as I gaze out the window at the blowing branches on a spring gray and white day, I feel a singleness I’ve never known. Maybe you feel the same, and it is you I am writing to because I know you are there. Singleness in quarantine is more incarcerating than it is for married, partnered, family people. Though they have to acclimatize to spacial hardship as everyone at home is at the same intersection without privacy, and that slogan I remember from college, ‘I need my space man,” resonates. One friend said to me on the phone, “I yelled at my kids today, I’ve never done that before. We’re bumping into each other. I think I’m losing my mind.”
US SINGLES are accustomed to solitude, especially if you are an artist. How we howl for isolation to create, and now we have it. The time is here, to skip down the most bizarre roads and create COVID-Art. A few weeks ago, Governor Cuomo delivered his press conference and said, “I have something to show you.” A sliding door opened and a collage that appeared twelve feet in height displayed a tapestry of masks. He told us they came from all over the world. He was so touched by the gesture. Imagine a new solo dance performing an abstraction of the virus, or a poem, a song, and for sure a dozen or more writers and screenwriters are tapping at the speed of light to capture the pandemic in art form.
I’M GOING DOWNTOWN now to pick up a cobb salad from Sunset Grill, my stable for drinks and great food. The sky is in turmoil, as the clouds interchange across the sun, and she appears to be breaking through at one moment and the next she has revealed her radiance. I dress for the weather with a hat and coat and begin my three-block walk to downtown. When it begins to rain, I am smiling as I’ve always loved walking in the rain. As masked villagers pass, I’m struck by the absence of smiles, or good afternoon which you get a lot in a village of five-thousand. Some younger couples cross the street when they see me, and heads are mostly lowered to the ground. A new silence emerges as cell phones are tucked into pockets and passing voices are inaudible.
I HAVEN’T HAD FACE TO FACE conversation for several days and I feel a sprinting joy in anticipation of a conversation with Eric or Brian who own the café. They’ve installed a take out window, and as I approach I see Brian, and he ducks down to greet me.
Hey Loulou, how are you?
“ At this moment I am so happy to see you!
He swings down a bit lower to pop his head through the window
“ So am I. We miss you.”
“ I feel the same. How are you doing with all this.” He is smiling, and he’s always a bit jumpy like he needs to go for a jog or a bike ride.
“We had to let the staff go,” now his smile turns to a gripping inner pain. My kid is washing dishes and we’re still here, but you’re the first customer today.”
“Will you reopen when we’re off the pause button?
“ With twenty-five percent capacity, I don’t know. The numbers don’t work out so well. I mean we’ll still do curbside.”
Suddenly he turns about-face and joins me on the sidewalk touting my cobb salad. Brian must need a conversation as much I do. We chatted about the virus, our change of behavior, and this pent-up craving for closeness.
“ I can’t even go on a date anymore with someone! How can you meet anyone today?” He gestures with his arms to emphasize his frustration.
“Yeah, you’ll have to take their temperature before you sit six feet away.” We laughed, maybe for the first time in days.
AS I WALK BACK HOME my thoughts are traveling along the pathway of restaurants, I frequented in San Diego, Los Angeles, Taos, Santa Fe, and now here. I see the owners and waiters’ faces, remember the food and a visual kaleidoscope of the festive times we shared. You know that saying, the good ol’ days, now I am on the other side of that at least for the foreseeable future.
For me the adaptation is more than frustration. Last year I did not take advantage of the racetrack, or the concerts at SPAC, or the exhilarating nightlife along Broadway on a Saturday night in Saratoga Springs. I trembled in silence abashed by the consequences of my mistakes. If we un-pause this summer I promise you I will not be clasping the remote waiting for the next film.
AS I APPROACH my house, I notice the neighbor in her driveway. We clashed in the most vicious ways the summer Rudy and I moved into the house. One time I think the police were brought in to settle the argument. It was because she placed a close circuit camera on her roof to track our renovation. She was retired and her husband was always fiddling in the shed. We gave her a purpose. She looked my way timidly. I smiled at her. This is the first time we’ve been this close since I moved here two years ago. She smiled back.
“Are you happy to be back?” she said in a quiet sort of empathetic tone.
“It’s taking time to adjust. I haven’t lived here in so long.”
“I know. Well, not much has changed except for a few new restaurants. Do you plan on staying?”
“I don’t know the answer yet. We had the house up for sale…”
“ I noticed the sign.” She said expectant of more information
“ I can’t maintain a hundred and twenty-seven-year-old house on my own. You know, Rudy’s gone.” She nodded her head.
“Well, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here either. I’m eighty years old now.” She dropped her head to the ground.
“Lorraine you don’t look like it at all.”
We continued on about my new tenants, her dog, and how much work it takes to maintain a painted lady historic home. I couldn’t believe how sweet her voice was, I’d actually never heard her speak except one time shouting at me. Give up grievances and trivia because the person you once disliked may be very different now.
ADVENTURESS IN LIVINGNESS 2020
2020 SOUNDS SO PROMISING. TO ALL MY READERS, FOLLOWERS, FRIENDS AND STRANGERS. I DO WISH YOU A SLICE OF SENSATIONAL SURPRISE IN THE NEXT YEAR.
MY LIST FOR THE NEW YEAR
TIDY THE HOUSE LESS
LET LOVE COME AND GO, NOTHING MEANS MORE THAN TO TAKE IT SLOW
CONCENTRATE INSTEAD OF CELEBRATE
WATCH MORE INSPIRING DOCUMENTARIES AND LESS OLD MOVIES
SPEND MORE TIME MAKING FRIENDS
FINISH MY WORK IN PROGRESS
THANK GOD EVERYDAY FOR HIS PROTECTION AND GIFTS
STOP FEELING GUILTY FOR SLEEPING IN
Thirty degrees doesn’t feel like it did last year. Adventures in livingness in the village, where I am walking, eating, going to the Post Office, stopping into to chat rap with Blossom, and withholding the urge to step into an antique shop. The thing is, I hadn’t planned on living here a year, so when plans are hijacked, we have to adapt. It feels like maturity has surfaced.
Thinking slips into different chambers; health reminders that I am not forty, finances have been a struggle since I left home, appearance, brown spots on my legs and these cancer sprouts, comfort, to be adaptable to any circumstances that manifest. Once you adapt to the unpleasantries, I think it becomes easier. Then it is possible to empty the closet of youthful memories and replace them with whatever gives you peace of mind.
Jim Marshall- credit. I didn’t sell this one, one of five favorites.
How to describe the sense of protection and security that frees the mind to create and celebrate new challenges, so different now. How short-sided to not know when I had it. Sometimes it feels like my brain is rattling, under siege by these opposing forces, one wants to dance and be in a crowded club, the other wants to make chicken soup, write, recheck my immediate business and watch Butterfield 8. I wish these two characters would merge into one!
This stranger to me, trying to be practical, prudent, safe, and boring is my opposite. We all have some duality. Subtle flips in habitat, the way I would wake early and feel eager to meet the new vacation renters or gallery clients. Sleeping past seven wasn’t of interest to me, I was an early riser because I had so much to accomplish. I do not expose myself verbally or physically in public (LOL) do not forget to turn off the burners, candles, or lock the doors. Do talk to strangers because they may know something I need to hear. Do not sneer at what advantages others have, in envy. I could go on but it’s time to prepare dinner. Sunday dinner, even alone is my time to cook as if it’s for two. What is more crucial to our happiness, than the turntable of our moods…we control the needle.
People here seem to be a bit suspicious, or maybe just curious why I never married and had children, everyone my age has grandchildren. When I was forty, I said I’m not ready, at fifty, they didn’t ask much, then in the sixties, they ask. Not always verbally, I see it the expression, a slightly raised brow, a lip twitch. How I answer now is,’ its a long story.’ Then, if I’m asked to tell the story I start talking as if I’d known them years. I lose them after the last few year’s misadventures. It doesn’t disturb me because I completely understand. I used to be judgmental about people who lost their track, who ended up broke, who had severe misfortune. Shamefully, I didn’t think it could happen to me. Lying seems to be very hip and acceptable these days. Maybe I’ll fictionize the whole last three years.
Now for the first time, this last year, I’ve noticed the bed crushed in pillows and wooly throws feel way to peaceful to leave. As soon as I am dressed the work begins, and just this week I’ve completed the list I’d made when I was in Los Angeles a year and a half ago, honest. The last entry is crossed off.
The new list, all transformative channels; I’m selling my grand Victorian here in Ballston Spa. I’ve owned her for twenty years. I haven’t lived here since 2004, and my last visit was in 2012. She needs a facelift and botox. Once she sells, my suitcases and boxes will need a new address. This channel is snow, like on the television when its blinked out. Where that address will be is unknown. A troubling disturbance that nudges me all day and night. I search the internet, best cities to retire, best beaches, then I end up in Dublin one night reading an expatriate’s travel log online. Without a lover, best friend, husband, male, I am pandemonium, distracted, and insanely unnerving with my sense of direction. When he says ‘everything will be all right’ I calm down from whatever adventure lopsided.
The sale of Follies House will mean more than selling, it will force me to carve out a new vocation because my rentals were my income. Browsing job websites is an alarming epiphany. I don’t understand the qualifications, unknown coded programs, and applications. Even art galleries use social media formats to sell online. How can you buy a photograph or painting in virtual reality? Being self-employed for so many years doesn’t qualify.
Writing is not like running water anymore. I’m second-guessing, straining for clarity and topics that matter to my followers and new readers. Peace of mind squelches insecurity and self-doubt, at least in my adventures in livingness.
Today, the street view of stark-naked trees and branches seemed to happen overnight. Buckets of fallen autumn leaves paint the lawns and while all the neighbors are fastidiously blowing, raking and wrapping up for the city to pick up. The day I set out to rake and sweep the sun was tucked into a ravishing blue sky, almost like Santa Fe. Ten minutes into my amateur leaf raking skills the wind picked up and blew the leaves air-borne. Preparing for the unexpected is the staple that glues sanity here.
Finer details are the urns and pots of mums on every porch. If feels almost obligatory, so I joined in and placed mums in my planters. Now, a week later, snow is smothering the lawns, neighbors’ chimneys spew smoke, and the village is sparsely populated. It’s redundant to even talk about the temperature when you’re in a conversation, it is relevant to talk about the snow, and how many inches are forecast. I refrain from checking the weather so the first morning I woke to powdered sugar-coated trees and streets, it was a cinematic surprise.
This year, I am adjusted to the weather, how to dress, and to create an indoor sanctuary so there is enough art, books, food, and music to accessorize the glim grey skies. Adventures in livingness in a northeastern village in upstate New York reckons with my city upbring in LA. I live amongst blue-collar workers, resilient, tolerant, unpretentious. No movie stars here. Hard cored tough New Yorkers. No BS in Ballston Spa.
Three days later: The door is locked now, it will pop open now and then, in my interior rearview mirror. My secret can only be revealed after mounds of trust have been sifted and sealed. The former LouLou trusted, effortlessly, so the truth is I cannot behave that way anymore. Or can I?
It is the most destabilizing force of emotion to accept I trusted someone who betrayed our thirty-five year “Huckleberry Friend” song. I don’t know how anyone else adapts to this. I’m kinda staring out the window, like a cat staring at an unreachable mouse. When I’m in this mood I listen to Bobby Darin and Tony Bennett, I’m a bleeding nostalgic. Photo Credit Philip Townsend. ” London in the Swinging Sixties.”