WORK IN PROGRESS-CRADLE OF FRIENDS. Based on a true story.


     

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. 

November 2016

Dodger knocked and then opened the door to Greta’s casita, wide-eyed and edgy as usual, like he’s about to eject off the ground and go air-born.

“Close your eyes.” She commanded

“I’m in a hurry, I just wanted to know if you’ve seen my glasses?”

“No, I have not, look in your back pocket, they’ll be there.”

He obeyed, “Good try butterfly.”

“They’re in your pigsty garage under a pillow. Can you just close your eyes, please?”  Reluctant as always to be asked things like this he shifted his weight on one torn sneaker.

“Okay, you can open your eyes.”

  “Well, what do you think?”

“I’m looking, hang on.”  He opened the book and leafed through it, expressionless.

“It will be published this week in time for Thanksgiving and your birthday, a kind of homage to you, for reading the manuscripts a thousand times. I think it turned out really nice, don’t you?”

“Yea, then he handed the book back to Greta as if it was some other author’s book.

“Did you read the dedication to you?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“Don’t you want to read it?” 

“ I’ll buy one when it’s on Amazon.”  Greta turned around and sat at her desk chair avoiding the disappointment with silence.  She felt a sharp sort of shock, that left her speechless.    

” I’m going to see Patsy for my Birthday,” He said in a more decidedly final tone.

” But I planned a publication party on your Birthday.  You knew that— I mean this is our book once you read it you’ll see half of it is about you.  He turned his head toward the glass door, he was preparing his next line.

” I know what you’re doing.”  He replied.

“ What does that mean?”

“ You don’t want me to see her.” He turned around and looked directly into her eyes, unkindly.

“  I told you to move in with her, she’s your girlfriend, but I’m your friend. Can’t you go a few days later?”

“ No.”

 ” Okay, go. Get the fuck out of here, the book I wrote about our friendship and dedicated to you doesn’t matter.”  Dodger opened the door and stepped outdoors before slamming it shut. The vagueness and accusatory tone pulled the plug on her adulation and accomplishment. 

NOVEMBER 2016

Greta continued to sit at her desk, staring at the book, talking out loud as if Dodger was still in the room, you are fucking insane, he wasn’t the least touched, he didn’t even fucking smile or hug me. We are best friends you asshole, thirty-five years! Like family, I can’t believe you’d do this.’  The grail of completion dissolved when a few hours later, she had metabolized his absence.  

Greta applied lipstick and blush, changed from sweats to jeans and a sweater, and dashed across the street to The Beaumont Hotel.  It’s been what she termed her groove cave for the last ten years, ever since moving to town.  Internally she reminded herself to retain some dignity, and not to cry, which would come later after she had a few glasses of wine.   

 The wave that most of us have to swim through at some sandy, loose day in our life comes unexpectedly as it did for Greta.  It’s been two and half years since Greta agreed to tell me her story, it feels like it was yesterday.

Clutching her book in one hand Greta strolled into the Beaumont and, stopped at the staircase on the second floor where two hostesses were patiently but somewhat nonchalantly waiting for guests to arrive.  She held up her book, partly because of the dismissal of Dodger, and her craving for some kind of acknowledgment.  She is never sure what she has accomplished until she is validated by another person. 

“Congratulations Greta, that’s so cool. I want a copy.” Jackie and Julia chimed in.  Greta has told me over and over the people here, in the pueblo, it takes no time to get to know them because there is no pretense or preparation, they speak their feelings, as they arise without premeditation. Jackie is always tired and Julia is always infinitely alert and awake. Julia is in her sixties and Jackie is twenty-two.

“ Thank you dolls, do you think I deserve a cocktail tonight, no really, would it be all right if I have one. Jackie twirled her thin waist around the iron staircase,

“ Fuck that Greta, go have two,”  she whispered.

“ You can walk home so have three,” Julia added, so neatly dressed in her uniform, but her eyes are like meadows like she’s not really there. 

Holding court in the bar is Captain Kurtis. He’s ageless, one of those faces that retain the youthful spirit, and his six-foot-four physique almost doesn’t seem to fit with his face. He is no second guesser or lacks self-confidence, Greta loves him for that because she is not. She knows this for certain and she can’t understand why friends tell her, she appears so. She also knows that it is her little act.   

“Hey! What’s happening?” He shouts out in his usual bar baritone greeting as if Greta were in another room.

 She placed the book on the counter.

“ Wow! Hey, congratulations! That’s awesome. What would you like–on the house?”

 “Thanks! A Martini.” He greeted another guest and I looked in the unavoidable mirror across from me and winked.

“ Wow, I don’t read much but I want a signed copy!”

“ This is the proof that I approved, the book comes out on Thanksgiving.”

“ My parents will be here, will you?”

“ Of course, I can’t not be here.”

“ Has Dodger seen it? Bet he’s happy huh?”

“ Actually Kurtis, he’s not.”

“ What the fuck is wrong with him?”

“ I don’t know, but he’s leaving for the holiday to see his girlfriend, I’ll be here alone.”

“ No way! We’ll be here. Drink your Martini and get crazy, loosen your bottom or something.”  A while later, a second bartender arrived, Rooster, his hair is slicked into a rooster tail and he loves to dance and lip sing behind the bar.   Greta went through her announcement, and he just beamed. “I want to buy one– where do I get it?”

A dreamy drench of joy poured over Greta, she let the martini take her away to the full euphoria of escape.  

Over the next few days, she watched her royalty cart fill up.  It was graduation day, a milestone for any self-taught writer. The instant a book was bought she wanted to tell Dodger. 

From Greta’s desk window she views the driveway and converted garage where Dodger lives.  It is now the twenty-third and she is waiting for him to leave as their incidental crossings on the street or in front of the house enrage her temper.  This afternoon he appears to be preparing, and un-preparing for a departure. Greta is observing his actions with just a hint of humor as she sees him bring his bicycle up from the basement place it outside the garage, then a few hours later, he places it inside the garage, then it comes out again and he keeps repeating this action until he switches to his construction tools, they go in the van and then back in the garage. Dodger then moves on to washing his car in militant style, climbing onto the roof and manically wiping down the exterior and interior with a roll of paper towels and cloths.  Greta says, ‘My God Patsy must be a  car germophobic.’  On Thanksgiving Day, she sees the Van, and then Dodger comes out of the garage carrying his toiletries bag and a garment bag.  He glances over at her door where she silently observed him.  She opened the door to say whatever came to mind at that moment and he accelerated into his van and drove off.   

Thanksgiving 2016

Greta propped herself up in bed drew her coffee cup into both hands to warm them and wiped tears on her nightgown sleeve. She could not get up at least not for a few more calming hours so she looked at the walls of her bedroom sparked with honey sunshine inside the gold curtains and as the day passed her enthusiasm for turkey and stuffing wilted, until four o’clock, when she closed her mind like closing a book thinking of Dodger. She pulled a green sweater and burgundy velveteen slacks and dressed without even looking in the mirror, habitually applied make-up and while looking in the mirror tested her smile, to find the one that looked genuine. ‘ Oh fuck him, I’m going to make joy tonight’

 Couples and families scurried the walkways on their way to dinner. Greta watched enviously having never been a mother, every child appeared distinctive and worthy of love. As she walked through the lobby her attention was drawn to a circumference of platters of food decoratively arranged on tables. The mounds of appetizers, salads, loaves of bread, and turkey slices tuned up her appetite for the first time since Dodger departed.  Inside the bar, a standing crowd of guests fused in high-pitched voices, laughter, and glasses raised in toasts. Greta eased her way to the bar feeling slightly self-consciousness of her unaccompanied presence. The Dude, as she referred to the leading bartender stood tall as a redwood, his hair wrapped in a perfect man-bun. 

“Greta, over here. I saved you a seat.”  She smiled uncertainly, unconvincingly and the Dude noticed.  He raised his chin a notch, it’s his way of acknowledgment.  

“Hey Greta, you look really nice tonight. Are you ready for a martini or what?   

“ I don’t feel like  it, can I go now?”

“ Come on, it’s Thanksgiving, aren’t you thankful for something?” she savored the comment, it was true she did not feel the thankfulness quality of the celebration.

“ I’m grateful for you!”  

“ Okay, what’s wrong?”

“ You won’t believe it, whatever it is I don’t know.  Dodger didn’t stay for the publication party, he didn’t even say congratulations when I showed him the book, he’s gone to see Patsy, you know the woman in Las Vegas that he sees sometimes.”

“What an asshole, I’ll whip him when he gets back. Do you have the book with you, I want to see it now!”   She kept one in her bag, in case someone came in that I knew.

“ Here, that’s yours.”

“Aren’t you gonna sign it?”

“ Of course.  I’m just jilted like my prom date didn’t show up.”

“ Hang on, write the inscription I have to take care of these people. Don’t leave!”  

The evening evolved into a gathering of singles at the bar, the exchange was simplistic holiday conversation, suited to the occasion, so very all American, though the holiday isn’t widely accepted by the Natives due to the fictionalized history of the holiday. Within the festive mood, the distraction pulverized the hollowness of dining without Dodger on Thanksgiving and his birthday.  Greta’s closest female friend is White Zen (WZ), who is out of town, and other friends are with family, so it is one of those days for single unattached people to find refuge where they can.

The man seated next to her was so close she was tempted to move her chair but thought that would appear unfriendly. The Dude approached her,

“ This is my Dad.” The Dude went on to talk about the book I handed him and then the father started up a discussion about how he was writing a book too and so the evening, between bits of food and wine liberated  Greta from singleness to a dinner companion.  She knew Dude had that planned as he was continually trying to introduce her to men.

When there was a lull in the conversation Greta seized the moment to excuse herself and squeezed through the crowd to the ladies’ room.  The silence relieved her as it always does after a two-hour conversational overload and incessant noise of guests whose cocktails elevated their voices to disturbing mumbling.   She applied fresh lipstick, and then she took a deep exalted breath and texted Dodger, ‘ hope you have a wonderful thanksgiving.’   She washed her hands and after a few more minutes passed, the text remained unanswered. 

“ Dude, I’ll have another glass of wine.”  He was more than responsive, and poured a full glass of wine and left the bottle next to her. She knew he knew her heart was crumbling. 

“ I’m thankful Dude!

“  Yea, you should be!’  A tipsy jolt took care of the evening and she managed to make some mocking jokes about the Dude, and how his youth at twenty-eight pleased the women at the bar as they attempted a sensual pat on his hand. 

“Cougars, divorced or cheating on their husbands, women your age are weird.”

“You’ll understand when you get older.”

Over the next few days Greta texted Dodger six times, and he didn’t respond, so she called. She was blocked. Her rage erupted, and so she sent an email with a link to her Amazon book page. When days later she did not get a response, she pinned herself in front of the television and dialed WZ.  The outdoor snow piled up, the trash was not emptied, she avoided going into the basement where the washer and dryer were and the temptation to begin sabotaging, or breaking his belongings. 

  “ Hi, it’s me. What’s left of me that is. Can you talk?”

  “ Yes, you don’t sound good– what’s happened? Let me get a cocktail going I think I’ll need it.”

 “ I’m into my third glass of wine, call me back because it takes you fifteen minutes to do your marvelous Martini’s.” 

          Greta waited as if she was about to go into the operating room. WZ is in the category of mothering it’s not just her whispery voice,  or intense talent for listening, she has the appetite for drama and that’s what hooked her to Greta. 

“ Okay, I’m listening, what happened?”

YOUR GRATEFUL OR YOU ARE NOT


  In a Sunday silence, she hopscotches  to a  nuance in 2018 when a handsome man offered a hand of conversation.

He walked with her and stopped in front of a Spanish Colonial residence shrouded in exotic flora and fauna.

“ That’s where I live,” he said keenly.

“ How long have you lived there? she asked

“ Thirteen years. I am so grateful for my home.”

She silenced her thoughts, less thankful of her dome.

She once lived on a street

Of serenity and beauty

Her view was scoured with a sightlessness of New Mexican history  

Unshaken by the homes regal display

 To live without grateful when your basket is complete.

Is like living in blindness from head to foot.

IN THE FLESH OF SPRING


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.

VALENTINES in SINGLENESS


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. This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20191128_191254-copy.jpg

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.  

POSTCARD FROM IRELAND


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

The beach in Ballybunion in Kerry of Ireland.

The beach in Ballybunion in Kerry of Ireland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.”


PART 4. ALL THERE IS TO LOVE


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.

ALL THERE IS TO LOVE


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.

It’s Not About Me Anymore.


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.

Watch The 12th Man | Prime Video (amazon.com)

COVID-CHANGED US


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.

https://www.theartnewspaper.com/analysis/art-pandemic

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.

 

SELF PORTRAIT

SINGLE IN QUARANTINE


ADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS-  Without argument what motivates the locals in Ballston Spa, NY is family. They go to work every day, some in punishing freezing cold weather to earn a living. The snow blowers, plowers, farmers, horse breeders, deliveries, construction workers, postal workers, cable servers, and weather free runners.

20191106_155648
The families then gather on the weekend at any of our a dozen bakeries, cafes, restaurants, and bars to sit with the family, drink a beer or mimosa and watch the seasonal sports channel. Children are well behaved mostly, the server is probably related in two degrees of separation, so the expansive informality presides. The pretense is nine miles north in Saratoga Springs. Very minor, compared to Los Angeles, and I love that about Saratoga. They have an A-List too, mostly connected to racehorses or real estate. They aspire to win the Kentucky Derby or buy land to develop a dream community. Traditional and progressive. The generations of Saratoga go back to the eighteen hundreds. I’ve met residents who are the fifth generation, and they are proud to tell you. That stands out for a gal from LA that moved to Ballston Spa.

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Back in Ballston Spa on a milky white sky day, that feels too cold indoors. I’m wearing layers; T-shirt, a thick zip-up sweatshirt, and the Irish wool Jumper I bought in Ireland in 1987. The weather channel claims it is forty-seven degrees, so I’m miffed why I’m so cold.
This week was waiting until my brain was ready to take on the challenge of the moment; coronavirus 19. I’m a failed student of statistics, charts, science, physiology, and models. When the task force takes the stage every day, to update us on the number of cases and deaths my brain struggles with the information, as I am awed by the concentration of facts, projections, and federal coordination. It shed light on how microscopic my responsibilities are in comparison.

Living in upstate Saratoga County, New York we were on lockdown early in the game. The sacrifice isn’t as disarming for me because my personal crisis hasn’t fused with social gatherings, for the last fifteen months. In life, we all have our crisis, it is just better if I’m not in a crowd. So I limited myself to the essentials with an occasional visit to a pastry shop or bistro. Adaptation to quarantine if you are living alone is agonizing and so we have to structure our misery or it will structure us.
Bonded in solitude allows us time to reflect on our relationships, our mistakes and what we miss most in this time of quarantine. This may be the only time we will ever have to examine who we are and what we need to change. If you watch the news, you hear the stories of the first responders, and all the essential workers who risk their own lives to bus us, feed us and deliver our Amazon packages. My mirror of reflection brought the reality of singleness into focus, it is time to trust, love, and to socialize. As Joni Mitchel sings, “ You don’t know what you have till it’s gone.”
If we ignore the war in our lives, the war comes after you.