Flushed from frolicking in Taos, with a man I’ve just met. He’s salt of the earth, strapped with degrees, awards, and maverick adventures as a wrestler, a horseman, ski instructor, rafting guide, and something else I can’t recall. An Irish and Scottish face, blue-black hair and unblinking blue eyes that have a life of their own. My smile returned, in response to his teasing, and playful sonnets on sex. We talked breathlessly, responding almost without thinking, the words hopscotched over our private, complicated, infuriating personal lives. His motives unclear, as are mine.
Doused in his manliness, aroused my womanliness until I returned to my bedroom, turned on the news and watched the report on the Texas Chapel massacre My heart descended, it felt like the climax of all the recent massacres exploding in that church. The clues are examined, the crime scene is sealed off, the investigation launched, but what are we really seeking? Some motive to reveal itself; gun control, mental illness, terrorism, political attack, family revenge? Once discovered then the news fades into another catastrophe. What can we do? What is happening to young men who have been expelled from society, taken to violence, and are willing to die.
“YOU NEED A LITTLE MADNESS IN YOUR LIFE.” ZORBA THE GREEK
November 10, 2017
Is it my aging, the world struggling, the politics punishing, the climate destroying, or is it because all of the above feels personal. Every day is a recovery from the disasters, deaths and destruction of the previous day. I can’t decide if my thinking process is changing or the world really is bubbling over the edge of horror. Today the fires in Sonoma hit a personal note; I went to Sonoma State University and lived two years wandering the hills, rivers, towns, farms, and vineyards. I have to remember all the places I lived in: a dorm in Cotati, then Rio Nido along side the Russian River, it was too far to hitch to Sonoma so I moved to Petaluma, then I spent a few months in a hippie house in Glen Ellen and then… I dropped out of college and moved to Mill Valley. Northern California shocked the Beverly Hills plushness off my shoulder and I smothered myself in the outdoors. I used to walk or bike everywhere, I don’t know how I managed without a car. Did you?
My heart and mind turn to the images on the TV news: twenty two fires burning, five hundred unaccounted for and now forty dead.
My family home burnt down in the Bel Air fire on November 5,1961. It rearranged my life as suddenly as it happened, and I discovered growing up wasn’t so bad.
I need a movie to watch that resonates life’s invasive tragedy and triumph; Zorba the Greek. As a young girl that movie moved me in a way so unfamiliar. The writer and Zorba the teacher, the French debutante unzipped, and the widow, whose life was taken because of unreturned passion. Last night, Zorba came to me and said, “You need a little madness in your life.” I listened, and found myself at El Farol on the dance floor. Tuesday Blues Jam used to be a weekly routine. It’s been two years since I went on my own. Dance is always alive in me, moving really fast to great music.
I sat down at the newly restored bar, and looked around, a few familiar faces, and then I looked at the man next to me. He smiled informally, the way someone does when they recognize you. I hadn’t seen Dancing Dennis in years.
” Hi,” he said in a sort of chuckle.
” Do I know you?” I asked.
” Oh Dennis! I didn’t recognize you. You’ve lost weight or something, you look so different.” He chuckled and let me talk.
“How are you? How funny to run into you, I haven’t been here in years.” Dennis and I met on the dance floor at El Farol, and I asked him to marry me! I guess that’s why he just listens to me, he knows I’m a grab bag of surprises. I thanked him for reading my book and writing a beautiful review and then he said,
” I liked your hair short but I like this too. “I don’t recall what I said, but I remember feeling at ease sitting next to him, and trying to recall who he reminded me of, I thought it was Michael Caine, but today I remember, its Oscar Werner, when he played the Captain in Ship of Fools. When the band started I jumped, without even asking Dennis, and darted for the dance floor before it got crowed. I took off like a wild bird and let my Zorba dance. I knew Dennis and I would dance later but I needed to let my madness out.
When I returned to my seat, he looked left out, and so we talked about the past times we danced, and moments later, without any discussion of our personal lives, we danced, and danced and danced. I asked the band to play “Honky Tonk Woman,” and the floor regaled with dancers. Every time I looked at Dennis he was smiling or laughing.
Today I am in a religious mood, not in the sense of Jewish or Catholic, just feeling like I am waiting for God to stop the tragedy.
Facebook offers a donate application. Click on that and key in Texas or Houston. I chose Houston Food Bank. Red Cross and Salvation Army are available.
I’ve had bar chats with Sam; many Santa Fe locals claim friendship; he’s our Santa Fe Shepard for independent thinking, accessibility, dust-bowl prolific honesty and still a flush hand of rugged classic looks. The last time I saw him, he was sitting next to me at Geronimo, writing in his little notebook and eating steak. He put his fork down when I said ‘Hi Sam.’ He talked about his novel (Inside Man), his Kentucky ranch, and showed me his new cell phone. When he held it, it was like a man holding a gun for the first time. Nothing about him was robotic, on cue, or predictable. When he gave me his phone number and said ‘Call anytime,’ I resisted throwing myself into his arms; now I wish I had.
When Shepard & Dark opened in town for three days, I was out the door within hours. I figured the movie theater would be packed, so I brought earplugs. I take my films too seriously and refuse to be interrupted with slurping and munching. Into the first scene, my concentration was bulletproof; I would have protested if anyone said a word.
Beginning with the footage; incredible home-made movies and photographs of early Sam. You will see him as a youngster on the ranch where he is raised, and Sam leaving home as he kicked his way through puberty. Then we see that chiseled frame of masculine sensitivity as a young playwright in Greenwich Village where you meet Johnny Dark. The dialog between the two men and the dramatization of their adventures through home movies and collected letters they exchanged over a forty-year period broke my heart. I felt the pain inside of Sam as if we were best friends.
It is as honest and genuine a continuum of conversation between two men that I’ve ever witnessed. The subjects: their father’s, destiny, fate, women, writing, dogs, tragedy, and loss. It is a wrap of cinematography, humor, philosophy and a pool-of-tears-ending.
Yes, there is a dusting of emotions on Jessica Lange.
Several lines I recall, in particular, to paraphrase Sam:
We can change our lives, our work, our wardrobes, our women, but we never really change. Our essence remains constant. I’ve always felt outside the whole thing, sometimes more than others. As a writer, you have to be selfish with your time. I’m always moving, going on the road, I didn’t know that was how my life was going to turn out, but it did.
AWAKENING TO AN UNFAMILIAR REALITY. Ten years and two months I’ve nested in one place. Where once the red white and blue lights twinkled on the house and along the spruce tree, music circulated a crowd of friends and neighbors on the porch, and we danced in the street. It’s all wrapped up in a journal, words that I can read if I wish to remember. I don’t. The past crawls up my spine like a spider trying to weave me into its web.
SARATOGA SPRINGS 2012
Clarity, comfort, security, ambition and love are broken wings. I have to redesign how I think, calculate a direction that will return me to adventures in livingness.
The answer is absent. It’s not in a book, a song, a friend or an attorney. It’s not online, offline or any other line. Abstract, out of my reasoning skills. Where is it? Come to me in my time of need.