Friday, January 16, 2015

Reader I Did Not Marry the Right Man

Reader, I did not marry the right man.  “I never knew my spouse,” people have been heard to say, “Until it was all over.” Not that I married a bad man, I didn’t, he just, perhaps, never understood me or me him. Maybe we didn’t talk to each other. It’s all about a small reflection, made here or there. Maybe one, maybe more. Well, when we lived together there were quite a few unpleasant reflections thrown my way as to my purpose in life, yet I regarded them quizzically, as in “Does he really mean that?”  Not possible.  Which one of us was blind? What did I say back?

I delight in painters. (No, he is not a painter.) I love painters because of their spaces. Work spaces, visually organized collections of thoughts put here or there in this or that corner. Loosely or substantially connected. Many years ago I went to visit an acquaintance who was working part time, like myself, at an office in a crap job description. It wasn’t as bad as bad nowadays and the office floor was stuffed with artists of some sort or another, all of us  understandably mentally under-stimulated at a call center.  Her real life, her studio, was in a part of Amsterdam that had a poor reputation. Her studio was located in a building with a dire reputation. I picked my way around the trash and used intravenous needles in the waning heyday of a 70’s Cement Utopia one spring afternoon.  The buds were just beginning to warp the tree branches. I would never have gone there at night. On the top floor, the apartment was filled with light from all angles. Considering the rabbit hutch rumors, apparently whole extended families of illegal immigrants had a tendency to squat in one apartment, the space was empty and peaceful, canopied by billowing clouds floating overhead, just above the flat roof in the cramped Dutch airspace.  The year I moved to the Netherlands a cargo plane plowed into one of the complexes’ buildings and killed many unknown people. Unknown as in unregistered, and the Queen cried upon visiting the disaster site.  My friend paid a pittance to rent out one of the top floor apartments; a classic attempt at rejuvenating the neighborhood via impoverished artists with courage. And nothing worthwhile to steal.

I had a fantasy that we, my husband and me, would decorate our walls with real art, as in not reproductions but one offs - originals.  Little did I fully realize at the time that the mere mention of decorating a white wall with a scrap of paper would send him into a mood of objection, and that gradually over the years, I’d become worn down.  But that particular day I examined my friend’s canvases with great interest and hope.  Then I went home, and that was that.

These days we are heavily discussing my nationality, my value and my future. I watched the mediator blink her eyes.

“You can go live in the Bijlmer. It’s cheaper for you.” He had said, turning to me in disagreement with the location of my present apartment.

“He must be rather irritated.” A girlfriend said. He did a good job of passing the virus on to me.  What did I say back?

Then she told me a good story. Well, it’s not a nice story but it’s good one about an upper middleclass family who happens to be Japanese and lives in a well off area Amsterdam. The elderly father lay dying, at home, surrounded by his sons and daughter, supported by friends. 

“He’s dying.  There is nothing we can do.” Explained the assigned Dutch nurse on duty.  She was wearing an ensemble which was far from respectable. She lit up another cigarette.  She was politely asked not to smoke in the house. She ignored this request.

“Do you know,” she said cornering the eldest son in the hall, “It’s a secret, but I was the love child of an Indonesian prince.” She made signs with her hands, running them from her neck upwards as if her father was the kind of guy with pointy ears.  “Don’t tell anyone this, it’s a secret. I’m half Indonesian.”

Was she identifying with the Asian family? They wanted to sack her, but there was little point for the few hours to come.

“You can touch him and kiss him. Don’t be afraid.” She suggested, crossing cultural boundaries as the old man slipped into a coma.

The father was nearly drawing his last breath.  Grieving in various manners, they all waited for the end to come.  What was the reply?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Habitual Resolutions

First Poem of the New Year
Fleas, these last December days
Regrets itch; there is little else to do.
Impatient for Opportunity,
Day Number One.
Plunge into the cold sea,
Prompt knitwear with blue logo
Issued by a sausage manufacturer,
Exuberant for publicity,
Appears on your wet head.
Confident, as portend scabs,
The money will roll in,
Victorious waves.
Are you still here reading about New Year’s Resolutions? It’s Friday, thus fish?
I tell you, I have never taken New Year’s Resolutions seriously, I must have always been blind to the calendar of martyrs.  Indeed I never understood the concept of a calendar, but I didn’t grow up behind a plow and Northern California was pretty much year round rain and mist in the morning, moderate sunshine in the afternoon. One simply had to change apparel between the seasons mid-day and wonder whether it would be sushi by the afternoon or at dinner, or perhaps whether the miso soup weather report would stick until 11:55 followed by waffles. 
Why not beat oneself up right out of the starting box, day one, and go take a salty frigid bath? Actually growing up in Northern California it was possible to do this every day. New Year’s Day over and over on the beach in July. We generally refrained.
Carefully considering the matter, rolling it over in my mind, I ask myself: What would I like to reprimand myself for and then make it a complex full of guilt and remorse for the coming twelve months should I prove faulty?  Lose weight? I’ve slowly lost weight all year round. I’ll probably lose more so I won’t obsess about it. Drink less? I’ve stopped drinking, and except for this holiday in France, I can’t see why I would like to change habits. Apparel! Now there is an idea.
“Every time a picture is posted on FB of you on stage performing, I think to myself that’s not really Persephone,” stated my long term friend, a woman with excellent taste.  Yes, every time I am about to enter the stage wearing Some Soprano Get-Up, I steel myself carefully to Make It Work While Ignoring the Fact That 93 Percent of the Time I Don’t Like What I Have On My Back.  This is an area that needs work, the clothes that is, not the attitude.  Continuing this matter onto daily life, having spent the last dozen years primarily in second hand clothes, I think it’s time to slowly weed out the crappy items that have retained their hold, things that fit or that basically work, while I continue to lose weight (knock on bouillon cubes) and replace them with more attractive and flattering options bit by bit per month perhaps a carefully selected item from a boutique would help.  First hand, not the second hand option with moth holes. New Year’s Resolution: Get the Crustacean Stew Together and Dress Better.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Long Lunch

In a refuge far away from all, even during my youth, continuing my foibles, ever my own life, I have come, as always, here to withdraw and dream. Here has always been a place for me to simply exist and then I don’t exist as myself but as a shadow without murmur, without rustle as a robe without a body.  The forest after such a mild year, so unlike my own, has grown in shades of greens decidedly and most eerily mint halo-ed into the garderobe gathered, a hue collecting momentum throughout the air that is not alive and not defunct but present as a tinted suggestion of some delicate salon grandeur, a d├ębutante's faltering step a hall away from winter’s deeper ballroom.  Winter has not yet come neigh January, although the frost on the ground was heavy this morning. The ground is strewn with bitter orange leaves, toasted the citrus rinds, crippled cold and swept aside by the wind against the garden walls.  My feet are hooked at lunch on the ancient wooden kitchen chair where I have often sat and they hung so to listen to news that does not resound of my life, but here of the cat napping French village life that sees all although the eyes pretending to be in repose, here where here my ears are told of a world that my feet will not, most likely, traverse although my toes have grasped at the cobblestones.  Perched I as a bird, not a sleek brown one but small and slightly exotic, transitory and curiously welcome to feel at home sucking on a cup of coffee, carefully dropping half a cube of sugar into the bitter brew with dancing left hand fingers inspecting the blue Tupperware container for the best piece because it takes hold of a partial of such a precious minute in the delicious hour, holding the dented silver teaspoon in my right hand, the small handle resting in the crevices of my thumb, waiting for all pleasures to take suit in whatever direction they so open as tongues of chrysanthemums.
The border between my outside life and this refuge is no mistake and the luncheon guest reiterated this point. She sniffed that I here came for far longer and under wider circumstances than herself since beyond the ages when our eyes first met within the walls of a musical institution, already burnt to the ground more than once. Perhaps it is true that I came here before I existed in atoms to lunch along the Seine.  I sensed she too wanted this privilege. Another touchstone of moot competition. Passons.
As this morning I watched the Seine roll past, the dog standing on a frozen puddle, the inert swiftness of time, unmoving hovered invisible in the blades of grass at my feet, pigeon toed and indecisive on the yellow path. Would I loop around on the muddy path between the garden walls demonstrating stones dug up from the giving earth, or would I take the Roman road back? Yellow like French paintings, the custard path on the island premeditated, set in the jelly cake form; no winter swan in view. In spring the swans are regal a top the grey green waters; this morning I merely saw a barge plow through the river in front of the houses, many for sale.
Every year the inundations move fortunes far quicker than the changing of wall paper along the quay.
My fortune, what I dream, for I have never slept better than in this village between forest and Seine, is the richness of slumber. As if the beds, for I have slept in many rooms over the years of the house, beckon tranquillity and cotton massaged limbs, moreover placid visions, pulling my body down into the crook of the quicksand mattress, the bedcovers as quilted saran wrap over a sunken Cinderella.  Never has nightmare set a foot in my enchanted slumber here, no unwelcome prince has awoken me. No, I do not seek that release from this enchantment, thus it’s only the train that each time pulls me away, the resentful ticket in my pocket to other places I must attend but yet I never leave here in spirit.
To this place she, the guest, came for lunch. “You will laugh,” she said recounting what another had told her of two 18th century artists, “Boilly was related to Leveque. You will laugh.” She did this gravely and we did not laugh, alert that we must all appear erudite as the suggestion to laugh was the key to the tale. One must know this finesse here, for it is most important. We listened charmed, as we drank champagne, to a musical air attributed to Marie-Antoinette rendered on the harp and sung by the small child in our company.  Lunch lasted several hours, “You will not be able to work.” I was told beforehand. I knew this as well as I knew I would be fairly tipsy at lunch, or even before lunch, all of us well prepared by the apperatif.  For you see, there is no penalty for creeping away to write, read or sing, or engage in long explanatory discussions and aside from a luncheon appointment of a guest more infrequent than myself every so often, there is a freedom. Later, whatever the day extends, the reward is the abandonment of all fretful ideas when night falls and the cradle calls. I am lulled into timelessness rolling by and vaguely marked by the village bells. Years ago, when I first came, the church chimed time all night and it was a particular comfort that sleep so dark, as a shadowed and audible souvenir, was lauded. Those applauding bells of human folly daring to clock time no longer ring because the outsiders, having moved inside the village for idealism were disturbed by the hourly events.  Although part of the magic of this corner of the planet encapsulated in such charm has been rendered modern and inoffensive, still to me, I come here as always, for I could not deny myself to fly to this forest and river. “When the gypsies raid your house, they leave the pearls, for they believe they are living things with souls.” This wisdom I learned on the kitchen chair sipping coffee via the repose of wandering time.