Like a Closet in Spring

“How campy,” she hummed almost silently and deep to  herself, never considering the growing distance between her, oats and the Cleveland man her mother thought would never marry.  Outside the third floor window, the one which faced south and had the best view of Martine’s school almost half a mile away across the now fallow field…

…clouds of spent carbon ranged high above the horizon.  Bricks were closer, heavier and more radiant now.  The sun had taught them how.

Fish filled that stretch of stream between Founder’s Point and the West 7th Street Bridge.  Dexter and Little Tuesday knew that.  Armed with real fishing rods–not the bamboo sticks and string that the O’Donald kids were using, both expected that dinner would soon be in their buckets.  They had listened to and understood the ways of nature.   Close attention to the movement of the wind, a wind which knew no recourse other than it’s own.  Martine and the O’Donalds suspected treachery around the bend, but without proof the Comanches would not offer support.

Omelets for all.

And muffins, the kind made famous by New York luncheonettes before the Greeks had taken them over to create family businesses enduring for generations; before  Koreans, now with Mexican employees, had taken over the corner groceries throughout the city, leaving the newest generation of Italians, mostly  third and fourth generation Americans, adrift in a sea of corporate corruption; while the Dominicans had ousted second and third generation Puerto Rican bodega owners and cornered the market on loose cigarettes and illicit drugs sold at street level.  The newsstands?  Indian and Pakistani, but so what?

Sure there were still selfless housewives scuttling along the outer shores of the Back Bay and it’s all-to-fancy brushwork, but no one felt there was any real threat in mainstreaming the Raster-infested bulwarks of that time after mantras and marijuana had surfaced.  Maybe Timmy saw things differently, but no one listens to your mother, they’d told him.  No one at all.

Charlie Redfinger smiled.  Severe Algonquin luggage tags hovered above the camera, each in it’s original condition but for the circular blue stick-on tags each bearing a hand drawn “44.”  Buddha in bronze, allegedly from Nepal and first seen in a glass display case along with souvenir ash trays and cigarette lighters made in China, looked down from the base of the antique desk lamp at the twice-folded green towel laid impractically atop his desk.  Slippers off, that was the credo of those saving discs and reluctantly applying hand sanitizers to the orphans crawling about the cubicle.  Nothing could save them now, risky thinking aside.

“Examine  your fingers.  Do it now!  There might be opportunities later,” Ragged Ned continued, “but there might not be later later.  There might not be any later at all.”  They looked up at his towering presence.  No one in memory had commanded the deck as did Ragged Ned.  No one had held the reigns of power as had the descendants of this crazed curmudgeon and, to be sure, no one would.  His was the saga of musical virtue gone wrong, of a duplex on a side street, a raised toilet seat in a school for only women.  Who would dare to offer explanations when there was no one present to listen?

Among the new-found party of scholastic raiders and internet henchmen there arose–or did it descend?–a partial landing of mock goodness in green.  Several planters had come forward during that late evening to sing in close harmony with the farmers and stagehands all dressed as if in a dream, as if attending a high school graduation in the American south…

…black shoes, creased navy trousers and softly colored shirts blossoming over the black belted tops of those over-sized drawers.  Compliments to all on  having carried it off with such aplomb.

Jeffrey and Carni looked at each other, each waiting for the other to speak.  Carni rose and cleared her throat the way a man might do it.  “How long will it be,” she asked.  Jeffrey could only stare down at the small red rocks which lay in no particular pattern between his yellowed boots.  Soon it would again be dawn, and no sign of trouble would be too small to notice.  Again Carni cleared her throat.  “I’m still asking,” she intoned petulantly, eager for any answer at all.

No reply.  A reply could only mean a fight.  Jeffrey had other fish to fry.

*   *   *


Published in: on January 30, 2011 at 5:02 pm  Comments (3)  

This Time It Happened Like This

OK, here’s the latest epiphany, my most recent moment of sudden clarity (dare I say grace?) to illuminate the chaos and confusion I usually muck around in.  (Imagine me here smashing the heel of my right hand into my forehead just above the right eye in a glancing upward motion, then, upon impact,  both eyes gazing heavenward and my voice uttering a loud and painful “OY!)  This peek into my world  filled with mirrors was triggered by re-re-rereading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.  Actually it came in the very first paragraph of Judith Guest’s foreword, even more actually from the motto on a plaque found in her grandmother’s attic:

Do your work as well as you can and be kind.

I’d opened this tiny volume because, a few nights earlier, a good friend of more than 25 years (and, remarkably enough named both Judith and Goldberg) told me that I am a good writer.  That made me uncomfortable, really uncomfortable.  Don’t get me wrong.  I do like what I write, but me a good writer?  All the talented and dedicated folks out there–I’m just not one of them.  Anyhow, her comment provoked the need to write something if only to escape from my knee-jerk self-doubt reaction to compliments.  You see, writing keeps me from thinking about writing.  But the mind was empty.  So I made pilgrimage to Natalie for inspiration and found it and much more in Ms. Guest’s opening.  It happened like this:

  • Do my work I do.  No problem there.  Be kind, however,  kicked up the remembrance of unkindness past, of not too long ago really pissing off  another friend by trying to be helpful:

“You should_____.”

“Screw you!”

“Screw yourself!”

“I’m outta here!”

“You’re outta here?  I’m outta here!”

  • This led to me reacting to her anger with my anger, thus to my participation in the death   of that friendship.
  • If that weren’t enough, memory continued to wail on me  by recalling a few occasions when I’d become sarcastic and condescending toward my beloved Bobbie, most recently lambasting her with my irreproachable reasons for wanting to take a walk before sitting down to The Flying Karamazov Brothers–tickets to which were her Christmas gift to me.
  • The final link came from a client who described me to me twice as “sarcastic.”  I told her:

Sarcasm is used to hurt.  I do not hurt!  I’m not even a wise-ass.  A wise-ass is someone who thinks he’s smart.  According to my wonderful wife I actually suffer from terminal cute-atude.  That means I’m just trying to get a laugh.

My client is sharp.  She didn’t buy it.

*   *   *

So what’s going on?  Is this all a byproduct of aging?  I don’t know.  Back in 6th grade Mike Freedman used to say,

Engage brain before putting mouth into gear.

The Buddha said, ask before speaking:

Is it true?  Is it necessary?  Is it kind?

In September I posted an apology for my mouth as part of my Rosh Hashonah/Yom Kippur observance (  Here I am doing it again as part of my Christian New Year observation.

Frankly it doesn’t matter if causing hurt is a byproduct of age or impatience or anger or even cute-atude.  It still hurts.  And apologies do not erase the hurt.

And it certainly is true,

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

Published in: on January 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm  Comments (2)