When I was eight years old my father brought home home a long, rectangular cardboard box which he opened after dinner carefully
outside our front door. It was a clear night and warm as I recall and he removed from the box like a surgeon removing a baby from the belly of an unconscious woman during a cesarean section a long metal object with legs like a strange frozen spider, an arachnid made of metal.
Astonishingly to me, he set up this apparatus in front of our house on the brick patio still warm from the June sun in Connecticut.
I had no idea my father had the skill to produce a box of such wonder and then open it and set up an apparatus which apparently was designed to look at other planets and other worlds yet unknown to us six children.
It was dark and my mother Hubbeled for a while but then slipped into the house and we were left on the front patio with my father and the apparatus and the warm June night which made anything believable.
My brother turned to me and said “ Look through the telescope and you will see the moon. The craters in the moon are caused by ricochets from bullets in the second world war.”
I remember thinking then that war did tremendous damage.
It never occurred to me that he wouldn’t tell me the truth just as it never occurs to me now that people lie.
Looking back, the awe and magic that moment inspired In me was something
I thought of for a long time.
If guns could cause damage to things that could only be seen from telescopes produced from cardboard boxes our fathers brought home, why did they exist?
The Best Memory
The best Fall I remember happened outside of Paris due
north near Chambord in November maybe October’s
when the Beaujolais Nouveau was released along with
me…I walked out
the door of the inn we stayed in
while you drank with our host.
I wandered following troughs of wet leaves marking
the crusades and the dark fall all yellow
smelling of dank and my life as an
obedient pathfinder Joan of Arc
wanting you to worry I was lost
yet knowing you never would.
Hours later I reluctantly returned just as I used
to at 8 and still no one noticed.
I think we made love that night
as we usually did but the bed was small, you
said, as you moved across the parquet floor
to the adjacent one
and closer to your children across the
Atlantic and I imagined
us leaving in the morning croissants uncurled
and me dressed in black because you said it was
best and before I knew it we were back in
California and you were married again
yet I was still outside of Paris in November
in 1996 longing for something I had felt
for a brief moment but never again.
“I bought a trailer because I joined a gang.
My feet itched and my rain was shutting
down so I became a nomad
something I’ve always wanted to be.
Some language has a word for it: people
who don’t feel like they belong anywhere.
That’s me. I’m pretty old so I was worried
about camping places
alone. Don’t get me wrong I’ve got two
dogs but they haven’t been trained for
but disobedience which I am fond of.
I am old now so no one would be interested
never knowing that I have a flipstack of cash
stored in my hubcaps: left front and right
I’ve always liked going north.
It doesn’t matter where I start
I just like heading north.
And I like it
Taken from the Missouri Star interview with Lulu Roamer photographed in front of her Teardrop camper
I forgot how long winter is.
It doesn’t extend from November to March
as it should but it’s disobedient and sometimes hides inside a heart and a chamber to the left or to the right and there you are with only a part of your heart functioning because of winter or it’s a fact. You think it will get better but in fact you’re wrong because once something is frozen it’s never the same. Even a hamburger isn’t as flavorful once defrosted. I used to think that people could learn over time that frostbite prevented circulation and thus freedom however experience has taught me that if you let something freeze it can never really be brought back to life appropriately again.
My Mother’s Hair
My mother’s hair always escaped
from under her red kerchief or the
lacquered on for control and the hair
dancing in a night club in Manhattan
even when she was in labor with
one of us. You can’t control wildness.
My mother lay, legs askew, baby
coming, never having to push as Dr. Leroy
removed us with forceps while her hair was
dancing at the Stork Club and her waist, so
turning sideways she could have been
an exclamation point or a bent spoon.
Her hair, curled in the heat and the moist
music, was happy as rhythm was the
clef of curl and the smoke, the smoke,
smoothed her out and persuaded her
life could be El Morocco and the possibility
of finding Mr.Rich.
Even after she found him she
worried he wouldn’t stay. He told her to
her hair softer. It was always
touch and go but he made the rules.
Older, her hair curled around nurses
who loved her sweetness while her children
longed to hear her truth.
You see, life was a silken tendril and a
TV dinners and flowered dresses with waists
cinched by men who knew how to lead.
Scissors hadn’t been invented and music
could anesthetize freedom. Hair could go
Letting Go When There’s No Rope Left
I have a friend who is trying to get divorced. This has been going on for two years. The marriage was a good length, (ten years), and a good part of it was not unhappy but the divorce has turned into a nightmare of hatred, accusations, bitterness, anger, paranoia and deep despair on the part of both parties.
There were no children involved, several properties purchased together, and a long stream of expenses for their life paid for by my friend who gave his partner free rein to do what she wanted in terms of the household accounts. By the time he realized most of his money was gone it was too late for reason or recompense: his life had become unbearable as daily verbal abuse had escalated to the point of physical pain. There was no surviving the atmosphere in the house, no love left between the two marital participants, and so my friend left.
His partner filed for divorce immediately and thus began the long history of demands for money, property, shares in imagined earnings, financial reports, tax returns, and appearances in court, depositions and more depositions. Interestingly enough, at this point in time my friend’s net worth had diminished to one tenth that of his wife’s yet she continued to threaten, hire new lawyers, fire old accountants, make new lists about what she wanted, hide possessions from my friend, and make her life’s goal destroying her husband.
Now I ask myself “Why?” If I were in the same position would I behave in the same way? Of course not. I am a reasonable person who likes to work things out and find reasonable solutions to problems. I like to have situations that are emotionally complicated solved as smoothly and expediently as possible as drawing them out only serves to upset one’s health and make oneself look like a fool in the community. People that continually fight over nothing and act in irrational ways are usually ostracized by others and find them alone and unloved in their lives. Who would actively make a choice to live like this?
Why am I writing about this today? I think it’s a really good lesson to all of us about how to destroy your life and your Karma. Holding anger, retribution and bitterness inside yourself is a good mechanism to destroy your own life. I think it does more damage than smoking. Imagine inhaling all that rage each day with every breath and then imagine not being able to release it. Imagine getting into arguments with everyone that surrounds you and then not having any real friends left. Imagine acting in a way that is dangerous to you and to others. Then take a breath and wonder why.
I think people get so caught up in their battles they forget why they began them in the first place. Much like all the needless wars we have been involved with we often can’t remember why we started to hate each other. We forget our compassion towards others and towards ourselves. We exist on our own fear and we can’t even see how it is destroying our lives. We lose all reason and all awareness of our own behavior and become fearful individuals who are living solitary lives as it becomes too risky to trust anyone else.
How many stories out there are like that of my friend? How many people hold on to old stuff as its familiar: pain is familiar. It may not be pleasant but sometimes fear makes us choose the familiar rather than the new as the new cannot be predicted.
I am no angel. Believe me I know that and I am aware of my own failings just as others are. I am writing this to make sense of the situation to me as well as to you as it seems so insane. The only thing I do know to be absolutely true is that operating from a fear based self will ultimately ruin your life and leave you with no friends or family to support you. In the end as they say we die alone but I hope when I die there are people who love me all around who can send me on my way to a new plane with love and joy. After all, there is really nothing else worthwhile in life but love.
I read the obituaries every morning as many people do. I have no idea why we do this. I look for reasons why people died, how old they were when they died, who survived them, etc. The other morning I saw that my childhood friend had died in February of a long term illness. There was a lovely picture of her taken when she was about 20 I would guess. I have no way of knowing as I last saw her in ninth grade at the graduation of Greenwich Country Day School. She was no longer my best friend having abandoned me for Phyllis and Priscilla and so we barely spoke on that day. I do remember feeling sad I was no longer friends with her and wondering what I had done for her to have lost interest in our friendship.
Betsey befriended me in fifth grade and whatever she told me to do I would do. I went to her house when she still had one (her father later left her mother) and spent the night many times. Her mother had a raspy voice, chain smoked L and M’s, and seemed sharp and unfriendly but stayed out of our way. She had two older sisters who were very glamorous and kind to me. I liked going to Betsey’s house as there was little supervision and we did whatever we wanted. Once in a while we would go bowling, something I never did with my own family.
Betsey told me in fifth grade I needed a bra: not because I was very developed but just because” every fifth grader needed one”. She took one from her sister’s drawer and told me to try it on which I did in the privacy of her bathroom. It was made of a harsh type of cotton and had straps with lengths sticking out which you pinned into place with small gold safety pins. When I wore the bra I felt incredibly sophisticated and old but nervous. What if someone touched my back and felt the strap and knew I was wearing a bra! What a terrifying thought!
In order to wear the bra I had to hide it in my drawer at night and then pack it in my school briefcase, carry it to school, and change into it in the girl’s room under Betsey’s supervision. The whole process seemed so time consuming but worth the excitement and the attention I seemed to get from Betsey for my obedience to her rules.
Betsey also taught me swear words which I did not know at that time. Today this seems startling but in the 60’s it was not surprising. I learned the three swear words that Betsy said were important to learn. “Shit” “fuck” and “dick”.
I found the words very difficult to define and kept returning to Betsy’s side asking her to let me know once again what they meant. I didn’t dare say them out loud and neither did she but writing them was also out of the question. I remember running back and forth most of that school day so I could remember the words, define them, and someday use them.
Once, about five years later out of the blue, Betsy called me and asked if I wanted to sneak out of my house and meet up with her. She said there would be a boy who could drive. I was really torn by this invitation as I never did anything wrong. It simply wasn’t worth the repercussions but Betsey’s invitation seemed irresistible as the “boy” was incredibly cute. I had seen him around town, he was a bit older than we were, and was considered really cool and very bad. Having never been in a car driven by anyone under the age of 40, I couldn’t resist.
As it turned out, my parents were out of town and our house was “loosely supervised” when this was the case. We had a nanny but she put my youngest sister to bed and then went to sleep herself by 9. At 9:10 I was downstairs trying to open the door without making a sound convinced I would be caught. I had no idea what I thought would happen but it wouldn’t be good. I finally opened the door and slipped out into the warm night air. It was very dark and I had no flashlight but I could see some outlines of the drive and the road behind it. I walked slowly past the night shrouded house of the Toby’s thinking of Button tucked safely in her bed and thinking to myself I must be really a wild child.
Waiting in the dark at the end of Meadowcroft Lane for Betsy and her crew was endless and by the time their car arrived I was a wreck. For some reason which I will never understand Betsy got out of the car and wanted me to sit next to Peter, the bad boy who was driving. In this position I felt as if I had been kidnapped by a scary witch on one side and an irresistible prince on the other. Hot and cold, yin and yang, good and bad, god knows what was happening but one side felt really good! Peter’s thigh was about as exciting to me as seeing Rhet Butler carry Vivien Leigh up the stairs in ”Gone With The Wind”. I could barely speak I found it so intoxicating. At one point the bad boy took his foot off the accelerator and moved my leg closer telling me to steer and use the gas pedal which of course I did.
Looking back on that night I see how important it was to me in my life of mostly dreams and few actual adventures. Sneaking out of my house at night, being driven by a bad boy around town, feeling the arousal a teenage boy could create, in me: it was an amazing memory for me to take out from time to time and smile over. Nothing happened. No one was hurt. No one even missed me, but it was magic.
So there was an obituary for me to read about my friend who created the memory but was lost to me for the rest of her life. As it turned out, she lived for many years less than five blocks from where I lived with my young family yet I never knew it. She worked cleaning houses for years and had her own small company. She never married or had children and died with her sister and a friend. by her side. I felt sad reading Betsy’s obituary as her life didn’t seem as large as her spirit and I was sorry. I will always be grateful to her for my night of magic.
In our house in Maine there is a family wall where many memories are drawn or painted. The first measurement of a child’s height was done about 35 years ago when my daughter, Christina, was 2 years old. The wall is now covered with lots of memories and people who visit continue to make more of them. This house is the only house I own which I have owned for this long a period of time. In my real life outside of the months of summer I buy and sell real estate like a grass hopper. I love to move. I love exploring the new property and finding new nooks and crannies to hide in or hide things in. It makes me feel as if I am reinventing myself all over again which is a good feeling. I have noticed there are two different groups when it comes to houses: those that move and those that do not move. Neither group is better than the other , just a different mind-set. I think I like to move because movement seems to be a better feeling than stillness. Stillness can be sobering.
We are in an economy now where there is a lot of stillness interjected without sharp periods of insane fluctuation in the financial markets. Many still believe we are on an upswing. I do not and have not as you will know from my older posts. How can we pull ourselves out of this recession with so much accumulated debt in our government and those of other countries in the world?
So I say “STORE NUTS!”
Just like the squirrels do in time for a long winter we all need to store nuts. Don’t suggest this, our government officials tell us as we ned people to spend to end the recession That seems like a Catch 22 to me. Tell everyone to spend their savings so our economy will improve but what about what happens if people do just that and our economy gets even worse? We all need nuts in our trees to survive what looks like a very long winter.
So I have an idea. What if we all stored nuts and then added a few more for people who didn’t have enough?Wouldn’t that be a good plan? The world is different now and will become more different and less safe. If we band together and help each other life would be better for most.
I don’t have a huge network of family where I live but I do have a large network of friends I am grateful for. I would like to have a wall in my house here of all my friends heights and their small drawings as it would keep me company at night. Maybe I will begin that project soon.
Jobless in the bay area
Today I was lucky enough to be visited by an old friend who I hadn’t seen for 10 years or so.
She came because she wanted some interviewing advice and that is what I used to teach: how to sell yourself, how to work a room, how to get the job of your dreams. I stopped teaching because it was incredibly tiring and I had run out of hope to give people.
I found that today I really enjoyed doing my old job again and was helpful to my friend which is what it is all about to me. We spoke of her past employment and what she wanted now and then we spoke of how weird it is to be older and unemployed and having interviews with people 10 or more years younger than you.
I found this point the most interesting one as it is true for so many people today. You work hard, make a good living, advance up the ladder of corporate success and then lose your job. You have to begin a long search, learn to sell yourself all over again, and face the fear of never finding a job.
I find the younger generation hard to deal with as they seem to have no sense of humor. I often find myself out with a group of people younger than me and I notice they are really not having that much fun. Often they drink a lot, the men talk sports, and the women talk about schools for their kids. In this regard nothing has changed from my generation.
The one different thing is that my generation knows how to have fun! We had great music for fun. Anyone who grew up in the sixties and danced to the Beach Boys, kissed to the Beatles, and went to a Rolling Stones concert knows about fun. Fun is just good old sweet fun. Like spending an entire afternoon in a grassy field making out with your boyfriend.
My friend who is on a job hunt interviews with mostly young men and she isn’t having much luck. I think she isn’t having luck because it is really hard to establish rapport with a guy in his late thirties or earl forties. They don’t know the art of small talk the way we do. Small talk makes the big talk which comes after so much easier. These guys may also be threatened by a woman who is older and infinitely more qualified that they are. In any case they do not feel comfortable establishing a rapport and go right into hard core interview questions.
You know what I told her to do? Wear a pretty dress rather than the black suit she always wore to interviews. Well, that’s not all I told her to do but I did recommend that she do that. I think wearing a dress at our age to a job interview shows you have a good sense of self and that you are comfortable in your own skin. I think the old days of dark suit interviews should be swept out the door.
My friend did tell me that once she was 40 she vowed to wear all the pink she wanted to the office. So now she needs to remember that. We all do. It’s so hard to face fear and act as if you have none. People get hired who seem confident and competent. Acting fearful is a bad thing in an interview. It’s not so much the pretty dress as the attitude that says I am comfortable with myself and I get along with people.
After she left my sweet dog disappeared for a couple of hours. I felt terrible fear and was crying most of the time. I convinced myself she would never return and that I would never find another dog like her. I would be forever sad about losing her. She had been carried off by an enormous eagle that had eaten her piece by piece. Can you imagine anyone thinking like this? Crazy, right?
Fear is crazy. It paralyses us. It makes us unable to live our lives with freedom and joy. It is the worst possible emotion I feel yet is is always simmering under the edge of our lives. As the book says we have to “Feel the Fear, and Do it Anyway”.