Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Nostalgia for Everything

I stole this title from a favorite short essay by Andrei Codrescu.
The reason I am feeling nostalgia is that Son is 15, and as I peruse photographs of Christmas past I miss the us we were. Now we are not an us, now we are a me and a him.
I know this is a stage of life one must pass through, just as one must go through all the symptoms and illness of the flu before one can recover from it. Yes, adolescence is an illness, mostly for the parents.
The difficulty of this stage of his life surprises me. I was (somewhat) prepared for the difficulty of the younger years. They call them the Terrible Twos! But so much of that was difficult physically. Chasing after the little demon as he tried to put all the poisonous and electrical things in his mouth. Staying up late, getting up early when he developed his very own sleeping schedule that ignored the laws of nature and light. Being exhausted is just part of the deal.
But now the exhaustion is of a psychological nature. Son spends most of his time ignoring me, or slowly pushing the door closed as I try to talk to him. In all ways he is creating and drawing attention to the chasm between us. For him, I'm sure, this is healthy and all part of the process. For the mother, of course, it is painful.
So I find pictures of us when he was five and he has his arm around me and a crooked grin on his face. I sift through memories for moments with him. Watching TV. Listening to him watch Looney Tunes in the basement while he laughed hysterically, the day I was walking with him across a store parking lot, holding his hand, and I had the wherewithal to think, "Remember this. His little hand." And I did, so much so that I can feel the shape of his tiny hand in mine.
Those days are gone, my friends, and I think (a lot, actually) that our best days are behind us. I know there will be good times in the future, but when? The future, as always, is uncertain.
I'm sure there is a Buddhist way to make peace with all of this.
He is a wonderful person, and I'm sure that at some unspecified time in the future he will be able to admit that he likes me again.
But until then, Oy!
So I have nostalgia for everything. For the him he was and the me I was. For Christmases when we could buy him toys and coloring books. For the time when he *wanted* to make cookies with me. For the time when I didn't swear at him every day. (I'm a bad mom. I know.)
At the same time, I'm aware that in the future, two years perhaps, when he's away at college and the house is a tad-bit emptier, that I will have nostalgia for this time, when he ignored me and when I could observe, every day, tiny glimpses into the man he will become.
Damn. Being a Mom is hard.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Night at The Westerner in President-Elect Trump's America


There are a few things I know for sure, and one is when a man who looks like a straight, white redneck in blue jeans, a plaid shirt, and a camo baseball cap gets on stage at a bar called The Westerner to do karaoke, and he sings "Don't Cry Out Loud," you can be pretty sure he's not what you first thought him to be.
After, you will turn to your friend and say, "He's a closeted gay man," or something to that effect.
Later, when two older gentlemen, one in a giant black cowboy hat with a white mustache and beard, the other in a baseball hat, going by the names "Jack Daniels and Bud Light," get up to sing a version of "Beer For My Horses," you will begin to worry. The song, written by Toby Keith and Scotty Emerick, and originally recorded by Keith and Willie Nelson seems to be a benign country song in the tradition of many such country songs. Some of the lyrics, however, began to grab your attention and cause an uneasy knot to form in your stomach.


Grandpappy told my pappy

Back in my day, son
A man had to answer
For the wicked thing he done
Take all the rope in Texas
Find a tall oak tree
Round up all of them bad boys
And hang 'em high in the street
For all the people to see

Are you alone in being reminded of, say, a lynching? You look around and most of the mostly white people in this bar are singing along and don't seem to be aware of the words that are actually coming out of their very own mouths.

We got too many gangsters
Doing dirty deeds
Too much corruption
And crime in the streets
It's time the long arm of the law
Put a few more in the ground

 Is it the word "gangster" (code for African-American?) or is it the idea of vigilantism that now makes you worry, not only about yourself, but about lots of other people, some of them in this very room?

The cute young man in the plaid shirt has signed up for another song. He has a good voice. The song turns out to be "Sweet Transvestite" from Rocky Horror. Uh-oh. He gives a strong performance with some, but not too much, flair. You look uncomfortably around the room for any men who may be looking violent/disturbed. You say to your friend, "okay, maybe NOT in the closet."
A very talented friend has already signed up to sing a song by the Dixie Chicks. She reminds you of the very public battle between Toby Keith and the Dixie Chicks resulting in the F.U.T.K. t-shirt. Too late now. On she goes. Luckily, she sings like an angel and thereby, through the magic of music?, wins over Jack and his friend Bud. When she comes down from the stage, Jack gives her a high five. He must of forgotten that TK hated the DCs. Good!
Before you leave, you tell the young gay man that he has a good voice and that you liked both his songs. He hugs you. He is gathering his things, and you hope he is leaving, but you see him and his friends heading to the dance floor. 
It occurs to you that he is brave, in Post-Trump America, to dress like a redneck and sing like a fabulous gay man. You complimented him because you wanted him to know you are on his side, you wanted to encourage him, but now it occurs to you that he saw right through you. That he recognized immediately that you were the one who needed a hug, not him, because he has the knowledge and security of being 100% who he is. 
Even at the Westerner in President-elect Trump's America.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Some Thoughts on a Tuesday

Yesterday Middlebrow and I were doing yard work. Or, Middlebrow was doing yard work and I was approximate to him in a way that might suggest I was also invested in this labor, whether I was or not. The point is, we were in the yard and we were doing some manual type labor, wearing gloves, using tools, getting into and near the dirt.
Not very long, minutes-wise, into this endeavor I might have said something like, "This is boring." Because it was. It's basically the same physical action or actions over and over. Then one might look down the long row of rose bushes that stretches from the sidewalk to the fence and using some kind of fancy algebraic formula, one might guess at the amount of time it will take to finish the project and then one might imagine the boredom stretched out over those minutes and days and one might become instantly exhausted.
"This is why we went to college," said Middlebrow. To avoid such labor, I'm guessing. And it's true. I hated weeding in the summer, when my mom made me, I hated mowing that one day when I actually did it for money.
But it's necessary, isn't it? The labor? The weeds grow, and they grow and grow unless we pull them and then put down this miracle fabric which prevents them from growing. And the roses bloom and then they die, and someone has to trim them otherwise, how will the new buds find the sun?
I contemplated these ideas, labor, adulting, as I did some light weeding in the cool morning breeze. It felt good, but it was still boring. Also, my back hurt.
And then I thought about social media, and how obsessed it is, right now, in this moment with one particular gorilla. And how everyone and their fucking dog is using it as an occasion to bludgeon everyone else about a pet obsession: The gorilla proves that we don't care about endangered species (this one might be true); the gorilla proves that parents are distracted/lazy/bad; the gorilla proves that unless we are vegans, we're not allowed to feel compassion for the gorilla; the gorilla proves that zoos are bad; the gorilla proves that zoos are good; the zoo was justified in killing the gorilla; the zoo was unjustified in killing the gorilla. All these ideas basically come down to one thing: people who don't agree with me are stupid.
This seems to be the general sentiment these days, in social media, in politics, in entertainment, in sports, in life.
I have been guilty of it, but the quiet boring contemplation of yard work and the busy, hectic meaningless posturing of social media has given me a lot to think about.
Also I am contemplating a daily "black out" for my whole family.
I look forward to your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My husband told me to write a sonnet

Sabbatical Sonnet

You must do the one thing that you think you
cannot do, Eleanor Roosevelt tells me. With all
the things due, it’s true, I do not think I can do
all the things I have yet to do. If you think
you can or think you can’t, you’re right. Says who?
Maybe Henry Ford, who wanted to do to
us before we did to him. Maybe it’s true
that thinking is key, that we do as we believe
or we believe as we do. There is only do,
there is no try, another sage says. Try as I do
I accomplish very little with much to do.
Sometimes I sit. I often admire the view.  
Piles shift in space rather than disappear.

I’m on sabbatical. Good thing I have a year.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday

Over at Jim’s, across the street, they are still
asleep, but the trees dazzle, blossoms
blowing in the Sunday wind. The soft
down of grass has been culled into shape,
the dandelions removed, the pansies trained
into neat little rows. Even the maple seems
to be obeying some grand design.
In the mid-day sunlight, the greens glisten,
the yellows sparkle and pop, the oranges
blaze like dying suns, the reds bleed and bleed.
I observe Nature here, in the urban garden,
a blinded muse, a bound dancer, a slave.
I am no master.



(the first word of each line is taken from This Poem

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

to fast: v.

to go without, to postpone, to defer,
she fasted that she might be furthered
to hasten, to proceed quickly, to heighten,
she fasted that she might arrive
to increase, to displace, to prolong
she fasted that she might want
to hunger, to yearn, to need,
she fasted that she might desire
to bind, to fetter, to fix,
she fasted herself that she might persist
to worship, to mortify, to meditate
she fasted that she might be pure
to elevate, to seek, to pursue
she fasted that she might find
to arrive, to discover, to escape

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Self-Portrait as Lucian Freud's "Double Portrait" (1985-86)

Am I the woman, artificially still, arranged as if in sleep,
or death? Am I the dog, nestled beside her, its jaw tense,
dreaming, ready to snarl or bite? Am I the paint, deep
and patchy, ridged  brushstrokes blowing from edge
to edge? Or am I the canvas, flat, transparent, and square?
Am I the navy of her dress, her pale buttery skin, the grayish-
pink of the dog’s vulnerable belly? Am I the paint brush, the hair
Of rabbit, badger, or horse? Am I the shadow beneath the weight
of her arm, casually shielding her eyes, or is her pose a defense
against the artist’s gaze? I’m the suggestion of a wall, the blank
bedsheet, the too white bed, the dog’s mottled fur, the sense
the world is one indecipherable scene and art makes it think.
What, exactly, is it the subject of this painting? That which we see:
woman, dog, paint? Or the space between the painting and me?