Archive | City Matters

Zoo York Is Not Enough

I had such a lovely break from the city–sunrises by the sea, swanning on tree-laced hammocks, cartwheeling in big fields–and such a bumpy reentry. On the drive back a glass-encased candle–an uncrossing candle, no less–exploded in my car, my phone abruptly went dead and still is not fixed as I type this, and so many serious accidents took place on the highways that the normally 3.5-hour trip took 7 hours. It’s not just that my nerves were shot; it’s that I could feel everyone else’s were shot, too. Finally somewhere in Connecticut I broke down in tears–the messy kind, not the pretty kind– and had to pull to the side of the road. Aloud I said: “Okay, higher spirit. You’ve secured my attention. What do you want me to know?” In response I could not just hear but see the Rilke quote: You must change your life. And here I’d thought I already had, though I guess thus far said change has been inflicted rather than invited.

I know some of what I need to do but if the rest were obvious or easy, I’d have done it long ago. This is, after all, the human experience: We learn by expanding our horizons, by stepping out of our comfort zones, in this case literally. Living so isolated from nature drains me to a degree I only acknowledge on the rare occasions I’m by the ocean or beneath a tree by myself. Yet the craving for unadulterated fields, for the noisiness of birds and wind and crickets, pulses beneath all the decoration of my New York life no matter how I try to drown it out, and it grows stronger in the shadow of dystopia. Even as I zoomed back to the city I no longer love monogamously I still heard the heartsong I breathed in that big air, and how to return to All That now looms as my biggest question though others should take precedence. Being middle-aged, it turns out, teaches us to heed older rhythms and wiser notes than what our tiny brains can measure.

Grace is glad I’m back, anyway. My friend takes my absence so seriously that I could hear her weeping as I climbed the stairs to my apartment. Witches and their familiars should never be parted.

The Nightmare Is Also a Dream

Last night’s dream:

A big corporation asks me to do a live performance since the one I gave in real life went well. This time I do not feel engaged enough to do a good job. I’ve brought along some index cards but can’t find them in my purse and every time I stop to dig for them I lose my thread and audience so I plod on. Everything and everybody is twitching. The crowd and I are standing in a big drafty old factory floor that’s not quite been transformed into something else. It’s the kind of building that used to abound in the West 30s and 40s when I first moved to New York. I am rambling while worrying idly that I’m not worrying when the roof begins to crumble and then bursts into flames. Again, I think, since the roof of Chelsea Market burst into flames earlier this month as I was getting fired. Everyone runs out but me and a tall woman with beautiful arms and copper skin and eyes. She and I are detached, watching the drama unfold. Then we turn to each other and Continue Reading →

I’m Everybody! Are You Everybody Too?

I slipped into the theater as Cynthia Nixon was cooing to a newborn: “I’m nobody! Are you nobody too?”

It was the newly renovated Quad Cinema, and I’d scored a ticket because I was presenting the Emily Dickinson film, “A Quiet Passion,” to a cinema club later in the week. Normally I would not be spending such a beautiful afternoon indoors, but I’d had a terrible writing morning—the sort that robs one of all confidence and joy—and I was keen to get out of my house, neighborhood, and head, in that order.

The new Quad seemed a lot like the old Quad, down to ticketing confusion and the long, skinny screening rooms with tiny screens, but the seats were more comfortable and the film, a stately swoon. I settled into the story that had begun 20 minutes before my arrival, and tried to block everything out.

Dickinson was bright and glaring in her strong tempers, with the knit brow and bitten lip of a nineteenth-century woman heeding too many wrong lessons. She and her kin bickered against the austere backdrop of their Amherst estate, and I sat back against red cushions and exhaled in pleasure. This was not the New England of so many films-forbidding and confined to a palette of greys and more greys. This was the New England I long for 25 years after emigrating to New York: amused and amusing, with bursts of colors so extravagant that there’s no point in competing with your own person. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy