Last week I had the book-writing equivalent of a healing crisis, an occupational hazard when you’re writing about your childhood, maybe. Essentially I wrote my way into some unhappy revelations, then got so sick and unmoored that I dipped back into a romance that was a dangerous dissociation the first time around. It was a total “what’s it all about, Alfie” moment, no doubt triggered in part by the fact that I was actually getting somewhere. The only way I could coax myself into working again was to write some present-set essays, two of which I’ve shared here. But I must honor this memoir that’s been roiling in me for years, especially as I’ve removed myself from the flow of my regular life to so so. Far from here old white men are choking us on what’s left of their power, and the country is on holiday for what rightly would be a genocide remembrance day. Right around me, soft rain is falling, and the woods are hushed by the downpour. Grace, who never approves of my slacking off, is pacing like a schoolmarm who doesn’t know what else can be done with her unruly subject. I flash again on that Beckett phrase, “I can’t go on, I’ll go on,” and write to you.
Friends from Boston sometimes visit me in my hermitage, as Beztie calls it. Rachel made time between a trip to Ireland and adopting two Corgi puppies to spend a Sunday with Grace and me. We had a very Lisa and Rachel visit, which is to say we bought everything but the wallhangings at a French bakery, feasted beneath a lady-like umbrella, and made wishes at a bay beach. Like a good fairy godmother, she brought the big cup and the bigger sweater I’d been craving, and we skipped our grown-up plans in Provincetown to tell each other secrets not suitable for Facetime. My overfamiliar presided over us on the screened-in porch.
Melina, the friend with whom I’ve adventuressed since the late 1970s, took a ferry over and we visited that bay beach, too. As the sun set, we slipped out of our sand-filled suits and into the still water, sleek as sea lions. It was my first time skinny-dipping in decades, and the ladies enjoying their wine on the sand were horrified. The purification was necessary after our Ballston Beach escapade, though. Continue Reading →
I grew up in the suburbs of Boston, raised by two parents who kept their eyes on the city as they shuffled their kids to soccer practice and suffered through PTA banality. Both my mother and father came from working-class Northern Massachusetts mill towns, and found in 1960s and ’70s Boston a glorious burst of music and color and matter-of-fact magic. They moved to Newton, 15 miles west, so my sister and I could benefit from the town’s excellent public school education. And an excellent education we did have, though I, the eldest, kept my eye cocked on the city as well. I loved sun trailing through freshly cut grass, smoke entwining with drying leaves, ponds beckoning not far from our house. But I felt my parent’s ambivalence as by osmosis.
I craved action.
My high school paper won a national award my junior year, and when the staff went to Columbia University to collect it, I broke off from the other editors and took the 1/9 train down to the Village. It was the late ’80s and the city had not yet been hemmed in by Guiliani and superstores. Second-wave punk, hip hop, and gay liberation reigned supreme, as did one-dollar coffees and broken park benches flanked by buildings as trees. I borrowed a Walkman from a friend, and walked through that heat, heart, hopeless hope with Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love rising in my ears. Back home I was already fucking a cruel and beautiful man, and when he’d hit me and I hadn’t left him, I’d stopped believing I could fit anywhere good. But as I walked through New York that day, I saw there could be another way. Continue Reading →