Welcome to the Fun House

I woke Friday with the words suspended above my head like a cartoon bubble, like a neon sign:

Yesterday was fun.

Which may not sound like the sort of weighty dispatch I typically unpack here but if you’d had a year like I’ve had–and chances are, you have—then such words are a bolt from on high. Life-changing.

Because this Year of 12 Novembers was simply not fun. But it being December—the season of goofy Sagittarius, no less– I’m finally better. Not perfect, mind you, but by middle-age only fools strive for perfection. Fun on the other hand–

Fun is precious indeed.

as seen at the library!

I spent Thanksgiving at the movies, paying for Knive’s Out (Rian Johnson’s eyebrow-waggling whodunit; so florid, so fun) and then sneaking into Frozen 2 (even more practically magical than its predecessor) where I sat in a row of popcorn-snacking, lip-smacking six-year-olds who laughed at all the same cues as I did. It helped that I had a purse full of treats–an everything bagel with schmear, lox, tomato, caper; clementines; truffle-salt popcorn–and a pocket full of champagne (in a Poland Spring bottle, don’t get literal on me now!). It also helped that suspended NYC parking regulations meant minicar Minerva could slide into a space right next to the theater. Door to door: my kind of easy, affordable glamour: .

Afterward I emerged into the late afternoon’s dying light, and didn’t feel lonely so much as held. Even the traffic–in NYC, there’s always traffic–felt gently choreographed, a fleet of sailboats gliding in tandem. I’d been on the fence all day about whether to attend any of the dinners to which I’d been invited–my friends understand my deep ambivalence about this holiday–but when I got back to my house the party next door seemed like the place to be.

It helped, of course, that this coffee shop is run by a family of goofy Italians (not Italian-Americans) who take nothing seriously but food and art. Throwing on a few gold chains and opening my blouse a few buttons, I stepped into their found family den–tables pushed together and heaped with huge dishes of pasta and eggplant and garlicky greens and meatballs and, of course, wine, so much wine. I sat with neighborhood friends, none of whom had been born in this complicated country, and drank and danced and laughed and drank some more. Someone walked me home–someone Italian, naturally (when in Rome)–and we ended the evening snogging in my vestibule until Gracie, hearing my voice two flights below, began wailing and the Italian woman on the second floor began her nightly ritual of screaming at her husband–Bastardo! Bastardo!–and my would-be paramour and I sprang apart. It was just as well, honestly. Anything more would have been ill-advised rather than light-hearted.

In a gale of giggles I ducked upstairs to console a certain permakitten with abandonment issues before calling Jan in Wisconsin to compare notes on our alleged holiday. Which turned out to be a bona-fide holiday after all.

Saturday morning I drove out to Montauk–following the sunrise and stopping at thrift stores, book sales, and holiday fairs before hiking through the woods to the beach where I saw seals watch me watch them with a preternatural calm. I drank in the turquoise and sand and salt and strong fresh air before hitting the local fishermen’s pub, all chowdah and ethnic jokes (Eyetalian jokes, Polish jokes, Irish jokes, Jew jokes, oy) and come on Rossi just one shot with us boys before following that sun back home. Pink and orange in my front window on both legs of the trip, what could be better?

With so much driving, I figured my back would be out-out-out by Sunday, but all this happiness (and good faith healing courtesy of Leslie and my new ally J) meant I was stiff the next day but not out of commission. So I cleaned my house top to bottom while singing along to Aretha–church!–and wrapped up the weekend watching screeners with spring chicken Isa, a 20something filmmaker who’s recently become a cozy neighbor, the very best kind.

And all week I’ve worked well because I finally–finally!–had fun.

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