Archive | Age Matters

The Human Condition Is a Home State

All the interesting characters I’ve ever worked with–including myself–have had at their center a feeling of otherness, of homesickness. And it’s wonderful to watch someone finally open that forbidden door that has kept him or her away. What gets exposed is not people’s baseness but their humanity. It turns out that the truth, or reality, is our home.

But you can’t get to any truths by sitting in a field smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and grief. Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We don’t have much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not to enter. When we have gone in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in–then we will be able to speak in our own voice and to stay in the present moment. And that moment is home.--Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I am still upstate and spent last Saturday with music pouring out of my car speakers while I wound through great green and gold roads, indigo hills rising in the foreground, wildflowers waving hello. Ostensibly I was tag-saling (tag-sailing!), and in fact scored better than I usually do. Mostly, though, I was seeking a small adventure in the netherland between Columbia County, New York, and the Berkshires–between my chosen state and home state, respectively. I experienced my usual thrill when I saw the “Welcome to Massachusetts” sign, and my usual frustration when confronted with the parsimony of people from my native state. “One dollar, twenty five cents,” announced the older white man with shark eyes and shaking hands as I showed him the wares I wished to purchase at a church rummage sale. “So much?” I said, and flashed the lipsticky grin that opens all kinds of doors on the island of Nueva Berserk. “Now, where are you from,” he said slowly, and I could just tell he was wishing he’d charged me one hundred dollars and twenty five cents. Continue Reading →

Where I’m From, Faithfully

I woke with the following paragraph in my head. So I transcribed it and wrote the rest–a post about watching kids from my hometown fall in love happily-unhappily ever after. Now I’m smiling on this screened-in porch in Hudson, a beautifully rural region in which I’ll never have any roots. Because once again spirit gave me an answer when I asked. The question, desperately phrased last night, was: Why the fuck am I writing a book about my hometown?

What I remember most about those school dances was the shock of watching two people find each other. The music wasn’t cheesy to us. It was full of hope and longing and sweet discovery. Which is why, I think, 80s ballads boast such a strong appeal some three decades later.

———

Wheels go round and round
You’re on my mind.
Restless hearts
Sleep alone tonight
Sending all my love
Along the wire

Watching a boy take a deep breath, shove his hands in his pockets, and stride across the great divide of the gymnasium to ask a girl to dance. She quiet, while her friends gossiped and chewed gum, flipped hair. The boy saying something super small– yawannadance, probably. She saying something even smaller, a barely perceptible nod.

And then the two step into that light–strobe, disco, maybe just a stage-crew spotlight. In my memory there was always something glowing on the dance floor, the miraculous inception of an ancestral line. For in that light I saw the first dances of humans who went on to marry and have children, buy houses, share private jokes and tired smiles for 30-odd years. Also beat each other to a bloody pulp of infidelities and defaulted mortgages and sometimes actual bloody pulps. All those births and holidays and deaths spinning out from that moment, spinning like a clown. Continue Reading →

Change the Record, Change Your Life

I woke wanting to listen to Aretha. No big surprise there, though I haven’t been listening to my queen lately; it’s still too painful. What I really wanted to hear was new music by her, but this is no small feat when you’ve been obsessed with a now-deceased singer since you were a child.

It was a desire sparked by seeing Malcolm X at BAM last Saturday. It’d been so swampy that weekend, and R and I had been casting about for something to do that would diffuse the intense awkwardness of feeling like strangers after having been lovers for years and then not speaking for years after that. So it wasn’t just the prospect of seeing the Spike Lee biopic on a big screen that had dragged us three neighborhoods from our own as temperatures climbed into the 100s. We’d had to balance the prospect of sitting in pools of our drying sweat against the promise of a hefty distraction, and the latter had won.

The joint was packed, and not just because of that AC. Everyone in attendance was agog over the choreography and catharsis and craftsmanship and charisma and certitude. This was a 3.5-hour film, yet there was none of that BS chatter and smartphone-checking you find these days at a public screening. In the last 10 minutes, the late, great Ossie Davis delivered his eulogy for Malcolm over a montage of the diaspora of his influence, and all around me people sat silent except for the occasional nose-honking.

Over the credits sailed an Aretha recording I’d never heard before: “Someday We’ll All Be Free.”

Until the last credit R and I sat still. At the beginning of the film he’d reached for my hand and I’d been stiff, like a child afraid to disappoint a needy elder. Always sensitive to rejection, he’d dropped it after a bit and I’d forced myself not to soothe his ruffled feathers by reaching back. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t initiate any physical contact I didn’t desire. He’d done that enough for us both. Continue Reading →

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