No River, No Bridge

It’s raining here in Hudson and our democracy is pretty much done for and I’m caretaking a bevy of animals who don’t get along and I’m listening to Aretha sing her saddest songs-

You’re leaving/please tell me what is wrong

I sit on A’s screened-in porch and edit a section of my book that is killing me. The rain falling in sheets, wide and from on high like these ancient generous trees, actually makes me feel better. I feel a camaraderie with it, anyway.

I told a lover how much this section was killing me, and his response distilled everything wrong between us: But isn’t every section of this book the hardest section? Isn’t writing it always killing you?

It was true but also glib and dismissive, and it touched upon the worst fear I carry. That this book is ultimately of consequence only to me. That I am of consequence only to me. For if the person who holds your body does not care about your heart or head, what hope can you harbor that anyone else will?

Granted these are the words of the resented child. The unnourished child. But that’s whose story I am telling right now. That is my bildungsrosman.

I know that I am a method writer, as my eldest godchild once joked, and that for now the loneliness and desire to be seen, to be embraced, eclipses any good sense I usually carry. This is the open wound I felt so strongly when I was 12 and learned that my suspicions were true: that the only person guarding my sexuality and intelligence and feelings was me.

I keep flashing on a quote I once read about Julia Glass, whose work, unfashionably empathic, I cling to like a raft this summer. A Pantheon editor said of her:

“She is incredibly brave….To be a first novelist in your forties, writing without a book contract and no steady income, is to just say, ‘This is what I have to be doing.’ “

Then I remind myself once again that happy endings are not guaranteed. That most success stories are built on the backs of career muses like me. Or people even less willing.

So I’m here, practically stripped of life force, and I’d be lying if I said if I was certain I’d survive, just like I’m not certain our country will survive the greed and betrayal finally laid bare. I’m not certain how next to make cash, not certain of how to be as alone as I was before this man swaggered into my life, not certain of how to once again resurrect my magic. My money has run out, my beauty, a safeguard for so long, is at a perilous precipice, and I’m scared about how I will stay afloat. No tv show, no instant message, no GIF will take off the edge off the sharp tang of fear I feel.

Survival is not guaranteed. Thriving seems even further afield.

Mars Retrograde’s Paradigm Shuffle

I wake before the sun and shuffle into the kitchen to fix Gracie her breakfast and brew my coffee. I sit by the window, watch the doves bicker gently as they set up a new nest on my fire escape. Babies coming, I think, and pour coffee and heated cream into my biggest mug and shuffle back into the bedroom with a sated Gracie nipping at my heels.

I do not turn on a film. This is momentous.

When anything ominous looms on my horizon, I watch a film before beginning the day. I can rationalize the viewing by nodding to my ostensible profession of the last two decades–muppet critic, at your service–but lately I’ve come to wonder if the profession itself developed as the ultimate rationalization.

As dissociation devices go, a chosen profession is not so bad.

Lately, I have been watching an awful lot of early-morning movies. Yesterday, I watched Singin’ in the Rain. It’s a wonderful film. Certainly the best metamusical ever made–the best metamovie, period. I chose it in honor of the nation’s birthday–Debbie Reynolds in gold and pink spangles, popping out of a cake while my man Gene Kelly beams broadly and drawls: “Well, if it isn’t Ethel Barrymore.” Continue Reading →

Weather Fail, Feminist Film Fail (Oceans 8)

I ducked upstate this weekend to avoid the three-digit temps of NYC, not to mention the Mars retrograde kerfuffle (and, boy, do I have some stories for a later date). But even here in Hudson the weather’s been too swampy to do anything but cower in air-conditioning. Yesterday I fetched things from greenmarkets and farmstands: beets, tarragon, mint, cilantro, green cabbage, rainbow carrots, boston lettuce, cherries, blueberries. I thrifted: two dresses, one skort, one vintage slip, three milkglass candle holders, one pyrex pitcher, all for 20 bucks! I assembled meals: chopped greens and herbs and roasted chicken and beets, all dressed with plain yogurt and tarragon and mint and cilantro and lemon.

Twas an embarrassment of simple pleasures.

Today was too hot for that level of activity, though. So I decided to put my money where the women were: Oceans 8 at the local cineplex. The screening was well-attended, I’m happy to report, not only by my fellow retirees (lately I’ve been taking dowager chic a little too seriously) but, surprisingly, by a handful of fathers with their young sons and daughters. I’m less happy to report that the lady-packed sequel felt like another H-Wood sloppy second: boy director, boy co-writer, boysboysboys behind the camera. Every one of these brilliant female actors-Rihanna, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, Sandy Bullock, Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway– were reined in by electric dog collars, the plot points and joke setups languishing on mobile fainting couches. I’m guessing this was meant to read as what my colleague Odie Henderson calls “ratpack laissez-faire.” Really it read as thorazine shambles.

It’s high time we female-identified people ran more shows from top to bottom.

Still, twas a much-needed visual model in feminine competence and solidarity, if one not nearly as funny as its individual performers. Cate and Sandy were searingly hot with sexual chemistry galore and a distinctly grownup swagger. Elliot Gould in a fur coat and Swifty Lazar glasses waddled through a much-welcome cameo. And the air conditioning? Killah.

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