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.
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 →
Up here in the country I thought I could escape news of our Country but the truth is I haven’t earned that right. None of us have, not this year. There are children in concentration camps. There is a militia rapidly forming on our fourth-reich ruler’s behest. There are shootings every day–shootings, I’m sorry, that you can’t pray away. And thanks to corporate colonization of this land we are rapidly cycling into an environment uninhabitable for humans and many other species of life. The earth will survive but not humans and certainly not America. So these first three days I’ve been upstate have been tumultuous—the animals are subject to unusual unrest, the woods seem wicked, even my car seems…possessed.
Because we all are. The land we perch on has been possessed since European settlers first manipulated the native tribes and then made a holiday out of it. Trump didn’t just happen to us, neither did the GOP. We participated in their inception every day we didn’t stop meadows from being paved over, sat still when we should have rose up, took what flat-out wasn’t ours. So, ya, this is my “vacation face.” It’s not so relaxed. “Radical self-care” be damned, I haven’t earned the right to relax. None of us have in this burning building called America.
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 →