Friday, March 26, 2010

The Blind Side

After this long blogging silence, the first thing I write about when I finally return is . . . Sandra Bullock?

A few months ago, I officially decided I couldn't stand her anymore. (Not that I was that much of an active fan to begin with.) What had started to get to me was that -- at age 45, with no biological children, and likely on the cusp of that unfortunate stage in a Hollywood actress's career when she's no longer "marketable" as a leading lady -- she was making a bit too much of a deal about how she really, really was maternal after all.

She seemed to bring it up in just about every story I saw about her. It came to a head for me in
an article in Parade last November, in which she said that before she met her husband (the bandit Jesse James) and started helping raise his five-year-old daughter, "I was too selfish to have kids."

Yes, the old No Children = Selfish equation. What a fresh idea. Thanks for that, Sandy.

But that wasn't enough. She went on: "If you don’t have kids and animals, you don’t truly know what real life is about."

Okay, I
have an animal (and have had animals plural), and I now find it hard to imagine living without them. But for many years I didn't have animals in my life (34 years, to be exact), and I'd never be so judgmental and presumptuous to declare that those without them don't know what life is about.

Life is about your life and what you make of it, period.

Sandy, I thought, you're just an insecure clod.

Now, as everyone knows, mere weeks after her genuinely moving triumph of winning an Oscar, she has been publicly humiliated by allegations that her husband serially cheated on her.

And I've felt for her.

In her Golden Globe acceptance speech earlier this year, she said that before she met her husband, "I never knew what it felt like to have someone have my back."

Lord, all of those quotes that have come back to haunt her.

I've been there myself. Do I think he could be seeing someone else? No. No way.I remember seeing a 20/20 segment in the '80s about people who couldn't get over the death of their pets. Who were in grieving support groups, who couldn't stop crying. Get a life, I thought. Anyone who's that attached to animals doesn't know how to deal with people.
Next Wednesday is the second anniversary of my beagle Charlie's death. I still pray for his soul sometimes.

It's probably best not to make sweeping declarations about what constitutes life -- yours or anyone else's. All you'll end up with is reminder of how human you really are.

Not such a bad thing, I suppose.

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Monday, March 15, 2010


Vladimir: "I'm glad to see you back. I thought you were gone forever."
Estragon: "Me too." -- Waiting for Godot

Today D. finally e-mailed me this photo he took of us last May in London as we waited to see a production of Waiting for Godot starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. It's one of my favorite pictures of the two of us (I'm on the right).

I show it for no other reason than I need an anchor for my mind, which tonight refuses to alight on any single idea -- as it has refused for the last couple of weeks.

I just frittered away a couple of hours -- a fire burning and then dying in the fireplace, my dog sleeping and then waking beside me (breath in, breath out) -- trying to gain entry into coherent thoughts about friends falling away, relationships shifting, once-common interests diverging. Without planning to, I found myself Googling names and images, here and there coming across someone's familiar but drastically changed (or not at all drastically changed) appearance -- and, when I did, feeling little more than mild surprise or amusement, tempered by a curious sort of spongy distance from whichever potential This Is Your Life panelist it happened to be.

It is this detachment, among other things, that has kept me from joining Facebook: I believe that it's a rare, rare case where an old, lost friendship can be revived beyond the superficial level. What's more, my antipathy toward small talk is such that I'm reluctant to invite more of it into my life.

My long-held attitude toward organized reunions (i.e., that you should attend any and all that you have the chance to) is even changing, much to my surprise. My high school had an all-class reunion last spring that I was planning to attend, until I lost interest as the date approached. I haven't even considered going to this year's edition.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about a friend of almost 30 years with whom I currently seem to be on pause. We've had no contact for the last six months (possibly the longest we've ever gone) -- this after a perfectly pleasant evening with her and her husband and two little girls in which nothing untoward happened other than the fact that it became starkly apparent to me (and, I'm convinced, to her) that we were, figuratively, gazing in almost completely non-intersecting directions.

This is the friend who introduced me to Joni Mitchell's album Blue, the two of us sitting on a cold linoleum dorm-room floor,
listening to it over and over again: I remember that time that you told me, you said love is touching souls . . .

Tonight I don't even quite know where I am. I feel a bit reclusive, a bit wistful yet non-sentimental, a bit at a loss for words.

D. leaves for a few days in LA tomorrow, a trip to see friends. I'm going to the theater on Thursday to see a new play with a friend of my own. He's a more recent friend than those I was Googling tonight. Someone who has helped see me through -- helped
see me -- these last several years of change and reorientation.

So there you have it -- my bookends for this directionless and confused musing: nights at the theater. A curtain parting, a curtain closing, ideas to contemplate as I make my way back home.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

If It All Fell to Pieces Tomorrow, Would You Still Be Mine?

Last weekend, D. and I took a drive up to Adamstown, Pennsylvania -- Antiques Capital U.S.A., I'll have you know -- and as we were wandering through one antiques mall, "Take It to the Limit" came on over the sound system (antiques malls play '60s and '70s Top 40 more than any other genre of music), and I realized that that song evokes the 1970s -- not just the decade but my experience of the decade, whose latter half corresponded exactly with my adolescence -- more than any other song, period.

One of my sisters, my next-oldest sibling, loved the Eagles, so I heard a lot of them then. "Take It to the Limit," besides being a great radio sing-along when you're alone in the car, takes me back in an instant to the winter of 1976. (To confirm that my memory was placing it correctly, I Googled it just now, and indeed it was released as a single in November 1975.)

Nothing momentous happened. I was a high-school freshman in a Catholic boys' school. My sister and I were the only ones at home; our older brother and sister were away at college. It was a time of puffy down jackets, hair parted down the middle for guys, velour shirts. When you're 14, the shy youngest of four, you spend a lot of time observing your siblings, hearing about their dates, their friends, the concerts they went to (Jackson Browne, Little Feat), the movies they saw (Love and Death, Barry Lyndon), the parties, the summer jobs and the trips to the beach. Sometimes you fantasize about a time when you'll do all of those things -- see an R-rated film, have a girlfriend, get a down jacket or a velour shirt of your own.

You spend years learning about desire.

Next thing you know you're a fortysomething man wandering through an antiques mall in Amish country with your fiftysomething boyfriend -- surveying the Depression glass, the Stangl dishware, the back issues of Life magazine in plastic sleeves, the tchotchkes of way more generations than your own -- and a '70s pop song full of unabashed falsetto urgency comes on from somewhere unknown and fills you with an unaccountable longing, followed hard by a strange kind of pure satisfaction that where you are is just good enough.

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