Your Friend

Carl Krenek (Austrian, 1880–1948) Christmas Card, 1912 Austrian,  Color lithograph; Sheet: 5 1/2 × 3 9/16 in. (14 × 9 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Museum Accession, transferred from the Library (WW.762) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/650416

You will see, on beginning to read this letter, that it is not addressed to you by name. But I address it to a woman–a very young woman still–who was born to be happy and has lived miserably; who has no prospect before her but sorrow….

Do not think that I write to you as if I felt myself very much above you, or wished to hurt your feelings by reminding you of the situation in which you are placed. God forbid! I mean nothing but kindness to you, and I write as if you were my sister.

-Charles Dickens, “An Appeal to Fallen Women.”

One of my students bought me a doughnut.  My students now are kids in foster care.  I had to take the doughnut.  It would have been so rude not to.

“Don’t you want coffee, too?” he said.

“No, really, I can’t have any more coffee,” I lied.

“Is it going to be all right?” people are frequently asking each other now, me with my family in the car, as we throw conversation quickly around, me with a friend over wine, me with roommates standing in kitchen.  Is it?  With this mentally ill guy as president elect?  Could it be okay?

With our enthusiastic response, we have beaten some of it back.  Our donations, our phone calls, our emails, and even, sometimes, our Facebook conversations.

It’s still a horror of a time to be a woman.  To have a president who thinks it’s all right to rate you like a show dog.  I’m too old, too flat-chested, too skinny, spider veins, forehead wrinkles, and I am perfectly happy to be a complete bitch if necessary.  The president elect hates me.

I am only worth as much as my ability to arouse men and make them feel all right about their own resources and abilities.  The men in my life have tried valiantly to protect me from this reality of our culture, but it’s alway been running in the background.  I knew.  I always knew.  I carefully protected myself from it, by wearing very baggy clothes through puberty, by keeping all men at a very careful distance until I knew I could trust them.  I still knew.

Dickens helped found a home for women who had been in prostitution.  He chose the house, had it decorated, and wrote a letter to give to women who were possible residents.  Over twelve years, scholars estimate that about half of the women who lived there were able to make new lives.  Today on that site, there is a homeless shelter.

The women were not fallen, of course, it was society who had thrown them against a wall.  Our country is not fallen, but it has been thrown, hard, and broken.

I lay on my belly on the rug and a kid taught me to play Pokemon.  I was babysitting.  I was a terrible and wonderful opponent because I didn’t really understand the rules, and I was happy to lose because I only care about impressing people with how witty I am, how well read, and how tall, and none of these attributes of mine were at stake in Pokemon.

For a second, lying on the rug, I thought, I live in Brooklyn, and I am in Brooklyn lying on a rug.  When you’re at someone else’e house and they trust you with their kid, you really live somewhere.

My niece called me.  She’s at an age she just likes to call people and talk to them, it doesn’t seem odd to her that we haven’t seen each other recently, because she lives so far away.  She just wanted to show me her dogs, and I showed her my cat.  I asked her what she got for her birthday, which was just last week, and she said, “Oh, I don’t remember.”  That was great.

We have to be all right because of kids.  If everyone stopped having kids, we wouldn’t have to be all right.  I think there must be some science fiction that covers this.

 

For many years, at Christmas I was terribly sad that I did not have a family of my own.  I was terribly empty at not having a man to have a romantic Christmas moment with, or any kids with stockings to fill.  It made me so sad I didn’t want to do some Christmas stuff.  I don’t feel that now, this year, I just feel happy to have Christmas, to have pretty things, be with people, I don’t imagine some other life where my husband and kids were there when we decorated my dad’s tree last week.  They aren’t real, and the people who were there made me happy.

Some burdens just ease themselves off you, over time.

Right now we bear a heavy burden, of worry about the stability of our world, of worry about are we doing enough to protect our republic, our people, and that panic is very well-founded and realistic.

It won’t be forever, though.

Christmas is a break, for me, anyway, I hope it is for you.

I open Christmas in its secular sparkle, for all of us, for Charles Dickens, for tradition, for small affordable presents that you are afraid aren’t right, but are fine, what are you trying to prove?  For warm drinks, for pine, fragrant and sharp, for candles, for the moment you’re on your last nerve because of the special shit you gotta do.

I know it is only Advent, but this is the Christmas I believe in, which is inspired by Christianity and not limited by it, nothing beautiful is limited.  Loaves and fishes Christmas.  For everyone, no demand, no questions.  Plenty, plenty, enough to get through the winter.

Mankind is our business.

…remember on the other hand that you must have the strength to leave behind you all old habits. You must resolve to set a watch upon yourself, and to be firm in your control over yourself, and to restrain yourself; to be gentle, patient, persevering, and good tempered. Above all things, to be truthful in every word you speak. Do this, and all the rest is easy.

Believe me that I am indeed,

YOUR FRIEND

Urania Cottage, Dickens’ Home for “Fallen Women”

Image: Christmas card, Carl Krenek, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Advent

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I finally cried.  It was Richard Dreyfuss’ face at the end of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” that did it.

And writing this.

This election opened a door that will never be shut.  Just as the door of slavery is open, forever, behind us, this door will stay open.  Our deepest impulses to wall each other out, to be petty, to throw grenades and run and hide behind friends or money or religion, our past, our race, the whole infection is out where we can see it now.

These weeks felt both like when I broke up with the man I wanted to marry, and the weeks after 9/11.  After I broke up with the man, I knew I would not be the same person.  After 9/11, I knew our country would not be the same.

I never knew before that our country will not last forever, that God will last longer.  I’m not sure what I mean by “God” exactly, maybe I mean our stories, maybe I mean art.  I don’t mean my religion, my practice, or churches, or anything like that.

In a good way, I knew I would never be the same after that breakup.  I had never been brave enough to love someone completely.  Misguided though it might have been, I had loved someone completely, and it had completely fallen in, as completely as bombed out Dresden.

That Christmas, it was near Christmas, was maybe the most beautiful, in a way, though, I was so tender I burst into tears whenever I wanted to, and I cried better than I had ever cried.  I couldn’t believe it could be, could ever be Christmas again.  But it was.

We did everything we always did, I was, with great luck, wrapped in so much familial love, I could never fall too far in any direction.  There was an enormous snow, and my sisters and I were stuck at my mom’s, the four of us in her two-bedroom duplex, and we got up, put on all the long underwear and pants and sweaters and hats and mittens we had, and went out into the yard and built a snowman, which was actually more of an iceman because the snow was like that, we had to bring warm water out to seal the outside of our man, then we went back inside and watched TV until we had made each other completely insane.

But I knew, that year, about tiny, frail things being born in the dead of winter.  I was a tiny, tender thing.

Dreyfuss’ character, Roy, was a man changed.  He knew something, and he just wants someone to tell him, “This is really happening.”  A person for whom a huge, frightening surprise falls upon him, and it becomes a beautiful opening, not a closing, not an end.  He gets hit with the light, like Saul.  His wife doesn’t understand, he loses his children.  Then he loses his planet.  Or he leaves it.

I took the train to my piano bar in the city, and as I descended its steps, I knew I would be all right.  I got a drink, I got a seat, and we sang and sang and sang.  I didn’t care what we sang, though it helped that they were songs by Jews and gay men, mostly, and we knew the words, even to the songs that were very old, and I knew that whatever happened, we were never going back.

Everything that scares me about who I am, who I might be, is held at bay by the strength of oppressed people.  They never cease to comfort and inspire me.

There are other dangers.  But we’re not going back.  We won’t be the same people.  Already we are not the same people.  We can be new people, who are more kicked in the teeth, but more tender as a result, and more brave.  Enormous change means being someone else.  We have to be new people.

Because we’re never going back.

Image: “UFO Photo” by Jim Shaw, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Calm Amid Its Rage

2012.136.430.2“How are you?”

“Just living the national nightmare,” I say.  Everyone finds it charming.

Wednesday morning, I said, “Are you okay?” to someone, and she said, “Oh, I’m fine, I would’ve been upset if Hillary won, too.  I’ve followed that Benghazi stuff pretty closely.”

“Oh,” I said.  It’s okay to vote for a demagogue if his opponent has been attacked by her political enemies, see?

When I got on the subway and imagined everyone being dragged off, everyone except me, of course, just the Jews and the immigrants and the dangerous black people, which was everyone on the train except for me.

This was histrionic.  Was it?  What else was there to wait for, exactly?  Years ago, I took a class on the Holocaust.  Economically struggling people, scapegoating, “he doesn’t mean it.”  This is what I had been told, begged, to understand and remember and respect and guard against.

Many people were, at best, reckless with their vote.

I spent all of Saturday watching Netflix.  I took refuge in “The Crown,” and hour after hour of Queen Elizabeth’s problems.  I coaxed myself to eat with Ritz crackers.

I had been invited to a party.  I was supposed to bring a dish that reminded me of home.  I baked brownies and mixed up mint icing.  This is what my family has on Christmas and Easter.  I don’t know why.

I got dressed, buckled high heels and drew on red lipstick and set perfume at my neck.  This what I do when I feel awful.  I walked up brownstone steps, and a friend hugged me and let me in, and I thanked him for inviting me.  There was art as warm and buoyant as he is, and everyone there was some kind of artist or teacher.  All the years I felt so strange and silly, being an artist, here it is so natural and normal, it is such a pleasure.

Part of our evening was making art, drawing, paints, cardboard.  I sat and built a little house with blue and red wallpapered walls.  Cut out windows, a door.

In one way, I felt completely at home.

Then someone played “Home on the Range,” and I knew  I would only be at home at a French restaurant in Kansas City with three of my friends, where we’d eaten and drunk together a million times, that was home, there, with them, who knew exactly the way I was wacky and dumb and charming and how I could be trusted and how I couldn’t, exactly the ways I could be cruel and kind.  That was my only home, and I had given it up, and I never knew why.

I went to the dessert table and heard someone innocently say the brownie icing was very minty, not knowing I had minted the brownies myself.  I wanted to die, and then kill him, like any reasonable person would when someone said her brownies were minty.  How minty should they be?  How minty?

I went up to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror.  No more wine.  Go home.  Go to bed.  I got my coat from a bedroom, and saw text from my family singing “Happy Birthday” to my stepmom, which overwhelmed me with sadness again.

I went back downstairs, said good night to my host, and he gave me a hug and thanked him again, and again I was happy to know him.  It was good to be out, with art and people and kindness, even if I was a little too crazy to be out.  If I waited to be completely okay to go out, I’d end up a maiden in a tower.

The sermon the next morning began with the priest saying, “Whiskey, tango, foxtrot.”  And then it was about how we had to move into contemplative prayer until we were calm.  We had to work to let Jesus calm us because people needed us, and we needed each other, and we could only work from Jesus’ calm, not from anger or fear.  I cried.

We sang, “Oh hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea.”

We prayed, “We give you thanks for women and girls.  We will honor their integrity and work for their full equality.”

We sang “America!  God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood.”

For some reason, I’m not blaming God for this, though I may change my mind.

Unless it is terribly cold, I walk through Battery Park on my way back to the subway.  Today it isn’t terribly cold, just cold, and sunny.  Young people in day-glo vests ask you if you are going to the Statue of Liberty.  The portrait artists were set up, the people who sell the t-shirts and the signs that say things like, “Wine: how classy people get wasted.”  I walked past a restaurant playing, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” and a little kid said, “It’s not even Thanksgiving!”

The statue was out there, like usual, and Ellis Island.  I don’t know where I expect she would go.  Just past the statue are the huge freight cranes of the Staten Island piers.  I always wish the cranes were not there, I always think they are ruining the view.

I still am confused by the sea air, I am not used to living on the edge of the continent, maybe I never will be.  The sea air, spray of tangy fishy and mild salty, blows in on our island, summer and winter.  I always thought water was only for summer.

Image: “Water, a ship at sea during a storm, from ‘The four elements’,” Stefano della Bella, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

 

Shielded

800px-Official_program_-_Woman_suffrage_procession_March_3,_1913_-_crop.jpgVoting for Hillary Clinton was nothing like voting for Obama.

I was teary-eyed voting for Obama, it felt like a boil we’d had forever was getting lanced and cleaned.  I was worried my students would be crushed if he lost.  I was worried Sarah Palin would touch something sharp if she got any real power.  But I drove by a long line of voters who were black, on my way to work, and I thought, this is gonna be okay.

This election day, I happened to have the day off.  I watched the “Sister Suffragette” portion of “Mary Poppins,” dressed in a white t-shirt— the only thing I own which is white because I’ll spill on myself.  Walked across the park, into the elementary school, around the square of its corridors, went to the wrong table, went to the right one.  The lady in front of me was being asked, “When was the last time you voted?”

“Obama,” she said.  She, like 90% of the people at my polling place, was black.  I wonder about the composition of my neighborhood, as it gentrifies, but voting shows me that those who vote in my neighborhood are still mostly black.

The ballot was a short one here, the front with presidential candidates, senate (I didn’t even know our senator was running, I guess that’s how set that already is), and on the back, judges.  I hate voting for judges, I was educated by Missouri judges that we shouldn’t vote for them.

It was over so quickly, filling in Hillary Clinton/Mike Pence oval.  It was a very small oval.

I didn’t feel I was voting for the first woman president as much as I was voting to prevent an evil man from gaining power.  I like Hillary Clinton fine.  I’ve always thought she was sort of like me.  I’m not charismatic, but I’ll work hard.  I’m not the most dazzling specimen, but I am stubborn as hell.

And I get that she got into power the only way she could.  She had to be married.  To a man who would chase, and gain, power.  She had to stay married.  That was how she have the most power.

Having a woman president, hell, when will we have a president who is single?  An atheist?  A Jew?  A Hindu?  A Muslim?  I’m ready for all those things.  There are still many blocks to who the American public thinks is fit to lead us.  (I know we’ve had a president who was single, but that has been a long time ago, and it’s not feasible now.)

I wish I didn’t know how easy it was to rile up and organize the people in our country who are scared and bitter.  I wish I did not know how Hitler came to power.  I saw exactly how.  Without a depression, without a war, and I fear that is the only reason we haven’t gotten our Hitler.  For all That Guy said, our economy is actually good, and our crime rates are good, too.

I figured Obama was the guy who could become our first black president, by being mixed-race, actually, and soothing voters with his love of the half of his family who were white.  By being handsome.  By being calmer than calm, so it became impossible to pose him as the angry black man our country fears so deeply.

Senator Clinton maybe is the only one who could be the first woman president, by being married to a president first, by having been through the wringer so long and so hard that she has no fucks left to give.  Be accused of murder.  Watch the whole country discuss the blow jobs your husband got from a young woman.  Watch him get impeached.  After that happens, what do you fear in public life?  What is left?

People of color, and women, our lives are different.  We often can’t go the usual way to power.  We have to follow special rules.

I only feel good about myself because I had a mother who never said anything negative about any woman’s body, ever, and only said positive things about food and exercise and, well, pretty much everything I ever attempted to do.

And I had a father who consistently told me I had to do everything: make a salad, mow a lawn, change a tire, backpack with a heavy pack, up the mountain.  A father for whom the phrase “lady lawyer” was held up as a fabulous idea for my future. “You look like a lady lawyer,” he said, which I took to mean not that a lady lawyer was a specialized freak, but an even more awesome thing to be than just a regular boring old lawyer who was a man.  I was more interesting than that.

I did not become a lawyer, but I became someone for whom fighting the good fight at work was one of my primary joys in life.

I wish Ms Clinton had gotten the regular shake, the regular vetting, the regular chance to show herself, her work, her position, instead of having to just stand up and tell us over and over, “I’m a reasonable person.”

I don’t have time to think it’s wonderful a woman can be president because I’m still trembling inside from knowing someone can gain national stature by talking about my body– and the freedoms of many of my fellow citizens– the way That Guy did.

It’s not glamorous, but Ms Clinton wasn’t ever about glamour, was she?  She was always about slogging through the shit because that’s what had to be done.  It doesn’t feel shiny and bold the way the first black president did.  She’s not being lifted up, she’s being used as a shield.

She did what we needed her to do.

Madame President, First Man.  Have we worked out that “first man” business yet?  That will be important, too.  A supportive spouse is a treasure, no matter your gender, and someone who is president could really use a solid, known-you-forever confidant.  I hope Bill Clinton can redeem himself for some of his mistakes, by being a great help to his wife in her presidency.  He has the capacity to be a great, great help.

I walked out of the school, and passed a couple of young guys on the way in who were asked, “You here to vote?”

“Of course,” they said.

I walked back across the park, past the basketball courts where a couple dozen kids were playing, one was riding a skateboard.  A ball bounced out toward me, I caught it, threw it back in.

“Thanks,” a kid said.  And they returned to the culture of the city basketball court, of which  I know nothing, three or four games going, the guys on the bench chewing the fat, the kid in the middle slowly pushing himself with one foot on his skateboard.

The Side of the Rock

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Do you guess I have some intricate purpose?  

Well, I have, for the Four-month showers have, and the mica on the side of the rock has.

First week of new job, I had to show up at a different place, at a different time, every day.  First day going way out to Queens, I dutifully took an A train to a J train to a bus. It took two hours.

Transferring, riding a long, packed escalator, with stained glass sides, standing on an elevated platform (unusual for a Brooklyn/Manhattan girl), where the wind blew us and we looked out at the short, human-sized building of outer boroughs, four stories, two, dirty faces.  Several elevated stations, a big glass elevator, and I thought, everyone thinks New Yorkers are crazy, but we are surrounded by every phobia trigger every minute, so it’s surprising any of us are sane.  Claustrophobia.  Agoraphobia.  Acrophobia.  All of them.

I rode busses until I made friends with my fellow riders, “Which Harry Potter book is that?” the lady said, after I had flirted with her baby for fifteen minutes of crawling Queens traffic. The bus couldn’t let us out until we actually.  Got.  To the.  Official.  Bus stop.

“I don’t get to read anymore,” she said.  “Not since this one.  I can’t wait until she turns two and I can read something besides Dr. Seuss.”

I began several mornings full of hateful thoughts.  Really hateful, like, why was I doing this?  Did I want to be a teacher still?  Would I be, again?  Had I been punished or cheated out of being who I was?  Or was it like I kept telling people, I was on sabbatical this year, and I didn’t know what I would do in the future?  Maybe that was just something I told people.

Was I angry?  Was I damaged a lot from being angry, for so long, about how the school I worked wasn’t working, and I couldn’t do my job anything like the way I knew it could be done?

Had I been robbed of all this money I was making, as an experienced teacher, to now do this job for 2/3 as much, and was that awful, or was it all right?  Would I get some freedom of energy and thought for that 1/3 of paycheck?  Or not?  Was it awful that my coworkers and bosses were younger than me, or did it not matter?  Was I free?  I wasn’t free.  I was no longer capable, in fact, of holding a job at all.

Was there a way not to think so much about who I should be, how to be a solid citizen and an artist, which often seems impossible, and think of what should be happening to me, instead of what was?

After many and various meetings and trainings, all perfectly pleasant, I finally sat down to tutor, and time past quickly, guiding, chatting, listening, reading.  It was heaven.

I got my Friday coffee in the science building.  I waited for my latte to be made, it was not, finally the woman said, “What did you have?” I told her, she pushed a button to pull the shot.  “It looks like two shots,” she muttered.

“It might be two shots in there,” she told me.  She was a small person who had just finished serving a long line of people.

“It’s okay, I can handle it,” I said.

“Don’t blame me!” she laughed.  We laughed.

In the science building they had a  pendulum that is always swinging, proving our latitude of 40 degrees, reminding me that the first thing I saw in Paris, which confused the hell out of me, in that time before internets, I guess I didn’t even bring a guidebook, and I was blurry from no sleep on the plane, I walked into the Parthenon, because my hotel room was not yet ready, and there was this huge pendulum, and I had no idea what the hell was going on.  In the basement, Voltaire was buried.  Being confused and lost was everything I loved about Paris, and everything that scared me, so much I could hardly force myself to leave my hotel room every morning.

I was fretting, fretting, as I left for the week, about all the things that might go wrong with new job, and looked over at this huge stone with a plaque on it.  Being from a place where there are no plaques about anything that ever happened because nothing ever happened there, I always stop and look at such plaques.

This one said: “On this site in 1839, Walt Whitman (1819-1892), taught in a one-room schoolhouse called the Jamaica Academy.”  This made me take a deep breath and stop.  The trees had been helping me, they always do, leaves help me, the sky, which was blue and not grey as it had been all week, the wind, which was only occasionally pushy, not insistently bitter as it had been.  The enormous stone that was Walt Whitman.  Of course he wasn’t a stone, he was grass.

Quote from Leaves of Grass, of course.

Image: detail of Abraham Bloemaert, “Moses Striking the Rock,” Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Skeletons Warming Themselves

I didn’t know three people who died this week.

On Thursday, my meditation group mourned a parishioner who was shot by the police.  I never met her.

They talked about how okay Ms Danner was when she was okay, how you would never know she was ill.  Someone held a piece of her knitting, just as the priest would at the service the next Sunday, a cloth they use to dry you after baptism, and you get to keep.  It has a cross knitted into it.

Ms Danner wrote of “a strong support system in my church home dealings.”  Churches have plenty, plenty, of problems, but I have seen many mentally ill and disabled people well supported by their churches.

And she wrote, “What if my medication fails me? I ask myself, will I know if it does? Will the illness overpower its effectiveness? When? Where?”

If my medication failed me, I don’t know what I would do.  To even imagine that my SSRI and my rescue meds would stop working makes me imagine I would drink constantly to function.  And all I have is a little anxiety disorder.

In New York City, apparently, there are special officers who are called to help people who seem mentally ill and dangerous.  (I have difficulty separating dangerous people from the mentally ill, wanting to hurt others or yourself seems to me the definition of mental illness, but you know what I mean.)

Sunday morning, the priest spoke about Ms Danner and social justice, and action, and the woman in the pew next to me silently cried and cried.

After church I waited for the subway back to Brooklyn.  I read a book.  I closed my book and walked down the platform, I don’t know why.  Waiting for the train is one of the things that sometimes plunges my brain with anxiety, but I wasn’t anxious, just restless.

“Liz?” someone said.

It was a friend I ran into– just as randomly, far from either of our homes or workplaces– about a month ago.

He was on his way to a funeral.

This death was also brain-related– odd– cancer this time, though.  The father of our mutual friend, who pulled me through many tough spots, long days, mostly with funny stories and playful energy, but also with one enormous cookie I still remember greedily.

The moment you go from being alone to hugging someone in Manhattan is a moment I have always loved.  It’s a tiny salvation that happens again and again.  My sister approaching the Natural History Museum as I ate an apple.  My curly-haired friend and her curls coming up Park Avenue, me going down, the restaurant where we’ll eat in the middle.  Tumbling down my building’s steps to open the door for a beloved face.  Very small salvations that one hopes add to the well of what we can believe in.

At my stop, I said goodbye, the train went on, I climbed up and out, and walked around a beautiful city autumn day with my chest feeling so open and so bruised.

The third: a friend whose sister was mentally ill died.  I had followed this story at a far distance, frustration at lack of help, limits of care.  I knew the facts of it.  It had eerie and terrible inevitability, at my distance.  One day, we both had sisters who were alive, then he had a sister who was dead.

It’s a time of death.  The beautiful autumn day included walking past many brownstones with skeletons hanging out.  We have a festival of death, of winking at it, and it’s here.  People with children think it’s perfectly okay to have representations of dead people dancing across their lawns.  It is.  We need to.

Skeletons have no softness, no soft parts, no brains to misfire, no minds to have or to lose.

At meditation this week, I saw myself floating down a river, a small river, an Ozark river, that is where people float, back home, and it is not athletic in the slightest, it is stepping into the current.  Paddling over to someone you want to talk to, letting yourself drift away from them.  People get so drunk they can hardly stand up, and yet I’ve always been amazed: they rarely drown.  They look after each other, the current is usually slow, manageable, they get wet, break ankles, but stumble out and recover.

Image: a longtime favorite painting of mine, James Ensor’s “Skeletons Warming Themselves,” Kimbell Art Museum.

What’s On

Music used to fly away, there used to be a sky it went to, a cloud-less sky, where music went unless you owned it on a physical, on a  tape, on a disc.  A song was weightless unless weighted.  Now there is a site where its names are, where you can always visit it.  It was that the show, the voice, the picture, all had to be tracked, spotted, eaten on site, while on the air, through the air, while transmitting, while you were at the museum, or with the book in your hands.

What is in the air now?  The cellular waves, all those cellular waves so I say to my sister, “Hang on a second,” and say to the laundress, “How are you?” and give her my phone number after she weighs my laundry, this is how meaninglessly cheap our thousand-miles phone time is.

I had a boyfriend who got and kept radio shows on palm-sized tapes and TV shows on tapes that needed two hands.  They were labeled in his hand, often with the initials of the title, alphabet soup to anyone else.

He had to get home to press “REC,” what he had to REC was precious to him, to have, later.

Now it does not matter, there is never a reason to go home, there is no “REC” button to press.  It doesn’t happen that I let the television go, even when I can hardly stand its story, its cadence, because that’s how much I need its stimulation to fill places in me that otherwise are echoing.

I had rented one movie, one tape, in the machine, pressed PLAY, not a triangle pointing right, and it made that movie play, no other movie, there were not three hundred or ten thousand choices, there was one, and the whole evening was different because watching a beautiful woman undress Brad Pitt.  I guess the woman was beautiful, I don’t recall.  He is having a rough time now, but has served us.

That was real, as was the ID I thought I didn’t have and they wouldn’t sell me a bottle of wine, but it had fallen next to my car seat, and I took it back in and bought the bottle of wine, and I think things that night went differently because I brought wine, too.

You used to have to hunt, catch, and capture, now you dip in and sift, now you must pull yourself out, it is much harder, it was easier to stop the infernal TELEVISION because it could get so awful, no matter how you wanted its support, it was too awful.

The internet is never too awful, all its serialized A/Vs are too many, and I can replay some of them.  Serialized A/Vs will not be what we call it.  I do think we’re well past having another word, though, I still say I spent hours and hours “watching television,” I did, yesterday, isn’t that what I did?  I and the cat hours staring at laptop, images and sound to make stories playing, playing, playing for us.  Television was this thing that was edifying, trash, and a great joy to John Lennon, who used it as one of his favorite drugs.

This is why people have loved food so much the last ten years, food must be consumed on site.  The only art you can’t have, not at all, not in any even slightly satisfying way, at a distance, it must be in your mouth.

“Wait for the song to come on the radio, so you could record it, had the end of the DJ talking, waiting forever for the song to come on, ‘Diamonds and Pearls’ by Prince.”

What I do own is years and years of physical journals, in plastic boxes, tucked away.  Maybe I own nothing more valuable than those?

I dropped things when I moved: all the CDs, all the tapes, all the DVDs, I left in a garage and someone else threw them out, I suppose.

Easier now to glide, not even flap your wings.

Image: “Airwave,” Sally Victor, Metropolitan Museum of Art.