September 12, 2007

Feeling Jamesian...

My mind seems stuck on tunes that made me sad 30 years ago, and once again they are exerting a pull toward tears. Responsibility overload, stemming from a myriad of sources, mostly family related and to which I am inextricably tied. Top on my mind's hit parade is Billy Joel's James:

James...we were always friends.
From our childhood days
And we made our plans,
And we had to go our separate ways.
I went on the road --
You pursued an education. you like your life
Can you find release,
And will you ever change --
Will you ever write your masterpiece?
Are you still in school --
Living up to expectations...James...
You were so relied upon, everybody knows
how hard you tried --
Hey...just look at what a job you've done,
Carrying the weight of family pride.'ve been well behaved.
You've been working hard
But will you always stay --
Someone else's dream of who you are.
Do what's good for you, or you're not good for
I went on the road --
You pursued an education...James...
How you gonna know for sure -- everything was
so well organized. everything is so secure,
And everybody else is satisfied. you like your life,
Can you find release
And will you ever change,
When will you write your masterpiece?

When will I write my masterpiece? That is, as they say, the $64-thousand-dollar question. My friends from college are surprised I haven't managed at least one published volume 25 years out. I start projects -- the most recent being a memoir of my father, Haiti, and our family's careless self-destructiveness -- but it's difficult to maintain my concentration. Life intervenes, day after fucking day.

If you had asked me in 1982, I could not have imagined myself in the position in which I find myself today: putting out all of my family's financial fires, to name one thing that occupies more of my time than I could have guessed. Never seeing my father or Haiti again. Having synaptic lapses made more pronounced by medication I can't change. Knowing my aunt and uncle's hotel in Lake Placid burned to the ground.

They say you can't go home again: between Haitian politics and the demise of where I spend my Adirondack summers, I honestly don't have a childhood place that I could happily call home. My mother sold the house where I grew up 15 years ago, and I was never attached to that house, where I spent a tortured adolescence, then escaped to college, so it hasn't possessed the allure of home that Haiti and Lake Placid have.

My college went on a building spree after I left, so now the campus is strewn with what I presume are considered post-modern architectural gems but which remind me that my architectural aesthetic stops somewhere short of women's suffrage. Any building that has all the charm of an airport lounge and the same amount of character is not one I think of as home.

What no one told me was that as I grew, my brother would grow away from me, from the city where we were both born, that he would marry four times, and with each wife, I would feel he was less and less a part of my life. He has a daughter now, my niece Kayanna, whom I would like to see and get to know. I'm not likely to have another. But this marriage of his is still in its infancy; he lives in Tiny Town, Slow Southern State, and I am old enough to be the mother of his child-bride.

I seem to be more active as Aunt Alice to Clover, my best friend's shitzu puppy. Those of us who don't have children do take out pets rather seriously. Last year, it broke my heart when I had to put the off-White Rabbit to sleep. Clover comforts and entertains even more so than the White Rabbit did, and both pets are considerably more reliable than either of our siblings.

I'm in melancholy mood at the moment. What I have to keep in mind is a lyric from another Billy Joel song, also from the Turnstiles album: "They say that these are not the best of times, but they're the only times I've ever known."

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Blogger The Misanthrope said...

I hate those melancholy moods; I wish you a speedy pull out from it.

I am going to check out those songs.

10:20 PM  
Blogger scout said...

At first glance, I thought the Misanthrope was wishing you a speedy pill out of your melancholy, which initially appealed to me as a concept, but then I realized that's what crystal meth is, and I watch waaaaay too many episodes of A&E's Intervention to fall for that one.

Maybe just have some chocolate truffles, or some of those dirt truffles, or just some dirt if the mood takes you. And then listen to the High School Musical soundtrack a few times. That'll either make you super happy or scare you into writing that memoir so as to put the universe back in balance: Remember, kids, we need a gram of protein for every 10 grams of simple carbohydrate, otherwise HSM's treacle spike will throw the world into an artless coma.

On the other hand, per a recent session with the Best Therapist in the World, blogging is writing.

3:20 PM  
Blogger The Misanthrope said...

I read this in the book I'm reading "A Conspiracy of Paper," right after I wrote the comment. Ouch, it hit home to me:
...he also seemed a man whose youthful promise had yielded nothing but the feelings of failure that come with the advance of age. It is this moment in life when the bounty of the future becomes the drudgery of the present.

11:06 PM  
Blogger alice, uptown said...

Euripedes wrote: "Whom the gods would destroy, they would first call mad," later amended by Cyril Connolly to "whom the gods would destroy, they would first call promising."

Once upon a time, I was promising. What gets us now is we're middle aged, and we don't know how that happened.

6:37 PM  

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