April 20, 2009

The road not taken

When Robert Frost was writing, his choice, it appears, was between two routes, and he chose the one less traveled by. I live on one of those roads less traveled by, and yes, it has made all the difference. However, my choices, here in the 21st century, are far more vast and confusing.

Over the weekend, the Artist and I got lost in upstate New York so many times, all we could do was laugh. How else react when you call a hotel to ask directions, and they aren't sure of which little county routes are required to arrive there?

But I had thought, somehow, that she and I shared the road less traveled, until Sunday night when it became clear that, like route 9 upstate, there were several roads with similar names -- 9G, 9W, 9A and other permutations -- and underneath us, we did not have our feet on the same asphalt. We are, apparently, on different sides of the river.

For me it was if the roads had all upended, leaving me to fall out of the car, holding on -- to what, I don't know -- for sheer life. Had I misread the situation so completely? Failed to hear any of the warning signs? For she and I, it turns out, are not on the same road. For that I am sad and sorry. If hope is the thing with feathers, it may be a while before I can reconstruct mine.

Joni Mitchell echoes in my head: "I am on a lonely road and I am traveling, traveling, traveling, traveling. Looking for something, what can it be?....I want to have fun, I want to shine like the sun; I want to be the one that you want to see...." But I am not, apparently.

And, irony of ironies, we were making love in my bedroom just as the building manager whose bedroom wall adjoined mine, was busy dying. I know I am not supposed to think that way. But Monday I was shattered by Sunday night's phone call, and Tuesday morning, by a slip of paper shoved under my door.

You never know, do you, when is the last time you will see a person, or the last time you will make love with someone? When the two events hit so close together, it is a wonder anyone can stay on any road, more or less traveled, at all.

Bob Dylan had it right: "I would not feel so alone.....everybody must get stoned." A leaf from the new book at Alice's bedside table, and perhaps her new motto for this next season of brave new world. It may be the only way she can stay on this road, or any road, just to make it through another day, until she is healed.

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April 11, 2009

No news is good news, except my own

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Made the mistake of listening to a single minute of Wonderland news -- on our 24/7 local "news" channel -- and found that our once-upon-a-Democratic mayor has decided to embrace the Republican clan, where he initially sought refuge just to gain a spot on the ticket. Turncoat opportunism rules. Guess who's not getting my vote, again?

In the realm of the news all I wanted to know was, when is the rain going to stop? While I have no control over what goes on in the world, and hence, at this juncture, don't want to know, the weather does seem like a benign event, at least in Wonderland, to discover.

This is my home. I know what constitutes a local natural disaster and what does not even fly under our radar. Other parts of the country, not so much.

For example, in Tiny Town, Slow Southern State, the weather is not so benign: Brother and family almost got flooded out from torrential rains last week. A solid 12 inches of water and then some hit the ground and the clay-ish soil couldn't absorb it. Tornado warnings. Tornado what?

They almost lost a car; they couldn't leave their home. Two adults plus my two-year-old niece bouncing around what Brother calls a tin can of less than 600-square feet. My apartment is bigger than that, and there are days when I bounce alone.

Those days are fewer, recently: the Artist and I are spending most of our weekends together, and speaking for at least 2 hours a night on the telephone. When we are not together, I miss her presence, sometimes acutely.

Dare I say, I'm having a fine romance? Our plan for next week is to spend a long weekend upstate, touring mansions turned into museums from residences. Olana. The Vanderbilt mansion. Samuel Morse's Forest Grove. All of these beautiful places that I never explored when I attended college less than 20 miles from any of them.

We have dinner reservations at the Culinary Institute, an institution I've known by reputation for 31 years, but have yet to visit, despite solidly rave reviews from those who have crossed the Hudson River to try it.

Four years in my collegiate bubble, and no one ever knew what constituted the news if it didn't apply to us within our gated community. Who knew how nostalgic I would become for the days when not only was no news good news, but there was never news, at least none from the so-called "real world." If we wanted drama, we supplied our own. In abundance.

With the Artist, I have my own drama, however tampered by age and chemical intervention, a strong sense of those nervous hours as I take baby steps in the relationship world. The Artist has observed that with every new relationship, we are all in high school again. I'm starting to feel that I've at least graduated from grammar school, but I'm still a freshman.

I walk slowly through the relationship field, wanting so much but feeling ignorant of so many of the techniques my peers absorbed through much earlier practice in the field of feelings.

Granted, one pass through Youth was probably enough, particularly as I've seen Youth in Buenos Aires, being 30 years Youth's senior. Flatmate Youth has become known conversationally and in my travelogues as Nattering Twit.

Nattering Twit earned the title after I spent too much time listening to her self-absorped patter exherting confidence that she is oh-so-preciously brilliant. "Verbally intelligent," she informed me.

One might have preferred to observe, rather than be actively informed about her brains. The concept of filtering speech was nonexistent. Twit abhored American English, she informed me. My speech put her knickers into the proverbial twist.

Oddly enough, her family itself had emmigrated to Europe: she was half Malaysian and half Indian, but for her, only the King's English would do. She thought ill of the U.S.; I did not point out that in general, I never think of Holland, her birthplace, one way or the other.

Despite my embarrassment at most American culture exports, I don't think the Twit realized that the U.S., under Department of Defense initiative, spawned the Internet, the cybertether to Twit's mothership.

Sans Internet, I would have genuinely considered her a solo traveler, having a true cultural immersion. However, hours of instant "chat" to her homeland, did not, to me, constitute bringing one's inner resources to the forefront.

Twit did amuse me: she has planned her life to the nth degree, inscribing pages of the future that include the conviction that she will marry Boyfriend, have 3 children and teach English literature in some country to be designated.

Life, I did not say, has a habit of biting you in the ass when you least expect it. That kind of experiential knowledge would not penetrate the Twit's cranium. While, given that her dad died of chicken pox complications when she was about five, I would think she would know that, her mother has shielded her from a great deal.

Until Twit, who has called her own hours since the age of 14, left her European home for her Argentinian sojourn, her mother brought her tea in bed every day (which explains why she thought it appropriate to bring me, the middle-aged, coffee in my own room).

She is taking what the Europeans call a "gap" year. It is a notion that, unfortunately, has no traction here in the U.S. We could all have used a year to play abroad, to de-Americanize ourselves and get a sense, however vague, of how the rest of the world lives.

It would have given people like me reason to get a job, any job, to have an actual savings goal. It would have, perhaps, urged my parents to make me find a job, with world travel the incentive. (The self-funded look down upon the parentally funded gappers.)

At Spanish school, Teacher and I pulled age rank in the classroom on the temperature front. We of menopausal years believe our need for air conditioning trumped any complaints of cold or chills. We told the 22-year-old Swedish girl, whose perfect English stemmed in part from The Gilmore Girls, one of our less embarrassing exports, to bring a sweater.

Teacher and I lived on the same page, far from the Youth chapter. She understood my English more easily than that which emanated from Youth. The Brits mocked my American accent. But I was more readily understood than the English, Irish, Scots and Aussies. Go figure.

During our smoking breaks outside -- 95 degree heat without air conditioning -- I made periodic announcements to Youth at large that there was no point in rushing through university, not with the world as we now know it. Why rush to enter a work force that cannot absorb a good portion of the already accredited?

No matter their nationality, I counseled Youth that if they could pull together enough money, from under-the-table gigs or parental cash infusions or what have you, to continue to support themselves in South America, why go home?

Home is where the news hits, no matter how hard one tries to hide. Fortunately, Alice has a lovely distraction from the world: the Artist has come into her life, and for that, Alice is grateful beyond measure, and hopeful, for the first time in blog history, that perhaps she has found a potential long-time companion.