30 June 2009
27 June 2009
26 June 2009
25 June 2009
23 June 2009
Temperature: 32c/94F (feels like 38c/102F, according to weather.com)
Well, you are no doubt saying to yourselves, where are you? Are you back in the States? Is it weird? I can answer these questions. Yes, I am in the States. And...kind of.
First of all, I stayed up until I left at 4:50 in the morning, got to Heathrow at 8, then got on the plane at 10. I then went to sleep for five hours. As a result, the sense you get while on the plane that you're going somewhere, that you're moving from Place A to Place B, was missing. So when I landed in Newark it somehow wasn't as odd as it might be. You will no doubt be pleased to know that there was no weeping this time.
Some things, though, are very odd. For one thing, American paper money is weird. It's all the same colour! And it's really long. I have to crumple it to fit it in my wallet. You guys need to fix your money.
For another thing, everyone speaks in this very strange accent. I realise, of course, that to some degree this is my accent, but since I haven't heard my accent pointed at me in person in many months, it's odd. And the accent here in WhereIlive is very odd: I never heard a Southern accent sound so...Southern before.
For another other thing, everything seems hugely expensive. My lunch today cost $6! That seems very expensive to me. Perhaps, I thought walking back from the bank, everything seems expensive because now I'm used to thinking how much things are worth in pounds? In other words, I know that eighteen pounds is very cheap for a dress, and that 75p is a good price for a packet of biscuits, but I have no notion of whether $6 is a reasonable amount for lunch. My axis of comparison has altered. Or shifted.
But the other odd thing is the one I anticipated (which is nonetheless odd): being here is perfectly real and normal. First of all, nothing in WhereIlive has changed. Okay, a car dealership closed down (hurrah!), but that's hardly a giant alteration to the fabric of the town. And aside from that truly nothing has changed. When I walked into my department this morning, it felt as if I'd only left yesterday. My office was a bit of a shock, since I'd forgotten that I'd left boxes of books piled in it, but that was easily adjusted to. I ordered a hoagie from my favourite hoagie place, and I'm eating it right now. In five minutes I'm going to go off to the bank... Even the tango music I'm playing in the background feels perfectly normal, despite the fact that I've never played tango in this office, or this state, or this country, before.
Nonetheless, there are a couple of odd blips at the moment. First, I've already had an Issue That Needed a Boy: I can't transfer the sound files from the usb I got to the ITunes on my PC. Panic! Outrage! Sulky irritation! I thought, A Boy would know how to do this. But there was no boy around! Still, the only result is that I'll sort it all out tomorrow. So I guess the only real blip was when it turned out that, after I agreed to substitute in and teach a course on very short notice, they refused to accommodate my request that the time of my other course (enrollment: 6) be changed to make room for a standing appointment I have. Very surprisingly, I took a stand. I think I may even have told them that in that case I would refuse to teach it. You would have to know me very well to know how unusual this is: I am terrified of alienating people, so I almost never stand up to them (although most people assume me to be quite different, because I have very clear opinions and beliefs. But an opinion is not an assertion, is it? And I suck at assertion). But stand up I did. So I suppose I have changed. Or else I'm so joggled by jetlag that I'm a different person.
And what's more, I got the change I wanted.
My friends here are glad to see me. And I them. So that's lovely.
I've decided that each day I blog while I'm here I'll post a photo of something from my life here. Here is the first one, a sign for a restaurant I saw in LaGuardia airport in New York. For private reasons, this sign made me laugh; more publicly, I admire the wit of the neologism. Way to stick together (I assume) running and burrito!
19 June 2009
18 June 2009
17 June 2009
16 June 2009
13 June 2009
12 June 2009
Nobody else remembers, but I remember.
Your daughter came with her armfuls, eager and happy,
Helping the harvest. She has forgotten.
She cannot even remember you. And we sold them.
It sounds like sacrilege, but we sold them.
Were we so poor? Old Stoneman, the grocer,
Boss-eyed, his blood-pressure purpling to beetroot
(It was his last chance,
He would die in the same great freeze as you) ,
He persuaded us. Every Spring
He always bought them, sevenpence a dozen,
'A custom of the house'.
Besides, we still weren't sure we wanted to own
Anything. Mainly we were hungry
To convert everything to profit.
Still nomads-still strangers
To our whole possession. The daffodils
Were incidental gilding of the deeds,
Treasure trove. They simply came,
And they kept on coming.
As if not from the sod but falling from heaven.
Our lives were still a raid on our own good luck.
We knew we'd live forever. We had not learned
What a fleeting glance of the everlasting
Daffodils are. Never identified
The nuptial flight of the rarest epherma-
Our own days!
We thought they were a windfall.
Never guessed they were a last blessing.
So we sold them. We worked at selling them
As if employed on somebody else's
Flower-farm. You bent at it
In the rain of that April-your last April.
We bent there together, among the soft shrieks
Of their jostled stems, the wet shocks shaken
Of their girlish dance-frocks-
Fresh-opened dragonflies, wet and flimsy,
Opened too early.
We piled their frailty lights on a carpenter's bench,
Distributed leaves among the dozens-
Buckling blade-leaves, limber, groping for air, zinc-silvered-
Propped their raw butts in bucket water,
Their oval, meaty butts,
And sold them, sevenpence a bunch-
Wind-wounds, spasms from the dark earth,
With their odourless metals,
A flamy purification of the deep grave's stony cold
As if ice had a breath-
We sold them, to wither.
The crop thickened faster than we could thin it.
Finally, we were overwhelmed
And we lost our wedding-present scissors.
Every March since they have lifted again
Out of the same bulbs, the same
Baby-cries from the thaw,
Ballerinas too early for music, shiverers
In the draughty wings of the year.
On that same groundswell of memory, fluttering
They return to forget you stooping there
Behind the rainy curtains of a dark April,
Snipping their stems.
But somewhere your scissors remember. Wherever they are.
Here somewhere, blades wide open,
April by April
Through the sod-an anchor, a cross of rust.
11 June 2009
10 June 2009
06 June 2009
04 June 2009
The necessary ingredients of a good and lasting romantic relationship are difficult to achieve and frequently underrated: respect, support, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, patience, interest, individual fulfillment, and a willingness to work are not particularly glamorous or much valued virtues. But one component of a romance built to last has the benefit, at least, of being enduring love’s naughty secret: deception.
Or perhaps deception is too strong a word. Say instead discretion, secrecy – wise suppression of certain facts, occurrences, and knowledges. Everyone who dreams of finding lasting love dreams that in doing so they will find someone who understands them better than anyone else does. Few people consider that such comprehension must include an understanding of what the beloved does not want to hear, or cannot bear to know, as much as it includes an understanding of the beloved’s other needs and hopes. “I love you,” is perhaps the sweetest phrase the world has made, but it is rendered much sweeter when it is not followed by “more than I loved the one before you,” and even sweeter when that is not followed by, “and much more than I loved the twelve I loved before that.”
Imagine, if you will, that each new lover is an unknown country. Arriving at its boundaries, the one who loves must begin to make a mental map. How unadulteratedly delightful that cartography is at first (and, indeed, for much of the time afterward): ah, this feels like this; I hadn’t expected…ah, that way; I’ll certainly remember that for next time…this makes you smile; this makes you laugh; this is why you do what you do; these are the secret springs and urgings that propel you. Towers are marked, declivities discovered, even swamps and fens that would otherwise be, perhaps, unwanted in a new land are made lovely by virtue of being in this land, known only to this fresh, intrepid map-maker.
And yet at the same time, to know a country fully is to know its dangers as well as its delights. Anyone who chooses to settle in a given area, to make a home there, soon becomes aware of the grounds to be avoided: here is a minefield; here is a cave that is small but, once entered, impossible to get out of; here is a plain where nothing will ever grow, here a field that one expects to be filled with grain but that instead is barren, here a quicksand so innocuous-seeming and yet so dense that it must never be gone near, never mind stepped upon. Mapping these is as much a part of coming to know one’s chosen land as is learning which fields to lie down in, which doors to knock at for sustenance and refreshment.
The list of discretions to be observed with a given partner contains items well known to any: do not mention the comeliness of a restaurant server (at least not for many years); do not suggest that perhaps one’s partner could spend less money on shoes, or on gadgets; do not compare the partner’s cooking, or dancing, or housekeeping, unfavorably to that of your parent of the same sex; do not describe in elaborate, fully realized detail a sexual fantasy involving a friend or co-worker known to both parties (at least not for many years); do not say, unasked, “that makes you look fat.” Yet each list also contains entries as unique as the lover to whom they apply, entries learned by means of respect, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, patience, and interest: don’t buy those kinds of trousers, they remind me of my father; don’t mention that time I fell down and you laughed at me, even though you laughed because I looked cute; don’t say “lick,” because it makes my flesh crawl; pretend I look good in this piece of clothing – stop, hold, avoid, understand, don’t speak. The ability to be silent, and to know when to be silent, is perhaps the greatest asset a lover can possess.
And yet, and yet…(and this is something that the outraged declaimers against romantic deceit understand) at what point does such wise silence, such loving discretion, slip into, well, deceitfulness? There is a reason, after all, why there are sins of omission as well as commission. What are the steps from “I won’t tell you that because I know it will upset you,” to the subtly differently inflected version of “I won’t tell you that because I know it will upset you,” to “I won’t tell you that”? How easy it is to slip from other-loving silence to self-serving avoidance! And then, to be fair, such slippages are not always clear to the one who slips. At what point does forgetting to mention become deliberately forgetting to mention? How much of lying to the beloved is also lying to oneself? Of those insignificant moments that turn out to be significant, how many of us recognize them as significant at the time? How and when do we realize that doing what is right is actually doing what is right for me?
Being human is a tangled business, and loving – fully loving – is perhaps the most snarled and un-tidyable of its many threads. Who would be a lover, with its complexities, its compromises, its inevitable acceptances and losses? But who would not be a lover, with its exhilarations, its completions, its quiet delights and certainties? Who, alas, can love and be wise?
And yet, and yet…(as the outraged declaimers against romantic discretion do not understand, or understand but will not admit) it is unwisdom that makes us fall in love in the first place. And if it is also unwisdom that brings us to the dreadful, anguished end of one love, it is again unwisdom that makes the new love that follows. And in that new love discretion (silence, secrecy, suppression, deceit) will come to play its knotty role again.
01 June 2009
Lovely whore though,
Lovely, lovely whore,
And choosy –
Slept with Conn,
Slept with Niall,
Slept with Brian,
Slept with Rory.
The long slide.
Of course it shows.