Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Haunt

Last night Jon and I went on a little late-night without-child expedition to a club we used to go to regularly when we first met 3 years ago, to drink and make out and be joyfully oblivious to things like the rest of life, work the next day, etc.. I must report that the doorman, God bless him, thought I was under 21 for a second or two (as I was running out to the car to get my wallet, he remarked to Jon, "when she comes back, will she be old enough?"). But we were (I was) too old for the place when we went years ago; now, it is just a sick, sad travesty.

Example: watery drinks in plastic cups mostly full of ice. They couldn't make my signature drink, the chocolate martini, because they didn't have any of the ingredients. Example: whenever a song I liked came on, and I went out to the dance floor (alone--thanks, Jon), I was always pretty much the only one dancing, since everyone else was up to 15 years younger and had never heard the songs. When songs I didn't know were played--always aggressive, sultry rap that sounded like it was created for the sole purpose of hooking up to--that's when the few people in the place trickled onto the floor to collide into each other. There was a black and white photo on the wall of The Haunt in its earlier incarnation in another, smaller building downtown, which was packed pretty much every night with swaying bodies in its golden days of, like, 1994-1998. I remember going there for 80's night on Saturdays and hardly being able to dance because of the crush of limbs all around me...but that was the fun. Now, even at midnight, the place is a ghost town and everyone who is there looks kind of ghetto (there have been a couple of stabbing / gun issues in the past few years), not to mention that the women are either wearing light-up shoes or flowing tackily out of their skintight tops and jeans.

One truly funny moment: a large guy humping a chair on stage, and then somehow diving across the chair so that his wiggling legs and butt were facing the audience. (I think he was doing the breaststroke.)

Today I just feel kind of gross (though, luckily, not hungover because lately I am incapable of doing that anymore, now that there is a baby and a disabled cat waiting for me at home). And aware that a chapter of life has closed and that the wild freedom of 30 has progressed to the responsible domesticity of the mid-30's. Or maybe it's more that The Haunt has just gone sharply downhill, like it is now a gross distortion of my memories of it. It's funny that the same place or person can keep existing yet change so much, filling with and emptying of the meanings that I put on them. And then there is Jon's take on things, spoken last night at our table with stools overlooking the dance floor, with a shitty-tasting Long Island Iced Tea and Redbull and vodka in front of us: "The past is gone. Why hang onto it?"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Only unstable entities stay alive

This is what I jotted down on a post-it at work yesterday in a moment of dark-chocolate-inspired lucidity and I'm trying to think out what it means. That relationships can't be perfect; there has to be some wobble or uncertainty. I am not sure marriage would ever work for me again becaues it tries to turn an inherently unstable, mysterious, living thing, a relationship, into a fixed institution, a marriage. So may my relationship remain unstable in that sense, uncertain because I'd get bored otherwise. Maybe not all people are like this; some don't enjoy drama. My ex-husband constantly told me he didn't miss the uncertainty and heartache of pining over people, he hated it (though it sure wrung some poems out of him). I found it inspiring--until I experienced it again, after our breakup. I get the impulse to make something permanent but I think that has to happen in art, not in life. Art is the grief that things in life can't be permanent. Poems, too have to be unstable entities. If you've "wrapped up" a poem, either as a writer or reader, it has stopped living. There has to be another dimension we don't see; something hinted at that is richer for not being known, for not being pulled fully into the light of explanation. With my own poems that work, after some period of time, I do feel like I know a lot about them, but often there is one little thing I don't know, and that is where my consciousness can bloom every time I read the poem. Like, what did I mean by, "the black flame holds us in, the blue flame pets us like goats?" No f-ing idea, but that is a spot in the poem where I can feel something for a second. Of course, if a whole poem were made of statements like that, it wouldn't be very's having more understandable stuff around them that makes occasions of irrationality valuable. So, relationsips, poems, politics...wouldn't politics be better if people didn't think they should have some unchanging "national consciousness," like Germans should be blond and strong (in the past), Americans are go-getters and individualistic and spreading democracy...! There should be something built into the political mechanism that allows for the admission of mistakes, at least, but everyone has to pretend they are always right and they always know exactly what they are doing and the consequences. But this isn't my area. I'm just a little poet-in-training with a little rinky-dink spotlight of concern, of things that I know. I don't know much.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Saturday night

Things I should be doing instead of being on the Internet:

Taking a walk outside in the cloudy/sunny sunset
Exercising my paralyzed cat's limbs
Vacuuming the entire house
Playing with my daughter
Reading poetry
Writing poetry
Eating Annie Chun's microwavable noodles

Things I wish I was doing with my life:
Getting a PhD in Creative Writing

I am heading to a bonfire tonight in Brooktondale. Wondering if a see-through shirt is the right attire. Just kidding, but not really, but it's not my fault because that's how they are designing clothes now, so that you need to wear a "cami" or something underneath--to buy another shirt to wear under your shirt. Very annoying.

I feel like I am stoppered up with unlived desires and the avoidance of things which I must do and never do. Like, 2 years ago the DMV sent me the title to my car. It had a mistake on it, which I was supposed to notify them about. Or: I have gotten my teeth cleaned about once a year and each time, have failed to send in the forms so that my insurance co. reimburses me. This then makes me avoid getting them cleaned a second time (and you are supposed to do it twice a year to avoid a scathing lecture from the hygienist), since that will be $100 more I am shelling out and never getting back. So when all my teeth fall out, I will have reaped what I have sown. Also, I am terrible at correspondance. Sending me a gift through the mail is the worst thing a person could do, because I will never, ever send a gift /card back and yet, the thought that I should do so will sit there in my brain occupying space, never leaving, like a stain that gets bigger and bigger with all the people who send cards or gifts over the years (for some reason, that makes me think of a Tony Hoagland poem in which he compares the memory of a past love to a stain on the bedsheets of his mind).

I can't use my energy efficiently because if I could, I would do what I should do and also what I want to do. Instead, I really do neither most of the time. I guess I am counting on having a long life span over which to spread my efforts.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Time warp

I joined Facebook the other day, which suddenly put me in touch with people I hadn't seen or spoken to since high school or college (or shortly after college, which also seems like way long ago). Since then, I have been getting a vivid feeling of different times in my life existing simultaneously. Like, it is still 1989, my family and I just moved to Middlesex, New Jersey, where every strip mall and restaurant is new to me so I am kind of off-balance, and my mom and I are doing some boring shopping at Karin's Kurtains. I'm sulking because I hate being dragged through stores looking at curtains or bath towels and because, well, I'm 14. It's the summer before high school. Now somehow I am in my mid-thirties and some moments I can't remember anything that came between being 14 and now; it's like the 14-year-old inside me is given a preview of her life later, which is this life I am living, with a sense of "Oh, so that's how it turned out." And if somewhere I am still 14 then there are still all these other possibilities for what could have happened...except I know those possibilities are gone and I'm not going to get any younger from here on out.

At a certain point a switch happens where the future becomes less a source of joy and hope than--just the next thing, possibly a source of dread or worry (middle age, death) and the past becomes something to wallow in. There is no limit to the ways in which I can make myself feel bad for not being 17 or 24 anymore, for wasting whatever presented itself to me then; and the ways I can fear what is ahead (since in our culture, women seem to become invisible somewhere around their mid-40's unless they can afford to inject bacteria into their faces, etc. to keep themselves looking 5-10 years younger, except they don't really look younger, they just look--stretched. Like they are trying. That's what I think, and sign me up for the bacteria injection).

And yet inbetween high school and now, a lot happened and I felt all of it; it wasn't like going into suspended animation or having a dream and waking up. But increasingly it feels that way...and what is real, anyway? The dreams I brush off when I wake up every morning, don't they constitute just as much of my consciousness as whatever story I seem to be living or have lived? I don't know but sometimes I feel there is such a scary vulnerability to aging because you have to do it, to go through time, whether you want to or not and you are on a ride that you can't get off except by death.

And I guess I can't help but feel disappointed in my life now when I look at it after looking through my high school or college year books. Because I feel less fresh and attractive, that is the superficial part, and because never again will there be that sense that there was then that the story wasn't written and that everything was ahead. So no matter how miserable the young are, they know that there is a huge future waiting to be written on, so there is always a way out of whatever unhappiness.

But I don't want this to disintegrate into whining about not being "young." It is more a sense of awe that things really do end and pass. I remember sometime during the high school years, over a summer, taking a tennis clinic or class and practicing at an indoor court. For some reason I was miserable. It was a big echoey ugly building we were in with dividers separating one tennis court from the next; and maybe I wasn't doing well at my game or I didn't like the other people at the camp; I don't even know anymore. There was just an intense feeling of misery, time dragging on, of this-will-never-end, and then a sudden liberating knowledge that seemed to lift me up out of that building, that self and whole time of life, and say, No, this will end and something else will be true, you won't be 16 forever.

Friday, August 8, 2008

My strange life

The other day, Jon's friend who used to be in jail (or prison, I get them confused) stopped by to mow our large front and back lawns. We didn't ask him to; Jon's other friend who used to be in jail (and still is, on weekends) set it up, as he works in landscaping. This saves us (Jon) from having to use the hand-mower left by our landlord and spend hours of life doing something I have always thought is pointless, i.e. lawn maintenance. After the friend zoomed away in his protective goggles on his riding mower, Jon said something about how this is why it is not bad to have friends who are in, or have been in, prison and that some people wouldn't think that they could still be nice guys.

This made me think about my strange life. Young men toughened by prison life perform unsolicited acts of kindness on our yard. Deer are constantly browsing the crabapple tree visible from our living room (yesterday, one stood up on its hind legs to get an apple--I didn't realize they could do that). I am with a man 5 years younger who has been to war. I am suddenly, it feels, plopped down in the middle of a life that includes a one-year-old little girl and lots of loud, brightly-colored toys all over the floor, including a giant caterpillar that teaches about shapes and colors. I have lived to be the age of Jesus when He was crucified (so apparently, if I can just survive the next few months, I will be having a better year than He did).

Running into Jon's friend on his mower, there was just some feeling about the improbability of everything and how I have often felt pulled along by the sea of life without having my own direction, just letting things happen. I didn't ask for a big front and back lawn, but now I have them and they are "mine," at least for the year lease. I didn't ask to be born. (Or, according to some new age theories, maybe I did.) There is a generosity underlying everything that provides for us. It giveth and it will taketh away.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ex-friend's wedding

The other day, my boss told me about the wedding of a former roommate, which he attended this past weekend (my birthday weekend). She and I, and her sister, lived together around 10 years ago, and haven't spoken since. The reasons are murky, even in retrospect, meaning, before I blame her for them, I should probably own up to the fact that I am a relationship moron. Or so it feels, lately. I feel like every relationship I have ever been in, friendship and otherwise, I have fucked up. So, am I sad that we are so distant now that I wasn't invited to her wedding in the same town I live in, or am I pissed that her life is apparently going so well and I keep hearing about it (including that she has bought a beautiful house on a beautiful piece of property)? Is it even possible to be really happy for other people's successes without thinking of the holes in one's own life?

I am unable, lately, to look at the pictures from my own wedding 5 years ago which are in a big Kodak envelope in a desk drawer. Part of it is because there are a few vivid, wonderful close-ups of my grandmother who just died, and she is wearing the white sequined outfit she wore at her funeral. The pictures are a kind of wound and a strange thing to keep after the divorce, but I can't imagine throwing them away. I can't say it was a very happy day, either: torrential rain (the roads were actually flooded), 50 degree temperatures in early June, trucks slamming past the tent where we were saying our vows (because Chris had wanted an outdoor wedding--so we ended up with an outdoor tent). Also I had a terrible, terrible hairstyle inflicted on me by some salon my mom and I went to that morning (they seemed to think we had African-American hair, and put my mom's hair in cornrows which she painstakingly had to rip out in the car as they looked ludicrous). And Chris fell down the wet stairs hard on his back while bringing the speakers to our stereo back out to the car. I imagine, and have always imagined, that other weddings are so much better than mine was, as other marriages are better, and now ex-roommate's wedding is one that I add to that list.

I thought I wanted to say more, but I don't. Let her go on to live her happy or complicated life. Let her be happy--what do I lose if she is? We hurt each other, and life has gone on.

Here is a Navajo poem that was read at Chris' and my wedding (though this is not the same version, but is the closest I can find):

Beauty is before me and Beauty behind me. Above me and below me hovers the beautiful. I am surrounded by beauty, I am immersed in beauty. In my youth I am aware of beauty, and, in old age, I shall walk quietly the beautiful trail. In beauty, it is begun, In beauty, it is ended.