25 November 2013

"The Comet " in memoriam U Roberto "Robin" Romano 1956-2013

The Comet                                        

I first met Robin at a "Justice For Farm Workers" benefit. My friend Maggie, who is lovely and brilliant and kind  and- rather importantly for this story-- as much of a tall girl as I am, had invited me, partly,because I am interested in justice for farm workers, partly because I have donated my services to be auctioned off for the cause, but mostly? because I really like parties.Also, Maggie shares the same delusion that happily married people everywhere share, which is that their unmarried friend would be happily married too, if their married friends take them to enough parties. As this is a delusion that often involves free wine and sometimes even snacks? Count me in.
She whispered in my ear, "Here comes Robin..he did that amazing documentary about chocolate-" but that was far as she got, because a very short, very charismatic and slightly pudgy whirlwind had just pulled up in front of us. Maggie and I both hover around 6 feet tall...Robin cavorted blithely on the sunnier slopes of 5'4 or so. He said, "Oh look! It's the twin towers!" and cackled madly.
Maggie introduced us, and I said, glibly, "Oh! You're the chocolate guy!"- Which I might not have said if I had known that his brilliant documentary "The Dark Side of Chocolate" was actually a compelling expose of child labor exploitation in Tanzanian cocoa fields. But ignorance is bliss. (-Except in retrospect, when ignorance involves a great deal of wincing. )
Robin was U Roberto Romano, one of the greatest documentarians, social justice voices, and photographers of our generation. At the time, all I knew was that we instantly seemed to be attracted to each other like those little black and white magnetic Scottie dogs one got in gumball machines when I was a kid. This was a bit odd, because in my former life,  my romantic path had been littered with Grade A Certified Prime Adonises, and Robin was not, at first glance, exactly the Apollo of Bellac...a head shorter, wearing what sometimes seemed to be three or four pairs of impatiently-pushed-up-reading glasses at a time, prematurely salt and pepper hair. In repose, his handsome face could look old beyond his years, and unfathomathomably sad ...but as his face was never IN repose, I wouldn't learn that till later. 
Instead, we started talking. And never stopped.
 I don't delude myself that it was my mind that brought him over to say hello to Maggie and to me...I was wearing sky high high heels and a black leather minidress. It's not like I had a sign over my head that said "Talk to me about Foucoult!" 
But after the first few minutes, we never bothered with small talk again. For one thing, my casual "What do YOU do?", was a question that acquired an interesting echo in the subtext of his answer, He didn't say  "I care passionately about helpless people who are exploited or hurt, and i do everything in my power to bring attention to the people, places, and situations involved, because sunlight is a great disinfectant", but  as he matter o factly talked about his documentaries-"The Harvest","The Dark Side of Chocolate", the great "Stolen Childhoods", et all... that passion was like a vibrating chord, behind the way he talked about his work.  -And he entranced me when, in answer to a similar question, I sheepishly murmured "I'm a, a, well, I'm an intuitive..." he looked at me with straightforward interest and said "And why are you embarrassed about that?"

We left the party speedily, when it became clear that we just needed to talk a lot, immediately, and possibly forever. We somehow landed in a West Village bistro without noticing where we were, and had garlicky mussels and inky red wine; talking avidly,both of us waving our hands to illustrate important points, interrupting each other...so utterly, mutually, happily absorbed, that we didn't notice the waiters had placed all the chairs but ours, upside down on the surrounding tables, and were smiling  indulgently,if wearily, at the two oblivious grownups acting like happy kids.

Our second date was impromptu, and not exactly a second date, as we had been talking, texting and writing each other almost hourly, since the moment we parted that night, if only because we had the exact same," S.J. Perelman Is My God" sense of humor, and neither of us was used to someone being equally quick and equally caustic. He had been away on a shoot, acting as cinematographer for a documentary about meditation being taught to kids in inner-city Baltimore.
Five days later he had texted me just as I was ending a session with a client. [-Some back story here: I am an Intuitive Consultant. A few years ago, I discovered a gift for being able to describe people, places and circumstances i would have no way of knowing about rationally,and for predicting events that hadn't yet happened, with an accuracy I both can't explain and am often a little embarrassed about. After being sanctioned by a kind article in "The New Yorker", which lent me a  social credibility not usually accorded to folks who pursue this vocation, I wound up opening up a fulltime "practice". I make no wild claims for metaphysics, or for possessing special powers from a nebulous "beyond"...I might just be reading microexpressions, or be a really good guesser..but I try to be ethical, non-"leading", and supportive: people seem to enjoy and get value from our time together.]

I arrived for our last minute lunch, still wearing what I had worn to the office: no makeup, hair scraped back higgledy piggledy into a schoolmarmish bun, and a floor length dress so modest that Amish women were stopping me on the street and saying, "Dear, we think you could show a LITTLE more flesh here.."
I could see that my new flame was a little taken aback..where was the vivid glamourpuss from earlier that week?
He was an avowed feminist, but he was also a guy, and a visual one. That's just how it was.
But ten minutes into that late dejeuner, we were laughing like five year olds who'd just balanced a bucket of whitewash over the schoolroom door: and some five minutes later, we realized two hours had gone by.
There was a moment of abashed silence: what the hell was going on here?
Then Robin said, with the same earnest intensity he always had when serious: "Look, I want our honeymoon to be in Saint Petersburg. I want to show you the harbor at sunrise, as the ferry pulls in." He took my hand and raised it to his lips, while holding my gaze. He wasn't smiling: rather, looking at me questioningly, and very seriously.
"Is that a proposal?", I asked. I was somewhat taken aback.
"Yes. It is. I want someone I can spend the remaining years talking to, who interests me. You have a wild mind and a great heart. Also, I think you're hell's bells beautiful. -Despite today's outfit, of course."
I was silent. So Robin said, "I am also completely smitten. Always will be. So there it is."
I thought for a minute. Neither of us had had a serious relationship for three or four years..my heart was behind glass, or, more accurately,  barbed wire, after a previous- and spectacularly illstarred -engagement. But when Robin and I met, there was instantly a feeling of, "Oh, THERE you are. What took you so damn long?"
So I said "Well okay then. You're on. On a "let's see" basis, but I'm up for it."
And we both grinned at each other. And got the check, so we could get on with this new life as soon as possible. I had a meeting to go to; he had to go see his mother, so we kissed and vanished in opposite, but ultimately reconcilable, directions.

Why? Where did this instant,bone deep familiarity, come from? Some reasons: we had had similar, although wildly different, lives, but we shared a sometimes inconvenient impatience with expectations or convention, or bullshit.We both possessed a very New York kind of class fluidity that makes one either an "insider" who faces out..or an ":outsider" who forever has his or her nose pressed against an invisible window looking in on unattainable but tantalizingly close treats and treasures..even when it seemed to others, that we were already in possession of some of these.We both had had some privilege: private schools, comfortable upbringings...and a family love of culture,art, ideas.  We were both from what I jokingly called "Semi-Semitic" families...we each had wildly disparate and farflung circles of friends, from teachers and busboys and cabdrivers to celebrity,and intellectual friends...we'd even dated members of the same literary American Royal family...and we each had chosen unconventional and difficult careers, driven by curiosity and a restless, or reckless, impulse to keep following the next step, of what felt the most true in each moment.

And we had the same interior altars, the same sacred things.The first poem he sent me, was a Cavafy poem I have framed on my desk, something he had no way of knowing. We quoted the same obscure Marx Brothers dialogue, loved the same weird paintings, even took similar photographs- although his were masterly, while mine were, uh, not. (With his typical bluntness, he once said, after perusing my photographs: "You have one of the best natural gifts for composition, I've ever seen. But your technique is for shit. No problem, I'll teach you.")  What he had, that I didn't even think about having till after until I met him, was a passionate and public commitment to social justice. I tend to operate on a more personal, local and random level- I'm the whackjob who has waded in and yanked the kids away from a parent beating them on the street, while a crowd of  sidewalk gawkers stood by and watched, as I got my wrist broken with a tire iron for my pains -but the kids were rescued...He was the guy who would face down the leaders of a child sex slave ring, rescue the kids, make the documentary...and eventually get kidnapped and tortured for his bravery.

He was. like many of the funniest people on the planet (of which he was one), deeply thoughtful, even melancholy,below the surface. Unexpectedly for such a Norman Mailer-ish alpha man (broad chested, bluegreen eyed, unapologetically male), he was wildly sensitive, and empathetic, and capable of a gentleness deeper than any I'd ever encountered. He was also completely enchanting with children...upon meeting my 3 year old friend Leo, he bowed gravely, and spoke to Leo as though he was a Very Important Personage. Leo was instantly Robin's acolyte, forever.

After our odd, alfresco agreement, we had a hard time, for a time, finding time to see each other...we were both caretaking elderly parents..I was moving back to NYC, and he lived mostly in a light filled house on a lake upstate, but when I fretted about not being able to come see him because of work, he texted, "There will be world enough and time. That's a promise...and I keep my promises."

It was a promise it was not in Robin's power, to keep.

When he didn't return my goodnight text, on Halloween, I thought---with the solipsism of the newly in love woman, and the insecurity of the no-longer-twenty-five-year-old-girl:  "oh, okay, I guess he's having second thoughts.." I was a little miffed, and retreated into an unwonted formality, in my next texts..none of which he answered. As the day, and then evening, and then morning, went by, I tried to talk back to my anxiety: he was busy, he "needed space"-(an abominable phrase, if not used in reference to astronauts)..take it easy, Per. Lighten up.
But I still had a feeling something was wrong..really, really wrong. My intuitive ability is not so hot when it comes to myself or those I love, but it's still strong enough that I had to fight back against a rising tide of absolute terror.
So I cast romantic dignity aside and texted, emailed and called. Over and over and over.
"Baby, just taking anything romantic off the table for a moment, for God's sake let me know you're alive, okay? Robin?...Darling...Please."

And finally, "Robin. Please. Answer..answer..ANSWER, Love."

No reply.

So when the phone rang on the morning of November 2nd, while I was a bit hungover from a Day of the Dead party the night before, I was somehow both prepared -and completely unprepared- for the voice on the phone...his best friend and caretaker, a woman he spoke of often with great warmth.

"Hi...is this Peri? You don't know me..I'm a friend of Robin's...I'm afraid I've got some bad news. You'd better sit down..."

Robin, the most wildly, vividly alive person I'd ever known, had killed himself. I still don't know how...in his car, medication...all I know is that he left my engagement ring in an envelope with my name and number and a heart on it. And a note that said "The body's in the garage."

He was 57 years old.

And so one life ends. And another life, the life we had been having such fun planning together, ended as well.


I have another life now, one that doesn't include two hundred texts traded daily between passionate, entranced and delightedly surprised, slightly middle-aged lovers, starting at 5 AM and ending at 10 in the evening. My life now doesn't include that dance between intimacy and shyness, an exploration of the gap between how well we understood each other already..and and how much more there was to know. I don't,these days, wake up to an image of sunrise on his lake,taken when he woke at dawn... a photo by one of the world's great photographers, the size of a postage stamp on my phone but still carrying the unsaid message of "I see this and I want you to see it the way I do. Because you do." I don't have four hour phone conversations, an adolescent ritual reinvented by two people who had lived long enough to be hurt, badly, and were trying to find out - sometimes tactfully, sometimes bluntly- if it was possible to love again without having one's soul injured...if this glimpsed and longed for-but-given-up-on possibility actually existed as solidly as it looked..if this one last  game was worth the candle, as the cardplayers of the 19th century used to say.

I've heard that a comet presages the death of kings. The night Robin died, there were meteorite showers, bright and visible even near the crowding-out light of the city we both loved and (sometimes) lived in.
Robin was someone who would have jeered at the cliche of "good night sweet prince", and perhaps especially at flights of angels singing anyone to his or her rest..."I'm a light sleeper, that would really be annoying,", he would have said. But he had an almost angelic compassion for the hurt, the exploited and the voiceless...and a near-demonic energy to carry out his work to help, to draw attention, to create a conscience, for those with , as his great documentary had called it.."Stolen Childhoods".

"People ask me, "how I can do this kind of work. How can I care, with life being so busy? How can I find the time to help? How do I do this? " And all I can think of to tell them is, "How can you NOT?"

He leaned back and looked at me, with a kind of baffled, hurt wonder.

"How can they not care?", he would ask.

 "How can they NOT?"


Peri Lyons. Brooklyn, NY, November 3, 2013

IMPORTANT POSTSCRIPT: Robin and Len Morris started a school in Kenya. If you were moved by this story, or even if you weren't- please visit http://www.kenyanschoolhouse.org/  and make a donation. It would make Robin happy, and it's a great place to start.

Maggie, Robin, Peri      "Justice For Farm Workers" Party,  Sept 2013  NYC

22 November 2013

The Rock Star, The Poet, The Dead Past, And Me

Woke up this morning to find that my wonderful friend Courtney Love had lost her phone; that the NY Times columnist Frank Bruni found it; and that his assistant, the lovely Isabella Moschen, saw my name in Courtney's phone, remembered I had dated her uncle, remembered I was a "celebrity psychic"(I love that phrase- it makes me want to run right out and purchase red flocked wallpaper) -and-voila!-mystery solved.
Courtney gets her phone back, Frank Bruni gets to be a hero (he already IS my hero: go read "Born Round"), and Isabella and I, who were bit players in the New York Magazine piece that Joe Coscarelli wrote for his "Intelligencer" column all of this celllphone superstar serendipity- found ourselves blinking in the unexpected spotlight when the whole thing went viral. Not just viral..by the end of the day, the piece had gone QUANTUM. Courtney Love's cellphone! Found by a respected New York Times columnist! SWho was obviously really pleased, in a sweet, even slightly starstruck way!
 It's fun, and as evanescent as the dew on a kitten's whiskers for those of us who AREN'T Courtney, so us non rock stars shan't take it too  tseriously..but still,honestly, FUN. (Grazie, Universe!)
Meanwhile, I got one jillion hits on my Facebook page, with people asking how and why Courtney Love had me on her phone. So:

Here's the delightful and- for those of you who only believe what you read in the media, and don't have the pleasure of knowing the Lady herself- probably rather surprising backstory.
For example, would you have thought that the world's most famous diva, would have befriended a non famous chick, because of shared interests in 19th century poetry and Buddhism?
-Nope, didn't think so. Read on, my little lily blossoms...read on!

Courtney Love and I met 5 or 6 years ago, when my then-fiance was directing a play in Santa Monica. Now, many people direct plays, and some direct them in Santa Monica, but very few of the aforesaid worshippers at the altar of Thalia (who is, I hope, Goddess of the Theater- I would google it, but I can't be arsed, frankly)- have the good fortune of having discovered a riveting young actor named Sawyer Avery to star in it. Sawyer Avery played a high school kid who had an unfortunate dislike for his high school classmates, and an even more unfortunate affinity for guns. And Sawyer Avery could ACT. I don't mean "act pretty well for a 16 year old." I mean: he could seriously and indubitably act his intense, charismatic, 16 year old James Dean-ish butt off. Sawyer's father is also a hugely famous Hollywood genius, which is possibly why Oliver Stone and Courtney Love showed up to see my then-fiance's play, as said exfiance was friends with Oliver, and had worked quite successfully with him, in the past. But they stayed to see Sawyer. (Also, the exfiance was terrific, and the play was quite wellwritten.) 
Courtney and Oliver made quite an entrance..they walked ACROSS the stage (which was level with the floor, so it was actually completely understandable)..but it WAS after the play had STARTED, so frankly, it was kind of seriously badass. 
Also, Courtney's reputation at the time did not prepare me for the shock of how genuinely beautiful she is. -And this isn't a "friend of a star/must kiss ass" insincere compliment: I grew up around a ton of famous folks, and it's nice, but not compelling, the fame thing...so when I say she is genuinely, Carol- Lombard-beautiful in person, I mean just that. Flawless skin, huge green eyes, tall, with the elongated, almost stylized, slender figure of a 1940s model: wide shoulders, narrow hips, long legs. Anyway, the show went well, and was so entertaining that people actually managed to tear their eyes off the several seriously A List famous folk in the audience, for minutes at a time. -What was also interesting to me, sitting in the audience, was that, although there were people in that audience who were  so famous the folks in the adjoining seats actually physically burst into flame? It was La Love that every single person, was talking about, staring at, and pointing to. Such is the mystery of charisma.

Later, at the beginning of the seriously VIP afterparty, Courtney and I caught each other's eye, and we each,respectively, made the same mental note: "hmm, that seems like someone I'd get along with. Don't know why." -and then, we each  kept walking. Much later on, she mentioned that she'd liked me partially because I wasn't that young, wasn't that skinny, was idiosyncratically sttractive but not plastic surgery gorgeous...and my guy was a serious, goldplated catch...so what, she had wondered at the time,was UP with that? Could it be that, in LA, someone actually loved someone else for her MIND?  [Note: ( -Actually, he kinda did, and, as in most doomed relationships, we had a really, really good time-until we really, really didn't. -Anyway..)
She also made a mental note that my beyond Adonis boyfriend, might have a lot more substance than one suspected, if he could both write and star in a good play, AND have enough gravitas to not have the Young Trampy Girlfriend.
Courtney and I were somehow standing back to back at the party, in the middle of a scrum so tight that no one could move, or even figure out HOW to move. Then I felt someone tap me on the shoulder, in a friendly, impatient way. I turned my head--all that COULD be turned, in that claustrophobic party mob- and saw Courtney, close up as smooth faced as the dream of na porcelain doll. She was talking to someone, and also seemed to be snapping her fingers in a futile effort to remember something. Maybe that girl I saw before might know, know, was apparently her decisive thought, because her next move was to say to me,"Hey. What was the name of that poet? You know--19th century, English, wanted to be Shelley, died in an attic of arsenic at 18, killed himself, you know...Thomas something...Thomas, uh..."
"Thomas Chatterton," I supplied. "Killed himself over a plagiarism fraud, 1824." 
"Right! Right! Thanks..." she said, and turned back to her friend.
How, and why, she was talking about Thomas Chatterton - a poet even more obscure than he was deceased, which was saying something- at a party in Los Angeles- the world's MOST ahistorical city- was never explained. But it established a bond of sorts, and later that night we wound up talking enthusiasticallyfor a long time- we had shared passions for Buddhism, 1920s and 30's films, vintage couture, and scurrilous gossip. I was delighted to find that she had a mordant, dry, very British wit, and an eidetic memory...she could remember stuff thet Miss English Major here, had totally forgotten. In fact, she was really fucking smart. When at last the party wound to a close, and those of us who WEREN'T doing cocaine were starting to yawn (yup, neither she nor I partook- I have never seem her take drugs) she said " Great meeting you..Hey, I have an idea! Come chant with me..I'll have my driver pick you up at 2 tomorrow."
I limped home, my Louboutins having won their fight with my now warped-into-submission toes, and thought, "well, that was cool.Who knew? Live and learn."
[Note: I made a mental note, from that night on, to regard everything I read in entertainment media, as "guilty until proven innocent"..in other words, I stopped being a credulous consumer of gossip.-Except the British gossip mags, which are awesomely awesome and who cares if they're true?]

Dawn broke. And tomorrow came and went, but no driver, so I figured, "Well, that woulda been fun, but..oh well."
Went to sleep and, at 2 AM, the phone rang.
"Errrroo?" I answered..I am not a girl who wakes up easily.
"Miss Lyons? This is Courtney's driver...I'm here to take you to the Chateau."
"Roo..err..hey, what?? It's 2 AM!"
"That's right. She asked you if two was okay."
"Darlin, I must get my beauty sleep. Let's try again later," I said...and fell asleep before my head hit the pillow.

So the next day I went to see her at the Chateau Marmont. To be continued....


29 June 2013

A Wimbledon Pome, or, U.S Open Your Heart, Baby!

Though tennis I know nothing of;
We ALL know "nothing" equals "love";
And all the sports fans know this call:
Love equals nothing much at all.

While poets tell us there's no cost:
It's"better" to "have loved and lost"-
The sportsfans tell you different, hon:
It's better to have loved- and WON.

Sportsfans and poets all agree
That love's a bigass mystery:
If love's a game, as seems to be?
-The heart's a crooked referee.

So though one loved and lost, it's true,
And played no games at all with you:
She's cut out sobbing in her gin-
Cuz next time? She will play- to WIN.

28 May 2013

Now, As It Is

Love is not only the answer- it's also the question.

This morning began with a ritual that's been in place since my 83 year old mother got home from the hospital: I gently shake her awake, bring her some water with lemon and mint and ice cubes, and start doling out a seemingly endless list of pills, while making cheerful, meaningless conversation in order to help both of us ease into consciousness.
"I saw a fox this morning, Mom, in the backyard . -No, we only take that pill at night, take the pink pill instead.-Why do foxes always look mildly guilty? -Ooops, the mint is stuck inside the straw, that's why you're having trouble. Here, lift your head up a little. -Okay, fixed it.- There was a cardinal yelling at the fox, from a tree nearby. You know the way cardinals do...it's funny how most birds sing, but cardinals yell. Bluejays scream, robins chirp, cardinals yell. Cardinals all seem like they're from Brooklyn.-Okay, you ready for your tea?"

These days, there is a hospital bed in the living room. There is a walker, which has broken but we can't yet afford to fix it;  and a wheelchair, and a chair set up as an impromptu nightstand, big enough for a phone and three antique bracelets, and otherwise overflowing with pills...there are two other bags filled with pills, and a grownup version of a sippee cup nearby, filled with water and mint and a straw. There is a radio that always plays NPR; there is a copy of "The New York Review of Books", but it's three months old, because her cataracts make it hard to read these days. There are sculptures from long ago travels to the Pacific Northwest; there are paintings shining on the walls, gifts of artist friends; there are photos of the grandchildren and great grandchildren, the kids whom she is not exactly not allowed to see, but not exactly not. My brother has never explained why he stopped loving her, three years ago. Mom no longer asks. She is gallant and optimistic and loving and utterly heartbroken, a heartbreak made worse by bafflement...isn't losing your husband supposed to make your kids be nicer to you? But we don't talk about it anymore. I hear her cry at night, and go hold her hand. There is no explanation, and no resolution, and what can not be fixed must be endured.

 Mom's house is making the transition from being a home, to being a history: and my job here, is to make sure, as she approaches a similar transition, that she does not have a stranger at her bedside.

In an adult's life, this kind of time out of time that I get to have right now, usually signals a major transition in both lives. In my own life, it is a moment when I get to take a deep breath after the end of a three year roller coaster ride. It is a moment to mourn lost deeply held and never before even questioned assumptions  of what family is, or "should" be. It is a also chance to actually learn lessons, really learn them, cell deep and forever. Learning involves a combination of brokenness and surrender, and who wants to feel broken, who wants to surrender?  But since all opposites actually mirror each other, getting broken can also mean getting made whole. Surrender can lead to a whole new kind of power. Mostly, what happens in circumstances that are worse than one expects, is that one learns to listen.

 One lesson is that I have to be the family, I want to have. If that makes sense. Another lesson is that, yes, we are each alone in this body,  this nautilus shell that makes the noise of the ocean, which is a fanciful way of saying we are all alone..and never, never alone. What I'm learning is that making mistakes doesn't make you a bad person, but repeating mistakes does make you an ineffectual one...learning to face facts without being defeated by them, seems to be a useful thing. Learning that forgiveness and love, really are more important than "being right" and "keeping track". Not for abstract moral reasons, but because it works better. It just works. Better. 

Families fall apart over money, and old resentments dressed up in new clothes, and who's better, who's wrong, who's worthy, who has given more, who taken too much...and all we're looking for,really, is love and affirmation. I have watched "good" people make an old woman miserable in the name of "what's best for her". I have watched "bad" people continue to do sorta bad things...but make the old woman feel happy and safe and cared for. And i don't for the life of me know, which camp I fall into. Or care. What I care about is the happiness or lack thereof, in the life of the people I love.

Because what I'm learning is that love is a verb. In the same way that God can be Unconditional Love in one person's usage, and in another person's usage, the same God can be: a lucky charm, a big brother who will kick your unrighteous ass, and a reason to hate the same folks they seem to believe S/He "made". None of this makes sense.

Anyway, when nothing you thought you knew makes sense anymore, what does make sense is just doing what's in front of you.
What makes sense, is doing what's in front of me. Doing the dishes; making the oatmeal with dried cranberries that Mom finds tasty and will therefore actually eat; doing the laundry; trying to sort out my finances, her finances, the cat's finances...give me a finance and i will leap into action. My financial action usually consists of staring uncomprehendingly at a statement; entering things into Quickbook; accidentally erasing said things from Quickbook; calling the insurance company/financial institution/ credit card company and attempting to explain to a seemingly endless array of voicemail options and uninterested people in foreign lands, why they are wrong and can I have my money back now, please?

Then one makes lunch. Often for the next few days. It's best to do ALL the cooking at once, and freeze whatever you think you won't need immediately. You will be wrong- always- about how much you need of what and when, because invalids have tetchy appetites, and today's Turkey Meatloaf Which Is Exactly Right and Gets Eaten With Happy Noises, is tomorrow's Thing That Is Not Exactly Sneered at But Not Exactly Not. 

Then one cleans up, and talks encouragingly, and tries to find a film on the computer that will soothe and stimulate in exactly the right balance. Old movies are best. I'vefound that British films from the 40s, are ideal. Most ideal are what used to be called "omnibus" movies...which, counterintuitively, are NOT films about omnibuses, but films like "Dead of Night" of "Quartet", that are several short films under one thematic umbrella.That way, a smart older person can watch something smart, but not have to feel embarrassed about getting drowsy partway though. 

Mother actually helps enormously with my new book: brilliant editing suggestions, and the kind of Vestigial Mom Authority that gets my bum into the seat to write, when nothing else will. So that is part of the afternoon, as well. 

Then one makes dinner.

And one makes conversation to go with the dinner.

And one makes the best of what one has, both dinner and conversationwise. We have cobbled a very nice dinner out of a chicken carcase, some frozen corn, and matzoh balls; and conjured a matching conversation about the history of "end of the world" scares and cults {Millerites, anybody?], out of my scraps of remembered historical anecdotes and Mother's partially remembered but potentially enormous fund of knowledge, from her years as an Ivy League history professor. Mother pops in and out of lucidity, but since her lucidity, when present, borders on actual genius, it's worth the wait.

And then one does the dishes, and listens for Mother's voice, and sweeps and mops, and hears the voice and goes in to count the pills, and arrange the pillows, and we sing "Stardust" together and she's asleep, mouth open, by the second verse, and i am just so fucking grateful to be here.

Because it's not perfect, or pretty, or even, sometimes, bearable. But I've learned more about the look of love, lately, than I knew before. And by the look of love, I don't mean the dreamy Dusty Springfield song. I mean the act of being each other's flawed but willing witnesses. Love may make vile things precious, but it doesn't make vile things pretty, and it doesn't make anything perfect. Quite the opposite. Quite, quite the reverse.

Love makes lack of perfection the point. Love makes doing the gristly dishes an irritating privilege. Love is not abstract...love is annoyingly concrete, brilliantly ugly, and love, in every way?
Is a verb.
And a question.
And an answer,
And finally?
A reason that you can not argue with.

Off to do the dishes, again. I wish they'd stay done. But I guess the point is, I hope they keep getting dirty. If you see what I mean.

Maybe all we can do in the end, is what's right. Maybe if I do what is right, the phone will ring and my brother will say "Can I talk to Mom?" Maybe if one just tries a little more every day; loves just a little more than the day before, forgives just a little more than 12 hours ago, catches one's self when one falls into old patterns of anger, or entitlement, or selfishness...maybe one day you wake up and the "good" has finally pushed out the "bad".

"Darling", Mom calls out excitedly from the next room. "Come in here quickly! I just noticed that the dogwood tree has tiny green shoots on it already! Look at that! Spring will be here before you know it! Won't that be nice. I can't wait to see the snowdrops again."

I am making Mom tea, now.  I can see  through the huge kitchen window, that both a cardinal and a heavily pregnant  red fox are framed against the white snow,both motionless for this minute, vivid red against the sterile, seemingly hopeless white landscape. In a minute, the cardinal will fly away and the fox seek shelter against the coming evening and the steadily mounting snow.
In two weeks or three, there will be green shoots of snowdrops, where the snow is now. The momma fox will be nursing her tiny red pups. The dogwood's green shoots will be turning into white flowers with vivid orange crosses in the middle. The world will once again be a chorus of kept promises. The snow will be a memory.

And maybe, this time? The phone will ring, and my Mom will join the rank and chorus of those who get to come back to life, to hope and to promises unbroken, in the springtime.

Meanwhile, my other brother and his wife are driving through the snow to be here tomorrow. Meanwhile, tonight, I take in the tea.

With cookies.

Happy Almost Spring.

love, pl

09 February 2013

Valentine's Day Is Approaching. For God's Sake, Hide Me, Someone!


The Lilies Of The Field Are Trying To Tell You Something

Did you know that, on Valentine's Day,  if your dreamboat 
hands you a bouquet of purple irises, he or she is actually saying: "I  anxiously await your [sexual] favors"?*
                         *Author's Note: Well, with any luck.)

Or that, hidden in that lovely collection of fragrant pink dahlias, is a a subtext that actually warns of imminent betrayal and sexual degradation?** 
                                     (** Author's Note: Agatha Christie says this is what "Dahlia"  means,.Other sources say it's actually what "evergreens" mean, but I flatout refuse to believe all that about my Christmas tree.)

-Of course you didn't, because: a): You're not a big ol' crazypants, and, 2): It is no longer circa 1850-1890, which is when the "Language of Flowers" was an accepted way to communicate your secret feelings to your loved one in floral code. In Victorian England, every flower in a bouquet, had a very specific meaning: that tradition, though long forgotten, still resonates on some level. Case in point: we give red roses almost exclusively these days, to be on the safe side: red roses, in the Language of Flowers, mean "I am romantically in love with you, although this floral arrangement does not actually  constitute a legally binding agreement." And the reason you have never offered your fiancĂ©/e a selection of  lobelias, lime blossom and houseleeks? -Is because you somehow knew you would be accusing her of, respectively, "fornication; malevolence; and poor domestic economy."(And frankly? You'd be right. Sorry you had to find out this way, man.)

So here is a selection of the Language of the Flowers, circa 1885, and then the Language of the Flowers, circa 2016.

Happy Valentine's Day! 

love, Peri 

Language Of The Flowers, 1885 version

1) Camellia: I live in gratitude of your perfected loveliness!

2) Chrysanthemum: I admire your cheerfulness through adversity.

3) Damask Rose: I worship your brilliant complexion.

4) Fuschia: The ambition of my love thus plagues myself. 

                                                 [Author's note: "Huh?"]

5) Peach/or Peach Blossom: Your qualities, like your charms, are unequalled.

6) White Rosebud: You are too young to understand love.

                                             [Author's Note:"I get this one a LOT."]

Okay. Moving right along:

 The Language of the Flowers, 2016 Version:

1) Dandelions: You're okay, considering. I guess.

2) Poppies: I love you, but not more than I love prescription medications.

3) Carnations:My God, you're beautiful. My God, I'm cheap.

4) Rare Orchids: Aren't these exquisite? I'm sleeping with your sister.

5) Daffodils: Your optimism is touching. If delusional.

6) Asters: These are asters. -No, that's it, that's the message. Sorry.

7) Peach colored sunset roses: Your skin is like a flower petal at sunrise, and I think i might be gay.

8) Red roses: I think you're swell, I think you're aces, and I think it's 1947.

To sum up? Flowers are a beautiful means of communication, wherein you can totally say stuff you mean, and not have to cop to it. The Victorians may have had their flaws, but they have a lot to teach us still. Especially in the area of being completely passive-aggressive and yet, still decorative as hell.