Sunday, November 22, 2009

Maserati Man

There's much to be said for looking into our past, not as a means to blame anyone, but to be clear that what happened ought not to have happened, then to escort each and every issue out the door and say goodbye.

It wasn't until I had dealt with all the abuse and soul murdering, the penchant parents had for knocking me flat, that I was able to climb out from underneath that blue black boulder of ignorance and shame and walk head held high into the bright light of day. But....

....this required some doing. Therapy and reading all the good books I could get my hands on required down time, a time to go within and find that place that needed to be nurtured and filled up with good things. Time was what I wanted and was given, solitude, reflection and quiet, all the things I was used to running away from.

I got good at reality testing and, no longer at mach one speed, all the healing I could wrap up in. Many years later, when I was invited to go to a movie and have a cup of coffee afterward, I slumped back into my couch, wanting to stay home. I'd gotten so used to never going out and always being alone that to do something fun felt like work. That's when I decided to get off my lockdown couch and dress up with an attitude of really wanting to do this, be with friends, discuss the movie, eat, hug and bond, sharing delicate intimacies.

I could get used to this I thought as I walked in the door at mignight. I realized the social person I was had been forced underground far too long, but not by anyone but me and that same me could simply get up off the cushy, tomato red couch and come back to life, whole and invigorated with ideas for adventure, new horizons, all of it peopled with those like me. It wasn't voodoo. I had already thrown it out there to the Universe that I wanted to have people over and to go to the symphony with, people whose friendship was substantive.

All the years behind me had to happen and in exactly the way they happened. Even the last relationship which had me edging closer to the cliff had to happen. How do you know what you want until you see what you don't want. I knew that I didn't want a lying, cheating, upright. I wanted him. Maserati Man...

Maserati Man drove north on Federal Highway with darkened windows, dark Maserati sunglasses and a Maserati cap. He drove along side of me for awhile and I looked over at him and sang a song about him and his Maserati keys and Maserati sunglasses and Maserati hat. Oh, Mr. Maserati Man, come take me away to Maserati Land, where we dine on Maserati cuisine, where we live happily ever after in our Maserati town and love each other in our Maserati way...with our Maserati Master Card offering a Maserati ring. And on and on my little song went, unrhymed and not all that clever.

But Maserati Man was not the actual man driving north on Federal Highway. My real Maserati Man was symbolic of a man with a certain je n'cest quois. My Maserati Man would take me by the arm and tell me his truth about all things. Maserati Man would not necessarily be wealthy, although more than likely he would be. But his ideas, his courage, wit and grace would be strong and rich.

Maserati Man wouldn't care if I didn't look perfect, or if I sometimes misspoke. He would encourage me and support all my efforts at becoming a better human being. He wouldn't falter on this. My Maserati Man would buy me that ring and on the inside have MM engraved.

I'm glad I went through those unholy wars, prostrating myself before God, keening for the unbearable losses, my childhood, my son and later the pilot. I knew back then, that there was something in all of it for me. I don't sign up for things that aren't. I knew I would come full circle to a life ripening with joy, with fun and most of all the freedom I yearned for.

But being free and feeling free were twins separated at birth. I always felt free, but instead of being free, I bowed down to the cliches society passed on. One Wednesday night when my second husband and I were driving to eat Chinese food - as we did each and every Wednesday night - I realized I wasn't exactly all that free. I felt trapped in a conformed version of marriage. He wasn't Maserati Man. And I wasn't Maserati Woman. So we had our Miserable Maserati Divorce.

And that's when all the fun began. be continued..

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My Life With Lizards and Inappropriate Mammals

I'm allergic to bad boys, players, con men, artful liars, cheaters and boogeymen. What happens to my body is akin to what happens when I'm in range of coconut cake and ice cream with sprinkles - a meltdown and surrender to the tantalizing dessert before me, and a weakening of all resolve. Months later, I've added four dress sizes and another dark circle under my eyes. The only difference between the cake and bad boy is that with the upright I become homicidal.

Just as a bully finds his victim, I, cast in the role of victim, surely know what to do: Become shy and coquettish and say a quiet "no" while waving him in like a 747.

This morning after singing the Bad Boy Song - "Bad Boy, Bad Boy, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you" - I made a decision to create a new holiday. Henceforth, November 21 will be No More Living With Lizards Day requiring women who have had enough to wear their own version of the vibrant throat fan used by lizards everywhere. Only this symbolic purple will send a message to all upright lizards that IT'S OVER. TAKE YOUR THROAT FAN AND LEAVE.

Practiced in being attracted to and dealing with the tantalizing, slimy lizards, I found myself near death's door with my last one, swearing to never ever- forever and ever I promised my sad self - open my door and let one in again. Ever. Finito! Basta! Kein Bad Boy mehr!

Give me a drug addicted, alcoholic schizophrenic with a prison record and my pulse quickens. But put a healthy, normal upright in front of me and I'm lost in the wilderness without a compass. That, and where the bad boy waits outside my doorway with two dozen roses and a crocodile smile, the healthy, happy normie is running as fast as he can toward the cliff.

This morning as I sat down to write, I saw something slithering across the ceiling. I looked up. He looked down. I got the broom and opened the front door. Not wanting to scare the lizard, I slowly edged the bristles closer to him. I looked at him and softly, sweetly said, "It isn't right for you to be here. You need to leave." He turned his head for one long, last look and started inching his way toward the door, then jumped down and ran off into the tropics of my garden.

Like the scary dinosaurs that once stalked their prey, intimidating everything in sight, the now miniature versions run away scared. Their numbers are quickly diminishing. I don't see too many anymore.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Black and White Photography by Chris Crawford

Chris Crawford has been carrying around a camera since he was a boy, taking thousands of photos ranging from people to landscapes and old buildings in the final stages of decay. He is an artist who has eyes that see things most of us don't. And so, like a cat bringing home the delicacy of a small creature, he brings it to us. "Look what I found. You can't imagine windmills like these." Chris brings us pieces of humanity, nature and the odd assortment of the bizarre, treasures all.

For a few days now, I've been thinking about his black and white photography and what it means to me and why. I wasn't sure if the intense feelings his photos of Indiana stirred up in me were caused by memories of my time up in Indiana, or whether the beauty of the photographs, the sublime simplicity, was the deeper cause. No matter, I felt his work viscerally. This has happened to me before as in Munich when I went to Das Alte Pinakothek, a small museum housing an incredible collection of Renaissance paintings, as in the incredible symphonies of Mahler, as in the dance routines on America's Best Dance Crew.

Here are some more thoughts I had last night about his work: I wrote him I wanted to buy his book if he had one (he doesn't.....yet) and I wondered later why I had that need. A book often stays closed, as my photo books do. What I really want is to own the photography. I want to own the feeling of place because of what it evokes in me, be it a face, a tree, a building or the sky. I want to possess that beauty and that moment. Of course, that's magical thinking.

So what is it really? Can the photographer actually capture that light for eternity, then pass it on to us? In Chris' case, he can. He does. His images are for all time and matchless in tone, texture and substance. It's really a partnership between soul and nature, so the buyer is getting both, the man's eye and feelings and the beauty itself.

On some days, I wish I could eat the sky and often do with my eyes - one reason I live in south Florida is for that predawn Light. I feel it organically and wish that time would stand still. That may explain why I loved flying. I was swimming up there in the middle of it for seven years.

The other thought I had was that Chris's work is simple, approachable, intimate. On the other hand Clyde Butcher's work is large, powerful, spectacular, entertaining and glossy. Both are lovely. But the two disparate works attract different viewers. Only a small fraction of us like the large, beautiful, entertaining and glossy photography. Many more of us are frugal, simple, real and approachable. The latter will stand for hours gazing at Chris' work because in its power and incandescence, it moves us to tears.

For long hours of enjoyment log on to:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Love Letters

Yesterday, I grabbed the small plastic bag that contained all the letters my son wrote to me and found among them four letters written to me by his father, Klaus. I was shocked at what I found in them and felt as though I were reading them for the first time.

Klaus had been a writer and teacher of creative writing at several colleges. He had written a book in graduate school, but the book was far too esoteric and made no sense to me. I don't know if it was successful or not. But the letters were personal, lyrical and heartfelt.

I had to blink away the tears as I read them. When he sent them to me, I didn't have the same reaction. I found the letters to be silly and overly dramatic. Our marriage ended in 1972. It was time he get on with his life. But he continued writing and telling me how much he loved me and longed to see me again. Yesterday, I felt his words viscerally and couldn't get over the feeling of sadness that we didn't make it as a couple.

The war years had taken their toll on him as a child. Later, an abusive stepfather and a mother who liked her wine a little too much were the last stroke of the brush. He became addicted to various substances himself and very nearly died until he got sober.

I include the letters in the book to complete the story since Klaus died in September 2004. His creativity and sensitivities were never appreciated by me. His son, however, understood him and encouraged him. It surprised me that yesterday, after forty five years, I would read and hear his voice for the first time. It felt as though he had just written the words down and walked in the room to hand deliver them.

The following is the first letter written inside a greeting card shortly after Christmas, 1984.

Dear Jeanie,
Thank you for your Christmas card: thank you, indeed. It was certainly one of the reasons why this Christmas was the most joyous one in years.

When I read that you joined ALMA, just in case our son might be looking for you, I was deeply moved. If there is one wish granted me on this earth, it is for you to find your child.

It's good to hear that life is kinder to you now, and more peace is with you.

Till some other day, perhaps, when I write again, I say "Servus, Spotzl!" Love, Klaus.

The next one was mailed August 5, 1992:

Dear Jeanie,
After you left, I tried to bury my love for you as deep as I could. Every now and then, of course, fragments come to the surface. - I live, you know.

But at the moment of my death - if I have the time - I will blank out every part of my life except seeing you for the first time at Hoflinger, at the table one step down, diagonally to the left,* the moment that shaped my life and consumed it. If I'm lucky, I'll die a happy man.


*Obviously, I'm not sure. But it's the moment itself that is with me.

The last letter, written on November 21, 1998, was sent via email:

Dear Jeanie,
If I could a write a symphony, I would write you a symphony. But I only have words, the most unreliable and treacherous signs of them all, and I'm not a good composer.

I just watched Bird on a Wire; Goldie Hawn and Mel Gibson. Yes, I am a romantic. I smiled, I chuckled, I felt sad. There is a sadness in me that goes way back, but I don't know how far. And to live dangerously has always been my motto. I've risked all and I've lost all. I hurt and I cried; but the risk was worth the price. Cliches. Perhaps. Life needs to be lived; all our passions need to be expended. I knew that when I met you, and I still know it now.

Last weekend I walked next to a young man of thirty-two who is the result of the most passionate moments of my life, moments with you. His wife is pregnant. There is then, a third generation that goes back to a moment of passion. Passion. What else is there? I still would like to kiss you all day long. And I still hope to hear you say into my ear, "I love you." And I still want to tell you that things worked out for the best in a weird way, after all. When I look at the trajectory of my life, how can I not be a romantic? After all, I was talking to you on the telephone just the other day, thirty-four years after I first saw you in Hoflinger. You were twenty then. I was twenty-four. Now I'm fifty-eight.

I would love to see you. I'm not well-to-do (what else is new?), but I could charge a round trip ticket to Tucson. When could you come? Any time would be fine by me, except Dec 4/5 when I'm planning to check out Seattle.

Of course, I should work on my dissertation. Alex suggested that I, for starters, clean up my table/desk. Well, I still haven't cleaned it up. Tomorrow. Tonight I am dreaming up another ending to the story of my life...

I'm sorry that much of my letter consists of "I," "I," "I," What is your life really like? Do you still have dreams? What are they? Talk to me.


P.S. The last girlfriend I had was in June. I'm totally unattached.