Saturday, September 20, 2014
"I am trying for the third time to read Conrad (Heart of Darkness), but I have the impression, mysteriously, of reading Chinese, my eyes glide over the text without grasping anything."
From page 279, this edition
Friday, September 19, 2014
Thursday, September 18, 2014
From The Poems of Sir Walter Scott
MY NATIVE LAND
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd,
As home his footsteps he hath turn'd
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour'd, and unsung.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
We don't always get to keep our friends. There's nothing unusual in this. We grow up, grow apart, move. Our circumstances and our interests change. Friends fall out with one another. We remember some, and forget others, and some we keep. Some we lose. Live long enough, and the ones we still have, even at second hand, become family.
I remember the girls when they were going out. I remember the anticipation of a good time, the getting ready, the phone-calls, the boys unseen and talked about endlessly. There were "hot-curlers" that burned the girls' scalps, and boots that didn't fit, but looked good. Somebody would do somebody else's hair, wear somebody else's belt, borrow a coat, or a necklace, or ten dollars. Eye-liner would slip under a lid and somebody would curse. Somebody would be late. Somebody always was. (Somebody still is.) Everybody laughed. They all rushed around getting ready, they rushed around everywhere, as I remember, and I watched. We watched, me and my folks. My mother might help them get ready, or feed them, or tell them what not to wear. My father might warn them not to be damned fools, then give them twenty dollars, or rescue them at two in the morning when the car broke down or went into a snow-drift or a ditch. He might, he did, sometimes line them up on a sofa and give them all a lecture. I don't know that they listened very hard, but he could make you cry. They all remember those long rides home and the stern talking to they got, but not much of what he said.
When they were ready, or as near to it as they were going to get, why, they'd just tumble out the door and pile into whatever the latest old junker was they were going out to wreck that night. In their wake would be a hamper of wet towels and work-clothes, a hedge of hairy brushes on the sink and a Vidal Sassoon blow dryer still swinging on the bathroom doorknob, a fragrant cloud of Jean Nate and Charlie, of hairspray and romance and all the optimism of youth still lingering in the air.
They were beautiful then as only young girls can be; fresh and funny and foolish, and to my mind at the time, rather glamorous. They were young and they were pretty and they were looking for a good time. I wasn't with them when they found it, but I heard the stories. As the years have gone on, I've heard them all, or most of them anyway, well after the fact. The one my dad still tells every time we're back home at the same time is the one about my sister sneaking in late and in a state of imperfect sobriety and deciding to come in through the basement-way, so as not to wake the rest of us. Might have worked too, had she not opened the deep-freezer for light and left the lid up all night, with her boots, her coat and her purse on the floor before it to be discovered in the morning.
They went to bars, some of them low, some of them only a little less so, and to concerts when they could. They listened to loud music, some of it good, most of it less than, and they liked it as loud as they could get it. Some of them smoked, sometimes they smoked a little weed, and they all of them drank. They had boyfriends, some of them, and the boys they liked better. Men bought them drinks and asked them to dance, or asked them other things, but for the most part the girls traveled together, whoever they might be seeing or chasing or avoiding. More often than not, when they woke up it was next to each other -- once, in a field -- or back home in their own beds. Still, they cut a swath, the girls. Indeed they did.
Later they would all find other, better jobs, or they wouldn't, had families or didn't, fell in and out of love or kept to the ones they'd found when they were young. Some of them stayed pretty much in the place where they'd been born, or near it, and others moved away but came home. My sister went to Texas and she stayed. Like the rest of them, she made other friends and lived other lives. She's known some heartbreak and experienced some ugly things. They've all of them been touched one way or another by tragedy and death; lost a dear sister, or a both parents, or had to fight to save a child. It's never so simple as it seemed when, out was the only place we wanted to go, and all we needed for a good time was to get there.
Now we're all grown-ups, some of us with children of our own grown up in turn. Hell, my sisters's a grandmother, if you can believe it! The girls don't get together anymore but maybe once a year, when my sister gets up from Texas to see the old people, my brother and the woman who's finally made him happy. Maybe once a year, if they're lucky, most of the old gang can manage a night out together, or at least a visit at my parents' house, sitting on the "good" furniture in the other living room and laughing about old times.
It's been two years this trip since I saw my sister last, two years at least. I see the girls when when I'm home, most of them, even when my sister isn't there. I might go out with one or the other, to dinner with the folks, or just she and I for drinks. This time home, one came on a long ride to Ohio and back with me, my sister and my parents. My sister and I went out one night with another of the girls and started at the bar where another of them was tending bar. We had a charming young lady, the daughter of one of the girls, as our designated driver. We went to some of the old, low places. We had a lot of laughs, told a lot of stories, tried to shock the poor girl who was kind enough to drive us all around all night. I don't know that we actually shocked her, as she used to be a cop, but we did make her laugh. We did do that.
I can't help but to think of the girls as my friends now as well as my sister's. It's not the same, you understand as the way they are and will always be friends, but it is special in it's own way, our friendship, to me at least. It seems, without intending any such thing all those years ago when we were all of us just kids, my sister found sisters of her own, and now they're mine as well. It's funny, isn't it? The family you find you have that you never knew you were getting.
To my mind, the girls are more beautiful now than they ever were all those years ago when they spent all those hours getting ready to go out. They've been now, out and back. Yes, in their faces now I can see the years, though they all look good for all that. But I can see more than that, now I'm old enough to. I see the care they've taken of one another, of their families, and of mine. I can see the girl in them still, and something of the women they are now and it makes me proud to call them my friends. My parents are getting older now and they count on my brother and the good woman he loves and who calls them Mum and Dad, and I'm grateful for that, as are they. One of the girls who stayed home calls my mother every day, or nearly. They count on her too. I'm grateful to know she's there for them as well. They love her, too. So do I.
Now, I'll always love my sister. Though we don't see each other nearly enough, I know her and she knows me as well as either is likely to ever know anyone. She's one of the best women I know, and she's funny as Hell, and about as tough as a feather pillow, but she bygawd tries to be, and she's as brave as lion. When she loves you, she just does and that is that. You can't help but love her back. I'd like to see you try. She's taken in worse, believe me. She's befriended more strays than I can count. She's made bail, and beds, and fought battles she couldn't win. She's mothered more mutts than the ASPCA, four footed and two. She's worn herself out with worries, and she has laughed driving right on sharp edge of many a long fall. I admire her more than I can say.
And even now, for all that, she's still one of the girls, bless her. I love that about her too.
I can't tell you how glad I am that I get to know them too, the girls. I love the memory of them and the company of them and the way they all still laugh together, every time, Hell or high water. They are some good women. Good sisters. Good friends.
Here's to the girls, then. Raise a glass. They've earned it.