Tuesday, January 7
home, although as i first really articulated only a few days ago (to ester), it's already not home for me. at home i'm a tourist. i don't come to stay, it's just another stop on my continuing travels. it's my family, my once house, but i live out of a suitcase (if not literally) in my unfamiliar old room. well, at least it's somewhere to lay down my case (actually, a backpack, which hasn't served it's proper use in oh-so-long. enough of cities!) for a scant two weeks before i hit the road again.
the last sojourn: a week and a half, divided neatly into three equal portions, all delightful and varyingly restful. two fridays ago, the crowded carful (ah, but i was driving for the latter half) made a most efficient morning trip to wanakena. that's maybe more my home than anywhere - rest without threat of boredom; inactivity without guilt/nagging; somehow a perfectly effective refuge in the world. and what better than this full week there, but with a change-up in company halfway through to forestall routine.
with zoe and family, i skiied several times (really unbeatable conditions), swat once, lost monopoly, completed an challenging jigsaw puzzle of a candy shop, read, listened and ate. same with rebecca, ben, ester, except walking instead of skiing (rain washed the snow away the day they drove up, the day i had the place to myself for nearly twelve hour), minus the puzzle, plus more excitement: of new years, homey swatstyle discussion, and of reuniting with my best friends. photos from sri lanka. i stayed up one night with ben talking about his trip to europe; another with becca about relationships.
we read and read and when we finished we traded books and read some more: after the corrections (marvelous, fun, delilloan, and unmistakably swat-bred) and catching up on pullum, i followed ester into rushdie's scattershot east, west and the '73 ct burbs of moody's ice storm (not as good, perhaps, as the movie, if only because of the superb acting and because what he's trying to do in the book is so filmic to begin with; but with an excellent sense of place, and some great writing). all three books reference tolkein, funny because i'd just read him. all three are that good writerly contempo lit. on the train yesterday (seven scheduled hours plus an interminable weather?-delay in albany), as i juggled listening (the bedroom recordings of hrvatski whitman, j.x. blecher, and f.m. cornog - private, insular, personal music just like for headphones) with reading (spike, small craft and novels, undecidedly) i tried my best to get buried in tristram shandy, but after 130+ pages i'm still not sure. the wallace seems more promising.
when we were awake and not reading, we were mostly engaged in food prep or eating. miss e offers a mostly journalistic rundown of what we ate - add to that squash, burritos, potato-leek soup, "surprises" and mozart chocs, hits and hobbits. new years eve champagne pushed back for wine and then margaritas (later frozen) to the 2nd afternoon.
alcohol was interesting this trip: [after the trying nearly 8 hour valiant drive by ben back through downstate snow, no bus for becca]baba galynker (emphatically) served us brandy but not peach wine (to accompany the sudden lavish lunch spread of carrot cake, pistachios, grapefruit gummy slices, chocolate wafers, and fruit bowl) in her charmingly russian-tchotchke'd washington heights apartment; later, at [rae's friends] sarah and sam's place, we tried out a rosé called goats do roam because its constituent grapes were selected by some goats.
in between was about schmidt, which we saw, on our second try, uncomfortably close to the screen (i was in the 3rd row, second from the end) at union square united artists plex. the actors were disturbingly warp-faced, but i don't think that unduly affected my opinion of the film: it was well-acted and engaging enough, and effectively disconcerting about the patheticness of (middle-)american existence, but ultimately too subdued to stand out as anything special. it had election's bitter sarcasm, but not enough of its humor or originality. on the other hand, its relevance may just be less accessible to my generation than the other.
i said goodbye to ben and ester (for the first time) and found my way to an alphabet city flat to aid in the construction of lentil soup, salad, and 'wrinkled potatos with mojo sauce.' multi-color mochi for dessert, international xmas traditions (and the bacon-pantsing movie whereabouts of old highschool folks) for conversation, afterward a spontaneous musical interlude on a wide array of partial instruments (4-stringed guitar, 7-stringed mandolin, 2-stringed uke, pennywhistles and bongos, bottomless snare and silent organ.) i borrowed someone's identity to go out dancing, first at B3 (one of those places with really easy addresses to remember) and then nowhere, since it was late and we were apathetic. funny to have arrived myself in the village on saturday night. streetfights and everything.
the whole trip was so smooth, or at least much smoother than it could have been, and smoother than the last time in nyc. this business of not knowing what comes next, only half-sure that i have a bed that night, relying on someone being around to answer the phone, and lugging my (light, relatively speaking) bag everywhere, spreading myself thin so as not to weigh exclusively on any one's hospitality -- is all well and good, but it starts to mirror and call up a broader future-worry, the indeterminacy of tomorrows on a grander scale, which has been a nagging depressant mostly these last months. at wanakena, it seems, i have immunity from it, but it resurged. ester talked it out of me friday night. and then i was losing sleep, still, but now for happy thoughts - a summer in the city. i tiptoed out of bed (inadvertently letting katia in to congress with me and becca in the morning) and found the christmas tree lites unexpected, nutcracker-like, to read moody by.
another bed, and more family, the last day. sunday morning brought rae's parents to astoria to teach her how to clean the bathroom (mom) and proofread her portfolio/muse with me on the eskimo snow thing (dad), then out to greek lunch. due to their non-timeliness, i nearly missed a late-afternoon brewster-north train, but managed to catch it fine at 125th street (great view from platform, watching emergency vehicles interface with the traffic.)
ben and ester joined me for a visit with george and michelle, which was as enjoyable for all concerned as i knew it would be - the other blog recounts convey charmingly the impression that the latter made on the former (but why so fixated on the fact that george happened to share kennedy's class? he didn't know jfk at all, as he said.) while shelly indulged ester's kept-in-check curiosity with some tales of broadway, and lent her some videos from the legendary collection, gog and ben came across mutual acquaintances among greeley's faculty. we all shared a lovely meal of onion soup, tasty chicken or pasta for some (sorry about that), the well-recieved merlot (yes, but personally i preferred the sparkling transparent limonade), cherries and rum cake, and discussion of campus politics, westchester culture, family stuff and so on. grandparents go well with friends, i find.
a complicated series of transports got us back to ben-dad's, and a little present exchange. igor insisted that we sit and listen to ester's present of arvo part's tabula rasa (a smart move), so that was a fitting sonic close to the trip. oh, more pleasant to hear than ben, waking me in his bed the next morning: "we have to leave right now." yes, but even an alarm-less wakeup and taxi arriving too late to catch the city-bound metro-north weren't enough to daunt this charmed threesome, and we handily lexus-suv'd it for the final whatever. which catches me up. and happy new year.
. . . . . . sometimes i feel that i'm too young to die
it's only human to cry sometimes i wonder why
the days come before the months do
and when tomorrow confronts you
could you be the one to
let it pass on by . . .