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August 2011

A great deal of blather, men and how I love them, 1965, tao, time travel, etc.

(also posted at http://liliales.tumblr.com)

Something I saw earlier on Tumblr has been nagging at me. It was a photo of the most attractive man I can name, with a mild note of misery that he had inevitably aged. They were enchanted with the face, but maybe not the man wearing it.

 
This is wholly enchanting, isn't it?

We celebrate youth, and we sometimes celebrate the aged, but we rarely celebrate the process from one to the other. I think that's what I'm attempting to do as middle age crawls over me like a late summer afternoon shadow.

I would never wish a celebrity or anyone I knew would stop aging or look or act just the same as some one point in time. But I sometimes wish there would be a point at which we're old enough and wise enough to travel fluidly back and forth in our own time stream, to witness events and people as they were then, but from our current point of view. We'd be sensible enough to stay out of our own lives, of course.

You may know the year I was born fascinates me.

It was so dualistic in every arena; concurrently buttoned-down and loosened up. I'm both of those things in one small (ish) package. I believe in dressing up to go out, in manners and dignity and respect and slow-growth investment, and I'm also so open-minded I don't have any doors in my head, and I don't wear shoes unless I absolutely have to, and I just really don't care for money at all. I could dig outside in the dirt all day long, but rarely without my iPod or satellite radio plugged into my ears. I love Dave Brubeck, Dave Gahan, and the Dave Clark Five. And I love absolute silence.

Many people I know who are the same age as me feel like that. We're products of what I truly believe was a unique point in history. You may think you know just what I mean, but unless you're between 41 and 46, you really don't. I'm explaining it very poorly because it isn't explainable.
 

Anyway. I'd definitely visit 1965. All my first loves, I still love em. I watched them grow up, grow out of date, die or grow old. I don't love those people and that stuff only for what it was when I first made the discovery; I love all they were and are and will be. After all, as Madeline L'Engle once put it, "I am all the ages I've ever been." We're just flowers; we open up, take in light, produce seeds and begin to dry out and get droopy. People preserve flowers in books, to carry the memory of when their scent was fresh. It's the same flower, though, whether fresh or dried-out.

We preserve star photos at Tumblr the same way. But if you could go and visit the moments those photos were taken, what would you discover? How would it affect how you see these people now, so many years after their youth faded or they passed away? I guess it depends on whether you're viewing them as real people, or only a glorified reflection.

When I was a very little girl, my ideal of a man was a distinct cross between Bret Maverick and Speed Racer. This largely informed my view of men in general, so you can imagine I spent a few years somewhat confused and disappointed at what I saw around me. But still I've never not loved men utterly, for all their strengths and frailties and just basic maleness. (Except their socks. I can never love those.) And I've been thinking about kissing men for over 40 years now, though I've still never kissed a race car driver or a western anti-hero.

Much later on, when I reflected back on those early crushes, I read up on James Garner, who played Bret Maverick and another favorite TV character, Jim Rockford. I decided I'd probably like him even more than the characters he often portrayed. It wasn't possible to do this with Speed Racer, but I've read lots of books and articles and watched lots of interviews with all my other childhood favorites, and I found I liked them even more, most of the time, when I learned about their ideals and humor and weaknesses and real-personnesses. Would they like me in return? Well, who thinks about that? (In Fantasy Land, I have straight pretty teeth, though, and the rest is easy.)

In 1965, I'd want to watch some of these people and certain events right at the genesis of all that social change which flavored my childhood. They may have largely ignored it all, but it didn't ignore them, either raising them up or viewing them with disdain. 

Now, inside my aging head, my brain still sees me as the young hopeful woman with a 24-inch waist and long lean legs, socially awkward, casual in manner and formal in speech (or the reverse, depending,) slightly manipulative yet confused by outright duplicity…very little of this has changed except my waistline. And I'm calmer and wiser, and much less awkward as a result. 

Sort of.

So more even than just visiting my birth year, I'd most like to go back and see some of my favorite stars when they were the age I am now. (Except possibly Bill Holden. I'd meet him post-vasectomy, pre-Audrey Hepburn, but that's another tale altogether.) I want to see if they were recognizing then what I'm recognizing now.

This is the time in life to start defining what contentment really means, and to realize it's mostly just a choice we make, if we're willing. To be willing, we have to accept the utterly tiresome loss of collagen, a thickening waistline, sometimes the hair on our heads. The tradeoff is totally worth it, though. Youth is wasted on the wrong people. Aging can be very sexy, because it becomes a choice rather than an imperative. In our current era, we have more leisure to contemplate this, but I suspect plenty of people have known it right along, only it's a native secret that you can't quite understand until you're fully initiated into the club. 

And if you reach the age in which the contemplation of nature and all that came before now takes up the largest part of your day—that age at which, apparently, you're taking in more data than ever before, but don't feel so much like bothering with it all—you've earned the privilege of laughing at the notion that prettiness is largely defined by youthfulness. Even if you're a little wistful about it at times. 


Here's an awkward thought...

You know those bluesy Viagra commercials, showing the guy he's still a righteous dude who now has the cash and confidence to indulge in all the stuff he used to think was cool from afar?

I am just of an age to find the men in those commercials very attractive. And for those very reasons, but also because they always choose fairly handsome men, of course.

So you're at dinner with an attractive man you've run into at a friend's house a few times, it's going well—you have no idea why he ordered the mushroom risotto, but maybe he's just like that—and while you're leisurely enjoying your veal scallopini or whatever, he excuses himself to the men's room just as the waiter comes by to refill your water and wine glasses. They exchange a knowing glance. 

You pretend not to notice. But you totally do notice. And then you start to wonder. Will he lean forward to brush your hand as you pick up your glass? Will he offer to share a bite of his dessert with you? Will he start to fidget if you take too long lingering over yours? Timing is key with these things...

Maybe don't wear your readers during dinner so everything retains a nice romantic haze. 

 


A real blog post: Not actually about Elvis

I'm trying to decide which singer I'd have had a crush on if I was 30 in 1965. This would mean my formative music years came between 1950-1955, when crooners and 3 and 4-part harmonies were heavily featured on the radio. Bing Crosby, Frankie Laine, The Ames Brothers, Nat King Cole, Jo Stafford, Eddie Fisher, The Four Aces, just a bit of Dean Martin, and the beginning of Frank Sinatra's comeback. 

"Rock Around the Clock" was released July 9, 1955. No way I wouldn't have loved that and launched into that sound, having previously dug the swing and bebop I heard around the house. But nobody swooned over Bill Haley, as far as I know. 

 

Me being me, it's quite likely I've have been married by then. So the next ten years would be filled with clotheslines of diapers, learning to make over the old furniture my husband and I found on weekend hunting trips, listening to the radio and saving money for a TV. Now and then attempting to be glamorous in the late evening after the kids were in bed. Going to movies, of course!

I hope that doesn't sound depressing. It's how things were, for most women, a little easier or a little harder depending. Hopefully I wouldn't have married a man who thought of me as a golden ticket inside a candy bar wrapper, only to realize later that marriage and children would require patience, effort, and dedication, instead of being a trip to a magical wonderland with all the hard icky things shoved into a drawer out of sight. That's how things often are, as well. 

Back to music and singers. My musical taste is a perfect fusion of my parents' tastes, with a bit of my time period thrown in. If they were born around 1910 instead of 32 and 36, they'd have been witness to the birth of popular song on radio, the developing pop orchestra sound, lots of slow sentimental love songs mixed with ragtime and a certain amount of kitsch. They'd be used to hearing singers belt out tunes through megaphones, and marvel when that was no longer necessary. They'd listen to the radio every evening, and, of course, would also own a gramophone player. I'd have had Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby and maybe Jimmie Rodgers records passed along to me that I'd eventually share with my own kids when they were little. 

Vallee

My husband would be into Leonard Bernstein, and he'd dig post-Romantic, Modern, and probably Neoclassic classical music. Maybe some West Coast jazz, which I'd try to like but mostly I'd listen to pretending I didn't feel a little restless. He'd sometimes indulge my taste for crooners, rock and roll, and what was then still called "race music," but I'd end up listening to it and singing along mostly while he was at work and I was at home surrounded by endless mounds of baby laundry.

So, all of that together brings me to age 30 in 1965, a pivotal year in many areas of pop culture. And probably around the time I'd start reforming my own identity. 

Seriously, as I grow older, I realize that while I was right about us all being partly nature and partly nurture, nature takes the lead, eventually.  My nature is to let other people have their way most of the time, and just indulge myself in the quieter solitary hours. But I've spent the past 15 years continually having to give myself permission to do that.

Hair

When I was little, I remember my mom listening to her Tom Jones record, Live in Las Vegas. She told me she wished she could see him in concert. Lots of her friends would rather see Elvis Presley, and she couldn't understand at all what they saw in him. I remember studying that album cover and thinking about what she said.

Live-In-Las-Vegas

I decided she was right, but then, I was seeing Elvis from a 1970ish point of view. His best years were already behind him, poor man.

Elvis_july_1970

Tom Jones is totally a better singer than Elvis was, but Elvis was so weighed down by his circumstances, wasn't he? I'd have enjoyed hearing him in later years, as we've had the opportunity to do with Frank Sinatra (post-bitter My Way years,) Tony Bennett, and, well, Tom Jones. There's no question he had a good voice. But when Elvis was in his heyday, I doubt I'd have liked him anymore than my mom did, though I'm a bit more broad-minded about music and appearances, I think. 

You know who Elvis thought was cool? Dean Martin. It's true. And in 1965, Dean was 48 years old, sexist and silly, but still smart, charming, and well, sexy. 

 

 Me being me, I think I'd have "discovered" him in those TV years, and crushed on him the way I'd surely be crushing on all the handsome Western stars and sitcom fathers. Who knows where that discovery would have led? Well, used record shops, mostly. The weekly TV variety show, of course. And looking through the newspaper for late night movie listings so I could revisit his younger years. I'd still have loathed Jerry Lewis, though. 

Epilogue: A dozen years after giving birth in 1965 to someone a little like me but with more of a wandering spirit and aching soul, my record collection would cover WWII big bands through late 60s Motown, yet the car radio would be tuned to disco dance music unless no one else was around. Then it would be all about me and Dean, singing along with the 8-Track player. 

4d00029ce371a_110247n


Irises are like good bourbon

A great bourbon is fragrant, decadent, and wholly joyful to experience. Unless you greedily have much too much. Then you wake up thirsty, head crowded, and really don't want to look at a bourbon bottle for a long, long time. I experienced this once about four years ago, and will never do it again. 

Just because you can have a lot of something doesn't mean you should. That's a basic truth in life that irises (and everything in the mint family) haven't grasped, and neither have many people who grow them. These things were about to launch forward into the front yard because no one had thinned the herd in the past few years, and they just kept propagating like the soil whores they are. 

Gogh.irises
Normally you wait until fall to do this, but after hacking down the day lilies that died off early because of the tremendous Three Week Heat, I was in the mood for more destruction. 

2011-08-03 13.34.09
And it's not like they can actually be killed. There are plenty more where all that came from.

2011-08-03 13.34.26
I hauled the remains to the back and shoved it all behind the tree line. Maybe an iris forest will appear there next spring. 

 More on gardening plans to follow. 

Gogh.irises-pink-gree