« September 2013 | Main | November 2013 »

October 2013

A very short story I wrote this summer...

It's about 3000 words. I planned for there to be a couple more sections, but decided to leave it as it was. It's quite silly.

1

"How much of this experience do you remember?"

"Oh, all of it! I couldn't forget it if I tried. I did try, a little. But even though a lot of the party seems murky to me, what I did afterwards is too crystal clear."

"And this makes you uncomfortable?"

"I'm a little confused by that. Yes, I'm very uncomfortable. I feel guilty, but…"

"Yes?"

"I think I feel guilty for not feeling guilty enough." Taylor raised her eyes, making full eye contact for the first time since the session began. "It was a mistake. I can't let it happen again."

"But you think maybe you want it to, perhaps?"

Taylor nodded, looking down again.

“And you did decide on this plan of action before you got to the party? Do you feel as though you took advantage of him?”

Up to this point, Taylor had appreciated the even, detached manner of her therapist Lisa’s speech. She now detected a note of something more. It wasn’t judgmental, precisely, but it sounded different, with a slight edge, maybe. She replied with care.

“No, I don’t believe I took advantage of him. I mean, I’m new at this. But I’m not a teenager; I was considering his feelings, that is, if he had expressed any deeper ones, or...” Taylor stopped herself. “I knew he was interested in me, but he isn’t interested in serious relationships. He jokes about his brother being tied down. And that’s why I chose him, yes, before the party. Before I had three vodka tonics, before I flirted with him and then brought him home to my apartment. And after I decided it was time to stop, after all these years, being a virgin for someone I’ll never even meet.”

Lisa nodded. “Good. Because you have to own the decision as much as you have to own the consequences of following through on it. Taylor, once you realize you’re ready for mature adult relationships, you get to stop thinking of yourself as a symbol of purity for someone else to take, and start thinking of yourself as a person with sexual desires, with the ability to enjoy a healthful union with a partner who wants to meet your needs just as you’ll want to meet his.”

Taylor sat quietly for a long minute. Then she spoke. “I’m not a symbol anymore, at least.”

“What did it mean to you? Do you believe you’ve given something up? What did you gain?” Lisa’s voice held less tension now, her expression remained placid and receptive as ever.

“It’s been ten years, almost to the day, when I committed myself to this idea. Maybe I shouldn’t feel guilty for breaking my vow to myself, and I know it was silly, but it stood for something important to me. Something I could honor in myself, and be true to.” Taylor stopped, reflecting.

“Why don’t you tell me how it all began?”

2

“I grew up in an old house in a little town about 30 miles outside the city. I rode the bus to the next bigger town to school, and so the kids I saw at school lived too far away for me to spend much time with them in the afternoons, weekends, and summers. For a few years, I spent most of my play time either by myself or with a girl down the street who was two years younger than me. But when I was 12, a new girl moved in a couple blocks away, and I started doing things with her, as well. She was just a year behind me in school. She lived across the street from a boy I’d known since kindergarten, and had a fierce crush on him. I think he was embarrassed by that and was less friendly to me than he’d always been. Kaitlyn was a little heavy, and wore glasses, and was just sort of a plain girl boys wouldn’t notice at that age. And she was so boy crazy. My other friend was more into sports and had a lot more friends so I saw her less often at that point. The two of them didn’t like each other much, anyway.

“Kaitlyn and I had lots of fun together, walking or riding our bikes to the store, making cookies, listening to music, and even reading teen romance books, which I’d never been interested in before. We watched a lot of movies, and she always had a crush on the young actors, and knew all the gossip about them. Yet at school, boys took no notice of her. I mean, they didn’t really take notice of me, either, but she seemed to have this real need for a boyfriend or for attention that I just assumed would come around later when I was older. We weren’t in the same classes, so I didn’t see her at school, and then I started high school a year before she did, and it was all very different for me. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but I don’t really know how school was for Kaitlyn, whether she had a lot of friends or did well in her classes, even though we spent a lot of time together otherwise.

“When I was 15, I had a sort of boyfriend I’d met at another school, that I didn’t really see much of; we talked on the phone, mostly, and he sent me notes. He wasn’t allowed to chat with me online or anything like that; his parents were very strict and old-fashioned. I think Kaitlyn felt a little separated from me because of him, though they did like each other when they met, and he didn’t really take any of my time from her.

“But a few months after that, my parents were divorced, and Mom and I moved to the edge of the city. I went to a different school, and didn’t see Kaitlyn much anymore. We talked sometimes, and I knew she was now hanging out with another girl from our neighborhood, a girl I always thought was a little wild, but I knew my friend was a good girl like me and wouldn’t get into trouble.”

Here, Taylor paused and laughed, and Lisa smiled. “We see in others what we wish to see, don’t we?”

Taylor said, “Kind of like a mirror, I guess. But I think Kaitlyn just really liked being liked, and I just always assumed people either would or wouldn’t; I didn’t work at it very much.”

“I guess, I’m starting to realize I was really deeply inside my head all this time, not thinking about what was going on inside anyone else’s.”

Lisa said, “Tell me how it was for you at your new school. Did you make friends there?”

“Yes, in a way. For one thing, the previous school was one of those places where all the kids seemed to just ooze money and privilege, and at the new place it was more varied, I guess, different things seemed important. I felt more like I could just be me. And it was just more friendly, kids got along with each other, so I felt connected to it all, even though I was still sort of a loner.

“I can’t even tell you why I didn’t make friends easily. Looking back, I can see people liked me. They do now. But like I said, I think maybe I was just inside my head too much, only I don’t know how to explain that very well. Anyway. This whole story has to do with the last time I saw Kaitlyn, and I keep wandering off track.”

Lisa smiled again, “Tell me what happened.”

“My mom was going away for a business retreat, and didn’t want me to stay alone for that long. I was nearly 18, and wasn’t afraid or unable to take care of myself, but it worried her, so she called Kaitlyn’s mother and they planned a reunion for us. Kaitlyn had a little car her parents had bought her and came to pick me up. That was a revelation for me, and also slightly humiliating because I hadn’t gotten my license yet. But she was friendly and happy to see me, and before we went to her house, we stopped at Sonic for shakes and onion rings. The Sonic was near my old high school where she still attended, and was one of those teen hangouts I’d always wondered about, imagining it like the teen romance books we’d read in junior high. Except it wasn’t the shiny bright place I remembered. The area around it looked somewhat depressed, and I saw a couple people off in the corner of the parking lot obviously making a drug deal.

“Kaitlyn said, all casually, ‘I know the guy in that car. His name is Jim. We were at a party together last week.’

“I was a little surprised, but played it cool, and just asked her how the party was, if she liked Jim. She told me she’d gone there with her friend Brooklyn, you know, her best friend after I moved, and that they’d all started drinking and then Jim shared some X tabs with them."

“That shocked me. I’d always thought of drugs as something sort of alien. A few other people did them, but not really anyone I knew. Kaitlyn told me everyone did, but even then I understood that is the kind of thing people say based on who they hang around with. We’d just been hanging around very different groups. So I tried not to seem judgmental, but I was worried a little, because she told me she couldn’t remember everything that happened that night, as she’d had more to drink than she should have.

"Kaitlyn described the party like it was a fantastic dream, with great music and lights, and people were dancing instead of just sitting around with cups of beer. She’d never felt so happy and felt like she was surrounded by a great group of friends who all loved her. But then she’d gotten a little sick and fallen asleep. She’d woken up at Brooklyn’s house at lunchtime, and Brooklyn told her about having sex with Jim on the back porch of wherever the party was. I asked her if Brooklyn was happy about that, and she said it made her feel really sore and achy the next day, but she was glad she’d done it. And then Kaitlyn said she was kind of mad about having slept through it all, because Jim had started out interested in her, first.

“Kaitlyn asked me if I was still a virgin, and I told her I was, and she said she was, too, but she was ready to change that. I really didn’t know what to say except that I thought maybe she shouldn’t be drunk or high when it happened. At first she acted mad that I’d say that and we didn’t talk anymore while she drove, but by the time we got to her house, she told me she was really happy I cared about her, and that she’d be careful when she did it. What else could I say except I hoped she found the right guy? Inside my head I was thinking, ‘and that he doesn’t think he needs to give you drugs to make it happen.’ Slightly ironic, I know.”



3

“It’s been awhile since I thought all this through, I mean, nearly ten years, but I remember that whole weekend very well. As it turned out, it was the last time Kaitlyn and I spent any real time together. It was clear we were taking different paths. We did have a fun time, though, and what made it especially nice was seeing how well she now got along with her younger sister, who was about thirteen then. When we were younger, Kaitlyn tended to pick on her or ignore her, but Hannah had matured quite a lot, and was very smart. We included her most of the time we were at the house.

“The second night I was there, we were playing music and dancing around, pretending to be on one of those TV contests, and we were in Hannah’s room, because it was larger. We stood on the bed for a stage, and the other three; a friend of Hannah’s was there, were the judges. Hannah had posters on three walls of Justin Bieber, which was funny to me, because the other wall had a periodic table of elements and a whiteboard with math equations written on it. Hannah’s friend, Kylie, jumped up and down on the bed while she sang and sometimes she’d stop and make kissy faces at Justin. I remember her saying something funny like, ‘Hannah practices making out by kissing her posters.’”

“And I said, ‘Oh, Kaitlyn used to do that with her Puzzle Place puppet!’ I remember thinking she’d be mad at me for revealing that, but she just laughed and said that it came in handy for when she experienced the real thing. Kylie and Hannah talked about a boy they knew at school who would be a perfect kisser, and I reminded Kaitlyn about how much she wanted to kiss the boy who lived across the street. She said, ‘But you just always wanted impossible dates with movie stars, never anyone we’d actually know for real.’” Taylor paused and looked up at Lisa when she said that.

Lisa tilted her head and spoke after a few seconds. “It’s normal to want a fantasy boyfriend at that age, I mean, around thirteen or so. It’s a safe way to explore your desires until you’re ready for the real thing. And yes, to answer your question, some women do continue to fantasize about a celebrity even after they’ve grown up and experienced actual relationships. It can be a healthy outlet as long as it doesn’t supplant reality.”

Taylor replied, “I guess I can understand that. Back then, I just told Kaitlyn I wanted to save myself for someone special. Truthfully, I was scared of sex, I mean, it had this great power, I thought, that could take you over and change you. But the other girls, even Hannah and Kylie, all said they knew how they wanted their first time to be, and Kylie said she hoped she wasn’t still a virgin when she was as old as Kaitlyn and me.”

“I rarely even went out with boys, even in groups. I was convinced the only reason they could be interested in me was for sex, not for who I was or for fun and friendship. So that night, when the other girls asked me who I’d like to be with for my first time, I told them it had to be someone so amazing and special, no one else could compare. Kaitlyn said, ‘You really do want to save yourself for a movie star, don’t you?’ And Kylie yelled, ‘Or a singer! Like Justin Bieber! I’d let him be my first!’”

“So just to get them to stop hounding me about it, I said yes. I was going to save my virginity for Justin Bieber. And the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. He was just a little older than me. Of course I was going to move to the city after I graduated, and I’d have a great career, we’d run into each other at a party. Maybe I’d be just a little older than the typical virgin, but obviously I’d been putting my studies and plans for the future ahead of that, and he, a high-powered star, would completely understand. I decided I’d be trying to catch a cab in the pouring rain, and he’d offer me a ride in his limousine. We’d talk and find out we had so many things in common. And it would all happen from there.

"I made up my mind to it almost immediately, and then spent the next couple of years adding details and refinement to this plan. And then I kind of put it at the back of my mind, because I really was focused on my studies and plans for the future. And now here we are.” Taylor shrugged her shoulders. “That’s that.”

Lisa said, “I think you left out a great deal of middle, but we will have to take that up again on Thursday. Until then, I recommend you call George, or,” Lisa shook her head a little, “at least text him if that’s how your crowd communicates. But a phone call is better. Write down what you are going to say, if you need to.”

“But what on earth do I say to him? Thank you?” Taylor winced a little, waiting for the answer.

“I think the safest thing to do is apologize if he felt taken advantage of. And then you can go from there, based on his reply. You have a few more issues to sort out, though, so it would be wise to avoid a heavy vodka tonic session for awhile.” Lisa looked a bit stern and motherly as she spoke, but then she smiled, saying, “Once you figure out just what it is you really want from this, you’ll be ready to make the next sober move.”

Taylor sighed. “Thanks, Lisa. I’ll...think about calling him. Or I’ll text. And I’ll call Megan and tell her how much I enjoyed her engagement party...” she trailed off.

“Good. Emily Post would be proud. I’ll see you on Thursday.” Lisa waved Taylor off and sat down to type out her notes, laughing despite her attempt at professional objectivity. “Justin Bieber?”


Shut up, Elton John, I don't feel good right now.

This is Persephone, and I'm going to hold her while I'm sick.
20131022_123721

She lights up, too, but that makes my head feel confused so I'm not going to have her do that.
20131022_123736

I found her at Walgreen's because I went there to get things before going to bed, being sick. You see, a little over a week ago, the two younger boys got sick. It's some kinda cold or other. But so terrible they are just now recovering. And the whole time, I was fighting that thing, like you don't even know. Just fighting and winning and hanging in there, until suddenly I'm not anymore. And neither is the oldest kid, who has barely had a cold or anything since he was so ill with the swine back in early 2009 and I had to suppress his overactive immune system with gallons of Orange Crush.

And I was trying to find the trash bags and tissues and things, and Elton John would not stop singing "Philadelphia Freedom," and I just couldn't think because it was so, so oppressive, like that song is anyway. Then my son ran across Persephone, and when I held her, it was soothing, but then a terrible Whitney Houston song came on and I felt like crying. It's just such a mean thing to do, and I don't even know how the people who work there can take it.

If you squeeze Persephone's body, her face bulges up, which is neat, because you can pat it like a balloon, but then if you squeezed it too hard, I guess it would pop.
20131022_123725

I don't usually have the nose part of a cold, pretty much ever, but I do, and I feel very resentful right now.
20131022_123754

Also, I was going to make spiced cranberry wine jelly, only with a bag of mulling spices instead of juniper berries and pepper, but that will have to wait. I'm already bored and I haven't even gone to bed yet. At least I have Persephone to keep me company.


A few words on words

People don't like it when I express displeasure or disdain for changing meanings of words. They say, "language is fluid; don't be narrow-minded." Well, you know, it isn't a black or white thing. Language can be fluid and yet not a complete free-for-all. Why can't something fluid be refined instead of merely watered-down?

The danger of equivocation is just one reason for that, among several. And the slippery slope should be managed more carefully in these days of global communication and overanalyzed news items.

Speaking of things being watered-down, there are many articles and essays on the web discussing how news of the government shutdown has been handled this past month. In summation, in the misguided quest for "fairness," objectivity has been fully abandoned. See also: false equivalency, but that term is already beginning to suffer from overuse lately; it's shortly to be walking on the sun with climate skeptics.

Oh, a final word on that, sort of. Sometimes you say things are subjective when they aren't. And sometimes you say things are definitive or objective when they are not. (Or you miss the forest for the trees.)

In the first place, when empirical evidence has shown a thing to be fact, or made up of facts, it is silly for you to say, "Well, not everyone agrees, so it isn't necessarily so." Silly. (And don't you love the irony of relativism applied so often by people saying they don't believe in it?)

In the second place, that's just you liking or not liking something, and you need to put it better. Say, for example, "I think Benedict Cumberbatch is so sexy, I just love him and want to have his poreless high-cheekboned babies." But do not say, "You are wrong for thinking that Benedict Cumberbatch is not the most perfectest Sherlock ever, because he is."* Unless you want to be treated like a child.

*It's all a metaphor, in this instance, using a light-hearted subject as a stand-in for things which might be more serious.**

**Which is why it's extra important to not appear childish or ignorant when discussing them.***

***Another example of a childish argument:

Kent: My new car is really fast.

Cal: I doubt that it is as fast as a jet fighter, so therefore it is not fast.

Jeez, Google+ Cal.

And okay, fine. Here is a picture of Benedict Cumberbatch.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 12.16.39 PM

 


Reminiscing about reminiscing, part two

May 18 Was It Love?

  • May. 22nd, 2003 at 12:42 PM
mary
I've had old boyfriends on my mind in recent days, mainly my second boyfriend, whose name was Joe. I met him when I was 18, and sort of broke up with him something like 2 years later. I did it badly, and I'm not sure I should have, I mean, eventually, but not when I did. Then I managed to repress most memories of him, good and bad, as I went through the next very stupid relationship that lasted several years, and ended even more badly, though it took much longer than it should have. So, doing the math, one has to wonder, had I not broken up with Joe when I did, if things would have gone differently or not at all with #3, maybe saving me a lot of grief, and even putting me on a better path toward the next one. But who can say about these things? There's no real doubt I would have met each of them when I did, yet I sometimes think so much would be different had timing been different with Joe. And it's difficult not to feel a little bit bad about that, though over 17 years have passed.

These things affect people more than we can know. I broke up with my first boyfriend stupidly as well, and, after catching up with him through a series of phone conversations 3 years ago, I've concluded that the breakup set off a chain of events for him, decisions he then made, situations he found himself in, that probably wouldn't have occured had I waited just a little longer or been a little more sensitive about how he felt. I don't blame myself for his choices, of course, just note that I was a catalyst for some of them.

So I was really bad at breaking up with two very nice young men, then hung onto to one who didn't deserve the privilege of tying my shoes. I thought I owed someone something. And it cost me a lot of pain and grief.

I was trying to find out what happened to Joe, without any success. I wanted to tell him some things, good things; what I finally remember about the time we spent together, and my hopes for his adult life. And to tell him why I just sort of abandoned him without apparent reason.

Dear Joe,

I don't think I ever even wrote to you properly to say goodbye. I doubt if you have thought of me in years, but I hope that if you have, it's been with fondness and not with bitterness, though I wouldn't blame you if that were so. For a long time, I didn't allow myself to remember you properly, feeling so guilty about our relationship as well as how I ended it. Only recently, after all these years, have I been able to look at the time we spent together and appreciate it for what it was. I've also always struggled with the idea that anyone thinks of me as often or as well as I think of them. And frankly, I was just really intimidated or maybe just put off by your father and his point of view on life. Those two problems combined made it feel impossible to carry on a long-distance relationship with no knowledge of where it might lead. But you probably figured that out.

What you may not have known is how much I enjoyed the time we spent together. You made me feel like a normal person, who didn't have to think through every next moment of life, who could just go out and live some of it. And, unless memory has played a trick on me, you were still the best kisser I have ever known. You were a fun, funny person, and I probably didn't give you enough credit for having your own ideas and interests and goals in life. And if only we'd met when I was a little more mature I would have had a lot better idea what to do with that beautiful body of yours. But, timid teenage girl and late bloomer that I was, this was not possible for some time to come. By then, it was much, much too late. So, of course, I hope your life has been fulfilling and successful; I have no doubt you've retained the ability to get the most out of everything you do. Please know that I've always wished you well, and credit you for what was the best year of my teens. I wasn't able to appreciate it then, but I definitely do now.
  • Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

Windmills in my head

Last night I watched The Thomas Crown Affair, and so this is the song wedged in my forepan at the moment.

 

I've decided it's time I learned all the lyrics, because I only kind of singalong know them.

That's probably because this is how it is usually present in my head.

 

Round, like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel

Like a snowball down a mountain
Or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that's turning
Running rings around the moon

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple
Rolling silently in space

Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone

Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half-forgotten dream
Like the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple
Rolling silently in space

Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Keys that jingle in your pocket
Words that jangle in your head
Why did summer go so quickly?
Was it something that you said?

Lovers walk along the shore
Leave their footprints in the sand
Is the sound of distant drumming
Just the fingers of your hand?

Pictures hanging in a hallway
In the fragment of this song
Half-remembered names and faces
But to whom do they belong?

When you knew that it was over
You were suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the color of her hair

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel

As the images unwind
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind


Listening to what I hear

A. Sound

Right now as I begin to type, the cat is breathing loudly across the room. She is purring, but also has chronic congestion. I feel like I can hear the lamp behind me, but I can't be certain, because I also have tinnitus, and I'm not always completely sure which noise is only inside my head. As an example, I can hear a lot of electricity (so you see, the tinnitus isn't about hearing loss, at least not yet,) and that merges with the sound in my head,  which is sometimes crickets and sometimes just a hum, causing a bit of confusion. I can hear my hands typing, and the noise of the solid Apple keys beneath my fingertips. The refrigerator just began to cycle. And I can hear a car occasionally pass by.

Always, nearly always, there is music in my head. When not a distinct song, which is most of the time, a rhythm and aimless tune. It's been that way as long as I can remember. I keep all the tunes, they're all interconnected for me, like a website that has hyperlinks on every line, but of course, they're actually a real web of tangled musical phrases. If my son whistles a line from some song he knows, my head instantly sources wherever and whatever else I've heard with that same or a similar construction, and almost without being aware of it, I'm singing or humming something new (though probably quite old.)

 

Let's stop and reflect on the understanding that I know this isn't unique. I am not a precious snowflake of musical intellect or nuttiness. I've been given the impression by others that they don't experience quite what I can never fully express, but there certainly must be more people who do.

I used to think that because I love music so much, and oh, I do, even though it is a nearly-constant tease as well, that I could never choose "hearing" in the game of "Which would you rather live without, sight or hearing?" Now I know that because of the songs in my head, I could live without all the other external noise and still have music. I wouldn't even have the buzzing and chirping that forms part of the background, just pure song.

It's an awful thought, of course, and must be terribly sad for people who realize it is happening to them, learning to cope in silence. But for me, losing sight would be worse. If I look across the room, I might take some contentment from mentally tracing the outline of the flowers printed on my little yellow loveseat. I'm mentally redrawing them across the fabric. They're warm and sunny and remind me of youthful summer days spent reading books in the bright light of my bedroom. If I close my eyes, I can still imagine them, but they aren't really there for me to fully receive. Nor is the morning light on the dog's fur as he idles next to the window, or the slow rise and fall of his abdomen as he breathes in peaceful contentment. I have to see it with eyes open to fully experience it.

The cat beating her tail on the loveseat reminds me of how my oldest son used to chant rhythms when he was a baby. We called him "mantra boy," and later we thought he might take up drums, but what he does is compose music, in his own way, on a keyboard and guitar, connected to a computer. I suspect the inside of his head works much the way mine does. He has the same ability to find any tune on a keyboard after he's heard it once. And I think there's just a lot of noise in his head all the time.

When I was a child, my grandpa would show up occasionally with a crazy Christmas gift. One year it was an old but fully working organ with two keyboards. I wanted so badly to have lessons, but didn't have them, so I taught myself about notes from an old book I found in the bench. However, having to read notes to play a song seemed like more effort than just putting my hands where I knew the song would be. I was a little lazy, though, and had no one around to help me see what else I could do with the music printed on the page. So this innate ability remained a party trick, for the most part. I was physically awkward as a youth, and it's funny to me now to realize learning real keyboard technique probably would have helped with that. Instead, parents and teachers assumed there was no point in trying to extract grace from something clumsy. I can read music now but I can't look at a page of it, the way some can, and automatically hear what is there. It's like closing my eyes and knowing the chair is printed yellow, but not grasping the warmth of it.

My son is very naturally graceful, but also even more stubborn. He's taught himself music, and his hands perform in a way mine never did, but he doesn't share the love of it all with me. Maybe someday he will want to.

B. Words

A good turn of phrase thrills my mind and heart. If I could not read words on a page, I would turn into despair. I stopped reading new books for awhile a few years ago, because I was having trouble seeing, and my particular combination of farsightedness and presbyopia, while not terribly uncommon, made the use of reading glasses strange and difficult at first. When I got progressive lenses a couple years ago, I began again to read all I could get my hands on. I can't not read stories. I've never been the least bit interested in reading about how to do things or what something looks like or means, but I love stories about people and what they think or do. So I mostly read fiction, and some biographies, but I also read song lyrics. When I write poetry, I feel most successful when it attains a lyrical quality. That's just like heaven to me. And in my head, the tangled web of song lyrics is just as broad and extravagant as the musical sounds one, although it isn't quite what I'd like because I've never been one of those people who naturally pull out Shakespeare and Wodehouse quotations at just the right moment. It's multiple choice, rather than short essay access.

I love the shapes of words as we speak them, which is probably partly why I cringe when I hear them mashed together in slang without regard for the dissonance in tone that often creates, and even though I read rapidly, I subvocalize nearly everything I see. So words are sound to me, more than they are pictures. I do like the pictures they form, though, and as a natural speller, I am soothed by the arrangement of letters into coordinated meaning. I didn't read early, like many of my very special internet friends, but I unlocked the code nearly all at once. It was a mystery, and then it wasn't. I took great joy in teaching my children to read, that is, the four of them who were taught. They learned at different ages, and by different techniques, and I loved figuring out how each of them saw the letters on the page, and how best to help them know what it all meant. My other two children learned to read simply by having been read to, and that in itself is  technique and learning style, as well, that they both later employed in other ways.

I want to add as a side note that my six children learned to read in three (but kind of four) basic ways. They were all read to every day when they were young. They saw their parents reading. They were and are surrounded by books, and had many trips to the library and bookstore. Their TV time was limited and controlled in the early years. And now, some of them are avid readers while others are not. There isn't one path to follow to "grow a reader." Remember that next time someone unctuously says "parenting win!"
 
C. Musicians and Singing

I love how some people must be musicians. It worried me for a few years that people maybe weren't learning music and how to play instruments and exploring the history of it all. Now I know that of course, they still are. Some people need to, and they do whatever they can to serve that need. When you hear a published song, think about the "dah-di-Doo-doo-doo-doo-Doodoodoo" that the vocalist begins it with. (Did you hear Robert Smith when you read that? If so, we have to meet.) Anyway. it's not there by accident. Maybe it was an accident the first time he or she sang it. But there's a reason it stuck and got added to and recorded. It was in that person's head, throat, and mouth, and needed to be formed with tongue, lips, and teeth. It satisfied a need. Glenn Miller had to spend endless sleepless nights figuring out how to marry a need in his head with what he was composing and directing from a page. Dave Grohl has to keep making bands because he has to write and play. And Trent Reznor and Gary Numan and Thomas Dolby and David Byrne. And Carlos Santana. They create and invent and discover other people to do it with. The great female singers are always looking for material to express those sounds inside them that must come bursting out in joy and passion and romance and sometimes anger and sadness. We will always seek them out and feebly but joyfully attempt to sing along. This happens all over the world, all of the time. It's a huge part of who we are.

My youngest kid thinks there's no music in his head. In our family, music is a part of both waking and sleeping consciousness, so it's not easy to understand. I think, actually, that he resonates to symphonic music, but he expresses no need for it, and doesn't understand why the rest of us do. I can't explain it to him. It's just there. I don't fault him for being this way, of course, but I find him a curiosity. He is different from the rest of us in general, though. He is here to simply be in the middle of whatever living is happening to go on. He is naturally content with life just unfolding however it will.

And yet, he always wishes he could naturally play an instrument. He doesn't want to learn how, he just wants to know. Any instrument would do, as long as the knowledge was instantly there, you see. He enjoys hearing me sing, but has little interest in the differences between songs. Just the fact of them, and of my singing them, is enough for him, like part of his satisfying landscape.

I used to sing all the time. Then I was too sad for too long to do much of it, and now I'm out of the habit. I think that's a problem, but it isn't as easy to fix as to just say, "So start singing more again." I do sing along to some of the music I listen to, but I am a more active listener than in my youth, and have found a new contentment in that.

I still barely perceptibly rock back and forth nearly all the time when I'm sitting, keeping the beat to whatever's in my head. I've always done that, and when my husband first kept calling attention to it, I transferred the beat to my thumb, but now I just let it go naturally again. Who is anyone to question that, after all?

 

D. Sinatra in My Head

The other day I read something in an essay that struck a dissonant chord in my head, and it's still bothering me. The author said that no matter how many times we hear a Sinatra song, we can't quite sing along with his same phrasing and timing.

I know Sinatra like I know how to breathe. When I'm listening to a song of his I haven't heard often, I can still tell when he's tipped his head, when he is grinning, when he has briefly closed his eyes. And I know I'm not the only one.

Okay, not to gross anyone out with thoughts of having sex with Frank Sinatra, but it's like this. Did you ever meet someone at work or school, and you connected instantly and intellectually, and a match was struck so that you both were charged with light and energy and could not wait to get your hands on each other only to learn that, after all, there was no true physical spark? I bet that happens these days as well with online dating. It's just that we're all compatible with some people and not others when it comes to physical union, just as we are with conversation. Sometimes amazing conversation leads to amazing kisses and embraces, and sometimes it doesn't. As you mature, you learn that you might not have a satisfying intimate experience just because the two of you can talk in rapid fire over a plate of scungilli anymore than you can tell just by looking at someone that they'd be great to kiss. Turns out, it really is just there or not there, with biology in charge of that part of the program. (Of course, if we are sensible, we'll just keep enjoying the conversations even after learning they best lead only to more of the same.)

But Frank Sinatra, when he sings, makes everybody think it's possible, with whoever they're with, and with him as well. Famously, Johnny Carson asked him in an interview, “When you're in a romantic mood…when you're trying to make out... Whose records do you put on?” Everything he put into the songs he chose to sing is everything we yearn for, ache for, thrill to. And Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Count Basie, they brought it all to life instrument by instrument and in "le tout ensemble," in grand and glorious coition. If you're all alone while listening to these guys, who is the object of your affection or desire?

Yesterday I thought I was going to go completely nuts listening to my neighbor power wash his driveway, and then another neighbor's driveway. On the other side, the old (I mean, really old) people were passively-aggressively blowing fallen leaves into our yard, as they have only conifers in their own. We are savages for not residing outside in autumn, picking up leaves one by one before they settle in or are blown elsewhere by the devilish wind. (You think I'm overstating the matter. I am not.) So all day long I listened to noisy motors performing barely necessary labor until I was just sick of it, until I remembered I could plug headphones into my ears and tune them out with better sound. It was not preferable just then to no external sound at all, but I found myself relaxing and feeling better about the world as I performed my own non-motorized tasks, and then realized it had been quite awhile since I did nothing but listen to good sounds filtering into my head that way. Always I'm listening to music while driving or cleaning or cooking or mowing the lawn, or I might put on a record in the evening and listen while puttering online.

But lying back with headphones in and doing nothing else for a few minutes is like being a kid again, only the recordings and headphones are so vastly improved, you hear things in an even more complete way. You hear the Charlatans enjoying that little extra half beat before they sing "arise, arise," and you hear Frank winking at the band…and if you learn the music this way, it will never leave you.

The music I know well, I know so well that if I never heard it again, I could still play it in my head in a full-blown concert of my own construction, from the first fingersnap to the last breath. I learned to play orchestral music at school in my youth, and I learned to enjoy many other varieties of music thanks to my parents and brothers, my husband, and most of my kids, but it's Frank Sinatra who filled my head with rich and intimate detail that I carry around with me all day every day. Every moment resides within me, and when a Sinatra tune is stuck in my head, it's never just a looping bit of bridge or chorus, but the entire piece, in real time, with full orchestration. And I hear the spaces between each syllable of each word, and every note on every line that was either written down or improvised, like knowing the individual hairs on the head of someone I love. I mean, I also hear Bobby, Dean, Peggy, Julie, Stacey, and Michael that way, and Stan Getz and Dave Brubeck and the Talking Heads, but it's mostly thanks to Frank that I do. I got it from my Dad? But he also got it from Frank...

When a song is playing actively in my head, the tinnitus fades to a manageable place in the background. That's partly why I never mind what other people distastefully call "ear worms." It's not that it's better than nothing; it's that there never is nothing. But if there was, I'd still be able to internally enjoy "that sly (slyyy) come-hither stare that strips my conscience bare," and learn to be satisfied with it.
 


I eat antipasto twice just because she is so nice

I'm at Starbucks this morning, with a triple grande breve latte, "room at the top," which I ordered, whoops, as "roomy." People ask for room in order to add things to it, but my daughter told me I'd get closer to the espresso/half and half ratio I prefer this way, and she was right.

Let's first dispense with the "why are you at Starbucks/don't you know about good coffee?" individuals. There are at least two arrogant assumptions implied in these statements. First, that we all have super chic coffeehouses around the corner from our dull neighborhoods in which to discuss the brightness and acidity of each day's roast. And second, that not being in one translates into plebeian coffee taste.

Oh, I forgot about people who are arrogant about liking only cheap coffee! You are also dismissed. Now, back to our story.

A woman at the next table is here with her year-old daughter, talking with a friend. I love how people become experts on their own children, and she seems to be a pretty good one. But the little girl is ready to leave, and we haven't heard all about the friend's wedding plans yet. She's a smart, curious baby, and I'm enjoying watching her, and watching her mother naturally manage her while holding this ordinary conversation, cleaning up the table, changing the baby's shirt, and I also admire how she kept her hair long, though nicely trimmed. You end up binding your hair back when you have infants, because around three-four months they start pulling on it.  And too many women just cut it all off at that point, ending up with hair helmets for the rest of their lives.

If this were a more "interactive" social media site, I'd instantly be accused of not liking short hair.  How bizarre.

Last night the low temperature reached down only into the high 50s, and there are people drinking their coffee outside this morning. We are to continue having spectacular weather for the next 4-5 days, and then autumn will land, with daytime highs only in the 60s, and nights in the mid-40s. This means a few things to me personally. First, I gotta get a lot of gardening work done this weekend! We must close the pool. I have some tree trimming to do, and a bush to remove. One of the back gates needs some attention, and then I will need to pick the remaining unripened peppers by Wednesday, and put in a few perennial flowers I picked up on clearance.

But for now, I am sitting here contemplating how difficult it is to write when I have so many topics I'd like to cover. Outside the window, I can see that people continue to cause traffic problems on Beechmont Avenue by turning into the drive-through lane from both directions, when there isn't enough room for them to make it all the way off the street. I had trouble turning in here because the person in front of me was waiting in the middle of the road to get to the drive-thru. Good driving, as I've been telling my sons, requires a certain degree of give and take, but also, the ability to think in a more broad sense than how you think a situation affects you. It isn't all about you.

I've put in headphones because the women who inserted themselves behind me are the kind who discuss only other people and their jobs. You might think this is most people and you might be right. But they're sort of distractingly boring. I mean, of course, obviously not to each other, and that's fine.

I'm afraid that lately, Google Plus has me attaching qualifiers and prophylactic language to all my statements, for fear of either being misinterpreted, or falling into some wearisome argumentative Trap About Nothing. It's not healthy for my particular state of mind, so I type less there than I used to. This happens with all the online places; they start out with bright smart intentions, like a toddler exploring a newly-discovered basket of goodies, and end up being dragged like a once-loved playgroup into mud puddles of tedious pedantism, arrogant judgment based on poor speed-reading skills, the surprisingly juvenile assumption that no one else knows anything and hopelessly shallow reasoning, and then, of course, officious attempts at Group Leadership. That's…a hopeless simile, isn't it? But I've grown so defensive lately, and that's something I've long been working to outgrow. G+ and I are not as co-dependent as they'd like us to be, though. We will be better off as neighbors than lovers, as long, of course, as they don't drink too much at the barbecues and weekly board game nights and start shouting about hanging chads or a bad call in a game that was played three weeks ago.

This is the last of these warm-up posts in which I will appear to be discussing only myself, by the way. I intended to do a few character studies as I sat here by the window watching people order their various fussy drinks, noting their shoes, the sunglasses hanging from their open collars or on their heads, and other same-but-different details. But for the most part, I'm finding them all just a generically pleasing subsection of humanity as it is found in the southeastern corner of this southwestern Ohio city.

Actually, I'm pretty sure the guy who just left was a football player. Like, on the team that's here? Not just because he was kind of a giant. He had that look many of them have, and so forth. But probably one of the more family-oriented ones rather than the ones who end up in jail for awhile and have to make dim public apologies for being sort of terrible and having gotten caught at it. And I think he thought I recognized him, which is fairly hilarious. He seemed nice, though.

Last night I glanced at a map someone linked to from the Daily Mail, which showed the ancestral origins of Americans, county by county. No wonder I felt instantly at home in New Jersey and parts of New York! It was the only area remaining "Italy-colored." Say what you will about how the third generation has no ties to the "old country," we do have these ancestral memories, physical quirks, the food and stories of our grandparents, and many other little things that tie us, maybe not to Europe, but to each other. That is not something to be taken too lightly, especially as we grow older. I see, in the world around me, not enough azure and vermilion, the air doesn't smell of home or memory, or the sea, and I am afraid I'll end up like Grandpa Spano in old age, wandering around and mumbling about what he remembers but can never, ever have again.

Here, of course, it's very, very German. I have German ancestry, as well, tucked into one of the corners, but it isn't obviously reflected in me in any measurable way. And I've been talking for awhile of my need to move away from winter. I've been contemplating Florida, where I very nearly moved 30 years ago, but (sort of regrettably) allowed myself to be talked out of it by well-meaning Others. According to the map, there is one county in Florida that has a lot of Italian ancestry in it. Of course, it's in an area people say will be underwater in a couple decades or so, but still. Maybe worth looking into for my remaining decades. I definitely want to be back on the east coast if I can, because it was like going home for the very first time when I got there.

It's nice here, you know. I've travelled about Ohio some over the past two years, and have concluded this is one of the nicest spots. And it's earnest about that; wanting to be nice and well-thought of. Right now, actually, my area of Cincinnati is surrounded by torn-up roads in a rather sizeable effort to fold in the region that's grown up just outside the interstate ring. It will be nearly unrecognizable when it's finished two or three years from now. And it seems like a pretty good plan. But it isn't my world. I guess Central New Jersey wasn't either, though it felt so much closer than anywhere else I've lived. I remember a visit to Long Beach Island that struck me so strongly, I grow a little teary-eyed whenever I think of it. At the time I said,  "I could live here. I could make the rest of my life here." And then just about a year later, about a year ago, it was torn up by Sandy.

People asked pompously, "Why would someone live where that could happen?" And of course, it's because it practically never had happened. Storms go to New Jersey to fade away and die, not to wreak vengeance on a quiet unassuming populace.

Well, to wind up this self-indulgent monologue, let me explain about the title. The other night, during the opera intermission, Louis Prima's "Angelina" popped into my head. Is that some kind of sickness, or what? And for the past three days, I've had in my head not the triumphantly romantic tones of a Tschaikovsky overture, but the words, "I give up (it sounds like he says keep, but you can't count on him to be real clear at all times) soup and minestrone just to be with her alone, Angelina. Angelina, the waitress at the pizzeria."

Ti voglio bene, Louis, you crazy nutball. 

PS: there is a family here of parents and three young children, visiting with grandparents. The parents are clearly the sort who make basic rules and expect pleasant polite behavior, but one of them is behaving so badly I am reminded of how much I need to get done today, and that I must depart.

PPS: No, she has no excusable place on a "spectrum," she's just controlling and demanding, as people sometimes are right from the beginning. I wish her parents all the best.


A hot dog at the opera

Let me tell you about my evening. Last night's evening. We went to the encore streaming performance of Eugene Onegin at the Metropolitan Opera. This year I plan to see all ten operas they stream. It's always a Saturday matinee performance that is usually reshown the following Wednesday. I like matinee concerts and shows, personally. I can't quite say why, but I tend to get more out of them.

It had a wonderful cast, and, I think, was better than the opening night reviews it received, either because one or two little issues were worked out or because I am a cheap opera date and tend to overlook some of the details a reviewer notices. I do agree on one flaw, which I'll mention later. But first, getting into the theater to watch was a bit strange.

Side note: I was taught to spell it "theater" for movies and "theatre" for live performances. And of course, we were at a movie theater.

I enjoy going to Fathom Event showings at the movies. Last year they showed a few Hitchcock films in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies. There's nothing like that scheduled for this year, but I might hit up a performance or two by the Royal Opera Company Ballet, as well as the Met operas.

Eugene Onegin opened the Met season, and I was very happy to see it, because I'd read the Pushkin novel (which is written entirely in verse,) and I'd heard some of the music by Tschaikovsky, but was unfamiliar with it as a performance. And it's so easy for me to love an opera singer (see yesterday's post; you can fairly easily imagine which category they probably land in…) So I put on eye makeup, high heels and a necklace for the event, because so many experiences are more enjoyable when you put a little effort into your appearance for them. We arrived at the theater only about ten minutes early, but no one is there on a Wednesday in October, so I slid my card in the ticket machine and we were in.

I almost never get snacks at a movie theater, except the ones in town which sell nice teas and cinnamon almonds, things like that, but I was so hungry, I thought I'd treat myself to a hot dog. I figured I could eat it before the music began. A long time ago, people regarded going to the opera or a play like going on a picnic, but I want to hear the music without listening to myself chew or other people rustle packages of Sour Patch Kids. First, though, the sweet but honestly somewhat dull-minded young man at the snack counter just could not figure out how to charge me for a hot dog and drink combo. He didn't tell anyone I wanted the hot dog, which had to be made at a different counter, until he and others spent five full minutes determining how to fix what he'd done wrong. I said as carefully as I could, "Please can I just have the hot dog now?" But he couldn't handle thinking about that.

After I finally paid, he called someone over to the Nathan's counter to give me a hot dog. But because they had almost no business, there were no hot dogs waiting. So that young man had to don gloves and put one on a grill for me. It could have been cooking for five minutes while the cash register was sorted out, but instead I stood and waited again, and my companion was annoyed and anxious to get into the theater. I told him to go on while I waited. The hot dog chef seemed alarmed and put off by this, asking, "Did he just walk away? Why did he leave?" I said he wanted to see the opening preparation before the opera began, and the young man kept trying to tell me that he was already too late for this, and would now see ten minutes of previews, so I had plenty of time for my hot dog to cook.

They don't show movie previews at the opera. The preview of future performances is shown at intermission, and we do really enjoy seeing that. Before it begins, though, we see a little of what's going on backstage, and there is an emcee who introduces the opera for us. However, I assumed I'd miss all that and engaged the young man in a discussion of upcoming movies in order to soothe his nerves while I waited. He is very into the Avengers franchise. He turned my hot dog with tongs and talked away.

After awhile, he put on fresh gloves and inserted a thermometer into the end of the hot dog and waited to see if it was up to temperature. I have to say, I did appreciate that, and it was fairly amusing to watch. It was done, so he turned it on the grill a couple times, put it in the bun, and off I went to mustard and ketchup. I had just enough time in the theater to eat it without choking before the overture began. Also, I had soda. As a rule, I don't drink sweetened soda, but I had the dear boy give me Mr. Pibb topped with Cherry Coke, which is about the driest combination you can come up with via the Coca-Cola company. And I drank just enough for enjoyment of the hot dog.

Finally, the music started for me, my companion, and the three other people in attendance. There are usually about fifty people there for the Saturday viewing. One thing I like about Tschaikovsky's opera is that there are several places where music is played and a little action takes place with no singing. But, too, I recommend it and other Russian operas if you think opera is made only of high-pitched arias. There are a couple of arias, but nearly all the singing resides deep in the middle, still full of passion and drama. Eugene Onegin as a novel is set first in Regency England (the figurative 1820s period,) then the Russian countryside, and Pushkin wrote it over an eight-year period, adding experiences and impressions of his own as he traveled and worked in various places. My Pushkin volume contains the Babette Deutsch translation from 1935, but I've read that Nabokov's more literal and less poetic translation is better. Maybe I'll look into it. Strike that. What I want next is to listen to Stephen Fry narrate a 1990 translation of it, instead. 

Tschaikovsky's opera is set much later in the century and takes place wholly in Russia. It focuses more on the female lead, as well. It's a gripping and romantic adaptation.

I love a good screen or play adaptation of a story. I'm always impressed when a writer works out just how to condense the story into a more compact telling, or just which part of the story to focus on. But last night I learned that Pushkin originally began writing material which would show what happened between the two biggest moments, later destroying it because he thought the government would object. It wouldn't fit into the opera very well, yet I think it would add to our understanding of Onegin's state of mind in the final act.

Piotr Beczala played Onegin's doomed friend Lenski, and I enjoyed him shamelessly. He was lots of fun in last year's Rigoletto, but I liked seeing/hearing him in this sensitive earnest role even better. Anna Netrebko was Tatiana, and she is really wonderful. She made the role for me, because I haven't ever felt much affection for the character. If there was any real negative note for me in the production, it's that her love letter scene takes place in the same outdoor room where the action begins. I think, and reviewers insist, that this demanded a scene change to a more intimate setting. But she handled the scope of it beautifully. I do not agree with those who felt the final scene should have taken place in a different kind of space. I think the outdoor palace setting was just right.

Mariusz Kwiecien was Eugene Onegin. It's a role he's well-known for, but he said in the intermission interview that his portrayal in this production is rather different than usual; more subtle, mainly. His immature arrogance in the first two acts is still apparent in the lyric and in his posture and manner, however. And then in the third, he unleashes his passion and regret over his earlier bad choices. It was nicely affecting.

I want to see more of Piotr Beczala. I amused my companion when I said, "Piotr's not Jonas, but I really dig him." Well! What can I say? He pointed out that these are not…tall men. But honestly, when briefly considering imaginary opera singing lovers, who thinks about how many inches he has over you? That's probably better expressed another way, but I think I'll leave it.

The next performance to watch is Dmitri Shostakovich's The Nose, streaming live on October 26. I'm going to take my 16 year-old son to that, partly because I think he'll appreciate the music, but also, it's an absurd bit of sarcasm, and it runs for only a little over two hours.


Time travel, characters, NaNoWriMo, and the ways I love men

In the past two days, I've seen two references to Johnny Carson at Google+. I'm taking that as a sort of serendipitous force leading me to consider a topic some like to call "fuck, marry, or kill." Or those actions in another order, but I like this one, as it takes a logical progression.

For the next couple of weeks I'll try to write 1500-2000 words here every day as a sort of warm-up to NaNoWriMo. But I'm not breaking any new ground. I'll write about what I enjoy thinking about; self-indulgent blather, mostly. You know I love story. I love characters. I read biographies but not much other non-fiction, because stories of lives are what interest me most. For a person who spends very little time with other adults, this might seem odd. But it's so.

And I do love men. Rarely have I been entrancingly intellectually attracted to a man I didn't also want to know intimately, but it does happen from time to time, and that's cool by me. Occasionally, as well, I'm wildly physically attracted to a man with whom I would not find intellectual common ground, or else I know he's some kind of sleazy bastard, but some fairly dynamic area of my brain really doesn't care. Especially since it's all largely theoretical. It's story, you know. I can't live it, but I can read it or imagine it in my head or try to tell it.

So I guess I have two "types," or thought I did all along, but lately I've confronted the honest fact that I have a third. Let's let Johnny Carson represent that category, for now. First, though, James Garner. James Garner, that is, when he was roughly the age I am now, or a few years younger. Tall, black hair, direct, uncompromising, charming. I idolized him when I was a child. He was my cowboy detective super hero who also looked good in formal wear. I mean, I knew even then to separate the actor from his roles, but I never could with him, and I'll confess it; I still can't. He's kind of my hero. In the girly sense of things, at least.

The second type is currently represented by Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock on the TV show Elementary. He's the new Dr. House, only really really fit. Miller's Sherlock is dryly funny, enigmatic, well-meaning but often seems rude to other people, detached, but enthusiastic about his pursuits. Out here in the real world, he's the one I'm usually drawn to, something of a mirror to myself, only with a maleness to his guts that I admire. And of course, he's not much in the way of relationship material, is he? But then neither, perhaps, am I. I like a quirky misfit not because I am a quirky misfit, but because I'm content with myself this way.

Right now, if you know me, you're wondering where Bill Holden fits into this picture. Well, you know he represents a time period, largely, but he's also a lot more like Sherlock than he might charmingly appear. Kind of moody, but self-aware. Someone you keep yearning for even though you know he's no good to wake up next to every day, because he has problems. We all have problems, but his are the kind you aren't allowed to touch. He wants to let you in, but he doesn't really want you to find out how vulnerable he is.

Let's change the game name to bed, wed, or dead, because there are only going to be so many times I can type "fuck" without starting to feel silly. Or something. The second group is the kind you'd I'd go to bed with. The first group, maybe that's the guy you'd marry, if he'd have you, because he's the kind of rich ideal that you behave awkwardly around and it confuses him. That makes the third group the dead group, but maybe you I don't want them to actually die.

Johnny Carson is a good example of this. He was a hilarious and seemingly gregarious person who was actually quite a brooder, emotionally detached, impulsive, and selfish. Maybe that guy isn't even good in bed but you still want to find out. Why? I don't know. Plenty of women did, though. He was like someone else I know, who heavily dated only after getting married. The first or second wife wouldn't know this about him, but the third one had to. Being someone's second wife is understandable, I think. Being the third starts to look a little silly. My dad married three more women within about a 15-year span after my mother died. He and Mom were already divorced, but he didn't start his wife train until she was gone. What possessed these women to keep making it legal with him? He didn't even have any money.

I have to theorize that my dad was either, in fact, some kind of Great Lover, or really good at pretending his emotional and intellectual sensitivity made him someone worth trying to keep around. Me, I'd probably just want to kill him.

That's speaking of my Dad, though, and this isn't Shakespeare.

It's some kind of cliché that women are drawn only to this "bad boy" type. I'm drawn to no one who thinks of himself as a "boy," but that's for another topic. However, clichés develop from reality, of course. So what makes us physically drawn to a sleazy bastard we know our hearts should avoid? Biology says we see one kind of man as a good babymaker and another kind as a good protector/provider (shhh, that's another topic, as well,) and of course, the golden ticket would allow us to have the man who is both. Also, supposedly, we are drawn to different types of men at different points in our cycles. I think that's neat, except that in reality we don't get to take advantage of it…

When I was a girl, I loved the TV show Barney Miller. I thought Barney was fairly awesome, but can you guess which character I had a crush on? It was Dietrich. I thought someday I'd probably marry a man pretty much like that, only able to see myself in my mate at that point. Dietrich had a similar personality to my own, though I wouldn't have known it at the time. And I did end up married to someone who is kind of a mirror image of myself in certain ways, only as it turns out, he is better suited to someone who is a lot different instead. I've been thinking about that lately, and it led to this bloated examination of whether I truly have a "type" beyond some physical and superficial characteristics. That keeps leading me back to Johnny Carson, and in a certain way, my dad.

My dad wasn't so bad, as dads go, and I didn't grow up seeking one in a mate. At the same time, he wasn't so great as a family man, either, and I never thought of him as a role model for a husband and father. I'm more like him than I am like my mother, whom I also loved dearly, but I don't know that a male counterpart of her would suit me all that well, either. What makes any of us think we're great marriage material? I would have no real idea of that, even after all this time.

You only truly want to kill the ones you loved and poured yourself into, after all, once you learn that the "forever" vessel has a leak in it. Yet some people seem to want to keep trying at that, like Carson and my dad. I've had my fill, personally.

I don't like even thinking about that. I like thinking about conversation and sex, and sometimes romance, instead. It's good, you know, getting past the age and vulnerable stage of needing a suitable mate for raising a family, and living in a world in which we have the freedom to explore what else we might like in a relationship or in a series of them.

So in a perfect world, I'd time-travel, and have what I liked for as long as I liked, then move on to the next adventure. I had a brief exchange with a man yesterday who said we should time-travel back to the days when Johnny Carson went nuts for an hour or so because his wife was supposedly sleeping with Frank Gifford. He'd take Gifford and I'd have Carson. But only for like a weekend, because I think we'd have to make a murder pact beyond that point, since they'd both end up being extremely annoying. And I doubt Johnny'd really be that good in bed; his problems were the kind that get in the way. No, in the real perfect world, intellect and sensuality would fuse like magic or physics, and the yearning that comes from intensely driven conversation would be equally or even more fulfilling in physical union. Scientists say that phase of a relationship usually lasts for only seven months or so. A couple of seasons. Apparently, though, people are lousy at parting as friends when it's all over. I'd still want to be friends.

In another perfect world, though, we were never really friends at all, just a stellar collision, drawn together by unstoppable gravity, and we create gold when we collide, then each take our share when we part.

I'm going to let my NaNoWriMo book character create some gold this season.