Νόστος …..the sun, and the wind are different. The longing to be there is the same. It’s uncomfortable in the way all beauty is. It’s here. It’s gone. It’s forever. This brillance has sharp edges. Seize them. It will wound and heal you. Again. And again.
Every Father’s Day I’m one of those many -though I hope they are few-who did not have a dad whose memory brings any joy. Or, really, anything at all. Not even anger. Imagine, if you can, having a Dad that did not seem to notice you. At. All. He was there, in the way that an odd smell is there. Troubling and more than a bit disconcerting. An absence in place, like a light square on the wall where the missing portrait used to be.
How odd it is to try and find words for the Mr. Cellophane whose eye color I maybe have, and whose disappearance into divorced Dad land was not even a loss. He wasn’t hostile. Or sad. Just a ghostly reminder that our family looked not even a very little bit like the happy family in the storybooks I earnestly studied to see what a normal family with a dog, a cat, and bikes and picnics for all might be like. He’d been gone for so long before he actually left that I don’t have any bad memories or any good ones. Just the anger that when my college choose to honor the girls parents it was on ‘fathers weekend’ . Inviting my mother who so deserved to be honored to that was going to bring her very easily shamed personnage into a spotlight of pain.
Food for thought? Those who don’t fit in aren’t like the others. It’s like those drawings where you have to find the missing chairlegs or extra fingers to solve the puzzle. The mystery of those around you that try to ‘fit in’ always needs you to hear the dog that does not bark. And your and our willingness to accept that a ‘reality’ is only one of very many equally real worlds that are pages in the same book of different stories. Yes! Food For Thought! And thanks for the uncles, teachers, bosses, and professors. My library abounds in stories of difference where there was not only the kindness of strangers, but also the admiration, admonition and guidance that only a real ‘family’ or perhaps even a village can provide. Thanks Dads. You were the real deal. I’m so thankful. I hope some of you know or knew how very grateful I remain. For I am the daughter of many fathers, one deeply wise father-in-law, two countries, many families of choice and one extraordinary mother.
Welcome to the literary libation list. Thanks to James Baldwin. For so much, but today for his reminding us about the writer/drinking stereotype. Baldwin averred he had never met a writer who didn’t drink. Other literary gatherings may be otherwise, but I’ve been making a short list of author inspired cocktails. Welcome to the wordsmiths’ watering hole.The Library bar is open!
Emily Dickenson. Wild Nights. Crushed ice, blueberries, and cognac. In a mini ball canning jar.
Henry Miller. The Colossus. A shard of ice, a double shot of ouzo, served in a copper tinged .25 liter wine measure with a slug of tap water.
Scott Fitzgerald. The Rich and Different. Ritz diamond shaped ice cubes With Bourbon in a Tiffany julep cup. Optional mint leaves.
Homer. The darkest wine. Served in a clay pitcher. Freshly cut bay leaf wreath.
Ernest Hemingway. For whom the Bull Tolls. Chilled Bacardi nip wrapped in newspaper ( Kansas City Star if available) lime wedges on the side. Minimum serving: six. It’s a good start.
Samuel Becket. Here’s Godot! Irish whiskey, two ice cubes, in a French champagne flute with two drops of bitters.
Robert Frost. 1+1 Path. Maple syrup, California Chardonnay. ice.shavings. In two tumblers marked a and b. They’re the same. But you have to pick one.
Jack Kerouac. The Road. Mixed Six pack of brewskis (6 different types) packed for the journey in a bandanna. Only available ‘to go’.
Izak Dinesen. Into Africa. Tia Maria and cold brew espresso with a Killamanjaro of whipped cream
Nora Efron What she’s having. Strawberry granita with frozen Finlandia ice pop molded inside a banana skin
Leonard Cohen. The Marianne. Orange liquor, tea leaves and chilled rackomello in a tall narrow cobalt blue tumbler. With roasted almonds on a small thick white plate.
Margaret Atwood. The Cats eye. Canadian club, honey dipped cinnamon stick, and a lime rind twist. served either warmed or over rough chunks of ice. In a globe shaped glass.
Anton Chekov. The orchard. Stoli over six frozen pitted cherries and a splash of Perrier. Served in a Turkish tea glass set on a crocheted doily
H D Thoreau The Cabin. Pond water with moonshine home brew. In a bent tin cup.
Federico G Lorca. Duende. Red wine from a leather wine skin. Body temperature. With a red rose.
James Baldwin L’heure Blu for Mistah Jimmy. Iced Split of Moët with a scented silk camellia for your lapel.
In the 1970’s when romance got me on the one way boat to Europe the hard core Americans were muttering ‘love it or leave it’ to anyone who flashed a peace sign and had hair down to there, and knew the words to the musical. At some point I’ll take time out to air my quarrel with Graham Greene for creating the eponymous ‘quiet American’ that put all expats in the position of denying their professional espionage credentials. When you’re a likely spy, it’s even harder to ask questions and expect to get useful answers. So back to the old standby, asking yourself questions. It’s a fine start.
There’s been a few superficial changes over the decades. And a lot of learning about love. Including love of country. The main lesson about love applies equally to both romantic and patriotic devotion. The more you know about the beloved the basis for the love changes. Unexamined patriotism, unexamined faith, unexamined loves…..are of as questionable value as unexamined lives are reputed to be. The exams for an American Patriot badge start as the first foreign customs officer glances at that crisp new passport. And the questions and indeed interrogation never stops. That passport? And it’s among my few firm beliefs that everyone ought to have one, is like being given an invisible uniform. Like it or not, you represent your country. Not as a soldier, diplomat or Olympian. As a citizen. It’s a responsibility. And we’re not especially well prepared for doing that. We take that awesome duty much too lightly, and often don’t know the answers that nationals of other countries are only too eager to expect, or occasionally demand, us to defend and or explain. And, yes, we often can’t begin to anticipate the questions. Just a list of questions would be a series of stories. The answers….and often there are several answers to the same questions, reveal as much about our common humanity as about our diverse nationalities. That’s my topic. It’s about my personal experience of expatriate reality, as well as some glimpses of others whose identity as the naive American, took us on journeys of discovery.
As we pursue our efforts to become better informed about what ‘an American’ is and should be in the interconnected world we are hugely fortunate to share with our fellow humans of good will. More good will? yes,please. so lets keep on good will hunting by all fair means.
How I learned that my vote matters. For me, being a better American came through living abroad. While I loved my country. I also left it. And the lessons began early and continued often. The peace sign was scraped off my car on the Yugoslav border. From the start of a thirty year sojourn in Greece The angry and sly accusations about being CIA and:or a spy were so absurd and so familiar that a laughing denial would not serve for longer than a sneer.
I had to open the worm can and grasp the slimy half absurd truths and beliefs about U.S. history of careless interference in the rest of the world. We have been misinformed. And it’s up to us to get informed and accept that it’s our duty, not just to be loyal but to question, be informed,act on making and choosing the policies we are responsible for. We are not soldiers who must attack or defend. Our duties are more serious and more varied. We must behave as leaders, even as we are good followers. Most basically we must hold our civic rights as dear as our lives. Since the quality of our lives, and of our neighbors-a planet full, and descendants depends upon our making the best choices. Not just for our family, our neighborhood, our race or religion, but for a world where our choices about leaders have have profound effect on every human on the earth.
This is responsibility number one. If it’s boring, or onerous, or annoying. How much discomfort can you endure so that no soldiers or guardians are tasked take up a lethal weapon in your name to commit an act that is in support of a regime that is promoting a program that is harmful, dangerous, uninformed, and costly in countless ways. Can you face the angry and pained questions that the American abroad gets every day? I’ll list a short sample:
Did you know that the U.S. supported (name just about any any world leader)before they didn’t support him?
Did you know that your embassy has refused my friend a visa to travel for medical treatment?
Why did your president insult our prime minister? Defend our enemies? Forget our country was part of an agreement? Think our languages/history/heros/stock market/laws are stupid/unimportant/corrupt?
Do you have a gun? Have you been shot at?
Aren’t you ashamed that your president made a joke about our economic suffering?
Is your president crazy?
Please explain: Vietnam, Putin, OPEC, the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus, the CIA, the World Bank, the UN, chemtrails, the chronicles of Zion, the Federal Reserve, Afghanistan, #MeToo, speed limits, Green cards, legal hash, LGBT, open carry, consent, the Patriots, taking a knee, anger management, copyright, Tesla….
Did you know that the US planned to kill..,Malcom X, Castro, Che, Lumumba, Lambrakis, MLK, Kennedy…..? (This list is long.)
Love of country cannot be blind, and be love. If it’s fear or hate that your country inspires, or that you wish it to exercise, this is NOT love. Understand that perfection in the beloved is always an illusion. But it is an emotion that deserves to be a goal. Make your country one that you can respect and become more deserving of both love and loyalty. It’s about working for a more perfect union. It’s our work. Vote. Just do it.
Taking a look at the Roe v Wade threat. let’s consider that these awful bullying insecure oafs might NOT have been born had there been a safe legal means to prevent or end an unwanted pregnancy. Unloved and unwanted children ….can turn out to be monsters. They are fighting for their lives. At the expense of others lives. Survival of the least fit. Least compassionate. Most damaged and damaging. Willing to sacrifice sisters, daughters, mothers, nieces, sisters-in-law, wives…..anything with a fertile womb. is this Rosemary’s baby?
Susan Collins, U. S. Senator from Maine
was born in 1957, on the day I (another Christine) became a teenager. That year, or maybe it was a couple years later, a schoolmate – yet another Christine! was assaulted by the the class jocks, inebriated on stolen hard cider. The possible charge of theft was the worrisome matter. It would have gone on the record. The girl wasnʼt hurt, it was said. I knew it couldnʼt happen to me. But just in case, I didnʼt attend even the one class party held without the parents presence that I was invited to. In four years. At college I went to to one mixer each year, hoping that the lakes of frat beer would subside with greater maturity. They didnʼt. I was still pretty sure I would not be attacked. But then classmates dropped out of sight. “Having to get married” was still a thing in the first half of the sixties. There was the science prof who sent a classmate home with a bundle of joy to wed her hometown beau. There was a not at all agressive but totally terrifying flasher in the library stacks. A laughing dorm mate whose five minutes of fame was owed to her panties on display at a little ivy frat. How did Susan miss all the signs? It most clearly could be her. Although sheʼs not a Christine.It could be me. Christine! Consent as a concept wasnʼt discussed, it was barely a fantasy. If you were alive, and female, you were fair game for horny frat boys. Safety was as much a fantasy as a Disney princess. Although where the fair part was negotiated was certainly a mystery. Susan, how could you have been untouched by all that unwanted hormonal agression. I donʼt believe YOU. Thatʼs not the Potomac, thatʼs DENIAL. I DONT BELIEVE YOU, Susan Collins. Because you donʼt need to have been abused or be a Christine to participate in abuse. You, Senator, just enabled the abuse of a survivor. And of us. We, your sisters, who cannot accept that you would be so heartlessly cruel to women who believed you when you said you would protect us.
Christine. Shrew (and Saggitarian) of Amherst. October 7, 2018
Senator, somehow, you didnʼt survive. Thatʼs not only shameful, itʼs a shame. You could have been the one to save so many others, too. Now you will be remembered for this. For a betrayal. Not what a warrior saggitarian would claim in boast.
What does my face look like?
Can we ever know what others see when the tears remain unshed. When our dry eyes glitter with mixed emotions. When pain, fear, anger, weakness and power struggle to balance the gaze. Is that liquid -sweat or tears, blood or bile? Is that tremor strength or weakness ? Is that fire pain or anger. It is all. Truth is many. Look for one? You find others. What does my face show of this. Who cares to read it must look here where my words show what I sometimes want to hide, sometimes want to shout, always want to understand more fully. What does my face look like when I want to hide my truth? What does my face look like when I want to show my truth? What does my face look like when I don’t know my truth? When I want to find it? When I don’t want to find it? When I want to be known? When I want to keep my truth hidden. Is that truth also a lie? The face in the mirror shows some, conceals others. Here is a shadow made of light and dark, wishes and dreams, nightmares and history.
Ownership…it sounds simple enough. You pick out a book, or a tool, or a service, or a slave, or a silver fork, ar a building lot . Find the price. (Here’s where it starts to get complicated fast). Check your wallet, bank account or bottom of your pocket and shell out. Or you start to negotiate. With the owner. Or the seller- who might be a pro at this, or just an interloper. But anyway you want to acquire something….so making the deal begins. Agreeing or disagreeing on what you pay and what you get for that payment has so many unexamined wrinkles. Let’s take a look into some of the deeper, and perhaps shallower ones.
Our neighbor, Magus, the material man himself, is in possession of a framed piece of painted canvas. He says it’s a work of art, created some time in the 20th century by the Spaniard Pablo Picasso. It’s hidden under a cloth wrapper. Are we in three card monte territory yet? Oh most definitely we are! A territory that according to all accounts the famed artist was something of an accredited professional explorer. Trickery, divinity and art are siblings, close enough to be fraternal triplets. An artist creates something that was not there before he or she, through some form of craft, caused it to become….to exist!
Looking at to the concealed work. All that’s to be observed Is a dusty cloth bundle. It’s resting on the floor of a gallery of either excellent copies, or original works of noted artists. The space itself is part of a setting designed to impress, intimidate, and silence the questions of the skeptic. Those who not only fail to be dazzled by so much pricey real estate, both fixed and moveable, but also find their trust but verify alarm bells buzzing out of control, are on alert. What’s really going on here? What’s real, and who is false. Who wants or needs such a vast quantity of material valuables of certifiably great quality? If wall street is the cathedral of money, this is the capital of the non hereditary monarchy of greed. It might look good, but the emotional and psychological tone is one of neediness. There just isn’t enough stuff to fill the empty and echoing space where the lack of positive emotional substance is so extensive.
Mr magus, it’s apparent,does not care one whit what the art looks like. It’s on view, boy remains unseen. It’s secrets are safe whether on the Wall or in a sack. Is it a part of the forest if no one is looking when the art falls off the wall? There’s no theme here, no passion, no vision, no human connection. The price tags are the entire story. The heavy frames are sized exactly for the Certificates of authenticity. the usual contrary working of an alert human consciousness meant
That many questions came to mind. The authenticity of the place, the people, and the bizarre situation, became suspect. Stepping into a theatre set, you look for the plot. Stepping into a bank vault, you keep an eye on the shelves, and on the exit. Is this Agatha Christie, or just Christies? The owner let’s call him Mr. Magus, avers, that the ouvre is too precious to be exposed to eyes other than highly trained certified experts to evaluate its authenticity. Mr Magus, it is one hundred percent certain, is himself that most curious of cultural artifacts, a real fake. Picasso, and his heirs as they licence the artist’s signature for the use of motor cars and wines, would understand. The art can’t be owned. The piece of cloth is for sale. The artist is, as he often portrayed himself, is a circus performer. A magician. A real maker of originals. An actual Magus. Maybe Mr. Fake Magus got his money’s worth. But he’s still not any closer to being even one real thread in the canvas of a real life. The distance between Being and owning is clear in the difference conveyed by I am a shipowner, and I own ships. Can you “own” Picasso? Owning a Picasso is being a buyer of Picasso’s, it’s not possible to buy or even own the ‘art’ part of what a Picasso painting is. The Sol LeWitt pattern of leasing a limited time share of a work of art, the ownership permanently in the hands of the creator’s estate is the model makes this concept clear.
Trying to outrun danger is a tiring and disorienting race. When one runs, not to get somewhere, but to get away. When the goal is just ‘not here…not, there’ both here and there have lost any meaning. Any direction out is all that counts. What to save from the fox? What to take with us, when the place we are going is just ‘not here’. Refugees. Migrants. They know what I’m describing. It’s when Hell is so close that anyplace else is freedom, an invitation to a banquet, even if it’s a paper bag with old shoes and a mouldy crust. Not running. At peace. She’s looking so peaceful. That’s what they say of all the dead and gone. Because it’s irrefutable. They are not here. Not with us, who might have been able to love them, save them, feed them, listen to their stories, let them be somewhere. Here. With us. Just like us. Alone. Maybe afraid. On the run. Toward somewhere safer. Somewhere really safe.