Excerpt 41

 

1963 

During the too brief period between the end of school and the beginning of River Run Riding camp when my trunk and I were loaded onto an airplane to Philadelphia, my mother would lock me out of the house for, at least, five hours daily.

I used the toilet in my father’s shed, which protected his gardening tools and the occasional antique Japanese lantern.

[J. S. Bach’s Concerto for Violin in A, BWV 1041]

 I found a somewhat comfortable spot on the red brick steps that led to our back door. I would sit there for hours, reading overweight Russian novels about the rich and poor, blessed and cursed, landed gentry and peasants, gambling, alcoholism, lust, and unrequited love—my kind of books.

Alcohol: the greatest nepenthe ever created. I read about it a lot, before I ever tasted it.

When the warm Tennessee sun filtered through the white magnolia and pink dogwood trees, and the pages appeared to be shrouded with Irish lace from the shadows of the leaves, momentarily, I was almost happy.

###

When I returned to Frenchtown at Christmas, during my freshman year at college, my mother called me a Fat Pig, over and over.

“You need to lose two inches off your hips, “ she commented icily. I had gained ten pounds.

Her porcelain doll had grown pudgy. Totally unacceptable.

After college/After Greek marriage/After divorce:

 

But deep down, I really relished being pursued by men. They definitely upgraded my standard of living. For the first time in my life, I felt powerful. I understood that these affairs were mutually beneficial.

I was poor; men took me to glamorous parties, to expensive dinners, to the theater, and on trips: yachts in the Caribbean, Florida, and Bermuda; luxurious resorts in the Dominican Republic, Spain, France, and England.

I went out almost every night, even though I had “early arrival duty” at the Greeley School.

A girlfriend warned me: “Be very careful. Remember the movie

Looking for Mr. Goodbar”?

 “The dull ache will not depart,” Faust says in the first part of Goethe’s epic. “I crave excitement, agonizing bliss.”

[music:            Ralph Vaughan Williams/The Lark Ascending]

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Through the Internet, I met a wealthy widower, a self-made Israeli businessman. He had all the qualities that Joshua lacked—infinite self-confidence, decisiveness, and a pragmatic view of the world.

He was the kind of man who would never go to a shrink or to his sister to ask permission to make a life-altering decision.

Raz had a wonderful sense of humor, and he actually listened carefully to me and remembered what I said.

Both of us had had unhappy childhoods because of our parents’ aggressive rejection of us; we completely understood each other emotionally.

Raz was dark, exotic, übermasculine, as well as exceptionally warm and affectionate. He liked music, so we went to several cabaret shows at the Alqonquin, Feinstein’s at the Regency, the Carlyle, and jazz shows at Birdland.

While in bed, he sang Broadway show tunes to me with a Hebrew accent. He knew the lyrics perfectly!

We took sybaritic boat rides around Manhattan while eating glazed Chilean sea bass and listening to a live band play Cole Porter songs, as we slouched against each other on the banquette and gazed at the sparkling Manhattan skyline.

He spoke Arabic also and told me that there are no curses in Hebrew, but an infinite number in Arabic.

For example, the Arabs say, “May your underarms be infested with all the fleas from all the camels in the desert.”

Nice.

For breakfast, I served him cornflakes with bananas and Sanka. His

favorite.

He asked, “You don’t cook, do you?”

“Nope,” was my reply. “How do you know that?”

“The banana slices are thick; you don’t have much practice with a knife.” He was correct. Clever observation.

I admired him tremendously. He came to New York with nothing at age 25 and shared a room with a prostitute in a seedy hotel on Broadway until he could afford to rent an apartment. He slowly built an international wholesale office-supplies business and made shrewd investments in New York commercial real estate. He was waiting for a ten-million dollar offer for his warehouse in Long Island City.

Childhood rage can be an incomparable gift.

It gives us energy, concentration, and indomitable drive.

He had two grown daughters and a son-in-law, plus grandchildren.

Everyone lived in the same apartment building, and they all depended on him financially. He was the all-powerful godfather.

I knew unequivocally that I could never be a member of his tribe. [music: Leonard Cohen sings “Alexandra Leaving”]

“Suddenly the night has grown colder.

The god of love preparing to depart.

Alexandra hoisted on his shoulder,

They slip between the sentries of the heart. Upheld by the simplicities of pleasure,

They gain the light, they formlessly entwine;

And radiant beyond your widest measure

They fall among the voices and the wine.

It’s not a trick, your senses all deceiving,

A fitful dream, the morning will exhaust –

Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving.

Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost. Even though she sleeps upon your satin;

Even though she wakes you with a kiss.

Do not say the moment was imagined;

Do not stoop to strategies like this.

As someone long prepared for this to happen,

Go firmly to the window. Drink it in.

Exquisite music. Alexandra laughing.

Your first commitments tangible again.

And you who had the honor of her evening,

And by that honor had your own restored –

Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving;

Alexandra leaving with her lord.

Even though she sleeps upon your satin;

Even though she wakes you with a kiss.

Do not say the moment was imagined;

Do not stoop to strategies like this.

As someone long prepared for the occasion;

In full command of every plan you wrecked –

Do not choose a coward’s explanation

That hides behind the cause and the effect. And you who were bewildered by a meaning;

Whose code was broken, crucifix uncrossed –

Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving.

Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost. Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving.

Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost.”

 

EXCERPT 40

MEMPHIS

1959

The Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in the front yard of the house across the street from us. The NAACP had purchased the house for an African-American minister. Every weekend several of our neighbors strutted up and down the street carrying loathsome signs painted black and white: “N——, Get Out.”

The one Jewish lady, Mrs. Roseborough, on our block (and the only person who had a swimming pool) had produced Tennessee Williams’s first play Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay in her backyard.

She became a target for the KKK, as did my parents, because they refused to participate in the Sunday marches. Not long afterward, a Molotov cocktail sailed through our window, and obscene and threatening phone calls were becoming a common occurrence at three in the morning.

Often Robert was out of town on business trips and sexual escapades, so my parents decided for safety’s sake that it was time to move.

 

My parents sold their house to a lovely black lady, a missionary, who traveled back and forth to Africa. Her niece, Zola,  was one of my favorite playmates. Until my father died,  Zola’s aunt was his landlady; he rented the small office building behind the house for more than thirty years. It was always a peaceful, respectful relationship.

 

 

Children’s Book [From:   Fantasy Friends on Furlough (in a Putrid Pandemic)]

Doughty Dodo Bird

Doughty dodo bird was so determined.

The ermine looked up at her and said,

“You never give up…what’s up with that?”

The dodo replied, “My dreams are big, and

I don’t give a fig about those who tell me,

No, your aspirations are silly, you will fail

Willy nilly.

Do—n’t  Do—n’t tell me what I can do.

My plan is to fool you too!

I will succeed and

Fulfill my need to

Be the best that I can be.

 

Touchy Toucan

Touchy toucan was quick to give you a peck with her beak.

“Think before you speak,” she squawked,

“Or you might dread the consequences.

The words you spout

That all come out

Can cause unnecessary harm

And will alarm those who don’t understand

And are too shy to take a stand.”

So be polite.

Avoid a fight.

Try to cultivate wisdom

Instead of a schism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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