Saturday, October 04, 2003

Last night, the phone rang. Aaaaargh! I'm late, I forgot the time, I should be there already. Turn off the lights, the computer, the electric stove under the hearty Tuscan lentil soup, grab shoes, keys and out the door, hailing a cab. I'm too honest to claim heavy X-town traffic, not honest enough to admit I had forgotten it was Friday, my friends forgive me for being an impenitent internet addict.

Friday night is movie night and take-out night. If it's Lydia making the selection, you can bet your last dollar it will be Chinese, with sesame chicken and spring rolls and pork dumplings, where she will only eat the skins and leave the meat on the side of her plate. The parents tend more towards Italian, pizza and pasta and Caesar salad. In my absence at the crucial time of ordering, they have remembered me, and ordered penne a la vodka, my personal favorite.

It's Animal House... Great for grownups to start reminiscing about where they were and what they were doing in 1962.

When I came into the room and explained why I was late, I also had to explain the whole Blog thing. Naturally, I told the story of the Baghdad Blogger, and Riverbend, and Turning Tables. At which point, Carol pulled out the photo album of their wedding, some seventeen years ago, where I had spent the whole night taking candid shots of all their friends.

I remember that wedding very well: I was so high that night some people even suggested I was on drugs. Others thought I was drunk. Neither in fact: I don't do drugs, except painkillers after surgery, and I never drink when I am shooting. I was just high on being there, being happy for my friends getting married. It was a most beautiful wedding.

"You are so interested about Iraq," said Carol, "I wonder whether you remember this picture you took?"

She points to an angelic small boy, looking straight into the camera with a huge, goofy grin, in the protective arms of his smiling aunt, right behind him, a friend of Carol's.

"Well," Carol continues, "You might be interested to know he is in Iraq now."

Ah, yes. He is all grown up now. He was in the reserves and he has been in Iraq since May.

After Animal House, what with the photo album still open on the dining room table, we were all talking about the past, specifically about New Year's eve celebrations. I was the most qualified to pinpoint which year it was that both I and one of the other guests had attended, because I could eliminate certain years (No, can't have been 2000, I was in hospital. No, can't have been , blablabla). Finally, I had it down to 1998-99, "when the kids did the Spice Girls". Larry whipped out the video tape, and there they were, "Tell me what you really want", first the three girls, then the three boys. It's such fun, they're almost all grown up now ("She's a senior in High School", etc.); and it is funny to see yourself as others saw you, playing charades and doing some kind of dance (because the grownups had to take their turn entertaining the kids, fair's fair), enjoying making a fool of yourself.

I walked home X-town very late, full of love for my friends.

This morning, I still had an afterglow from Friday night. On the way to Starbucks, a hack horse was going up Eighth Avenue whinnying for all he was worth. I have never heard this in New York before: it was incongruously funny, and I burst out laughing. Everyone else on the street was laughing too. I don't really know what was so funny about it.

In front of 310, some twenty little mauve cyclamen are standing proud, not like an army, more like "petits rats de l'Opera" doing their "grande reverence" in their tutus. Still no leaves.

On my way back home, I bought myself some pale yellow roses. "I"? Well, no. My Evil Twin did. The one who says: "Why do we have to wait until the house is clean and tidy to have flowers? Why can't we have flowers right now, to distract the eye from all that bloody mess?"

I heard on the radio the other day that what is the matter with wymyn is that the seratonin level in their brains tends to drop. The way for them to replenish seratonin levels is to verbalize, to talk. That's how I replenish mine, verbalizing, blogging. The same person who told us that also told us that what is the matter with men is that their dot dot dot level in their brain tends to drop. However, the way for them to replenish this is for them to go into a private space and be silent.

Well, I don't remember what brain hormone it is which fluctuates with the men, for the simple reason I already have my very own theory about this, which is that the main hormone level that controls the behavior of men is testosterone. As in: "There seems to be a problem with this [enter whatever it is]. Let's swab the deck with testosterone."

I don't really know what differentiates men from women, actually. I wear my hair short, I don't wear much makeup, and I have broad shoulders: not those little champagne bottle shoulders that need padding to fill out a suit, not those twee things, those wussy things, those wobblying in the wind kind of shoulders. A lot of the time, I get called "Sir". Sometimes, I want to say "Take another good look, buster". Sometimes, I try to force the issue by refusing to respond until whoever is addressing me switches to "Miss" or "Madam". Sometimes, I just answer them in a very squeaky little voice "Thank you", just to see them do a double take, if they wake up, that is.

I don't know why it should bother me to have my sex mistaken by anyone. After all, I have no doubt about my sexual identity and surely that is the only thing that matters. Moreover, I do associate masculinity with broader shoulders than those I associate with females (and I am not talking about Arnie, for heavens' sakes), and I do also look at very frail men as somehow lacking, like skinny little kids, who have not quite gown up, it's irrational. Irrational, also, because although I have always been well endowed, in the shoulder department, in my youth I compounded the problem by going to the gym. I even went to the one and only women's body-building gym here in NYC for a time, until it closed. There is something very exciting about the first time that one little muscle responds, "Blip!"-- Oh, baby, baby, do it again! But no, it won't, not today, not tomorrow, it will be days before you can count on a command performance.

There is a great feeling about owning your body. Just as there eventually is a great deception when you become so weakened that merely looking down at your feet is enough to upset the balance to have you fall into the bathtub, head first (this is what actually happened to me one night, some years ago, when I returned home after major surgery), the rest of the body following like a rag doll.

It is important at such times to push the envelope and always, always get back on your feet. However, climbing back out of the tub is quite a challenge, as I remember it, and it is also funny in a whacky sort of a way because there is a moment when you realize you might never be able to make it outta there without help, and once you start laughing it becomes almost impossible.

Last night, Chris asked: "Do you still meditate?"

"Meditate?" I snorted, "Oh, no. I never meditate... I have never meditated... Not me..."

"I thought you did", Chris was a little puzzled, he was sure he had got it right.

In a chorus, Carol and Larry say: "No, she chants!"

I feel I must explain myself to Chris, and so I explain that I don't even have any clear notion of what meditation might be, in the same way that I have no idea what people are talking about when they mention their chakras. It's just not a part of my world.

Meditation is something I personally associate with staring into the middle distance. In my world, and in my words, that is nothing different from lollygagging, woolgathering, day-dreaming, or tillyloshing.

I do dream: I do, I do. Often with my nose up in the air, looking at terraces up in the sky, where people live and have trees, way, way up there. I imagine living there. I still remember my favorite wishful thinking terrace, coming off the Alexandre III bridge in Paris, onto the Esplanade des Invalides. It looked so formal, almost like an Italian cemetery. One day, it was featured in a fancy magazine and I found out which famous personage lived there, but I have forgotten who it was, although I still hanker after that elegant, inaccessible terrace.

I also dream about those people who circumnavigate the earth solo in their little sailboats. It's a family thing: my parents had the same enthusiasm, the same fantasy, which is why they named my brother Alain, after one of these heroes who had done the deed the year he was born. Mention the name Chichester to me, and I can taste the salt on my own lips, and hear the gulls welcoming my landfall.

Last week, there was a beautiful story in Paris Match by Catherine Chabaud about her first round the world trip in 1996, after dreaming about it for more than seven years. She referred to the day she made her decision:

"Ce jour-la, la decision la plus folle, la plus violente mais aussi la plus belle de ma vie etait prise, j'allais partir a la rencontre des oceans."

"On that day, I made the craziest, the most violent, but also the most beautiful decision of my life, I set out to embrace the oceans."

I don't believe my brother Alain ever sailed anywhere. I think he just kept his energies for waterskiing behind fast motor boats.

I am the only one in the family who sails in a tub. The happy cat, in an unhappy regatta, who re-joiceth again and again, when the sun comes out long enough to dry off her matted fur. Tail broken and set in strange configurations, again and again, who's counting, and what's more important, who's looking?

"Flutuat nec mergitur"! Hehehe!
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