his friend remembers one thing, he another.
Archive for the 'memory' Category
the iris asked the rose, “what are you most proud of in your life; the one thing you think you’ll be remembered for?”
the rose looked down upon the iris and laughed, “nothing and everything. no one will remember me once i’m gone from this world.”
in the sunshine they’re a brilliant white, impossible to ignore even with the competition vying for the viewer’s attention (pick me! no me!)
but in the foggy mornings and the moonlit nights, they take on a gray cast, jane eyre on the moors or the french lieutenant’s woman. (literary allusions are free today.)
they, unlike the other flowers from my past, except for perhaps the columbine, remind me of the women who raised me–mother, mary, grandmothers. i try not to read to much into it; it is just as it should be.
it’s a long time ago, even for me it seems particularly far away and possibly just out of my reach (when the alarm rings in the morning and you stretch to turn it off, but can’t quite get your finger on the button. it is also accompanied by that sleepy ache of interrupted dreams.) you started this — i want to blame someone for the heartbreak these memories bring me and just now when i’d finally had them neatly filed in a notebook (digital and irl) that i could easily ignore. but you had to post that photo and it got me to thinking, longing really, for her laugh and her touch, and now i’ve spent the last two days in a swirl of memories all which eddy around her personality (it’s all i have left.) today then, i dug out the stub of a hard drive and plugged it in and thought i’d go somewhere else with other memories, but they led me here—as they have in the past and will in the future. and of course, it’s getting close to mother’s day, the day she died, her birthday, a swirl of longing, events i can’t change or obliterate, they are history after all, mine and hers and still just a moment of that laugh i think to myself would be all i need to, to, to what i wonder. what will it do for me now? if i could just hear it—it’s there, i know it is, but it’s behind a wall, a cloud, a stone pillar, earthy and pungent and lost, blurry and indistinct, for it’s both visual and auditory at the same time (what good would one be without the other i ask myself when i know i’d settle for one, just one little peek, one little ha ha ha, an inhalation of marlboro, a smoke ring a halo.)
and there was no sudden “i am your mother” email. there were memories of the barracks and memories of the mid-wife’s home where i was born. there were further suggestions from the editor and the writer about other options i might have — but that required more introspection and further digging into my motives for this search. which. i’m not sure i want to know any more than i already do. so. for now. that will be end of this. (it’s out there, if it comes, c’est la vie, n’est-ce-pas?)
it was a young love song with clarion-voiced backup singers and an african beat. he was sure it was the first time he’d ever heard it this clearly with words he could repeat without the liner notes unfolded and laid on his lap. there was no hesitation in his delivery; he wasn’t sure if that was because he wanted it so bad and had waited so long or if it was the melody that every one of his friends who had heard it before were singing. all he knew was that he could open his mouth and the song sang itself.
language didn’t seem to be a barrier nor did their differences (there were only the ones of hair and height) — although now when he looks back at this time he only sees a melding (hot wire soldering) of two dancing and jiving bodies and minds pressed up tight against each other, the bass beat of sex the common denominator (only divisible by 2.)
france happened (there was kissing, if not on main street, then on the champs elysée, les halles, pont des arts, café flore, giverny, chenonceau), times spent with friends in paris, then alone on the road, the exhaust of a citroën forming a heart of protection around them–recognizable by the french, it was a language they knew well–which was a free pass, that common bond; a honeymoon he would have called it, had that been a verse of the song he was singing. if you have listened closely to the french singing when it’s your second — or third — language, then you will know why he decided to go with his own words; he wasn’t singing for them, but just for the two of them.
should i name you after my favorite singers?
i wish i could remember how i fell in love with laura.
janis and joni are easier to explain.
but laura remains an enigma (and my favorite, should i be so bold as to name a favorite among my women.)
is it pain? is it joy? is it the intricate musicality? is it the raw emotion of her voice? or its clarion tone? the only answer is: all of those. and true of the three of them; they spoke the second language my heart was speaking when i was a young man.
m. & i were in the middle of a driving tour of the burgundy (les vins!) and the loire (les chateaux!) one year when we found ourselves staying at the chateau bel ____. bel it was not, but regardless it was outside of tours and we decided one evening to drive into town and have dinner. we ate at “_____ et ______” (or something like that) and it was the only time i have ever sent food back to the kitchen while dining in france. you can’t even imagine. (remind me sometime to share with you the story about the “cherries jubilee” served one evening at the chateau, but i digress.) so after dinner, i’m driving—a rare treat considering the anality — i realize it’s not a word, but he can be so insistent on his ‘rightness’ — of m. when he said a propos of rien, “let’s go to a gay bar!” to which i responded, “but we don’t have a guide gay.” (en francais, mais oui.) “oh that won’t matter, i can always tell when a boite is gay.” i trusted him.
“there, that’s one,” he pointed to the gauche, waving his finger under my nose, pointing at a dingy little door with a blue light flickering over it. i swerved into a parking place, two wheels on the sidewalk a la francaise, and we headed back down the street to the ‘gay’ bar. “you’re sure, right?” “oh, most definitely,” he asserted. i opened the door ahead of him and stepped into the movie set of the early life of edith piaf (it was in black & white, i swear.) the bartender, gauloise perched menacingly on his fat lower lip, a dingy wife-beater pulled loose from repeated wearings the same color as the towel he was using to wipe a glass—dingy—stared at us; there was a couple dancing, a la apache — she in a slip, he in t-shirt and beret — stopped dancing and swiveled their heads toward us — did the music stop? it could have. the few patrons sitting at the bar — true, all men, equally true, not gay — rheumy eyes glowering, a cigarette on each lip — at which point m.has squeezed in behind me and is looking over my shoulder at the mise-en-scene avant nous.
i must pause here, to reflect on our appearance: we look like americans, try as we might to look otherwise, a sweater thrown over shoulders, for instance, we think might make us fit in sartorially, but sadly it does not and tonight, ici, we are looking particularly foreign and particularly gay— if there is a universal ‘gay’ look, that was the ‘look’ we were sporting that evening.
the bartender, “oui, messieurs?”
us, “oops! excusez-nous, pardon, pardon…” as we bowed and retreated i swear the music started up again, the dancers returned to their dance, the patrons to their drinks, the bartender continued to wipe the same glass, the door closed quietly behind us, just like brigadoon when you’re not looking for it (the scottish angle best saved for another day and the cherries jubilee story).
the moral (if you can call it that): whenever m. gets all righteous with me and insists he’s right, i’ll remind him of that night in tours, “just like you know a gay bar when you see one? mm-hmm.” and that’s the end of that.
all of the above prompted by this:
the Château de Tanlay, France via archimaps
Graves” first muse…the first after he articulated his White Goddess theories, was Judith Bledsoe. Judith, by all accounts, was a naïve young girl who found in the older Graves something of a father figure whose intellect and worldly knowledge was appealing. Graves found in her the physical embodiment of the White Goddess. It seems that in the case of Judith, as in the muses that followed, who or what the person might actually have been seemed less important to Graves than what he believed the person to be. And so Judith who at first was clearly enamoured with the attention she was receiving began to buckle under the pressure and, as R. P. Graves reports, Beryl “… took Judith out to lunch alone, and quite calmly asked her whether she wanted Robert or not. To which Judith could only protest, quite honestly, that she loved Beryl and Robert more than her mother and father, and that she had no intention of doing anything to injure their marriage” (The White Goddess, 188). –source, robertgraves.org
it has been reported that my dear friend, judith bledsoe, has died. i have tried to reach her children without success so details are not available which makes it an even sadder event; their silence a rebuke of the many friendships their mother nurtured over the past several decades.
there are several pivotal events in my long career as an art dealer, one of the most vivid is selling my first bledsoe painting to the daniel’s. “blue house at st. pompon” with it’s vivid hues and little black cat sleeping on the railing of the balcony above the street, was not a large painting, but the joy judith brought to it, with her free brush work, layers of colors applied then stripped away, little border of contrasting hues making the whole a polished jewel, touched this young couple so deeply — they stood in front of it — and later sat in front of it in the gallery’s viewing room while i stood and discussed its merits as a work of art; its emotional pull working on me as well as them.
i was new to the business of art, but i connected then to her joie de vivre (it is best said in french, not english, and no, i’m not being a snob, dropping the occasional french ‘mots’ because i believe it elevates this discourse, it is because it best represents who judith is/was), her obvious happiness, her palette filled with colors that pulled at the hem of your shirt like a child wanting attention but too well-behaved to whine, her brushwork a busy intersection in paris, her adopted hometown.
her studio, on rue falguière in montparnasse, had been chaim soutine’s and it always tickled me to think what the ghosts of his tableaux mortes with their sides of beef, the dead fish, the torture, and the pain of his palette and brushwork now thought of the abundance of life that filled the studio. she once told me that she liked to sometimes strip naked and dance in the night, taking “a moonbath” and scandalizing the neighbors.
of course i fell in love with her before i met her, and then fell under her magnetism, her generosity, her lovely crooked smile and self-deprecating humor, and her obvious, but well-hidden delight at being loved for her art when we finally met that first journeyman year of my art career. she had a way of touching you, physically touching you while in conversation that included you in her fantasies and droll humor, as if you were her compatriot in bohemia, the jangle of her heavy north african jewelry (she had a home on the spanish island of mallorca, a family home where she had been when she met robert and beryl graves as a teenager–the white goddess of graves’s poetry theoretics) an undercurrent to the liberation of spirit that bohemia promises to the staid, the square, the suppressed.
after that first meeting, we saw each other almost yearly until the early ’90s, after which my career trajectory changed, but we continued to stay in touch, exchanging holiday greetings (oh, how we looked forward to our card from judith, always hand-made, with her decorated envelopes and loose-handed script scrawled from side to the other–a card from paris!) and quarterly phone calls to get caught up on gossip, art, life, loves, the troubles and triumphs of our lives. we grew closer.
later in that decade, the opportunity came for our careers to cross again, and out to california she came, her doting fans congregating at galleries, restaurants, museums, and our homes. she and i drove down the coast one day and it is a drive i’ll remember more for what wasn’t said than what was, although the life experiences she shared with me were reassuring in their “it happens to all of us” familiarity. it was watching her look at the passing ocean, the open chaparral, a wistfulness and quietness that settled over her that i’d not seen in her before that has stuck with me all these years later.
she loved liberally and late in life found a soul mate in a russian emigré, sergei, a portrait of whom graces a wall of our home today not unlike the one of him at the top of the three paintings posted here. up until about a year ago, our phone conversations continued to be filled with remembrances, and who, what, when, where. about six months ago when we spoke there was a noticeable disconnect in her voice; she was pleasant, but was complaining that her children “had hired someone to get her from one place to another” which she did not like at all and that they were there now, “cleaning up my apartment” (which of course, more than likely needed it, house-keeping not her ‘thing’), she signed off with a distracted au revoir.
a week ago, a mutual friend of ours called and told me she’d heard that judith had died. a friend and collector of judith’s work had told her he’d seen it on another gallery’s website. i contacted them for details, but they only said they’d forward my message to her children. i wrote to the son using the email address i have, no response; we called her home, no answer, just eerily her recording, “c’est judith. je ne suis pas là…”
ciao, judith, je t’aime.