Posts Tagged ‘children


plumeria (and disappointing phone conversations)

stored in a shoebox there is a letter from my mother that reads in part: “i am writing to you after our disappointing phone call today to let you know…” (at one time in the not too distant past, people used to write letters to each other — on paper — address an envelope and stamp it, mail it using the united states post office — no one called it the postal service — i’ve kept a lot of these letters, not just from my mother, but from my friends and relatives as well. they’ll never be published, you know, as “robert patrick: letters 197_ to 198_”, but they do give a little insight to what was happening in my life at the time.)

but back to “disappointing phone calls”: i had two yesterday. one with a friend who lives in paris and the other with a friend in chicago. it wasn’t until i had hung up with my friend in paris that i realized something was wrong; i’m not sure she knew who she was speaking with…she is elderly, and she admitted that her children had arranged for people to come and check up on her every day and get here and there and back again. when i asked if she’d been painting, she replied, “not for at least a year now.” which saddened me as there wasn’t a time that i’ve known her when she wasn’t in the middle of some revelation, breakthrough, new insight, and applying the news in paint on canvas/paper/tennis shoes. that’s 31 years of creating and that’s just the time i’ve known her. when i shared the news i had of two recent deaths of people she knew, she seemed disinterested, cold even.

and so, when i hung up, i realized that she sounded not unlike my uncle who has alzheimer’s…relatively reasonable about “how he’s doing”, but a little hollow and perfunctory, as if he were being polite to a stranger. <sigh>

the other phone call was with a friend whom i’ve know for as long as my painter friend in paris. this one still in chicago and struggling financially, still in her home, but barely, working two jobs, going without electricity one month, gas the next, or some other important daily necessity just to make that mortgage payment. i relayed my news, but she would not let me get a word in — her diatribe relentless (relentless diatribe = redundant, but true) and off-putting, for what was i to do, but listen and murmur agreement? finally, i said “i love you, but i have to go now.” and she quieted down and we parted–still friends, still sharing, still suffering.


agapantha (and memory exhaustion)

I had no idea it would make me this tired.

at a certain age, let’s say mine for instance, if you stop for just the briefest moment and contemplate all that has come before; the nap in kindergarten on the rag rug, the beret in germany, the leash your mother used to keep you close by when you were a toddler, the smell of your father coming home from the post, having your faced buried in your grandmother’s bosom as she hugged you tight, learning to read, the triumph of an ‘a’, the infatuation of a third-grader for his teacher, the smell of jurgens lotion (chocolate covered-cherries), petey bird  pepper cuddles charlie brown, boy scouts, boys club, big brothers, boys state, secret crushes, snapping sherry’s training bra in 6th grade, disappointing mr. robinson in 8th grade, “petunias never cry in an onion patch”, being teased for your femininity-your ‘otherness’, being beat up, playing the cello piano recorder (none that well), not being able to carry a tune–but so desperately wanting to, your first play, the laughter of the audience–the laughter you caused, applause, straight ‘a’s, your secret boy crushes, your sexual experiments with the neighbor boy your age, your mother, mary, grandparents, uncle, aunts, the sissies, learning to drive, that red pick-up and then the ‘mud queen’, a sort-of-girlfriend, the lack of caring when it failed, college, getting drunk, smoking a joint, french class, theatre, train trips, minnesota winters, sugar beet processing plants, acid trips, making out with girls (and boys), communal showers, dancing, ballet, modern, isadora duncan, chicago, your first blow-job, the goodman, friendships that start sticking, trips home as an adult, going it alone, roommates, apartment living, moving, helping friends move–the piano in the stairwell debacle, a cubs game, the ‘el’, an erection on the 22, black girls with transistor radios blaring, walking home during the day, late at night, the first taste of chicago, summers, winters, falls, springs, waiting tables, lenny, jimmy, john, michael, lee, mr. king the salad queen, michel, arnie, klaus, bill, toni, the pakistani contingent, the fat fuck of a maitre d’ whose name i can never remember until i’m away from writing materials, but whose face and handlebar mustache and grasping hands and leering eyes–little piggy eyes–i can recall clearly, punchinello’s, turtle soup, pudgie, le pub, disco, the hustle, polyester and bell-bottoms, boyfriends–most of them i remember, some have slipped the knots and run away from my grasping need to document every little fuck-and-suck, the thief, the priest, the cellist, and his lover, red high-tops, drinking wine at l’escargot, getting picked up on michigan avenue by my lasalle street banker, lovers who liked to watch from a cracked door, holidays and birthdays, celebrating, drinking (i know i mentioned that before, but it bears repeating), making ‘herbal’ tea out of stems and seeds of the last of the bag of marijuana, smoking cigarettes–kools, marlboros, merits, benson & hedges, camels, gitanes, espresso, lemon rind, miller beer, and asti-spumante, laura nyro, joni mitchell, labelle, and joan, i’m sure there are others, but what do you care?, and i’m not even 28 yet; uptown, downtown, mid-town, and soho, the meat-packing district, the mudd club–my punk phase (only because the boys were cute…and easy), black flagg, henry rollins (lust), the russians, the french, the english, i claudius, violet and wally, 4 flights of stairs, despair and the agony of loss, euphoria, the manic-depression of going nowhere (fast), 29; you may find yourself dead-tired.

p.s. his name is gerard, the maitre d’ whose name i can never recall–it came to me in the shower just now and even though i had no writing materials at hand…i managed to make it through washing my hair, peach scrub my face, body wash, stand under the rainshower head and stare off into space, dry myself off, open the door to let the steam out, shave, moisturize (what? you don’t?), dress, and get to the computer with his name still on my lips. i guess i’m not that tired after all.


palms (3)

i know i shouldn’t assume, but…

there are times when i think my head will explode at the insensitivity of my fellow man.

this time it’s personal (isn’t it always?) you’ll forgive me, but i’m going to single out a group of humans — heterosexuals, let’s say, and not to generalize, i’ll select one in particular (i do worry about the rest of you, though.)

a woman that i know, close to my age, with one child and a husband, that i also know, came up to me the other evening before a committee meeting that we both serve on began and said, “i have to show you this,” and as she pulled out her phone she looked at me again and continued, “but you won’t care about this, what do you care about children?” and turned to another heterosexual standing close by and went on, “you’ll love this video of my twin nephews laughing, it’s so sweet and delightful.” she pressed the play button and i was excused.

i ignored the snub and looked anyway and said something complimentary about how cute they were; we had our meeting, we left, end of story. except it isn’t, because, for the life of me, i cannot get over how hurt i am by her assumption — gay men don’t like children — and by her insensitivity to my feelings. am i wrong to feel this way? do you heterosexuals just assume gay men/people don’t like children and don’t have any interest in the triumphs and antics of small children? don’t answer too quickly…dig deep down and examine your feelings on this topic. because, you know, you should.

the fact is i love children. children and i get along famously and always have. i’m delighted that there are people on this earth who are willing to give up so much to continue producing and raising children–many of them do this job well (and many don’t, but that’s a story for another time).

i can’t bring myself to say anything to her; usually i’m not that shy, but this time it’s really set me back. maybe one day i’ll get past it and chalk it up to the battle we are still fighting to be recognized as human beings just like you.


or else

get the meetme app or else…

five teeny weeny planes flying in formation, expelling (and spelling) an advertisement for some whatever app (like we need to be more connected…what happened to chance? you know, the chance meeting of friends at the local watering hole, or over coffee at the corner diner or maybe not at all, until later, say tomorrow?) are you so unsure of yourself by yourself that you must let every person you know, know where you are? (this is where i would normally insert a pejorative, an exclamation using the name of the son of god or the like, but i’ve sworn — pardon the pun — off saying ‘jesus’ for the day. everyone needs a break once-in-a-while, like a palate cleanser.)

but i digress from what i really wanted to comment on was “or else…”, what parents say to their children, “clean up your room, or else…”. after hearing that “or else” for maybe the hundredth time, you probably realized that it meant nothing, just like excessive praise is a lie, because even you know that that last drawing was shit. (hey, i said i was laying off saying ‘jesus’, not a word about all of the other fine swear words at my disposal.)

it’s not my intent to make light of the use of threats by parents as i cannot speak for you or you or you, but for me (and it is my name at the top of the page after all), the threat of “or else” was often tempered by the tone of delivery and that is truly what we read as children and what we use to gauge the severity of the “or  else…”. more often than not, the “or else” i heard had the same shelf life as the “or else…” spelled (expelled) by the teeny weeny planes flying over the southern california coast threatening beachgoers and outdoor mall-walkers and parents with their children in strollers, or the surfers off salt creek beach; it just evaporated into the blue of the afternoon sky.


yellow, pink, blue over you

we talked about having children,

but assigning colors by gender confused us, so we didn’t. (the reasons we didn’t are more complex than that and are, frankly, none of your business, but the whole “pink is for girls”, “blue is for boys”, and “yellow is for ‘we don’t care as long as the baby is healthy'” tropes — or have they slid into the cliché category? idk — continue to disturb us, at least when we think about it, which isn’t that often & in the case of this post is what first came to mind as i looked at the photographs displayed here.)

we do continue to think about having had children, having made that decision years ago when we were younger–and every-now-and-then, a little pang of regret may catch at our side–somewhere near our kidneys–and a wistful sigh may escape our lips when we see the joy they bring to our friends who have children — grown or otherwise — but we know we made the right decision for us and as a result we can look at pink, blue, and yellow without the slightest thought of gender assignment.


how to spoil an 8 year old’s christmas (but just in case i was wrong, coordinates provided)

30°  this morning, saturday, december 24, 2011, as i was facing south at 6:49 a.m. pst, the sun came up and spread a pink blanket of light across the ocean

-117°  when i turned to the east at 6:52 a.m. pst, its fiery heat lit up the sky in oranges licked with red which, for some reason, reminded me of…

…i don’t recall taking pleasure in spoiling my cousin’s christmas in 196_, at least not at first, although after his tears had subsided, no doubt assuaged by the mountain of gifts set before him by his doting parents, it may have come to me that speaking the truth may have unintended consequences — some that you can control and others that you cannot; you just need to remember to assess the risk/benefit factors before opening your mouth which is not always easy at any age (i speak from experience.)

banished by grown-ups to the rec room in the basement (or bored by the grown-ups we retreated to the rec room on our own) on christmas eve, he and i, never close to begin with, stood facing each other across the pool/ping-pong/foosball/game table and not knowing what else to say, but feeling pressure to say something, i blurted out, “you know, there is no santa claus.”

i stood there and watched as his face crumpled, his eyes welled up with tears, and a wail of disbelief left his lips, but by this time, just seconds after speaking the truth, my ears were burning and humming with blood, drowning out any sounds–watching him in pantomime then as he ran up the short flight of stairs from basement to foyer and up again to the living room (split-levels, you do remember them, don’t you?), the deep pile of sculpted carpeting like quicksand, all of this in slow motion, me following to see what would happen.

if only there were more to tell.  all i know for sure is that evening a shift in our relationship occurred and although we were cousins born the same year just two days apart, living in the same small town, we never really ever were friends.


labor day (& lists)

have you ever really considered labor day anything other than a mark on the calendar?  it is the end of one section of time & the beginning of another.  for children & their parents, it denotes the end of summer vacation & the beginning of the school year (mostly); for the rest of us, it’s the last long weekend of good weather (mostly) before the winter holidays drop by for their yearly visit (welcome or not.)

some cities celebrate labor day with a parade, others ignore it completely.  labor unions may mount a sit-in, a demonstration of some sort against the inequities of the rich vs. the poor.   this event may be covered by the local t.v. news organization, but half-heartedly & without the passion they reserve for the latest celebrity imbroglio.

rarely do the people who actually labor for a living have the day off (maids/day laborers/gardeners, you know, the help.  i don’t know that labor day will actually ever mean what it did when it was enacted as a federal holiday in 1894 (whatever its meaning was then, you know, though, just as it would be today, its enactment as a holiday was politically motivated.) <sigh>  we are witness to the disengagement of the populace.  it’s true, no one cares ( there are those poor white folk who are feeling a tad disenfranchised these days; their institutional bigotry pinching their narrow-mindedness like a badly made shoe.)

but it’s labor day & we should celebrate (hallmark, are you listening?  i’m waiting to see that first labor day greeting card, then it will be official.)

we’re getting close to ‘list season’, the time of year when all publications & media outlets along with their writers, critics, essayists (are there any left?) & pundits all contribute their ‘best of’ lists (like used tissue when you have a cold.)

i’ve never been very good at making lists of favorites & i’m not sure why.   it could be that i can’t remember everything that i’ve ever read, seen, or heard (the arts are notorious for their lists, aren’t they?), at least on cue.

it’s much more pleasing to me for a memory of a favorite to bubble up unbidden, such as this morning’s memory of labelle performing their hit ‘lady marmalade’ which i would consider one of my all-time favorite albums, but would’ve probably not remembered it if i had been making  a list.

how could i ever make a list of authors?  just now, at lunch, i was reading about a new book of letters between author james salter & critic robert phelps that’s just been published; salter is one of my favorite authors, but i hadn’t thought of him in ages.

oh, it’s easy to come up with a quick list: cormac mccarthy, henry james, p.d. james, nadine gordimer & lawrence durrell, lawrence, d.h., & tolstoy, rushdie & marquez (gabriel garcia-) but my god, how could i even consider that complete (don’t forget thomas hardy!)  & that’s just the novelists, what about the poets?  & how could i possibly rank them?  yes, i might be able to say that a few have given me greater pleasure (if the number of their works i’ve read were the benchmark,) but to place a #1 or #2 or a #10 next to their names would be very painful indeed.

and that’s just the written word.  forget movies & music, how could you even start?   it’s just too much work (for labor day.)



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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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