Exciting news! A chapter, “A Photo for Your Wallet”, from my memoir-in-progress, “The Photo Box” has been published online by Bull Men’s Fiction and is currently headlining their home page. Click here to read it!
Posts Tagged ‘relationships
yes, you’ve been dating and you think it’s been going along quite well. you’ve met the parents. you’ve gone on vacation together (7 days alone!) there have been intimacies shared (you, at least, spilled your guts. the ocean on the other hand has remained aloof, washing garbage ashore in response to your latest revelation.)
if you weren’t so passionately in love, you’d be able to see that the relationship is going nowhere.
but yet, you continue to hope that you’ll win the ocean over. i hate to break this to you, you know i have your best interests at heart and although what i’m about to say will hurt, please know i mean no malice–we’ll always be friends–but, sweetie, the ocean doesn’t care about you; never has, never will. yes, yes, here take my handkerchief, you don’t want your mascara to run–you must put on a brave face. you’ll find someone else (and under their breath you hear, “not fucking likely.”)
little moments. unexpected relationships. a leaf, a feather, concrete. it’s remarkable to me that a leaf has so much in common with a feather, is it not to you? a lost feather is to a bird what a fallen leaf is to a plant. and there is the why, of course, oftentimes unanswerable, and granted one could argue, “well, that’s nature taking its course,” but to the plant and to the bird, is it not much more? i may be imposing myself upon these living beings (can a plant be a being or is it a just a living thing? discuss.) existence or nothingness, cycles (for every season–already running through your head, we are after all, filled with the triteness of our everyday existence and we cannot help but skim it off the thoughts that are always so close to the top of our consciousness, that deep, cool pool–yes, in all of us. i guess one could argue that that is what separates an artist from the rest of us–the ability to express themselves without resorting to the tried and true; dipping their hand down into the darkness and grabbing at what lays there and bringing it into the light of our consciousness; our responsibility to listen, see, touch, feel.)
the contents of a purple spiral notebook started this:
not all revolutions are organized, some are more organic, & as they develop momentum they attract more & more participants (often without even knowing they are part of this revolution.) such is my case. oh, i knew something had changed (& changed dramatically,) but if you had asked me at the time, say shortly after september 1973, how i felt about being a part of this major shift in the social fabric of our country, i would have had to say, “what shift?”
i only knew what had happened to me. none of my friends were political, although we knew we wielded a certain power (& still do) & maybe we were cognizant of a force, an energy that propelled our lives as a group; we were more vocal, less afraid, ready to stand & fight if needed (we did, respect followed.) we were suddenly everywhere.
one of the reasons, i believe, that the movie “the wizard of oz” is a favorite of so many of my fellows (& fellowettes, if i may) is that dramatic shift in tone from the black & white kansas scenes & *bam!* like that, the technicolor of oz. that well describes what was happening in cities around the country after the new york summer of 1969 & the stonewall uprising. lives lived in black & white were suddenly awash in color. you may not be able to grasp the difference or even care, but i’ll tell you this, it was grand. it was liberating, it was freedom, it was ownership, it was time.
this change may not have seeped into the hinterland & consequently there was a great migration (a watershed, a deforestation, a culling); new arrivals everyday, trains, buses, beat-up old cars (& new ones too); the ellis island were bars & restaurants & maybe a friend who had made the move the year before.
it seemed at once completely open & yet still hidden (the sex part.) it was the attraction of one to another that dragged behind the social movement; there was still so much condemnation of the physical act hanging around inside our minds that moving our love to the front still seemed too difficult a task.
we could not reconcile our desire with our upbringing. (substitute the plural for the singular.) at first i fell in love (a lot,) but not everyone fell in love with me, which i could not understand in light of the revolutionary zeal swirling around us. wasn’t it supposed to be different? why would we want what they had? but there were these barriers, social, political, cultural that many of us still carted around & threw down around us when the need arose (and oftentimes when it did not.)
although i had a rich circle of friends (not money-rich, well some, but mostly we were all working, scraping by, there were still road blocks to hiring in fields outside of what was expected: waiter, hairdresser, florist, designer, clothing salesman,) i often found myself alone. i walked along the lake shore, i rode my bike along the lake shore, i took the bus along the lake shore, i sat in my studio apartment on the 11th floor & watched the sun set in the west.
& i wrote about it. i wrote so i wouldn’t forget, regardless of its literary merit (i’m only publishing it now for illustration,) & granted i did not write about it enough. the lingering fear of loss (my first journal stolen in an armed robbery months before) a brick wall.
friends & lovers (but never classified as lovers, but what else to call them? we made love once, twice, weekly, on occasion, whenever we were lonely or would find ourselves at last call & why not? it beat being alone,) came & went.
i’ve been thinking about the loving part a lot this week, due in part to the discovery of this old purple spiral notebook (originally marked for french 361, explication de texte, my sophomore year at moorhead, oof, stendahl’s “le rouge et le noir” & camus & balzac & “fleurs du mal” a spectrum of french literature, en francais,) but instead of finding graded papers inside, i discovered bits & pieces of time. standing still. the weather captured in a single line, my feelings, & my life in my early twenties, a window display for passersby to peer at & wonder if that outfit would look good on them.
but i cannot find the words to talk about that loving or perhaps i do not want to find the words or even this could be the wrong place to discuss the loving. so many times it was desperate, clinging, hopeful (this one!), so many times it was wrong, it was forced, it was forgotten. all of our expectations were based on what we had seen growing up, we had no role model for love (or for sex, i make the distinction, because as men, there is a distinction, please don’t try to deny it.)
i envied those in committed relationships, but felt stifled when i thought i might be in one (this before i did finally, completely fall in love,) i desired the continuity & yet fought against it as if it were the reason we rioted for our freedom (which may yet be true.)
perhaps you can understand this apparent storm cloud of conflict that still rages within me & perhaps you can’t. it does not matter to me, but what does matter is that time did stop this week. i looked at these jottings & notes & lovers that came & went (some i remember, some even still alive & friends, & others i have no memory of,) & while storm clouds roiled & tumbled (ink scratches & squiggles like the lines above) in real life, i was able to look to my past & see my future.
let’s say you’re being interviewed by barbara walters in prime time & not on “the view” (it could happen.) she’s asked you about your success at/in/because of ________ & you’ve plugged your most recent book/movie/stage play/feat of heroism & then she pauses, looks you in the eye as she licks her lips (you know what’s coming, her publicist gave your publicist the list of questions ahead of the interview, but because your private jet was late arriving in nyc & your iphone/blackberry/android ran out of juice, you had just received them minutes before the interview, but you did know she was going to ask you this): “wobert, what painting are you?”
it’s not “what tree are you?” & consequently it’s a much more difficult question to answer. if you’ve any relationship with art, the answer suddenly becomes fraught with pitfalls & potholes. there are so many to choose from! they each represent such diverse emotions! if i say ______ by ___ _______ will i sound elitist? but if i try to identify with my market share, & answer _______ by ____ _______, will i be perceived to be common by my peers? but i like them both, you opine!
“today, barbara, i am _______ ________ by ______ _______,” you state, “but tomorrow or even later today, i might be ____ __ by _____ ______, because i am many different paintings & could not possibly choose just one to represent who i am.”
fernand léger 1881-1955 french, composition indienne, 1942, oil on linen, h 940 mm w 800 mm, signed and dated
atelier fernand léger, no. 134; galerie louise leiris, paris; perls galleries, new york; thomas gibson fine art, london
literature: georges bauquier “fernand léger”, le catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint. maeght, paris 1998. tome vi, 1938-1943, no. 1095
last night our next door neighbors tom & bill (not their real names. all the names in this post have been changed.) threw a going-away party for our neighbors, mary & joe (one house over) who have lost their home to foreclosure. shit happens & this post is not about the whys or wherefores of mary & joe’s financial management capabilities. all we know (or care about) is that they’ve been wonderful neighbors over a decade of living in our community.
the evening started out on the patio accompanied the tinkling music of the fountain & the setting sun. as the beer & wine began to ease conversation, the 9 of us gathered around the table & shared stories about our day/week/month/job/or lack thereof/the crazy neighbors/the noisy neighbors/the messy neighbors & how we’re suddenly the ‘old’ people in the community as many of those who came before us have either died or moved into ‘assisted living’ facilities (which was also a topic of conversation.)
as usual with summer in southern california there was a mash-up of patterns (plaid & stripes & florals, both hawaiian & mainland) without much to-do (it’s been my experience that they invariably sort themselves out.)
the table was beautifully set, sparkling & shimmering with candlelight & silver & shiny ceramics & the scent of roses & decanted wine filled the air. the pitcher of lemon water sweated sweetly on its trivet as we juggled & giggled our way into our chairs.
there was no need to talk about the elephant in the room (not the republican elephant, although we did discuss politics — surprisingly not everyone is a bleeding heart liberal in our group, but everyone was respectful of the opinions of others & if we didn’t completely convert those on the right, we at least all agreed that government should help those who need it most; the indigent, the poor, & those whose disabilities inhibit their independence.)
bill, one of our hosts, hails from the eastern seaboard & illustrates his conversation with a bevy of gesturing that not only emphasizing the point he is makng, but also is extremely entertaining. if you comment on it, he’ll just say, “what?”
a few weeks ago, for a video project at work, i spent several hours watching unused footage from a documentary about the childhood of artist _____ _____. because i have worked for the family of this man for many, many years, some of what i saw & heard was already familiar to me, & although i am familiar with his work, his writing & much of his life, i still find little revelations popping up in his story-telling (truth & fiction) that are completely captivating & charming.
even when the tale was one i’ve heard or read several times in the past, he could & did sometimes add a little nugget not revealed before that made the telling all the more revelatory. & naturally, as he was never without a pencil & a pad/sheet/stack of paper, he would draw to illustrate (sometimes) what it was he was talking about; at other times he would draw almost as if it were an automatic extension of the words not coming from his mouth (letting the drawing do the talking.)
as happens whenever you have this kind of familiarity with a subject, what may on the surface seem/be familiar, depending on what’s happening in your life, the moment/the word/the deed may resonate more deeply with you than it had in the past. so during this several hour project i found myself listening to little explosions of truth that seemed directly aimed at my own life.
i believe we can all agree that that’s what gives reading/watching/listening (i.e. involved in the enjoyment of the arts) its purpose (resonating with our lives.) those moments when you discover yourself inside a work of literature, art, music, dance. it could be that you recognize yourself, a characterization, a reflection of your personality, the resolution of a problem in your life in the words/thoughts/deeds/movement of an artist.
this is what i heard in one of the videotapes: “my wife & i decided early on that we did not want to argue, ever. instead of asking why, we ask ‘what happened?’ and that has made all the difference in our relationship.”
no accusatory ‘why?’ instead the engaging ‘what happened?’ tell me what happened. that simple turn of phrase completely diffuses any situation & puts you both on the same side. of course, it takes some strength of character to manage that, because aren’t we all wanting to be on the right side? the side of reason/truth/beauty? but by simply saying ‘what happened?’ you balance the scales & can calmly proceed to learn to meet head-on & manage the little conflicts & upsets that plague all relationships.
warning: it’s not as easy at sounds. i am still working on bringing that phrase to the light of day. i will say that i am at the point of at least recognizing that it’s an option & i believe i may have used it (it works!), but don’t expect overnight success. you may expect a softening, a deflation of overwrought emotion, a stillness will descend, a conversation will follow, resolution will be at hand (easily in reach, instead of a distant shore.)
tell me, what happened.