On The Cutting Edge
I'm fading. Seven months ago they said to stay home. It would only take two weeks. Flatten the fucking curb. They lied.
Instead of two weeks, a lot of them are now saying that things will never go back to normal. It wasn't like my life was all that great to begin with. Hell, my body hurt and everything took longer to do when I could muster the energy to do it. My wife took a notion to leave and left me and then she died. My dad died too right before she did. Next my mom broke her hip and now has a hard time getting around.
Life goes on after a fashion, but the idea of putting all the grief away, or even leaving it behind is something of a joke I like to tell myself but never really believe. To do so would lighten the load considerably at times, but mostly would not only untether me from the reality of my grounding, my time and place, it would eventually leave me floating a few inches above the ground looking for something to grab a hold of. My greatest desire would then become to dig a hole a few feet deep and plant then my two feet inside it and cover them with dirt just to have some solidity to refer back to.
I was watching a movie recently and it had Emma Roberts looking bright and fresh and very pretty. The story took place in New York City among art shows, coffee shops, Manhattan apartments, and nightclubs. Freddy Hightower played the love interest, an overly sensitive young man with great artistic ability. When I see movies like this it stirs my soul and makes me think about the all of the time I did not spend in New York City amongst the beautiful crowd at parties in lofts and then later watching the sun rise on the Hudson River with a lady who had Audrey Hepburn's eyes.
Last week, I watched a documentary about antiquarian book sellers. It said that at one time Fourth Avenue in New York City had over a hundred used books stores lining both sides of the street. I love used book stores. They remind me of the times my mom took me to the library on Saturday mornings. It was amazing how discovering stories about the Greek gods and goddesses could color up an otherwise unimaginative situation.
Over one hundred used book stores! What I could have done with that. I would plan to go through two of them a morning and then take the afternoon to sit in my apartment and read by the window with a small balcony. All I would need to have was a bed, a chest of drawers, a small desk with a computer, a nightstand in the bedroom, and a living room given over to two or three floor to ceiling bookshelves.
There would be large, overstuffed easy chair and a reading light. I would spend two hours writing about what I had read before I showered and dressed to go see a play or concert. At times, I would sit in a cafe and have conversations with people who read as much as I do. At other times, I would call the lady with the big, bright eyes and sit by the river watching time slip away to the ocean.
Everytime I get in a mood like this I start comparing the live I could envision with the life I actually lived on the southside of Corcoran. I gotta admit that Corcoran always comes off looking more than a little shabby in the comparison. I'll think about the opportunity of hearing Elvis Costello playing in a small club in Greenwich Village versus the ZZ Top concerts I actually saw in Bakersfield and Fresno. I like ZZ Top, but I love Elvis Costello. And I figure that any artist would try a little bit harder to be cool in New York City. I argue this point with my brother and he always mentions the time he saw Grand Funk Railroad in Houston. I just roll my eyes. I once saw a play at the William Saroyan Theater in Fresno. I've never been to Broadway. I would have loved to have seen The Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway.
But then a simple understanding snaps me back to this gritty little world that I inhabit where dust comes nightly to settle on our cars and our furniture, sometimes so thick what we can plant wildflower seeds on our furniture. It is a town where we know our homeless people by their first and last names, and we have eaten the food of every restaurant so any times that we longer get the thrill of eating dinner out.
I get to the point where I start wishing the life I actually had away, trading it for a world of wishful thinking and wonder. That thought usually breaks the spell because it would mean a devaluation of my entire life. It makes me realize that every scar, every broken heart, and every frustration, every attempt, and every failure was filled with existential meaning several times over. I cover my eyes with gauze and vaseline, trying not hard to see the road ahead, and always end up longing for the good old days that never really were. And by doing so, I often miss the fact that the only thing I've ever accomplished, that we have ever accomplished, was always living on the cutting edge between yesterday and tomorrow.
We've all been kissed for the first time and fell in love. Sometimes it was glorious and sometimes it hurt like hell. We've all stood at side of grave containing someone we loved. Most of us have heard a song or two that filled our heart with tears or joy.
I make myself realize that, in my universe, the touchdown I caught playing frosh-soph football was every bit as important as The Catch. At least it was to me.
I learned a lot of lessons in this small town. I learned not to drink peppermint schnapps my freshman year of high school. I learned how to roll a joint in high school too. I learned how to read at Mark Twain Elementary School, a place I'll always revere.
I learned that getting over a divorce is lot like chewing broken glass and that losing a father no matter how old or lost he is, diminishes a person. I learned that raising children is both the hardest and the most rewarding thing that we can do, and it often hurts more than anything else.
I also learned that the kiss I stole from my first girlfriend while watching Haley Mills in the Parent Trap at the Corcoran theater was every bit as powerful and wonderful as that kiss that George Peppard laid on Audrey Hepburn in that last scene of Breakfast at Tiffany's.
And that's something, I suppose.