Pierced To The Root & No Liquor In The Veins

So April came in like a bull with its horns in my nuts. I start­ed this post on April 5th, but I just delet­ed every­thing except the first line and am start­ing over. Why ? Because time + tragedy might equal com­e­dy, but time + time, for me, = glad. Joyce need­ed Tri­este to write about Dublin, and I need at least a week to write about any of the shit that means any­thing to me. A right­eous­ly pissed-off let­ter to some half-wit ene­my, a poem memo­ri­al­iz­ing a still-tran­scen­dent roll in the hay, a fresh take on a script or a sto­ry after see­ing a film — I’ve fired them off count­less times, and every time it was a bad idea.

April 4th was my moth­er’s birth­day. My broth­er and I drove up to join them for din­ner. Join who ? My moth­er shares her home with her full-time care­giv­er, Maria, who cooks cleans and dri­ves her to her hair dress­er every week. She also col­lects stuffed frogs and over­feeds the birds so much the back patio looks like a tiny guano mine, but over the years, Maria has become fam­i­ly to us, and so have her two sons and a daugh­ter, all great and kind peo­ple, who Maria dotes on and wor­ries about much the way she does on my moth­er. She is a Fil­ip­ina, and the agency who found her for us is run by a jovial Fil­ipino cou­ple. So for her 77th birth­day, my moth­er had din­ner at a faux-French bistro in a strip mall sur­round­ed by Maria and her chil­dren, the agency cou­ple, Tere­sa her hair dress­er and her hus­band and their kids, and my broth­er and me.IMG_1777

All of these peo­ple love my moth­er, despite her some­time short fuse and her weak body. When she was younger, she stood near­ly six feet tall because she nev­er went out with­out heels. She did­n’t talk to you, she spoke at you, and God help you if you did­n’t lis­ten. My father sold her his half of the com­pa­ny they owned when they divorced, and she grew it ten fold in a decade. She trav­eled the world, ran char­i­ties, and yet now she seems almost like a plush toy of her­self : soft, short, a lit­tle crum­pled. But she is still the sharpest mind in the room, and she seems to have an almost infi­nite capac­i­ty to treat my broth­er and me like princes. 

For her birth­day, I gave her a gift that almost killed her. For some rea­son I can’t seem to remem­ber she has become wild­ly aller­gic to wool, but luck­i­ly my broth­er looked at the Dan­ish Hay blan­ket before she han­dled it. I gave her anoth­er wool blan­ket three years ago for Christ­mas. Peter is dumb­found­ed that I can’t remem­ber, but not so fast, Pete. Maybe I am keep­ing the best ver­sion of her in my mem­o­ry, Rober­ta in her prime. That sounds right, but the truth is I’ve nev­er actu­al­ly seen her swell up and beg for an Epipen, and I am sus­pi­cious of aller­gies in gen­er­al. That’s some­thing I can work on in the future. Any­way, We nar­row­ly avoid­ed adding an EMT team to our already crowd­ed cel­e­bra­tion, and I more than made up for scar­ing an old woman by bring­ing a car­rot cake dec­o­rat­ed with musi­cal notes for no reason.

If I had writ­ten about her birth­day the next morn­ing, I might have blath­ered about how fat and sug­ar are the new porn, how our lust for it dooms us to medi­oc­rity, and then I’d try to wring lit­tle bit of beau­ty out of some pedes­tri­an detail, like a bunch of dis­parate peo­ple stand­ing togeth­er shar­ing cake. What a blowhard. I’ll just say that my moth­er has some fine friends and she earns them. Her world has got­ten small­er and stranger, but it’s as good as any other.

The next day, I had two offers for my loft. I had been try­ing to sell it since Jan­u­ary, and I had begun to resign myself to the idea that I would have to wait until much lat­er in the year. By Sat­ur­day night it was sold. Just like that. Oskar was with me, so I did­n’t go out to have a cel­e­bra­to­ry drink. I called a few friends but nobody was home, so after he went to bed, I poured myself two fin­gers of rye whisky and let it sink in.

I’ve lived here longer than any oth­er place since I left home. I moved here as my sec­ond mar­riage fell apart, my addic­tion bloomed, and my career dis­in­te­grat­ed. The first year is a com­plete wash. I oblit­er­at­ed the place with neglect and cocaine. After that end­ed, it was hard to feel like this was home, because I was unset­tled, fog­gy, up and down, sleep­less. It did­n’t help that in those days, my neigh­bor­hood was dan­ger­ous day and night. The kind of place where you had to make friends with some of ran­dom home­less dudes so they would­n’t jump you at night, where if you heard shots, you bet­ter duck, because they are clos­er than you think, where if you step out on your stoop at night, a car is like­ly to stop and some­one will ask you how much for some crack.

But things got bet­ter, inside and out­side my home, and over the years I’ve made some amaz­ing friends and I’ve become very com­fort­able here. My son Hunter plant­ed this palm tree when it was in a one gal­lon pot, and now it’s over eight feet all.491363828731877

I always cot­toned to the line in Heat, when DeNiro says “Don’t let your­self get attached to any­thing you are not will­ing to walk out on in thir­ty sec­onds flat.” I don’t like set­ting down roots. I don’t like pos­ses­sions, which is iron­ic con­sid­er­ing how much crap I own. But most of my stuff is mean­ing­less to me. I could move away from here and leave every­thing behind (except my bike, my dog, and my pho­tos). But I will miss the space, the place, the sense of belong­ing to a place. I know what the light is like in the ear­ly morn­ings in the spring and where it will come through the win­dows onto my desk. I know when it’s time to replace the fil­ters on the fur­nace, and I know which stairs will creak when I walk down to the kitchen, and when I open my eyes in the ear­ly morn­ing, I know what the sun­rise will look like.2013-04-11 05.48.27

It’s the first time I’ve felt bad about leav­ing some­where I live. I’ve had great homes, I’ve had a lot of mon­ey, and I’ve always treat­ed these things with con­tempt. Not indif­fer­ence — con­tempt. I worked hard for these things and then threw them away or let them slip away with a sneer. If I wrote this the day after I sold the house, I would have once again exco­ri­at­ed myself and my mis­takes ; I would have milked pity from the dry teat of my shame and called myself a jack­ass, while mak­ing sure to treat the lessons I’ve learned like turds on the rug. More con­tempt. But, thanks to time + time, I’m glad. I’m glad I don’t want to leave this place. I’m glad that I’m ashamed that I am broke. I’m glad that I val­ue what I have enough to wish I had­n’t made so many mistakes.