- Have you ever met a man who didn’t look great in a tux? I haven’t.
I live in a city where the opening night of the opera season is still an Event. Men pull their tuxedoes from the back of their closets, practice tying their bow ties and search out the studs for their dress shirts. Some of them even polish their patent leather shoes to their glossiest shine.
Women visit their hairdressers and their manicurists. They plan their ensemble for the evening weeks in advance. Some of them, like me, put in extra hours at the gym to fit perfectly in that favorite gown.
Despite all this forethought, I experienced wardrobe malfunction Saturday night as I readied myself for Bennett to ring my doorbell. I pulled on my flesh-colored sheer pantyhose. I looked with dismay at my feet with reinforced toes. Wrong. My dress calls for my open-toed black sandals with glass beads decorating the straps. Reinforced toes would destroy the whole outfit.
I almost forgot this one. Just remembered it this minute. Something truly sad and momentous happened once when Bennett and I were together.
I forgot about it because this event took place fifteen years before we met. We were in the same room only a few feet from each other, but we were strangers and never spoke that evening.
We pieced it together when he was telling me about his past as an amateur musician, playing the clarinet and singing lead vocals in a band. He had just started spinning his tale of a bizarre night when I interrupted him, saying, “I was there. I know exactly where you’re going with this story.”
As he spoke, I could actually picture him all those years ago in his tuxedo, standing at the microphone, singing. Alan, my ex, and I danced to his crooning that night.
Bennett looked kind of like bandleader Artie Shaw fifteen years ago.
Two days after leaving Kinsale I heard my saddest song. Ireland touched me unexpectedly.
My mother’s roots were solidly Norwegian. Her ancestral traditions dominated my childhood. I never gave a thought to the 25 percent of my makeup that’s Irish.
That is, until the day in 2005 I stepped off the plane in Dublin airport. Then every gene fragment in my body that harkened back to one of my two Celtic great grandfathers demanded attention. I was home.
We were so happy, the three of us, perched on our rock outcropping. The simplest of elements scattered around us added up to our happiness; a few empty bottles of Harp, crumbs from a package of Dubliner cheese, the last few slices from a loaf of fresh cottage bread, a couple of apple cores, blooming yellow gorse and fog.
The thick fog obscured any view of the Irish fishing town of Kinsale below us, or any glimpse of the sea spread out to the south. It enclosed us in our companionship. Just the three of us, we sturdy hikers, had reached this point. No one existed but us: Alan, my husband; Reggie, our long-time friend; and me who still, in 2005, occupied that sweet spot of treasured wife and valued friend.
My friend, Patrick, sent me poems (What’s He Thinking is thanks to him). He was the only person who did. But he spent these last few weeks of summer slipping away from us, day by day. Friday I sat by the side of his bed, chatting and laughing with his nephew/namesake Patrick. My Patrick smiled and fluttered his hand at us to let us know he heard, but he was too weak to speak.
When the pain grew too great he clasped my hand while his nurse dripped soothing morphine between his lips and down his throat. When I left I kissed his lips, his hands, his forehead.
Monday morning I called to ask if he was entertaining visitors. In my heart, I knew the answer already. Patrick died Sunday night.
The bells toll this morning for my friend, Patrick (An Air That Kills), who died last night.
Twiggy thin may have been cute when I was 18. Not so much now.
My long-time marriage imploded so quickly and completely that I was left crumpled in the rubble. My body consumed itself in shock. After struggling for ten years to lose five meager pounds, I dropped fifteen in less than three months. After a lifetime of sleeping deeply and peacefully, I’d lie awake for hours. Some nights I didn’t sleep at all.After a life time of loving to read, nothing made sense. I’d go to bed with The Atlantic Monthly, which I habitually consumed cover to cover, and not one sentence, let alone a full paragraph, could penetrate my battered brain cells.
Only when I’m with Bennett. I swear these things only happen when Bennett and I are together. First, we stumbled on a John Philip Sousa concert in small town America. That’s when he decided things happen around me (see Adventures Happen). He also decided he wanted to stick close. To experience more, I guess.
Now it’s the State Fair. Our State Fair is the best state fair in our state.
No, this is not Bennett and me. He’s not quite this good looking. This is Ann Margaret and Pat Boone in the 1962 movie, State Fair.
His dog greets me first, one of those leaping, tail wagging, friendly animals, golden retriever, I think. Oscar is his name. Happy as can be, wants everyone to like him. What is it they say about dogs and their owners, they’re a lot alike? Couldn’t be truer in this case.
His owner stands at some distance, by the river bank, phone to his ear. Doesn’t smile, doesn’t wave, doesn’t acknowledge me at all. “This isn’t a good start. Not like him at all,” I think as Oscar and I while away an uncomfortably long time
The phone finally goes into his pocket as he heads in my direction. He stops further away from me than normal social convention dictates. No welcoming hug or kiss on the cheek or even a hand shake. Totally out of keeping with the way I’ve seen him greet other women, the safe ones; the beaming smile, the warm embrace. But this has been the unspoken rule between us, no physical contact. (Read Toying and In the Circle of His Arms.)
I spent the last two weeks immersing myself in the blogoshere. Know what I learned? If I want readers, I need to tell people what to do.
I need to tell you how to grow tomatoes, grind your own baby food, knit an afghan, photograph a field of sunflowers in southern France, start a new business, change the oil in your car.
How could I be so dense? All these postings I’ve sent off to you, and I’v never told you how to do anything.
Know what else I learned? If I want lots of readers, I need to tell you what to do in the kitchen. Not only what to cook and how to do it, but which specialty machines and rare utensils to use while you do it.
I need to morph into a combination of Julia Child and Martha Stewart.
“What’s the problem with that, Georgia?” you sensibly ask me. “You’re intelligent, aren’t you? You’ve proven to me that you’re adaptable,” you kindly add.
I like to think I’m both. What I’m not is a cook. I could not possibly be less interested in the process of changing raw food into anything edible.
But here it goes, here’s my effort to step on that path trodden so successfully by Julia and Martha.