~ tschüss! ~

August 5th, 2009

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It was pitch-perfect, and though it was offhand, it was mean. Or maybe especially because it was offhand. My mom, Karen, and I were going through box one of fifteen that we had wrangled from her daunting storage space, boxes full of photographs, some of which (okay, 750) would be scanned and edited into an 85th birthday tribute book for my grandpa Boone (after Daniel) by yours truly.

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Yes, I am trying to finish a novel on a deadline, yes I have boundary issues with my family, yes, perhaps it comes down to wanting to being loved, which I am in spades, so next time I’ll remember how to say no, and no, no one else’s family would likely ask one member to summarize the life of another in their spare time, however this is my family and that’s what is happening. ANYWAY.

The truth is I adore Boone and am honored to have my creativity called upon in this task, and I am not alone in the process. So Karen was flipping through the quadrillionth stack of people eating, opening gifts, clustered in smiling groups in front of the rock-faced fireplace my Grandpa built.

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I provided some atmosphere in the form of a mix of Joni Mitchell (who I must say is looking more like Joan Didion every day) I made for Karen and found among her Leonard Cohen and Steely Dan cds. The song in question is Black Crow from Hejira, which deals in insatiable longing in the abstract and endless travel in the specific:

I took a ferry to the highway, then I drove to a pontoon plane. I took a plane to a taxi, and a taxi to a train. I’ve been traveling so long, how am I ever going to know my home when I see it again? I’m like a black crow flying, in a blue sky.

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Then, the woman who the night before (at the 5th Dimension seaside concert, a total Stone Soul Picnic and a topic for another post) had revealed to me that when I was two years old, and she twenty-one, sang American Woman at the Aquarius Theater in an audition for Hair and was offered a part, just rips out a spot-on mockery of poor poor Joni’s high-noted caterwaul “Ohhhhhhhooohhhhhhh!”

When I laugh in astonishment, she says (of Joni songs) dryly, “Well, they can’t all be winners.” And that, ladies and gents, is one of the many reasons I love my mother. And how we could live in her tiny studio cottage together for almost two weeks without killing each other.

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It is wonderfully grounding to be around my family and ponderful in terms of the passing of time, all the lives of people now gone, my own leaf on the family tree, and what it’s all about, anyway. New York was most of my thirties (as San Francisco was my twenties), and now is a new time where we are wanting to put down roots for a while. The vagabond adventure has been very fun, but it has a price, and we are both ready for the next thing I think. Whatever that will be.

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On daily walks along the shore, I pondered thusly (I offer notes, as I must also write a book):

Seeing my parents swim in the pacific together for the first time in decades, getting the heartbreak news of a friend’s cancer, helping another friend through her fifteen-year heartbreak and just so much saying goodbye. Feeling how far away Europe is, how being there is being not-here, how wondering about having a child brings this to focus even more so, the feeling of wanting to root. Am I old now? or is this what I have always done, in cycles? LA, SC, SF, NY, EU. then what?

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I don’t feel exactly like the pig whose house is made of straw, I know if I had been building a brick house all this time I’d be crazy with distraction and boredom and longing. The ocean and writing this book and California, American Dream, the story of my family, the story of Lily’s family. Feeling how far away youth is, far and close as a breath in my ear, close as a ridiculous hair-dye job. The serpent biting its own tail.

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Feeling the weight of my choices, feeling my longing. Choosing has always been the hardest thing for me. I don’t have a tattoo pretty much for this reason, and in my younger days my hair color and romantic partners were on heavy rotation. Now I am married, and I keep my hair (all snafus aside) one shade. Now I live where the daily spoken tschüss! (pronounced t-choose), means goodbye.

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