Thursday, December 10, 2009


Back in the present in this ACOA time I keep going to the museums and galleries. And without planning it out, I am also going nearly every day to the parks. Sometimes I combine the two. Paintings in the Met, from Medieval times on. Behind the Met, trees and vast lawns in Central Park. On a rise the hieroglyph-covered obelisk that I had been told when was a child is called Cleopatra’s Needle.

And a 20-minute subway ride away, paintings in the Brooklyn Museum by people I had recently discovered, from Daubigny to Deibenkorn to Prendergast, and just outside the museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, new to me in this time. Orchards and stand-alone trees and bushes from around the world, and a Japanese garden so accurate that Japanese tour groups come to it. And plaques near the Japanese Garden for the “Brooklyn Walk of Fame” with such names as Barbra Streisand and Danny Kaye. And some Greek columns too, not far from a careful patch of woodland featuring local flora, such as I knew well in childhood roamings in Connecticut. These plotted out bits of the natural world fenced off from the possible chaos of Prospect Park.

On a path near Columbus Circle at the southern end of Central Park I meet a red-headed nurse, Annie, to discuss travel plans. I need to go to California for an article I am to write for Penthouse about the Philippines’ near civil war, and Annie is trying to break out of her nurse’s world by getting into the travel business. We sit on a park bench and chat not so much about plane tickets as about ourselves and people we know from these meetings. Close up, she seems to look out on life with a certain confidence, kind but knowing that much of what she sees is the raw material for jokes. A comfortable body, not exactly young but with youth still in her. I like her.

There is scattered snow but the uncovered grass I can see is still very green. She talks about Astoria, where she lives – her amazing view from across the East River of the Manhattan skyline. She says she is sure she will be in relationships again, but now she is concentrating – like me – on overcoming the past – which for her started in a big boozy Irish urban family in some outer borough that sounds to me now remarkably like my past in a controlled size Anglophile family in the summer version of the White Mountains. Though these two places barely share the same planet. I echo her words when she speaks about not being interested in new relationships right now, citing my very recently and bitterly ended marriage and not mentioning the time afterwards with Jacqueline and then Susan. When I say I am not interested, I do not believe what I am saying.

But that is not the only thing on my mind. Annie was one of the first people I heard talk in ACOA, which was barely three months ago but seems like years. I had not even considered liking her then. It was as if I heard my relatives, being nasty about the mundane place and people she came from. It was as if the only way I might be able to talk with her would be to adopt my brother’s or mother’s or Cousin Rob’s special tone for outsiders who do not seem quite real, much less up to certain standards.

And then in that the first time listening to her I saw her a wave of liberation swept through me. Maybe I would never again have to think this way I had been thinking. And this possible liberation raised questions about what aliens were resident inside me – questions I had not asked in all the years since I had at some point in early childhood decided to be the bad twin, eventually going way beyond the family, even at the expense of being seen by them as coarse if not dumb.

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