Tuesday, June 15, 2010


So I was on my way to White Wings where, in an airy upstairs bedroom when I was four Gaga had invented a bedtime game called “Throw the Baby.” You were supposed to hurl a stuffed animal as hard as you could against the wall and shout “Gosh” when it hit. And he also softly sang old songs, including one “The man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo, and “That’s why a nigger’s hand is white inside.”

But ours was not a musical family. Gaga had come close be becoming a concert violinist. but when still young, in this story, he had put away the violin forever, something for which I never heard an explanation.

On a perhaps related subject Nana told a story after Gaga died of how Gaga had once been in one of his clubs with an old man who had been a famous violinist, but after personal misfortunes had stayed too drunk to play. At the club one night the man decided to play one more time, though he had not played for many years. Someone found a violin for him. And this one last time he hit every note and phrase with such perfection that old clubmen were in tears.

There had been a little music from Nana downstairs at White Wings, which was where she had first played the piano and sung to us in French from a songbook that had drawings of soldiers slashing each other’s limbs off and people having their heads severed by a huge blade while they knelt. These pictures I could not forget of blood spurting of headless necks and the places where arms and legs had been.

“Throw the Baby” and the French mutilation scenes were part of the case I had been building up since the winter as I was looking for situations that would help me expose my supposed love ones, whom I had taken to calling “these people,” referring to them the way some bigot would refer to dirty poor people. Though even as I built the case against them, I could not deny that the these family houses had been in the most beautiful possible place in the world, and moreover it was the place where I could go beyond what was the failure expected of me in our family unit in Connecticut. I had taken inspiration from Gaga and Nana’s accomplishments and kindnesses, and most of all from how fact they seemed to take me seriously. The White Mountains had been for me a place where I could become the things I had been told in Connecticut were for my brother but would never be possible for me.

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