Sunday, July 11, 2010


I didn’t tell anyone my plan. It seemed unreal. That night I had an early birthday dinner at a Kielbasa place in the East Village with the former therapist I knew from ACOA and I did not tell her what I was planning. I wondered if she liked me as more than a friend.

The next day I went to a clothing store on 8th Street that specialized in Woolrich and Dockers, clothing well beyond Brooks Brothers but modern only to me. I purchased a cool pastel bluish and reddish earth-tone wool sweater, the sort of thing until so recently I would not wear. There was something familiar about the design, though there were no reindeer on it. I knew the nights and probably days too would be cool or cold in the north.

I called Jason and arranged to use his place on Lake Champlain. He said hIs wife’s brother might be there but that with four bedrooms so there was plenty of room.

Before going to dinner with Gillian I stopped at her apartment, which I had not visited before. She shared it with someone she did not know but who needed a roommate and was rarely at home. A cramped but quite new and tidy little place over in the East 20s, not far from the Quaker meeting house where I would go on Saturday mornings, not for pacifist Quakers but for the often fierce ACOA people. Gillian had never been to the Quaker place. The only ACOA meeting she attended was the one on Sunday nights at the Corlears School. Only this one meeting a week of the many meetings that were available every day around Manhattan.

Her limiting herself to only one meeting felt tight and claustrophobic to me. But then so too did the fact of her English accent. Maybe this was my problem and not hers. And anyway the overall optimism and hope I felt included that I, and maybe she, could do anything I and maybe she seriously wanted to do. Optimism that felt like foreplay.

Her apartment was a couple of very small rooms and a kitchenette built around an area that was like an abbreviated hallway. No windows. A television set. I found she had been playing a video of the hyper-sentimental Frank Capra/Jimmy Stewart movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Which felt like Mario giving up Toscanini in favor of the positive-thinking Doris Day. I did not tell her that ever since I had first discovered poetry and serious entertainment I had had a horror of sentimentality. Again I kept silent and concentrated on her intelligence and looks.

And I did not tell her that I had once encountered Jimmy Stewart. He had been in my father’s class at Princeton and was the featured speaker at my own class’s pretentious senior dinner shortly before graduation. His hair was died almost yellow for his then current role, which was as Charles Lindbergh, a movie it seemed to me nicely timed to fit with the lingering days of McCarthy and the more subtly awful Eisenhower. His entire talk was about the evils of communism and the heroic figures in Hollywood who opposed it, including the heroic figures who betrayed their colleagues and friends.He practically had ready for sainthood the hack director of lavish, ignorant biblical epics Cecil B. Demille.

And I didn’t tell her how I felt about her her cramped little place that had no light in it, any more than I told her I hated Princeton, and fascists like the Nazi sympathizer Lindbergh and like Jimmy Stewart of cliché spouting roles and the budding inquisitor Jimmy Stewart of actual life. This betrayal by Jimmy Stewart whose cliché movie world had seemed, when I was a child, to offer me an alternative to the coldness around me. And I was glad I could contain myself here with this lovely women, and I wondered why it was usually so difficult, and I wondered why I was so angry.

On the morning of the trip. I call to make sure she is ready. She says she had been thinking, and it is seeming like this trip is not such a good idea. Why don’t we forget it?

This plan to enter the most beautiful place on earth and also the belly of the beast with this picture perfect blonde girl.

Like that time on the phone with Jacqueline when my anger at her went, click click click, back through my anger against so many people, mostly women, all the way back to my mother. This time it is going back click click click again, but only from Gillian to the blonde photographer and back to Jacqueline.

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