Friday, January 14, 2011

Going Back Again

For years it worked, move on to something exciting – Bangkok, Cuba, a revolution in Africa, girls and art in Port-au Prince, more adventure in Jordan or Taipei or Panama city. It relieved the depression and I did not think of anger – but each time my new state would come to an end whatever was around me. And the anger and something dark and immovable were still there.

So this too was on my mind, this puzzle about my anger that I seemed on the brink of resolving, on my mind as I entered places of the past in 1986 out to get the goods on the family malefactors – with more questions arising at each stage of the hunt.

And I thought of that very recent breakup with Jacqueline when while she was on the phone to me, while she was saying it was over, my white hot anger returned, and click click click, I was shouting angrily back thorough the years at Mary in my recent marriage, at Sheila, whom I had told I would return to Singapore to fetch, at Sunisar in her gold lame gown in Bangkok, and at Bonnie for whom I had left Sunisar, and moving on back through hyper sensual Kentucky Janet to Helga from Zurich, my long time lovely painter girlfriend Valerie, and back into hopeful adolescence with Sandie and especially Ellyse. And to places from which I had been, in the language of those times, eighty-sixed – a bathhouse in Peitou, Bradley’s in New York, a gentile hotel lounge in Nassau, a bar in Hong Kong where when you sat down with a girl they brought you a roll of toilet paper. And then, picking up again, going click, click click all the way back past Ellyse, all the way back to, of all people, my mother.

Last Gasp in Chelsea

These plans, anyway, were circulating. The one that seemed close to a paying off, the light personal experience book, Twins in the American Century, this funny situation of my twin an I traveling the world but always on opposite sides, the people he was connecting with wanting, and sometimes trying with success, to kill the people I was connecting with, and vice versa – it seemed funny when I talked it, but not when I tried to do the sample chapter. But anyway the worst of the plans, the travel series on the West Indies and the dull Bahamas, was ready to go and an offer seemed on the way and Amy was coming from Rome to join me in this first leg – something like the way I thought life should be. It should be like Amy looked.

My cousin Elizabeth, who until this year I rarely saw but with whom I had had a black sheep’s bond, died just before our departure date. It had seemed like the bone marrow transplant was a success and then she had fallen apart, wound up on a respirator not in the city but in Westchester near her tight family’s little Scarsdale world. Died on a respirator after saying she would not be well for she wanted to die, because of the things they had done to her.

I went to Scarsdale for the funeral, where not long ago I had gone for my uncle’s funeral, a big stone Episcopal church that actually had a British Union Jack flag draped off to the side of a tidy stone alter, and where they read from the Book of Common Prayer, which we knew was so British, and it reminder me of childhood in the New Hampshire summers, this church where my brother and I took up the collection and where they would actually sing God Save the King. These people.

It also reminded me of life outside the family. Once Nana has told me that Aunt Marjorie had had a bad experience for there was a problem in her church. At a Scarsdale country club a boy one of the girls had invited to a dance was asked to leave when it was discovered he was Jewish. Later I heard the story from his perspective, for I later discovered it had been my old friend, the brilliant Walter Karp. The problem for Aunt Marjorie was that her Episcopal minister had criticized the country club, and so the parishioners has had him removed.

After the church service everyone went first to Elizabeth’s mother’s house for drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Aunt Marjorie pointed out that this had nothing to in common with the wakes that other sorts of people, like Irish and Italians, staged. My wife was there. She had appeared at the church. We had been Elizabeth’s friends. This was first time I had seen Mary since that violent night in Chelsea. But she decided not to go along in a limousine caravan to a sprawling Brooklyn cemetery where, it was constantly pointed out, prominent people were buried, and where Elizabeth’s three little children looked like children who had been left by the side of road.

I hardly paid attention to these children, however, as if they had nothing to do with me.

I had gone 36 hours without sleep by then for I wanted to get the island plan right, more for possible publication than for this immediate sojourn, before we left. I went back to Chelsea to sleep to a few hours, and then met Amy at the airport.

Cousin Elizabeth dead. The others still alive, except for Cousin Paul who had been killed a few years back, The others still alive but, I thought, but in precarious lives. Cousin
Richard back drugged our and sexed and back from California to spend the rest of his life with his mother. Lawrence, whose theatrical ventures were getting more and more precious, Jonathan always on the verge of being caught out , because of his kleptomania, even though he had a PhD now and had once been an Eagle Scout.

I knew without knowing exactly how I knew, that Elizabeth’s death was only one of many death’s looming. And I kept thinking, even as circumstances seemed so different, of death in the air. My twin brother had sent me a letter suggesting I give up everything and find a dull job because I should remember that we had nearly 30 years left to live. Peter always had it figured out. Fifty years when we were 21. Then for a time 40 years, and now 30 years, and the time shrinking fast.

Was that what I had to fight? That in the family I came from, as made clear in the present by Peter, death had always near.

And I did not feel depressed. No clear path ahead, nothing like what I would have predicted, but nonetheless alive and invigorated, as in a dash to outrace death.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

November summary

And now it is November, two years after that strange cut-off time in the rented room. I still live on that block, but for two years I have had a bright airy place of my own with a view over an abandoned garden and then rooftops – and those wonderful wooden water towers– the view leading almost to the Battery. Two years, the first being an attempt to put everything back together – plans and schemes and this blonde woman in from Rome who went with me to the Bahamas, and everything was wrong. And those events that made it impossible for me not to see what that family came from was all about, even though there were the exciting parts I the family story – socialism and the writing of well reviewed novels. And then there had been an unleashing of everything I has kept in while unaware I was keeping most of it inside me. And then the plunge into the past, the plunge into the stories.

And now it was November and I was back in the north country again, for the fourth time in a year, this place I usually had though I thought I did not need to see again, back this time on a rescue mission, which almost ended before it started when I got caught in a full whiteout, snow that suddenly began while I was driving through Franconia Notch, one of those storms that in family lore could come up any time and kill you, like projected attacks by Mama bears, or rusty nails that could give you blood poisoning, or an out of nowhere lightening bolt – back here in Sugar Hill where all the summer people had lightening rods on their houses. Staying now with my old friend Mickie in a White Wings where I had spent the first three summers of my life before being moved to White Pines.