I knew I would feel like this.
I felt I would know
Things should have been better
My perception then
Is reality now
You can't lose
Something you never had
No matter how close
To have and to hold
Till death do us part
I could feel it coming
Beyond the senses
This feeling of loss
Behind a window
Clear but you can't see
In the sun
Eating ice cream
I wish to be
I could see it would be
The pain in my heart
Of the loss of life
I could see it coming
Just too difficult
To see things this way
I know I will
Always feel this way
Feelings forever everyday.
I haven’t been out on a date with my wife in so long that I sincerely can’t remember. Years. For several legitimate reasons, my wife doesn’t like me very much. It’s a broken marriage and we live together for the kids, and it’s mostly terrible.
But my mom is here visiting, and it was her stupid idea. “Why don’t you guys go out for dinner and I’ll stay with the kids…” So, for my mom, we did.
My wife suggested that we go to the closest place, in the spirit of “let’s get this over with as quickly as possible and get back home.” I foolishly suggested we look for somewhere else since we’ve been to that place and it’s not very nice. My friend and his family had been here for a visit in August and stayed in a nearby hotel with a restaurant, so I suggested, insisted, in the spirit of “It’s close enough and it’s different and let’s give it a try,” that we go there.
There were no tables available.
So we got back in the car and I looked on Google maps, and said, in the spirit of adventure, let’s try to find this other place. My wife hated the idea, but reluctantly agreed. Then, within two minutes, we were lost and arguing. We got very lost on very dark roads in the middle of nothing. Time warps. Seething silence in the car. Then, out of nowhere, a rabbit ran across the road and I ran right over it. I assume he or she is in rabbit heaven now. He or she probably had kids. Sorry, rabbit. My wife was shouting, now, very emotional about the rabbit and the fact that we were very lost, and why hadn’t we just gone to the place she suggested, etc., etc. Finally, there was a sign for a village called Cheste, which I think means “toilet” in Valenciano.
It’s a small village, and the main road goes right through the center and there’s lots of people out, sitting outside at restaurants, or just in chairs outside their house. We decide to stop and try to find something, someplace to eat. Time warp. Ten or fifteen minutes later, which felt twice as long, we’re still circuling the main street looking for a place to park. Impossible. We argue about potential parking places. And the rabbit. It gets worse.
I’m illegally parked on a sidewalk, insisting that it doesn’t matter. It’s a stupid shit village, everyone parks like an idiot. We walk into the village on opposite sides of the narrow streets. There’s a restaurant, and we go in.
There’s no available table, everything is reserved.
We move on. Wandering aimlessly, wordlessly, through the streets. Another place has no tables available without a reservation. I start to wonder if everyone in Cheste goes out to eat on Saturday night.
The next place, some ten minutes walking later, miraculously has a table. We sit down and order drinks, and when the drinks come we are informed that there is no food. We drink, try to calm down, and continue our search.
We find a place called El Sol, near the church, in the center of town. The young waitress says, “well…everything is booked, but I’ll put out another table. Wait here.” I have a beer. We wait. It becomes clear she is waiting for a car to leave so she can put a table in the street. And that’s what happens. While the tables outside the front of the restaurant are under a roof, we are seated around the corner, on the street, between two parked cars, with traffic passing nonstop. I order another beer.
For twenty minutes or so, things are better. I drink two more beers. We have some patatas bravas. A woman walking her dog stops to pick up her dog’s shit and engages us in conversation about what a great, cute dog she has, all the while holding the dog shit in a napkin in her hand. My wife tells her all about our great, cute dog. I go in the bar to get my own drink, impatient for the waitress.
When I return, my wife is gone. I suspect she’s gone off with her new friend, but she has gone to buy more cigarettes, but won’t give me one because I’m always smoking her cigarettes and she’s sick of it, and tells me to go buy my own. She gets a message from our son asking how to work the oven, he’s trying to cook frozen pizzas. Then my mom calls me with the same question. Just then the waitress comes with our main course, and at that very same moment, lightning flashes and it starts to rain.
We sit there for a couple minutes, trying to know if the rain is going to continue, and helping my son and mom cook frozen pizzas over the phone. The rain gets worse. We’re getting wet, but don’t mind it at first, and my wife lights another cigarette. But then the rain gets much heavier, more thunder and lightning, and we grab our plates and go inside the restaurant.
It’s 48 degrees celsius, minimum, inside the restaurant. And there are no places to sit. And everyone is shouting. We squeeze into a space at the bar, which is completely filled with dirty glasses and dishes. We are holding our plates, the untouched main course, which is also a bit wet from the rain, in our hands. A space is cleared, and we soon discover that the meat is inedible. You can’t chew it, you can’t cut it…you can’t even stick the fork in it…it is, quite seriously, like a piece of rubber. We try a few different pieces for a couple minutes, but it’s impossible. We have to spit out the small, chewed up pieces of rubber meat and leave them on the side of the plate.
Our waitress asks if everything is o.k…ermmmm…no. We show her the half chewed pieces of rubber meat. I demonstrate the hopeless attempts at cutting it. She asks if we want to have it reheated it. I say no. We want to leave as soon as possible, please bring the check. Almost ten minutes later, she does, and it includes 18€ for the inedible meat. So, now I have to have that converstation with the nice young waitress. But she doesn’t come back. I suggest we just walk out without paying. My wife goes outside to smoke a cigarette. Time warp, again. It’s almost midnight. We’ve been out for over three hours. I’ve had about 6 beers, maybe 8, and had a few potatoes and pieces of lettuce for dinner, with too much mayonaisse. And I’m sweating and everyone is shouting. I finally wave down our waitress, hand her 25€ for the beers, wine, bravas and salad and say, “No voy a pagar por el entrecotte,” and quickly turn around and walk out into the rain, worried that she’s going to follow me, but she doesn’t. My wife just glares at me and walks off towards the car, but we can’t find the car. We walk around, getting soaked in the rain, lost in Cheste, looking for the car. My wife insists it has been towed because of where I parked it, but, luckily, we find it, about a block away from the restaurant.
“How was it?” my mom asks when we get home. It could have been worse, I said. We had a better night than the rabbit, for example. I pour a big glass of wine and sit on the sofa, staring out the window, listening to the rain, watching the lightning bolts light up the sky.
Amazing, but true. Just when I needed it most, my favorite musician, Eddie Vedder has announced that he has a new solo album coming out soon and released a new song. It’s a very mainstream sounding pop rock song that reminds me alot of Tom Petty and even more of alot of things I write about myself. Such a lovely surprise and some good news when I really needed some good news. Thanks again, Eddie.
Running in the rain
One of my favorite things
Writing haikus, too
The rhythm of words
The sound of raindrops falling
Wind blowing wet leaves
Counting muddy steps
Heartbeat beat, listen, breathe deep
Grey sky, cool clean air
Dog barks, foot falls, birds
All deeper, darker, farther
As the pouring rain
Washes me away
Cleansing my world of worry
Watering my mind
Running in the rain
Rhythm and words like raindrops
I become a song
By Kristin Hannah
My mom is here visiting. Before she made the trip over I asked her to bring me a book, any book, as I know she reads loads and has been in a book club for a million years. She brought The Four Winds. I happened to be using some local flora from the beach as a book mark this summer that looks a lot like the stalks of wheat on the front cover, so I took that as a good sign.
From the back cover: (Actually, the inside of the cover flap jacket or whatever it’s called on these fancy hardcover books): The Four Winds is a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it – the harsh realities that divided a nation and the enduring battle between the halves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.
What a complete load of schmaltzy faff that is. Can you see the team of copy writers around the table coming up with that crap? And that’s just the last of three or four paragraphs! “Stunningly brings to life…”, really? “An indelible portrait of America…” because creating and promoting this kind of “made for T. V.” tick the appropriate emotion boxes PRODUCT is so much of what America is about. The excessive, contrived sentimentality of this book had me imagining it in my mind NOT as a realistic portrayal of one family’s struggles during the Dust Bowl/Great Depression years, but as a Disney movie. Once I came at the story with the understanding that I was reading a Disney movie, I was able to get through it. Disney should make this book into a movie. It is tailor made for Disney.
I’ve just done a bit of research, and it seems this authors previous book has been made into to a movie… So there you go. But even still, I’ve read a lot of Stephen King and John LeCarré books that have been made into movies, and they were no where near so obviously contrived for a movie adaptation as this book is.
Anyway, it’s about 450 pages, a long story about this woman named Elsa, a reluctant heroine and dedicated mother who goes through hell and high-water for her children. Though it is was obviously and annoyingly contrived sentimentality, I’m a sentimental soul and as my mom had given me the book, I couldn’t help but think of my mom and her love and dedication to her children. There is no love like a mother’s love. I cried at the end.
So, thanks for the book mom. I’m glad we don’t have to escape the Dust Bowl and live in poverty as migrant “okies” in Hoovervilles in California, living day to day, hand to mouth, but we have had our own struggles and obstacles and dreams and hopes in our family, and your love, strength, courage, wisdom and guidance have gotten us through and raised us up. I’m so proud of you and proud to be your son. Thanks.
The whole story is in this woman’s eyes. You don’t need to read the book, just look at this picture. If you really want to know what happens in The Four Winds, just wait for the Disney movie.
By Susan Fletcher
From the back cover: “1692, Corrag, a wild young girl living in the mountains of Scotland, has been imprisoned as a witch. Terrified, in a cold, filthy cell, she awaits her fate of death by burning – until she is visited by Charles Leslie, an Irishman, hungry to question her. For Corrag knows more than it seems: she was witness to the bloody and brutal Massacre of Glencoe. But to reveal what she knows, Corrag demands a chance to tell her true story. It is a tale of passion and courage, magic and betrayal, and the difference that a single heart can make in the great events of history.”
It’s that heart, so beautiful and broken, that makes this story so spell-binding. The author informs us at the end of the book that the characters and historical events are real, but the story is a work of fiction. Corrag existed, but the author has created her story and her truly mesmerizing meditation on life and the world she lives in and the people who fill it. The story is told entirely from Corrag’s perspective, as she tells her story to Charles Leslie through the bars of her prison cell. Each chapter ends with a letter from Charles to his wife, relating his views on Corrag’s story and the beautiful ways she tells it, with her deep insights, from the heart, about nature and human nature, with “an eye which sees the smaller parts of life.”
Her eye, her perspectives, come from the heart. I’ve lived this way, by heart, not head. “What life are we living, if we don’t live by our hearts? Not a true one. And the person living in it is not the true you,” Corrag says. The inner voice, intuition, instinct and impulse… Faith in the self, soul, inner wisdom… Belief that there is more to this life… And that there is life in everything, but very few can feel it, and those that can then find a deeper connection with and a deeper responsibility for our world and others. This way of feeling and trusting my heart has been the foundation of who I am, spiritually and externally. Am I a witch? Bewitching? Having this sensitivity, this natural connection, in the heart and soul, to our natural world and human nature, almost a “second-sight” or a sixth sense, is very much who I am and how I have come to be. The author of this book, through Corrag, spoke directly to that deep aspect of my spirituality, so deeply felt and so difficult to describe, so, like Corrag, I tend to ramble on and repeat myself alot… Saying the same thing a different way. This happens alot in the book. And I understand it.
Corrag’s connection to the natural wonders of Glencoe and the Highlands of Scotland… And her connection to Charles Leslie… And her love for Alasdair were all so beautifully described and genuinely poetic. Corrag has stayed with me, and I would love to meet her again. I enjoyed this book very much.
One last thought. At the end of the book there is an interview with the author that includes a list of ten poems. This was the first I chose to find, and I’m very glad I did. It’s by Carol Ann Duffy.
Thought of by you all day, I think of you.
The birds sing in the shelter of a tree.
Above the prayer of rain, unacred blue,
not paradise, goes nowhere endlessly.
How does it happen that our lives can drift
far from our selves, while we stay trapped in time,
queuing for death? It seems nothing will shift
the pattern of our days, alter the rhyme
we make with loss to assonance with bliss.
Then love comes, like a sudden flight of birds
from earth to heaven after rain. Your kiss,
recalled, unstrings, like pearls, this chain of words.
Huge skies connect us, joining here to there.
Desire and passion on the thinking air.
We watched the sun go down
And now it's coming up
Somewhere in the time between
Babies were born
Can't deny nature's laws
Dreams made to fade
Clouds dropped rain
Phantom pain in my brain
Is all that's left
Life loves loss
Mix the dark into gray
Waves wash them away
All those yesterdays
Let them go in the undertow
Landing like an albatross
Open your eyes baby
Let's hear your wild cry
Show me what you can do
Be you, new
I haven’t touched the guitar in a couple weeks, but wanted to play today, and thought I’d share this awful improvisation to show my appreciation for all those yesterdays. As fucked up as they were sometimes, I wouldn’t be who I am today without all those yesterdays. And of course, all those yesterdays start adding up and before you know it, you’ve made another trip around the sun. Congratulations! I hope you enjoyed the ride. You’ve got time. You’ve got time to escape. There’s still time! It’s no crime to escape! It’s no crime to escape! There’s still time so escape!
By Nicole Krauss
From the back cover: “A heartbreaking meditation on loss and memory and how they construct our lives.”
I’m full of loss and memory. When my parents divorced my dad went to live with his friend Bruce, sleeping on a futon in the basement. Bruce was a very eccentric hippy who had inherited a fortune and a very great house that was filled with exquisitely cool furniture and decoration and details that defy explanation. One room was full of the most 1970s style furniture and asthetic, with shag rugs and bright colors; another was furnished with dark, rich mahogony wood antiques, with mother-of-pearl inlay and 1920s Art Deco style details; there was an enormous pool table in a room with red velvet wall coverings; the living room had a skylight full of ferns hanging over a slate stone coffee table surrounded by low sitting white leather couches that made the room feel like a garden. More: the t.v. was one of those huge consoles from the early days of home entertainment, over two meters long and one meter wide that included a stereo and record player and boasted of “hi-fi” sound; a hot tub, of course; an iron stove in the kitchen and the first microwave I had ever seen; a spiral staircase that led to a second floor sunroom with wicker furniture and three massive fish tanks. I visited Graceland, Elvis’ famously eccentric house, and seriously, Bruce’s was wilder and better in so many ways. Bruce also owned a 1950s Studebaker AND a DeLorean before the DeLorean became famous in Back to the Future, but he drove a Harley Davidson (Don’t ever try to outrun a State Trooper, he told me, with a swollen nose and two black eyes. It only ends bad.) And a customized brown van with carpeting, swivel seats and a stained glass window. The distinguishing feature of this great house, you see, was the stained glasswork. Everywhere. Bruce and my dad were professional stained glass… well, “artists” seems like a stretch, but certainly artesans. They were constantly designing and making and selling lamps, windows, window hangings, mirrors, garden accessories, candle lanterns, etc., etc. The house was completely full of their work. The basement was a workshop, and the whole great house was a studio. One particular piece stands out in my memory. On the back porch, where the hot tub (which Bruce also built himself out of wood), one entire wall was removed and replaced with a stained glass wall with an intricate Chinese dragon design that also served as a sliding door opening into the garden. The detail is so vivid in my mind’s eye. Speaking of the garden, the last time I saw Bruce, in 2008, he invited my sister and I over to see the giant glass and stained glass pyramid, with copper pipe framing, that he had constructed in, or, better, over his back yard. It was a small, (small being about 10 meters in length and width at the base and maybe just as high) scale replica of the famous I.M. Pei pyramid outside la Louvre. The top half of the pyramid was beautiful stained glass windows, but it was open below. It was incredible. My lasting memory of Bruce is him standing in the center of the pyramid that day and showing off his expert nunchuck skills. Nunchucks!
My father got his own place eventually, but continued making lamps and windows, but then remarried and that part of his life slowly faded away. I have three pieces of my dad’s here with me in Spain. The most precious is this lamp that he gave us for our wedding present.
This is the only piece of furniture I have any concern for or connection with. My father made it. It’s a beautiful gift and it reminds me of Bruce’s great house. My children understand that if one of them breaks it, let’s say with a thrown pillow or stray football, they will be immediately escorted out of the home and not allowed to return until further notice. If our home caught on fire, it’d be the only thing, besides photos, that I’d really be upset to have lost. I might be sad about my childhood Teddy as well, but that’s a different sentiment.
All of this gets us to the book, Great House, and the desk at the center of the story. The connection that different characters develop with the desk, and the way the desk connects the characters is what got me thinking about my father’s lamp and the history behind it. I have a photo somewhere of my son as a baby, with his head on my shoulder, staring at the soft light of the lamp. The photo would just be another photo if the lamp was from Ikea. But this photo is my new son connecting with the spirit of my father, through a lamp. The story behind lamp, the sentiment and emotion it imbues … Wait… How can an inanimate object like a lamp or a desk imbue sentiment or emotion? Exactly. But they do. Memory, nostalgia, sentiment. Animism is the belief that all things, even inanimate, contain a soul or a spirit. I hold on to sea shells and pens, dried flowers or bird feathers, teddy bears or tea cups, because I’m somehow connected to the spirit inside these objects, the memories and lessons they inspire.
The desk in Great House inspires a succession of writers, and much of the book details the delicate and deceiving dance of the writer’s muse. The author describes the deepest turmoils and turbulations of the characters most affected by the decades long voyage of the desk through Nazi occupied Budapest to London and New York. Its owners and their friends and family discover their connection to the desk is far more meaningful than they understood. The inner lives of these characters are deeply explored, and it seems the author believes that we are all, in our deepest places, speaking to ourselves with the same voice. The voice, tone, cadence, motivation, ideas and emotions of an elderly Jewish man are virtually the same as a middle aged American woman from the Midwest. This is my one quip with the writer. Whereas The Slap was very adept at creating and showing different characters and perspectives, most of the characters here seem to feel the same inside. That is, their internal thoughts, (there is almost no dialogue in the story… it’s all happening in retrospect) all not only sound the same as written, but are not distinguishable from the character in the previous chapter. Not everyone can experience memories and loss, and loss of memories, the same. Right? And if they do, at least each of us would use our own way to describe it. In this book, each character’s way is the author’s way.
It is, however, beautifully expressed: “… I thought of my childhood, of my mother and father who are both dead now, but whose child I cannot escape being any more than I can escape the nauseatingly familiar dimensions of my mind. Now I am fifty, Your Honor. I know that nothing will change for me. That soon, maybe not tomorrow or next week, but soon enough the walls around me and the roof above me will rise again, exactly as they were before, and the answer to the question that brought them down will be stuffed into a drawer and locked away. That I will go on again as I always have, with or without the desk. Do you understand, Your Honor? Can you see that it is too late for me? What else would I become? Who would I be? “
Despite my criticism about the author not making the character’s inner thoughts more distinctive in voice and person, it’s probably true that most people who have felt like this and have had “a heartbreaking meditation on loss and memory and how they construct our lives,” would express it in fairly the same way. I know I have, and I know I do.
I recorded this before, as a tribute to my dear friend, BoJack Horseman. But now that I have an electric guitar to play with, I thought I’d give it another go. It’s a beautiful, sad song. Some might say “bittersweet”. Which reminds me of a story. In August of 2018 I was in the U.S.ofFn’A with my family, but even better, in a Walmart, and while my wife shopped for cheap bathing suits with the kids, I wandered around and found myself opening up a bunch of “Back to School” Crayola crayon boxes and pocketing the Bittersweet crayon, because…right…because…, it seemed really important at the time. I see myself from above, like watching from a security camara, surreptiously opening up a box of crayons to take just that one, and can’t help but wonder why I did those things. I once got caught trying to steal two Pearl Jam CD’s from the FNAC on Champs Elysees. A security guy wrestled me into a back office and they took my passport and credit cards and made things VERY uncomfortable, but I KNOW why I was stealing those CD’s. For myself. And I was broke. But stealing a crayon? Or a piece of cake? Or a butterfly bookmark? Or a book? Why did I steal those things? Does it matter? Somewhere in the world there is someone who will lie, cheat and steal for you. Don’t ever forget that.
Bittersweet. I was at this concert in 1995…a very Colorado band in the most Colorado venue…I saw lots of shows at Red Rocks, including Pearl Jam two nights in a row a few weeks after this BHTM show…good times, dude…good times.
Bittersweet memories of bittersweet stealing bittersweet songs bitterweet places and bittersweet crayons.