• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Now come and join the living, it’s not so far from you

My daughter has three outfits spread out on her bed. This can only mean one thing: we’re officially excited and anxious about going back to school tomorrow. Dear Reader, I could lay out three thousand outfits tonight and I don’t think I’d be able to cure what ails me. Of course, everything is fine. Better than fine. I have some exquisite projects to sell this month, The Hose and I finished a really solid first draft of our pilot, a stalled novelist just sent me pages that rocked, the revision for Forest for the Trees is coming out in a month, and I actually found a couple of hours today to get in the hammock with the Franzen and look at the sky.

Do you ever have the feeling when you look at a person that you see them at age seven or nine? You see the child in the adult? Or as you’re walking the dog and looking at the houses, you feel your heart could break for all the shrubbery? What of your own tray for salt, pepper, olive oil, and vinegar? What of your own kitchen window with its two clay birds, one from Italy, one your daughter made and painted orange? Do you ever think about the exact way in which people put food in their mouths and chew? I can’t believe we dress ourselves. I can’t believe we have cars! I can’t believe people still make things.  My gray dress with the peter pan collar. I have one picture of my father holding me. I have forty notebooks. I have a pharmacy in my head. I want to wake up with a hard on. I want to wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep. I want to wear something spectacular.

What about you? How are you feeling?

40 Responses

  1. Whelp. Lemme start off by saying, today I had a dream that one of the agents with the full offered me representation.

    She hasn’t.

    How’s everyone else.

  2. After sixty (!) days of over 90 degree heat/humidity, we had a cool autumnal day. Dancing in the street in celebration! That was yesterday. Today, the heat returned.

    I want to run through the cascade of cold water from an open hydrant in the street as I used to do in New York City.

    I really want to wake up tomorrow and say, “Yes, I’m going to sit down and write right away.”

    A bit of ennui. That’s what ails so many of us.

    And, yes, I do look at the adult and think about the child s(he) once was. Especially if they’re in trouble and in the news. I look at their disdainful or scared or defeated expressions and think about how once their parents tickled them and sang lullabies and made sure they were fed and…safe.

    Sometimes I wish that I could see the trees. The forest always gets in the way.

  3. i had a tripod dream last night and the anxiety hangover lingers.

  4. >>Do you ever have the feeling when you look at a person that you see them at age seven or nine? You see the child in the adult?

    there should be a word for this

  5. Like a tofu curd in a steakhouse.

  6. I watch people’s mouths when they eat. It’s probably very rude of me. I try not to be too obvious. They tend to favor one side as they chew.

    Numb. I feel numb.

    • I’ve recently met a grown man who moves his tongue around in his mouth while he chews and he also has nothing against talking through the process. Njoy.

  7. I’m feeling like this post was kind of … beautiful.

    “I can’t believe we dress ourselves. I can’t believe we have cars! I can’t believe people still make things.”

    I can’t, either.

    ” … you feel your heart could break for all the shrubbery? What of your own tray for salt, pepper, olive oil, and vinegar? What of your own kitchen window with its two clay birds …”

    This is a poem to me.

  8. Writing second book of two book contract: I’m so afraid of chapter 3, I won’t stop writing chapter 2. I’m only going to have to chop it up, but I can’t make myself stop. Fear of failure is paralyzing.

    A good friend’s sister kicked off with a heart attack yesterday. She was 55. I’m 51. The necessity of quitting smoking is making me depressed.

    Twitter makes me feel inadequate in ways I never imagined.

    Otherwise, I’m okay. Due to house guests and some out of town time, my visits to BetsyWorld have been sketchy of late. Woe. I didn’t notice if you posted anything about London. How was it?

  9. Tomorrow I look at a one-room studio to live and write in. I feel apprehensive. I rmay rent the room, but probably won’t write anything in it that anyone else will ever read, which makes me sad.

  10. After reading that short page I feel love. It is so easy to forget sometimes. I always see people as what they were when they were innocent, this also creates love in me. I’m wired that way. As far as people eating, I don’t trust people that don’t eat like animals and need a Heimlich once in a while — perfection is too contrived to be honest. And since the morning sun has yet to let me go without a hard on, morning is a great thing, a great thing. The honking, the clanging, the chattering, the deep breath, the deep breath. All in all: gotta love it.

  11. I have one picture of my mother holding me.

    Gorgeous regret and wary love is how I feel.

    • As a now old pop song once said, for the love of life, only the strong survive. Whatever you decide to do with your very much human lot, don’t worry; for, in 100 years or less, no one will know that you ever existed. That’s the ache of it, especially when you’re pointing out the flowers and such to your kids who gave you the gift of their innocent minds, and then some. Sadness, what a strange and powerful force (It’s not depressing!).

  12. Betsy, it’s the nausea as experienced by Sartre:

    “This moment was extraordinary. I was there, motionless and icy, plunged in a horrible ecstasy. But something fresh had just appeared in the very heart of this ecstasy; I understood the Nausea …”

    “Strange images. They represented a multitude of things. Not real things, other things which looked like them. Wooden objects which looked like chairs, shoes, other objects which looked like plants. And then two faces: the couple who were eating opposite to me last Sunday in the Brasserie Vezelise. Fat, hot, sensual, absurd, with red ears. I could see the woman’s neck and shoulders. Nude existence. Those two—it suddenly gave rne a turn—those two were stillexisting somewhere in Bouville; somewhere—in the midst of smells?—this soft throat rubbing up luxuriously against smooth stuffs, nestling in lace; and the woman picturing her bosom under her blouse, thinking: “My titties, my lovely fruits,” smiling mysteriously, attentive to the swelling of her breasts which tickled . . . then I shouted and found myself with my eyes wide open.”

    “I got up and went out. Once at the gate, I turned back. Then the garden smiled at me. I leaned against the gate and watched for a long time. The smile of the trees, of the laurel, meant something; that was the real secret of existence. I remembered one Sunday, not more than three weeks ago, I had already detected everywhere a sort of conspiratorial air. Was it in my intention? I felt with boredom that I had no way of understanding. No way. Yet it was there, waiting, looking at one. It was there on the trunk of the chestnut tree … it was the chestnut tree. Things—you might have called them thoughts—which stopped halfway, which were forgotten, which forgot what they wanted to think and which stayed like that, hanging about with an odd little sense which was beyond them. That little sense annoyed me: I could not understand it, even if I could have stayed leaning against the gate for a century; I had learned all I could know about existence. I left, I went back to the hotel and I wrote.”

  13. Also reading Franzen. Who isn’t? Unfair, if you ask me.

  14. Got up yesterday morning happy and ready to finsih the revision of the second book in the series that my agent (Yes!!) asked for. Then….
    My sister emailed that my mother was in the hospital and then my mother called and said my two sisters were fighting over her- one wants to put her in a nursing home and the other wants her to stay home with caregivers. Me? I don’t give a shit. Sounds souless but my mother watched as my father abused her kids. Leave me alone….I have to take my meds. You’re not imcompetent, Mom, you’re old. do what ya want. Then…my son who I have been taking care of after an accident came up with his cold shoulder to me after I brought him hundreds of dollars worth of groceries. I came home and wept. He’s just like my ex! Then. . .I turned on the news and got royally pissed because I ‘m tired of the left and right dissing Obama for everything down to how big a hamburger he eats. If people think things are bad now, wait until the Rs takeover. We are a spoiled nation…who’s for the philosopher king. Then I went out to take care of my roses and saw a black snake–portends! Then turned on the tv and watched three episodes of Golden Girls…ah, it was a good time, those ladies were actually kind, worked in their community, laughed….so I flipped around to do some comparisons…death and screaming all around us, and that was just MCNBC.
    I took an antiva,n curled up with a book called A World Made by Hand about how we here in America will survive after the collapse of government. A really, really good book. I was heartened, I always wanted to live in a community of good souls and plant carrots.

    ah, that felt good….thanks, Betsy! Now I can write and I’m turning off every form of communication so the world will just fuckin’ go away.

    • Oh man, sorry to hear all that Lyn. I’ve been having mad family drama myself. I’m trying to learn to compartmentalize better so that when I sit down to writeat my computer, none of the rest of it even exists. Magical thinking.

    • That damn snake intruding on my peaceful rose time would have been the end of my day, Lyn. You kept going. Cheers. Can’t wait to read the books.

    • Awesome. That’s not soul-less at all. Maybe I’m not well-read enough but I have found very few books where someone writes that sometimes your mother is unlovable. Especially if you had to live through her nightmare. My youngest brother dived out of an 8 story window last year and after a few months of reconciling with my mother and siblings for a couple of months over his death the blame game got so ugly I had to go back to my strategy for sanity by blocking their calls and hoping they would just go the fuck away. Their rewriting of history got so bad I started to question my own sanity, trying to nice to people I honestly believe don’t deserve a second of my attention. So far, so good. Sometimes I need to turn away from popular wisdom about love and family so I can save what little love I have left. Good form, Lyn.

  15. This thread reminded me of the little boy in my second grade class. The one with curly blond hair, china blue eyes, pink cheeks, and a dimple in his chin. The one who needed help to sharpen his pencil and open his milk carton. The one who grew up, broke into a house, and bludgeoned a man and his wife to death.

  16. I am bitter about something someone said to me last night at the bar. I worry what she said might be true. The sun is out; I work at my kitchen table, which badly needs cleaning. It could be a lot worse.

  17. Great post, great words. It really does soumd like a poem and it sounds uniquely you. Love it.

    The images reminded me of the Marie Howe poem What The Living Do (excuse formatting):

    …But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
    say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

    for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
    I am living. I remember you.

  18. I’m stress-free today. Looking forward to trimming the shrubs and continuing my fall cleaning. Maybe I’ll go grocery shopping–or maybe not. I’m going to buff my nails anyway. This evening I’ll be lounging on my deck with a notepad for when inspiration strikes. Going to bed by 9:00pm. It will be a lovely day.

  19. It’s time for a diet.

    I know. I don’t like it either. I’m consoling myself with a leisurely trip through the grocery store, looking for things that will make me feel virtuous.

    Blackberries. A bag of Ranier cherries. Fuji apples and two elastic-wrapped bunches of asparagus. Fat juicy tomatoes and corn on the cob and tender baby lettuce.

    I can handle this diet thing.

    A lady walks by, almost bumps into me, and smiles her apology. She’s what I always think of as old Vegas. Very showbizzy. Her hair is piled in perfect looping curls on her head. I would imagine she visits the hairdresser once a week and has a shampoo and set.

    (Her hairdresser is her own age, I’m sure of it. They go way back and spend the whole visit chatting about people they both know, and the price of stamps and gasoline and bottled water.)

    She has a lovely face. She was a tiny beauty once, working downtown when Vegas was young. Clearly she was a performer. Her posture is irreproachable. Her smile is gracious and scarily unchanging.

    I wonder what her house looks like. I imagine it filled with brass picture frames and smelling of face powder and toasted bread. She has closets full of clothes and boxes full of jewelry, gifts from her many admirers. Sometimes she sits on her bed and smooths out the tangled necklaces and packs them all away again.

    She’s desperately lonely but she has a lot of friends.

    Okay, I don’t know this lady. I saw her for one nanosecond at the grocery store. It’s a little creepy to start speculating about one’s friends and neighbors, I know.

    But don’t we all do this?

    Uh, hello?

    Oh, never mind.

  20. “What about you? How are you feeling?”

    Appalled, as usual (but I just read the headlines). Thankful, as ever, that I have a roof over my head, money coming in, food to put on the table, a mug of hot tea just off my starboard bow, a pot to piss in and a window to throw it out of, and a writerly muse who will not leave me be.

    It’s a beautiful day.
    I won’t let it get away.

  21. I’ve written myself into a corner (I need three words which, for narrative reasons, have to be in alphabetical order) so I listened to Neil Young’s Harvest Moon over and over yesterday and then I gave up and took apart the feral cat shelter in my backyard to clean out the cobwebs and get it ready for Winter. Then I made an angel food cake and let it cool for 45 minutes and sat with the cake pan and a fork at the dining room table with a cup of tea from a special blend made for me by a reader in Oregon — may I mention here that the best part of having a book published is getting West Coast Readers?

    Today I’m going to get the words to Harvest Moon because I’ve been humming it to myself for two days now and the only words I know are “on this harvest moon”, and I’m going to ditch the alphabetical wording of my stupid narrative and come up with three new words that will look good when arranged in a list, and I’ll do a load of laundry — I don’t let my husband put his socks in with the rest of the wash and now he’s out of socks. I hope that all this will keep me too busy to think about dying.

  22. Glad you asked! I spent most of the long weekend writing my butt off to complete my first draft revisions so I can send my novel to my loyal and lovely first readers. So I feel good. A little delirious.

    On that note: have to offer a big thanks to Betsy and all the Betsy-ites here. This blog and its motley band of commenters have really helped me get through the process of getting back to writing after not being able to sell my first novel.

    Yeah, that’s right. Earnest appreciation coming at you. Feel the love.

  23. My heart breaks for the shrubbery every time I leave the house (and the pit bull/bassett hound mix–I SO wish I had a pic to post–lolling in the yard up the street), and the hair that grows from between my own dog’s paws, and the smell in the air on the day the weather turns cold…and then on the news there’s another random acid-throwing attack and I think “jesus, what’s the use?” and shut the curtains.

  24. Funny it doesn’t matter how many years go by we always have the first day jitters. I remember my pink and orange plaid lunch box…packing it and repacking 10 times to make sure it looked nice. I was also amazed at how beautifully the latch closed.

  25. Nostalgic for songs I never experienced when they were new: Loretta Lynn’s signature compositions — “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man”; “Fist City” (he won’t cat around with a kitty…).

    Watched some scenes from “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and now can’t get that whole Scene outta my head.

  26. My baby just started grade 5 yesterday – how can she be 10 already ?? Every night before she goes to bed we put away books and homework and everything else and out comes the amazing Jacques Du Pousse, an $8 pink octopus who she will talk to far more than she’ll talk to me, despite (or maybe because of) his OUTRAGEOUS french accent. Jacques told her he was upset that she was growing up way way way too fast, and that she would soon forget about him and move on to boyfriends etc. She promised, him, crossed her heart that she wouldn’t, she’d always talk to him, every night, just like now. She’s wrong of course, but she can’t possibly know she’s wrong, that soon she’ll get caught up in life like we all do. But for that moment, right then, I could at least pretend she was right, that we would always have that time together. So who cares what happens 5 years from now, for the moment, it’s good, and hopefully it lasts a while. And maybe that’s enough

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