• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Wild Geese That Fly With the Moon On Their Wing

I’ve been doing a bunch of interviews for Forest for the Trees 2.O. I’ve been “upbeat.” I don’t even recognize myself. That’s an exaggeration. I recognize some part of myself, the part of myself that has been a cheerleader for writers for 25 years. But who is she?

There are days when I can’t even begin to fathom how people get dressed, one foot in their underpants, then the other. When the sight of an adult lunch box could make me weep. I watch a woman on the train apply a full face of make-up. I have complete contempt for her but I can’t stop watching. What are we, Cleopatra? Do you ever think how fun it is to drive? Do you ever think that writing can have you? Can you believe some people wear uniforms? Badges! Do I need to tweet? Am I on Facebook? How many hits do you get on your blog? How many hits do you get on your fucking blog? I’ll fuck you up. I’ll fuck you up. So much has changed in ten years. Consider this: blah blah blah. When do I find time to write? When do I find time to pick my face? When do I find time to read one poem over and over and never get it? And never want to. Briefcases are so sad. Buckles. Rubbers. An inscription in a book you buy in a second-hand store.

What have you lost?

39 Responses

  1. “What have you lost?”

    Everything that had to be lost to make room for what had to be found.

  2. I’ve been driving for 32 years, more than two-thirds of my life. A car is an extension of my body. There’s no freedom and power like driving, but so illusory!

    Why contempt for the woman putting on make-up? It’s one of the few truly effective forms of defense women have, and there she was, girding her loins in full view.

    >What have you lost?

    My cynicism. The way I did it was to stop waiting for God to cut me some slack, to come out swinging instead. I figured it was better to be annihilated by an angry God (He wasn’t; I was just projecting my mother onto Him. Besides, He likes scrappy women), than to die of the boredom brought on by waiting for permission to do what I wanted.

    • šŸ™‚

    • Girding her looins?? Girding her loins?? You give her props for girding her loins in full view? I’ve been on those Metro North and LIRR trains and whether you call it girding her loins or flossing her teeth, it’s just one more dip shit hijacking public space for her own private use, one more asshole who doesn’t respect the necessary psychological boundaries in crowded spaces.

      Make up is not power. It’s capitulation. And there is no God.

      • I give her props for not giving a shit, for being vulnerable to strangers’ gaze before she got her game face on. And it gave Betsy something more to write about. Folding her hands in her lap or reading the paper wouldn’t have been half as interesting.

        >Make up is not power.

        Make up is fun. Whatever works is power.

        >And there is no God.

        How do you know? That comment denotes absolute certainty. Are you claiming to know all that reality comprises? If so, that’s tantamount to claiming omniscience, to be God. If that is true, then perhaps I wasn’t mistaken after all in projecting an angry female persona onto the Deity.

    • God is a he? And he likes make up? No wonder the world is so fucked up.

      • He and She. And They both wear make-up, flower garlands, frilly clothes, and lots and lots of jewelry: http://bit.ly/aKWZSl

        Wow, all I did was just tell my own story. No need for hostility. If you don’t like mention of God, just slide on over my comments, Mary and Vivian. As far as I could tell, this blog is about publishing and writing. I didn’t think you had to be part of an atheistic ideological clique to join the conversation.

        If my God-talk annoys Betsy too much, I’ll stop. After all, it’s her playground, and I’m hoping she’ll rep me someday.

      • Holy crap. You guys are mean today.

        “My cynicism. The way I did it was to stop waiting for God to cut me some slack, to come out swinging instead..”

        I like this. It’s sound advice whether you believe in a higher order or not. I’m all for personal responsibility and the choices that come with it.

      • I’m as far from an aethist as you can get but I do believe organized religion is the root of all evil. And I don’t think god gives a rats ass about make-up. I was responding mostly to your coment that make-up is “one of the few truly effective forms of defense women have”. If that was sarcasm, I misread it and apologize. Plus I thought Vivian’s point about respecting psychological boundaries in crowded spaces was right on.

    • Tulasi-Priya! Marry me! šŸ™‚

      Just funnin’.

      Props, support, make-up, flowers, all yours.

      • I apologize if I was a bitch in my responses to you and Vivian. I was joking about the girding of loins; once again, my dry humor goes over like a lead balloon. And I never said God likes make-up, Mary. I said He likes scrappy women.

        Since I live in Bumphuk, Florida, I revel in every opportunity to people-watch in the big cities. I was just on the F train during rush hour in NYC, watching some buzzed-up young woman nuzzle the chihuahua in her purse. I’m sure somebody’s boundaries might have been violated by that, but I was lovin’ it. I mean, who decides the psychological boundaries?

        My boundaries are: don’t smell bad. And people can say whatever they like about God/Goddess, but you can expect me to open up a can of verbal whoop-ass in response. I’d rather not, but since Vivian’s comment was directed at me, I felt duty-bound. Can we agree to not go there, or do y’all find it entertaining? I like a good argument, but I don’t think Betsy’s blog is the place for it. Again I apologize for any bitchiness. No hard feelings, I hope.

        Sheesh, did you people get all fried when Mary Karr went Papist?

        Love and Krishna.

      • No hard feelings here and sorry I misunderstood.

  3. I’ve lost nothing of importance…sometimes it’s a wonderful feeling to just “be” and not ask why, or who, or when, or what…..

  4. On Sunday morning my husband and I met another couple for an early brunch in the Castro in San Francisco. Hal and Ted have been together for nine years. We’ve known them for four. As we pored over menus, the waitress brought over a plate bearing a cinnamon twirl covered in icing. There was a candle in it. She was singing happy birthday. But it wasn’t anyone’s birthday. Hal piped in and said “Oh no no no, that’s lovely, thank you, but this is just a Life Celebration.” Ted rolled his eyes and smiled. Ron and I laughed and smiled. And Hal explained that he had been working on his memoir and had been in so much pain recently due to the dredging up of things that he wanted to celebrate with us. He’d had a glass of champagne and he spoke quickly, as always, his handsome face animated and tense. After quartering the pastry and giving us each a piece I told him I was sorry, I knew how hard thinking about the past could be. I leaned in and patted him on the back then slid my arms around to give him a hug. He talked about how his memoir would begin, with his mom in the drunk tank, again–drunk tank number six, he said. He was visiting and she was crying and telling him she was trying to stop drinking. And he said I love you mom but I don’t believe you, I don’t believe you’re trying to get better. Mom, this is drunk tank number _six_. When he left his mom he resolved not to return. A couple of days later she hung herself. We ate our pastry slowly, savoring the warmth and intense sweetness. I said you know sometimes you get to that point where you feel so much pain and fear that you just move beyond it all, through and beyond, and you become fearless in a way. It’s been too much for too long and you just say Fuck it. Hal and I locked eyes and he hugged me. Thank you for saying what I feel and couldn’t put into words, he said. The waitress poured another round of coffee, we ordered and Hal described his partner Ted’s obsession with a reality show about training stewardesses (air hostesses, waitresses in the sky). Hal: “I walked into the apartment one night after work and Ted said ‘I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t talk to me right now. I’m very tense. This is the baggage handling episode and they’re being evaluated.'” Ted was hugging a pillow to his chest.

  5. Where is that editor when you need her? Probably stupid with Advil PM or summat.

    Sorry about the sloppiness, esp this: And Hal explained that he had been working on his memoir and had been in so much pain recently due to the dredging up of things that he wanted to celebrate with us.

    First dredge! Then celebrate!


    p.s. Betsy–brilliant and perfectly timed! Thank you!

  6. I lost a lot of chances. But seeing as I made them all in the first place, mostly out of dust and language, I suppose it was my prerogative. Satan takes the fasting Jesus to the high peak and shows him the world in all its glittering glory and says — This, all this, can be yours, if you bow down and worship me. Who did Jesus believe he was, at that moment, so early in his career? Was he operating largely on intuition? I suspect so. Anyway there’s a lot of those guys in your business. You ain’t one. But you know them. I’ve never seen people who want literature dead more fiercely than do some of the people who publish it. What would Jesus’ story get in a post-lunch auction? (He would definitely go with Wylie by the way… I mean he’s nice, he’s the savior and all, but he’s not stupid.)

  7. BTW, know what I said was nothing special (fearful to fearless, what the fuck? to what the fuck! etc.) But it was an emotional moment, and uncontained, and Hal wanted to share *gratitude*–doing so was grounding, it was a _relief_ for him.

  8. Oh god, homes and friends, my dignity, my virginity, my ideas about myself — my ideas about writing, about God, about how to be in the world. Lost, lost, lost.

  9. I’ve lost my trust in the innate goodness of people. (Though I’m trying to get it back.)

    Seriously. *sigh* I think publishing does that to you.

    On a lighter note, I lost my original copy of FftT from 10 years ago – I just bought the new!shiny! edition and am re-reading it. Damn, it’s good to get THAT back. Thanks for writing such an innately TRUE book. Love it.


  10. I lost my watch this morning for the third morning in a row this month and found it in an entirely new place than on monday or tuesday. i lost my husband for a short period four years into our marriage–he still refers to it as my marriage hiatus. i lost my mother for nearly six years, but am slowly finding her again. i lost my father when i was three at the bottom of the lake in Buffalo Trace Park. he shows up about once every two years in my dreams. when i was five, i lost something that i can’t even name but affected more so than any single event maybe in my life. i have lost faith in myself over and over and over again, but then find it when you give me little writing prompts like this so that i can show up at my pretend office job and spend the first ten minutes feeling like a writer.

    thank you.

    • Lovely. Reminds me of this:

      The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
      so many things seem filled with the intent
      to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

      Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
      of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
      The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

      Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
      places, and names, and where it was you meant
      to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

      I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
      next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
      The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

      I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
      some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
      I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

      –Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
      I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
      the art of losing’s not too hard to master
      though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

      Elizabeth Bishop, One Art

  11. Joy. The joy of the little girl who pretended to read and made up stories from looking at pictures in books. The joy of the girl who hid in libraries and pretended that weaving enough stories together would create her future.

    The joy of the teenager who clicked a cassette tape into a Walkman and danced in the woods on the day she got her first job as a newspaper reporter.

    The joy that kept me sane as a young woman, working a full-time job while going to school full-time while always knowing that it was leading towards something.

    The joy that kept away fear – that kept me from worrying when I talked my way into money, jobs, internships, whatever I needed at that exact moment to make everything work. The joy I felt the first time a man looked at me and I knew I had him because he wanted me. The joy that convinced me that sitting down alone in a room in front of a computer and writing bad, bad stories would someday get me somewhere.

    I would like to know where I left this.

  12. I’ve lost my desire to work in the film industry full time. I’ve lost my fear of marriage- well not completely but enough to take the plunge. And I’ve lost too many friends to drugs and suicide.

  13. That’s me in the corner

  14. Sounds like you need a weekend with the mouse jar, Betsy. Minus the mouse and an attached bathroom, of course.

  15. I don’t know if I’ve sold out to live the dream (haha). I do find myself in the middle of obligations listening to all the blah, blah, blah and feeling like walking out the door. Or better yet, just telling people to shut to hell up. Who cares?

  16. My ability to talk to people in real time.

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