• 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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Send Me Dead Flowers By The Mail

The bats are out tonight. I don’t know why, or I’m just not saying. I keep going back to a scene in which a young man breaks down over a crib. I keep going back to a scene where a girl  locks herself inside a gas station rest room. There’s a woman at St. Dunkin’s named Shilpa, and every morning when I go to NYC she gives me  a huge smile and remembers how I like my coffee. Would you be surprised to know I sit in the same car in the same seat? I am mourning the loss of letters. I am mourning the loss of lettuce. Stones on top of graves. The cards my father dealt. Let’s split it three-ways. Promise me you’ll never never stick a needle into your face.  Sometimes when I drive I think I am a middle aged mother running errands, or a man who makes toasters for the traveling show. I feel hopeful and hopeless. I am Louis XIV. I am his heir. I am the guillotine. The humble shovel.  I thought the Elgin marbles were marbles. I am not really writing. Don’t ask me about poems. I was sixteen. Words exploded on a page. Has Betsy always been creative? Oh, yes, my mother says. I am cutting paper. I am adorable. Intent. I keep going to a scene I can’t remember.

Leave a comment and  prove that misery does love company.

44 Responses

  1. Nobody gets to me the way my sister, the shrink, does. What is it about Jewish mothers…and Jewish sisters, especially when they’re shrinks! The guilt-trips are just built in, a given, Jewish and shrinky. Stella Adler said never psychoanalyze the artist. I’m dying to tell my sister that. Years ago, when she was studying at Columbia, all she had to say about Tennessee Williams was that he was a drunk. At least Betsy’s here when we need her. Thanks Betsy, you keep me sane.

  2. i stopped working on my fiction novel rewrites when i realized in the blink of an eye over coffee and a crossword puzzle that my title (Meri, Marla & Meeps) was really just Me, Me & Me.

    it’s like that dream where you’re the only one naked, but it’s not a dream.

    today my boss told me that he doesn’t like it when i spell out the word percent. i told him i do it because it’s grammatically correct. he told me still he didn’t like it and preferred i kept the percent sign. i said okay with a smile. i felt like i had traded my soul for two god damn circles balancing on a diagonal.

    i feel whipped because my dad’s not here to talk about it which is bullshit. maybe he would have said things like, stop whining. go to work, you complain too damn much. besides, you’re nearly 40. get over it.

    • Well I for one like your title.

      The Fear always comes during re-writes, don’t give in to it.

      • Spring is right. It’s terrifying to go back to work on a project you thought you’d figured out the first time around, but it’s going to be worth it. Get yourself a dirty chai and keep writing.

      • Not to dismiss your worries, but aren’t all stories me, me, me on some level anyway?

        Give your boss his grammatically incorrect percent sign and take comfort in the fact that you’re right. You can’t save everybody from their bad grammar.

  3. Opus 181

    Skeptical cat,
    Calm your eyes, and come to me.
    For long ago, in some palmed forest,
    I too felt claws curling
    Within my fingers…
    Moons wax and wane;
    My eyes, too, once narrowed and widened…
    Why do you shrink back?
    Come to me: let me pat you –
    Come, vast-eyed one…
    Or I will spring upon you
    And with steel-hook fingers
    Tear you limb from limb….

    There were twins in my cradle….

    —Arthur Davison Ficke, as Anne Knish

    • And a personal, deep-seated worry, as expressed by Jessica Faust today:

      “No matter how great an idea, the success or failure depends entirely on the author’s ability to make it so . . . if the author can’t execute it brilliantly, it’s not going to be that great. And of course, the success of a book depends entirely on the author’s brilliance to create the characters and stories that will grab the readers.”

      Yeah. No pressure.

  4. When you’re sitting there
    In your silk upholstered chair,
    Talking to some rich folk that you know,
    I hope you won’t see me
    In my ragged company,
    ‘Cause you know I could never be alone.

    When you’re sitting back
    In your rose-pink Cadillac,
    Taking bets on Kentucky Derby Day,
    I’ll be in my basement room
    With a needle and a spoon,
    And another girl to take my pain away.

    Misery loves company, particularly if company loves misery. (And I did those lyrics from memory.)

  5. I can’t quite do this like you, so I’ll do it like me (if I even know how to). Misery loves a lot of things, but there aren’t many things that love misery. I doubt you want a bunch of woe-is-me stories–no one does. What you DO want is HAPPINESS (yes, I said it). Either for consumption or absorption. You could be Louis XIV or you could be a Wonka Bar with a golden ticket. You made me laugh out loud yesterday! Like snow on Christmas (so rare in Seattle). Keep being you.

  6. Winter of my discontent.

  7. sometimes the bats whizz through my brain.

    last month i wrote a scene that somehow includes my dad’s funeral and had a laugh/cry. the scene is terrifically funny and i’m glad to be able to write/feel it out.

    being human.

  8. When I lived in the east village and used to get up early in the mornings to write before going to my publishing job, I too got my coffee from the Dunkin’ every day. Just like you I had someone who always smiled and started on my coffee when I walked in the door, this sweet guy from west Africa. What is it about having someone who knows how you take your coffee that makes you feel so much less alone?

    My misery on this day has nothing to do with writing but I still love your company.

  9. Sections of two poems by Dana Gioia, from The Writer’s Almanac:

    I thought by now I’d left those nights behind,
    Lost like the girls that I could never get,
    Gone with the years, junked with the old T-Bird.
    But one old song, a stretch of empty road,
    Can open up a door and let them fall
    Tumbling like boxes from a dusty shelf,
    Tightening my throat for no reason at all
    Bringing on tears shed only for myself.

    ***

    Relentlessly the wind blows on. Next door
    catching a scent, the dogs begin to howl.
    Lean, furious, raw-eyed from the storm,
    packs of coyotes come down from the hills
    where there is nothing left to hunt.

  10. Well, if we can answer today’s question with poems, I offer my two standbys on misery:

    “You are tired,
    (I think)
    Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
    And so am I.

    Come with me, then,
    And we’ll leave it far and far away—
    (Only you and I, understand!)

    You have played,
    (I think)
    And broke the toys you were fondest of,
    And are a little tired now;
    Tired of things that break, and—
    Just tired.
    So am I.”

    e.e.cummings

    [The poem keeps going, but the rest is about getting happy, not staying sad]

    and the last 2 verses from Beckett’s Cascando

    2
    saying again
    if you do not teach me I shall not learn
    saying again there is a last
    even of last times
    last times of begging
    last times of loving
    of knowing not knowing pretending
    a last even of last times of saying
    if you do not love me I shall not be loved
    if I do not love you I shall not love
    the churn of stale words in the heart again
    love love love thud of the old plunger
    pestling the unalterable
    whey of words
    terrified again
    of not loving
    of loving and not you
    of being loved and not by you
    of knowing not knowing pretending
    pretending
    I and all the others that will love you
    if they love you

    3
    unless they love you

    [‘thud of the old plunger’ gets me every time]

  11. I’ve written four decent stanzas and one that looks like I’ve dropped a cupful of Scrabble letters all over the page.

    And poetry gives me motion sickness.

  12. “The Thing Is

    to love life, to love it even
    when you have no stomach for it
    and everything you’ve held dear
    crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
    your throat filled with the silt of it.
    When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
    thickening the air, heavy as water
    more fit for gills than lungs;
    when grief weights you like your own flesh
    only more of it, an obesity of grief,
    you think, How can a body withstand this?
    Then you hold life like a face
    between your palms, a plain face,
    no charming smile, no violet eyes,
    and you say, yes, I will take you
    I will love you, again.”

    –Ellen Bass (The first time I met Ellen was in Los Angeles when we both won Lambda awards. “The Thing Is” is included in her MULES OF LOVE)

  13. I’ve got that necklace, too. Don’t you just love it?

  14. This is no meaning
    in poetry, there is no
    combination of words and
    symbols and wounds
    and truths which
    will unlock the vault and
    release the woman you hear
    pounding on your bright, your
    irreproachable door.

    – Franklin Tomas Dubeqqe

    Fuck misery. Great interview. Goddamn you’re charming. Makes me want to pull your pigtails.

  15. Misery is nothing that a bottle of champagne and a near-death experience can’t cure. And these days you can get a very drinkable bubbly wine for $10 — isn’t the 21st century great??

  16. “Good little sunbeams must learn to fly
    But it’s madly ungay when the goldfish die.”

    – Auden

  17. She Didn’t Mean to Do It

    Oh, she was sad, oh, she was sad.
    She didn’t mean to do it.

    Certain thrills stay tucked in your limbs,
    go no further than your fingers, move your legs through their paces,
    but no more. Certain thrills knock you flat
    on your sheets on your bed in your room and you fade
    and they fade. You falter and they’re gone, gone, gone.
    Certain thrills puff off you like smoke rings,
    some like bell rings growing out, out, turning
    brass, steel, gold, till the whole world’s filled
    with the gonging of your thrills.

    But oh, she was sad, she was just sad, sad,
    and she didn’t mean to do it.

    -Daisy Fried

  18. Last week, my cleaning lady’s son came to help her clean my house. He stole my wedding ring and sold it on the street for a couple hundred bucks for drugs. It was worth many, many thousands of dollars and, well, it was my wedding ring. The police haven’t picked him up yet, and last night I woke up realizing that this kid has been in my house and he knows I’m prosecuting him. So I got up at 2 a.m. and built an obstacle course up the stairs and made my dog sleep on the stair landing, on guard. Damn it.

  19. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept (Elizabeth Smart) used to be my code for having a crap time.
    Lately I’ve come to prefer Angela Carter’s reworking of it

    By Grand Central Station I Tore Off His Balls

  20. Look, here’s where it is, Ms. Lerner: if you aren’t writing a novel write this minute…then you damn well oughta be friggin’ depressed. We already know you’re a poet. Now show us you’re a novelist. Just do it.

  21. Sick. One hell of a miserable cold, all the muscles of my body sore and my eyes feel hot and watery. It hurts my head to even be awake. So what did I do while the child was at school? Drove out of the sticks and to the mal (one hour–listening to a lot of John Lennon on the radio–he died the same day as my mother but with much more publicitiy and universal mourning than my mother) to shop for holiday presents. Got the little one a cool bean bag chair and a camera for my wife; a leatherman tool for my father and a bag of MacIntosh apples at the orchard. I only breathed on people who were rude. I avoided children and old people although there was one lady who was way sicker than me, not even covering her mouth when she sneezed a spray that shot out clear across the ladies accessories aisle. I’m really ready for bed, but I have some snow shoveling to do. Tea. Tylenol. Good night to this day.

  22. “It is a joy to be hidden but a disaster not to be found.” — DW Winnicott

  23. Misery loves martinis.

  24. so mistery is still alive? 🙂

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