• 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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You May Say I’m a Dreamer But I’m Not the Only ONe

You know how when you don’t bring an umbrella, it rains? I didn’t bring a notebook on this trip, didn’t bring a sad copy of my screenplay, didn’t even have a pen in my pocketbook. In my previous so-called life, this would have been anathema; more: treason. I always traveled with at least one little notebook, usually a loose leaf the size of a deck of cards and in it I scrawled ideas, line for poems and always words whose meaning escaped me and that I would dutifully look up when I arrived home. Not this time. It was a wing and a prayer and a call  for rain.

On the back of my electronic ticket, I scrawled what I hope might be a way back into the screenplay and an idea for a play based on a biography I read (a play! Jesus, who am I now, Arthur Miller?). Naturally, I am anxious about looking at those notes, for fear they are as ill conceived and fleeting as the clouds of St. Ives where I walked and where the sun occasionally broke through the clouds and illuminated a stretch of beach or a few boats moored at the quay.

Do you know that feeling?

43 Responses

  1. These ideas, clues, hints, phrases, the way someone said something, the way they looked when they said it, all that. They dazzle, and I think “What an idea!”. Later, I wonder if it was that good, or if it was a moment lost. Notes keep the shine, but it sometimes fades anyway. Those crazy notes, though, may be faded, but they are still valuable artifacts, worth the making and keeping.

  2. I keep re-reading your last line, the one before your question. You’ve captured this feeling I know well. Beautifully stated.

  3. The morning began with a dream that would resurface throughout the day.

  4. Sticking to the question, I forgot a more important thing.

    Betsy, we are glad to have you back.

    Hole in one?

    • She’s not back yet, with the sun breaking through the clouds. Once the dark clouds gather to offer blessed relief from the cheery and revealing sun, she’ll be back.

      • I tried to think of a witty or funny retort to this, but all I can come up with is “not true.” Depression is a temporary state, not someone’s basic character. If Betsy wanted to turn into Pollyanna, fine by me. I don’t see her as a black cloud type at all.

      • Maybe, but it’s still more interesting than happiness.

      • Seriously? More interesting? On what planet? Depression is dangerous and not to be romanticized as some fascinating artistic malady.

        Fight it, however you can.

      • “Entertaining” is not the same thing as interesting. I could only hang out so long with a person who was entertaining. It seriously gets boring after awhile. We all don’t just come here for the giggles, but for human connection. The wisecracks and profanity add some spice to the rice, but they’re not what sustains this blog.

        I must say, however, that I’m a little disappointed that not one catfight broke out the whole time Betsy was gone. Everybody here is more or less a mensch, it seems.

        But if you want black comedy, check out the cartoon series, Ugly Mean Chickie, by Hoving, a Dutch artist. He is a hidden gem, the only worthy successor to Mel Blanc, in my opinion. Not suitable for young children, or even older ones, but I’m kinda old-fashioned that way.

      • Well, when I said “fight depression” I really didn’t mean become a Mormon. Just take an anti-depressant or something.

        Wow. I had no idea these sites existed or that people lived this way. Thanks for the enlightenment, August. Very depressing, for sure.

      • You’ve got to watch your back in the fight against depression, n. At first you’re just cheerful socially, but pretty soon you can’t stop. It’s a slippery slope to posting requests for Amazon reviews.

      • Hmmm….. A, are you sure you don’t spell your name with a B? Or, have I just fallen into the trap that others have suggested? Never a dull moment in the blogosphere. BTW, I love historical fiction…

  5. Ah, do I know that feeling! I have scribbled notes on programs, tissues, anything I can find. And some of them became INVALUABLE. So scribble away and make some magic. 🙂

  6. Of course, they are “ill conceived and fleeting . . . .” And you think Arthur Miller wrote “Death of Salesman” with no doubts. You don’t do it because you know it will work; you do it because you have to. In one sense, it is all you have. Good to see you back.

  7. Sigh of relief. Demure smile, our Betsy is back. Thank God.

    The best lines, thoughts, ideas seem to come to me in the car. With no paper, no screen, no little squares of Scotts-1000 sheets to scribble on, I repeat them in my head until they become a pitch to myself. It works most of the time. If I forget I figure it wasn’t worth remembering.

    They are like the birthdays of people I used to know…I liked them once and now they are gone from my life. From time to time, they show up unexpectantly and out of context. When were you born…oh three years ago on the way to Albany…and what was your name…damn I forgot but I liked you once.

    • A voice recorder. Little Olympus or Tascam, anywhere from $40-$80 for a good one, couple of hundred for one that can take pictures or film you while working on story ideas. I have a nice little Radio Shack Olympus model that works great as long as I remember to recharge the batteries and not leave it at home. What I wasn’t really surprised to learn is that my thoughts move faster than I can talk. But I try.

      • That’s what I have! Little $40 Olympus digital recorder and it is the best writing tool!! It has proven invaluable.

      • I tried the recorder and I hated my voice – plus the “way” I tried to capture the ideas was so boring I put myself to sleep – which in retrospect made me conclude all of those ideas sucked. I erased it all and now I flip flop between two methods – one is similar to Wry’s (memorize memorize) and the other gets jotted down on whatever I can find if a pad isn’t available. But mostly memorizing because a good chunk of what I consider credible ideas come when I’m running – and who the hell looks normal running and trying to write notes. (?)

        Welcome back Betsy!

  8. Great to have you back, Betsy.

    My favorite late-night writing note, scribbled on the back of a magazine, is, “Weasel, chicken feed, babies, hole, rat death.” It wasn’t exactly a stroke of genius, but it felt like epiphany at the time.

  9. I am never anxious about returning to what I assume is brilliant writing. In fact, I approach with so much propane I could probably help fuel rain forest research for the next century. Yes, I am most definitely delusion, personified.

    I’ve always loved the idea of writing a play. I know its structure better than I know myself. My parents were actors and I spent many years on stage. In my estimation, there is no better form. Go for it, Betsy. This you can do.

  10. Arthur Miller wrote about doubt. “Way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and shoeshine.” I’m glad you share yours with us. It gives me hope. Welcome home.

  11. Absolutely yes, I get it.
    Love this post.

  12. I do know the feeling of scribbling on whatever I have in my bag, because I’ve often found myself somewhere, carrying nothing but a business card, or I’ve filled my baby notebook and forgotten to grab a new one; I know that feeling well. What I don’t know is the anxiety to later go back and read the notes. I might hate them indeed and often I don’t ever use them but what is scarier to me is when I have no ideas, no urges to write down my observations– when the inside of my mind is just a deserted, two-lane highway on a cloudless, summer day in the depths of South Texas. That’s when I really doubt myself.

  13. And…Part deux…(some of my reply is above in response to another suggestion above) but whenever, wherever the ideas are formed, 90% end up being discarded. I go back and read them again and realize, that won’t work or think where did that crap come from…once when I was grocery shopping I tore open the PT’s so I could write a note on one of them. (That got me some strange looks.) That was one time it was worth looking weird because I did use that idea.

  14. “Do you know that feeling?”

    I may. What your question intimates about the connections between feelings and knowledge, and further, about the connections, both implicit and explicit, between individuals, so that one may be safely assumed to be in some way able to know the feelings of another, could fill, and has filled, volumes, which is what it looks like I’m starting to do here, so, commatosis aside…

    Welcome back. We had fun while you were gone. Not too much, though. Didn’t break any windows. The fire that got lit it the wastepaper basket was quickly doused with the contents of a warm can of flat beer. One of us cleaned the bathroom just yesterday, though I can’t remember her name (it’s always women who end up cleaning the bathroom, isn’t it).

    Do I know that feeling, the one to which you refer? I believe I do; yes, I believe I do. There is a bush right outside the study window in the home I just moved into. I face this bush as I sit here at my desk. The window is open. It is early morning. Finches hop about on the branches of the bush, chattering, glancing at me from time to time as if to say, You foolish man, we toil not, nor do we spin–do you not even now, ancient as you are, know what is important?

  15. I wonder if the getting away helped. I’m not a big fan of needing to go hide in order to write, it’s too impossible to pull off on a regular enough basis. But for those flashes of insights, changing up the life routine can do wonders. Lucky you even received an idea for a whole new piece of work!

  16. The boat moored at the quay with only an occasional drop of sun to warm me–felt that way for forty years.

    I do the note taking thing always but sit down to the keyboard and open the notebook and wonder where or why I wrote those words.

  17. Gawd, I had that feeling the entire time you were on holiday and the rest of us wandered about your 8 June post. Random thoughts, a few interesting phrases: quite similar to those intermitent sunbeams that sparkled the sand during your walks on the beach.

    Thanks for returning a little early!

  18. My shoulderbag is FULL of scraps and receipts and envelopes and old library catalog cards and anything else I can get to take a mark from snapped pencils, leaky pens, and that orange crayon I’ve been meaning to pitch for half a year.

    Once a month or so, I pile ’em up and type ’em out, hoping they’ve melded themselves into something that means something.

    I wish voice recorders worked for me, but I cross out so much while trying to scribble down my thoughts in a retrievable way that 98% of the playback would be me saying, “No, wait, I mean . . “

  19. Gotta love the feeling of possibility that comes about when the sun spotlights random-seeming things.

    Congrats on the productive trip!

  20. Welcome back Betsy! Beautiful photo. I could sit at the edge and stare at those waves all day.

    There’s something disconcerting about being at the top of the world with the sun shining at 3am that makes me question every stroke of brilliance I’ve had, but what to heck. Bring on the hieroglyphics of my mania.

  21. Welcome back Madame Lerner. I am so very curious about the shift, the umbrella-less voyage. Why now? Isolated event? Emerging pattern? I need to get back into the head game.

  22. Yes I do. And welcome back.


  23. Do I know the feeling of being anxious and the sense of an ill-conceived idea? You betcha. Welcome back, you were missed.

  24. I’m trying to get to the point where I stop writingonly ideas and fragments and actually complete a book-length work. I have a 5-inch stack of 3 x 5 index cards scrawled with ideas, fragments, poems, and what-all, along with a couple dozen legal pads and back-to-school licensed character notebooks full of material. And that’s not including all the stuff I stupidly pitched when I first moved into the ashram, thinking I was going to become a renunciate. Some renunciate; I type this with freshly lacquered metallic lime-green fingernails. I can’t stop looking at them, they’re so fabulous.

  25. Hi Betsy,
    Nice to see you back with a lovely piece.
    Yes, I also have moments of doubts, like right now, under a Norvegian sky, in a quiet town–feeling about my writing journey…such a long long way!

  26. Glad you are back. I don’t do notes. If I am away from writing I am the inverse of myself and maybe better, or easier at least. I love being away. I don’t do umbrellas.

  27. The bitter/sweet truth: sometimes those scribbled words and notes mean something, and sometimes they don’t.

    I dreamt last night that I played the harp, but my guides were suggesting I learn to play the guitar. Now THAT may mean something.

    Glad you’re home.

  28. i feel like one of those boats moored at the quay. waiting.

  29. “There it was–her picture. Yes, with all its greens and blues, its lines running up and across, its attempt at something. It would be hung in the attics, she thought; it would be destroyed. But what did that matter? she asked herself, taking up her brush again.”

    Glad you had a good time in Woolf-land. Equally glad you’re back!

  30. I got (actually, someone got it for me. I didn’t have access to my own money) one of those digital voice recorders for notes. It would’ve worked, but I just used it for recording folks at the job I had. I didn’t have any friends.

    It was during and like this –

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