• 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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With Trunks of Memories Still To COme

You are the captain of your own ship. My grandmother used to say that when I was young and I would actually see myself as a child in grown up clothes, Naval dress, standing in the prow of a ship, a large hat swimming on my head, long pant legs cascading over my feet. A sort of Wes Anderson tableau. As I got older, I saw myself as more of a wayfarer in the middle of the ocean, more daring, more beautiful, thinner, and with lustrous brown hair clipped back in a tortoise shell barrette. Now, there is no image, just this clarion call, this fierce reminder in one’s ability to chart the course of her life. Why do I bring it up tonight? Perhaps to remind myself to hang in, that not knowing how to revise or what the next step is doesn’t render me finished, that all is not lost when you put another script in a casket and dig a six foot hole and when the first shovel of dirt is your own. Or when your new “idea” is only that or less than that because the execution evades you, or when you start to doubt the whole endeavor, when you fondly think back to high school and college when you were the queen of bagging groceries (winner of the cleanest station of the week 14 weeks in a row) or serving quiche at a pretentious cafe, or decorating the whale room in the Natural History Museum with a thousand neon green and blue streamers. An underwater diorama. Kissing a boy you had a crush on in that stream of crepe anemone. Remember this: Don’t give up the ship.

Are you the captain?

41 Responses

  1. I’ve been hardly a passenger, but that’s changing.

  2. Yes. I am the captain. I am the captain of my pain, the commodore of my confusion, the admiral of all attitude, and the pilot of my plenitude. Come aboard my rowboat, the S.S. Leaky Bee, and high seas or low tide, my word is law and my writ sufficient. I can marry you off or I can make you walk the plank. My crew will never mutiny for I am my crew and they–and I–know that the penalty for mutiny is death. There is brandy in the cabin–’tis a spacious rowboat, my Leaky Bee–and the smoking lamp is always lit. All aboard and damn the torpedoes–damn the shoal waters–splice the main brace and hoist the colors high, we’re tacking into a fierce nor’easter, St. Elmo’s Fire the only light we need.

  3. I am a captain.

    The crew on the ship follows me because I believe what i’m saying and it encourages them. Whether or not I am correct is irrelevant, I believe it. And because I believe it, they will follow me.

    Follow me. Believe in me.

    • Wow, Nicholas, maybe you should write a book.

    • Sorry man. I go by the don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters train (it takes a lot to laugh…) of thought. I like that you’re trying to get your book to see the light of day, but I’m questioning your tactics; some little lambs kick and bite the shepherd’s hand when he comes up from behind with his pants around his ankles, trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

      • Nicholas J., you wrote: “Whether or not I am correct is irrelevant, I believe it. And because I believe it, they will follow me.”

        If you’re not correct (whatever that means), you, your crew, and your ship will be dashed upon the rocks. It’s not enough to beleve, you have to work smart. You have to run your ship with your eyes open and on course.

        Where’s your blog, Nicholas J? Where’s your site with samples of your previous work? What writers’ blogs do you visit, what relationships are you cultivating with people who love books and want to support other writers? Give us a reason other than your belief and your say-so to follow you and believe in you. This is not the Amanda Hocking fansite. We actually read real books here. And if you want an honest-to-God serious agent to rep you, you should think twice before spamming her blog.

        I don’t write this to discourage you, but to warn you before you get a rep for being a PITA, which might shoot down your chance of getting published, since what you’re asking for depends so much on whether people LIKE you or not. Case in point: I’m posting this anonymously cuz I’m afraid you’ll come spam MY blog.

      • dude has a different approach–no need to throw him overboard.

        just ask yourself why you’re reading/commenting on this blog. in the hopes that this poet/agent will request your ms. that “she’ll like me.”

        are we not all groveling bastards?

      • anonymous 2.. I read the blog because I like Betsy’s words, nothing more nothing less. I suspect I’m not alone in that. If you get off on being a groveling bastard, feel free.

      • Why is it when the name-calling starts people go Anonymously invisible? Who cares what that nick guy does with his book link? You don’t have to click on it or read his post, right?

        We’re writers. If you want to start a fight or something, at least sign your name. Cowards hide. Just ask Hemmingway.

      • Am I supposed to accept that the name “november” is any less anonymous than Anonymous? Please.

        I had commented to him on a previous post of Betsy’s about spamming (he’s done it on a string of old posts) and wished him luck, but he saw fit neither to respond nor to stop. And when I feel like people don’t respect limits, yeah, I’m a coward. Sue me.

      • Um… Duh… it’s a screen name. Not anonymous at all. I bet most names here are nom de plumes. It’s the internet; it’s what you do. Besides, dude, who made you the babysitter/moderator here? Get a life.

      • november wrote:

        “You don’t have to click on it or read his post, right?

        “We’re writers. If you want to start a fight or something, at least sign your name. Cowards hide. Just ask Hemmingway.

        “Besides, dude, who made you the babysitter/moderator here?

        Kettle, meet pot.

        Why did you jump in, if I wasn’t talking to you and you don’t dig babysitters/moderators? Nobody called anybody any names, just trying to help the guy not be a marketing PITA, so wtf business is it of yours? Whether you’re november or anonymous, I still don’t know who the hell you are, so what’s not “cowardly” about hiding behind a nom de plume? There are all kinds of freaks roaming around the internet, and I am not going to risk someone taking action against me because of a well-intentioned criticism. Do YOU want everybody and anybody here to know your actual name? If not, then you are also hiding.

        I’m dropping my end of this now…peace out.

      • Ok. Ok. Yes. Peace, please. I was just a bit bored working on a novel revision.

    • Nicholas – in the interest of helping….like a couple others have already said, it’s really not in good taste amongst writing communities, much less on an agent’s blog to bogart space and pitch your book. Your approach sounds like Jim Jones ….sorry… but, I don’t drink Kool Aid.

  4. Yes, I am. But it is small.

  5. Sometimes. Definitely not always.

  6. You got to decorate the whale room? What a rock star!

    It’s hard, in the throes of failure-of-spirit, to keep waking up w a smile. But every day, I toss back the caffeine, slap a smile on my face, and venture forth.

    Funny, I’m here in Vienna researching my obsession (the Wittelsbachs), and, clearly, they were a fucked up family. Especially the daughters. Or rather, the world conspired to fuck them up. Elisabeth’s baby sister Sophie, for instance. She fell in love with her gynecologist and fled her shitty marriage to Duke Ferdinand of Alencon, only to be dragged back to court by her elder brother and husband who tossed her into an asylum for “sexual deviants” where she endured shock treatments of ice-water, blistering ointments to her who-ha, and gun shots next to her ear. This cured her! She spent the rest of her days doing charity work and allowing her husband to fuck her corpse-like body until one day she burned a Parisien fire in 1897. Sophie was not the captain of her ship, I guess.

  7. Hell, yes. My husband lets me take the wheel every time he has to go to the can.

    • Made my day, Susan. Your cute comment has caught my attention and lured me toward visiting your blog. Take heed, Nicholas J.

  8. Your post really was written just for me today.

    Funny…because my latest column is about a trip my husband just finished, delivering a 36’ Grand banks. It reads, in part…

    “…Getting the boat here became a three day voyage. The first day was an exercise in surefootedness because of rough water…‘foolhardy’ was the word I heard used, because the open-ocean swells were so large and the boat slow moving, she was like a large lady dipping and swaying to a waltz while nature was playing hip-hop…”

    I love the last line; it’s one of my darlings.

    Pardon the sea-analogies but I am a skiff-writer, experiencing waves and troughs on a daily basis but thankfully calm waters most of the time. Until recently I believed that the epitome of writing, its greatest reward, is ‘the title page’. Even with literally dozens and dozens of by-lines, I was very frustrated and felt like a failure. My editor pretty much snapped a sheep-shank in my ass; I’ve worked with some of the best, I should shut up and write. My waters are calm again and I am enjoying this writing voyage because the boat belongs to me. It may be only a skiff but it’s my skiff.

    Where the hell is Frank anyway?

    • Right here, Wry. Great last line!

      Though I can helm and trim, or hand, reef and steer. Captain is for others, though, and I prefer skipper. When I am captain, though, I don’t forget that the Admiral is about.

      Here’s to fair winds and seas.

  9. Yes. I’m often surprised at where I find myself docked, though. And long may you run.

  10. Once or twice, I’ve been the Captain of an icebreaker, and on one fabulous occasion, the Love Boat, but these days, I seem to be the Captain of the Oceanic, which was never finished and was scavenged to build the Britannic, which was retrofitted and sank in the War.

    Or maybe I’m just an anthropomorphic dinghy with pretensions?

    Still beats the Titanic.

  11. No, I’m not a captain. Responsibilities rule me. Instead, I’m the bobbing bottle in the ocean with a fascinating note inside.

    Sometimes for me, a change of course is needed. I liked your essay idea from yesterday. When I switch from writing a novel to short stories, I often feel like I can breathe again. Writing is air. I may sink from circumstance, but not from this thing we do.

    Happy 4th everyone.

  12. I feel like the captain only from the title page through to “THE END.” Past that, someone else gets to be captain of the ship I’ve navigated through perilous waters and into the calm. Someone else gets to decide if I will get to climb aboard that very same ship again and help steer it to it’s final destination.

    Until then, I’ve been commissioned as the captain on a different ship, but, the seas are really rough right now and I seem to have foundered on some rocks. I’m waiting on a high tide to roll me off so I can plot the remaining course, where I can just see THE END on the horizon.

  13. Yes, I am the Captain but so fucking what! Where are the stars? The sky is so cloudy I have no goddam idea where I am. Why is there a storm every week? And who are these assholes that keep dropping ice bergs from giant helicopters? There is a lot of shit in this ocean I didn’t ask for. No matter, darken nights or tossing waves, there is solid ground somewhere. That’s when we’re putting in, at the first sign of land. Let it be known, after so long at sea, no lass will be safe from this horny crew.

  14. I spent years being an able crew member, coming from a family of sailors and speedboat racers. Right now I think I am the captain of my own ship and the coast is miles away, I hate that drop between the swells and running out of beer.

    • The last time I was captain, our river ran dry and we had to carry our raft like a casket to the pick up point. It was 90 degrees. We forgot the mosquito repellent. We ran out of beer.

      Nothing good happens when you run out of beer.

  15. I am indeed. I suggest the rest of you board the lifeboats in an orderly fashion.

    Seriously, it’s always a blast starting the day with a Betsy Lerner Moment.

  16. Well, I’m paddling as fast as I can but it’s gonna be a race to the finish line as the boat’s sprung a buncha muncha leaks. I’d bail if I wasn’t determined to get this baby ashore and maybe, just maybe beach it before it sinks. I’m captain, I’m crew, I’m passenger, true, and I’ll be screwed, blued and tattooed before I ever allow this baby to sink beneath the waves. Hope floats.

  17. Today I’m the little yip dog who learned to trick on her waterskis. My moment of triumph when I do an aerial into the boat and take the captain’s bitch-ass husband’s ankles to task. Put me in a dog basket would he? Fuck him. Tonight I am the captain of the air-conditioner, a computer that crashes and two very lethargic cats. For three weeks after that I’ll be reading graphs and carts and maps. Verily in thy name good lady, but with a small breeze we sail on.

  18. Mama mia, how lucky I am to fall into this lifeboat.

  19. Yikes! Betsy, are you sure you aren’t attending (in disguise and via some version of steam punk infused time travel) the same workshop I’m attending? I’ve spent the past hour trying to calm my nerves from the instructor’s assessment that my efforts aren’t steering me in the best direction. Despite the workshop’s intent to h-e-l-p us, today I feel like the lone oarsman directing myself over the falls.

    Meanwhile, I’m well aware of those sleek yachts, anchored in still water that dropped me overboard in this little, leaky boat. It’s all I got at the moment and the mist from the falls scares me. Hopefully my oar won’t fail.

  20. Here’s to leaky boats and bailing buckets, Karen.

  21. i swim laps.

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