• 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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Everyone Knew Her as Nancy


There was an article in the paper today about the 50th anniversary of The Outsiders. I had no idea that S.E. Hinton was sixteen when she wrote it after failing a creative writing class. I would like to point out for the record that I flunked out of my first year of film school at NYU. And then at Columbia, doing a poetry MFA, I had to take a six month “leave of absence.” Flunking never feels good, but it’s often a catalyst for, oh fuck it, flunking sucks.

What’s your best failure?

12 Responses

  1. My marriage, in every way that matters.

  2. The things I haven’t written.

  3. It was love.
    Her: Blitzed on vodka and valium, smiling weakly, eyes blurry and body unwilling to move. It was her combination of choice when depressed.
    Me: Incapacitated by a big bowl of hashish, head heavy, thoughts drifting to walls I was unable to focus on.
    The record began to skip and we looked at each other until I went to stand but fell over and the resulting thud jarred the needle out of the offending groove and the two of us laughed. We stared off into the space between our eyes (thank you George Harrison).
    She staggered off to the bathroom and soon I became aware of screams coming from somewhere. When I arrived there was a puddle of blood on the floor, the result of popped stitches from a recent D & C.
    Things happened after that. A phone call to her stepfather who lived in a big house overlooking the river on the nicer side of town. He hated me — and rightly so — for accompanying his adopted darling on some less than primrose path.
    She: Go wait outside until we leave; he can’t see you here.
    Me: obediently stumbling around in the bushes.
    She packed an overnight bag. He arrived quickly and they padded the passenger seat with towels and drove to the hospital. I came in, drank a beer and noticed her gun on the trestle end table. I realized how little I’d done for her pain.
    Days later we fought. I moved out then split town, a continuation of trying to figure out what the fuck was wrong with me.
    I began: stop being afraid.

  4. Went back to school at 39 and had to take remedial algebra and composition. First algebra test I thought I had it licked. In front of the whole class, as I walked up to get my test, the teacher smiled and said at least your name is easy to remember. I got 2 problems correct. The walk back to the desk wasn’t as bad as jr high but it was embarrassing. The remedial composition reminded me there was a thing called grammar (which at the time explained why The New Yorker didn’t want to print my scribbled missives.) Mostly private failures. Immeasurable and probably not even real. I tend to daydream and imagine possibilities that were never there: Sanity

  5. “What’s your best failure?”

    So many to choose from.

    Probably it was when I tried to get into the MFA program at UNM and they wouldn’t let me in, even after I took two semesters of the program’s classes. I was sure they’d let me in, it was a state university and I lived right down the street. Also, I’d already studied with Gordon Lish in NYC and had had about a dozen stories published, and some poems, too. The program director taught fiction writing and told me, “I’m not going to have any of that New York stuff in my class.” Huh. She was from Sarah Lawrence. Go figure. She also told me that the UNM MFA program would “probably destroy” everything good in my writing, so maybe I should go find some other program where I’d be a better fit. Problem was, I’d run out of money. So what I did instead was, I wrote the book I had proposed to write as my MFA thesis when I applied to the program, and I got it published.

  6. Patience. Patience with myself and with others. I inherited calmness (resignation?) from mom and a temper (fear?) from dad, and the calmness is hard to call to the surface when it’s most needed.

  7. I had a year in South Africa to write a novel. Squandered my opportunity. What a waste.

  8. I failed “scissors” in Kindergarten. Not for lack of skill, but because I held them the “wrong” way and cut out shapes vastly different from what the teacher had carefully traced upon those sheets of colorful paper. That failing grade was my introduction to standardized education’s inability to encourage creativity. While it distressed my parents, even at that young age, I was amused and unconcerned.

    Decades later, I’m fearlessly altering the shapes of dress patterns to create the clothes I want, and still cramming my fingers into the smaller hole of the scissors grip. From that one, supposed, failure I gained a better sense of my true self. I try to remember that lesson in the midst of far more complicated struggles.

  9. Getting stoned while doing a puppet show. Not the good stoned. Actually stoned. With stones.

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