• 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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But It Wouldn’t Be Make Believe If You Believed In Me



Did you see the eclipse or were you too busy writing? Did you feel the atmosphere change, the air charge, the shadows fall hard on the pavement. Did your heart darken, harden? Did you feel a drop? Did the wind die down? Your cape fall from  a telephone pole. Were ravens praying on a bench. Did you find a tangle of cellophane or a cup of moss, a cairn made of many stones? Did you think about nothing or how hollow you feel most of the time, even now under this delinquent sun?

Your eclipse?

16 Responses

  1. So many shades of blue as the sky darkened. A cool Annie Dillard breeze. Softness. A ceasing of chatter. And then hours on an essay that finally came together. Win.

  2. My eclipse was eclipsed by a medical procedure. I saw the tail end of it – which in hindsight, was apropos. Yes, these are puns and you can likely figure out my medical appt.

    However. I had waited on this f’cker for weeks. Weeks. And then this very necessary and needed appt came on The Day Of.

    My husband had purchased the ISO approved spectacles. And I imagine a spectacle is what we were as we slurped chocolate milkshakes in the McDonald’s parking lot while standing on the running boards of his truck as the moon slipped over the last 3/4 of the sun.

    A beautiful end to a sad day.

  3. I read about astronomers during the eclipse. It seemed appropriate.

  4. We had a break in the clouds for the event, but I only went to the window to watch the darkness gather. Many employees spent up to two hours out on the parking lot watching it.

    I have to say that I felt like I was missing something by not being excited for this event.

    • I know! Me, too. Zero excitement. I saw the highlights on the news at eleven.

      Honestly, I prefer a lunar eclipse where you can stand outside in the dark and watch the moon transform. Plus, no risk of blindness.

  5. Paul, were you in totality? Did the darkness really come rushing like a wall?

  6. Happy that people were celebrating and excited by a natural phenomena. I feel we live in divided and conflicted times and many of us feel helpless, angry and sad. To be able to watch a (relatively) small planet gobble up the sun and then slowly regurgitate it back out is somehow uplifting. It made me feel good to stand outside with my daughter and view the eclipse through cereal box “projector” with our backs to the sun. I don’t trust the cheap ass glasses and the old welding mask I have was actually too strong. And yeah, I forgot to order glasses on time anyway. I read somewhere that Donald Trump stared at the sun without glasses. I knew there was a reason he shows all the signs of having a fried egg for a brain. And I apologize to the egg for that reference.

  7. Unphased, I was swimming laps. And rather gradually and somewhat ominously the sky went blank like a sheet of spilled milk. Leaves rattled. The temperature dropped. I kept on swimming, but rather more energetically than usual. A connection? Dunno. Conversely, the squirrels and rabbits seemed to have disappeared into their oblivion of bushes, confused about the topsy turvy universe, over which neither they nor we have control.

  8. At work, inside. Cloudy outside, 70 percent anyway. Heads down, too much work to do. Sucked actually.

  9. I. The Eclipse

    Susan and I watched the eclipse from Ferne Clyffe State Park down near the bottom of Illinois.

    There’s no camera that can capture the experience of watching a total solar eclipse. You stand in the path of totality and through your filter you watch. You don’t stare for long minutes, not even through your filter. It’s the sun, you show it a little respect, it has power to maim.

    You see the first nibble taken out of the edge — “It’s started!” You still have plenty of time. The eclipse is a slow-moving thing.

    Over the next hour you take increasingly frequent filtered glimpses as the disk of the sun shrinks to look like an apple with a bite taken out, a banana, a fingernail clipping — the crescent sun.

    The eclipse is a slow-moving thing until that moment of totality. You see the last glowing edge wink out through your filter, and you lower your filter and look. You’ve seen photos of totality, this is 2017, you easily find them on the web. This is happening now in the sky above you. Where there was the brilliant star that powers our living world there is now a black hole surrounded by a bright, irregular halo. It reminds you of a lion.

    A lion with a perfectly round, purely black and featureless face. A perfect circle of total void. The angry — coldly angry, terribly, awfully angry — face of the god revealed, the deep and unfathomable mystery of a celestial being gazing down on a world in which you both matter immeasurably and are an insignificance of less than nothing.

    I have been a stargazer since I was a child. I have never seen a blackness in the sky as pure and deep and “Other” as the blackness of the dark side of the moon shown during a total solar eclipse.

    Then it ends — “The Bailey’s beads! Look! The diamond ring!” You sit for a while under the slowly rebrightening sun and you think about what you just saw. You think about how you might tell others about it.

    II. The Exodus

    You break camp and head home. What a trip! Back to the mundanity! The insanity! Susan and I drove down from Chicago Sunday morning and early afternoon, found a good spot, and stayed there till time to head back home. The drive down, 350 miles mostly over fast Interstate highway, took six hours, including food and coffee and bathroom breaks. The drive back reminded me of news footage seen of mass evacuations in the face of an approaching hurricane.

    There’s no excess of major roads anywhere. Those northbound out of southern Illinois after the eclipse were packed. Bumper-to-bumper traffic moving at an average speed of twenty miles an hour.

    Coming out of Ferne Clyffe, the police directed us to turn south, toward Kentucky. This was not part of our travel plan. We found our way to I-57 northbound, but got back off it as soon as possible. A slow-moving parking lot. We headed east from Johnston City — where we got directions from the living tattoo parlor with the Tom Waits voice — “Take the Corinth blacktop and you can get there, it winds around a little but it’s scenic” — to Harrisburg to pick up U.S. 45. We stopped in Harrisburg for personal pan pizzas at Pizza Hut, our first hot meal in over twenty-four hours, then is was onto U.S. 45 northbound for a meandering trek through farmlands and small towns, under occasional rains, to pick up I-57 northbound again at Effingham.

    Yes, there really is a city named Effingham. It is a major intersection in south-central Illinois. We stopped there at a travel center. Packed. Long lines of somewhat weary and largely cheerful travelers queuing up for the john and jane. Fresh-brewed coffee in a big urn. Very busy staff doing a great job.

    U.S. 45 meets I-57 at Effingham, so we got back on the interstate. Slow going. A double line of red taillights as far ahead as eyes could see. We poked along with everyone else.

    Time was approaching midnight. I wasn’t hallucinating, precisely, but I was tired enough to be having minor perceptual anomalies. Before they became major, we pulled into a rest area and stopped. Scores of travelers were already there and others were arriving. We put the seats back and got a couple hours fitful sleep.

    Thunderstorms passed over. I heard their rains against the windshield while I dozed, saw the light of lightning flashes from under the brim of the hat covering my face.

    By around 2:00 I was rested enough for us to get back on the road. It was twelve hours since we had left Ferne Clyffe.

    It was the longest traffic-jam I have been in. A 350-mile traffic jam. After we cleared Champaign, the traffic eased up. Susan and I talked to each other to stay awake. I sang every song I ever knew (including “Me and Bobby McGee”). We made it safe home by 8:00 — eighteen hours on the road, including the Pizza Hut and rest area. We agreed we’re too old for this kind of trip anymore, and we agreed we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

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