Going South

March 23, 2009 § Leave a comment

dunes

On November 5, in Union Square, there were tee shirts, sweatshirts and buttons proclaiming: Change has come. Well I guess so.

I’m moving to Florida soon, unless money starts falling from the sky. It’s kind of exciting when I forget about sorting and packing and leaving New York—my city, the only city I’ll ever call home—leaving Philip and my friends. I’ve been here 25 years, but before that I moved around a lot.

The sun, the beach. The quiet. Not having to live alone anymore. These are good things. I can put my mind there, but I’m not there yet. I don’t want to sort and pack, sell and give away, go to my various doctors to get the questionable bits checked, or do my taxes. I want to lie on my bed in the spring sunlight, my laptop radiating through the pillow it rests on, write and surf. I want to enjoy what I have while it’s still here—take walks in the neighborhood, go to museums, have dinners with friends.

And though I kind of want to go, I really don’t want to leave. I’m angry at the world, which could care less. I was angry at myself, but that was unproductive. To be angry at the financiers, Wall Street and the banks, Bush and Greenspan—why bother? It’s not like I’m waiting outside a cold prison in Russia to hear any scrap of news of my beloved. I’m not in an Iraqi marketplace looking at bloody body parts flung among the vegetables. It can always be worse until you’re dead and opinions differ as to whether it can get worse then.

Personally, I’d prefer no afterlife. It’s hard enough moving to another state. Dead, I wouldn’t know anybody and the jackals would sniff me out. People like to say all your loved ones—like my departed brother—come to greet you, but how likely is that? My living brother won’t even come to New York.

I’m going to Florida as everyone else flees. Land of abandoned houses (some now home to colonies of bees), hurricanes, highways, strip malls, Republicans. At least my vote will count more.

There’s no income tax in Florida. No 20° weather, no 4 a.m. drunks fighting or singing under my window. And in June, in New York, the subway fare’s going up 50 cents, with likely worse to follow.

Worse to follow in Florida too, no doubt. But if the system collapses, as so many like to predict, and the seas rise and eat the beaches just to make sure we get the message, I’ll move inland and live in a crumbling lego house with the bees.

Or not. But no afterlife. Seriously. Give mine to somebody’s cat.

***

“I am going to St, Petersburg, Florida, tomorrow. Let the worthy citizens of Chicago get their liquor the best they can. I’m sick of the job–it’s a thankless one and full of grief. I’ve been spending the best years of my life as a public benefactor.” ~Al Capone

“I turned my home state of Florida into the Land of Xanth. “~Piers Anthony

“Xanth is a land of centaurs, dragons and basilisks, where every citizen has a special spell only he or she can cast.”~narrativeandontology.blogspot.com


Updike in the Afterlife

January 29, 2009 § 4 Comments

John Updike

John Updike

Philip and I were talking about John Updike’s obit in the Times by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt. Philip said,  “Isn’t Christopher Lehmann-Haupt dead? I thought he was dead.” I suggested maybe it was written years ago—and we went on like that, Philip grumbling while I said why shouldn’t the dead criticize the dead? (In fact, Lehmann-Haupt is not dead. He lives in Riverdale.)

I know the Times writes its obits—of the well-known elderly— in advance because my friend Annie was friends with philanthropist Steward Mott, and a year or two before his death he had to come to New York to be interviewed for his. There was a flurry of emails back and forth with the newspaper staff about how much vodka he needed to get through the conversation.

I prefer the idea of the dead interviewing their own. Too much congress between the afterlife and our earthly existence would ruin the mystery, the fear, the je ne sais quoi of human hope springing eternal, but perhaps if one email could get through just to say, “It’s pleasure to have Updike with us. His descriptive powers are stimulating all our sexual memories—which is painful for those who don’t have sexual memories, but what can you do? He’s brought his characters. Rabbit is relieved to be really dead at last and the Eastwick witches are enjoying our multitude of devils. John tells us you’ve really been fucking things up in the world. Not that we care especially, but… we don’t want you arriving en masse. Somebody has to dust the purgatorial chambers. PS—be kinder to your writers. Without books, there wouldn’t even be an afterlife, and believe me, you wouldn’t like it. Those of us from the really old days can attest to how stultifyingly boring it was.”

My favorite book of Updike’s is “Roger’s Version.” My favorite Kingsley Amis is “The Old Devils.” Muriel Spark: “Memento Mori.” A little spite goes a long way to give fiction crackle.

Kingsley Amis, Muriel SparkKingsley Amis and Muriel Spark

Fish Chowder and The Afterlife

November 30, 2008 § Leave a comment

The Kingfish gave of itself willingly.

The Kingfish gave of itself willingly.

I was going to make a pumpkin-rootabaga-parsnip soup today, with roasted chestnuts on top, but Charles snuck away to the docks, bought a kingfish and proceeded to make chowder. He made stock from the head, vegetables and cilantro (simmered for 45 minutes) then added celery, rootabaga, onion, garlic, cuisinart-pureed raw eggplant and a little cream and “cooked it until it was done.” Grilled fish and red peppers were added at the table. It was the best fish chowder I’ve ever had. The cilantro and eggplant gave it a hint of my favorite Thai green curry, but not enough to distract from the freshly-caught fish.

I’ve been working on my ebay site all morning, though the beach beckons. Describing my necklaces makes me want to create more—or more honestly, makes me want to pile up all the stones and run my hands through them. When I die I want to be buried with beads; not the finished jewelry and not the glass beads, but all the jaspers and agates, and lapis to bribe the devil. William Burroughs was buried with his gun. For a man who shot and killed his wife by accident in a stupid William Tell game, that takes some nerve, the kind associated with disturbed 14 year old boys and male writers of the Beat generation. But I guess he thought he might need that pistol where he was going. Might need to shoot his wife again.

I always thought the idea of a coin to pay the ferryman was odd. If a spirit-being condemned to row the newly dead across a misty river endlessly wanted anything from earth, you’d think it would be a case of whisky—or a goatskin full of fermented mare’s milk, as the case may be. As a child, I was also confused by the ancient custom of putting food in the grave with the corpse. I thought: it’s stupid to think the dead need to eat, but assuming they do need to eat, won’t they get hungry again when they finish the little bit you sent with them? I hadn’t yet gotten used to the idea of being weaned from a familiar, relied-upon substance: coffee, carbs, Prozac. I suppose the dead might appreciate those kernels of corn and wizened apples to help get them through their withdrawal from life. In this light, purgatory is no different than what heroin addicts go through in prison. You’d need it, I think. If an afterlife exists, which I find very hard to believe in but the rumors persist, surely the transition would give you the bends. A hospital room, then…flatline…Heaven? Back up. I’d need a compulsory orientation (folding chairs, bad video), the longer and more boring the better. I’d want to squirm beside my fellow recently-departeds—sorry, arrivals—checking out their reactions, looking for potential friends. And if I died when I wasn’t feeling too bad I’d need a few roundhouse punches to get me over my addiction to the earth. I’d want that smashing-down-to-nothing addicts go through so that simple health becomes a flaming miracle. Even if Heaven is in fact heavenly, I imagine I’d miss the wind in the trees and animals and hot tea. Brew me something foul from a dog’s liver and whack me with a branch a dozen times, I’ll change my mind. I’ll take Heaven.

As for Hell: if I end up there, I can always look for Daddy.

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