Got Weeds?

 Beautiful? 

Ugly?

If we didn’t know…if we didn’t surround our vision with…”understanding, contextualization, knowledge, experience”    then could this field of yellow blossoms just be beautiful?  Bright, delicate, nature’s greeting, whispering sunshine, a reminder of eternal rotation, repetition, renewal?   

But no.   They are weeds.  We know this.  Symbols of neglect, stubborn roots, plants to destroy, clear away, make room for the ones we deem…correct for gardens, suburban luxury, even privilege?

How do we free ourselves to just see things? Free ourselves to see freely…dandelions?

If we could…we would be free…but never notice our freedom.  Sigh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Match Dot Com (ments)

Hey everyone, I’m back. For now.

Match Dot Com.

First, let’s be clear – seeking connections online is risky.  Duh… Seeking connections by looking at a few selfies and reading  “summaries” is pretty absurd, yes?  I get that.  But the idea/the expectation of finding a few folks to get to know with a few clicks …pretty tempting.  For some time, I’ve wondered, wow…what kind of middle -aged men are “out there” these days, who are these people? A few folks (men only) have told me, “oh there’s so many people out there, just looking for a good chat or sweet connection of some kind…it doesn’t have to be heavy, etc…”  Something, someone new?  A tiny bit of anticipation? A little excitement?  What could hurt?

Okay, after peeking around for a bit, I finally paid to give people a chance to respond to my Profile.  Paying  to meet people..?  UGH.  My millennial daughter:– “get over it mom,  that’s just how it is, no biggee.”    Okay…here’s my credit card # — UGH.

Okay…it’s time for that flood of curious, good-looking, smart, witty, charming, middle aged men to ring in. Surely, this will be easy, right?  Like my men friends said, “there’s so many people out there…”

I pay the toll, so I can cross the bridge.  I send a few hellos… Quick and Light…”Hi there. It looks like we might share a few interests.” God, I’m good…such a wordsmith.

Nothing in response.  Nothing…I’m talking Nothing.

Rinse and repeat.

No “likes,” no notes.

Match lets me see who has “viewed me.”  Wow…I got 4 “views” but not a single “like.”  No notes.  More views, more silence.  More notes from me, more silence, more nothingness.   So, they “view me” and then they don’t like me. Okay.  Wow.

I get theoretical. Is the old adage true?  Men want young, glamorous, fertile, blonde women to wear on their arms at dinner parties?  Men on Match sometimes post: “looking for…” and then they post an age quite younger than they are. I’m serious here people!

I rework my profile; what have I done wrong?  I revise my Summary:  Quicker and Lighter… Confession:  I post a new selfie, one with more eye makeup, longer earrings, a flirtatious smile…  I send a few more hellos. I never get heavy, or hint that I’m a writer and all that…stuff. “Hey there, nice photo.  Hey there…I like hiking too.” (god, I’m good)

Nothing.

Not a word.

Hmmm…

Do I get mad?  Do I get hurt?

I’m 60…  I have some wrinkles, but I’m so hard to look at—I look pretty healthy and fit—it takes a little effort these days, but I have all my original body parts (I thought this was a good thing?). Moreover, I’m not looking for a husband (I thought this was a good thing?), just a little company maybe…I’m chatty and warm, I read books, stay informed, have oft been told I can be quite the witty and sharp conversationalist.  I can be Quick and Light. 

Is it possible that the very attributes that worked for me 40 years ago work against me today?   Is it me, or has the world changed? I thought men liked smart, fierce, strong women…Did I live in a bubble?   Or is it that I’m just not blonde, young, or glamorous.  I don’t wear lip gloss?

I prefer to see this as social commentary, but maybe it’s just ego…I’m rejection whining.

Is it possible?  Middle aged men have an easy time dating and middle aged women …well, we don’t? Is the old adage still true, after all this work, all these struggles?  Whoops, what happened to Quick and Light?

I hope one of you readers is furious right now. How dare I generalize?   how dare I make sweeping assumptions?  I hope you’re fuming, “that’s NOT how it is…sure, some men this, some men that, but all men?  Oh Pllleeasse.”     Okay…bring it on… convince me that it’s not a societal flaw at all…we’ve come a long way baby and all that… we’re all so …evolved now.

WAIT – don’t tell me that…if you’re right, then I really am just a loser…don’t tell me that.  I can’t even get a follow up note on Match.com…

WAIT … if you’re reading this and you’re  “available”…send me a hello? (JK)

WAIT…if you’re reading this,  to hell with Match.com… I already have what I want and need.  Maybe.

 

 

 

Oh Mom, you’re (still) embarrassing me…

 

Oh Mom, you’re (still) embarrassing me (50 + years later).

Oh Mom, do you have to make friends with every clerk, waiter, counter person, professional person who is employed to provide you a service of any kind?

I read an article recently about how much New Yorkers prefer their quick, no-nonsense eateries and other services, everything from dry cleaners to pizzerias.  In, out, thank you very much. Done. Next?  The article was espousing the value of our precious time, and how New York had this equation down to the minute, so to speak. No one suggested rudeness or frenzy, only business-like efficiency.   Sounds great to me.

I’m not sure when this started for me, but I long ago abandoned any need to talk much to clerks, especially to people on the phone behind those 800 numbers.  I much prefer this attitude when doing daily business:  “This is my need, can you fill it? If so, let’s get it done, if not, let’s move on, the sooner the better for the both of us. Let’s make it quick and clean.”   Better yet…never talk to anyone! I do almost anything to avoid calling a stranger on the phone to help me.  Augh!  I confess, I prefer Self Check-Out anytime I can grab it (I know that this is sensitive because of the “automation and jobs” issues floating around. Yes, I’m guilty.  I’m guilty.) In fact, I’ll forgo the bargains at Trader Joe’s just to avoid having to make chat with the checkers.  Maybe I’m just not a Nice Person?

Sigh.  This is the opposite of my mom.

(and it was the opposite of my dad, too, who died less than a year ago, and with whom I had the almost unbearable chore of dealing with while we were out running errands)

I remember 30 + years ago when my grandmother’s daily trip to the grocery was her only social interaction for the day.  The stop at the bank once a week was even more highly treasured.  These clerks and tellers  knew about her grandchildren,  about her curtains too?   I saw it way back then…would that phenomenon become a defining distinction between generations?  Will my own children never have to talk to someone from a bank, or the IRS, or even the electric company?   Will they be spared the misses in communication, the frustrations on both ends of the telephone wires (augh, “telephone wires?” will we have wires?)

Maybe I’m just less and less inclined to talk to people in general.   Maybe this lies at the core of it, and it’s simply an idiosyncratic feature of my growing older?  Is it my incessant need to be left alone, which is the subject of many other examinations of my life?

But my mom—she just can’t walk into the “store,”  take care of business and get out of there.

We had an errand to run at the local Citibank.  My mom had to get yet another ATM card, since she had failed to use the last one and thus, it was deactivated?  (I posted here about her never having used one, so the wonders of 24/7 instant cash have still not come to fruition.)  She insisted on calling in to make an appointment of sorts, to speak to someone at a desk.  I reminded her that all we had to do was walk in the door.  No, she insisted on a phone call. I guess it doesn’t bother her when it takes 10 minutes and some keypad guesswork to talk to someone. Finally,  “might we come by and speak to you?  What’s your name?”

We find “Moshen” at the bank.

“How do you pronounce your unusual name?” (I’m cringing already.)

“Mo – sen.”

“Oh that is such a nice name. What kind of name is it?”

Moshen smiles a toothy smile, “It’s Iranian.”

(I hope this is the end of the name discussion, as I focus on the business at hand…get in, get out, move on.)

My mom:  “The Afghan people have a such a rich culture.”   (I think, mom!  The guy just said he was Iranian!)

She continues: “My ex-husband…well, he died last year…(my brow is furrowed, my shoulders coming higher and higher)  and  I collected rugs.  We went to Afghanistan and…”

I lean over, “Mom,  he is Iranian.”

She continues…”that was several years ago, before we got divorced, and…”

Moshen:  “Let’s get this card set up for you.”

(Whew, let’s get down to it, mom.)

My mom:  They have beautiful rugs in Afghanistan, we used to go to rug exhibits, the people there are…

Moshen:  That’s nice.

( I want to crawl into the floor. )

My mom:  “See, I don’t have my card because I fell down a year ago. I was with my dogs at the dog park, the one over on Calaroga Ave… I have two little dogs,  they like to go to the dog park, their names are…”

I’m thinking, mom, this replacement card has nothing to do with your fall, or the dogs, or any of this…what are you talking about??

But I just say with a tight grin:  Mom, let’s set up your pin now, okay?”

Moshen is being very patient.  I’m about to explode.

My mom:  You are being so nice to us, Moss en.  (she’s butchering the pronunciation) Is that how you say your nice name?   Can I have one of your cards?  Rachel, you take one too, it’s good to have one, in case…

I sigh loudly,   “Okay.”  (Mom! Mom!  We will unlikely see this guy ever again, let’s just …)

My mom is smiling, a little coy even. (Mom, what’s up with that?) 

Thank you for being so helpful today.  You are such a handsome young man, and we really appreciate your kindness and…

I try to meet Moshen’s eyes as if to apologize somehow… I’m so…so embarrassed?

He gently reminds my mom that all she has to do in the future is go online and do anything she wants, she is, after all, “a gold member.”

(are you fucking kidding?  You think she can go online?)

He reads my mind?  He says, ” you can call the number on the card and TALK to anyone on the line. 24/7. ”

Oh, you are so kind.

(Can we just get out of here?)

__

We have more errands – Costco, the eye doctor.  My mom tells the teenage worker at the Costco Hearing center,

Oh, I haven’t met you before, I’m Audrey.  This is my daughter, she works at the college, she teaches…

(Oh my god! Mom!  Hearing aid batteries, hearing aid batteries, that’s all we need!)

My mom waves to “Jason” who is sitting 20 feet from the front counter, intensely focused on the phone.

“Hi Jason (to me) Jason helps me with my hearing aids, along with Jessica.”

He glances over, a (very) quick nod in her direction.

Mom, mom, let’s get to the doc.

Once there, it’s much the same, with one additional quality – my mom becomes a little girl, hoping for the doctor’s approval, for motherly praise perhaps.

I’m taking those drops just like you told me to.

She is not only completely deferential to her doctors, but she expects them to know her too, as though they will remember her dogs’ names and what her daughter – that would be me—does for a living.

You’re so nice to see me today.

She says this as though they had a playdate after school or something. (mom!  that’s what they do.  That’s their JOB.)

Why is she so ingratiating? This is all business, mom.  This is commerce, this is the buying and selling of goods and services.  You pay. They get paid. Done.  This is business.

But for my parents, and grandparents too, of course, it’s so much more than that.  They equate doing business with forming relationships somehow.  I remind them: don’t mix business with pleasure, but they can’t hear me at all.  I am reminded of Willy Loman’s reverence for charm and personality over transaction efficiency and Blanche DuBois’ reverie, “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Augh, make me nauseated.  These are tragic figures to me.  But not to my parents?

I have friends in business who say,  “business is all about building relationships.”  Okay, duh…but I believe that these relationships serve one purpose, and not the purpose of human connection, human compassion.  These relationships are cultivated for the nefarious purpose of increasing profits. That’s what they mean in business 101:  “business is about building relationships.”

Some customer service folks still make small talk with their customers, I know this. The tellers at my bank ask me how my weekend went, and I look at them, wondering, “what the fuck do you know or care about my weekend?”  what? Me, hostile?   Why can’t I just be polite, why can’t I be business-like friends with these people?

Maybe I’ve forgotten how.  Maybe I’ve worked too many hours serving the public myself?  Maybe I think it has shady, underpinnings of privilege, class condescension? Maybe I want to call it out as the bullshit I think it is…Maybe I just don’t like to waste time.

But it’s not bullshit to my mom, and it’s not a waste of time.  In fact, it may be one of the best uses of her time.   This is how she participates in the world, how she connects; this is her social media. I doubt my mom will ever post a picture of her dinner on Facebook.  But she’s yearning to tell the clerk at Walgreens that she tried a new Chinese restaurant down the street.

Good for her?

What’s my problem?  Why the angst? Why this rant/blog today?

Is it so easy to fall out of step with the pace and manner of commerce in the world?  Is it so easy to believe in things that just don’t work anymore, that just aren’t “true” anymore?

Perhaps it is.  And perhaps… I’m just afraid.

Maybe it’s already happening.  To me.

Monday Musings — on Tuesday

It’s late Monday night, and I am delinquent …no blog post today? what of my extraordinary discipline?  my commitment to the first day of the work week?  my imposed structure to lend a beautiful sense of rhythm to the imminent week?

Whoops…

So nowadays, I take care of my mom all afternoon on Mondays, after a grueling set of  work hours, a swim workout, and a long long choir rehearsal — god, as much as I love singing music, it’s so much fucking work and concentration for me.  Where’s my Monday Blog? My Musings? Jumbled up, crisscrossed words, deleted phrases, backspaces over careless thoughts, imprecise and flat…

I may revise my pithy title — from Monday Musings to Tuesday Museday?

Okay, like I said,  I’m not up to snuff.    I will post tomorrow;  maybe I’ll turn a phrase or two,  or at least rethink that new title…

 

Monday Musings: Architecture Matters

How do the shapes of buildings affect us? Inside and out?  Positive space, negative space, the contours of the air, the contours of the pillars or rooftops?  How do these “real” shapes change us on any given day?  How do these shapes affect our thoughts and feelings?  Our whole minds, our whole selves? 

Architecture 101 maybe?  But what’s really going on here?

Of course, there is the obvious:  We just like the way certain buildings look, the way we like anything…Duh. But right now, I’m  wondering about why and how?  What’s at work here?  Just what is it about that arch, that high ceiling?

Two things of note–while I was strolling the grounds of Oxford many years ago, I truly felt smarter, inspired to think deeply, reach deeply into the crevices of ideas, really seek something. oxford 2It was so easy to imagine…so easy to imagine a full life of serious intellectual pursuit. All those arches,  stony courtyards, airy corridors set off a flurry of explosions in my head…new theories about the nature of experience, possible anomalies in Euclid?    If I had been asked to present a paper that week of my travels, I’m certain it would have been stellar, crisp with rigor.   The same thing happens at Stanford.  Oh,  it’s the arches, oh ,oh, oh the arches…and the air.stanford

Upon my return from England that summer, I asked an architect colleague of mine about the design of the British Museum. I told him that I felt so much less tired walking around that museum, could it be the angles, the design of the ceiling somehow?  He looked at me, blankly.  Oh well,  maybe he only did the math and failed to remember to breathe…

Nowadays, I am spending two days a week on the Cal campus.  Again, I am teased into intellectual rigor by the arches and windows. cal woods Why and how does walking between redwoods, a babbling brook, and thrusting spires combine to make me want to hurl my phone into the ditch, bring out a yellowed-paged tome and sink deeply into the fine print, looking carefully at the tiny footnotes along the bottom of the page?  Why do I want to don my tweed jacket  and bury myself in the stacks?cal woods2

Okay, call me a Romantic.

Okay, duh… of course, this is about context and construction, all the “baggage” we bring to moment,  all those images and stories and movies from all those years, blah blah blah, but can we put that social context aside for one moment and just ask this one question:  is it possible that the shape of a roofline, the angle of a doorway might actually impact our breathing, our imaginations?

If you were reading these words on yellowed pages, a recently discovered manuscript from an old Master, a set of scribbled words from the hand of revered philosopher, and sitting in the halls of Harvard,  smelling the pages of millions of books, seeing the light streaming in the paned windows, would you not be receiving these words in a different way?  Would these words not be lifted somehow, off the screen of an obscure blogger in 2019, and into the weighty realm of importance? Would your tolerance for long-winded sentences be increased?

I’m going to Cal few days a week, to audit a few courses for my sabbatical work, an obligation I regret I signed on for…So I’m making something out of it, I’m naming it, like I do. That’s what I do.

I’m going to burrow into books.  I’m going to bask in the angles of the rooftops and window panes, I’m going to hover on the quaint bridges that cross over the creek. Architecture matters.   I’m going to breathe differently.  I will, therefore, think and feel differently.  I’ll tuck myself into a corner coffee shop, reading, reading…pencil in hand, scribbling scribbling scribbling.  I’ll imagine myself …

Again.

This time, I am a scholar, an intellectual, an old tweed jacket, the soft, worn pages of a Classic. I am the buildings themselves, containers of curiosity,  daring, and reverence.   I’m in deep, sequestered from the chaos of my adult life, imagining myself…

Exploding with ideas, inspired to really seek something.oldbook2

Of course,  this will only be true for 2 days out of 7,  the rest of which time I will be once again in my little house,  imagining myself … doing, being…something/someone  else.

Sigh.   I’m a theater artist, after all.

Architecture matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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