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At 4:30 in the morning, Max texted me.

Are you awake? he asked.

Well, I am now, I said. What’s up?

Turns out that he was T-4 hours from Alaska departure and was freaking out because his airline (Delta if you’d like to boycott them) was going to charge him $400 for the baggage he was taking back to California.

He’d made the trip to Alaska in a car. A very old car. A car so dilapidated, I was convinced it was going to fall apart on some deserted stretch of highway in British Columbia.

(You know that highway. The plat du jour at its one lonely diner is always long pork. There’s a service station that still sells gas for 23⊄ a gallon, and it’s staffed by zombies.)

Somehow, though, the car managed to make it all the way from Berkeley to Anchorage, but there was no way it was up to making a return trip.

There’d been a lot of stuff in that car, and much of it made the trip back to California with Nathan and John after they drove up to visit Max. But a lot of it was being crammed into suitcases in the hours before his flight.

What am I going to do? asked Max.

With more notice, you could mail some stuff to yourself, I said. But I don’t think you have the time to do that now. You’ll just make yourself anxious. If I were you, I’d just go ahead and check the bags – and think of this as a teachable moment. Resolve NEVER to get yourself in this situation ever again. Theoretically, at least, $$$ is a renewable resource.

I thought a few seconds and added, I’ll cover half the cost of the bags.

Am I fuckin’ nuts or what?

Should I feel flattered that my kid reaches out to me in times of need? Or should I feel like I’m being had?

###

After the plane arrived safely, Max called. “Thanks, Mom!”

“For what? Two hundred bucks is not a huge amount of money – “

“Oh, yeah. Well, that was very generous of you. But I mean, thanks for talking to me. I was really starting to feel anxious and panicky, but communicating with you really helped me calm down.”

Then he told me that one of the suitcases contained 60 pounds of fish on dry ice that he and his father had caught the last week he spent in Alaska when Bill went up to visit him.

Are you kidding me? I paid for Bill’s fish?

Until recently, Bill, please to note, made around $200,000 a year as a research neurophysiologist for Allergan. He has stock options! Why didn’t Max call his father when he was freaking out about luggage overages?

Oh, well.

The only sane reaction to the things that happen to us every day is laughter. Most of the time.

###

This was the same day I noticed that Ben had removed me from his Facebook flist.

As a matter of fact, I was traveling up to T-burg that very afternoon: Last time we’d seen each other, Ben and I had made a date to watch the Trumansburg Fair Demolition Derby preliminaries together, and tonight was the date.

Ben called to review logistics. “What time are you planning to get here?”

“Around 5pm. I was planning to stop in Roscoe along the way to see if I can talk Donald Trump Jr. out of committing suicide. Supposedly, he hangs out a lot at the town bar.”

Hilarious banter ensued.

“So,” I said. “Facebook. Not that anyone gives a fuck about Facebook, you understand, but why did you unfriend me? Just out of curiosity. Are you mad at me or something?”

“No! I’m not mad at you at all! I just figured that since we’re friends in real life, we don’t have to be friends on Facebook!”

Ho-kay!

The logic seemed a bit… off. But wotthehell.

###

But the truth came out when I arrived in T-burg.

“See, Dana and I are negotiating a relationship contract,” Ben told me. “And this book we’re reading says it’s a really bad idea to stay in contact with your exes on social media.”

“Well, we are exes,” I said. “Although frankly, I don’t think of you as an ex. I think of you as an extremely close friend.”

“Well, you and I text all the time. And we talk a lot on the phone. I figure we don’t need to use social media to stay in touch.”

This, of course, is true. Although I imagine the next thing they will be negotiating in their relationship contract is the inadvisability of regularly texting or calling your exes.

Since the new girlfriend lives 3,000 miles away in Sicily, and since, to date, they’ve spent less than two weeks breathing in each other’s carbon dioxide molecules, I think negotiating a “relationship contract” may be a bit… premature. But, hey! Mine is not to judge.

And I suppose if the goal of a romantic relationship is the formation of an impenetrable dyad that’s orthogonal to any other intimate relationship with a member of one’s sexual gender preference, then it makes perfect sense to cut off communications with me. Ben and I are definitely emotionally intimate (though I no longer feel the slightest degree of physical attraction toward him.) And any emotional intimacy that takes place outside the dyad is a form of emotional infidelity, right?

Thing is that’s just such conventional thinking.

And I’ve always given Ben credit for thinking outside the box.

But Ben has always been what I describe as an emotional hermit crab. He crawls into the preconstructed lives of his inamoratas. He’s very chameleon-like. He adapts and adopts.

And for a guy with such an excellent sense of humor, he’s strangely attracted to humorless women. I think I’m the only woman he was ever with who actually bantered along with his riffs. Dana is a therapist – of course! – and so far as I can tell, a hipper, more international reboot of the basic dour Jayne LeGros model. Humorless in other words.

Kinda like Ben's mother. I mean -- since we're pretending to be therapists here!

###



Apparently, they spend 20 hours a week on average Skyping.

“What do you talk about?” I asked.

“Everything. Anything,” he said.

But from the little snippets he let drop, it mostly seems like they talk about his problems. “When I first told Dana, I’d been a junkie, she said, ‘But that’s not your dirty little secret, is it? Your dirty little secret is really something quite different.’”

“Like what?” I asked. Ever hopeful for some fresh hot gossip!

He shook his head. “Oh, you know. The usual crap. The traumas that go on in everyone’s childhood.”

The intimation of secret knowledge that penetrates through his usual lies and manipulations is like Spanish fly to Ben!

My feelings are hurt but whatever. He seems really happy right now, and he has a right to that happiness, and I understand why he wants to do whatever it takes to help ensure that happiness.

If I can’t draft anyone beside Ben to be the other voice in my own inner dialogue, it's on me.

###

The Demo Derby turned out to be great fun, and tonight Ben, RTT, and I will be teaming up again for Trivia Night at Atlas Bowl.

Tomorrow I take off, and I’m not sure when or if I’ll be up this way again.

“I think that fuckin’ sucks that Dad took you off his friends’ list,” RTT said. He said it many times. He meant it, too.

“Oh, I don’t care, honey,” I said. “I mean Facebook is hardly the psychic roundtable at which all true emotions are arbitrated, right? People do what they need to do to make themselves happy. And anyway, the only two people on this planet who aren’t entirely replaceable for me are you and Max.”
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This photo reminds me of An Infinite Summer, a beautiful, beautiful short story by the Brit novelist Christopher Priest in which – for no apparent reason - characters are frozen into tableaux, which only some of the characters can see.

Look at the three of us! Aren’t we beautiful? And we will remain preserved inside this timeless moment for always, the older woman, the two beautiful faun-like children, the sun setting at just the right angle to enhalo the girl and the boy in unearthly radiance. Us. Forever.

###

Also in T-burg, I passed a sign on a back country road crudely lettered, Colonial Encampment.

Naturally, I had to investigate.

I drove three miles along this deeply rutted dirt road (extremely grateful for my new tires and new suspension system) and found myself in this camp where between 50 and a hundred men, women and children dressed in 18th century clothing were running around on top of this hillside pretending to be European settlers. It was pretty cool! They were having some kind of musket fire-off in the nearby forest. The fog swirled; the woods echoed. Neat!

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Then I sped off to Ithaca where I watched a simulcast of the National Theater’s newish production of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

The real Peter Pan has naught to do with the bowdlerized Disney version but instead is a deeply weird piece of fancy filled with archetypes and profound anthropological insights into the land of childhood imagination – although now that harried parents are thrusting iPads into their two-year-olds’ hands, I suppose children no longer have imaginations: They’re just one more demographic to market to.

I first read Barrie’s novelization of the play – Peter Pan and Wendy – when I was five years old or so, and the book has stayed with me:

Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her children’s minds. It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can’t) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtiness and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.

This, my friends, is a deeply, deeply creepy image.

… and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.

Which means the cycle stops tomorrow since children whose parents let electronic devices tell them stories are merely consumers-in-training who will grow up to be deeply dull little conformists.

Which I suppose is good for collective intelligence.

But not for art.

The casting in this production was especially interesting. In nearly every production ever performed of this play, Captain Hook is essayed by the same actor who plays George Darling, the children’s father. (This tradition harkens back to Gerald du Maurier who starred in the very first production of Peter Pan. Du Maurier was the father of the novelist Daphne – herself no stranger to deeply weird fiction – as well as the uncle of the boys who inspired Barrie to write the play.)

In this production, Captain Hook is played by the woman who plays Mary Darling, the children’s mother.

In full pirate drag, she is ghoulish:

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On the drive home, I finished listening to the audio book of Fates and Furies. Yes, yes – I read the book. But I wanted to figure out exactly how Lauren Groff managed to achieve the effects she achieved, and listening to the words somehow gives me a better handle on that.

###

Got home, went off and tutored Samir.

When I got home from tutoring Samir, Max called from Alaska.

“It must be getting darker there earlier now,” I said.

“Yeah,” Max said. “Gets dark around midnight.”

“Wow!” I said.

“When I first got here” – June – “it was light pretty near 24 hours a day,” Max said. “I mean, yeah. Degrees of light. Dusk. Twilight. But light.”

Max will be returning from Anchorage to Berkeley in 10 days. Nathan asked Max to be his best man, so that means Max will be returning to the East Coast for the wedding – which I think is supposed to take place in New Haven some time around Christmas. (Yay!)

“You should come!” he said.

“I think most properly that invitation is supposed to come from Nathan,” I said.

Also Max is considering applying to UCB’s public policy school when he graduates from law school. My alma mater!

“Since public policy in the criminal sector is what I’m specifically interested in,” he said.

“It’s the second best public policy school in the nation!” I cried.

“Nope. It’s the best,” he told me.

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This may be one of my favorite pictures of Max ev-uh:

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“Saudi Arabia is set to execute some kid today,” said B. “A Shiite kid. Eighteen years old. You know what his crime was? Two years ago, when he was going to school in Michigan, he attended a rally that was critical of the Saudi government.”

“And the moral of that story is: Never go to school in Michigan,” I said. “That is just insanely barbaric. And stupid.”

“Humans have been executing other humans for insanely barbaric and stupid reasons for thousands of years,” B said.

“Yeah. Right. Well. That’s why I never get too bent out of shape whenever I’m confronted by the prospect of human extinction,” I said. “Human beings are obviously a failed experiment. Sometimes I wake up, and I think, It’s all just too beautiful – this sky, these trees, these wonderful sunsets. And then I remind myself: This is sentimentality wished on you by the limitations of your sensory receptors. If you could perceive these phenomena as they really are, you wouldn’t think they were beautiful, you wouldn’t think they were horrible. They would just be. Frankly I think it would be a good thing if some Stephen King mutation virus wiped out the human race.”

“Not me,” said B. “I think it would be a good thing if the aliens invaded. And the human race learned to work together against a common enemy.”

###

On Thursday, I took RTT out driving. And he did reasonably well. Although clearly, he didn’t like it much.

After that, I chauffeured him around on various errands and slowly watched his mood darken for no appreciable reason – much as my own mood occasionally darkens for no appreciable reason.

We are very much alike, RTT and I. Although he is much more charismatic and therefore extroverted than I am.

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In the evening, B and I went to the Zerbini Family Circus at the T-burg Fairgrounds. Quite the nostalgic little circus, and one does wish all those animal rights protestors and PETA people would go fuck themselves. I traveled with a circus for seven months; I’m in a position to know. Circus people don’t mistreat their animals: For one thing, they’re tied to those animals by strong bonds of affection; for another, those animals are their livelihood, which for practical reasons, they’re not going to undermine.

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Yesterday, the BoyZ were both at work, so I went exploring. Well. Not New World exploring. I drove to Montour Falls where I hadn’t been for at least 20 years.

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See this house? Twenty years ago, I wanted to buy it. Twenty years ago, I was actually in a position to buy it. The problem, though, is that it was in Montour Falls! What the hell do you do in Montour Falls?

The falls after which the town is named are directly in back of the house:

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Twenty years later, the town is slowly, slowly gaining a little prosperity on account of its proximity to Ithaca, which has become a hot real estate market.

The Montour Falls library has real Tiffany windows:

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In the evening, RTT’s girlfriend came to town, specifically to accept my invitation to take them out to dinner.

(I’m afraid I couldn’t take them out anywhere fancy since that asshole still hasn’t paid me my money, and it’s looking like Small Claims Court is in my future.)

The RTT gf is extremely beautiful and extremely thin, so thin, in fact, that I wondered about anorexia. But no – I saw her put actual food in her mouth and chew it. And her teeth are flawless, so no bulimia.

Her name is Marissa, and she seems very sophisticated! She just got back from a month in France studying at the Sorbonne – she and RTT Skyped for hours every day! I like her, and, of course, I love RTT. Still, watching them last night – RTT had invited several members of the crew over, so the house was like the set of Entourage – I wondered how she could put up with this: RTT was forcing her to watch multiple episodes of Wet Hot American Summer as a testament of LUV.

“Don’t you think Marissa would rather be watching the original Breathless with Jean-Paul Belmondo?” I asked.

“Nah, she is loving this!” said RTT, and Marissa laughed. Of course, she’s only 20. Maybe she doesn’t know what she’d rather be doing yet.

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And lets hear it for Too Much Pressure – second place winners in Atlas Bowl’s Wednesday Trivia Night!

We didn’t get the one hour of free bowling. But we did get to take home a shitload of designer beer!

###

I was very saddened by the news that a grassfire is threatening to take out Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Berkeley.

All throughout the 70s and the early 80s, this was my stomping grounds. Back then, I rode my bicycle something like 150 miles a week: I’d start out on Spruce Street, cut south on Grizzly Peak Boulevard, come down from the Berkeley Hills on Claremont, and then peddle home on the city streets.

In my mind, this time in my life is suffused in a golden haze – although if I think about it unsentimentally, this was not a golden moment: I had a serious drug problem and the angst, which is always a constant in my psyche, had not yet been shown its seat at one of the tables farthest from the podium.

But in my golden sentimental memories, the Grizzly Peak Boulevard parkland I sped through, hunched over my handlebars, is a place out of time. I just know if I close my eyes and squeeze them hard enough, I can go back there. Bibbit will be beside me, it will be a glorious summer day, and the two of us will be singing, Someday My Prince Will Come and laughing hysterically.
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How much do I love T-burg in the summertime?

More explosively than a thousand Roman candles detonating across a sky that arches over a fallow farm field on muddy Covert Road.

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Teenagers claw at one another, steaming up the windshields of their Daddies’ Dodge Dakotas. Little girls in Disney princess costumes dance in the headlights of their parents’ SUVs. The fireflies dart.

How can anybody not love T-burg?

###

Of course, my own reconnaissance was of a more strictly maternal nature. I hadn’t seen RTT in many months, Syracuse, NY not being a place I ever want to drive to, but particularly not with a wonky suspension system.

If all goes according to my master plan – in other words, if down payments are saved up, if loans are approved – I want to give RTT my car in a couple of months. Purchase a new-to-me-at-least automobile. One with a hatchback into which I can easily load my bike.

That means RTT needs to learn how to drive a stick shift.

My ostensible purpose in coming to T-burg was to teach him to do just that.

My real mission, of course, was to find out what RTT wants to do with the rest of his life.

###

Weather patterns were very strange on the day I arrived. Flash flood warnings were in effect all across the Southern Tier. It would rain heavily in 20-minute spurts. I mean, the skies would open up; Noah would lurch out into his backyard, eye the arc anxiously. But then, the sun would peep out from behind phantasmagoric cloud formations, and it would stop raining for 40 minutes or so.

I found B and RTT in their Bachelor BoyZ pad.

I bummed a cigarette from RTT – I always smoke when I’m in T-burg but never when I’m not – and followed him out on to the porch.

“So,” I said. “How’s it going?

Oh, you know. Good. He was taking that class online – in fact, he was doing the last few problems on the test now. His new girlfriend was getting back from France in five days. He’d applied for a job as a barrista at the Gimme Coffee down the block.

“Just think of it, Mom! I can give you all the free lattes you want! With those foam palm leaves on top!”

He didn’t make eye contact, of course. He barely looked up from his phone.

That night he went out with a couple of his pals. Got very drunk. Didn’t get back till 4am.

###

The next day, I took him out for his first stick driving session. We didn’t get out till mid-afternoon: He had some schoolwork to finish, and the weather was still quixotic.

I’d wanted to teach him stick shift basics in a parking lot where he wouldn’t be able to get into much trouble if he had issues maneuvering the car. I don’t have collision insurance, the car being a 2003 Saturn Ion that with proper maintenance will last forever but that essentially has no Blue Book value.

I drove us over to the T-Burg high school parking lot, and he actually acquitted himself quite well, getting the rhythm of the foot-off-the-clutch and the foot-on-the-gas down:

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The T-Burg parking lot is very small, though. No real room to get up to a speed that would allow him to practice shifting into 3rd gear let alone 4th or 5th, so eventually we took it out onto one of the back roads.

And he did pretty well! He hasn’t been driving long enough, though, to have a real sense of how cars handle. So his turns were pretty wide, and he stepped waaay too hard on the gas. Between that and his lack of familiarity with a manual clutch, I definitely did not want him on the county road, which we were rapidly approaching as we veered down a very twisty hill.

“Robin, pull over. I’ll turn the car around, and then you can drive us back to the parking lot.”

“Yeah, yeah, Mom. There’s a place to turn just a little farther ahead –“

The county road loomed. There were cars on it.

“Robin, pull over.”

Chill, Mom. I said I would.”

I think I repeated myself twice more before he finally pulled over.

We traded seats.

There was absolutely no room to turn the car around. I had to pull it onto the county road, and we drove back to the Bachelor BoyZ pad in absolute silence.

Oh, no, I thought. Not another one of these episodes.

With Robin silently fuming, She’s over-reacting. She always over-reacts.

And me knowing: I’m right, Robin. There are factors that you’re not considering. It’s not that I know more because I’m smarter. It’s that I know more because I have more experience.

Back at the casa, I decided, This won’t do.

“Robin, let’s talk about what just happened.”

“There’s nothing to talk about, Mom. I’m not mad or anything. It’s just very irritating when you say the same thing over and over again. I mean, I knew what I was doing.”

Did you? I thought.

But, of course, recounting the specific patterns I was observing would have required a longish, boring description of traffic logistics that I was simply not up to having. Plus, he was right. Even had he pulled out onto the county road and driven back to the Bachelor BoyZ pad, it’s more than likely nothing bad would have happened. Even if he stalled out! Because nothing bad ever happens in T-burg.

“Yes,” I said. “I can see how irritating that could be. I apologize. But did you like driving the car? Did you get something out of it?”

“Of course!” he said, thumbs rapidly working his phone’s virtual keyboard. “And thank you very much for spending the time teaching me!”

“Can I say something else?”

“Sure!”

“I mean, don’t take offense at this. I’m not telling you to change your behavior. But when I try to talk to you, and you never look up from your phone, it has a very off-putting effect on me. It makes me feel like you’re not listening.”

“But, I am listening! I can listen to you and pay attention to my phone.”

“I’m not saying you can’t. I’m saying I feel ignored when you do that.”

He looked up at me then. “Poor Mom,” he said affectionately. “Trapped forever in the 1990s.”

See? The therapy has paid off!

###

Afterwards he dressed me up in an embarrassing hat like a little kid costuming a fat pet pug:

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Then he went off with the same set of pals from the night before to listen to bad country western music and watch fireworks.

And come back drunk at 4 o’clock in the morning.

###

B and I watched the fireworks, too. Drove to the field just outside the winery where RTT was drinking with his friends and sat in a field.

###

As we did for all 17 years of our marriage, and as we’ve done every day we’ve spent time with each other since, B and I woke up the next morning, drank strong coffee and talked about the Meaning of the Universe for two hours.

“He was very maudlin when he staggered home last night,” B said.

“Oh, dear,” I said.

“On and on and on. About how he wasted four years getting the wrong degree, and he’s financially dependent on me, and if he’s lucky, maybe he’ll get a shitty little job in a shitty little coffeehouse. How he’s such a loser.”

Oh, dear,” I said. “Why won’t he ever talk about those things when he’s sober? I tried to broach those topics with him, and he blew me off. Though I do recognize that as his mother, I’m not the ideal candidate.”

“And anyway, “ I added, “I’m sure one of his frat brothers could help him land a high-paying job.”

“They could!” B said. “On Wall Street no less. But he says he doesn’t want to do that. Says it would be boring.”

“Oh, well,” I said. “God forbid that anyone should have to take a job that pays lots and lots of money and is boring. Anyway, he’s feeling what almost every kid feels nowadays when they graduate from college. He needs a couple of months to decompress from the academic grind and then he can start figuring out what exactly it is that he wants to do.”

“But he’s got those loans to pay off.”

“True,” I said. “But the real issue is that there are lots and lots of things he doesn’t want to do but nothing that he does want to do.”

“He says he wants to write.”

“But he doesn’t write,” I said. “He’s a very talented writer when he does write. But if you want to be a writer, you have to spend at least a few hours a day at it, finding your voice, honing your craft. Gratifications must be deferred; distractions must be ignored. It’s not magic. It’s craft.”

I will say that with all my multiple failings, that’s one thing I realized early on. Throughout my many years in the 9-to-5 workforce, I set my alarm for 3 o’clock every morning. To write. And I still get up at 5 o’clock every morning. To write.
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After dreaming about it, I was moved to Google-streetview the old apartment on Telegraph Avenue. It’s still there! And it’s still got the adult bookstore on its ground floor. So funny!

Those bay windows on the second floor are the ones Danny jumps out of. The tree, though, was the merest sapling when I lived there.

###

Dreamed that Max (my oldest son) and I were running around on the subway. And I was in an odd, petulant, resentful mood – Max was not paying enough attention to me! So at some point when he was running to catch a train, I deliberately dawdled behind so that I missed the train. And then it occurred to me that I didn’t have the slightest idea where I was. That the subway system had changed dramatically since the last time I’d been on it. I was now quite lost.

In the dream, Max was very excited because he’d just adopted Justin. (Robin’s high school best friend who committed suicide his first year in college.) “It’s a weird thing to do, I know,” he told me. “But I’m absolutely convinced I can save him.”

###

Weather has turned spectacular, so I’ve been spending as much time as I can outside, soaking up that Vitamin D.

The Goddess of Smartphones has got her fountain back:

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She really is the Goddess of Smartphones, as you can see from this highly pixilated close-up:

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Smartphones would not be invented for another 100 years when this statue was created, so credit those Vanderbilts with prescience as well as with obscene amounts of money.

###

RTT is a bit disturbed by the fact that his father hasn’t contacted him since his father has been in Europe.

What if that woman murdered dad? he texted.

This was the first I’d heard that Ben was flying off to Europe to meet a woman.

I found it pretty amusing that he would keep that info from me. Honestly, B – after all this time, do you think I really care?

B’s always had the capacity to get completely caught up in the adventure of the moment to the exclusion of everything else – particularly when the moment has a female costar.

I’ve seen this numerous times, but this is the first time RTT has experienced it.

I debated explaining it to him: This is the way your father reinvents himself when he finds his present reality too constraining. Likely he’s telling the woman – whoever she is – a complicated series of lies. He’s a bestselling novelist in the States! Or maybe a ghostwriter for a bestselling novelist. Or maybe a lion tamer with a traveling circus.

Avowals of grand passion will be exchanged: I never thought I would feel this way again! I don’t see how I can live without you.

At my present remove, I find this behavior almost endearing.

It wasn’t always.

But then I realized it benefits Robin in no way whatsoever to learn these truths about his father. So I texted him back, Trips are really ABSORBING as you know. I’m sure he’s fine. He’s living a life that’s outside his daily routine and reveling in it, you know?

Robin and Ben have a curiously codependent relationship in which Ben nags Robin relentlessly and continuously.

I’m sure it does feel strange to Robin to have that nagging disappear so suddenly.

But Robin is 22 years old now.

He shouldn’t need to be nagged.
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Spent the first part of Mothers Day in a snit because the offspring were pretty late with those adulatory phone calls plus neither of them appears to have the slightest inclination to tattoo “Mom” in a big heart on their Popeye muscles.

###

Went running – and almost literally ran into Donnelly Paulson, himself running for the Dutchess County Legislature. Although, unfortunately, not from my district.

I suspect Donnelly spends so much time walking his dog on the grounds of the Vanderbilt Estate because he sees it as a way to connect with potential voters. He’s not shy about introducing himself: “Hi! I’m Donnelly Paulson, and I’m running for…”

When I encountered him yesterday, though, he was a bit shaken up.

“I’ve just spent 20 minutes talking to a couple of Trump voters,” he told me. “And they don’t seem to care one whit that Trump has broken practically every one of his campaign promises.”

I shrugged. “Even Nixon after his impeachment managed to maintain a 28% approval rating. You figure Trump’s gonna retain about 30% of his base no matter what. They didn’t vote for him because of his campaign promises. They voted for him because he pisses off the right people. They voted with their middle fingers, you might say.”

Donnelly shook his head. “I just don’t understand it.”

“Well,” I said. “You can’t afford to alienate them. Just because they voted for Trump doesn’t mean they won’t vote for you. In local elections, people tend to vote for candidates they know and like personally. Politics is really secondary. Most people know Jack Shit about local issues.”

Indeed.

Donnelly is waaaaaay hunky. Hunky to the point that were I 15 or 20 years younger, I might seriously entertain a crush. Tall, dark-haired. Did I mention tall? Tall! Looks a bit like George Mallory after whom my LJ is named. A social studies teacher at Poughkeepsie High School, which has got to be one of the noblest and hardest jobs ever invented.

In the evening, Pat and Ed invited me over for dinner. And that was nice, too. Excellent food, stimulating conversation.

So all in all, a good day.

Except at one in the morning, I woke up in a complete panic.

I was actually so freaked that I had to drink myself back to sleep, which is always problematic.

The panic seems to be revolving around my planning for my Memorial Day trip. Except there’s no reason for me to be panicking over my Memorial Day trip. I like Carol; I’m certain I will have a good time hanging out with her. I like Chicago; I’m certain I will have a good time hanging out there. Whistler’s Mother is back at the Chicago Art Institute! Plus Toulouse-Lautrec and Sunday on the Isle of Grant Jatte! And the Thorne dollhouses!

There’s some part of me, though, that’s getting more and more and more reclusive. Like really, I’ve got my living space configured precisely the way I like it, so why should I ever leave?

I suppose that’s the part of me that’s raising all that fuss at one in the morning.
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Feeling really, really awful for poor RTT – who failed his chemistry final, which means he failed his chemistry class, which means once again his graduation is in doubt.

The kid really tried. Studied hard, took practice tests, did study groups with his friends.

Probably why he got so depressed: He knew without knowing.

There’s a big knot in my stomach and that awful adrenalin lurch in my shoulders.

Because there’s absolutely nothing I can do to make it better for him. Nada.

He’s gonna have to get up, dust himself off, go in to see his academic advisor, see if they will let him substitute a summer school class – Tompkins Community College teaches an equivalent class – and just generally deal with it.

Chemistry was virtually impossible for me, too, back in the Jurassic when I took it at UCB.

Well. Not all chemistry – I actually got As in Organic Chemistry from a notoriously difficult teacher, William Calvin, Nobel Laureate. But that’s because Organic Chemistry is mostly an exercise in applied acrostics. I still remember the final: You are on an island with access to every catalyst and reagent known to man, and EtOH. Synthesize [name of your complex polysaccharide goes here.]

But Physical Chemistry. I would have flunked Physical Chemistry. Except that Berkeley had a student strike that quarter, and the professor was sympathetic. So I got a very, very low C-.

I mean, the Ideal Gas Law. UGH.

Robin suffers from what I suffer from: This notion that if you’re innately talented at something, then that something can’t be worth pursuing.

Neither of us is innately talented at chemistry. So hey! We gotta take chemistry classes. So we can flunk 'em.

The very definition of low self-esteem.

I understand why I have low self-esteem.

But I don’t understand why Robin has low self-esteem.

How did I fail him?

###

Between feeling horrible for Robin and feeling beaten down in the whole political arena, yesterday was not a very good day. I toiled at the Scut Factory. I went out in the afternoon, tried to exercise, but got tired and winded after a mile and a half.

What’s the point of being alive? I wondered.

Which is a ridiculous question.

There is no point.

You just are.

You deal with it.

You try to strike the right balance between distraction and mindfulness.

The rest is just brain chemicals.
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B called at the crack of dawn to inform me that:

(A) RTT was so hideously depressed that B had been up with him till 4 in the morning trying to text him down

– and that –

(B) he (B) had shingles.

Before I even had coffee!

###

The magic power I want?

The ability to shield the people I love from pain and distress.

Truly, I’d rather be kidnapped by Erik and Sigfried (gratuitous The Last Kingdom reference alert!) than have one drop of misery descend upon those who huddle in the small inner circle of my heart.

But, helas! Such small sorceries as I command are only strong enough to hold the umbrella over me and my cats.

I’m really grateful that I’ve landed where I’ve landed. That somehow after all the vicissitudes of my life, I’ve landed in a pretty little world where I’m more-or-less content. Yeah, yeah – I got troubles. Fixing the car is probably gonna set me back a grand. That pain on the right side of my neck? It’s cancer, right? Plus I gained 20 pounds over the course of the winter so that now, when I try to wiggle into my favorite black dress, I look just like Mama June pre-bariatric surgery.

But these aren’t problems. They’re vexations.

Plus even if they were problems, they’d be first world problems.

No. I’ve lucked out. And I know it.

But you can’t share luck.

###

Else? The proto-Rimbaud blogger wrote back, giving me access to a podcast he’d done recently. “Use any quote you want,” he said.

His blog has no personal identifying info on it whatsoever, which is something I respect. That means he’s not keeping it for personal aggrandizement or self-promotion.

And I suppose I have to do Vox Popoli as one of the Trump Insurgency blogs.

I really loathe Vox Day a/k/a Theodore Robert Beale. Nazis love him ‘cause he uses words of more than one syllable when he writes about white nationalism. Science fiction fans may remember him as one of the driving forces behind the whole Hugo Award hashtag RabidPuppies controversy.
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In the morning yesterday, RTT contacted me about making money – did I know any quick ways?

Sadly, I don’t.

We chatted for 20 minutes or so.

Back from the D.C. Science march, he is hideously depressed.

“I have zero interest in my field,” he said. “Literally zero. I'm not going to get a job in my field, and I have no interest in pursuing one. I don’t have any motivation for anything.”

“I wish I had gone to Purchase for writing,” he added, and I thought, Well. Yeah.

Purchase had been my idea. It seemed like such a natural fit for RTT. Edgy. Artistic. Close enough to NYC to elicit mentorships from muy successful practitioners of artistic edginess. I was floored when RTT decided to pursue environmental studies and forestry at Syracuse. But what could I say? I’ve never been one of those parental types who goes all hard-line with my kids about the choices they’re making. Maybe I should have been. But that’s completely alien to my nature.

So, instead I said, “It doesn’t benefit you in the slightest to second guess those kinds of things. What you have to do is to try and understand why you made the choice you made, and when a similar situation presents itself in your life – and trust me, it will, it will – make a different choice.

“And anyway, remarkably few people end up getting positions in their fields. You’ve learned skills that are highly transferable. Plus… you have something that very few people I know have: You’re charismatic, people naturally gravitate toward you, and you’re a genius at networking. Once you figure out a way to leverage that, you’re golden. But you’re gonna have to leave Ithaca to do that.”

“Meh,” said Robin. “I’m just tired of everything.”

“I get it,” I said.

“I dunno if you do,” he said.

###

But, of course, I do.

I wasn’t always the kindly, eccentric senior citizen you see before you now, I long to say.

He’s never gonna see that.

Parenting is just such an odd relationship to have with someone.

The other party in the relationship is never going to see you except as some sort of archetypal monster.

You, on the other hand, see them in 20 different dimensions, most of which have not yet been invented by either science or art.

It’s so much easier to have a relationship with a cat.

###

This conversation hung heavily over the rest of the day, which was dark and rainy to begin with, and progressed to include a conversation with a hideously rude IRS factotum (that literally could have been a Lily Tomlin routine), a stab at getting mileage reimbursement from the absolutely incomprehensible TaxBwana administrative website, plus many hours toiling in the Scut Factory salt mines.

Nothing is harder for a parent than knowing your child is in pain – and that your options for relieving that pain are limited.

In the evening, I had an executive conference call with the other RTT parent.

“I’ll pay his rent,” Ben said.

“Good,” I said. “This is a bad month for me money-wise – my car needs a lot of work.”

[Insert 15-minute conversation about CV axles.]

Then Ben began talking to me about this fascinating NPR story he’d heard on the neurobiology of reincarnation.

“They’re speculating somehow that consciousness may be a quantum phenomenon,” he said. “That it’s like an electric surge, somehow, that attaches itself to biological brains.”

“Wow,” I said.

“And these vivid past life memories only show up in very young children –“

Yes,” I said.

Because I was one of those children.

I’ve written about this on these very pages many times before.

And of course, I can no longer remember those memories: I can only remember having had them.

But they were very vivid: I’d been living in India, so at the age of two or three, it was very, very difficult for me to fathom that I was now Patty and that I was living in this weird place called New York City.

Fifteen or so years ago, I told Heidi about these memories. Heidi is into the woo-woo stuff, but she’s also extremely pragmatic. She fixed me with her flat blue eyes and asked, “You were an abused child, weren’t you?”

Oh, yeah,” I said.

“Likely then what you were experiencing was dissociation.”

Huh, I thought. Likely, she was right. It fit: Abused children do dissociate, and dissociation has been my ego defense mechanism of choice throughout my adult life. In fact, I’ve often thought my sense of humor – which is one of the traits I like best about myself – is just a very sophisticated dissociation mechanism.

But Tucker’s work is making me rethink that.

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Woke up from whatever baroque storyline my dreams had concocted last night thinking, You won’t know what you don’t know. Until you know it.

Really, unconscious mind? I wanted to snort. That’s the best you can do?

It sounded like some old wise hippy-speak platitude. Or a throwaway lyric in a Grateful Dead song.

I continue to be in a Mood.

Still, it’s April. My favorite month. My birthday month.

It didn’t snow yesterday. (It was supposed to.)

The birds are singing.

###

RTT wrote a 40-page story about Justin’s suicide and sent it to me for editorial reviews.

He detailed everything from his playlist the night he didn’t pick up his phone when Justin called to how difficult it would have been to hang yourself – as Justin did – on a closet bar that’s actually shorter than you are. (The instructions are on the Internet, kidZ, but I don’t recommend that you try this one at home.)

Except for the playlist, none of this info was new.

Ben is like a pitbull when it comes to dragging information out of RTT, and any information he drags out of RTT, he immediately passes on to me.

This allows me to retain my cred as a Mother Who’s Always There (If You Need Her) But Who Does Not Pry.

I liked Justin. I didn’t see what RTT saw in him, but I liked him. Ben, on the other hand, hated Justin while Justin was alive, blamed Justin for all RTT’s miscreant behavior. Now that Justin is safely dead, though, he’s taken his rightful spot in Ben’s host of saints.

“Frankly, I see RTT more as the instigator than Justin,” I told Ben on more than one occasion back in the day. This always enraged Ben.

But from my perspective, Justin’s defining characteristic was his passivity. Which he tooled into a kind of resistance.

Not surprising given his history. His mother who rebelled against her own overachieving parent – first black woman to graduate from Sarah Lawrence! – by sinking back down into Richmond’s crack cocaine culture. Seven kids by many different fathers. All of them boys. All of them J-something.

The grandmother who swooped down on Justin and Jason when they’d just passed into their teens and transported them a continent away to the white liberal republic of Ithaca.

There’s a novel there somewhere.

###

Well, I can help you edit this, I wrote RTT. But it’s so intensely personal that I want to make sure that’s what you want. Editing involves objectifying and letting go of your attachment to the actual words you wrote. Is that really what you want to do?

RTT assured me yes, yes: It was.

Well, then, first of all, you’re not writing a story, you’re writing an essay, I said. An essay in which you’re using personal experiences to explore some larger frame of reference. You hint at that frame of reference, but I don’t think you actually know what it is yet. Think about this: Suicide is actually much, much rarer in black males than it is in the population at large. Black males are far more likely to put themselves in situations where they know they’ll be killed than they are to kill themselves. Do some reading on the subject. And read these – a bunch of links to David Foster Wallace essays.

We shall see what if anything comes out this as a writing project.

However the writing project turns out, it does represent a personal catharsis for him, and for that I was happy and grateful. It means RTT is finally able to process the tragic events of five years ago so that they no longer throw a shadow over his life that’s psychically paralyzing.

For example: He finally got his learner’s permit and has started driving.
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Dreamed that I was the head of a Silicon Valley company, but my employees were not invested in “our” success (as we used to say back in my corporate days.) In fact, I could not figure out what any of their job descriptions were, and they were quite condescending when I asked about the job descriptions. I kept trotting around trying to extract information, and my employees kept eluding my attempts, so finally, I thought, Well, I’m going to have to do everything myself. Which didn’t particularly bother me, you understand – I prefer doing everything myself. But I kind of know that the mark of a good executive is successful delegation.

I was trying to set up a group meeting. I wanted to set it up for 6pm, but my employees told me they only worked five-hour days, and they’d all come in at noon. Fine, I said. We’ll meet at 4pm. Then I was trying to find a writer who could craft the meeting announcement, and one such was actually on staff except she burst into tears when I tried to give her the assignment and accused me of bullying her.

Then I awoke.

###

Robin texted me a photo last night.

Great, I thought. He’s taken up abstract painting.

I was wondering whether he actually knew who Jackson Pollock was so I could blandish him by dropping that painter’s name.

Then he texted me again: That’s my vomit.

Right, thought I to myself. You should know better than to expect Robin to reach out to you without an agenda.

Been pretty sick all day, Robin continued. Figured it was a hangover. But my puke looks like it has blood in it. And I dunno how to describe this well but like if I snort for instance to try to spit out a loogie, I feel this weird thing, like, maybe my tonsils? Not sure what else it is. At first I tried to like "snort" it out assuming it was a big piece of phlegm but I think it's just a part of my throat that's super enflamed.

Reader, I am not a doctor, but I play one on TV!

What does the blood look like? I asked. Is it bright red?

Yeah, he said.

I suspect your tonsils are inflamed, I said.

###

No thermometer in the house to check his temp. (Natch.) He doesn’t know what lymph nodes are – which struck me as a bit odd given how much animal biology he’s studied – so he doesn’t know whether they’re inflamed.

Well, you should see a doctor, I said. You may need antibiotics.

What I did not tell him is that inflamed tonsils have the potential to morph into a medical emergency. If they get too inflamed, they can occlude the airway. A tracheotomy would really ruin Robin’s looks.

We stayed in contact for an hour or so during which time I ascertained that he was in no immediate danger of dying, that the student health clinic opens at 8 this morning, and that there was absolutely no food in the house since he’d spent his last $100 on tickets to a basketball game and a ceremonial frat dinner.

(Robin belongs to the same fraternity as Donald Trump’s two sons.

I imagine that means if McDonald’s refuses to hire him after he graduates, he can get a job in the Trump White House.)

I’m gonna Internet-order him some food this morning.

My furious volley of morning texts has gone unanswered. I figure he’s either dead or sleeping. I don’t figure he’s on his way to the clinic – though he really should be on his way to the clinic: B tells me Robin has a Big Test today at 10:30 and he probably should get his medical needs tended to before that.

###

I’ve been pretty angry at Robin for the past few weeks. Not that this impacts my relationship with Robin in any way since we never communicate. I’m not big on initiating contact with anyone since I have this innate thought, mired like stable muck on the floorboards of my mind, that nobody really wants to hear from me. That’s what an abusive childhood will do to you.

I was willing to try and overcome those innate tendencies on Robin’s behalf since he is, after all, my son, but he almost never picked up the phone when I called, never answered my voice messages, never responded to my attempts at friviolity via text.

So after a while, I just stopped trying.

###

I was pissed at Robin over some irresponsible behavior that involved my other son, his brother Max. In fact, Max actually called me to ask if Robin was avoiding him. Many years ago after I made some awkward attempt to get the two boys to play more nicely with each other, Max told me in no uncertain language to butt out of his relationship with Robin. So the fact that Max was actually asking me about his relationship with Robin was pretty significant.

Robin is completely irresponsible.

Of course, so was I at his age.

In fact, I was worse than irresponsible. I was a pretty adept little hustler. Small hustles. But hustles nonetheless.

So in some cosmic sense, I understand exactly where Robin is coming from. Temperamentally, we are very much alike, and many people think we look alike. Gazing once at a photograph of me taken around age 20, B remarked, “You know, you and Robin could be fraternal twins. Separated by 40 years.”

I’m inclined to cut Robin a lot of slack, but at the same time, I do worry that he will never be able to turn himself around.

As a parent, it tears me apart to see my children in pain. I’d throw myself in front of a speeding bus rather than to have it hit my children.

I’d rather Robin had been born empathetic and honest like Max rather than duplicitous and conniving like me because that particular transformation process involves a lot of pain, a lot of personal humiliation. It’s gonna cost him, and I can’t bear the thought of him suffering.

But suffer, he will.

Otherwise, he’ll turn into a man like my father or my half-brothers.

Or a man like the man his own father was before B’s near-death experience turned him into a Real Human Boy.

###

Robin just texted. He's on his way to the clinic.

Great, I texted back. Responsible decision.

This is my attempt at positive reinforcement: I use the word "responsible" a lot when I talk to Robin about the decisions he makes.

Somehow, Robin thinks of me as more of a dragon than he thinks of his father. Possibly the residue of those screaming, knockdown fights we used to have when he was a teenager, and I made him go to school.

("Robin says that the only reason he graduated from high school is because you forced him to," Max told me once.

“Right,” I said. “He blames me for keeping him from the personal fulfillment he would have found working at McDonald’s!”

“No,” Max laughed. “He’s grateful.”

Does that mean my attempts to invoke a sense of duty and obligation in him fall on fertile soil?

One can but hope.)
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For Christmas I ate chocolate-covered potato chips, drank limoncello, went on multiple invigorating tramps around the snow-covered parklands of various disintegrating Hudson Valley mansions, and tried to figure out why the death of George Michael was causing such an enormous outpouring of collective grief. I mean, c’mon: Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go?

I also watched the last few episodes of Season 6 of The Sopranos. I’d missed Season 6 when the series was in regular broadcast.

I have mixed feelings about The Sopranos. Yeah, yeah, it’s brilliant filmmaking. It’s also filled with negative stereotypic clichés about Southern Italians that as a Southern Italian myself, make me furious.

It’s always open season on Southern Italians so far as the entertainment industry is concerned.

I remember going into the break room at SRI back in those bleak Ithaca days and hearing this guy go on and on about how funny Jersey Shore was.

“How can you watch that bigoted tripe?” I said.

“They’re guineas,” he said. “Gumbas. They’re funny.”

This guy, by the way, was black.

I digress.

Much like those chocolate-covered potato chips, I didn’t expect to like those last few episodes of The Sopranos, but I did. They were filled with really subtle touches – as for example, in the brief one-shot where the contractor dumps asbestos into the Jersey marshlands, and you hear the quacking of ducks. Ducks, you will remember from the very first episode, are totemic animals signifying the good side of Tony’s nature, so this brief, throwaway scene is a brilliant thematic summation of just how corrupt Tony has become. Brilliant but not belabored: exquisite art-making.

###

Spoke with the offspring.

Poor RTT’s last paycheck is being held hostage by the simple, sexy, affirmations contractor for whom he worked last summer. The contractor apparently did a substandard job for a roofing client who is the father of one of RTT’s friends. The roofing client refuses to pay him.

“Clint says that if I talk to him, then he’ll pay me,” RTT told me gloomily.

“That’s outrageous!” I said. “Don’t get involved!”

“Yeah, well. If I don’t, then he won’t pay me.”

I’ll send you the amount that would have been in that last paycheck!” I said.

Which really, I can’t afford to do. But you know – my kid! So it’s ramen for me and the cats this January!

###

Also had another hour-long conversation with Max. The group he was going to go to Standing Rock with had called off the trip – blizzards and the legal turnaround that tabled the crisis at least until the spring. (Not to worry, though: If you contributed to his GoFundMe – which at least one of you did – the money he collected did go to Standing Rock.)

So the group decided to go camping together in Utah instead.

Max didn’t actually know the members of this group very well, and their dynamics were… well… weird.

“I kept trying to get them to address the group process,” he told me. “To dialogue together!”

“Max, Max, Max. Dialogue is not a verb.”

“I can’t hear you, Mom. What?”

“Never mind.”

We then debated for half an hour or so about the merits of making all process between all human beings transparent – he, using phrases like, “I carry my own privilege –“; me, rolling my eyes.

“You know, Max, I’m of the very Victorian opinion that all conversations between human beings are conversations about process,” I said. “This is why I’m such a big fan of small talk! If you’re at all intuitive, everything you need to know about the dynamics between the conversationalists is there in the vocal inflections, in the interstices between words, and stuff like that. And I’m very intuitive –“

I can’t be sure, but I think he actually snorted!

“Well, I get that you and Robin don’t think I’m intuitive,” I said. “However, I’ve had my intuition confirmed by disinterested panels of outside scientists, so I’m confident about it. Anyway, this was supposed to be a lead-in to something that actually happened –“

“Right! Well, two of the guys decided we should have a solstice celebration. And it was just like very weird energy. So finally I stood up and said, ‘I’m not comfortable with the direction this interaction is moving in. Is anybody else uncomfortable?’ And nobody said anything.”

“What? Did those two guys go all Charles Manson on you?”

“Yes! That was it!”

See, Max? I wanted to preen. One well-aimed cultural referent is worth 50 polysyllabic paragraphs of sociobabble. But I didn’t.

Max continued, “So then I said, ‘That’s cool. I’m interested in discussing my own level of discomfort further, but I also don’t want to derail a collective process, so I’m going to go back to my tent now, and if you all are open to it, we can discuss this more tomorrow –‘ And then people started saying, ‘Well, wait a minute: I’m not really okay with where this is going either –‘ “

At that moment, I realized that Max was actually doing something that I do, too!

Namely, he was speaking out against a potentially negative social interaction that he was witnessing.

Except that when I do it, I always have to work myself up into a state of fulminating rage.

He can do it and remain perfectly genial, which means he doesn’t put people on the defensive. This means that he has the capacity to actually catalyze people to change those negative behaviors. Because he's not attacking them. He's merely pointing out the ways those behaviors are negative.

I realize I’m not articulating this at all well. Blame the effects that yesterday’s chocolate-covered potato chip binge are still having on my brain But this was rather a profound insight.

And I was actually filled with a type of awe for my son, "dialoguing" and polysyllabic process analyses notwithstanding. Creating an environment where people feel okay about changing their minds is quite an accomplishment.
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RTT has been doing carpentry jobs on and off all summer for Clinton. Clinton has been spending the last few weeks in Cooperstown.

Shortly after I got to Trumansburg on Monday, Clinton texted RTT, asked him to check on a roofing quote – which was somewhere in a notebook Clinton had left in T-burg.

RTT trotted off to do the errand. Returned 15 minutes later with a bemused look on his face.

“So, I had to look through the notebook,” RTT said. “Because I didn’t know where the quote was, right? I wasn’t spying on him! But the notebook was the weirdest thing! He kept writing all these weird things in it! Again and again and again.”

“Weird things like what?” I asked.

Simple. Sexy. Rock-hard cock.

Ben and I looked at each other and began to laugh.

“Over and over again!” said RTT.

“It’s an affirmation,” I said. “Like Angela Moss on Mr. Robot. ‘I am confident. I am powerful. My penis assumes the properties of granite whenever it is my wish!’”

“But why?” said RTT.

“Uh. Well… How old is this Clinton?”

“I dunno. Old. Like in his 50s.”

“Hmmm. As your mother, I’m not sure it’s appropriate for me to have that conversation with you. Simple! Sexy! Rock-hard cock!”

The three of us explode in laughter.

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I like T-burg. In Mississippi, the geezers congregate of a morning in front of the grocery store or a diner. In T-burg, they sit in front of Gimme Coffee, the ubiquitous Ithaca coffeehouse chain. Many of them are musicians or web designers. Often they have bicycles.

T-burg has two Masonic lodges – one of them active – and something called a “philomathic” library. It also has numerous churches, a small fairground, and many 19th century houses built of brick, stone, and wood, in the Victorian Italianate style. Many of the residential streets are still lined with old horse hitching posts.

T-burg is the place where digital music was invented. In the 1960s, an old brick building, just a few doors down from Gimme, was the Moog Factory where the original modular synthesizers were produced. Bob Moog and his family lived just a couple of miles away in an old house off Taughannock Falls (the highest single-drop waterfall in the United States outside Yosemite.) Bob Moog’s invention revolutionized popular music, but he went bankrupt in 1970. Today, the building is occupied by the Venice Cafe – one of five bars within a six-block walking tour of T-burg’s downtown.

Ben lives right on Main Street, right down the street from Gimme and the old Moog Factory. In an old mill that’s been converted into apartments. Frontenac Creek, which used to power the mill, is just a few yards from his porch. In the late fall and the early winter when the steelhead and salmon spawn, the river otters swim down the creek looking for them.

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On Tuesday night, Ben and I went to the Trumansburg Fair.

It’s a very tiny event as rural fairs go. RTT thinks it’s dinky.

I like it.

The Tompkins County Fairgrounds once stood in what is now the Big Box Store Ghetto along Meadow Street in Ithaca. It hosted a typical late August country fair with farm animals and produce, a carousel, a racetrack and sideshows. Meadow Street is the flood plain, though, for Fall Creek, Cascadilla Creek and its canal, Six Mile Creek and all the other tributaries that flow into Lake Cayuga. Maybe that factored into the decision to tear the old Fairground down. Or maybe Ithaca got too counter-culture-y. I don’t know.

In the 1990s, 24 acres of Cayuga wetlands were sold to Walmart. It increased the city’s tax revenues but there was a Butterfly Effect from the roadwork and various zoning variances necessary to support a massive superstore. A lot of small local businesses shuttered and closed. You can no longer ride a bicycle from downtown Ithaca up Route 13 to Cayuga Heights.

The Trumansburg Fair, in its 160th plus year, is still going strong, though.

The Trumansburg Fair features harness races – one of the very last country fairs in New York State that does – as well as a demolition derby, a monster truck rally, egg tosses, three-legged races, pie-eating contests, 4-H exhibits of animals and vegetables, and, of course, the midway with its incredibly tacky rides, cotton candy, and fried dough. What’s not to love?

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Ten bucks seemed like a lot of money to pay for grandstand tickets when I knew it would all turn into a reflection in a hollow mirror after half an hour or so, so we spied on the demolition derby through a chink in a makeshift wall of tarps.

“You know, I’ve never seen a demolition derby before,” I said.

“Well, your life is about to become complete then,” Ben said.

If you’ve ever wondered who actually buys those old Camrys with 300,000 plus miles that are listed on Craig’s List every now and then, now you know. It was awesome watching them crash into each other, total bloodlust. I couldn’t stop laughing.

“What do you think they’re thinking about when they're behind the wheels of those things whaling on each other?” I asked Ben.

Ben laughed. “Simple. Sexy. Rock hard cock,” he said.

###


unnamed I spent as much one-on-one time with RTT as he would allow. A couple of months of therapy have mellowed him considerably. He no longer seems to be looking for reasons to take umbrage. He’s sophisticated intellectually, but emotionally he’s kinda young for his age. He still expresses affection by roughhousing, which is hard on my knees and elbows, and hard on my physical possessions.

He accidentally broke my phone charger one night, which was certainly No Big Deal – except that it was one of those phone chargers that lights up with different pulsating colors, and I had liked it.

RTT,” Ben said reproachfully.

“Yeah, right. It’s always my fault, isn’t it? I’m always the bad guy, aren’t I?” said RTT.

He’s kind of a master of deflection. He’ll fuck up and somehow, it’s always you that feels bad -- for calling him on it.

I didn’t call him on it, though. I merely excused myself and went off to bed.

Yes, yes: Very stupid to feel miffed over a phone charger that I can easily replace for fifteen bucks at Best Buy – except that I had liked that phone charger, and I didn’t see why I should be made to feel apologetic for liking my things.

Next morning when we awoke, though, it was all forgotten, and that alone was a major breakthrough since Before Therapy, little misunderstandings and miscommunications like this would have been magnified into a feud of epic proportions. He would have taken grave offense at my withdrawal from the social scene; I would have felt self-righteous and indignant because, goddam it, it was my property that had gotten trashed, and it’s natural to feel miffed over things like that. We would have stopped talking. Maybe for months.

I also spent one afternoon brainstorming with RTT on a novel. Well. Mostly, he brainstormed, and I played amanuensis, jotting his ideas down into 20 pages of notes. He has an excellent sense of plotting and story momentum, and he’s one of the most imaginative people I know. A natural writer; very, very talented. So we were able to talk shop about something we’re both passionate about, and that felt like a bonding experience, at least to me.

Milo2


RTT and I had to drive through Freeville on the way to Syracuse when I dropped him off to start his last semester. A difficult place for me to be, Freeville. I was so very, very miserable the three years I lived there. The present tense was such a trap.

I’m always very interested in why places are where they are. Less interested in how they originally got to be where they are. That almost always has to do with how easily they were to protect from foreign invaders (pre-Industrial Revolution) or how practical they were for the distribution of resources (post-Industrial Revolution.)

But why do some places survive while others die? What’s up with that?

Take Trumansburg and Freeville, for example. Both approximately the same distance from Ithaca, the driving economic engine thereabouts. And Trumansburg is thriving.

Freeville did okay right up till the beginning of the Second World War. Population in the single digit thousands, mills, factories, several newspapers, five grocery stores, hotels, restaurants, even a library along its Main Street, but then whoosh! It didn’t even fall into ruin. It all just seemed to… vanish. There are hardly any buildings left. If a fire or a flood that destroyed them all, there are no records of that event.

One of the old mill dams is still in place, but there’s no sign of the mill. There’s a Factory Street, which I assume is the site of the old cinder block factory that produced 1,500 cinder blocks a day, but the street runs through an empty landscape. The Southern Central Railroad ran through town, but there are no signs of a depot or a roundhouse or a turntable anymore. There’s an old railroad bridge behind a No Trespassing sign just off Johnson Street. I used to ignore the sign and take Milo for long walks along what was once a rail route between Freeville and Dryden, the tracks now long since silted over and overgrown with grass.

If anything, the town is even more decayed and creepy-looking than it was the last time I saw it. The little farm-to-table restaurant that some enterprising soul started the last year I lived there is now shuttered and closed. Though I understand economic development of a sort has returned to Freeville: It’s become Tompkins County’s number one location for meth labs.

I suppose since real estate prices in Ithaca are now so high and growing higher every day, inevitably developers will build houses here and within 10 years, it will become a tract development.

###

On the drive to Syracuse, RTT and I talked about the latest rape case making headlines – another white college athlete who molested two sleeping girls at a frat party and was let off with a slap on the wrist.

“That’s disgusting,” RTT said. “He should have been punished. He should be put on the sex offenders registry.”

“He should definitely have been fined and jailed,” I said. “I dunno about the sex offenders registry.”

That’s unfeminist of you, Mom,” RTT said.

“The way I see it is that the sex offenders registry was originally set up because certain types of sex crimes have a recidivism rate that’s practically 100%. Those are mostly sex crimes that involve young children. People who do those things are mentally ill. They’re never going to change. They’re predators, and it makes sense to warn parents about them.

“Someone who rapes two girls at a party, though. That’s not a psychological crime; that’s a social crime. It’s symptomatic of a toxic male culture. Toxic masculinity and male privilege.”

“So?”

“Well, the thing is this kid can change. He can learn to stop acting from a position of male privilege. He can redeem himself. I certainly think he should be punished for his actions and punished severely. But I also think he can learn to be a better person. And if you put him on some kind of permanent list, you’re essentially taking that opportunity for redemption away from him.”

RTT snorted. “Well, you’re just wrong, Mom.”

I shrugged. “Maybe. How do you deal with drunk sex?”

“What do you mean?”

“Would you have sex with someone if you were drunk, and she was drunk?”

“That depends,” said RTT. “If it was the first time I met her, and we were both drunk, then no. But if I already knew her, and we were both drunk…”

“Well, then, you could be setting yourself up for a rape charge,” I told him. “Because she can’t give consent if she’s drunk. And for that matter, neither can you. Do you explicitly ask for consent before you have sex?”

Mom!”

“Do you?”

“No! When you know, you know!”

I shook my head. “Not good enough. No one ever knows what they think they know. Simple. Sexy. Rock-hard cock!”

“Can we please change the subject please?” RTT said.

So we did.
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aa6491d7f9f0a8c29baaf2541692d1eb Went off to Rhinebeck Sunday, ostensibly to hunt down a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing to send to RTT but really because – well – Rhinebeck. It’s a cool little town. The Carmel of the Hudson Valley. Independent bookstore. Art house movie theater. So far as I can tell, it survives on tourism – I have no idea what the locals do when winter comes.

Anyway, at Oblong Books, I found a copy of the kinda, sorta graphic novel The Diary of a Teenage Girl, which I’ve been looking for practically forever (or at least since I saw the movie) along with deeply discounted copies of The Best American Short Stories 2014 and The Best American Essays 2014, two volumes I used to read religiously every year when they first came out.

And then came home and fell into a kind of paroxysm of self-loathing: Are you fuckin’ crazy? You can’t afford to buy books! You have bills to pay! Plus you’re about to go off on a five-day road trip and that’s gonna cost money

Etcetera.

Plus I have serious hoarder tendencies when it comes to books. I tried to count all the books I owned when I packed the Monterey house up, but I lost count around 2,500.

###

I’m trying to compose a missive to put into the RTT care package along with the Stephen King book and the chocolate guitar I found at Koch’s, the World’s Best Chocolatier (I mean, really.) Something chatty and affectionate.

But I am failing miserably.

I don’t know what to say to him.

I’m not mad at him.

But it dawned on me some time this week that if he failed a class way back when that he never bothered to make up that he must have known for ages that he couldn’t graduate. That, in fact, his very attrition viz classes this last semester may have been based in good part on the fact that he knew he wasn’t graduating anyway, so why bother?

I’m not really sure what to do with that fact.

And I find myself a wee bit resentful that somehow, throughout this all,the burden of communication must always initiate through me.
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Thilly me to think for one second that ESF and Syracuse University wouldn’t be glad to take our money and that various financial institutions wouldn’t be glad to continue loaning it at usurious rates.

Of course, RTT can stick around till December!

Pat, the one sane member of the RTT crew, is also matriculating in December and has an extra bedroom that RTT can rent. Drew will give him a job in T-burg this summer digging foundations at 10 bucks an hour three days a week, and – great news! – since Drew is on court-mandated urine tests every week, Drew is no longer drinking or smoking weed! No bad influences.

Ben dragged RTT off to Tompkins County Mental Health Services first thing Monday morning – as much to make the reapplication process look good on paper as out of any concern for RTT’s mental hygiene. RTT starts therapy tomorrow.

It ended well, so it all must be well, right?

I dunno.

I did have an awfully good time with Max:

13226858_10209115507742336_8322958743128734111_n


But I floated through yesterday feeling positively awful. Weak. Tired. Unable to focus on anything.

I binge-ate half a bag of incredibly salty, awful potato chips.

Jeanna called, and the phone reception was bad. “Are you drunk?” Jeanna said. “You sound drunk.”

No, I’m not drunk,” I snapped. “What an incredibly offensive thing to say!”

Very uncharacteristic reaction on my part.

I mean, I know Jeanna is a complete and total space cadet. Most of the time, I love her anyway.

###

Justin accompanied RTT and me on our college tour of Purchase.

“Wait!” I’d said. “Nobody is taking you on any tours of college campuses?”

He’d shrugged.

So I'd carted him along on this one. Which in retrospect was a mistake. Purchase was a hideously long way from Ithaca. We spent hours and hours driving, and I got lost, and the campus tour only lasted an hour. The boys camped out in the back seat listening to hiphop and cracking jokes in that curiously abbreviated language that only two people understood – Justin and Robin.

“So, do you think this might be some place you’d want to apply?” I asked Justin. In my fantasy, I was already editing his admissions essay.

“Nah,” said Justin. “I want to study business.”

“My nigger’s workin’ on his first million,” said Robin.

“Robin. I have told you before. I do not want you using that word.”

“Why not? Justin doesn’t mind.”

“Justin does mind. He just doesn’t think he can say that to you.”

“Do you mind, my nigger?”

Justin shrugged.

Robin cackled.

Justin said mildly, “Don’t be disrespecting your mama like that.”

427868_10150737295740667_1082220315_n


Justin ended up getting the We-Need-To-Diversify-This-Whitebread-Student-Body scholarship to some dinky little liberal arts college in Massachusetts. I’d never heard of it. Given what ended up happening to him, I can’t say he was lucky to get the scholarship. But certainly, it seemed like a redemption arc at the time.

###

By his senior year of high school, Justin had started drinking heavily.

“Justin doesn’t do weed,” Robin would tell me self-righteously. “Justin gave up weed.”

Right.

But Justin routinely drank himself into such a stupor that he pissed his bed. (For some odd reason, Robin thought this was hilarious.)

Robin and Justin would hang out in DeWitt Park doing God knows what until long after dark. Robin was supposed to hop the bus and come back to Freeville after school. But he hardly ever did. Around 9pm, I’d get the call: “I’m spending the night at Justin’s –”

“Oh, no, you’re not,” I’d say.

And hop in the car. And pray that the fumes in the gas tank were enough to get me to Ithaca and back.

And deal with the screaming fests over going to school the next morning.

Of course, Justin had no interest whatsoever in going to school either. When she rescued Justin and his brother Jason from the crack addict mother in Richmond, California, Janet, Justin’s grandmother, depleted the last of her energy. She was in her late 70s anyway. So it fell to the redoubtable and saintly Meryl, then the Dean of Students at New Roots High School, to drive to Janet’s house, and kick Justin’s ass. And make Justin go to school.

###

Justin was extremely soft-spoken. He liked skateboards. He liked bluegrass music. He liked dropping acid. I guess you could call him a hippie.

The gangsta in the family was Justin’s younger brother, Jason.

One day, Justin and Jason ended up in a car with some other dude against whom Jason was carrying some sort of gangsta grudge. Jason was also carrying a gun.

Jason was sitting in the backseat; Justin was riding shotgun. They got to the Sunoco Station on Greene Street and Seneca – shortly to be torn down to make way for a condo highrise – and Jason pulled out his gun, held it to the back of the driver’s head.

“I think I’m just gonna get out right here,” said Justin.

Thus, Justin avoided getting charged as an accessory to the burglary and assault with a deadly weapon charges that sent Jason to the Big House for 10 months or so.

“I don’t understand how Justin could just get out of that car like that!” Ben raged afterwards.

In Ben’s revisionist history, he’d always liked Justin although, of course, he’d always recognized that Justin had Major Problems.

That’s not the way I remember it.

I remember Ben hating Justin. Blaming Justin for all RTT’s lapses.

Myself, I’d always seen it the other way around. RTT was the instigator; Justin the follower. Except that Justin was black – something RTT wanted to be. But wasn’t ever gonna be.

“Of course Justin got out of the car,” I said to Ben. “That was the only sensible thing to do.”

“What? And just leave his own brother with a gun in his hand?”

“That’s right!” I said. “You don’t talk to someone with a gun in his hand.”

“That’s bullshit,” said Ben. I guess Ben has his own gangsta fantasies.

###

A year or so later, Justin ended up as the token black kid in a lily white college.

And committed suicide in December 2012.

The story I pieced together was that Justin began drinking more heavily than ever and got popped for a DUI. Couldn’t stand the pressure of having failed to live up to everyone’s expectations. Didn’t tell anyone he’d gotten popped. Didn’t show up for his court date. Stopped going to classes.

Hung himself. In a closet. You can find full instructions on the Internet if you’d like to try this yourself at home!

Just before he killed himself, Justin had called Robin.

Only Robin was busy and didn’t pick up the phone.

I suppose James Taylor is a terminally white and terminally corny troubadour. Nonetheless, it’s James Taylor’s words I always think of when I think of Justin: The plans they made put an end to you…

And Robin has survivor’s guilt.

Maybe therapy will help him with that.
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Later Ben told me, “For three years, I thought I was going to die. And the thing that kept me alive was the thought that I had to be there when Robin graduated from college.”

###

Only Robin didn’t graduate.

He may still graduate.

He probably will graduate. In December.

But we all thought he was going to graduate on Saturday. In fact, we thought he had two graduations: One from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry on Saturday and one from Syracuse University on Sunday. Max flew out here, and he and I drove up to Syracuse. We were just fighting traffic to edge our way into the overcrowded parking lot and figure out where we had to go to make it to the Environmental Science reception – on time! whew! – when Robin texted: Where are you?

On our way to Baker, I texted back.

Wait no. I’m not there. Can you come pick me up

“I just parked!” I said to Max furiously. “Why can’t he walk? It’s less than a mile.”

“C’mon, Mom,” Max said mildly. “Don’t be like that. The weekend is about him, right?”

So we drove to Robin’s house.

Robin has moved three times in three years. Each time to a house that for all intents and purposes was identical to the house he lived in the year before. Syracuse University is surrounded by a student ghetto consisting of acres and acres of two-story A-frames with steeply pitched roofs and rickety porches. It’s an ugly area, and it functions kind of like the Serengeti Plain for the predators who live in the heart of the city a few miles down the hill. I sometimes try to figure out what population these structures were originally designed to house, and I can’t. But then, I’ve never been able to figure out why Syracuse exists – I mean in the economic geographic sense.

Robin was sitting on his rickety porch waiting for us. In a raggedy teeshirt and ratty jeans. Well, okay, I thought. He’s dressing down. Certainly wouldn’t be my choice, but who am I to judge?

He got in the car reeking of stale cigarette smoke.

“I’m not graduating,” he said.

I thought this was a joke. It is, in fact, a typical Robin humor gambit.

“Oh, okay,” I said. “Well, it was awfully nice to see you. Max, you up for the drive back?”

“No,” said Robin. “I’m serious.”

"You're serious." I blinked at him. “What do you mean you’re not graduating? What happened?”

“I stopped going to classes this semester,” he said. “I blew them off. So I flunked out.”

“You stopped going to classes?” I said. “Why?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I just couldn’t make myself care.”

I looked at him, and I thought, I really should be furious.

But I didn’t feel furious. I didn’t feel anything.

And I knew, intellectually, that not going to classes, not graduating, was not the issue here. The issue was that Robin has profound emotional and psychological issues that he’s never, ever gotten help for – never got counseling after Justin’s suicide; never got counseling after that time that Pat, the one savvy human among Robin’s motley assortment of drinking buddies, got concerned enough after Robin said, “I wish I was dead,” one time too many to call an ambulance and have him carted off to a local psychiatric facility. He was supposed to get counseling. But he never followed up on it.

What would a real mother do in these circumstances? I asked myself. Because I’ve never felt like a real mother. This comes from having been inadequately parented myself. I used to – no shit – watch The Cosby Show for tips on real parenting. (And you can imagine my feelings when Cosby turned out to be a serial rapist only a few degrees short of a necrophiliac.)

A real mother would recognize that her son is in intense pain, I thought.

So, I reached over and just hugged him. “Oh, honey,” I said.

His eyes had that teary, glassy look, but he didn’t cry.

I suppose in addition to all those cigarettes, he’d also been smoking a lot of dope.

###

What to do next?

We drove off to meet Ben who Robin had delivered his announcement to just as Ben was taxiing from the bus station. Ben was standing in front of Starbucks, and my heart just broke to see him – he was wearing his natty straw Panama and his old blue blazer, prepared to be so proud.

I got out to talk to Ben.

“I want to kill that little fucker,” Ben said.

“Well, Ben,” I said. “Understand that I am not saying this to be cruel. But the apple does not fall far from the tree, and you have to understand that he is modeling behavior that he saw in you the whole time he was growing up. I mean, all that obsessive lying stuff. In fact, you’re probably the only one who can reach him because you used to pull shit like this all the time. You know what the motives are. I’m kind of a compulsively blunt and honest person, so I don’t.”

“Never mind that,” said Ben. “Without a degree, in one month he’s going to have to start repaying those school loans. How’s he going to do that with no degree and no job? His life will be ruined. We’ve got to get him reenrolled in school to buy him time. There’s a timeline involved there with the registrar, with financial aid. It may already be too late.”

I shook my head. “I get that, Ben. But this is a kid in crisis. And you have absolutely no guarantee that even if we do manage somehow to smooth is way back to school for a semester so he can get that degree that he’ll follow through with what he needs to do if his mental health is this bad.”

“Well, he’s just got to,” Ben said. “Send him over to me please. I need to talk to him alone.”

I got back in the car. “Robin, your Dad would like to talk to you.”

Robin got out.

Max and I looked at each other.

“Now what?” I said.

“Well, I think we try to keep it as light as possible,” Max said. “We go somewhere, the four of us, and we interact as positively as possible. No drama.”

No drama.

Right.

###

Max ended up spending the night with Robin – the plan all along had been that they would hang out Saturday night. They see each other so seldom.

I carted Ben back to T-Burg where we watched a series of really awful movies – something called The Keeping Room, which appeared to be a remake of Night of the Living Dead except the zombies were Union scouts in the Civil War; something called Dope, which was a black teen exploitation comedy that was supposed to teach us that not all young African Americans aspire to selling dope on corners. I also occupied myself by writing a four-page list of all the things that Robin would have to do if he wanted to get readmitted to school so he could get a degree in December: See registrar. See Academic Dean. Find out if needed classes or equivalents will be given first semester. Talk to mental health person –

You shouldn’t be doing that list,” Ben said. “Robin should be doing that list.”

“I get that,” I said. “And Robin will be doing this list. Then you can compare Robin’s list with my list to make sure he hasn’t missed anything.”

Really, I wanted to get shit-faced drunk, and I don’t even like drinking very much. Ben poured me the last of the expensive single malt Scotch that predated his diagnosis and then gave me a Xanax. I still couldn’t sleep. It’s not as though I was feeling anything. I just Could. Not. Sleep.

###

In the morning, Ben and I drove back up to Syracuse. Loaded Max and Robin into the car. At some point the night before, Robin had wandered over to his girlfriend’s house – not the girlfriend he’d been so smitten with back in January; the girlfriend he believed was out of his class, Daisy to his Gatsby. He’d been so infatuated with her; I’d heard that they’d broken up, but I hadn’t heard any details. I wondered if that breakup had somehow triggered the behavior we were looking at now. I wondered if he felt bad at all since he’d apparently had no qualms about walking out on the brother he hadn't seen in a year, the brother who'd flown 3,500 miles to watch him graduate, leaving that brother in the awful house with the rickety porch.

###

“Did you talk at all?” I asked Max on the drive back to the Hudson Valley.

“We talked some,” Max said.

“Well, I mean – I’m not asking you to betray any confidences. I know full well that Robin loves me, but he doesn’t like me very much. I’ve kind of made my peace with that.”

“Oh, no,” Max said. “In fact, he said some pretty complimentary things about you. He said he would never even have made it through high school except you were on his ass –“

“Well, that is true,” I said. And flashed momentarily on those epic screaming battles back in the Cement Bungalow. Fuckin’ Freeville! Now, apparently the epicenter of Tompkins County’s burgeoning methamphetamine industry.

“I’m sick,” he’d whine.

“You are not sick, and you are going to school if I have to physically drag you out of bed and carry you on my back every inch of the way,” I would snarl.

Ugly, ugly scenes. Day after day.

I may be a complete failure, I thought. My business failed, my husband walked out on me, I'm 3,500 miles from anyone who cares whether I live or die. I'm living in absolute squalor. But by God, I'm going to see to it that this kid graduates from high school.

Bad, bad times.

I quickly willed myself not to think of them.

###

So, Robin. A really brilliant kid. Superhumanly physically attractive, too. But a bird with a broken wing.

What is wrong with him?

Clinical depression?

Bipolar disorder?

Could he possibly be a borderline personality?

My mother was a borderline personality. Is there a biochemical factor to borderline personality syndromes, possibly genetic? Or is it a behavioral dysfunction?

I don’t know.

The other possibility, of course, is that he’s some kind of sociopath. And that would be ironic – to have one child who’s intensely empathetic and another child who feels no empathy at all.

###

I had to get Max back to my place so that he could work on his law review paper. Max is flying back to California tomorrow, leaving for his summer clerkship in Albuquerque on Thursday. The paper's got to get done. No drama.

So, we left Robin with Ben who will hover over him making sure that the things that need to get done to get Robin reenrolled – assuming that Robin can be reenrolled – will get done even if (as likely) Ben has to do them himself. I still think the most pressing issues are (1) Robin’s mental health and (1) Corollary A: Why is Robin turning into such a pathological liar? But I understand that those issues aren’t on as tight a deadline.

The plan is to get those things dealt with and then to dispatch Robin to me here in the quaint and scenic Hudson Valley.

I’m not sure what I’ll actually do with Robin here in the quaint and scenic Hudson Valley. Talk to him if he’s up to talking. Cook for him. Give him books to read. Take him on long hikes.

That's assuming, of course, that he actually comes to the quaint and scenic Hudson Valley. I have a feeling he won't. The quaint and scenic Hudson Valley is not filled with amusements that would appeal to him.

“I should never have come to school here!” Robin said in that initial conversation in the car. “I’m not interested at all in this subject matter!”

“I know,” I said. “Personally, I was shocked when you decided to go here. I always thought SUNY Purchase was the best choice for you. You have artistic talents, you have the artistic temperament. Purchase is a place where artists flourish. But you know, once you’d made up your mind, it was impossible for me to tell you anything.”

###

At home back with my cats, back with people who care about me, I still don’t feel anything. There were errands I had to do this morning that I did because they were on my list of things to do. I made breakfast for Max because that’s the way that mothers should behave.

But I feel numb.

If I could find my “Off” button, I’d definitely hit it.
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trees-lu



Eight straight day of rain here in the quaint and scenic Hudson Valley.

I feel like a character in a bad Scandinavian crime novel.

A bad Scandinavian crime novel involving incest, cannibalism, and expensive brake jobs because it turns out the little rubber hoods on the beautiful heroine’s calipers had melted.

But, hey, it’s done! And the beautiful heroine has a working vehicle again.

There’s some more expensive automotive repair work in the beautiful heroine’s future involving the ignition system, which she’s scheduled for mid-June.

But after that, the car should be good to go for five years with only routine maintenance.

Saturns were really build to last forever.

Figure you own a car, you’re gonna end up spending $2K a year on it one way or another.

And there’s no point in complaining about that.

###

“You should have called me,” B told me on our That Was the Week That Was catchup call. “I would have come down and fixed it for you, and you’d only be out the cost of the parts.”

B’s actually a pretty good auto mechanic.

But, you know, warranties.

Plus the inadvisability of relying upon one’s X for important maintenance and upkeep types of shit.

###

My plan now after activities attendant upon the upcoming RTT college graduation and exciting roadtrip with BB and Carol is to focus on financial health. Get the secured credit card. After one year of responsible use, they will upgrade me to a normal credit card and then! I’ll apply for a car loan! And buy a little Subaru Forrester! And give the Saturn either to RTT or to B.

I’d offered to pay for driving lessons for RTT when it finally occurred to me that maybe the reason he’d never taken me up on my offer to teach him to drive was his horror over the prospect of sitting in an enclosed space with me while I ordered him around.

But he never followed through on that either.

I think he has to learn to drive. Unless he moves to New York City. Which is the only city in the United States with an adequate public transportation system.

Not knowing how to drive has actually impacted his ability to snag meaningful employment post college graduation.

So I think he's actually motivated now. And that's gonna be my graduation present to him. Driving lessons.
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The Scut Factory and the wet dreary weather have certainly taken their psychological toll on me this week. In vain do I remind myself: This won’t last!

To take my mind off my troubles, I’ve been running photographs of my impossibly photogenic younger son and his dissolute cronies through various photo filters.

This one’s supposed to make him look like a Georgia O’Keefe painting:

RTT1


But Georgia O’Keefe is all about the vaginas! And I don’t see any vaginas there – do you?

Here’s a filter that’s supposed to make him look like a Degas:

rtt2


Do you see the tutu? Neither do I.

I’m surrounded by dull minds, rain, and fraudulent product claims.

And misbehaving cats!

Plus I didn’t cancel that dinner date for tonight, and now I’m thinking maybe I should have because really -- why should I ever leave this room again?
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RTT, who took the frat party bus to Houston to watch Syracuse play in the Final Four, photobombs Vice President Biden:

IMG_2894


(Biden is another proud Syracuse University graduate.)

Plus it was 80 degrees here on Sunday. And here’s what it looks like today:

d6105f0a-70df-40e4-88fe-955e3fb5aabc

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