Lost Ancestors

Film composers crib classical works all the time. Forex, I sat up with a jolt, decades ago, at the premiere of The Empire Strikes Back when I realized I was hearing a parlayed version of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto behind the action in the Cloud City of Bespin. But last night, just letting the classical station run in an access of blessed relief at the end of the annual onslaught of Christmas dreck — who wants to hear the same string trio version of “Jingle Bells” six times a day? — something hit me between the eyes.

Just the first few bars. Go on, listen. Same key, even.

I’ve been a Trekkie all my life. And not only is Mahler on my Top Ten composer list, that one is my favorite of his symphonies; it’s even “our song” of poignant memory, the one whose A-theme gave my late and ex husband an opening to speak to me for the first time (“Are you whistling Mahler’s First, or the Songs of a Wayfarer?” Trick question; the answer is “yes,” because he recycled the melody).

How did I miss this?


As I Was Walking On The Green

In the first volume of C. S. Lewis’ under-celebrated “space trilogy” — which I choose to regard as a passionate personal narrative riding under the banner of Christianity, rather than the didactic allegory I suspect Lewis himself thought he was writing — in Out Of The Silent Planet (that’s us), one of the three Martian races, the most arty and poetic (they look like glossy upright seals), tries to explain to the hero Ransom — a stand in for Lewis’ friend J.R.R. Tolkien — how there is a distinction in longing: there are things that everyone longs for in memory, though not in the same sense as one longs for a thing to manifest presently in one’s life (“no one longs for it in his senses”).

I miss my late and ex sometimes. The Engineer has been out of town for several days, and it lets my mind wander that way. No, I don’t want him back in my living room, with his freight of dysfunctionality and copelessness; but I long for a conduit back through time, to his wit and budget of knowledge of everything — recordings, films, basefuckingball even, and of nuggetty aphorisms that have receded on the tide that runs only into the past.

A few times, he alluded to a quatrain which I cannot find mentioned anywhere on the mighty Internet.

As I was walking on the green
A tiny English book I seen.
[something something lives of? grammar?] was the edition,
So I left it laying in the same position.

That third line. I can’t think of the title, and it’s maddening me, because that’s a bit of my past that’s slipped its moorings. Is anyone else familiar with the cantrip? Anybody?


My Day

#1 Randy Rainbow Owns The Internet

(If you have been off the Internet radar or are, happily, a resident of a country other than the US, the last few days have been punctuated by hilarious speculations on what the hell the alleged President meant when he tweeted out something incoherent about “all the negative covfefe”. Presumably, “coverage.” But even Sean Spicer, the Press Secretary, reached a meta point of trolling himself when he answered reporters’ questions by asserting that “a small number of people know what the President meant.”

Nemmine honey. Randy has it covered.)

#2 Romania, Romania

I give money to panhandlers in the parking lot of my favorite grocery, even though I know they are probably working that spot because when you have impulse-bought a $7 bag of spiced nuts or a $9 bottle of wine that you hadn’t planned on, you feel like a fuckwad refusing a few singles to a beggar.

Honestly, I don’t know why they’re begging and I don’t care. Maybe they have a car around the corner. Maybe they are on drugs or drink a lot. Whatever, you have to have had some dispute with your own dignity to stand in a parking lot accosting people for dollar bills. My late and ex husband ended his life on the streets, as earnestly as he tried to keep from admitting it to me, and toward the end of the proceedings described to me how subway riders in nice business suits sometimes simply pressed a five dollar bill into his hand unasked (he never asked, not once). “People are so nice,” he would say from his hospital bed, this being the now-it-seems-fast-vanishing era when a destitute elderly man could end his days in clean linens.

I reckon I can afford a little in his memory. This time it was an old man of bearing, leaning but not painfully on a cane, his face marred by a large wen on his jaw, balding, olive-skinned, scythe-nosed. He looked like a man who should be sitting at the head of a table with a checked cloth, telling his children and grandchildren what it was like in his day; who ought to be taking thoughtful counsel with the government of his town or the elders of his village. Instead he had an index card attesting in crude ballpoint that he was a refugee “from Romania” and needed help paying his family’s expenses. Beside the index card he displayed a laminated ID that I am too blind to have read. I don’t know where he was from. Does Romania even have refugees, at this late date? But he could have as easily been Syrian. Maybe Syrians have figured out that other ethnic groups won’t get hated on as much. IDK. He most certainly did not look like a man who would drink it up; his eyes were clear, his skin was taut.

I gave him a couple of bills, and when he asked if I could spare more in a barely intelligible word salad, a couple more. He pointed to the place on the card that said “God Bless.”

I have no religion other than cats, but put my hand around his and said “God bless you too, Grandfather.”

It is going to get a lot more cruel out there before it gets kind again. I can spare a few bucks on what might be a hustle. Somehow it’s hard to think it was. I went home more at peace than I had been in days, which was worth the price.

Dancing With Anuses

Twice in my professional career I have had to field an inquiry from some bung-brain who not only seemed to want erotic services,  but had gone to pains to obtain, in his quest, the contact information of a legitimate, fully trained and certified massage therapist from a school or professional directory. Perhaps a thrill of the truly forbidden is involved. Perhaps it was a police sting.

Twenty years ago it was the Californian in search of Testicular Acu-Crap, or so my late and ex husband dubbed it after I had spent a ridiculous amount of time on the phone with someone who wanted a two hour appointment (I don’t do that) and wanted to tell me all about his massages at Esalen where both parties are naked (I don’t do that either). When he got around to specifying his need for testicular acupressure, which I assure you for the record is not  a thing, I instantly referred him to a friend who was actually trained in acupressure: “his name is” — click. The Late and Ex, a theater veteran, spent the rest of the evening performing grotesque and hilarious pantomimes, so the whole thing was at least good for a laugh.

This morning it was the runner. He had gotten my information from the directory of members maintained by the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, to whom I dutifully pay two hundred bucks every year so I can tell the state licensing people I belong to a professional association with ethical standards of conduct and have insurance in case someone falls off the table and breaks something. Every so often their magazine has a good article about butts or the bicipital aponeuroses. No one has ever called me from their directory before.

He had a “Duathlon” on Sunday, he said, which is not what the event is usually called, but I let it pass because in my experience competitive runners — forgive me — are often flakey. They are prone to call at the last minute, they are hyperfocused on running and only on running, and they seem to have a higher incidence of adult attention deficit than the general population. I have one who constantly tries to text my land line. This was all more or less in character. So was an exchange of two or three e-mails in which he failed to mention his last name, brusquely phrased in near text-speak and peppered with LOLs. It wasn’t that odd for someone who might well have matured in the Internet age to ask about a website, but when he asked me to “share a picture so he would know who he was dealing with” I gave him the right about.  “If you need to see my picture before booking a massage, I am probably not the kind of massage person you want. Good luck!”

I probably just should have sent him here.

Once again, friends and neighbors, for some ideas whose time has come, you should pardon the expression:

1. Sex workers ought to have legal status, within a reasonable framework of age limits and reduction of risk to the public; “escort” or “prostitute” should be an acceptable answer to the question of occupation on one’s tax return. I have had clients who were escorts — adults selling a service to other adults, with long-time repeat customers. People, in other words — working stiffs, you might even say. Sex work has been with us forever; it may squick some people out, but making it less safe hardly makes it less squicky, and legal status would spare police resources to go after the people who really are trafficking fourteen-year olds or terrified immigrants with no visas.

2.  Sex workers should be protected from unfair labor practices and exploitation, harassment by customers or law enforcement, and discrimination in other employment, housing and what have you.

3. Sex workers should be able to market their services subject to the same sorts of zoning restrictions that we apply to legitimate businesses that are not always appropriate in every locale, from auto body shops to night clubs, so that they DO NOT HAVE TO, goddammit, pretend they are offering “massage.” Making it clear, to anyone with a brain, that people offering massage are offering that and only that.

And then some LOLling anus would not be annoying a sixty-year-old, very grouchy lady at ten in the morning, dancing her around on e-mail for half an hour about massage styles and dates, and then asking for her picture.


You would hope.

Curb Service

I was going to take a picture of my new curb service shopfront to show you but by the time the light was good enough someone had driven off with it.

What it was, was that with the general influx of the Cute Engineer’s stuff over the last couple of weeks, it became increasingly urgent to get rid of a trundle bed that has been festering in my basement since 2004. That was when my ex-mother-in-law died at the impressive age of nearly 102 and, on account I was still conspiring with the family to make sure my former husband was eating  and took a bath now and then, I got a call asking if I could store “some of her stuff” until they figured out what to do with it. Shortly a U-Haul pulled up at the curb while I was working with a client and the bed, followed by a lot of other chattel taped up in packing boxes, made its entrance with a great clatter of unknown yokels.

No one ever figured anything out. I cleared out most of the boxes over the years but never could decide what to do with the damn bed — which afflicted the user with a spring mechanism that would raise the trundle platform before you had it half out from under the upper frame. I belatedly understood why the yokels had tied it together with a piece of electrical flex. When the Engineer and I put it out we used some clothesline and he toted the whole awkward thing up the lawn in four stages, with a visible aura of manliness. “My girlfriend makes me work out,” he said smugly.

We left it at the curb, the rolling frame under the main one, both mattresses piled on top like an impromptu audition for The Princess and the Pea, or an alfresco extension of my massage studio. By the time I peered out this morning nothing remained. It’s amazing how you can do this. When the Engineer was clearing out his old place he put three large metal articles at the curb and called the county for a special pickup; by the time he had the regular trash out, he had to cancel it. People swoop down, and they must have large trucks.

Now the house is full of unassembled pine bookshelves. And cake stands. I haven’t even had time to shot-put a rock at the 39th rendition of “Oh Holy Shit” on the radio.

Agatha Day

In whatever passes for excitement at this point in the story of my life, I missed it.

My late and ex always celebrated the days on which our cats entered our lives; he bought cards and inscribed them, and I still have most of them. He would have liked Agatha.


Two years ago she was a tweenager in heat rolling in the mulch outside my cellar window. She is still kittenish, but self-willed. There is no more determined hairdresser in the world.

Monday of Memorial Day weekend, forever: Agatha Day.


It came on the radio just now, and I flashed back to a moment in the nineteen-eighties when, together with my late and ex, strolling the lobby of the horrendously garish Kennedy Center (“a great place for blind people to listen to music”), I crossed paths with a woman who had been my co-worker in my last straight job, out for the evening with a gal pal whose glance registered on me as supercilious and condescending even before she opened her pie-hole.

A seriously great place for blind people to listen to music


It was one of those programs where they stuff a gruesome piece by some modern composer right in the middle, so that you can’t escape it by arriving late or leaving early — the kind of thing that makes you cringe for the musicians, their lifelong dedication and divine skill prostituted to the performance of a piece that sounds like a cross between hives and hiccups, with no discernible rhythm or melody. You either tough it out till intermission or go back into the hall resigned to enduring the damn thing. I forget which applied in this instance but Mozart’s 35th closed the program, and I remarked, “We’re holding out for the Haffner.”

Ms. Supercilious looked at me pityingly. “There’s nothing on the program by Haffner,” she said, glancing furtively at her crib, which identified the symphony only by number.

For the rest of his days, the L&X could crack me up by repeating that remark. I can’t remember whether, in the moment, we put the poor woman out of her misery.