Monday, September 28, 2009

(Post)Modern Love: NOSTALGIA: 1958


Moonlight covers the dewy backyard like one of my grandma's quilts -- light shimmery satin here, heavy soft velvet there -- and who knows what goes on underneath.

A new song from Jack's Drugstore jukebox runs through my head as I kneel at my bedroom window, nose pressed to the screen the better to inhale the honeysuckle flavor of the hot Missouri night. My young chest presses against the varnished windowsill, my toes tap upside down to the internal replay of Elvis's "Teddy Bear." Somewhere out there in the dark is my bad boyfriend with his white silk shirt, black pants and black leather jacket slung over his shoulder. He smells of tobacco and Old Spice and Brylcream. One curl falls daringly down his tanned forehead, risking the back of his hand.

Soon he'll whisper to me from the swingset at the side of the house. And I'll tiptoe to the front door and let him in.

Or maybe not. Not that I wouldn't open the door in the middle of the night with only my baby doll pajamas covering my adolescent yearnings. Not at all. But some nights he's too busy with his pals, his old friends from before he dropped out of high school and joined the Air Force to see the world. I resent them deeply. They knew him first, they know him best.

He's a shadow in my life, a fantasy of the night. In my fantasy he loves me and takes me away. He could. He's in the Air Force. He's been to Saudi Arabia. He's being transferred to Washington State. He could marry me and I could be an Air Force wife. I could have his sparkly-eyed babies and a home of my own.

I don't know what I'll do about high school or my dreams of a career. I want to become a powerful woman like my mother's union business agent. And, I need to leave here now.

I rise from the window and lie on my bed. Will he come tonight? In the other room, I can hear the snores my mother makes after an evening at the Stardust Ballroom. The nightclub sounds so glamorous when she talks about it with her friends. That must be why she hates coming home to me and my sister. We're not glamorous at all; me with my pimples and periods, my mewling asthmatic sister with her lanky hair. At least when Mom goes out she can rest when she gets home. Even if she does get up angry tomorrow. We're pretty good at staying out of her way.

Tonight I wish I could dress in taffeta, put rhinestones on my ears, Evening in Paris on my wrists and dance in the arms of my lover all night at the Stardust. Every night I wish I were already grown and gone.

It'll be dawn soon. I don't think he's coming. Tears slide off my cheeks and dampen my tangled hair as I try to rock myself to sleep with a pillow between my legs. My little sister stirs in the bed, so I get up and go to the front door.

I silently close the screen door behind me as I slip out to sit on the steps. The cool concrete soothes my behind, but nothing calms my caged spirit as I watch the sun come up on one more summer day.

***Sandra de Helen later married this guy, but divorced him when she grew up and he didn’t. Now she lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bright Star

In preparation for the film of the same name coming out, a little bit of Keats' love poetry.

Bright Star
by John Keats

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.

Monday, September 21, 2009

(Post)Modern Love: Find a Mate --In Four Minutes or Less


When I used to imagine telling my grandchildren the story of how I met their Grandpa, it was a romantic, Hollywood-worthy tale. Our eyes met across a crowded room, or we bumped into each other on the street, or even --slightly more realistically-- we stayed at the office late at night working on an important project.

I didn’t picture myself saying, “Kids, we each paid 35 bucks to an internet company so that they would let us talk to each other for four minutes in a crowded bar.”

Yet, after years of overtime and sidewalk run-ins had failed to yield true love, I was headed for speed dating night at the bar.

And from the beginning, the evening promised imperfection. Obeying the strict instructions that came when I registered with, I arrived well before the official start time of 7:30. The dating “hosts” advised that it was important to leave time to grab a cocktail before the event began; no one should suffer through multiple dates totally sober.

That’s all well and good, but spending 20 minutes drinking by myself in a bar packed with Happy Hour revelers was not exactly a pre-date confidence booster. I tried staring at the door like I was waiting for someone, glancing occasionally at my wrist in annoyance. (That felt a little forced and silly, especially since I wasn't wearing a watch.) Eventually, I glued my eyes to the big-screen TV like the loser I was rapidly concluding I had become.

After an eternity of trying to look invisible, it was time for the dates to begin. I entered the backroom reserved for the hurry dating to find that the organizers were distracted by a last-minute man shortage. That left me two options: start a conversation with the grinning man in the corner who stared so intently it was clear he was deciding whether I would fit the exact dimensions of the woman-sized hole in his life; or join the conversation ongoing between a young woman and an older, mustached man.

Mr. Mustache solved my dilemma by inviting me into their conversation, which was about his work in a morgue. He proceeded to lecture us for the next several minutes on the wild (corpses leaping from their stretchers when rigor mortis sets in) and more mundane (very fat bodies not fitting into their drawers) aspects of working for the city coroner.

The attractive young woman by his side was cringing visibly at his choice of conversation, and, when Mr. Mustache let her get a word in, she confessed that they were a father-daughter dating team. Weird, I thought, particularly since the age range for the event was only 25 to 35. Even weirder, the mustachioed man then confessed that he didn’t work in the morgue at all, but thought it was a good icebreaker. And he really liked me, so why didn’t we skip this whole charade and leave together right now?

Leaving right then sounded terribly appealing, but I had no intentions of taking him with me. And I had spent $35. So I moved to my assigned seat, and prepared to meet the list of men who would join me at my table to converse in four-minute intervals.

The first got off to a relatively good start -- handsome with a decent handshake (I was to get more than my fill of sweaty palms and limp finger clasps during the evening). But his question was a mood-killer. “You’re a pretty girl. Why do you need to come here to meet a guy?” Geez, his idea of small talk made my Jewish grandmother look like a woman who minds her own business. What to answer? Because I’m a freak on the inside?

Luckily, it’s quite easy to avoid answering such tough questions given the four-minute time constraint -- at least a whole minute can be filled with switching seats, sipping drinks and exchanging names. Some people dealt with the time-crunch by being extremely efficient in their conversation: “I work at A.C. Moore and I sell beer at Phillies games. I live in New Jersey and I don’t like clubs.” Or “I’m here because people who date online are all lying.”

Others thought the best use of the limited time available was to get right to the big issues. “Are you looking to have kids within the next couple years?” a guy asked, while fixing his eyes on a point about a foot to the right of my head. And, then after I had spent a minute thoughtfully describing my feelings about reproduction, “So what do you do for fun?”

There were a few conversations that went well. I think I landed a job writing graduate term papers for a date who was a middle-school teacher. And I’ve got a great romantic restaurant recommendation for the next time I’m in southeastern Pennsylvania. I’ve also gotten reviews of the best beaches in Africa and the new mall in Atlantic City.

But by far, the night's most fun and satisfying experience was comparing notes on the guys with the other girls. Mr. Mustache had sworn to one of them that he had no children and was only 34. In a post-event bathroom conference, we agreed that we were all far more normal than our dates. The odds may not have been particularly good (they never did resolve that man-shortage), but the goods were most definitely odd.

***Stacey Butterfield is still speed dating in the Philadelphia area. Her continuing adventures are chronicled on her blog, Speed Dating Girl.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fighting Words by Dorothy Parker

(Can't think of a poem that better epitomizes Post Modern Love and our mission: "For the love of writing and the writing of love!")

Fighting Words
by Dorothy Parker

Say my love is easy had,

Say I'm bitten raw with pride,

Say I am too often sad --

Still behold me at your side.

Say I'm neither brave nor young,

Say I woo and coddle care,

Say the devil touched my tongue --

Still you have my heart to wear.

But say my verses do not scan,

And I get me another man!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pa Pa Pa Pa...

NYC's Metropolitan Opera's 1991 performance of The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, conducted by James Levine.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Woman in the Shoes

Dengue Fever Perform "Woman in The Shoes" from their album VENUS ON EARTH