Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sweetness, Always - Dulce, Siempre

painting, Mary Heebner; translation, Alastair Reid

Why such harsh machinery?
Why, to write down the happenings
and people of every day,
must poems be dressed up in gold,
in old and grim stone?

I prefer verses of felt or feather
which scarcely weigh, soft verses
with the intimacy of beds
where people have loved and dreamed.
I prefer poems stained
by hands and everydayness.

Verses of pastry that melt
into milk and sugar in the mouth,
air and water to drink,
the bites and kisses of love.
I long for eatable sonnets,
poems of flour and honey.

Vanity keeps nudging us
to lift ourselves skyward
or to make deep and useless
tunnels underground.
So we forget the joyous
love-needs of our bodies.
We forget about pastries.
We are not feeding the world.

In Madras a long time since,
I saw a sugary pyramid,
a tower of confectionery—
one level after another,
and in the construction, rubies,
and other blushing delights,
medieval and yellow.

Someone soiled his hands
to cook up so much sweetness.

Brother poets from here
and there, from earth and sky,
from Medellín, from Veracruz,
Abyssinia, Antofagasta,
do you know how to make a honeycomb?

Let’s forget about all that stone.

Let your poetry fill up
the equinoctial pastry shop
our mouths long to devour—
the mouths of all the children
and the poor adults also.
Don’t go on without seeing,
relishing, understanding
so many hearts of sugar.

Don’t be afraid of sweetness.

With us or without us,
sweetness will go on living
and is infinitely alive,
and forever being revived,
for it’s in the mouth,
whether singing or eating,
that sweetness belongs.


Por qué esas materias tan duras?
Por qué para escribir las cosas
y los hombres de cada día
se visiten los versos con oro,
con Antigua piedra espantosa?

Quiero versos de tela o pluma
que apenas pesan, versos tibios
con la intimidad de las camas
donde la gente amó y soñó.
Quiero poemas mancillados
por las manos y el cada día.

Versos de hojaldre que derritan
leche y azúcar en la boca,
el aire y el agua se beben,
el amor se muerde y se besa,
quiero sonetos comestibles,
poemas de miel y de harina.

La vanidad anda pidiéndonos
que nos elevemos al cielo
o que hagamos frofundos túneles
inútiles bajo la tierra.
Y así olvidamos menesteres
deliciosamente amorosos,
se nos olvidan los pastels,
no damos de comer al mundo.

En Madras hace un tiempo largo
vi una pirámide azucarada,
una torre de dulcería.
Cada unidad sobre otra y otra
y en la arquitectura, rubies,
y otras delicias sonrosadas,
mediovales y amarillas.

Alguien se ensució las manos
amamando tanta dulzura.

Hermanos poetas de aquí,
de allá, de la tierra y del cielo,
de Medellín, de Veracruz,
de Abisinia, de Antofagasta,
con qué se hicieron los panales?

Dejémonos de tanta piedra!

Que tu poesía desborde
la equinoccial pastelería
que quieren devorar nuestras bocas,
todas las bocas de los niños
y todos los pobres adultos.
No sigan solos sin mirar
sin apetecer ni entender
tantos corazones de acúcar.

No tengan miedo a la dulzura.

Sin nosotros o con nosotros
lo dulce seguirá viviendo
y es infinitamente vivo,
eternamente redivivo,
porque en plena boca del hombre
para cantar o para comer
está mituada la dulzura.

**Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was born in Parral, Chile. In 1971 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Alastair Reid, a poet and translator of Latin American writers, is originally from Scotland. He won the PEN Kolovakos Award for Translation in 2001. Mary Heebner is an artist based in Santa Barbara, California. Her work is published alongside Neruda's poems and Reid's translations in Intimacies: Poems of Love by Pablo Neruda.

Friday, December 18, 2009

(Post)Modern Love: Goodbye to Monument Valley

by Courtney Heins

I remember us dancing on the kitchen tile
You had John Wayne’s rhythm and Gary Cooper’s smile
And just like in the movies
Away you stole
I fell asleep before the ending
And cried…as the credits rolled

Why does everything certain
become everything changed
I turn my back to hang the curtain
My whole life gets rearranged
And I’ve fallen hard
And I’ve fallen fast
And I’ve never caught the moment
‘Fore its fallen to the past

Well I’ve worked all day long at this Circus Saloon
Flirted with the cowboys
And waltzed with the broom
But love don’t pay the bills
Just like minimum wage
It’s the least I can get
But the most I’ve ever made

Is this really me
Is this the life I’ve laid
If I trusted the moon
He’d be the first to fade
And I’ve fallen hard
And I’ve fallen fast
And I’ve never caught the moment
‘Fore its fallen to the past

Well you made your reservations on the first-class car
But you didn’t have the courage to go very far
You’re just a second-hand, second-class silver-screen star
Drinkin’ love on the rocks
And smokin’ homespun cigars

Well I danced with a dreamer
Then stepped out of the light
And realized you just weren’t that cowboy in white
You left your girl on the tracks for some villain to steal
And its about time you noticed that this life ain’t real

Goodbye to Monument Valley I’m not your Natalie Wood
You don’t have to save me
Not that you ever could
‘Cuz I’ve fallen hard And I’ve fallen fast
And I haven’t caught that moment
‘Fore its fallen to the past

The doors are locked
There’s rice on the stove
Understand Your Man playin’ on my radio
But the window’s cracked
The gas won’t light
And it looks like its just me and Johnny tonight

‘Cuz see he’s fallen hard
And he’s fallen fast
And he’s come to make me see
Some things are better in the past
He’s fallen hard
And he’s fallen fast
But he’s come to make me realize
If it’s a great love, it will last

Courtney Heins is an Americana singer/songwriter with roots in Indiana and Boston. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her cool dog, Creedence. Her music can be found on iTunes or at www.refolk.com.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Creative Romance - Almodóvar & Cruz

Pedro Almodóvar discusses his new film Broken Embraces, in particular his work with Penélope Cruz:

The trailer:

Monday, November 2, 2009

La Dolce Gilda

From an SNL spoof of a Fellini film, back in the '70s. They re-aired it shortly after Gilda Radner's death. Video is nowhere to be found, but a most beautiful piece, especially the ending:

Gilda: You're still following me? Stop! Leave me alone! [ walks away, then turns around and smiles] I'm just teasing. Come here. Come.. closer. You know I love you, my little monkey. But leave me my dreams. Dreams are like paper, they tear so easily. I love to play. But every time I play.. you win. Ciao. [ she walks away ]

[ a mime holding a balloon opens his coat to reveal a paper heart glued to his chest, then releases his balloon.]

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

Writing exercise:
What does this painting/image conjure up for you? Write for three minutes uninterrupted starting...now!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Wedding Scene

From Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride starring Robin Wright.

Mawwage, "...that dream within a dream..."

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. www.sandradehelen.com

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 Hurrydate.com, 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

Monday, August 31, 2009

(Post) Modern Love: WE NEVER TALK ABOUT IT


He hasn’t moved all night. Usually he flops around the bed like a fish. We play tug of war with certain choice pillows. Throw off blankets – put on sleeping bags. Turn off the fan, turn on the fan. Go to the bathroom. Take a pill. Get water. See what the noise is. Put our night shades on. We’re more active as a couple at night, then during the day.

We are not sound sleepers he and I. So when I wake up and realize he hasn’t moved all night, I am afraid to touch him. We haven’t touched in a while. We’re in the midst of one of our cold wars, where we sort of coexist.

But now I am laying here afraid to touch him. What if he is cold, and hard, and …. we never talk about death. Never. We have never in our ten years of marriage had that necessary conversation about what would you like done? Where would you like to be put? I think he’s more afraid of it than I am. And I am. When I was young and first learned about death, I just decided that I wouldn’t. I made up the rule that if I did a somersault into bed every night, I would never die. This totally relaxed me about the subject, absolutely certain that this would work. So for years I somersaulted into bed. I never told anyone why; my mother, friends who slept over. It was just my quirky way of getting into bed. And then one night many years after making this bargain, I was tired or maybe even drunk, and I forgot to somersault in. I woke panicked in the middle of the night. I’d known I’d blown it. I had had it in my hands, the power to be immortal. And I blew it.

He gets overwhelmed by the infinity of a starry night. An endless field of purple wildflowers gives him a panic attack. So the thought of eternity just ain’t a topic for conversation.

I turn roughly in the bed to see if that will stir him. No movement. I stare at the wood beamed ceiling. Watch the ceiling fan turn and notice the thick layer of dust on it.

He would want a Jewish service I know that. He prays quietly every night before bed. I don’t think he knows I know. We’ve never discussed it.

The alarm goes off, his alarm – a clock radio. A moment of Santana plays. He grunts, gets out of bed and turns off the radio. I ask him how he slept. He mumbles something unintelligible without looking at me.

We get up, we dress, we go off to our daily lives. We never talk about it.

***Laurel Ollstein lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, and two great dogs. She is working on her memoir
Freud's Opening Night.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It Might Be You -- Stephen Bishop

Who doesn't remember this great song at the end of the movie Tootsie?

Monday, August 24, 2009

(Post)Modern Love: My Little Mate


Like any self-aware and psychoanalyzed single woman in her late 30s, I dreamed of meeting my soul mate. The last place I expected to find one was inside a cold, musty warehouse space that was packed floor to the ceiling with cardboard-covered computer accessories. The setting in no way resembled the Monet-like garden of my fantasies.

David, my darling and commitment-phobic boyfriend of almost two years, needed something for his G5—the latest unnecessary gadget or fancy wingding. I had no such need or interest, but, being a good, supportive girlfriend, agreed to go with him to Mac Mall on our way to dinner one unseasonably warm winter night.

The place, as usual, oozed low levels of testosterone. I wandered, randomly checking out new developments in virus protection and the various choices for the keyboard I probably needed to replace, having permanently disabled my arrow keys during an energetic game of Deimos Rising. David promptly engaged in a deep philosophical discussion about classic cars, guitars, the newest feature on Protools, or some other subject that held the sales clerk’s rapt attention. I could hear that David’s British accent had become more pronounced, indicating his obvious enthusiasm for the topic.

I was in for a long stay.

In the center of the display area was a round, low-to-the-ground bar where slick and shiny new models of Macs and PCs attempted to entice me with their charms, not unlike a row of slot machines in Vegas. Squat, cloth-covered stools shaped like oversized champagne corks surrounded the bar. I balanced myself on one near the center, feeling like the mom at a parent-teacher conference who, with whatever dignity she can muster, squishes herself into a first grader’s desk.

What to do, what to do? Writing a fake e-mail held no appeal, nor did doodling with the latest greatest edition of Adobe Illustrator. But, hey, a chess game. I could do that. In fact, this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to practice.

A beautifully cut glass chess set had been among the many gifts that Christmas, and David had started teaching me how to play. He took it easy on me in our first few games and I was determined to improve. Googling “chess” led me to Web sites that defined the different playing pieces, moves, and strategies. A pawn can only move forward, one space at a time. The bishop is restricted to diagonal moves. The King, well, you’ve got to protect him at all costs. And the Queen, like the female in most relationships, is the strong one.

I knew I had no chance of outsmarting my computerized opponent, but playing would allow me to practice, commit some things to memory, and it would kill the time.

I played along for about three minutes, a little bored since Mr. Computer beat me unmercifully at his first opportunity. “Check mate,” he droned in his inhumanly digitalized voice. But I was absorbed enough that I didn’t at first see the approach of a quiet observer. Rather, I felt him. A little boy, maybe about 6 and small for his age, had eased up alongside me, watching intently.

“Do you know how to play chess?” I asked.
He shook his shaggy, due-for-a-trim, dark brown mane.

“Would you like to learn?”

“Okay,” he said quietly, nodding so that his long bangs fell into his shy brown eyes.

I began with some basics—which was about as much as I knew—demonstrating how the pawns and the knights and the other pieces moved. He soon took over the mouse and made the moves himself after we discussed the strategy of each.

Mr. Computer was a ruthless opponent, not at all like the parent who “cheats” at Candy Land, losing every time so his child can develop confidence and a love for the game. But each time our King surrendered, my teammate and I clicked “new game” for another chance. We would have lost a fortune gambling. As we focused on the chess screen, I noticed he had moved his small left hand onto my leg. He leaned his head lightly against my shoulder, and then, almost imperceptibly, he moved into my lap. I caught a whiff of his mildly sweet, slightly metallic little boy scent, when…


Like a bird fleeing the nest, he hopped off my lap in answer to his father’s sharp call. But soon he was back.

“My dad says I can play s’more,” he announced with a grin that lit up my whole being.

And so we did. I did most of the talking, although our words were few. He commanded the mouse. In perfect symbiosis, we made a great team. It all felt so easy, so natural, almost primitive, which is ironic considering we were playing a game that was thousands of years old on a piece of technology that would be outdated before we left the store. Maybe we had known each other in a previous life; maybe he was my soul mate and this was our one predestined encounter in this lifetime. I never learned his name, nor did I give mine. Formalities seemed unnecessary.

Too soon, David signaled that it was time to leave. He had long ago selected and paid for his item.

I thanked my young companion for playing with me and made my way out of the store, nodding to his father, who had also finished his business. Both men had been quietly observing us, allowing us our little time together.

I wondered why this sweet child came to me. Did he feel I was safe? Did I look nice or maternal or helpful? Or like I would be fun to play with? What attraction had drawn us together?

Untapped emotions and biological yearnings churned through me as I cradled myself in the soft seat of David’s convertible. “You really should have kids, you know,” he said, starting up the engine that would make all further conversation inaudible.

I know.

***Freelance writer Kathleen Guthrie lives in San Francisco with two dogs and a great man (not the guy in the story).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

(Post)Modern Love: Honey, My Head is On Fire


Unless something is burning, sputtering fumes, bleeding profusely, or beeping, my husband Vlad, a family medicine physician in his last year of residency training, does not feel the urge to act. I’m not talking about what he’s like on the job at the hospital, goodness no! I’m merely describing my husband’s approach to domestic situations – unless something or someone is burning, sputtering fumes, bleeding profusely, or beeping, why should he get up from his comfy lounging position on the red couch we inherited from my parents?

The problem, dear reader, is that on certain occasions when Vlad sees none of the four tell-tale signs of an emergency, I see embers drifting quickly towards us, embers poised to land on that stack of interwar novels I borrowed from the library (ay! a red hot one is wafting awfully close to Vlad’s foot!), which makes me conclude that unless we spring to action, we will roast alive in our apartment.

If not catastrophe by fire, then water will do. On the afternoon that Vlad is blissful, napping in front of a tennis match on television while our toddler Théo plays quietly with his blocks (for a few minutes anyway), I feel the flood levels rising – because we are going to run out of milk in the next couple of hours, and I have three days left to pay our credit card bill on time, and we have yet to decide whether or not we are going to attend Vlad’s ex-girlfriend’s wedding in the mountains. And then there are those embroidered sheets my grandmother gave us that I’ve been meaning to iron. And the book proposal for the novel I started working on in college? I must respond to these looming tasks post-haste, lest we drown in a pool of inactivity.

Sometimes Vlad and I go see our shrink CK. CK is smart and funny and forthcoming. When I talk to him about my parents and my in-laws, CK recounts strategies he and his wife (a therapist who practices in the office next door) came up with to deal with his mother. He is also a good listener and he knows when to ask pesky questions. When Vlad and I told him about the moving violation Vlad got several months ago – Vlad’s driver’s license is pending suspension and his car will be impounded imminently, according to the reprimanding letters we keep receiving from the court and the Department of Motor Vehicles – I said that I was frustrated and pissed off, I felt let down.

CK asked me what made me anxious about Vlad’s driving infraction from hell and how Vlad was dealing with it, so I tried to tell him that I was not anxious, I was angry, I was furious, I was an Amazon warrior betrayed by my longest-standing ally (aka my husband who might not be able to pick up our kid from daycare, or drive himself to work for several days or weeks or months, because his driving privileges have been suspended). CK repeated his question.

And that’s when it began to dawn on me – where I saw a fire raging, getting more and more out of control, Vlad saw a gang of persistent bureaucrats who had figured out how to send form letters in scary tones. Unlike an untamable fire, threatening form letters from government agencies can be dealt with during business hours.

Vlad settled my burning questions about his legal status as a driver and vehicle owner after some internet research and a twenty-minute phone call: no, he did not need bail posted, and no, he would not have his license suspended, nor would he risk losing his car if he drove to the market to buy that gallon of milk we so desperately needed. He simply had to fill out an online form, pay a little fine, and show up in three months for the scheduled court date (three months?!).

When another threatening letter showed up a few days letter, Vlad decided to get aggressive about the situation (after much screaming from a woman he had once agreed to marry and who suddenly resembled a fiery dragon on uppers), so he drove to the court in the county where the ticket had been issued (this all happened, by the way, because a police officer saw him make an incomplete stop at a stop sign inside the hospital campus where Vlad had just gotten off shift around midnight on a weekday). You can imagine that at this point I was diagnosing third-degree burns and mumbling to myself about the months of rehabilitation.

Given the deserts and oceans that seem to separate my and Vlad’s points of view, I am eager to ask CK for his off-the-record opinion, not as my shrink, but as a man who interacts regularly with a wife and mother and daughter and female patients (oh, the hordes of women prone to crying wolf in the eyes of their male mates!). The problem is that I am currently sharing my weekly hour on CK’s couch with Vlad (so we can debate each other with a third party present – and CK does call time-outs, by the way). So far we have discovered that Vlad wants more romance (in other words, sex and all the excitement-building activities that promote undressing). We have also learned that I want to get our carpets steam cleaned.

Until my one-on-one hour with CK materializes, I am busy elaborating a few theories about me and Vlad, and about women and men in general, that have been enriched by a small constellation of trusted sources and friends. First, Women are from Mars and Men are from Venus – at least, that’s how Vlad would tell it when I’m in the middle of a Queen of the Night aria-gone-wrong while he’s trying to sweet talk himself back into good standing with the DMV lady over the telephone.

Second, as my acupuncturist says: men are simple. Men are stones and women are water. Water must move around the stone, and stone is polished and shaped by water. She also says that when I am flowing around my husband like a river around a medium-sized boulder, I have to do it happily – I cannot resign myself because I have no better choice.

“Happy water!” I say in return to her, as I wonder how her college-aged daughter would explain the stone-water dance in post-feminist terms. “I’m a happily flowing river. Gurgle gurgle!”

My friend Sara, who teaches kindergarten, recently told me how different her little girls and boys are, year after year. Even the ones who have been given both dolls and trucks as toddlers and named gender-neutrally (Jordan, Hunter, Mackenzie) separate into boy and girl-like activities during playtime. The girls set up house, prepare meals, invite each other over to primp and discuss the day. The boys show up to put out the fire that accidentally started when the girls forgot to take the pot roast out on time.

Once the boys have dealt with the emergency, the girls invite them to stay for supper, but their rescuers can’t afford a sit down meal – the boys have other fires to put out, other people to save. The girls dish up thick slices of play pot roast that they proudly administer. The boys crowd around the table as they wait their turns to receive. Suddenly one of them says, “hey, I’m gonna carry mine in my mouth, like a lion – rrrrrrroah!” The firefighters-turned-lions depart in a cacophony of roars spurred on by pot roast (veggie roast for the vegetarians in the group, of course) while the girls giggle or grumble (how rude!) and then resume their conversations.

As much as I love Sara’s stories about kindergarten, I have other sources who don’t care for anecdotes or metaphors – Venus/Mars, stone/water, firefighter/Betty Crocker – and who focus their energies on practical solutions – ahem, strategies.

My neighbor collects all the balled up socks her boyfriend leaves around the house, and once a week she puts them under his pillow. The next day, inevitably, he shows up with a pizza, a six-pack, and the latest fashion rag, and puts his dirty socks away neatly (to be technical about this, he flings them atop the heap of unmentionables in the back corner of his closet).

Which reminds me: men and caves. A sacred duo! Virginia Woolf should have thought that one over and written a sequel: A Cave of One’s Own: the Twentieth-Century Man. Whenever I can’t find Vlad in our apartment, I call him on his cell phone. He never answers, but he usually shows up 5-15 minutes later with some story about going down to the storage basement to find a tool he’s been looking for or to put something away for me. I don’t dare ask if he had a nice retreat into his cave, because identifying it spoils the action. He needs to disappear to do his guy stuff undetected.

Fortunately, Vlad and I have fully accepted that we think and behave differently in many cases. We cannot explain the differences, and sometimes we cannot understand them, but nonetheless we trust each other. This morning I convinced Vlad to go to yoga with me because he was feeling especially stiff after too many overnight hospital shifts.

“It’s not going to be that military-style yogaerobics, is it?”

“No,” I said. “The class is very relaxing – a lot of stretching and breathing and simple poses.”

I was true to my word. We didn’t do fast paced sun salutations and push-up sequences, no flying crow pose, bird of paradise, or little thunderbolt. Our teacher, Mary, led us through hip and shoulder openers, and a slow series of cat and cow stretches. As we alternated the two movements – rounding our backs like midnight cats, and raising our gazes while dropping our bellies like mooing cows – Mary instructed us to add the lion’s breath.

Vlad laughed out loud as he discovered he was the only man in a roomful of women hissing like mountain lions ready to put out a fire. And those are two of the many reasons why I love my husband – he has a sense of humor, and he knows that girls like to be firefighting mountain lions just as much as boys do.

*** Magdalena Edwards lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son. She is working on a memoir about becoming a mother in unexpected circumstances.

Friday, August 7, 2009

In memory of John Hughes

"Don't You (Forget About Me)" was written by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff for the soundtrack to the film The Breakfast Club and performed by Simple Minds in 1984. 

Don't You (Forget About Me)

Hey, hey, hey,hey

Won't you come see about me?
I'll be alone, dancing you know it baby

Tell me your troubles and doubts
Giving me everything inside and out and
Love's strange so real in the dark
Think of the tender things that we were working on

Slow change may pull us apart
When the light gets into your heart, baby

Don't You Forget About Me
Don't Don't Don't Don't
Don't You Forget About Me

Will you stand above me?
Look my way, never love me
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down

Will you recognise me?
Call my name or walk on by
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down, down

Hey, hey, hey, hey

Don't you try to pretend
It's my feeling we'll win in the end
I won't harm you or touch your defenses
Vanity and security

Don't you forget about me
I'll be alone, dancing you know it baby
Going to take you apart
I'll put us back together at heart, baby

Don't You Forget About Me
Don't Don't Don't Don't
Don't You Forget About Me

As you walk on by
Will you call my name?
As you walk on by
Will you call my name?
When you walk away

Or will you walk away?
Will you walk on by?
Come on - call my name
Will you call my name?

I say :
La la la...