Six Novels in Woodcuts by Lynd Ward

2013-11-15 00.53.05It took a while to gain the confidence to approach these books without words, a gift from Alex, and when I finally took the plunge I was mesmerized — both with the content and also with the process.  The six novels can be read and studied and reflected upon by oneself, but they are a fine pick for discussion, many discussions. There is no one interpretation to the string of illustrations.  Love, greed, despair, hope, tyranny, fellowship, passion, hypocrisy, regret — it’s all exploding in the woodcuts.

Historc Trust of NYC Lighthouse

Historic House Trust of New York City

Lynd Ward also illustrated children’s books.  The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge was in the library salvaged from my parents’ home when they sold it.  I have no memory of reading it, yet it seems profoundly familiar.   How did this book find its way to my parents’ bookshelf.  Who bought it and why?  Did I like the book?  Did my parents visit the little red lighthouse by the side of the George Washington Bridge?  Did they take me?  Did they buy it because they were familiar with Ward?

My father’s brother told me that my dad was somewhat of a socialist, not one with a card in his pocket, but one with a heart.  What stories we could have told each other if only . . .

Fourteen joys and a will to be merry

IMG_0067Tuesday morning the flag that flies in the park outside my kitchen window was flying at half-mast. It was important to know why.

Two of my friends had died quietly the day before: one was more like family. Although they lived next door to each other, near the park, neither of them had any clout in town. The flag wasn’t lowered for them. It was eerie.

My friends were in many ways similar.

Both spent a lot of time by themselves. It seemed by choice. They did enjoy socializing, and each of them could be great company.

Both loved the Hudson. One kayaked on it, the other swam in it.

IMG_0062They both spent a lot of time gazing at it from their back porches, and they knew that it was forever changing, and that it would always be revealing more but not all of its secrets.

DucksThey loved the birds – the birds in the air and on the water. They watched each other watch a duck family that crossed through our contingent yards several days in a row on their way to the water. We never did find out where the ducks were coming from. Perhaps they nested at the pond down the road. It seemed a long walk for little ducklings, but one theory is as good as another for the story.

foxBefore&AfterTuckThey both observed the animals that darted out from the lilacs and sumac that bordered the tracks – mostly bunnies, but there were others. One took a picture of the sickly fox that roamed the shore, the other took the fox out of its misery.

They both were survivors. She fought breast cancer and was determined to beat it. She reminded me of my husband Clark who fought until he didn’t have the strength to sit on the tractor and mow the orchard anymore.

My other friend’s body was full of buckshot. We knew it was in his ear, but not until the xrays the day he died did we know that his body was riddled with shot, especially in one leg. He started gagging and gasping for breath on Thursday, and by the weekend Lee and I knew that he deserved a better life than the one he would have if he started the regimen to cure himself.

IMG_0055They both were creative. She maintained beautiful gardens, mostly in large planters. I like to look down on them from my top deck. We talked plants a lot, and also animals, and neighbors, and always the river. Her husband gave me one of her pottery pieces for our “tower toasting” just a few days before she died. It is next to me on my desk. Lee and I knew when she went into the hospital the last time she might not make it to our celebration.

Tuck 2 062013 LeeMy other friend, whom if you haven’t guessed was my dog Tuck, was creative too. He could find a way to get out of anything – almost. She called him Houdini. I think she would have loved to find a way out of her body and run with him.

What does one do when two friends die on the same day? I got into the car and drove to see my mother. She has had to depend upon someone for help in her daily life for the past ten years. She acknowledged me and smiled and I told her the news of the family, and in five – ten minutes she dozed off again. I held her hand drawing in whatever motherly comfort I could.

When in transit, I’m nowhere, a good place to be when you don’t want to be anywhere else. I sing with favorite music or listen to books. This four-hour round trip the book was A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of my Father by Augusten Burroughs. I hurt for the little boy who longed for his father’s love and had created a reality where he and his father shared a special relationship complete with little rituals. Finally Augusten discovered how wrong he was.

The tape kept running. I was no longer listening, but had had my own breakthrough. Life, death, love, loss, yesterday, tomorrow had all come together and I was happy to be alive. The memories of these two friends, whose times were up, were now part of me, along with the memories of others who had touched me in one way or another.

At home I read the blurb on the audiobook cover: “. . .Though harrowing and brutal, [the book] will ultimately leave you buoyed with the profound joy of simply being alive.” Come on, I thought, this is ridiculous.

It’s now Thursday and I’m somehow picking away at this feeling of joy by wondering if I should feel guilty for loving life while others are struggling just to live another day. Every now and then this pesky theme of mine surfaces and Lee, bless his heart, tells me it is good to enjoy life. I always come up with qualifications.

But here’s to a great neighbor and my dog Tuck, and here’s to my neighbor’s husband who shall grieve as long as he needs, and here’s to Lee, my constant companion and our lost spouses, and here’s to my mother, my sons, my friends, my extended family, Tuck’s vet, and here’s to you.

Love,

Spoonbeam

Process #3: I never had a conversation about sex with my sons — Reposted

The following is my post from May 22nd.  It was going to be my last because I       was on my way to finding my voice.  Yeah!  My confidence and purpose would keep me writing without the “views” and “likes” of  wordpress.  After having it up for several days though, being embarrassed by revealing secrets, I took it down in order to censor it.  I also wanted to rewrite it in four separate pieces, as there was much to add to make the story complete.  So far I’ve done nothing, and am putting the post back up just as it was.  

As I push the publish button tonight there are 713 comments on the Times article.

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AshleyB/BrooklynPaperCo

AshleyB/BrooklynPaperCo

Today’s Times article Unexcited?  There May Be a Pill for That by Daniel Bergner about the research to find a “desire” pill for the many, many women who are unable for whatever reason to enjoy lovemaking although they so badly want to, has me laughing.  Do not quote me out of context.

Laughing because just recently I read another article that hopefully has put an end to my pain as I tried to understand, appreciate and accept my own struggle with my sexuality, and if I had written this last week, perhaps my article would be on the first page of www.nytimes.com.  Probably not!

Laughing because women have been saying “please no, I have a headache” for a very long time.  Others try, others pretend.  What has sparked this current research?  Is there a woman behind it?  We know money is behind it.

Laughing because this article does not mention marijuana, the natural wonder drug, an herb, if that makes any difference.  Marijuana happily is not yet, and hopefully never will be in the hands of big pharma.  One of the more unusual messages to pass through my inbox recently was a proposal that the post office become the sole distributor of marijuana.  Could that be possible?  Just keep it simple, keep it home-grown, keep its quality and diversity, add a tax but keep the price low, and keep it organic and away from agri-business.  No one needs to inhale Monsanto’s poisons.  

Laughing because I wonder if this pill will be available only to women who are married and of childbearing age, do not work for religious organizations, and have sworn to their congressmen that they will only use it if they are trying desperately to have a child.  Making it necessary for husbands to sign these agreements would help keep us women in line.  Filthy rich men could also have signing privileges and receive tax breaks for their purchases. Women who use the pill illegally would be reviled on national television and would be sent to private prisons where they would be sexually harassed and humiliated as part of their rehabilitation. 

Laughing because all we women need is another runaround with religion, superstition, Republicans, the men and unbelievably even some women who think of us as “s—ts” (gosh, I can’t even write the word without shuddering) if we should equate any sort of feminine pleasure with sex.  

Laughing because if there really is an interest in finding a way for women to enjoy lovemaking or just plain sex, why has no drug company jumped on the manufacture of a generic Estring, which makes sex so much more pleasant for post-menopausal women and their partner/s.

Laughing because so many of us women have come to believe through experience and indoctrination that men think sex is dirty, a means of subjugation, a boy’s club prerogative, and then, so do we – think it is dirty, a means of subjugation — and therefore are conflicted about it.

We’ve been brought up to believe some things are good or bad, natural or abhorrent, blessings or sins.  Some of us have had good experiences, good touches, and seen loving relationships to emulate.  Others of us haven’t.  Our introductions and experiences with our sexuality vary immensely.  Our minds and bodies very often don’t work in unison.

I was very happily married for twenty-five years to a man who shared a similar mindset about love and lovemaking.  It was not very liberated.  I was never unfaithful, never even thought about it.  Life was good.  Know though, that I married in my late thirties and didn’t believe in waiting.

Eventually, some time after my husband passed away, I started to think about how nice it would be to be with another good man.   

My first date told me over coffee that he didn’t like women to arch.  It took me a little longer to realize he did not like women at all.  I’m not exactly sure what he liked, except perhaps himself.  That’s not right.  He may have thought himself more important, smarter and better than any one else, and that the world revolved around him, but I can’t believe he actually liked himself.  He also asked me repeatedly what I meant by “a good man.”

Another told me that he did not want to be part of my research — crazy experimentation was what he called it.  He thought everybody else was crazy.  Trying to get along with him could drive anyone to that point.  He taught me not to share all of my ideas about life and to run at the first sign of inconsistency.

And a third wanted me to be a cure for his sexual dysfunction.  No legal or illegal drug helped him, and I wasn’t going to try.

Interesting facts:  all three of these men were divorced at least twice.  None of them could remember marriage ever being happy.  And all three are still looking for the perfect woman, the figment of their imaginations who speak and act on cue to their needs and wishes.

Out of respect for my constant companion (& friend in old age) and my sons and his, I don’t want to comment on our more private moments.  He does however make me smile and giggle.

And how did I finally come to get my head around my struggles with my sexuality?  A great part of my success is due to my cc&fioa.  The ah hah moment however came just a week or two ago when reading The Desires of Margaret Fuller by Judith Thurman in The New Yorker on the publication of Margaret Fuller:  A New American Life, by Megan Marshall:

Her inchoate feelings for [James] Nathan were not merely virginal.  As she herself acknowledged, in forgiving him, they were ‘childish.’  But perhaps they suggest why her writing was never as great as her ambitions for it.  She could love and desire intensely, but rarely at the same moment, and she could think and feel deeply, but not often in the same sentence. . . 

Fuller inevitably fell in love with [Adam] Mickiewicz, and it seems, for once, to have been mutual.  ‘He affected me like music,’ she told Rebecca Spring.  But it also appears, from their letters, that he had recognized what vital element – not only sex but honesty about desire – was missing from Margaret’s life.  ‘The first step in your deliverance,’ he told her,’ ‘is to know if it is permitted to you to remain a virgin.’

Reading more about Margaret Fuller I discovered that in 1845 she wrote in her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century:

There exists in the mind of men a tone of feeling towards women as slaves.

I must read more.

When I first read this morning Times article there were no comments.  As I push the publish button there are 279.  I’m not reading them.

Longfellow, for instance

There’s a pile of books by my bedside.  Usually I’m reading one, sometimes two, and then there are a few books of essays, or short stories for a quick fix.  American Writers at Home by J. D. McClatchy with photographs by Erica Lennard has been on my table for a year or two.   It was a gift from my son Alex, who worked at the Metropolitan Museum for several years, and made good use of his access to the museum’s bookstore.

At first the book frustrated me.  The images of the twenty-one homes featured are moody and often more shadowy than light.  The photographer writes in the forward that she “tried to breathe some soul and life” into the houses and to “capture with my camera fragments of what they might have seen or felt.”  My take is she put too much of her heart and soul in these photos – they are artistic, but the reader can’t see the rooms. The text often speaks of interesting details that are not in the photos.

For instance, let’s hop right to the section of Longfellow, which I read for the first time a few nights ago.  The author mentions a chair that was made from the wood of the village blacksmith’s famous chestnut tree and given as a gift to Longfellow by the children of Cambridge on his seventy-second birthday.  The caption written about the three images of his study also mentions the chair but does not point it out to the reader, and that is quite disappointing.

One of the photos of the study however, shows the desk where Longfellow stood when he wrote.  That interested me, as Hemingway (whose life filled up twelve of my working years)  also wrote standing up, and similarities between the two started popping to mind.  In fact so much in the section on Longfellow intrigued me that my excitement about discovering the man behind the poems has blotted out all the book’s annoyances.

The website of the National Museum of Horse Shoeing Tools and Hall of Honor has a page devoted to the village smithy’s chair.  It states that the tree in front of the blacksmith’s shop down the street from Longfellow’s home “fell victim to progress” when Brattle Street was widened in 1876.  The chair was made by H. Edgar Hartwell of Boston and lines from The Village Blacksmith were etched in around the seat rails.  Longfellow wrote a poem of thanks to the children of Boston and it is published on their page — wish I could show the chair to you, but click here to see.

Opening lines of Longfellow’s poems came swiftly to mind while reading about him and his home.    By the shores . . .   Listen my children . . .  This is the forest primeval. . .   Between the dark and the daylight . . .

But outside of the fact that he stayed at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts, where my wedding took place, I knew nothing of his life.

From the few pages of text on Longfellow in American Writers  I learned he was brilliant.  Upon graduation from Bowdoin, he accepted the position of the college’s Professor of Languages.  He went off to Europe and learned eleven to be prepared for the position.  He read profusely and he converted the ballroom of his home into his library of over fourteen thousand books.  He translated Dante’s Inferno. He incorporated his knowledge of language, history, mythology, biography, geography into poetry that was read and equally enjoyed by scholars and the servants at Queen Victoria’s castle.

He was a professional poet who knew how to promote his work.  His poetry offered a young nation a literary definition and a unifying culture.  Longfellow insisted his works be published as broadsides and in inexpensive editions as well as in leather bound volumes, so that all levels of society could have access to them.  If he lived in our day, he would most likely have been one of the first to have his works out on the internet and on ebooks.

Longfellow was an inspiration to his children.  They went on to be writers, educators, artists, travelers. He was a devoted husband, and outlived two wives.  His first wife, Mary, died during childbirth, his second, Fanny, was the first recipient of ether during childbirth in the United States.  Fanny, died tragically from burns suffered from a dropped match which lit her skirt.  She and her daughters, age five and seven, were applying sealing wax to a gift package of clipped locks of their hair.  Longfellow wrapped her in a rug, to try and save her from the flames, but she died a few days after.  Longfellow grew his beard to hide the scars left by the burns to his face.

In addition this was a poet who had fun.  Longfellow’s home hosted many a social gathering, watered by good wines from his well-stocked cellar.

Googling for some fact that has slipped my mind completely, I found this interesting item that shed an entirely new light on The Song of Hiawatha.  I quote from the Digital History website:

The HUAC [House Un-American Activities Committee] hearings and blacklistings discouraged Hollywood from producing politically controversial films. Fear that a motion picture dealing with the life of Hiawatha might be regarded as communist propaganda led Monogram Studio to shelve the project. As The New York Times explained: “It was Hiawatha’s efforts as a peacemaker among warring Indian tribes that gave Monogram particular concern. These it was decided might cause the picture to be regarded as a message for peace and therefore helpful to present communist designs.”

There’s so much more.  Check the Longfellow Society and the National Park Service websites for bits and pieces, and if you are like me you will be soon looking for more to read.  Mr. McClatchy tells us that Longfellow wrote letters at the large table in his study.  I thought it a good place to start, learning about him in his own words, until I discovered that there are five volumes of these letters.  I’ll have to look for something a bit more realistic.

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I have a memory of having a meal at Longfellow’s home in 1969.  The head of the children’s department at the Boston Public Library treated the new hires, including me, to lunch or tea after a meeting of some sort back in 1969.  But this may be something I’ve made up.

That memory reminded me of another meal — a dinner of “book” women at Dandelion in Burlington, Massachusetts.  We met a few times at different places, and once a colleague from the Kennedy Library was there.  The group didn’t gel. I was disappointed, but also relieved, when the gatherings stopped – or perhaps they went on without me.   I look back now and wonder about their purpose.  Was the initiator, whose name is a blank, hoping to start a bluestocking society?  That would have been fun if I were the person I am today back then.  But at the time, I wasn’t comfortable enough with myself to feel anything but awkward at both of these two experiences, and that has been making me feel awkward even now.

It’s a long way from Longfellow to self-doubt but somehow I made the leap.  Strange how the mind works.

The Process #3: Talking to others

My Voyage Through Time

I absolutely adore anything thought provoking. On July 1, 2012, I had a great comment submitted by “spoonbeams.” This woman is a former archivist who had come across my post Whiskey Dreams: Inside the Mind of Hemingway (May 10, 2012). I have included our comment string into this post because it is worth a read.

Whiskey Dreams was my post about Ernest Hemingway and his vast archive called The Hemingway Papers. In that post, I talk about: reading further into signs than I should; digital initiatives with the Hemingway Papers involving over 6,000 personal letters; the mind of Ernest; his death being a tragic loss to the literary world; his escape and submission to a dark fate; and the fact that I could be madly in love with a dead guy. I had a few interesting comments on the post.

There was one from “Rhonda” on May 10…

View original post 1,010 more words

Afterword to Then Again

Reading Diane Keaton’s cleverly constructed and unapologetically revealing memoir Then Again I’ve spent more time reflecting on my life and feelings than her actual story.  Friends regularly accuse me of going off on tangents.  To me, my rambles all are on track.  Some books are favorites because of where they take my thoughts. It is a surprise and often a disappointment to reread one of these favorites and discover it isn’t what I remembered.

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I feel validated when an author states my obvious.  It’s disappointing when we’ve used the same words.

I feel pleasure when the author articulates emotions and feelings that are in my stomach and in my heart but haven’t yet been put into words by my head.

I also enjoy being struck by an opposing view when it causes me to pause and rethink.  I can handle seeing the black and white turn grey

Diane Keaton has done all three.

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Then Again, like the Jacqueline Kennedy interviews that I wrote about in an earlier post, was a gift.  This was a gift from my older son’s girlfriend.  They just recently decided to go their separate ways.  It’s a difficult thing for a couple to do, especially a couple that worked so well together.  I’ll never know why.  Hopefully they both know why.  But that is part of the baggage this book carries for me.  Bittersweet baggage, because she is a delightful woman (and he a wonderful young man).

My other son has a new girlfriend who, and I’m not sure if this is because I just read Diane Keaton, reminds me of Diane Keaton.  I don’t know her well enough to say that their personalities are similar, but she seems to have the same presence.  She’s delightful too.

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Diane Keaton’s mother kept 85 separate journals, and scrapbooks.  Her writing started with letters to her husband while they were separated after the war.  He was in Boston in the Navy. She was 24, in California, and had just given birth to Diane.

I kept an on-and off diary starting in high school, wrote copious letters in college, and influenced by Anaias Nin in the seventies, began years of a passionate outpouring of what I remember as drivel, whining, and moaning about the lack of exciting boys/men in my life, or their rejection of me, and my utter alone-ness.  Finally I stopped writing.  Things must have improved.

During one visit to my parents’ home, my mom brought me up to the attic and presented me with a box of things that I had left there while I spent a year in France.  Included in that box were the journals.  Oh my god, I thought.  Did my mom read these?  What would she have thought?  I didn’t open them, but brought them home.

As my children grew, however, so did my anxieties about what was actually in those journals.  If I didn’t want to read them for fear of what they contained, how would my children or my husband, react to them   One day they went out with the trash.

As an archivist by profession – this was total heresy.

Sometimes I wonder what was in those journals and if I wrote well – but never enough to regret not keeping them, even after reading about Diane Keaton’s mother’s scrapbooks.  The future has always been more important than the past to me.

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The last chapter of Then Again is Diane Keaton’s reflection on the final chapter of her mother’s life – her death.  Like my mom, Diane Keaton’s mother had Alzheimers Disease.  We believe my father did also.  But neither of my parents have been as debilitated by the disease – at least not yet.  I can’t bear the thought of my mom curling up and shrinking away.  It could happen. Maybe we’ll be lucky and one day she will just lie down to rest on the couch as she always does in the afternoon, but not wake up.  The disease shows very little mercy.   I have not yet been able to put my emotions and feelings stirred up by this chapter into words.  Diane’s story with her mother has been no help to me.

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I was supposed to read this book.  Diane Keaton’s mom would cut out photos and headlines from magazines and she would copy quotes from everywhere.  One day she had a cover from a New Yorker thumb tacked to her kitchen bulletin board.  It read “ Is it possible to go backwards and forwards at the same time?”  Yes it is – just as it is possible to grow younger and older at the same time.

Prologue to Listening to JBKO

Shirley and I started work at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library on the same day, September 13th, 1971.  We worked together in the library’s temporary quarters in Waltham, although not on the same projects.  We were still colleagues when the Library moved to its new building – stunning, out of the way, and leaky – on Columbia Point in Boston.  I left in ’83 to have my first son, and Shirley left for the Boston Globe in ’84.

Waltham staff at JFK Library / 2008

The Waltham staff of the JFK Library gets together for reunions about once every two years – when someone who has moved far away is back in town, when the JFK Library Foundation puts on a big bash, sometimes unfortunately at funerals.  I go because my work there was over-the-top and my colleagues, for the most part, were very bright and interesting people. I’d go to more of the events, including the Hemingway Awards in the spring, but I live more than 3 hours away, and I’m very content at home.

I am so happy that Shirley and I are still friends.  The date of our meeting, September 13th is a very significant day in my life. It is also my marriage date, the date I started work as librarian at Lowell National Historical Park, and the date that my husband found out he had lymphoma.  Meeting Shirley is in there with some of my biggies.

For my 65th birthday Shirley gave me the book of Jacqueline Kennedy’s interviews with Arthur Schlesinger.  They were recorded  just four months after the President’s death in 1964.  The book bears Caroline’s signature.  It was a wonderful present.  I don’t know if I would have bought or read the book otherwise.  It was a boxed set with CD’s.

With Jacqueline Kennedy at the opening of the Hemingway Room 7/18/1980

I met Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, or JBKO, as we referred to her in the library, several times.  The staff thought it undignified and too familiar to call the former First Lady “Jackie,” but Mrs.Kennedy or Mrs. Onassis was too formal.  I was curator of the Ernest Hemingway Collection and I would see her at Hemingway events, which she often attended.

At one of these events I introduced JBKO to my husband. The next time we saw her — a year, two years later — she amazed us by remembering him and our conversation.  She asked us about our house that we had told her we were building. Even after I left the library Clark and I would return and see her.  We told her we had opened a children’s bookstore, Book Nooks & Krannies in New Hampshire.  Months later a big unmarked box of The Fisherman’s Song by Carly Simon, illustrated by Margot Datz, arrived at the store.  They were all signed “Love, Carly Simon.”

I think I walked around in a daze for a week or two.  I was overwhelmed.  Where did these books come from?  Were they a mistake?  What should I do about them?  There was no note, no paperwork, no bill.  I didn’t want to be presumptuous but I thought perhaps JBKO asked Carly to sign them and  had Doubleday send them to me.  JBKO was Carly Simon’s editor at Doubleday, and the editor, songwriter, and artist knew each other on Martha’s Vinyard.  Wondering how to thank her, and still not being sure if I should thank her for fear of embarrassing both of us if she hadn’t, I did nothing.  I thought next time I see her . . .

Of course, next time never came.  And that is one of my regrets.  How does one thank someone who has passed away for having done something so thoughtful?

I have lots of books in piles around the house waiting to be read.  I wondered when I would get to Jackie’s.

Then I remembered.  I used to love listening to books when I was by myself on a long car ride.  I would occasionally be so engrossed, in Water for Elephants for example, that I missed my exit to Moultonborough and almost made it to Canada.   I eventually wore out the player and turned to NPR and singing with my ipod.

Now I have a new car with a functional CD player, and a new 2-hour each way drive to visit my mom in New Jersey every week.  I could listen to the book.

And I am.  My first thoughts were about JBKO’s voice.  It is very feathery, and reminds me, unfortunately, of Marilyn Monroe.  She has an accent.  I cringe when I hear myself saying “cawfee” for coffee, but if JBKO can speak with a somewhat unflattering accent, I can too.  I hope it is endearing.

I’m more than half way through.  It’s sometimes hard to hear what they are saying.  I’ve got to fill in the blanks in my memory.  I’m curious to compare the book and the CDs.

In the meantime I’m going to send a copy of The Fisherman’s Song off to Shirley this afternoon, and start writing about my impressions of what I have heard so far.

My Boyfriend had Crabs

There we were.  Cuddling together watching Factotum on the laptop.  We cuddle together every night with a movie on the laptop – it’s a wonderful way to end the day.  I kept thinking the story seemed familiar, but I’ve read a lot about down and out writers and seen a lot of movies about bums and bargirls.  The guy’s name was Hank, he was reading his poetry, his voice was crusty.   I decided this was somebody’s Kerouac film.

All of a sudden Hank starts scratching his balls – can’t believe I just wrote that.  Really scratching his balls, and he starts fishing around in his pants and pulls out something – it had to be a bug.  And then the scene shifts to a doctor’s office it turns out that Hank has crabs.   The doctor writes him a prescription and tells him that he must NOT let the ointment stay on for more than 30 minutes.  We’re back at Hank’s.  He says forget that.  Hank goops himself up and goes to bed.

My boyfriend says something like “He’s going to be sorry.”   My eyes light up!  I pause the movie.  I lean over, look him in the eye, and say, “Did you have crabs?”  And then I bug him until he tells me the story.

It’s a good story.  It was during his hippie days when he was living with the Lots-o-Bucks Commune and Follies Review in Baltimore.  I asked who was she?  I asked did she live there?  I asked did everyone in the house have the crabs?  I asked was she your girlfriend?  Was she everyone’s girlfriend?  Anyone’s girlfriend?   He had told me lots of stories about the Lots-o-Bucks Commune, but this was something new.  My boyfriend had crabs.  I kept probing:   Did you leave the medication on too long?  Did you ever get them again?

I wasn’t surprised that he had crabs.  Once he left his family home and moved to downtown Baltimore he discovered a whole new world.  He wasn’t that young.  He had already finished a few years of law school and a stint in the reserves, he had been in and out of a first marriage founded on rebellion.  He was doing photography and carpentry for a theater troupe.  Divine was among his acquaintances.  But I was surprised he had crabs.  Whenever we talked about our sexual pasts he always led me to believe that he had a very innocent sexual history.   This didn’t sound so innocent to me.

I was ecstatic with the discovery!  But why hadn’t he told me this before?  I know it was forty years ago but this was interesting.  We do exchange tidbits about our romantic pasts.  But somehow we’ve got enough common sense — mine acquired the hard way – to not tell too much of our pasts, and not to dwell too much on the other’s.

What else hasn’t he told me that would make me pop up with delight?  What hasn’t he told me that would destroy me?

Of course, I’ve had so much fun with this new bit of information – I wish I could remember even two or three of the great lines I teased him with this morning.  He’s such a sport. He even encouraged me write about it.

Anyway, back to the movie.  It was Charles Bukowski.   Of course.  I realized it towards the end of the movie when his former landlady opens his mail and read a letter from Black Sparrow Press accepting one of his stories.

My boyfriend has said that he would rather hear a good story than a true one any day.  It’s up to you decide.  Love is wonderful.

Happy Valentine’s Day!