Wild is the Wind

I got lost today. Literally. I went for my usual lunch hour walk in the woods, after stopping at the library to pick up a few new books, and took a different path. Or what I thought was a path. In the winter, everything looks like it could be a path.

I walked and walked, la-di-dah, knowing that this park wasn’t all that huge and was surrounded by neighborhoods. I’d reverse course in due time and be back where I began. So, I kept walking until I found a pond. There was an upturned canoe on the other side where I spied a No Trespassing sign. Clearly I’d hit the border of the park.

I turned around to go back and….the path was gone. Had I come from there or……wait. Maybe it was that direction. I didn’t figure the wooded area would be too enormous; after all, it was right in town. My phone was no help other than the compass and even that only showed me where north was, not where I was in relation to north or anything else. Just me, birds, fallen trees, and underbrush. The occasional squirrel. After 20 minutes, I found the edge of the woods. There were backyards and green grass and covered grills and swingsets. I turned back. I didn’t want to walk out into someone’s yard. There must be a path that will get me back where I wanted to be.

After another 10 minutes, I retraced my steps again and gave up, emerging into someone’s backyard figuring if someone came out of the house or pulled into the driveway, I’d just apologize. Which is exactly what happened. A guy in a truck pulled up just as I was walking down his driveway towards the road. I explained, he left (had he been alerted by someone to my presence? He was on his phone. Someone must have told him.), I walked down the street out of his neighborhood and realized I was about a mile from my car in the wrong direction. I got in a nice 3-mile walk all told.

While I was still lost, the sky clouded up and the wind went a little crazy. I thought about Bowie and whether he was up there, somewhere, stirring things up. Probably not but my thoughts haven’t been too far away from him all day.

Back during my youthful obsession, in high school, I’d go by Cokesbury Books at 5th and Grace streets. It was on the way from algebra class back to my school building in Jackson Ward. The bookstore sold primarily religious books but they had a surprising little collection of other stuff, including David Bowie Black Book (the original 1981 version). Black cover, white title. I couldn’t afford to buy it and the library didn’t carry it so I’d stop in once or twice a week and read a few pages, mark my place, put the book back on the shelf and hope it was still there next time. It was. I read the whole biography in the bookstore, section by section, chapter by chapter. This was how my grandfather read all the Andrew Lang fairy tale books – each a different color. He’d read them in the library, didn’t borrow them (I can’t remember why) and would reshelve them where they couldn’t be found. Behind another book, in another section. So that they’d still be there when he returned. Probably drove the librarians crazy.

We do crazy things and sometimes there’s a – to us – rational reason behind them. I went into the woods (and when I got back to the office, I checked the map. I’d somehow left the 8-acre park and wandered into a 90-acre piece of no man’s land), thrashed about for an hour thinking thoughts and then thinking about nothing but how to get out again. It was good to be completely present in the moment. To focus on just that one thing – not being lost anymore. When I came out, the truck guy probably thought I was crazy. Middle aged woman, dressed in black, in his backyard. WTH.

By the time I got to my car, it was colder and windy and the clouds were heavy and dark and looked like they meant business. But it didn’t rain. I wasn’t lost for long. All’s well. Life goes on. It goes on without a few heroes but with books. And trees. And crazy odd skies. And it’s sad to think he didn’t see THIS day, THIS strange sunset. But neither did a lot of people. And one day my time will be up and I’ll miss books and sunsets and getting lost in the woods on a winter day. So I better get out and do it again while I can.


Loving the Alien

I’ve heard a rumor from Ground Control/oh no don’t say it’s true…

When I was 13, a year after my parents divorced, I was untethered, unmoored. Everything I’d known about my life was gone. I’d been a deluded happy kid. Suddenly, everything was different. I had to be responsible for things: the house, my sister, dinner, myself. I liked music in the way people like a warm day. I owned a couple albums: The soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz, an ABBA 45 (Dancing Queen), Billy Joel’s Piano Man, and a Steve Martin comedy album Comedy is Not Pretty. I listened to the radio and had a lot of favorite songs but I didn’t know who the artists were. After the divorce, I went through an existential crisis. What did I like? How would I find out what I liked? How did people discover music they liked? I didn’t have a clue. My father had nothing but opera and classical music albums. He took good care of them. I was not allowed to touch them. My mother liked the Beatles (I own her original trashed copies) but she was a horrible steward of records. No inner sleeves remain. That was it.

News guy wept and told us…..

After the divorce, other albums appeared like magic in the house. I played them to death: Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, Paul Simon’s Still Crazy after all these Years, Carly Simon’s Boys in the Trees. I have no idea if my mother even liked them or where they came from. She also had a record of Irish dance music. I played them all. But….what did I like? Me? Beside these few things? I knew the songs on the radio that I liked but how would I ever know who sang them? I was living in a world disconnected to the world other people lived in. One foot in a fog of childhood and another in some halfway house filled with cool kids who weren’t divulging their secrets.

Something happened on the day he died/Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside.

I spent the night at my best friend’s house across the street. We were looking through a stack of records and I pulled one out. The cover was black and white, slightly sepia toned. An old fashioned face, pensive stare, hair brylcremed back from his wide forehead. What’s this? Changesone? We played it.

And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear…

Oh! I know that song! John, I’m only dancing, you turn me on…. And that one! …what you like is in the limo… And…..I fell in love. The dots were connected. Neural pathways were created in my brain. I could feel them. The voice of this man was something that took me out of this world and put me squarely in it at the same time. I could feel my soul as a living thing, like a heart beat but more. WHO WAS THIS?

We can be heroes, just for one day…

I’d discovered David Bowie and my life was never the same again. By the time I was 14, I got a $10 a week allowance. A record store opened in the shopping area two blocks from my house. It was a long street full of boring stores – vacuum cleaner repair store, “foundations” shop (strange bras and corset like things in the window), a restaurant or two, a store where you could get pot decals put on t-shirts or Robert Crumb’s Keep on Truckin dude. Shirts you’d have to hide from your parents.  But now I had a Mecca. I was no longer interested in t-shirts. I wanted Bowie albums. How many were there?

Skull designs upon my shoes…

A lot. I bought one a week. Each one matching my allowance money. I couldn’t buy anything else but I didn’t need anything else. I’d found my thing. I’d found love and happiness and my raison d’etre. With each album I was introduced to something new. Something I’d never heard before. Did I like this? Maybe, maybe not. Over time, overwhelmingly YES. My ears and my brain had to continually readjust themselves. Take it all in. Accept it. Love it. No two albums were the same. He was different in each one. How could such a man exist? How lucky was I to have found him?

And the song went on forever….

He saved me. He saved me from teetering over the edge, into the abyss. He was a religion. A savior. He introduced me to a world I’d never known existed. Iggy Pop, Tom Verlaine, Talking Heads, Velvet Underground, Lou Reed…each tentacle slithering along the ground to other bands, other artists. He appeared in films! I grew to appreciate Berlin, Japan, Australia. Where ever he was, I was there.

I can’t give everything…

I saw him three times in concert – once during the Serious Moonlight tour and twice during the Glass Spider tour – and then I got serious about college. And finding a job. And living a life. I carried him with me but I couldn’t buy his albums, I no longer got an allowance. I had to pay the utilities first.

Don’t believe for one second I’m forgetting you…

I lost the thread somewhere along the line. House, marriage, children. Not the love, just my way. I lost my way. I kept my spyglass aimed at his star in the sky through the window but it was a harder one to see. Because I’d forgotten myself. I forgot who I used to be. That girl. That girl who’d attained a larger soul in 1979. Perhaps she’d stuck it in a horcrux. It lay dormant for years and years.

He took it all too far/But, boy, could he play guitar….

And then, life turned on me again. Upside down. I had to find myself again. Another divorce (my own) brought me back to where the first one had dumped me. Who was I? Where was the person I’d been? I had to reinvent myself. And who better to teach the lesson of reinvention than my soul teacher Bowie? Here was his new album. In my hands. New hands. A born again virgin with a black star in her palm. I remember, I remember. Yes. This is who I am. This was the start. The alpha and omega. The beginning and end and the beginning. Absolute beginners.

Here are we, one magical moment, such is the stuff/From where dreams are woven.
On Thursday, I went to a funeral for a girl who’d been in Dusty’s girl scout troop. The pastor gave a sermon about Lazarus. Jesus wept. He arrived too late. Lazarus was dead. But then he rose. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I knew Bowie’s new album had a song by the same name but I thought it was nothing more than an interesting coincidence. I bought the album yesterday. Watched the video. Still, the universe was trying to tell me something but I didn’t know what it was. Now I do.
Oh I’ll be free/just like that bluebird.
The horcrux opened and out flew that bit of soul. Up into the sky. A star man waiting in the sky. Forever. I can’t believe he’s gone but I’m so glad he was here. I’m so glad I had him. I cannot imagine my life without him.
Look up here/I’m in heaven.

Less is Not More

A new year. We’re two days into “regular life” and so far, none of us is nodding off at the wrong time. The kids are deep into planning their class schedules for next year and I am remembering how to do my job. It’s all come back to me startlingly quickly.

The cold weather has returned with a vengeance and the only good thing about it that I can see is that I can buy refrigerated food (individual hummus cups were required for their lunches!) at lunch time and leave it in the car the rest of the afternoon. No need to bring stuff in and put it in the office fridge when the outside is significantly colder than the average refrigerator. That, my friends, is just all kinds of wrong. I do not understand people complaining about being back on normal time when it might as well be dark at 5pm since it’s too damn cold to be outside anyway. What the hell is there to do out there when it’s 30 degrees? Zilch.

It is nice, though, to have an entire month with no after school activities. Everyone can have a regular schedule. Kids ride the bus home, do their homework, play Mario Kart, until I arrive and make dinner. The cats are in, fed, and happy. The mail is waiting for me on the kitchen counter. I can work a normal office day. It’s nice. Really nice. You have no idea. Well, maybe you do.

But. There are a couple of things that will be happening soon. One is that I caved and joined Weight Watchers at work. Since the cost comes out of my paycheck over 3 months, it’s kind of affordable. Short term. Since I’m no longer shelling out gobs of money on afterschool care. But these are fairly desperate times all the same. Both financially and…..well….mama ain’t getting any thinner sitting on her spreading ass typing up shit all day. So, I’ll give it 3 months. See where I end up. Menopause has done a number on me and I have no time or money for exercise classes of any kind. Ain’t happening. Too cold this week to walk. I gotta do something. So I’m doing this. By the end of the 12 weeks, it’ll be warm enough to get some free exercise. I hope.

The other thing is that I need to find a side hustle. Need to make some extra money to afford any kind of vacation this year and any kind of anything. These kids get more expensive the older they get. The house keeps breaking. I realized I’d spent two years – two difficult, kind of insane years – keeping afloat on credit and now I need to knuckle down and pay it off. Live only on what I actually take in. Which isn’t much. But like I told a friend recently, I’m living cheaper than if I rented. Rent – have you seen what places are renting for? Insane. My 1,900 sf house payment in way cheaper than some fancy studio loft in the city. So, I’ll keep the house for another 10 years until the kids are gone and then I’m outta here. Don’t know where I’ll end up but it’ll be mortgage-free. I know how to subsist on very little. I’ve done it many times and I can do it again.

Harder to accomplish with children who are smart and deserve a little fun. Children who need to experience the world. That’s my job. That’s what I’m here for: to provide my children with as much of the world of experience as I can. And it might not be Disney or Italy, but it could be New York. DC. A concert or two. I want them to feel less out of the loop than I did. Not that we need to keep up with the Joneses because that’s not us even if I cared what the Joneses were up to. But I don’t want them to miss an opportunity if I can help it.

So, I’ll be looking out for a second job that’ll fit my schedule (basically weekends) and keep saving my dimes. Perhaps in three months I’ll be 10 lbs lighter with a bit more dough set aside. I want 2016 to have a bit less anxiety than 2015 had.