To Be Alone
My cousin sent me this photo of an actual thing that happened (fairly frequently) in the summer in Rhode Island in 1978. (I wrote about it a while ago, see below) Was this wrong? Was it a big deal? Would this ever happen nowadays? I think it’s telling though that the grownup taking the photo focused on the flying boys, and not the (enormous) drop to the river below… Perspectives were different back then.
On the way back from the beach we used to stop at the Bradford Bridge so all the boys could jump off it. We were like clowns in a circus car getting out of the VW. “Ow”, someone said. “Quit it”. All the boys got out: Miles and Geoffrey, Pete and Eric, while the rest of us stayed in the back seat, sunburned and sandy, our hair tangled stiff from the salt water. We shared coloring books and drew with melted crayons that we had peeled from the pack. My aunt Nancy sat sideways in the front seat smoking a joint.
"What’s for dinner"?
"Poop Sandwiches with relish and ketchup and corn on the cob".
When Miles started yelling we all turned our heads together to look out the back. Nancy jumped out and walked towards them, her towel still wrapped around her waist. “What is it”?
"Oh"! we pointed. Someone gasped.
Pete was in between Geoff and Miles, an arm over each shoulder, hopping on one foot. Blood was pouring out in streams above his ankle.
"He hit a rock on the way in", Miles said. He seemed more upset than Pete who wanted to sit and examine it.
We all got out of the car and circled around him. I remember Erin, the littlest of us, rubbed his back.
"Do you need stitches"?
Nancy pulled her towel off and set it under his foot. “No”, I think it’s okay”, she said.
"Is it broken"?
"I don’t want a cast".
"Casts are cool".
"But then he can’t swim".
"Can you move it"?
Pete flexed his foot this way and that.
"I think it’s good".
Nancy wrapped her towel around it. “Now it looks like you have a head growing out of your foot”, she said.
"Can I go in one more time?" This from Geoff.
"Ok", but hurry.
We all shuffled back to the car and piled in. Three of us squeezed in the front seat. Pete was wincing a little. “It’s okay”, he said. Nance beeped the horn for Geoff to hurry. We all turned to watch him standing on the bridge. Lifting one knee high, he jumped, and with a slow graceful turn, he raised his hand to salute us on the way down.
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I saw this photo of Saul Steinberg posing with his 8 year old self and I thought of this quote:
I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces, and honor our credit cards, we marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do mostly is grow old. We carry accumulating years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally, our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias. We may act sophisticated and worldly, but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong, and maybe the only place we do.
Yesterday I was talking on a business call from home and I walked across the room to grab a note pad and stubbed my middle toe so hard I think I pushed it in by half an inch.
Freeze that frame.
Wouldn’t it be weird if the expression on my face at that moment was the expression on my face every day when I’m doing just the usual amount of “holding it in”? And did you know that if you don’t scream out “FUCK” when you’re experiencing pain like that, that it hurts even more?
Just for the record, and this will not come as a surprise, I do not have a good poker face. I am not good at holding it in. If I try to keep my expression blank or still, my face will twitch, or my voice will start shaking, but I managed, somehow, to keep it together. If prizes were given out to people who remain professional in times of agony or extreme duress, I think I would deserve one.
Say you’re looking at a big building in the city: elevators (ding!) information desk (hello can I help you?), people shifting things to their right hand so they can push the door with their left (here, I got that!). On the top floors things are getting done, or not getting done, some people are arguing, some are talking about someone else. Someone has locked the door and is jerking off to a photo on his phone. Someone is having a conversation with her mother on speaker. Someone is checking out his bank balance, scrolling facebook, scanning twitter. Someone is delivering mail, sandwiches, bad news. Papers, reports, P and Ls, scripts, stories, charts, graphs, and you, standing by the window, finger to lips, staring, staring, staring.
My Great Grandfather Harry lived until he was 106 mainly because he was a positive person. What else could it have been? He smoked and drank and worked in a stressful environment (finance) so his days should have been numbered; but he also played the harmonica, collected weird toys and did “the old soft shoe”. He believed in luck and chance and being in the right place at the right time. He started every day with a positive thought even if it was just: Cheers Big Ears!
I wonder if you have to be part nuts to be an optimistic person.
I’m on the elliptical with my ear buds in and here comes this guy with his clip board and his pen. This guy. Last month at the gym they posted a sign that there will be no more towel service because of the severe draught, and this guy is outraged: absolutely, positively, 100%, without a doubt nut-blasted. He’s marching around in his work clothes (work clothes!) with his clip board and his pen, explaining how it will actually use more water for members to wash their own towels at home. He is tan, he has grey curly hair, he has clean fingernails, and he is ready to get some signatures, people! From the looks of it, he already has quite a few, although as I’m watching him speak I can’t help wondering if he signed them all himself: sat in his boxers, socks and undershirt in his livingroom by the dim light of the TV, biting his tongue and pressing down too hard with the pen. I can’t hear him well because my music is so loud but I can see him mouth the words: members, 15 years, towel service, rights, what we pay for, and I wish I could do a beautiful slow motion aerial back-flip into a full rotated side-kick to the center point of his chin, like Jet Li, but instead I take out one ear bud and shake my head, “No thanks.”