A Long List of Excuses

Well, I’m back from my seaside idyll in Cape May, New Jersey…an idyll in which I intended to blog every day or so in an effort to impart the Victorian nuttiness and maritime mystique of one of my favorite places on any American seaboard.

But as it turns out, the sun, the lull of the waves spilling over, family togetherness, Lali Arlene, and excessive snacking left me with little time or energy for writing. By the middle of the week my to-do list contained such lofty goals as:

3) Purchase and Consume Thunder Dog from Hot Dog Tommy’s

and

4) Sprinkle Talcum Powder Down My Back

Both of which I achieved.

I was going to write about our pathological need to share every experience with others in real time. I was going to say some very scathing things about social media engendering displacement and detachment from the very places we are documenting. I was going to go all soapboxy about public documentation of moments as a form of acquisitiveness and a desperate attempt to ward off death.

Which all sounds good. Blaming our fear of death. But it discounts the fact that the real reason I didn’t blog was laziness. Because I was having a helluva indolent time sitting on the front porch of our rented house on North Street eating homemade ricotta and jam, reading my novel, and watching my mostly naked four-year-old nephew John appear and disappear from various bushes and corners.

Here he is standing stock still in a tree.

Here are sea sponges for sale:

Here are some larger-than-life plastic ice cream cones:

The point is: My point is this: the time to write about adventures is when you are back home. And not surrounded by gopher-like children and salty breezes, and giant ice cream cones, and sea sponges for sale. And your cousin’s homemade ricotta and exotic fruit preserves. And horse-drawn carriages. And sparkly chandeliers. And THE SEA.

Stay tuned for my very super interesting next post about the outlandish Victorians at Congress Hall–what they ate, what they wore, how they avoided sexual titillation on the beach. Yes, we are back to Victorians at the Seashore!

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Through A Glass Darkly

The first five days of my east coast romp have burned with the queer fuel of a fever dream. Queer days which have made it not so much of a romp as a dazed transport to another, half-forgotten, half-unknown world.

Terra Incognita, Terra Oblitus. I’m speaking, of course, of the Tri-State Area.

In the  last few days, I fed goats and sheep food pellets from cake ice cream cones at a micro-zoo called Elmwood Park. I learned the unholy screeches of howler monkeys can carry a good 5 kilometers through the jungle, (which is handy to know if you’re writing a one-act expressionistic play in which two bedraggled, shipwrecked, verging-on-psychotic  protagonists should be haunted by monkey cries deep, perhaps three-miles deep, into the forest–which I’m not…writing that play…but I will be soon.)

I watched gargoylish leaf-nosed bats scale terrarium glass upside down and devour a cantaloupe like garden-party ladies at luncheon.

And the “fun” facts I learned about prairie dogs and their underground megacities (pop. 4 million) of yore…I don’t think that’s a scene anyone wants to file away.

I resolved to take up the ukulele. I attended my cousin’s high school graduation where one of the speakers dared to use the phrase “reach for the stars.”  A phrase that is only funny or inspiring at Space Camp, and even then it must be used ironically.

I narrowly escaped a really rockin’ jam session in West Philly with my friends Marla and Jill.

How close we came to burning memories in our brain that we could never ever expunge!  Instead we gazed upon the collection of exotic instruments hanging on Marla’s dining room wall, belonging to Marla’s husband, thought better of it, and continued eating our chips and sandwiches.

Then I developed an actual fever and things got even queerer. Victorian beach houses, florid wallpaper, tear drop chandeliers, plagues of hydrangeas, children sleeping with half-open eyes, oceanic waters advancing and retreating, advancing and retreating. Bi-planes streamers imploring me to eat more crab legs.

Cape May, New Jersey.  The whole town is a shimmering fever dream that I’ve been having every other summer for the last fourteen years.

I’m here with my peeps, my clan, four generations of  people with whom I share enough genetic material to allow its junior members to gallop stuffed ponies across my face  and allow other junior members to guide me to her bedroom where I am supposed to sit and wait while she searches for beads with which she will fashion me a bracelet…except five minutes later she doesn’t come back…and ten minutes later she doesn’t come back…and I’m getting really anxious and I’m wondering where the tarnation are her bloody beads and I really want a bracelet, and her bedroom is eerie–she stationed me in a chair opposite a cat lamp, so I get up and look out the window and yes, I think I just saw her riding piggy-back on my cousin, and yes, she forgot about me sitting alone in her darkened creepy cat-lamp bedroom waiting to be presented with my choice of beads.

Forgotten. Oblitus. Like the sand carvings near the water’s edge, like the salt-water taffy we bring home and toss in the back of the cupboard, because it turns out taffy sucks when eaten inland, like the thousands of ghosts of dead vacationers slipping through the wicker furniture.

Madeleine is my niece’s name, who lured me here and then forgot me. She’s seven.

But the week is young. My flu bug has passed. There is plenty of time for comeuppance.

In Bloom

The Desert Willow:

This fragrant, spunky little tree is busting out its powdery pink crenulated flowers all over Albuquerque. I declare it as resplendent a willow tree as any that ever graced our arid clime, don’t you agree? Don’t you find it a sheer delight as far as willow trees go? Do you? Don’t you? Do you?

Psyche! The desert willow is not a willow at all! It merely sports willow-like leaves. No, the desert willow is Team Bignonia all the way. What I really love about the desert willow is it belongs here: a native to Mexico and the American Southwest that somehow manages to squeeze pretty, blush colored blossoms out of very little water. The more it’s pruned the more it flowers. So yes it lends itself beautifully to metaphors of economy, suffering, and the indomitable human spirit –the likes of which I will spare you from here.

Next up: Beach House–Their new album Bloom is out. If you are familiar with this Baltimore band, you know they are not cranking out tanning oil and daiquiri music. Their house is built on a rainy beach of sawgrass and dreary, gray seas, the sort where dead skippers’ dead daughters wash ashore.

This album is for people who are fed up (like me) with the juvenile notion that summer is fun. Summer is a sweltering, scorching, glaringly bright time for human people everywhere who parboil in their skins and must relieve their agony by throwing themselves into the nearest body of water, no matter how contaminated it is with urinating children. Know what else happens in summer? We get chased by bees for stealing their honeycomb, fall into patches of poison ivy, and grow fat on shish-kabobs. We dive for pennies in public pools, which is demeaning. We sink our faces into buttery corn ears and dripping water melons which is disgusting. Our road trips, in which we unwittingly traverse the Great Plains, too often end in debasement and shame.

So, if your idea of the perfect summer day is sitting in a lawn chair in a rain storm while children scream because their ice cream cones are being washing away and the wind is turning everyone’s parasols inside out, might I introduce you to Beach House? Clicky click on the picture for instant transport to said lawn chair.

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Troisieme:The transit of Venus. Another once-in-a-century astronomical event on which to burn out our eyes and perchance fall off our roofs.

Botticelli’s Transit of Venus: This won’t burn out your eyes. Unless you are afraid of naked women.

Happy June, everyone.