Friday, August 21, 2015

Pumpkin Spice

September for me has always symbolized a fresh start, essentially the beginning of the year as I've always experienced it. Starting school in August feels profoundly wrong. On Sunday August 16, I notice at the Glendale Americana that odious Pumpkin Spice has returned. Today, at the Rite Aid, fall décor, candles and baskets and plastic cornucopias are already marked down and there is an aisle full of Halloween merchandise. As my days grow more numbered the passage of time seems hyper-accelerated anyway and I am frustrated by the forces conspiring to make the years fly by even faster. The kids and their back to school gear returning to the Mount Washington School and the flame retardant superhero costumes at the drug store are bizarre and cruel. It is still summer.

I look at my sprats and remember how differently I experienced the flipping calendar pages while I was in my twenties. A friend of Joe Workforce visits. We haven't seen the lad for about five years but he sits with us at the same table, set with the same plates and likely eats a meal similar to the ones he was served years before. Himself and I are grayer but otherwise little has changed. But the high school kids who ate us out of house and home and replaced the liquor from the bar with water, are young men. College graduates. Employed. Erudite, and frankly way more interesting than they were five years ago. Although likely disappointed that we haven't bothered to restock the bar.

While the grown up-ish kids are better conversationalists I still get totally stoked when they actually need me. At the last minute Spuds' new boss says he can take a few days off. He had been sad to miss the FYF Festival and I guess he likes seeing us too. Plus, Himself is too cheap to get a haircut at a barber and the next opportunity for Spuds' to cut his hair would have been late October when we go back for family weekend and it is already overly shaggy. I am charged with booking flights for Spuds and his girlfriend. It is very challenging as fares increase exponentially every time you check them. I am finally able to find Spuds a cheap and convenient enough flight that I can cover with miles. But when his girlfriend, who needs to convert waitress tip money into a debit card, goes to book the same flight several hours later the price has increased $300. The girl is in tears. I spend several hours, in my element and nearly delirious with adrenalin, using aggregators and hacker fares and find a flight she can afford on a different airline albeit requiring a three hour stopover in Philadelphia.

Now that the kids require so little I am indolent most of the week. I disappoint myself with erratic progress on other writing projects but I self publish here most every week. I always wake up on Friday morning agonizing about what to serve for shabbat dinner (tonight steak for Joe Workforce, and tilapia for Him and myself plus challah made from scratch). And what the hell I'm going to write about. On Thursday night I watch Scorsese’s documentary about Fran Leibowitz. This is probably a very bad idea on the eve of the only day that I actually summon the discipline necessary to craft a short essay. Leibowitz is famous for her lack of productivity, which she refers to as “writer's blockade.” Her two books of comic essays were best sellers in the 70s but since then she's only produced a children's book and some magazine essays. A novel, apparently in the works for nearly four decades, was scheduled to be published this year but it looks like she's missed another deadline.

Leibowitz at least is very self aware and refers to herself as the laziest person on the planet. She does speaking engagements and had a recurring role as an acerbic judge on the show Law and Order. But, unless her friggin novel actually happens and is brilliant, Fran will be remembered for the accomplishments of her twenties and thirties. She says repeatedly that it is better to be in your twenties than in your fifties. I do not agree.

Despite the staggering amount of time I spend in the dental chair or observing the weird effect the ravages of time have had on my body, I would rather not be in my twenties. My twenties were spent ignoring my parent's advice, agonizing to impress shallow people and spinning my wheels. Now I cherish my invisibility. I can go out without makeup. I can wear the same outfit three days in a row. I don't have to waste time with the unscintillating or with those whose standards I don't meet. I have written, at least sporadically, for as long as I remember but I find now that the confluence of how I have lived and what I have observed increases my own satisfaction with my work.

There are a handful of readers who tune in here regularly. This is meaningful and important. Often however, someone will admit sheepishly, “I don't read your blog,” in the same tone as they'd say “I ran over your dog.” Of course I like it when people read and comment but truly, this is my departure from selfless Jewish mother mode. I like it if you like it, but it is more meaningful that I like it. I could not have written like this when I was in my twenties. Shabbat dinner and Casamurphy are my weapons against the sonic passing of time. And fuck pumpkin spice. It is still summer for another month.  


John L. Murphy / "FionnchĂș" said...

I don't like pumpkins. But I look forward to challah each Friday evening and the company we share, ourselves or with others. And Spuds cuts my shaggy hair best. I think it's a fair trade for funding his flights to and fro. Shabbat Shalom, xxx me.

Rosemary said...

I read, and LOVE, your weekly Blog and I look forward to reading it too. I had the same experience yesterday. Noticed on Hudson Street that all of the chic boutiques have the store's window models in Fall clothing, with fur collars. Glad Niall is home visiting!

Anonymous said...

Layne, I have missed months and months of your blog. Much as I enjoy it, it often covers ground upon which I have already trod, or in some cases, slogged.
Back in the navel gazing days, there was a short quiz that asked the question 'who or what are you?' The truly liberated answer was 'human being', but for most of my life, mine has always been 'a mother'..I felt guilty about this for a long time, I am over that.
It's not just a question of self identification, because most certainly I could have given other answers to include my career, and at least, my other relatives.

Instead, I identify most with what I think about much of the time, and what took up most of my attention and energy in the past. I always thought I would reach a point where I would turn my sights to weightier matters, and everything would fall into place. I was wrong. My now very grown up kids and their children, are still the glue that holds me together, as they do my husband. He is finally okay with never playing shortstop for the Red Sox, and I am okay with, well, being as usual.

In planning for a more exciting future, sans kids, I forgot to plan on getting older and more easily content. I count this as an unexpected bonus.

Anonymous said...

P.S. I want to add how much I admire your truth telling and your self knowledge. I identify with just about everything you have written, and lived through, including remodeling and the loss of parents, oh, and dental nightmares, too. However, you present these all too universal issues in a new voice, with sass and wisdom. I, too, have loved Fran L. longer than I can remember, although her writing is now so infrequent, I worry about how she supports herself.

My mother was also vain,lovely, and a bit of a tough cookie, I am positive she felt that if it hadn't been for my hapless father, she would have been Lana Turner. To her credit, she more or less got over that phase when she became a grandmother, my children adored her, and I finally loved her about as much as I was ever going to, in her later years. Thanks to your honesty, I can write that without guilt.

I hope you never stop writing..