Saturday, May 5, 2018

Burn it Down

Himself, to his credit, is detached from all things political and has an astonishing ability to tune out my constant CNN soundtrack.  For the first time since the election, today he demonstrates, after learning of the latest Giuliani antics, a bit of the same hilarity/panic/sorrow that I’ve lived with since the election. I consider this a watershed moment.  For over a year, good things happen but Trump is still in the White House.  And disappointments are magnified and make it seem like the planet is on the verge of blasting into smithereens.

I have a gel manicure every three weeks.  I would forego this extravagance if I didn’t see my hands blown up and projected on a giant screen nightly on the classroom projector.  Nicki, my manicurist is an ambitious Vietnamese American lady with two adorable little boys.   She struggles, as her husband is Cambodian American, raised in Connecticut by a single mother and thoroughly American.  Nicki’s non-English speaking parents and older sister live with them.  Nicki navigates three generations and two profoundly different cultures.  Doing nails gets her out of the house.  I’ve given up on selecting my own colors as she always vetoes my choices.  Now I’m sort of day-glo pink with a twinkly topping and she’ll reinvent me again in about three weeks. 

Nicki only works a couple of days a week and I usually go on Tuesdays because the shop, near my office, is less crowded.  On Monday, one of my nails peels and I know it’s time for Nicki on Tuesday.  I’m not sure why but usually, except for my pinkies, a gel manicure will peel off after about three weeks.  I enjoy peeling off the polish and do so while driving to the office on Tuesday morning. Some nails peel off clean but there are always a few nails with splotches of polish clinging stubbornly to the tips.  Nicki texts me that her kids are sick and she’s off until Thursday.  Tuesday and Wednesday night my raggedy, half peeled nails project on the whiteboard.  No more peeling until I’m sure that Nicki’s available.

As the manicure is an extravagance, I find myself checking my nails a couple times a day to make sure I get my money’s worth.  My mother was very concerned about her appearance.  I think about her gazing at her fingernails while I catch myself evaluating my own splayed fingers and aging hands.  My mother was never able to pass a mirror.  This is one habit that I haven’t inherited.  I put on a little makeup in the morning on automatic pilot, focusing only on the areas of application.  While I spring for a manicure every three weeks ago, I am much more frugal with regard to haircuts.  I’ve gone from twice a year to now about every eighteen months. 

The new hairdresser is highly recommended and massages my scalp before washing my hair.  Facing a huge mirror, I see how few brown hairs remain on my white head.  I was always aware of how much my sister resembled my mother, but while it was frequently noted that I look like my her, I never really saw it. Looking at myself straight on in the giant mirror, I see her face.

My mother’s frugality always struck me as neurotic and dysfunctional but now it’s dawned on me that there will come a point when I am unable, or simply don’t want to, work.  I’ll be eligible for a small social security check in a couple of years but realize now how important it is to have something salted away.  I shop at outlets and dollar stores.  I stock up on sale items.  We seldom eat out.  I scope out free parking locations in advance of a journey. 

I often regret the harshness with which I regarded my mother, particularly as more and more I morph into her.  I repeat here again and again that the sign of true adulthood is forgiving one’s parents and this I’ve accomplished.  As I enter my seventh decade, mortality is more and more on the forefront of my consciousness.  Fortunately, fears that dogged me in early years have abated.  I attribute this partially to sacrifices that my parents made on my behalf but also to my own conscious decision to strive to live honestly, a luxury that eluded my Depression surviving parents.

We continue to struggle with matters legal and fiduciary.  Having long ago abandoned the expectation of fairness, this is easier to endure.  My mother taught me, in times of strife, to write down on paper a list of problems and stash it away for six months.  But for whining here, I don’t engage in the physical gesture these days, but accepting the truth that most obstacles will ultimately be overcome does make it easier to cope.  Even the enormous obstacle that the current president poses.

It seems, at the beginning at the term, impossible that Trump would actually complete it. Now, as congress seems bent on defending the indefensible, it is a much less sure of a bet.  While James Comey, in my opinion, has made some terrible decisions, his eloquence reminds me that the leader of our nation has the vocabulary and temperament of a fourth grader.  Comey is well aware of how perilous these times are, but he makes the beautiful analogy of a forest fire. After the scorched earth there is an inevitable regrowth, that is often more lush and verdant.

No schools are named after Richard Nixon.  Congressmen who allowed Joe McCarthy to rant on and ruin lives are ill remembered by history.  It is astonishing how many politicians are willing to trash their legacies.  How can they not see this?  I am wistful that I likely won’t live long enough to see how history gives these times their due.

Jake Tapper to Wolf Blitzer to Erin Burnett to Anderson Cooper while I work, cook, clean and vegetate. While the lie count on Trump now exceeds 3000 in a little over a year, he’s also had some successes.   Motivated by egomania, Kim Jong Un and Trump might actually make some peace.  Apparently with the retention of Emmet Flood, despite Giuliani, Trump has some competent representation.  A Virginia judge accuses the federal prosecutor of pursuing Paul Manafort for the only purpose of bringing down Trump.  Perhaps Trump will indeed complete four full years.  Perhaps he’ll even be reelected in 2020. More crackpot judges and gutting of environmental standards.  The new forest growth might be far on the horizon.

Despite eating a sandwich every day of Passover this year, we still light the candles every Shabbat.  I spend most Fridays working at home in the companionship of my CNN friends, marveling at how America got to where we are.  On Saturday, there are legal documents to prepare and a major cupboard cleaning and reorganization to combat pantry moths. Sunday we’ll attend a funeral.  The table is set for two and dinner is challah and a week’s worth of leftovers slopped together and folded into burritos.

I receive a note from a friend who knows one of the artists at Spud’s gallery.  She reports that the artist has praised Spuds lavishly.  He calls.  He tells me that he’s spent a weekend with the artist.  She’s made hundreds of ceramic shoes for an art fair and Spuds is charged with wrapping and transporting them.  We chat about his future and his friends while he sits in front of the Whitney, relaxing a bit before boarding the subway back to Brooklyn.  He’ll visit the art fair where he’s set up his gallery’s booth and the ceramic shoes are nearly sold out.  There’s a birthday party for a friend at woodsy enclave an hour from Manhattan.   In July he has a vacation and will return home.  I count the months on my fingers.

Number One Son calls with a cooking question.  He announces that he and girlfriend upgrade are coming for a week at the end of June.  We discuss essential restaurants and activities to kill time between meals.  I realize that the only thing that really obliterates the pall of Trump are my kids.  They are kinder to me than I was to my own parents.  Knowing that I will see both of them relatively soon makes for a peaceful Shabbat.  I see the goodness of my sons and the way kids have mobilized post Parkland and realize that indeed, the forest will someday thrive.  I’ll do the organizing and sorting but I’m going to relegate Himself to scrubbing down the pantry.  It might be hard on my nails.

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