the life of richie


Posted in was by Rich on August 30, 2009

Two years ago, Rich and his friend Sabila went to Maine and were transformed; at least momentarily.

They stayed at the Bar Harbor Hotel, and woke up at six each morning, and went to sleep before ten each night, like a little old, sexless married couple; their rental car even had Florida license plates. In the Great Room one night the ghost of Jane Austen was invoked, and the three commiserated over their inevitable spinsterhoods; over salads.

They had lobster and lighthouses, of course; lobster in roll form, on sandwiches, even in ice cream; lighthouses in Rockland, Port Clyde, and Yarmouth. And there were blueberries strewn like sapphires over pancakes or blended into iced cream or iced beer.

One day they took the ferry three hours to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia; and had buyer’s remorse at the lighthouse, eating their lobster sandwiches in the sun; and spent most of their time in Canada waiting for the CAT to come and take them back to Bar Harbor.

Another day they walked for hours around Jordan Pond; Sabila in a skirt and sandals. It was so peaceful; like something out of Thoreau or Emerson. There they saw the sun. There they saw the pond and the rocks. There they saw the trees and only trees (there, there was nothing but trees and the sun and the pond and the rocks). They did not talk much as they hiked. Exhausted, they retired to take tea and popovers at the House beside the pond after.

Rich still keeps as his computer’s wallpaper an image of the pond.


Sometimes now he will, when all the applications are quit, get lost in the image of the pond, which serves to remind him of the experience of getting lost in the pond itself. He travels back through the wallpaper to the remembrance of this past. He summons Sabila and Jane Austen and orders phantom popovers and ghost tea.

Another day in Maine, they went to the Olson House in Cushing, the home of Wyeth’s Christina Olson and her family. They walked through the house which is only a relic now, a tomb. The two friends indulged their whim to take pictures of themselves reposed on the front lawn.

In her world, as she lies in the field beside the house, the world is big and conspires against her. There is something threatening there; something that stops one’s breath.

Here, Christina waits, like a sacrifice to the gods.

And we, we offer her up.



Posted in is, was by Rich on August 29, 2009

When he was little, he was lost in Canada.

They had driven to Toronto from New Jersey in their shiny new mini-van; Richie was not more than first grade. Richie and Thelma and Mommie would walk round the city and see all of the buildings. Everything was so peaceful and safe in Canada, Richie remembers. “I’d love to live here,” Mommie said. “To teach at the University here. Maybe you could go to school [college] here.”

With Daddie, they all went to a spaceship exhibit. They had to each pass separately through turnstiles to board the spaceship. But the turnstile didn’t turn for Richie; and so he wandered out/back into the main exhibition hall.

Suddenly: the world became very big.

He looked for Mommie and Daddie, but they had disappeared; there was no one now but strange families, happy and unscared. Richie felt lightheaded. Had He taken them too like he had Wesley and the Richie-cat; takened them away in His spaceship? (oh no no no no no no no no) He walked quickly around and around, but did not shout; he did not want anyone to know he’s lost.

In the next instant: Mommie was waving at him from the other side of the turnstile. Richie! –– Richie! He ranned to her and she hugged him. This is what it would’ve been like; he could’ve been lost. In Canada.

Years later, he will write: “When I was little, I was lost in Canada.”

For some reason, this will seem significant.

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Posted in is by Rich on August 27, 2009

Rich attends faculty in-service day at the college, where he and his mom both teach. This semester he is mentoring a new teacher; her name is Emily. He hasn’t met her yet. He feels he should tell her from the start, “My advice for you, Emily, is to go back to school and get a degree in something that will make you some money. There is no money in the humanities. We are not human in this country anymore. The Germans –– they value their intellects still, I am told. Even the British revere novelists more than we. If you are not a math or science person, America has no use for us…” to which she may likely respond, “So, do you, like, assign a lot of papers?” He will take a puff of his imaginary cigarette, look away from her, and brood, “My soul is a lot of papers, Emily.”

The keynote speaker at FIS day is Dr. P––, whose presentation is entitled “Geospatial Technology: Impact on Education and Environment.” This is GPS. This is Google Earth. This is the future, and no one shall be spared. (Not even you, Dick Cheney; we’re going to map your house yet.) We are setting about to map everything with satellites and lasers. It is an exciting time to be alive, Dr. P–– assures us. Think of the implications for charting climate change –– for safeguarding the environment; for seeing how much we have already altered life beyond our control. Think of the control.

Next will come geo-engineering, one assumes. Rich has just read an article about this, although Dr. P–– does not mention sulfur aerosol sprays pumping red clouds into the atmosphere to block out the sun as in some Blade Runner scenario. He does not mention dumping iron flakes into the ocean’s fishtank to proliferate a race of Super Plankton to suck up the world’s carbon eruction; or what methane will come from the Super P. when they expire. He talks about our cars, and how we will always know where we are; if not where we are going. We shall be arrogant and unstoppable in our certainty. Other countries will join us or be lost.

A woman asks, “But what about our privacy?” (SUBTEXT: “This is scary!”)

He says that that will be a concern; a concern for another department, is what the tacit acknowledgment is. For the humanities. For the philosophers. Unfortunately, the budget to the humanities has been cut to supply funding for GIS [Geographic Information Systems], for the tracking, so we won’t get around to asking why until the how and what are already faits accompli. Only once Big Brother has eaten everything, only then might we ask, “Who invited him to dinner?” but (“Oh, right; we did.“)

Rich’s mom speaks up. “I don’t have a GPS in my car. I like looking at maps, mapping out a route myself, to see where I need to go. And when I don’t know –– I think, philosophically, there is something so important about sometimes getting lost.”

The audience applauds. Dr. P––, somewhat discomfited, presses on in his pre-programmed course; never straying; never feeling the need to stop to ask for directions.



Posted in was by Rich on August 27, 2009

Richie memembers Mommie watching Olives North on the teevee & getting so madder and madder & telling him and Thelma, “We’re moving to Cananda!”

And Thelma, upsetted, asking, “Can I bring my toys, Mommie?!”

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Posted in is, was, will be by Rich on August 24, 2009

Rich’s sister was born on August 25th, when the summer is at its boiling point; erupted from Mommie like a Phoenix.

The Nanny-man named her Thelma, which Mommie worried would stick like the rice.

Richie terrorized sister as a baby; once threw her away in the trash; Mommie had to dumpster dive to retrieve Thelma. He was jealous: she had violated the golden mean of Daddie-Richie-Mommie. For then there was Thelma. But Richie got overed it.

Richie and Thelma used to build pillow forts together. Then they would stuff their pillow forts with stuffed animals. The stuffed animals were their friends and had dramatic lives and personalities –– intricate backstories. It was all very strange. They do not talk about it much anymore –– like trying to distance yourself from friends you are now ashamed of.

Thelma’s bedroom was always a mess. She would tell Mommie that a fat woman would come in off the street and mess it up. That was very strange, too. One day sister was too stuffed an animal for dinner, and she told Mommie it was because she had eaten all the spiderwebs in her messy room.

She went through a phase where she would sit around on the floor & watch Sleeping Beauty on Betamax & eat popsicles all day. Then she went through a phase where she would sit around in her beanbag chair & watch Debbie Gibson concerts on VHS all day.

Her best friend, when she was in primary school, was a girl named Jen Brown, who was black.

In late-middle school, after she had traded in Debbie Gibson for Jim Morrison, she put up a blacklight velvet Doors wall hanging in her room. She lit incense. She hung out with a “bad crowd”.

Then she went to high school and met her friend Erin. They took a road trip to Canada once. Just woke up one morning and thought, “What should we do today?” and decided, “Canada?” –– the way two other people might suggest, “Pancakes?”

Another time she and Erin wandered into a lesbian bar while the family was vacationing in Rehoboth. Not wanting to seem conspicuous, they held hands. Then Erin sang Melissa Etheridge. (At least I think that’s how it was.)

Then she moved to Boston to attend music school with hippies. Once she came to visit Rich in New York with her boyfriend Andy, who did not like Rich, but Thelma left Andy to go hang out with Rich at Lauren’s bar, Café Creole. Thelma had a Bahama Mama near the end of the night. Paula, the bartender, said to her, “This is gonna kick. your. ass.” They went to the Waverly Diner and ordered omelets after. After they’d ordered, Thelma said to Rich, as soon as the waiter left, “I have no idea what I just ordered!”


Then she moved back to South Jersey for awhile. Then she moved to Philly for awhile. Then she moved to L.A. for now.

Thelma came to visit her brother twice the year he was studying in London. The first time, at Christmas, they ate Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant on Gerrard Street with a family next to them cracking Christmas crackers and wearing those funny paper crowns. They spent most of that Christmas week just walking around London. They would get up and walk for hours and hours, and stop at Starbuckses when they were tired and cold, have lattes, and then keep walking. It was all very copacetic & all so peripatetic.

The second time she came to London, they went to Venice. They shared a small room at the Locanda Antico Fiore, where breakfast was served in a cramped common room on the other side of their bedroom door. They would roll out of bed & into the breakfast and drink strong morning coffee and spend the day walking, stopping for spritzes at outdoor cafés, attending art galleries. Thelma lit a candle in many churches for their mom; the candles were for, not the churches.

Then she moved to Venice [California]. Mom thinks that sister is still a mess; that that fat woman really messed her up good, and not just her room.

Rich wonders if sister is full of spiders from all the webs she ate as a child; or whether the spiders are plotting revenge on sister for eating their silken doilies; have already taken it. Maybe sister has become a spider herself, and that is why so many flies seem to stick to her; the flies being the ex-boyfriends, like Andy, see. There are other strange things caught in her web, not just the boyflies. Sometimes she plucks the silk strands like guitar strings.

Her guitar strings sing like a dulcet lesbian.

She has taken to spinning the silk into something, into something new now. Maybe you are sleeping & this is all just a dream.

Maybe you will wake up in the pillowfort.

Or Canada.

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Posted in will be by Rich on August 23, 2009

They have released him, and he thinks, Yes, we must be better than this. We will be.



Posted in is by Rich on August 23, 2009

He asks, when sitting on her porch, waiting for the breeze, “Like to go to Jeff’s christening? It’s the day after Caroline’s wedding next month.”

Karen smiles. “Don’t you feel like we’re always the observers at these things?”

Rich laughs; it is true; we are like the ones who mingle on the margins of these strange, suburban fantasies of our friends; it is like we are just playing pretend at these things; or visiting a foreign world that operates alongside their world, these two planes existing in tandem but rarely coming into contact; and once you cross over…

Rich e-mails Golchehreh about the baptism, the day after Caroline’s wedding; she responds: “you’ll be hungover, friend.”



Posted in is by Rich on August 22, 2009

Rich meets Lori for lunch at the Point Diner.

REVISED SENTENCE: Rich meets Lori and Baby Jeff for lunch at the Point Diner.

For it is too hot for the boardwalk –– for the boardwalk with a baby. Rich’s mom protests: “How can this town hold a baby parade in August? It’s inhumane, is what it is. It’s utter cruetly. They should be ashamed. They should be arrested.” But they aren’t, and they haven’t been: the baby parade in Ocean City is 100 Years Strong: 100 Years of Roasting Babies in their Bassinets & their Prams all for the sake of a bit of Pomp & Publicity. I hope Lori doesn’t enter Little Jeff next year; she wouldn’t; no. But August is when the town is at its peak; packed; when else should they have a parade? When it is pleasant and cool in May or September; but there are no people in May or September. We need to tart those babies up & roll them down the runway during sweeps month: “America’s Greatest Family Resort”. (And some will think that Rich’s mom speaking of cruelty to babies forced to be in the parade is itself cruel; that who doesn’t love a baby parade? But all the same, I’ll pass.)

There is a hurricane brewing, and surf is expected to be rough; the rough surfers already begin their campaign, in their beat-up Quicksilver be-stickered cars or on bikes with their boards, to the beach, hearing the siren’s plangent call; it is at these moments that Rich most wishes he surfed, but then remembers that on rough days such as this, he likes to see the surf from the shore, to spectate, to witness and wait with Walt: Walt Whitman would be ogling surfers with him, on such days as these; that he is meant to observe and record and mitigate the world (the phrase comes to mind, suddenly, if it is even the phrase he wants) mitigate the world, a sort of one to impose some sense & order onto this turbulent sphere; to remake the world in words.

Jeff is calm before the storm, sleeping in his carrier. “Can you believe I have a baby?” Lori says. “I think I’ll have a turkey club.”

They stir the cream into their coffee. Rich thinks about that, The cream, once stirred in, cannot be stirred out; cannot be un-stirred.

“He’s six weeks and the doctors say he should start crying less.” Rich has never seen Little Jeff cry or scream, as Lori says he sometimes screams for mommy, but takes her word for it. He always looks like a baby in a perfect baby catalogue; one of those unfussy little newbies on a jar of puréed carrots. (Although he is still too little for that yet.) Lori thinks of herself sometimes as a feeding station, and Rich imagines his friend as one of those big metal machines at the Starbucks, whipping up lattés and espressos; she puts in the food and it is blended and smoothied into a perfect, specially-made bev for baby.

For no wonder he screams; no wonder he is upset. Ripped from the womb; he remembers his high school psychology teacher (Mrs. M––), with her fiery hair & wild eyes, saying that birth was the Greatest Trauma; and that we never recover; that we live, in essence, our entire lives in a state of post-traumtic stress. Poor Little Jeff is still reeling from the aftermath of the after-birth; from being taken from that place of no suffering, where it is warm and never sad and where every possible want is attended to, without ever having to ask, without even having to fuss for it.

But after six weeks, perhaps after that he will begin to make out the world more: the colors, shapes; there the fuzzy cat; there mommy with squishy breasts; there daddy with hard chest; there yelpy little dog. The world will start to come into focus and not seem so bad; it just takes some getting used to, is what Rich would recommend to Jeffrey. The world can be a very pretty place; even on days of rough surf and high humidity when the air seems to be pressing down on us; even then it can be lovely.

Later, at night, on Karen’s porch with a beer: “If only it were five degrees cooler,” she says. “Then it would be lovely.”


“Then it would be perfect.”

“It would.”

The world is warm and close like the womb again tonight; but having escaped, we learn not to want to go back –– to crave the cool of the outside instead, where there are porches and beer. Rich thinks of this Edna O’Brien line he had just read; about People who had hoped for summer wished now for a breeze and a little respite, calling August wicked. But respite is this, is just this; is a porch in stale air, with cool beer, and crisp conversation; it is the expectation of the breaking, the excitement of whitecaps for the weekend; the choppy surf.

It is this; just this.



Posted in is by Rich on August 20, 2009



Posted in was by Rich on August 19, 2009

Rich remembers, as an undergraduate at NYU, the girl who lived down the hall from him junior year.

[I’m leaving, he once had had to tell her; and so he left.

She slammed the door.

It was a Wednesday.

In the kitchen, the blender malingered in the sink. The water gurgled and, with sopping gruel, wept into the drain. She grabbed that, and the sponge. If I can’t love, I’ll clean, came the reasoning; and so she cleaned. She submerged her hand in the abysmal, liquid filth. Like the ship, so too sank her Titanic heart into the sea of breadcrumb bodies. Her fingers contacted the blades waiting at the bottom: the dead propeller hungered. (It was a Wednesday.) Somehow –– the silent blender, suddenly –– somehow –– started blending. Her hand, quivering, did not retract, at first, on that Wednesday. The skin was ripped from her fingers and –– bloody awful mess –– she pulled her hand out. But the hand! It was so bloody awful. She pressed her throbbing fist to make the blood run hot. She wrapped it up like a present in paper towels to present the fingers to him: a testament. She rang the bell, saw his face. Lip quivering spilled tears on his step.

He shut the door.

It was a Wednesday.]