the life of richie


Posted in is by Rich on November 27, 2009

Every Thanksgiving Eve since he and his sister were in college and homeward bound for the holiday, Rich’s parents have opened their house to friends to celebrate. Mom will spend weeks cleaning neglected crannies and preparing the menu; on the Thursday before, she makes cookies to freeze and give away to guests; then on Tuesday there is the preparation of the bread pudding, which needs to soak overnight in its egg bath, and the bittersweet chocolate cake. Wednesday, two great vats of soup go on the hob: Emeril’s chicken gumbo with spicy chorizo, and the gold standard, butternut squash. There is a blinding of alcohol amassed, and by the end of the night at least a case of beer and some ten plus large bottles of wine will have been emptied: convivial locusts come for the harvest, drunk and ate and enjoyed ourselves.

When the guests have gone, his parents will sit in the backyard, exhausted but indescribably happy. For a brief few hours, they will revel, everything came together, and everyone came together, in one house, under one roof, and here we were safe and happy.

The next morning (Thanksgiving proper), sleep deprived and hung-over, the three will travel over the bay and through the woods, past Patty’s house, to Aunt Susan’s. His mom and he arrive at quarter to ten in advance of a one o’ clock meal time to help with preparations and provisions –– and to gossip. Aunt Margy has telephoned earlier to inform her sister, who now relays the information to other sister Susan, that Margy’s ex-daughter-in-law’s sister tried to strangle Aunt Margy’s teenage granddaughter. (Rich is thankful not to be in Western Pennsylvania.) Aunt Sue tends the turkey as Rich reads the paper and his mom quaffs more coffee; Cousin Debbie watches the Macy’s parade. She has invited someone for dinner with them (a gentleman caller) and mom pleads with Rich not to ask any questions, but then asks Cousin Debbie, “Where did you meet him? Tell me all about him!” (They met on a Disney fan web site; Rich is thankful.) The adverts have all been torn over, dog-eared by Aunt Susan and Debbie who are planning to be at Sears at three/four o’ clock the next morning for the opening; were the doorbusters available today, Aunt Sue jokes she would’ve canceled dinner altogether. Aunt Susan, a new grandmother, discusses the politics of grandchildren with her sister; and later, mom will tell Rich she should be thankful to never be a grandmother herself: to not have to deal with hurt feelings over whose side of the family is favored with the much sought-after premier enfant; and to not have to deal with the possibility of her grandchild being strangled by an in-law. Dad arrives with the carving knives. Cousin Greg and his wife and their nine-month-old tumble in, and Aunt Susan goes into a grandma trance, coo-cooing and wrestling around on the floor, neglecting the dinner, which bubbles over in the oven. Rich’s aunt has a knack for taking frozen weggemobobbles and coverting them into strange dishes like sweet potato supreme and broccoli supreme: to supreme something means to render it indistinguishable from the vegetable of origin, one supposes. Mom has had to sneak in fresh, “plain” sweet potatoes with her to stick in the oven; she and Rich eat them without butter even, just the stark orange starch split open steaming on the plate. There is cornbread stuffing and Grandma‘s stuffing (mom has made) and creamed onions (dad’s favorite) and green beans supreme and spinach supreme and mashed potatoes along with s.p.s. and the aforementioned b.s. and salad and rolls and an unholy twenty pound turkey; Mom read or heard on NPR that in the fifties the average size of a turkey was five pounds. Cousin Greg’s baby is twenty pounds herself, as big as a turkey, which Rich wants to mention, but doesn’t. (Mom is thankful.)

Oh, but –– the gentleman caller! The gentleman caller arrives with pie intact and in tow. He and dad chat about hospital equipment: this is the g.c.’s field. (And he’s from Tennessee! –– from the south, the gentleman caller is; it is so well-scripted; Rich is thankful for such good writing. Mom begins to think ahead to Cousin Debbie marrying this gregarious g.c., and Rich rolls his eyes, cautioning, “You with your plans and provisions; settle yourself.”)

So the family return to their respective beds of abodes and slip into comas supreme.




Posted in is by Rich on November 23, 2009

The girl sitting next to him on the train, cold and listens to her iPod while hitting the Blackberry keys hard and fast and avoiding eye contact with the world. Her fingers move mechanistically, with unyielding speed, cklicking out messages to the hive: how she can even think that fast, consider, where the revisioning –– she of calculated conviction can have none. She, who wears a clingy shirt dress, and boots, and Rich has the urge to lick her face while thinking of popsicles. Instead, he falls asleep between Wilmington and Baltimore.

The train comes to a full stop, shaking him from slumber: there is a broken train on the tracks up ahead. An hour’s delay as their train takes on the stranded passengers. He hears a woman behind him say she was waiting for three hours on the disabled train. The woman, who speaks with a South Asian accent, is ne’ertheless still cheerful and excited to visit her daughter in the capital. He thinks of his own mom and times when she too had been excited to see his sister home from L.A., only to have his sister be delayed or disagreeable, his mom left to feel unworthy, broken, forced to take on an ungrateful passenger.

Eventually, and more than an hour and a half en retard, Rich reaches Anne and her boyfriend Tommy. Rich ironizes: “Ahh, the romance of train travel!” The three go for coffee at Cowgirl Creamery and Pete’s a Pizza before dropping off Tommy at home and walking to meet Ashley at a speakeasy called The Gibson; an unmarked door leads to a dark lounge specializing in bespoke cocktails. Rich has two from the menu over the course of as many hours: Stranger on the Highway and The Upstate. Ashley arrives. The three gossip and giggle; the controversial topic of the Snuggie™ is broached. The intense waitress comes to give them the bill and the boot. Later, at Nellie’s, the three huddle out on the upstairs patio and later have snacks inside before retiring, to their respective abodes, to bed.

Rich wakes up, in the spare room (the office), next to Anne’s nature bowl. The primary rule of the nature bowl is that nothing goes in the bowl that is not natural; Ashley’s acorns that she gifted Anne that popped their tops cannot be glued back together; it would be sacrilege to the n.b. The bowl contains a proliferation of leaves, pine cones, a few shells. Anne is on the lookout for acorns, and Rich believes her when she insinuates that she would wrestle a squirrel for them: so great is her fervor to feather the bowl.

In the downstairs living and kitchen space, Anne makes coffee in the Chemex, while the men (though the term is used loosely of Riche et Thomas) stand and eat the woman and watch clementines and torn slices of fresh rye. After coffee with dribbles of heavy cream, they walk to their eleven o’ clock brunch appointment at the Tabard. On their pilgrimage, the three exchange stories; Rich tells about his sister, who for awhile in college dreaded her hair and gave up wearing underwear. He sees a Tourmobile bus and remembers when he and she made up a jingle for the Tourmobile while on vacation with their parents a long time ago. Sometimes he worries his sister exists mostly in anecdotes now for him. Perhaps that is true of all people: we love them and then convert them to the raw material of narration if they become less immediate in our workaday lives. Their friend Goose is resurrected in story-form many times during his visit: Goose, still in London, now married to a Brazilian, now working at the dinosaur museum. Goose, whose sobriquet itself was lifted from an advert on the underground –– an advert for whiskey at that. Oh, Goose.

After the filling brunch of fresh bread and doughnuts, po’ boy sandwiches and poached eggs over hash, brie & chanterelle omelettes, the travelers take the bus to the woods and cross through the real-life nature bowl of Glover-Archbold Park to The Kreeger Museum. The museum is lovely (nuts the Kreegers had gathered in life safely stored in this modern space), if soporific, the stuffy, windowless basement downstairs where the trio take in the evocative Kentridge exhibit like a soft muslin of chloroform applied to their mouths. Outside, the spell of the house is broken, and yawns trumpet in the re-awakening; the lawn sculptures like over-sized artifacts from Ikea and Pier 1 greet them at the gate. “Do you suppose the Kreegers had a sexless marriage?” Anne asks. Carmen and David Kreeger, attempting to satisfy themselves in marriage through a prolific consumption of art, stuffing themselves with Sisleys, gorging on the Goghs.

But at night, the friends envision the Kreegs all hot and bothered, stealing out onto the veranda to rub themselves up against the sculptures like sweaty cats. One wants to imagine them rolling around naked on the lawn, getting acorns all up in their ha-has.

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Posted in is by Rich on November 23, 2009

That night, the three sit in the small living and eating space on the first floor. Alison turns on the hot jazz and pours three tumblers of rum with some nogg; she grates nutmeg on top of each. Jimmy reclines on the couch and amuses the three with information taken off the interwebs: YouTube clips and grotesque images of awkward families. It is lazy and quiet. Alison wishes there was more eggnog and not just the soynogg left. Cliff checks the text messages on his phone. His friend says she is having a Christmas party on the 19th, but then informs him before he has even responded that the party is postponed until New Year’s, and hopes that he can come. Alison imagines a firepit; mentions having a Christmas party herself with a firepit in the backyard. “I love Christmas. Something about the pine –– the scent of pine. The eggnog. A firepit!” She lights a candle. Cliff remembers Christmases in London as the jazz program concludes. The small transistor radio. Alison and Jimmy, teasing one another with their games. Cliff smiles. Alison goes over to the couch. Jimmy lies down on top of her.

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Posted in is, Married Life by Rich on November 17, 2009

A special Life of Richie series of reports

An article in the Guardian claims that married men do not buy their own underwear; that their wives buy all of their underwear for them. Can it be? But according to married friends, it be. One friend admits to have switched her new husband over to boxer-briefs, and when Rich asks Lori if she buys underwear for Jeff, she says sure, as if it is expected, written in the vows as it were: “To love, honor, and buy underwear for –– in boxers or in briefs –– so long as the charge card is accepted.” (All men.)

Rich goads Karen, texting, “Maybe you should start hanging out in the men’s underwear section of Boscov’s,” to which she responds, “I’ll camp out there. Well maybe not Boscov’s. Maybe a slightly more upscale mall.”

THE MORAL: It is a truth now universally acknowledged, that a single man who shops for his own underwear must be in want of a wife. Or, you know, gay.



Posted in is by Rich on November 15, 2009

On Facebook, Lori’s husband writes, “Jeff enjoying his man-hole now that it’s electrified, ventilated and ready to serve! Who’s coming over tomorrow to watch the Eagles?”

Chrissie’s husband responds, “For a second there I thought you underwent rectal electrolysis or something…man-hole is a little ambiguous, you know?”

Jeff ripostes, “Someone told me a while back to not call it that…could get confused with a gay bar he said…. Is man-cave any better?”

And so Rich: “It was I; there was once a gay bar called the Man Hole; man-cave I think is an accepted, ‘no homo’ term, however. (Because, just to be clear: man-hole implies the anus, the mangina, the chocolate expressway, and so on. So when you say ‘enjoying his man-hole’, it sounds like you’re fingering yourself; and that your anus is now electrified (not to mention ‘ready to serve’).)”

And so Cory: “That’s hilarious!”



Posted in was by Rich on November 15, 2009




Posted in is by Rich on November 15, 2009

The Irish co-advisor to the Fine Arts Club is standing in the parkinglot like an amiable scarecrow. The kids are meeting this morning to install their exhibit of harvest-themed artwork.

A central piece is a large painting of Persephone with pomegranate, her husband brooding over her shoulder; oh, unhappy marriage. Is the Underworld considered the suburbs, Rich wonders.

Another student has smashed a plastic jack-of-the-lantern, the kind kids take trick-or-the-treating. He has glued the bright orange, plastic pieces to cardboard as the basis for further pastiche.

The flood waters from the storm have subsided this morning, leaving detritus of flotsam-jetsam, in the waves’ wake.

On his way home, he sees, in the dunes: a plastic deck chair; in what is left of the dunes.

“I felt like smashing things,” the young artist says; and so smashed.



Posted in is, Rich's book club by Rich on November 15, 2009

Karen picks up Rich but not literally to ride with him in horseless carriage to Upper Township, to Pattimac’s, to book group.

Talk oh, unhappy marriages; bored suburban couples and my how dark it is out here, here in the woods; high school parties in the woods and smoking weed in school, high (but not them, natch; just in nature, how there is nothing else to do out here in the woods ‘cept to party if you are young or burn-out inside when older & married in the country). Karen knows she has been to Patty’s before; takes turn-here-there roads to reach cozy little Patty house with cozy little Neon carcass covered in leaves out front like a burial shroud [the leaves]. Ring the bell. Hi, hi, hi. There is delicious homemade hummus and tabouleh and olives and Guinness’nHarp. Patty learned the recipe for the hummus from a Lebanese friend; delicious, with the oil all drizzled on top & garnished.

They sit in the dining room, which Patty admits doesn’t get much play except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are pictures of Greece on the wall, and Paris, and Italy. Patty has just returned from a Catholic funeral like the one for Paddy (Chapter 6). Why is it –– they pass past the house of the deceased en route to the funeral? Fine old custom; glad to see it has not died out. Not like Dignam did died out. Or the Neon.

Karen giggles about the loosening of the bowels and the bathtub scenes. Patty says, “I like Bloom; I like him so much.” Much more than Stephen at least: all agree. (But Stephen reminds Rich of himself somehow; always has.) “I feel sorry for him; how he’s bossed around.” Although all laugh at the mention of Bloom following the woman’s behind, behind her moving hams. Moving hams LOL! All so repressed; in the church; in the Ireland; and the co-advisor to the Fine Arts Club tells Rich later in the week that the Irish have always married later than others, which surprises, and he says it is on account of their repression. He is Irish himself, and Rich considers inviting him to join the moving hams book group; but the group is already on Chapter 9. He would be left to chase after their moving hams, he and Pattimac and Karenkaywillickers. (Plus it is so far for the Irish co-advisor to travel up each month.) Rich looks at his nails; days later he will look again and find one bleeding at the cuticle. Suck on it, the saliva will help to bind it, his mother used to say after he had started biting his nails so that they would bleed on occasion. The saliva will bind the cuticle. The nails meant to represent crucifixion in Chapter 6. The bleeding nails.

Patty and Karen talk of the windy office and their blowhard boss and some of the more flatulent faculties. As they soon to bye, the dog upstairs begins to bark: ruff! ruff! ruff! ruff! Why am I left alone upstairs? What is going on down there? I need to loosen me bowels, arf & ruff! ruff! ruff! ruff!

Rich and Karen pass by the Neon lying in wake in the drive; take Karen’s car out of the woods, over the bridge & back to the island.



Posted in is by Rich on November 9, 2009

His sister moved to L.A. two winters ago now, leaving their mother grief-stricken. She has since tried to negotiate her daughter’s release from that plastic conspiracy of the plutocracy: promised all-expenses-paid education and free room and board here on the east coast, where there are seasons. But his sister has eaten the Otherworld’s fruit already; the produce, she says, is so delicious here, as the juices spill down her chin, as the mud runs down the mountainsides while the fires sizzle from the bankrupt trees; one would rather rue in hell. She has been carried off, sister; but she, herself, first reached for the narcissus plant.


The Rape of Proserpine

There is a lecture on the Persephone myth at the college on Sunday. Rich and friend Melissa, still here from Hawaii, get into his People’s Car and drive to meet Caroline for Indian buffet lunch beforehand. Rich fills his plate and places a curried egg in the center. He regards the filled plate with the curried egg: stares at the curried egg, which he hesitated to take (and then took), before taking his seat with his two friends.

The professor from Rutgers speaks in a hurried manner (and keeps glancing at time’s wingèd chariot) and does not often deviate from the draft of her novel which she reads to them, not looking up except when temporarily released from the spell of her own textual sophistries. Rich takes frantic if infrequent notes. He does not think he agrees with much of what she says; but does not say. He begins to think of the brownies in the back of the lecture room.

Afterwards, Rich and Melissa take the back way home, through curried Egg Harbor Township, all the lush sleepy trees yellowish and browning with the Fall, the imminent Descent. It is warm today, so warm for November: the daughter must be stalled in packing for her annual pilgrimage. They stop at friend Golchehreh’s, where her cute little dad and mom serve them candy and (yes) pomegranate. Golchehreh, reunited with her mom, will take off back to New York the tomorrow after.

[Suddenly, Rich remembers one party in college at Megan’s apartment on South Park Avenue when Elizabeth wore a nametag: “Hello my name is Persephone.” She had arrived without a costume (everyone else was in costume even though it wasn’t Halloween), and friend Mike had said, “You can be Persephone,” and taken an extra sticky-backed nametag and written it out, the alias, along with a smiling devil’s face.]

Rich, Melissa and Golchehreh meet Caroline and Steph at the Starbucks. They were delayed, Rich explains; there was pomegranate. The talk eventually turns towards the government and the Fed and the folly of a fiat currency. Steph advocates buying gold and silver bricks, tucking them away in a safe for a rainy day when the dollar loses all value and China rises up to declare itself the winner of the game (bingo). Rich had written to Golchehreh, “I try to act all Ayn Rand, but inside I’m just a big old Noam Chomsky;” except that Rich is not yet ready to stop believing in the government entirely; even if to believe in the government may in fact be like believing in a Santa Claus who, after Christmas, sends you a bill for the toys he’s delivered. And he still will continue keeping what money he has in a dissociative bank that keeps changing its name; he cannot sleep with lumpy money under the mattress. It’s true that most of the money is not in circulation (as Steph says), but what does it matter anyhow? When we die, we die, and then it doesn’t matter if it was silver and gold or dollars or Monopoly money or novelty bills printed up with his own likeness (in a top hat and monocle, he imagines). When we die, we die; Rich does not wish to liquidate his life down now to money. What is the value of the gold trees in Egg Harbor; the silver frost on the parkway the morning before? Will these, too, depreciate in value, if Demeter again turns mardy; if the memory of an autumn tree cannot be backed by actual trees anymore? Rich worries about his students who cannot get food stamps to trade for real food; or others who cannot get news backed by any facts. Maybe everything is plastic and fake and without value; maybe L.A., in a strange reversal, becomes the only truth in announcing itself to be an illusion. The world as a movie set only has value so long as we do not peek behind the curtain; the world is only real when reeled on t.v.

For Persephone, even when she returns to the world, is changed (depreciated?); has PTSD from her time spent in the Underworld. A migrant contract worker, she has set about dismantling the season, like a window dresser at Barneys.

At least for now, for one more year; every year she’s been saying, “But maybe just this one more.”

She’s getting too old for this, she reasons.

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Posted in is by Rich on November 9, 2009

There is a cacophony of birds on the telephone wires outside the apartment; they swarm in black clouds in their orgy of chirping and shitting. “They’ll shit all over our cars,” dad says from downstairs. The birds ravenously pick what they can from the moribund trees. They are frantic travelers; outside the windows, the scene is one from a transportation terminal the day before Thanksgiving. The birds queue up for departure, expectant, Rich imagines, to begin their journey to warmer climates; wishing to just be there already; how one hates to travel in large groups during the busy season.

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