the life of richie

A SINGLE MAN

Posted in is, Rich's book club by Rich on January 25, 2010

Rich went to see A Single Man last week which was, of course, not quite the Isherwood book, but lovely still. (And he rather imagines that it was what it will be like, he writes to his friend Barney.) “In truth, I can’t quite imagine you teaching eighth grade, darling –– I have great sympathy for anyone who works with middle schoolers…” he writes to his friend, three months after he received the original message on Facebook, as if no time had passed at all. “In middle school, they are just hot bundles of angst and acne –– once angelic stars gone all supernova. Just hormone factories.”

In class during the “getting to know you” segment on the first day, one girl in his Thursday afternoon block course mentions that she has fifteen piercings, and a boy named Joe calls out from across the room, “Where?!” –– and then realizes, “Sorry; I didn’t mean to ask that (shouldn’t have asked),” but Rich continues the interview unfazed: “So, are you finished then, or are you planning on getting more?” And the girl concedes to being finished –– for now. The boy named Joe is the only student in all of Rich’s classes this term majoring in literature; most are studying computers or accounting or nursing. There are several novitiate x-radiographers in the pierced girl’s company this Thursday; Rich doesn”t know what to say to them about x-radiography, except, “Well, you’ll all have jobs –– the health care industry is booming (booming, he says), and everyone is getting so old. In ten years, kids, it’s going to be bleak: just us and a bunch of old people roaming the stark planet. So, anyway –– radiographers, ex x-radiographers! –– in high demand! (Booming!)”

As he and his friend Emily drive home from the college, on their way to Atlantic City, Rich converses with her about grotesque pop culture idols while also wondering, What will happen to us though, Joe? I asked, “What do you want to do with a literature degree?” and you said, “Oh, I don’t know, man.” To major in literature: the world, the whole world! But I think that we are rather like x-radiographers too, Joe… and explains to Emily the ten surgeries Heidi had as he had watched two interviews with her three nights ago.

And thinks: this is what it will be like. That. And.

It is called Rich. Or sometimes Richie. And will be Richard.

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THE AESTHETE

Posted in is by Rich on January 20, 2010

Rich is reminded of a strange incident that occurred while he was pursuing his (first) master’s degree in education at The New School in Manhattan. A colleague of his, Patricia –– who had spent years toiling in the business world and was at the time switching careers to education, in an effort to buy back whatever cachets of her soul she could –– invited their class to her plush brownstone in Brooklyn. Patricia was a rather grotesque figure herself, who, in a Dorian Grayish attempt to retain her youth, had nipped and tucked herself more times than one could tell, rendering her almost like the figure of Ida Lowry in Terry Gilliam’s 1985 film Brazil. As we sat around in her living room, sipping fine liqueurs from her amply-stocked cabinet, she rose from her chair, crossed the room to Rich, and announced, ‘There is something I want to show you,’ soliciting the young man to follow her into the boudoir. There, above her dressing table, torn from the pages of some past issue of Esquire, was pinned-up a man’s graven image…

This is a well-known ad, around since the nineties. Rich didn’t quite understand, but Patricia whispered, ‘I knew that you were the only one here who could appreciate this.’ The two stared a drunken moment at the idol and then, turning from him, returned to the others. There is something in this symbiosis, between the young dandy and the older woman who makes a show (or a mockery?) of her femaleness, which does require further attention. But not from me, and not here/now.

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TOKYO MANDARIN

Posted in is by Rich on January 13, 2010

Everyone who is everyone in Upper Township is at the chic, au courant Chinese/Japanese/Thai restaurant in the still sleepy Shoprite shopping plaza in Marmora. Rich and Karen wait ten minutes for a table and chitchat with a sleepy Brian E––, who is waiting for a take-away meal. He asks about Rich’s sister, as he always does, and he assures him that she is returning soon, and he looks content and says he can’t wait to see her. “She’s the same; she never changes,” though he wonders if one can move to L.A. and not be changed. The friends part (Brian with his meal and Karen and Rich to table).

They are reminded of the creepy statue on the third floor of the Rosenbach (outside the library; though the docent kept pronouncing it lie-berry, much to the consternation of the three English teachers) that at first was thought to be Medieval and then Renaissance but later revealed to be from the century just past. The docent spun the statue round and round. On one side is Jesus Alive, looking imposing and taut and fit, his muscles glistening like a model from the cover of Men’s Health magazine. On the reverse, Jesus Dead, looking scary and shrunken, his arms crossed in front of him to signify shut. When the docent was spinning and spinning the Christ like a coin, Rich had felt his heart hurt, like, “Shouldn’t you be more careful?” until it was revealed that this artifact was, in fact, not so much a relic as a modern artifice; a faux as opposed to “a find”.

But wouldn’t it be nice –– to have spinning Jesus statue with one always to make life decisions? Crucified, dead, entombed Jesus says “no”; sexy, alive Jesus says “yes”. What to order for dinner, Jesus? The friends, without the aid of Jesus, decide for themselves on steamed dumplings, pad thai with shrimp (spicy), and General Tso’s. But what would Jesus have ordered? Is muscly Jesus on a low-carb diet? (Perhaps we should’ve refused the rice and dumplings and noodles and fried chicken dish.) Would dead Jesus have respired, “Get whatever you will; we all go to the tomb eventually. So why not just get the Tso’s and enjoy it?”

And they did.

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ULYSSES BOOK GROUP: JANUARY OUTING

Posted in is, Rich's book club by Rich on January 12, 2010

By train, by car, by foot, the three converge on Rittenhouse Square for brunch and a day of reJoyceingin, in Philly. The temperature does not rise ‘buv freezing; all three-freezing keep themselves bundled in hats and coats and scarves as they admire the houses ‘long Delancey Street and smile and shiver and saunter, staying on the sunny side of the street, to the Rosenbach Museum, where there is an original manuscript of Ulysses. The Rosenbach brothers were prolific collectors; Rich asks the dotty old docent if the Rosenbachs ever married; nay, never, and the one brother liked very fine French clothes and brushes and facial unctions (Subtext: you do the math); the other liked ‘im ‘is books.

On the third floor is the library with the first editions and a death mask of the man:

He sleeps so peaceful with’is head emptied there of all them thoughts & such. The three freezing friends go to The Irish Pub (actual name) to discuss the book. Kaaarrr’n hasn’t read, the naughty attendant, but earlier explained that she went temporarily blinded in one eye, she did, like Joyce or the Cyclops in Chapter 12 (who had but one “I” to start, so you can sees ‘is problem with getting blinded in the won eye). This place is not as boisterous as Barney Kiernan’s; no jingoistic citizens to spoil their orders of stouts and plump chips & veggie burghs, with a corned beef sammich for One Eye. How’d you get the mascara on with One Eye? Aye, was a trial. Her cousin warned never use eyeliner; don’t want that sticky pencil coming at your peeper. Patti drops her pen twice. Rich has to axe for the fork & knife. When they’ve finished, they walk Mack Patty to her Pattimobile and then retrieve Karen’s chariot from the South Street garage. They motor their way home to the shore, the beach –– where Gerty waits to Bloom to show him her stockings (dirty Gerty –– oh!) so that he can make the fireworks. They, their way away from the beautiful City of Brotherly Love. Says Bloom, “I mean the opposite of hatred.” Quite.

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CLEAR, 26˚ F

Posted in is by Rich on January 8, 2010

Rich runs out to his car to retrieve.

In the dark winter’s night, it is wonderful to hear the world, unfreezing and refreezing itself. The cracking of the icicles as they are broken from the eaves; cracking and recracking. The world.

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THE LOST GENERATION

Posted in is by Rich on January 8, 2010

The little match girl stands at the doorway, leaning out into the bitter cold night to smoke a cigarette. Even though she lives all alone, she dares not smoke in the house. Even though in the house she has not pets nor even plants, she would dare not. It is bitter (bitter) outside but it is (better this way). She throws the butt into the coffee can and shivers as she shuts tight the door.

Rich thinks at dinner that his is la nouvelle génération perdue; maybe a truer lost than Hemingway’s even. Hemingway at least had his wives and his cats; Rich has no wives, no cats. In the apartment –– the apartment feels drafty like someone has left some door open somewhere. At dinner his mom said (he had dinner with his parents), “By the time we were your age, we were married and had bought our first house.” And Rich rejoindered, “Yes; your generation really screwed up ours.”

Like his sister, too. His sister is back in L.A., making preparations to move back east (unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again). When she first moved, she drove out west without a GPS and got lost out there (but this is an existential) and now must find her way back par avion, which is faster. But not faster –– she will spend these next few weeks packing and selling and returning and preparing. And then she will board a plane out of hell bound for the bitter cold east coast where there has been snow.

The snow –– the match girl’s ashes pepper the powdery white snow that is blown into tiny drifts drafting into the apartment. When Rich drove across the bridge back into town earlier and lowered his window to pay the toll taker, sand blew in to ash on his dashboard. The sand mixed with the snow and with the ashes just as he used to mix the spices in the mixing bowls as an enfant terrible.

The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.

The abiding earth –– continues to mix us (mix us) in its gristly processor.

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RECHARGEABLE TOOTHBRUSH

Posted in is by Rich on January 7, 2010

Listed under DANGERS in the instructions manual: Do not use while bathing.

Suddenly all he can think about is brushing his teeth in the shower. It is all he can think about.

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EPIPHANY

Posted in is by Rich on January 6, 2010

There is a holocaust of tinsel where the tree used to stand, in the apartment.

A card arrives from Mary and her husband Tony. We are looking forward to traveling into the new decade, which, as we understand it, will be painted cherry red and carry its own GPS system. Hope 2010 is a Cadillac year for you!

The last project for the technical writing class is to recreate a cutaway illustration of a key in a pin-and-tumbler lock. A key. A K-E-Y.

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APPLES TO APPLES

Posted in is by Rich on January 6, 2010

Dad asks him, “What the fuck is this apple cleanse everyone’s talking about on Facebook?” Eat only apples for three days and (hallelujah) be cleansed! Jeff and Lori set about recruiting people. By 10:30 on the first day, Rich caves and has a bowl of flax oatmeal with raisins.

Raisins. His friend Arianna hated raisins. When they lived together in London, there was the Christmas cake incident. But Rich loves raisins –– how they are like sweet little wrinkled senior citizens. So delicious; he could eat an entire hospice of them.

The Christmas cake incident. Their flatmate Sarah had made Christmas cakes that year, drunk with alcohol and chock full of raisins. She gave some to Arianna before Arianna’s flight to the states, and Arianna stuffed the foiled package into Rich’s hands, imploring, “Don’t tell her I gave this to you! Dear god, eat the evidence!” So Rich ate the piece of cake for breakfast and set about his day. Walking down the King’s Road at around ten in the morning, with parcels in both hands, he realized, “I think I’m a little bit drunk. (That was some strong cake!)”

When one eats an apple, meanwhile, it is only natural to think of the significance of the act; one cannot hold an apple without feeling at least a bit dramatic, subversive (Eden, etc.). One wants to hold the unbitten apple high and make some fustian declaration before masticating: “So much for all of this!” The little sin-spheres are packed with pectin (read: fiber) and thus are ripe for cleansing the system (read: releasing the bowels). But to eat nothing but apples for three whole days…

Rich thinks Jeff has simply read The Road one too many times; has picked up this apple regimen from romanticizing the post-apocalyptic diet of scavenging. He walked up through the orchard and then he stopped… He’d stepped on something. […] It was an apple. By half-way through the second day, his fellow survivors are desperate, beginning to salivate at the mere mention of chicken or rice and vedge. “I don’t think man can live on apples alone,” Rich texts Caroline. Rich cannot afford for his brain to go foggy; must keep throwing wood into the furnace to keep it all humming along properly. His mom, who’d given up carbs before Christmas in a Lenten warm-up act, stuffs a large piece of artisan bread into her mouth in front of him, saying, “It’s too cold to go without carbs. It’s so cold.” Carbs help the serotonin levels in our skulls, and Rich needs to monitor his mood so that he doesn’t slip into the dark place. Before breaking the apples to apples routine, Lori had telegraphed, “Hanging in there?” to which Rich had admitted early defeat; said she, “Ha! I’m dying here!” Too much pectin? Rich felt sick after his first apple; sick to think that there should be nothing but apples. “Apples are not the only fruit (ha!),” Rich soliloquizes.

They spent the afternoon sitting wrapped in the blankets and eating apples. A student brought him an apple once. An older woman, at the end of class, came up to Rich and said, “Here,” and something like, “aren’t teachers supposed to get apples,” and then smiled and then left him alone in the electric classroom. Rich never could understand that; it doesn’t seem to fit with the Judeo-Christian symbolism. And aren’t we supposed to be the ones rationing out the knowledge? Why is the iconography of a student bringing the teacher an apple and not the reverse?

Still, that night, he’d sat alone in his apartment with the student’s gift, raising his clenched apple high as if in defiance.

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… … …

Posted in is by Rich on January 1, 2010

Headache. The couch. A weak spent sun to faux pas the mottled –– to marble sky. Karen checking her phone. “I’m awake.” Driving to the diner. Omelet. Rye toast. Never eats rye toast. A new year. Rye toast this year –– to marble rye. This will be the year of rye toast. Driving back now. Driving back into town. Dropping Karen off. Apartment. Watching t.v. Remembering London, everything closed and families sitting around televisions, watching. Doctor Who alleviating the headache. Time. Listening to the radio. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. Beginning. Time healing. Healing time.

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