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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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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BOOK CLUBS ROUND-UP: PUSH, ULYSSES III, MISCELLANY

Posted in is, Rich's book club by Rich on December 16, 2009

The Monday after Thanksgiving we (I mean they) assemble at Taimi’s house for chicken tortilla soup and much wine. Caroline arrives with Bill, Lori with her sister, and singly other Lori and Chrissie and Rich. They assemble by the tree and start to discuss the month’s selection [Sapphire’s Push], until the dog comes in from out the rain, shaking its soaking coat and exciting Taimi and Tim’s daughter Aili, who is admonished Do not pull doggy’s tail; no. We do not pull on doggy’s tail. Somehow, before Rich realizes what has happened, the talk has turned from Push to wet canine to breast feeding. Karen has stopped coming to these book club meetings (has splintered off into the Ulysses set) and has asked several times please remove me from the mailing list, opining, alas, a sad reminder of what cannot be, which seems significant: is she speaking of book club or the fact that she, like Rich, has nothing, no desire to contribute to a lactation dissertation?

Except for mother’s milk Guinness, which is dispensed at the following week’s meeting of the Ulysses book group, the third (plus organizational meeting) of the year. Rich purchases Smithwick’s and Guinness but is unable to procure the Harp; Karen supplies the Harp as choirs of angels sing her arrival. Pattimac brings the holiday shortbread, which Rich realizes he has forgotten to offer only at the end of the evening when it’s too late, so brings it to a faculty party at school he attends two nights anon. The kid from round the corner calls Rich several times, inviting him to a party he is having that very night, but Rich is getting too old for this, even if KFRTC thinks that Rich is worthy of attention. After some talk of the book (though Karen has not read: oh, the public ignominy! –– it is good no one reads this blog save for herself), Patty must leave (over the river and through the woods to Pattimac’s house she goes) and Karen and Rich have one more beer apiece (the Guinness all, they string the Harp) and semi-drunkenly conspire about fondue, at Caroline’s, next Friday, and plans for Europe and, sooner than Europe, perhaps Philadelphia for January’s meeting.

One week later, Rich is toting booze (spiced rum) and ‘nog to a reprise of Paragraph 1: the annual Christmas book club edition at the home of Lori and Jeff, festive Fezziwigs thems is. He and Caroline (and once Jeff, though he is chastened by Lori to abstain) sneak outside for fresh air and menthol cigarettes to flambé the boozy ‘nogs. Outside, they can hear babies crying within (either Lori’s or her sister’s), and Jeff attends the crying, but Caroline and Rich linger a moment more, and then take two more “cigarette” breaks during the three hours ensuing. “It’s so warm for December; but it’s going to get much colder.” But right now –– so warm. And outside –– so quiet. The Fezzwigs have erected (teehee) a slim, tasteful tree in their front picture window; slim, tasteful Jeff stands beside it in his new slim, tasteful black shoes. (He has another, a second catering gig this weekend; Lori looks less excited than he, the traveling chef, as she sits with fussy baby in front of the roaring, HD OnDemand Yule Log on telly.) There is visitation of a second nicotine ghost before they discuss the month’s two articles on marriage; at least, the few who’ve read the articles do; others offer empirical data. “Why marry?” Rich cross-examines, and Sarah believes that it’s to make a commitment and so that both people know that the other person can’t just take off in the middle of the night, because of the contract they signed, you see; it sounds so depressing, but Rich doesn’t even want to commit to a mortgage ever, when Lori stresses, “Don’t buy a house,” and Rich says, “Oh, I never will; I like life as a renter too much.” (All this life is, is renting, after all; anything more is folly. Silver and the price of gold.) Caroline’s answer seems more sensible: she married for financial reasons (to consolidate finances) and for Bill’s health insurance. For love, too, but –– one doesn’t have to be married if in love. But Sarah appeals the most tenderly for marriage; everyone else (and everyone else except Rich being married) seems somewhat less keen to lend support; perhaps it is a moot point for everyone else, a fait accompli for them, so why bother fighting? (America, country of highest divorce rates, also the country that still, ironically, believes in marriage most: straight marriage anyhow.) By the time the parenting article is to be parsed, the party has begun to break up. Last cigarette. Taimi comes out back just to talk. Women have gotten a raw deal, the three friends agree. Oh well. The next day, Rich writes out the thank you note to his friends, the Fezziwigs:

Lori & Jeff, Thank you, as always, for a lovely Christmas b.c. The food was delicious, the tree impeccably decked, the babies very cute, the pets fluffy. Let’s get together over break. Love always, Rich xoxo

But he is not sure if they will.

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ULYSSES BOOK GROUP: NOVEMBER

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.

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ULYSSES BOOK GROUP: OCTOBER

Posted in is, Rich's book club by Rich on October 14, 2009

Karen, Rich and Patty meet at “Kay’s Place” she hates that, Karen does; “Kay/K,” which is what the little one calls her at school to discuss the first three chapters of Ulysses. Chinese food is ordered: veggie dumplings and scallion pizza and spring rolls with dipping sauces. And fortune cookies. There is talk of false fathers (like their supervisor at school and in Hamlet) and erect Buck Mulligan; Karen has made a note of that: Buck Mulligan erect.

Patty has typed up the reading schedule so the three will be finished by June in time for their proposed sojourn to Dublin. Rich texts Karen before the meeting, “Is everyone coming?” and Karen texts back, “You, me, and Patti” with an implied “?” as if to augur everyone. So they are like three trim, casually attired scholars in a parapet, they are. Karen writes on the first page of her edition So happy! They drink Guinness and Harp at Karen’s pub table and discuss Joyce’s haughty, turgid tome, like digging into a rich, plump repast. Druidy druids; Rich and Karen both like that phrase, and there are others that are noted, and Beckett is broached, Catholicism catechized (the Cathoholic Joyce), the significance of rosewood and wetted ashes parsed, and an ashplant is a walking stick. We have grown out of Wilde and paradoxes, Rich has written; even Wilde was betrayed with a kiss, by a boy, by an English boy, by a Bosie. Karen’s Virginia Woolf doll is wearing a Phillies cap. “She almost took her top off while watching the game yesterday,” Karen jokes. (Oh, Kay.) Kinch? Why Kinch? Rich makes a note to Google it later; Google later says Buck calls it Stephen “presumably a patronizing reference to Stephen’s wit”. Rich also Googles Ireland World War I Germany to find out about Ireland’s relationship to Germany during World War I. Wikipedia opines, “However, a smaller, more radical element of Irish nationalists took the opportunity of the war to launch an armed rebellion against British rule, with German help.” Is it time for the shortbread? I could eat the whole box. Is it time for the Walkers shortbread; again? Silently, in a dream she had come to him… Hear this here: Thought is the thought of thought. All agree: the language is to be loved (if Stephen is a bit of a drip sometimes, a bit of an anorak). There is something about the Oomb, allwombing tomb of the haughty, hefty tome.

Rich’s fortune, heralded by smiley faces, announces: “You are working hard.” All laugh; the subtext: “You are such a Stephen of late.”

Rich laughs; so happy!

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SURELY YOU JEST, INFINITELY

Posted in is, Rich's book club by Rich on June 21, 2009

Rich has decided to give Infinite Jest another go, as part of Infinite Summer. As remarked to friends in an e-mail, he hopes more will join him in his immediate circle of friends than did when he announced the Gravity’s Rainbow book club back in the Summer of ’02. Then it was just he and pal Gabriel; and angel Gabe did not last the first week. Rich had set down a schedule — maybe around 100 pages a week (give or take; he wishes he could find that schedule still); but it ended up being just he reading in the main building of the New School when the hot stink stank to him, the stick and the A/C making his flesh moist and rent. And he reading in bars or coffeeshops, arriving an hour in advance of someone-meeting just to have convict time to sit with Lt. Slothrop like one of his ill-fated liaisons. Just he, like the single, suicidal lightbulb: those passages he still vividly recalls for some reason.

He hopes that this will go better; and at least he has Colin Meloy in it, too.

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BOOK CLUB WEDNESDAY

Posted in is, Rich's book club by Rich on May 6, 2009

Lucky Jim (Kingsley Amis). Rich is only on Chapter 5; but the book is not LOL funny, it is more SC funny; but funny!

Although he must find time to re-read Arcadia before he goes to see Arcadia with Anne in D.C. –– crickey, this weekend!

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BOOK CLUB WEDNESDAY

Posted in is, Rich's book club by Rich on April 22, 2009

So it’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which started auspiciously enough: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” But by page fifty-five, the Rube complication seems to be running thin: one can see that the whiskey has just been watered down, and one is not getting drunk, just filling the bladder with liquid, so really, what’s the point, except the production of more piss? By Chapter 15, the gimmick is all: the Emperor has no clothes, the wizard is just an impotent little man hiding behind a dress curtain. Because there is an obvious element of verisimilitude lost –– and, yes, v-tude can still be maintained in zombie fiction, sirrah. But not when the world is not developed enough. How could the Bennett sisters have gone to the east to study martial arts during the Napoleonic wars? Were there no wars, then? –– no Napoleon? –– was he, too, eaten by the unmentionables?? Rich has fallen into a plot hole and cannot extricate himself himself; needs a kindly soldier to help him out. He flings the book into a corner. (Not really; really, he lays it gingerly upon a pile of discarded tomes by his computer. He might try again later. Or not.) Part of what he loves about Austen is that sense of clautrophobia –– the sense of isolation –– of desperation and deprivation. He cannot deal with ninjas; he did not sign up for ninjas.

So he moves on to Lucky Jim by Kingsley, gifted to him by bonny, bosom friend Anne of Lean Fables/Clean Tables/Mean Stables.

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BOOK CLUB WEDNESDAY

Posted in is, Rich's book club by Rich on April 8, 2009

Yoko Ono –– j’accuse! • Breaking ionic bonds • The book club is dead; long live the book club! • Passing Kurt Cobain reference • Il aime Ames • Favorite passages enumerated • “And everything of this kind” • Regency zombies for next time

Rich’s book club, he fears, is facing a break-up due to a certain Yoko factor, and so, like salts, is likely to dissolve itself, naturally.

So Rich will inaugurate his own Society for Bibliophiles; members, only he (and me and you, of course; come as you are, as you were, in your own time, when you want, or not).

This week Rich has read Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames, an homage to Wodehouse’s Jeeves & Wooster chronicles. Rich thought it was the s. With perhaps the exception of the gratuitous(?) sex scene which augured the inevitable(?) crab fiasco. Still, all-in-all, all-for-one, some delicious observations here, such as…

Very beautiful New Jersey, I’ve always said, a most unfair reputation. Of course, I’m biased, having grown up in the Garden State.

Everything beyond the reach of New York City––about seventy-five miles––feels to me like America, an exotic country I have rarely, in my life, visited. New Jersey, according to my personal sense of geography, is also not America.

“You know, Jeeves, I’m not trying to write the Great American Novel. My ambitions aren’t that far-reaching. But maybe my book will be the Great New Jersey Novel, since it’s about me leaving New Jersey for New York, but always knowing in my heart that I would return to New Jersey someday, as I did when I moved in with Aunt Florence and Uncle Irwin in Montclair. Maybe that will be the end of [my novel]––moving to Montclair and having Uncle Irwin shoot me. It will be like the end of The Great Gatsby[…]”

I had the recurring thought that maybe I was in an asylum, after all, but I was so nuts that I kept thinking I was at an artist colony. The people around me were definitely unbalanced. Beaubien’s cackle was straight out of The Snake Pit, there was something zany about Tinkle, Mangrove only had one eye, and Lenora’s face was etched in a kind of merry grimace.

At Princeton, a friend of mine got drunk and in the middle of the night knocked over an enormous volume of the OED and in the morning discovered that he had killed his little kitten. That’s how I should be sentenced to death: I should have the OED or the Encyclopedia Britannica dropped on my head.

On our way out of the library, I made a stop in the restroom and encountered this bit of graffiti over the urinal: FREE THE BOUND PERIODICALS! I was struck by the brilliance of this remark, and when I came out of the bathroom, I reported to Jeeves what I had read. “Very interesting, sir,” said Jeeves.

“By the way, do you know the derivation of the word seersucker? After all the years of having this jacket, it just dawned on me that it’s a very odd word. What do you think? Seersucker––a visionary who is easily deceived?”

“You’re right, Jeeves… I’m awfully splenetic today…. I’m suffering from humors, but it’s not very funny.”

Et hoc genus omne.

For next week, Rich intends to set his brain upon Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Miss J. Austen & one Mr. S. Graham-Smith, which promises “the classic regency romance––now with ultraviolent zombie mayhem”. Sally forth!

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