Saturday, September 24, 2016

Autobobography X—Tangled Up In Blue

Trapped in Reagan’s early 80s, the farmers and I were depressed in a western Illinois university town. I’d walked out of a fast food job rather than tolerate unfairness, leaving behind so many tempting coworkers I’d been unable to choose until one came home with me from a party and didn’t leave. When she finally did, I wound up with her cat. There weren’t any other jobs and it became the first time I lost everything I couldn’t carry. I wound up back in Massachusetts living in a trailer on my father’s land, working in a local factory to pay off debts and save enough to get an apartment.

A woman from another company visited my job regularly and after months of business chats, I finally asked if she’d like to go out and she gave me her number. She drove twenty miles to meet me for dinner during which I stared entranced by the pendant in the teardrop opening at the neck of her white blouse. 

We went back to her place and sat talking and kissing at her kitchen table until she said let’s go to bed and I let her lead the way to candlelight. After the second coming, I said I think we’re getting the hang of this and she said she should get me home because of her kids in the morning. I said I hope this means I’ll be seeing you again; she said you’d better, you asshole.

We spent long Sunday mornings in bed with the newspaper, thick in those days. I loved the curve of her hip as she reached for a cigarette. I couldn’t get enough of her, and told her, and showed her. We commiserated about our parents and childhoods. At a restaurant, a pianist played As Time Goes By and she told her father it was my favorite song. She worried I’d be attracted to her younger sister. 

We spent time by the ocean, at theaters and concerts, and in her home which gradually came to be the first one I’d ever felt, alone and with her kids and dog. Poor and not driving, I was still crazy enough then to ask her to marry me, and she was crazy enough to say yes. Her daughter asked should I call you dad; I instantly got a lump in my throat. The girl now a woman doesn’t remember, but it was my happy moment of fatherhood.

She ended the relationship for no real reason but her fear of commitment when I moved to her town, and I felt I’d lost not just her but a home and a family. But the connection never ended, and we reunited whenever a late night phone call brought us together again after months or years apart. We each knew that both of us were screwed up, incapable of a healthy long term relationship, but no matter how much we might hurt each other, we also knew there was a deep love and bond between us and we always came back for more.

We shared a therapist though not together. I needed one and she recommended hers but we were both uncomfortable with the incestuousness of that threesome. I went looking only for a recommendation of another therapist, but the energy worked and she helped me for years. 

During a visit by my college roommate and his wife, we all went to a club where she got very drunk and asked me to dance with her, I refused and she called me an asshole. Knowing she wasn’t serious but embarrassed anyway, I lashed back and asked why she was with me then and she looked shocked. After we left, I stayed at her house and sent my friends back to my apartment. Later he’d say she treats you like shit, but it was him I visited after his wife left him. Only two people really know what happens between them, and often even they don’t really understand it.

We spent a Valentines weekend in a Boston hotel. At dinner her foot was in my crotch beneath the floor length tablecloth. We made love in the tub, but what I remember best is her saying don’t you know I love you, how could you, I never say it. Even then, she’d later claim it was just the drink and not true, but I always did know, despite her difficulty in admitting it.

One reunion broke up my next relationship with a woman who loved me so much she’d offered me sexual freedom (not what I wanted or needed) unless I was falling for someone else, then I was to break up with her. She believed I was still in love with her predecessor--she was right and I hurt her by following her instructions.

In one late reunion she said she’d heard there was a porn star who looked like her and asked if I knew who it was. I said no, I wasn’t looking at much porn these days; later I found it was Sandra Romain. As always, the resemblance is more obvious in some photos than others -- the similarity in the eyes and hair and skin tone mostly. What did you think it was going to be? 

We had a vicious ending after I took the job in Yellowstone – kicking me while I was down from my grandfather’s death and father’s betrayal, she wondered how she’d gone from loving me so much to hating me? Was it because I was leaving her for good? Was it because I was just a shell of the man I’d been and she knew she was partially responsible? Was it because I’d accepted the fact that I was worn out and defeated?

When I made a quick last return to Massachusetts to ship my things from storage to Duluth storage, I eventually kicked back in one of my vilest moments, sending an email suggesting a hate fuck because I’d never be back.

I had nothing really left to give to another woman, and all my future relationships began through detached means such as newspaper ads or internet communities. All the other attempts at real life interactions failed before they really began and I gave up for years until hooked by a last intriguing possibility in the park which became the biggest and saddest final failure of them all.

While working in Yellowstone, I learned that she’d been attacked in her home, which had been mine for a while, and barely escaped being murdered. I traded final conciliatory emails with her and her daughter.

In a town near Yellowstone in my final year in the area, I met a woman who looked like her and immediately wanted her. Still tangled after all these years. 

Next up:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Autobobography IX—Highlands

I’m in Boston town, in some restaurant
I got no idea what I want
Well, maybe I do but I’m just really not sure

One last place piece. I grew up in the eastern megalopolis, but in a small town that at the time couldn’t have even been called a suburb. The earliest Boston experience I remember involved going to a medical center for testing to see what I was allergic to—really, it was more a question of what I wasn’t allergic to. The procedure was nothing traumatic and what I really remember is going to a nearby diner with my father afterward and having beef stew, blueberry pie, and a glass of milk.

My other early Boston memories came about because my grandfather knew someone in professional baseball. In 1967, the Impossible Dream year for the Red Sox, I met one of the pitchers who took my program back to the locker room and returned it with autographs from most of the team, the longest and biggest being Carl Yastrzemski. At a game the following year I got a baseball autographed by the Minnesota Twins. 

Twenty years later I was working for a financial corporation which had private boxes at Fenway and Boston Garden and I was able to see Sox and Celtics games that way. At the Red Sox game, a foul ball flew past us into the room where some of our group was watching the game on television. My only other fond memory of those corporate years is when I told one of the people working for me to take as much time off as she needed after her pet died.

During the fifteen years I lived in or around Boston, I attended hundreds if not thousands of movies, concerts, plays, dance performances, museum exhibits, and lectures including hearing Gary Snyder. I took adult education classes in Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline, as well as through Harvard Extension School in subjects including writing, nature, tai chi, and many more.

I took frequent train trips west to Walden Pond, north to Rockport, south to a large Audubon hiking area, and boats east to watch the humpbacks. I walked and ran through all the parks in Boston’s Emerald Necklace. One regular routine was to take a couple subway lines to hang out in Harvard Square on Saturday nights and buy an early copy of Sunday’s Boston Globe. Another was trying new restaurants with two coworkers, women from Italy and Trinidad (much more interesting than Americans).

It was a good life in a city I loved. Even with outrageous Boston rents, I was saving money while working less than forty hours a week. Eventually though, all the opportunities stopped interesting me, and even though offered a leave of absence by the college where I’d worked for ten years, I knew it was time to move away from the area permanently, a move I’ve never regretted despite still considering Boston one of my favorite cities.

I’ve written more than enough about Yellowstone in the four years I lived there and since, but I have to include the Rockies in these place pieces, especially in one titled Highlands. Waiting for the bus in Minneapolis on my first trip there, I met a woman in line who lived in my destination Bozeman and we talked much of the way across the country. When the first snow covered mountains—the Crazies—came into view, she said this is why we live here.

The views were sensational, but the wildlife was the reason I lived in Yellowstone for four years. Wildlife as it should be, large and free, with humans just one part of the landscape instead of the only part. In theory in the park, humans weren’t allowed to treat the natural world with the contempt they show in most of the world, but assholes are assholes and can’t always be controlled. People have been damaging Yellowstone’s features and killing its wildlife ever since it was created. 

Watching that behavior got to be a drag, and I think I got out just in time before it got even worse with increased visitation. Despite that pain, what ultimately drove me from Yellowstone was feeling betrayed and disappointed by people I knew and the company I worked for. I’ll never go back unless there are major changes in how tourists are dealt with. And even if the tourists are handled better, there’s still a big chunk of the population of the surrounding states to deal with—the ones who couldn’t wait, and sometimes didn’t, to kill a wolf and now foam at the mouth for the chance to kill a grizzly. People—can’t live with them, can’t manage their population. Wildlife—life without them is a poor substitute.

I had an offer to work in Yellowstone thirty years earlier than I eventually did. I would have had the chance to experience all that thirty years earlier, including meeting a woman who started then who I later worked for when I finally did get to the park. Looking back, I think the decision to not go to Yellowstone in 1980 might have changed my life more than any other I’ve made—I don’t exactly regret it, because many experiences I’ve had and people I’ve known would have been missed in exchange—but it feels like it would have been more life-changing than the many moves I’ve made or not made or the two marriages which didn’t happen.