June 22, 2009

Pull out the map

So after the real estate developer/widower m., after the widower who is still married m.r.s, after the psychiatrist, , I am devastated and freed.

Did you know that Greenland was once ruled by Denmark? I read this in this morning’s New York Times as I learn of Greenland’s independence. I wonder what exactly Denmark has been doing with Greenland. I learn there may be oil reserves there and this holds some interest for me as I used to work for the oil industry. And Denmark, being who Denmark is, will let those oil reserves go because I am hoping: Some things are more important than money.

I worked for the oil industry? Square peg in round hole who managed to fit. Oh, the paradoxes abound.

Was this how I managed to fit inside my marriage?

I wonder what Greenlanders feel. I learn that that they like me have concerns about their name, their emblem. Their real name is their Inuit name: Naalakkersuisut—the first time in history, officials said, that word had been used in a Danish government document. This was the day that declared some sort of gradual independence for Greenland. What exactly is gradual independence. You’re either independent or you’re not. I can hear my father saying this. Oh, not really. I was talking about assisted living and he said, “You’re either living or you’re not.” Much better line. I am working on this.

Of course, I am reading about Greenland in The New York Times. My young friend Sarah Krouse with whom I went to see the chick-flick The Proposal tells me at lunch that maybe I could love The NYT a bit more, meaning, of course, that I love the paper too much, refer to the paper too often here.

I think about this. After all, I start my morning with that paper even though I am not from New York. I am from Baltimore and, I fear, I don’t long for that paper though I used to read it regularly. But who owns that paper now?

Who owns whom? That is the question.

Let’s talk about The Proposal. A chick-flick about what we all supposedly want: we people who were not meant to ever fall in love and marry and who do. This movie steals during opening bits from three other movies I actually like better: The Devil Wears Prada: Margaret, aka Sandra Bullock, is a witch on her broom much like Meryl Streep playing some version of Dianna Vreeland. Greencard: Margaret is about to be deported to Canada like Gérard Depardieu who is about to be deported to France—now how can that be a fate worse than death? This also reminds me of French Kiss where Meg Ryan is about to be deported from Canada to the United States while she is in search of her belovèd Charlie who left her—she has lost her passport along with other complications while she is in France where she will live happily ever after. And by the end steals from a fourth I like better: While You Were Sleeping: Here too the Sandra Bullock character has no family; both her parents are dead; she is an only child. She allows misunderstandings to pile up while a family adopts her.

I, by the way, want to adopt the young Sarah Krouse.

The Proposal has a heart all its own in Alaska of all places (Is that near Greenland?) and though this chick-flick did not bring me to tears… Well, actually there was a moment for me when Bullock tells about getting her tattoo after her parents had died. Something about that revelation was so bare—and her delivery. I do love Sandra Bullock.

After all, I have lost both my parents and my sister. And there was little help from D.’s family while the devastation of my immediate family proceeded like an inexorable glacier—only faster. His parents are not affectionate and don’t believe that death, separation, or god-no-divorce should be discussed. They don’t embrace. Have you ever experienced the spider hug? D. was not like them but was. Paradoxes abound.

He is in search of his map. D. is from Iowa. When my Uncle Dave first met him, he insisted that D. was from Ohio or Idaho. He had never heard of Iowa. He demanded, “Get me a map!”

So I’m obsessed with The New York Times.

Oh, you don’t think that follows? I used to start my morning with D.—actually, I used to wake up with D. Big difference. I actually have to go get The New York Times. I don’t roll over and see it or roll over and into its folds. You can do that with a man you love: fold into him with no worry about what is above or below the fold or where the sheets are.

The Greenland story is below the fold.

Yesterday, I lay on the National Mall—the nation’s front yard is my backyard; I can walk there in less than ten minutes from my book-lined condo that was so hard-earned after D. left me. I saw clouds like shaken-out sheets on a blue sky.

Greenlanders must feel like D.: They don’t think anyone knows where they are. They pull out maps to prove their existence.

What, dear reader, do you think this is? Have you seen the movie Off the Map? Not a chick-flick: a heartbreaker. Netflix it.

June 15, 2009

Square the circle?

Heard on the street: “If you can’t solve the problem, prolonging it will make money.”

Read in The New York Times: “In the latest installation of the soap opera gripping Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 72, on Monday demanded an apology from wife, Veronica Lario, 52, a day after she told Italian newspapers that she wanted a divorce. Mr. Berlusconi said he did not think the couple could reconcile. ‘I don’t think so. I don’t know if I want it this time,’ Mr. Berlusconi said in an interview that appeared Monday in the leading Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, ‘Veronica will have to publicly apologize to me. And I don’t know if that will be enough.’ In recent days, Ms. Lario has criticized her husband for cavorting with younger women and for his center-right coalition’s plans to nominate a slate of attractive women to run for the European Parliament.” World Briefing, Rachel Donadio, The New York Times, Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Read in The New York Times Critics Notebook: Alessandra Stanley, the television critic, comments on John and Elizabeth Edwards. “Mrs. Edwards star turn on ‘Oprah’ doesn’t quite fit the template of naïve New World idealism; it looked more like an exquisite form of revenge, the kind of well-oiled comeuppance that Marquise de Merteuil concocted in ‘Dangerous Liaisons.’ ” “More Than One Way to Skin a Cad,” Alessandra Stanley, Week in Review, The New York Times, Sunday, May 10, 2009

Read in The New York Times Magazine: “The diagnosis was staring her in the face for years, but she did not see it. Psychologists call this inattention blindness—instances when we don’t see something because it’s not what we are expecting to see; it’s not what we are looking for. Sherlock Holmes has a somewhat different description. ‘I trained myself to notice what I see,’ Holmes says. Arthur Conan Doyle, himself a physician, imbued his character with the kind of keen observational skills so essential to a good physician. This ability consists of casting a wide net to see the whole picture—even when the complaint that brings the patient to medical attention is commonplace, like insomnia.” “Sleepless,” by Lisa Sanders, M.D., The New York Times Magazine, 5.10.09

These are the headlines in my mind as I roast a chicken on Sunday and hold in memory the dinners I laid down on our mahogany table with its gold inlaid border that had begun to show the table’s age—now gone—like all the Sunday dinners, the weeks and months and years, in soups I had simmered, made fragrant with carrots and onions, bay leaf and peppercorns, in roasts I had crusted with pepper and salt, with leaves of rosemary grown in my garden—now gone—in buttery pie crusts I had rolled on my marble board in the kitchen—I still have the board but no room to lay it down—filled with blackberries from the bushes by my fence—gone—sprinkled with sugar and covered with strips of dough woven over and under each other like our lives.

Is what I do in these pages revenge? I worry this thought. Meanwhile the headlines point me like a compass that tries to square the circle:

Prolong the problem.

Demand apology.

Humiliate spouse.

Or analyze: In her book Dreams of Love and Fateful Attractions, psychiatrist Ethel Spector Person notes, “Many tentative forays into love are aborted either because they pose real or symbolic threats to selfhood. Even when the integrity of the self is not at risk as it is in enslavement, pride, and self-esteem may be (or appear to be) endangered. The lover may become frightened at the strength of his impulse toward surrender and the lack of autonomy he thinks it implies and he may make strenuous efforts to disengage. Or, out of self-protectiveness, he may pick an Other who does not reciprocate his feeling, and consequently, one who sets external limits to his attempt to merge. Fearing merger, he thus sets up a situation which will prevent it. Similar motives dictate the behavior of the lover who after moments of great intimacy, particularly sexual moments, reasserts his separateness by withdrawal or by starting a quarrel. The more soulful and intimate the love-making, the greater the dread of loss of self, of dissolution (or emptiness) afterwards, and the sadness or distancing that surfaces in response to that dread.”

Or see: Two children have figured out how to dance, a performance. They are in a hospital because I have been in two hospitals in three weeks (see “Double Doors” and know that I have been to Chicago where my grandchild was born in the love of my daughter Sarah and her husband Ryan.) There is an elevator in the hospital and the doors to the elevator open onto the children, a boy and a girl, who are on the bed. The performance, the dance—had they been rehearsing?—was going to be at eleven in the morning. A third person, the observer who catches them at the dance in an inappropriate place, wants to help them. She says, “No one will come at eleven in the morning.” But she has come. She watches the dance, a ballet: the boy lifts the girl who is on point. The angle of her body defies. Why, before he lifts her, while she stood on one toe, while she extended her leg back, her arm forward, did she not fall?

The observer knows this: If you can’t solve the problem, look. Do not try to square the circle. The circle will square itself.

June 14, 2009

P.S.: I love you?

P.S. I Love You is a 2007 film with Gerard Butler and Hillary Swank, two actors I adore in a Rom-Com that is not worth analyzing, that I don’t own, but that gave me pause. Sure Gerard Butler (more recently in The Ugly Truth: great title) stopped my heart but then so did Jeffrey Dean Morgan who closes the deal in the film. P.S. I Love You relies on the death of the character Butler so effectively plays with wry intelligence and wit—not characteristic of the letters that drive the film—so a bit out of sync there. But death and love cause me to write a P.S. on Let the Rom-Coms roll.

I revisit here that early relationship with the real estate developer m. because he revisited me over a year later well after he had been dating the woman in New York. I learned something about myself when I saw him again.

Before the ellipsis, before his silence, m. and I agreed that I would cook dinner for him. Perhaps, the cynic in me now says, he did this while he was already pursuing the woman in New York. This dinner-to-be was, of course, before he told me about her.

But it’s hard to see through the lens of grief. P.S. I Love You fumbles sincerely to do that, a mighty task for the Rom-Com.

That night I prepared Mussels with Potatoes and Spinach, one of D.’s favorite dishes, and for the actual first time, I cooked, meaning I did not throw together a meal, but cooked with the right-tool-for-the-task verve in my condo’s pared down kitchen.

I cannot yet bring myself to do this for D. Kitchens and men and new men and old ones and Viking stoves and big-chested refrigerators (gone…) are all about love, despite what your stomach tells you.

Just as m. was to arrive and the deconstructed parts of this meal were about to come together, he called and canceled. His reason, so heartrending that love and death joined in my heart: His oldest daughter needed him. He had to go home. He was looking for love after the death of his wife. But it was her mother who had died. He wrote the next day and explained that his daughter had had a headache. I heard heartache. I wrote him this:

Dear M.,

You are good to write after also calling and explaining quite fully. I deeply respect your commitment and sensitivity to your children.

I spent last night after your call (well, cooking) but also thinking about R.’s [his daughter’s] bouts with grief—as I suspect that may be the less-spoken part of what goes on as she tries so hard to find her way, dunno, just a guess. I don’t know her of course.

Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking is writing mostly about the death of her husband. But she says, “After my mother died I received a letter from a friend in Chicago, a former Maryknoll priest, who precisely intuited what I felt. The death of a parent, he wrote, ‘despite our preparation, indeed, despite our age, dislodges things deep in us, sets off reactions that surprise and that may cut free memories and feelings that we had thought gone to ground long ago. We might, in that indeterminate period they call mourning, be in a submarine, silent on the ocean’s bed, aware of the depth charges, now near and now far, buffeting us with recollections.’”

Too soon, way too soon, your daughter has had to learn that death defines life. This next thought is for you (actually all of this e-mail is really for you): Take hope in the fact that without a doubt, the wisest people I have known experienced adversity early in life. And what more could we want as we journey ourselves but to know that wisdom might in fact come to our children even as we struggle helplessly to protect them from adversity.


M.’s silence followed, the girlfriend in New York, the reason, as he later explained. When I met him a year later when he considered getting together again with me—or perhaps he needed something else that this time I could not give— I had wised up.

But I was deeply saddened to learn that he’d dated this woman for over a year, that she had inexplicably dumped him, and that he could never forgive her for that. He actually said never in the same sentence with the indomitable and I loved her. She had lost her husband in the Twin Towers. How could never apply here?

We love on debt: Carta di credito finito?

Here’s the recipe:

Mussels with Potatoes and Spinach from Gourmet’s Five Ingredients (a great little cookbook. Recipe, slightly adapted here)

(start to finish 35 minutes)

1 lb small red potatoes
3 T. olive oil
1 T. minced garlic (I use more)
2 lb mussels (preferably cultivated, meaning less gritty, cleaned and beards removed)
½ lb baby spinach (I use more)

1. Simmer potatoes in enough salted water to cover by 1 inch until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain under cold water. Pat dry; cut in half or quarters.
2. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large heavy skillet (I use my cast iron pan) until hot but not smoking, then sauté potatoes with salt (I use Kosher coarse salt), turning as they brown (don’t turn too often or potatoes will crumble instead of getting crisp—and that’s what makes this dish great), about 10 minutes.
3. In a 5 to 6 quart pot, while potatoes are sautéing, cook garlic in one tablespoon of oil until fragrant (don’t burn the garlic; burnt garlic ruins a dish). Stir in mussels and ¼ cup water (white wine also works, but I use a little more when I choose wine), cover pot and cook until mussels open (take them out as they open), about three to five minutes (discard unopened mussels).
4. Add spinach to the pan with the potatoes that are now crisp and toss until spinach wilts. Serve potatoes and spinach with mussels.

I used to put the spinach, potatoes and mussels together in the Italian ceramic bowl D. gave me, the bowl he now has in his apartment—it’s on loan?—the bowl that thrives with color (red, black, blue) and molded striped blue and white handles, the line carta di credito along the side in script.

In my Rom-Com-Life, I considered actually writing at the end of my e-mail about death and love and wisdom, “P.S.: I think I could love you” and thought better of it, but in my fantasy cinema you’d have seen me write it, delete it, and you would have known.

But then, I’m wised up. And life is not a Rom-Com.

PS: When is the carta di credito finito?

June 11, 2009

Send in the clowns

I weep when famous people die: I cried when Audrey Hepburn died and bought stamps and pictures. I cried when Princess Di died and taped and watched the funeral and all the gory tabloid details. I’m a staunch Democrat and I cried when Ronald Reagan died and watched every second of his funeral. I’m Jewish and I wept when John Paul the II died, and followed not only the funeral but watched TV endlessly for white smoke to signal that a new pope had been named.

No one famous who matters to me has died today. I do not say this easily. It is Sunday. I live downtown next to St. Patrick’s Church. As John Donne told us in Meditation XVII, No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if the manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

When John Updike died I read. First I wept, e-mailed my daughter and my former and much beloved student Sarah Krouse who were also I learned weeping and I tried to explain to the man I love why I couldn’t stop crying and then I reread Updike because I have always it seems been reading him. He encourages me: Yet, of course at each stage even in the narrowest passage, I had air to breathe, daily comforts and amusements, companions, and the blessed margin of unforeseeing that pads our adventure “here below”—a frequent phrase of my grandfather’s, locating this world in relation to a better.

When my daughter was about to have her baby, my granddaughter Lila, I sat up in bed at 1 a.m. positive that she was in labor. While I sat upright, my daughter's call came—she was in labor. On the first flight out in the morning I flew to her side for this blesséd gift of life: a grandchild in my arms, my daughter Sarah in my arms, her husband Ryan in my arms. Perhaps my son would come from New York where he lives when he is not in Australia. My son Ben in my arms

While I waited to fly, I slept: I go into the art room and on the blackboard is the drawing of the clowns and circus performers that I drew when I was a teenager and that I’d filled in with colored chalk, the skin nude, the costumes gold and red. What remains now is the outline of my drawing with no colors—amazing that it is still here in this room with so many years gone past. What I am assigned to do is to make a new drawing, but I am drawn solely to the outline on the board. All I want to do, all I will do is fill that in with any chalk I can find. I don’t care about the assignment.

When I was with D., I wanted to shout, “Fire.” I slid the scenery panels of my life through the backstage grooves while they burned and no one saw the fire.

I tried to kill myself off in real life with binge smoking and drinking. But I am lousy at both it turns out. I get drunk fast and want to live. So I do neither—well, occasionally, I do both. Or, I am too much of a survivor. But one must not speak too soon.

While I wait for the bell to toll, the clown in the circus breaks through my transparent skin. My skin, the clown: beryl-blue like sapphire. Is the color of fire red? I think of the blue inside. I think green fire, white fire, black fire.

Maurice Blanchot says: The question concerning the disaster is part of the disaster: it is not an interrogation, but a prayer, an entreaty, a call for help. The disaster appeals to the disaster that the idea of salvation, of redemption might not yet be affirmed, and might, drifting debris, sustain fear.

The disaster: inopportune.

Many years ago I stood with D. where he grew up and watched a fire. The heat was so incredibly hot that it reminded me of something I learned in physics: the fact that the air around a lightning bolt is hotter than the surface of the sun. It was a barn burning—not with any political or racial overtones, but a necessary burn of an old wooden grain bin in the center of town in Whiting, Iowa. It’s a common enough event in rural parts of our country.

It was a controlled burn.

We were on the brink of disaster. The burn was not.

The disaster: bewitched.

The burn in Iowa didn’t spread. It took place on a Saturday morning. Everyone in town knew about it. That’s some six hundred people. And I suppose some of the surrounding townspeople had heard. The fire department burned the bin because it was no longer used. It had been in the center of town—the tallest building, about the height of a Washington office tower—for fifty or sixty years and held seed corn or soy beans. Wooden bins are rarely used now for this kind of storage.

The fire began inside the old bin. It burned from the inside out to keep it under control. Very quickly the entire structure was in flames but with a certain order—if anything can ever burn in an order—that made the walls fall in on themselves. The old buildings nearby were never in danger.

The firemen were so certain of their ability to control the fire that they allowed onlookers to stand, in my opinion, way too close—though I am forever glad to have been there with the heat in my face. The heat of this fire made me understand the power of lightning because the fire burned into me, into every part of me. Later, the ashes smoked and heated the air long past nightfall.

The space between us in our bed was a conflagration that neither of us could safely enter. That space was an uncontrolled fire. It is safety that is key to my analogy. One can create a conflagration in marriage or in betrayal of it. The controlled fire that burned the bin in D.’s home town makes my analogy clear. No one needed to be pulled from that fire. All were safe from it though in itself it was a burning danger. This is the difference between a controlled fire and a conflagration.

This is of interest to me and my penchant for the analytical, but it is hardly newsworthy as all of us who watch television or read the papers know.

So go ahead: Send in the clowns.

Or give me the end of the fairy tale: And as soon as the bewitcher was burnt to ashes, the roebuck changed his shape, and received his human form again, so the sister and brother lived happily together all their lives.

June 10, 2009

I’m cooked

The chase begins in earnest, on my part anyway, with another widower, an aerospace engineer, who some eight months before lost his wife to lung cancer (quick and pernicious and I don’t think she smoked).

I believe in rescue. I mistyped that at first and wrote rescure, saw the word cure inside and wondered how crazy or crazed I am. I know we must rescue ourselves. You don’t have to tell me that. But when our goose is cooked, don’t we all want the guy on the white horse—even if the horse turns out to be stationary and turning on a merry-go-round? Where you might think I am at this point. And I’m with you.

So I read the paper: “Almost exactly two years after it embarked on the biggest financial rescue in American history, the Federal Reserve acknowledged that the economy,” according to The New York Times, “was pulling out of its downward spiral and announced a step back toward normal policy.”

I believe my downward spiral is ending. After all, it is August, the month the shrinks escape, gardens overgrow, and children turn off the t.v. to go buy school supplies.

I meet the second widower one Sunday morning on the Internet —let’s call him m.r.s. (his initials and he, as you will see, is widowed but still married), profiled in Forbes, owns his company, consults with the Pentagon but is not a Republican, thank god, (yes, I googled him)— and we agree to meet for an early dinner at Matchbox, great pizza, near my condo. He flirts with me through IM: “You are a beautiful woman and write with both a comic touch and a real sense of romance/passion. It brings out the foolishness in us men. I like the Robert Browning line, ‘Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.’ ”

Here is what he is referring to (Oh sure my photo from 2006—so I don’t look that good now anyway) my Internet dating profile: see what you think:

I’m a fiction writer. I’ve returned from a visiting-writer gig at a major university in the Midwest. I am separated, have been for almost four years, live alone, own my own condo. I would like to talk with an intelligent man interested in the arts and who actually likes the part of my profile that begins: I’d give most anything to see Érik Bédard pitch against the Yankees. But then, of course that fact fits with these and, if you see what I mean, you may like to talk to me: I read, literary fiction and poetry (Nabokov, Joyce, Wolfe, Roth, Bellow, Kunitz, Bishop, Lawrence and especially Auden); love the movies, anything and everything, think a great actor gives us a backstage pass to his soul; loved Wild Strawberries, Match Point, and The Thomas Crown Affair (the second version! —go figure? But Steve was great in the first one.)

The profile, btw, is hidden now. I can’t do this anymore and here’s why:

M.r.s. hit me, the sight of him, like a ton of bricks. I was immediately smitten and then he spoke: He speaks of literature and Mother Teresa, he plays bridge, he had sex with his wife every day for thirty-five years, until she got sick, he thinks I am beautiful, he holds my hand when we cross the street) and I am a goner. He has been widowed for only six months. And, to his question, “Do you believe in beshert?” (meant-to-be would be the loose translation of the Yiddish)—He actually asks this on the first date—I answer, “I do.” Remember in Four Weddings and a Funeral when Andie McDowell advises Hugh Grant on getting married? “It’s pretty easy really,” she says in the church at his wedding to Duckface. “Whenever someone asks you a question, answer ‘I do.’ ”

I think, A second chance (Okay, call it a third if you are nitpicking about my two marriages) fortuitously walked into my life and a door I thought was forever closed opened. We neck impetuously on my couch and move to the bedroom with his pleadings. He says we must not make love—though he does want to—“but can’t we take off some of our clothes and lie down together? You can do this,” he says. I answer, “I can, but I’m old.” He says, “You have the shape of an hourglass.” Not true: I look like a small bosc pear. But it was the perfect response, time and shape in metaphor. He is a short (D. is so tall), gorgeous man—he and I are exactly the same age (D. is almost four years younger—perhaps that explains the wreckage?). M.r.s is an Aries and I am a Pisces. Believe it or not, this aerospace engineer ends up telling me he was born on the cusp of Pisces (the twelfth and final sign of the Zodiac) and that he is ruled by Mars and Neptune. So, he says, we are a Neptune/Mars combination, on the cusp of rebirth, associated with the beginning of human life.

So, I cook the Thomas Keller chicken for him. At that dinner I serve the chicken, the roasted potatoes, carrots and shallots on my farm dishes, the naïf pattern by Villeroy and Boch. M.r.s. tells me he bought the full set for his wife when he was in Luxembourg where they are made. He is speechless before his dinner plate.

I am unglued. Like a school girl: Remember promise in giant red doors you saw while your knees shook at the edge of the playground with book bag and lunch pail, cold from the thermos of milk? The sound of the future in the creak of the bindings of black and white speckled notebooks? How hope smelled in the wood of sharp yellow pencils? Remember how long red margins ruled down the side of lined paper you titled “My Summer Vacation” and you learned at hard desks how to write—in narrow white spaces—of weather, and clothes, and long days at the beach instead of skies bursting color like peaches and plums or birds’ feet on sand like the sweetness of time?

He calls the next day after the roasted chicken to say he is overwhelmed with guilt even though his wife is dead. He tells me he feels bad. That he is attracted to me but that that is the problem. He tells me he did not mean to mislead. He tells me this before he explains the Gaussian concept in answer to a question I have about a scientific passage I am writing in my novel. I am hearing the message loud and clear: In short, he is not ready.

I am devastated, again. I write him:

Dear m.,

You may indeed feel bad that, for example, you were not able to sleep over with someone you liked for complicated reasons that you could barely even explain (note the proper use of the adverb ‘barely’)–but you do need the adjective to describe this state of mind. However, if you were not able to touch her, you would appropriately say that you have lost your sense of touch; for example, I could not touch her because I feel badly; I can barely tell her skin from her teeth, without telling her of course that you wished to escape by the skin of your teeth (refer to Thorton Wilder for more on this last phrase.)

The reason for all this is that the verb feel when used to describe one’s feelings does not take an adverb. That is because it is what as known as a ‘linking verb,’ much like the verb to be, and it takes what in grammar is known as a ‘subject complement adjective.’ But the verb though it works like the verb to be cannot be replaced with the verb to be.

Thus, the confusion among educated folk. A person who feels bad is very rarely, though could be, bad. As in the phrase: I am bad. Something none of us wants to be except in the bedroom, of course, where consenting adults may be as bad as they both think appropriate.

I write this note to you because I would feel bad if I had mislead you as to the proper usage of a word to describe one’s feelings.

Grammatically yours,


I call D. and tell him I think we truly need NOT see each other until after the agreement is signed. I tell him I am an all or nothin’ girl and I can’t bear what has happened. I have to find a way to live with what happened. I have to find a way to move on.

I do believe my heart is broken and that I am a fool. I call my daughter Sarah and tell her about m.r.s. She’s been burned by both D. and m., the first widower, the psychiatrist and now sees me as foolish, impulsive, inexplicably romantic and has begun not to answer my phone calls. She writes an e-mail in the morning instead of calling me back: “I heard the phone ring downstairs when I was asleep last night. This morning I saw it was you. Is everything okay? Sorry I didn’t pick up. By the time I was awake enough to know the phone was ringing it had stopped.

“Did you see this article?” She includes a link to a site in Paris from our favorite newspaper The New York Times where now I am reading about the economic recovery that is not quite here—and ain’t that an understatement despite the good news from the Federal Reserve. She says, “I think we should take cooking classes in Paris together. Wouldn’t that be fun?” She and her husband Ryan and Lila, my grandchild, are going in September for six months: Sarah will have no time for cooking classes between the research for her next book and Lila. But she knows I need to recover and that I have planned to rent an apartment in Marais.

I find this at this at WIRED http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/17-03/wp_quant:

Where Felix Salmon had said in February 2009, “A year ago, it was hardly unthinkable that a math wizard like David X. Li might someday earn a Nobel Prize. After all, financial economists—even Wall Street quants—have received the Nobel in economics before, and Li’s work on measuring risk has had more impact, more quickly, than previous Nobel Prize-winning contributions to the field. … . For five years, Li’s formula, known as a Gaussian copula function, looked like an unambiguously positive breakthrough, a piece of financial technology that allowed hugely complex risks to be modeled with more ease and accuracy than ever before. With his brilliant spark of mathematical legerdemain, Li made it possible for traders to sell vast quantities of new securities, expanding financial markets to unimaginable levels. … Li’s Gaussian copula formula will go down in history as instrumental in causing the unfathomable losses that brought the world financial system to its knees.

“How could one formula pack such a devastating punch? The answer lies in the bond market, the multi-trillion-dollar system that allows pension funds, insurance companies, and hedge funds to lend trillions of dollars to companies, countries, and home buyers.

“A bond, of course, is just an IOU, a promise to pay back money with interest by certain dates.
“... Bond investors are very comfortable with the concept of probability.”

I ask you: What is the probability that my goose is cooked?

In the Grimm Fairy Tale “The Goose-Girl,” a beautiful princess is betrayed and instead of marrying her prince, must tend the geese while her talking horse Falada tries to save her even after his murder, after his head has been pinned to the wall. The princess is now the goose girl who after driving the geese into the country, unravels her plaits of long golden hair that shone with radiance.

But Falada can save her because his head, nailed to the wall can reply when the goose-girl says, Ah Falada, hanging there!

He says and the prince’s father learns of Falada’s reply: Alas, young queen how ill you fare! If this your mother knew, her heart would break in two.

Could it be that D. will ride a white horse? Or is he on the merry-go-round with me?

The real q.: How would Carl Friedrich Gauss measure the probabilities?

June 03, 2009

Double doors

The princess had a golden ball in her hand, which was her favourite plaything; and she was always tossing it up into the air, and catching it again as it fell. After a time she threw it up so high that she missed catching it as it fell; and the ball bounded away, and rolled along upon the ground, till at last it fell down into the spring. The princess looked into the spring after her ball, but it was very deep, so deep that she could not see the bottom of it. Then she began to bewail her loss, and said, ‘Alas! if I could only get my ball again, I would give all my fine clothes and jewels, and everything that I have in the world.’

This is the way one version of the story “The Frog-Prince” by the Grimm Brothers begins.

Whilst she was speaking, a frog put its head out of the water, and said, ‘Princess, why do you weep so bitterly?’ ‘Alas!’ said she, ‘what can you do for me, you nasty frog? My golden ball has fallen into the spring.’ The frog said, ‘I want not your pearls, and jewels, and fine clothes; but if you will love me, and let me live with you and eat from off your golden plate, and sleep upon your bed, I will bring you your ball again.’ ‘What nonsense,’ thought the princess, ‘this silly frog is talking! He can never even get out of the spring to visit me, though he may be able to get my ball for me, and therefore I will tell him he shall have what he asks.’ So she said to the frog, ‘Well, if you will bring me my ball, I will do all you ask.’

The Daily MailOnline of Britain tells me that Barack “requested a romantic dinner with a view of Prague, where they can eat the best Czech food. ‘They have spent days trying to decide on the right restaurant,’ a source told The Times.

“It is thought the First Couple have chosen Hergetova Cihelna, or The Brick House, on the banks of the River Vlatava.

“The restaurant has views of Prague’s most famous landmark, the Charles Bridge, for their romantic dinner.”

The charmed couple.

While they ate, I faced double doors. D. had surgery on April 6 (I do not make this date up) at Sibley Hospital, where I met my father’s corpse on a gurney on linoleum floors behind a curtain in the emergency room in 1996. An emergency.

D. and I and our daughter Sarah had gone to D.’s company picnic on Johnson Island. My father died on June 6, 1996. Yes, I see it too: 6-6-96. And the multiples of three and the terrifying to me: 666. It has taken more than a decade for me to recover from the shame (was it shame or regret?) of having gone to the picnic the day after my niece Wendy’s wedding, the wedding he could not attend because he lived in the assisted-living he had so resisted. He was bent and frozen in the shape of a W after he’d fallen and broken his hip, after the Parkinson’s disease that did not allow him to hop while the hip repaired, after he’d answered the surgeon’s question as he lay on the gurney in another emergency room: “Mr. Tabor, tell me about your physical activity?” “I play tennis. Don’t want to meet my slice.” Does a daughter argue with her father when he lies broken on a gurney? She should have.

He was eighty-two. He’d not played tennis for a decade. He’d played when he was young, stopped when he married, began again at fifty when he won a Wilson racket in a raffle at a Metropolitan Life Insurance conference: he sold insurance door-to-door for thirty-eight years. He could beat both my husbands with that slice even when he could no longer run.

Watch them run.

But I do tell the surgeon when he asks, “Is there anything else we should know?” as we stand in the pre-op room before the surgery that my father has an aneurysm at the base of his neck. For this reason the orthopedist says they will not use a local anesthetic. General anesthetic—out cold—must be used for fear of bursting the aneurysm with a spinal injection. General anesthesia and Sinemet, the drug my father is taking for the Parkinson’s disease, and the disease itself do not mix. And my father comes out of the anesthesia with a form of schizophrenia that is treated without talking with me or his neurologist with a drug called Zyprexa that leaves my father more confused, placid, broken, bent.

Yes, I answered one question asked of me.

Did you know that orthopedists do not ask the question about, let us call it tennis—for after all the ball has fallen into the river and only the frog can retrieve it—of elderly women who have fallen? They fix their hips with cement and the women get up and walk the next day, maybe the same day. But a man who plays tennis: He gets repaired with a plate and a screw and must hop for six months until the hip heals. My father could not hop: the tremor in his legs.

More than a decade later I recall that day and the day I went to the picnic after I visited him at Springhouse on River Road, after I’d seen that he had a cold and I knew he might die: sedentary and confused. A cold becomes Pneumonia.

Double doors do not mean the ball that the princess will attend with her prince. My sister or my mother or my father on a gurney went through double doors, pushed by attendants wearing colored caps and returned more broken than before.

On April 6, I kiss D. on the lips, watch him go through the double doors with the doctor, with the anesthesiologist, with the nurse in colored cap, all in turquoise pajamas. I watch the doors close.

[T]he princess ran to the door and opened it, and there she saw the frog, whom she had quite forgotten. At this sight she was sadly frightened, and shutting the door as fast as she could came back to her seat. The king, her father, seeing that something had frightened her, asked her what was the matter. ‘There is a nasty frog,’ said she, ‘at the door, that lifted my ball for me out of the spring this morning: I told him that he should live with me here, thinking that he could never get out of the spring; but there he is at the door, and he wants to come in.’

D. recovers. He is well and strong. So am I. I have survived them all: my sister, my mother, my father: What do I deserve?

Did you know that in the Grimm fairy tale, the princess does not kiss the frog?