The promise of living. The promise of growing. The promise of ending. Is labor and sharing and loving.
—From the opera The Tender Land by Aaron Copland.
—From the opera The Tender Land by Aaron Copland.
Mustache. Brought to you by the Jacob Lawrence paint kit.
In this picture, it does sort of look like the girl on the left dreads the woman on the right. As well she should. It’s her, some 40 years later.
“Little Edie” Edith Bouvier Beale was the daughter of another woman named Edith Bouvier Beale, sister of Jack Bouvier, father of Jacqueline Kennedy.
When Little Edie was in her fifties, she went to live with her mother in a house in East Hampton. They were running out of money and sanity, and Little Edie was also running out of hair and began wearing bizarre scarfs and towels to hide that fact. They also began feeding cats and raccoons, which, aside from a sort of demented boy that appears in the film, seem to be their only friends.
Watch Grey Gardens - the documentary about the two women - to the end. I almost didn’t. It’s like pioneer reality television, only somehow worse. The two women, in my guess, were so clearly mentally ill and while I don’t think it was necessarily the filmmakers responsibility to get them some help, there is a mean sort of sickness in the fact that they stand by and film the women, even egging them on. It’s not a particularly well made documentary and there is a crudeness to the way the women are handled as subjects.
After the film, I looked up young Edie’s New York Times obit. It says some pretty surreal things, most of which sound like someone just popped on Grey Gardens and scratched down some highlights.
These are the last few sentences of the obit:
Ms. Beale spent more and more of her time in Florida, where she swam every day. She lived off her small savings.
She had not owned a cat in five years.
I mean, c’mon. “She had not owned a cat in five years.” What is that? Some tongue in cheek New York Times jab?
At least she swam every day. Although I’m still not exactly sure how The New York Times knows that. Every day? Really? Not: “She swam often in the last years of her life.”
Anyway, Little Edie is hard to watch for a couple of reasons. Stripped of beauty, wealth, friends, and sanity, she is left to madness and songwriting and fanatical marching. She is a human on the brink. Though don’t we all suspect and know that much the same fate awaits us too? As our old friend time taps us on the shoulder, our faces crumple, friends go away, and our brains hover somewhere between here and there. Knowing it’s coming, the place that isn’t this reality, maybe the brain begins to prep itself.
There was one point in Grey Gardens which had me bordering on hysterics. Little Edie walks into the bedroom she and her mother share humming “People Will Say We’re in Love” by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Only she can’t remember the words and begins making them up. Her mother, a professionally trained singer, says to her, “Nope. That isn’t it. Nope, not that either.” Big Edie’s sanity literally shocked me into laughter.
Because they weren’t the right words. And it’s a song all about telling someone not to do things the singer actually wants them to do.
Don’t dance all night with me. ‘Till the stars fade from above.
People will say we’re in love.
This one comes from my friend Steve Nelson, whose blog One Day at a Time can be found here.
I fell in love on a boat crossing the Mediterranean sea. I was 17 on a school sponsored Europe trip with fifteen other students, one of them was Hope. We were traveling from Athens to Sorrento on a cruise ship overnight. Hope and I stayed on the deck long after everyone else went to their cabins to go to bed. We talked late into the night, getting to know each other, and letting the waves, the wind, and the full moon fill in the gaps. We did the same thing on the train from Rome to Paris. It was cramped and stuffy. We stood in the hall way with our heads shoved as close as possible to the partial open windows, leaning in to talk, leaning out to cool off.
I had just watched “Amour,” the French film about a woman who’s dying and her husband who watches her do it. After that, I was sitting in my friend’s car talking about life and death. It occurred to me in the car that cellphones don’t have much to do with either…just plastic and glass along for the ride. And I asked my friend, why did we bring our cellphones with us everywhere? Why, if I knew I was going to the movie with her tonight, did I compulsively bring along something that only had the potential to disconnect me from her company?
It’s fear, she said. The phone is fear. We carry around little plastic and glass lumps of fear because we are afraid of being apart from one another and afraid of the inside of us. What we might hear from ourselves if we shut up the phone.
It hit me in that deep down place where few things do. I told her I thought I might get out of the car and throw my iphone against the brick wall we were staring at. She told me not to do it and then proceeded to tell me a story about headstands and handstands. As long as I’ve known her, she’s been a master at headstands, but never the other one. Her yoga teacher told her it was only fear holding her back. Not a want for strength. She went home the other day and practiced in her room and lo and behold a real live handstand sans fear.
I then told her I was 90 percent in danger of throwing the phone against the wall. I did a quick inventory in my head. If I threw the phone, I would need to go to the store tomorrow morning and buy a cheap plastic thing with no internet and I decided that was all right. I got out of the car, went to the brick wall, minded the windows, and launched.
I threw it a total of three times. The Native Americans would have had me throw it four times, but three seemed to suffice. If anything, the trinity would have been proud.
It’s hard to describe the afterwards feeling. Here are a couple of things I wrote down that night:
I keep reaching for a phantom phone. I walked the sidewalk feeling so happy - like it hadn’t been me it happened to, but someone else I was envious of. That camera was a piece of shit anyways. I was worried about my calendar until I realized I already have a calendar. And if that one’s dated, I’ll go out and buy another calendar. And if they stop making calendars, I’ll poke my head out the window and look up at the moon and make my own damn calendar.
The iphone is dead. Long live the human.
—Salman Rushdie, Fury
I covered a school closing meeting for King Elementary and the thing that touched me the most was a little white girl and a little black girl reciting “All Things Bright and Beautiful”
-Cecil F. Alexander
Maybe the rain is finally helping to melt it away. It chose to die in a big lot surrounded by a fence so no one can get to it or no one cares to get to it. It’s not often that you get to watch an animal decompose in the city. The other day I was watching it for a while when I saw an old lock lying on the ground. I tossed it in and it landed near the pigeon. A little tombstone, I thought. A little marker to let it know I come to visit.
When Roger Ebert died the other day, I asked Facebook if I would be mocked for comparing his death to that of Kennedy. Nobody said much about that and then on Saturday I found the Life Magazine tribute to Kennedy from November 29, 1963.
Seemed like a sign.
Though, evidently not realizing the gravity of the edition, I threw it on the counter expecting to cough up $5 and blowing instead a whopping $27.
Oh but then what’s money when you live off of rice and beans and eggs?
I’d been thinking about renaming this blog for a while, considering there’s not much international going on here anymore and was thinking about naming it Death and Old Magazines, as most of my most recent posts touch on both.
But then, a friend of mine posted an Ebert blog post from 2008 where the movie man lays out his rules as a reviewer.
It starts thusly:
We critics can’t be too careful. Employers are eager to replace us with Celeb Info-Nuggets that will pimp to the mouth-breathers, who underline the words with their index fingers whilst they watch television.
Pimp to the Mouth-Breathers. I’m not even sure I know what that means. I’m not sure Ebert does either. It’s like really good white boy rap poetry. Like if Aldous Huxley was a white rapper instead of a dead novelist.
Pneumatic soma eaters. Pimp to the mouth-breathers.
Can you hear him?
Anyway, the Kennedy Magazine has most of the stuff you figure it would, except for a surreal series of photos towards the back that reveal themselves in this order:
The first two are both self portraits, the first by Miró and the second by James Ensor. The third is an ad for Hunt’s Catsup and the fourth is Kennedy.
The text across the four gives us another little poem:
Internally I am boiling.
They leered at him in his parents’ souvenir store.
Of course Hunt’s tomato plants don’t grow in bottles.
The warmest way to remember him.
Any coincidence that at the time, Life’s managing editor’s name was George P. Hunt?
Well, we all have our shortcomings.
Anyway, for now, even though I still really only write about Death and Old Magazines, the blog’s name will be Pimp to the Mouth-Breathers in tribute to Roger.
If you don’t like it, come up with something better and tell me what that is.