If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .
Absolutely love this series of comics by Kate Beaton:
Absolutely love this series of comics by Kate Beaton:
Wednesday early evening. Sunny, high 80’s.
Absolutely beautiful today. Not too hot. The perfect day to float around the pool for a few hours. Yesterday I gave Alfie and Shakes baths while we were outside, and today I did Tillie. After my relaxing time in the pool, I came into the house and did a bit of cleaning, the floors, the bathroom, some glass. I was a sweaty, smelly mess when I finished. Time to bathe myself.
Last night Corey had his last session of his introductory class. He’s so glad that it’s over. Frankly, I feel that the class is a complete waste of time for people who have been out of high school for a while. It’s the kind of class that would actually be good as a seminar for graduating seniors who are college bound to help them determine what fields they might want to pursue in college. Other than that, I think that it’s just plain silly.
My mom dropped by with some fresh cherries this afternoon. I adore fresh cherries. I can eat an entire bag by myself. I have determined that I must have fresh fruit in my diet, and if not that, then at least yogurt. It’s that sense of something fresh to clean the palette. So far my attempts to eat healthier are working: I’m drinking a lot more water and a lot less Pepsi. I’m trying to stay away from bread and chips. Just cannot give up the gummi bears, but I limit my daily consumption.
Frankly, in the summer I could live on fresh vegetables from the garden and Edy’s fruit bars. Our eggplant and bell pepper plants have died, victims of the extreme heat. Corey has a huge crop of sunflowers, but they are all droopy, not standing straight like last year’s crop. This year he planted seeds from last year’s crop, so the stems weren’t as thick. Perhaps next year they will be stronger and more upright.
I’m so glad the last heat wave finally broke. My head feels a bit better, and obviously (as witnessed by the cleaning), I have more energy.
WordPress has launched several new themes, and I was actually considering changing my theme, but none of the new ones quite felt right. So I settled for changing my header picture to something more in keeping with summer. I rather like the image that I found. Let me know if you notice and what you think about my selection.
I had very strange dreams last night. One was a bit on the sci-fi side as it involved being able to breathe and live beneath the water. Kind of cool, actually. I probably had that particular dream because Corey and I watched “Torchwood” before going to sleep last night. “Torchwood,” which is an offshoot of “Dr. Who,” was a series on BBC. Then I heard that they were going to do a new version. Well, Russell Davies (from “Dr. Who”) is involved in the reboot, but it’s on Starz and only has two of the original cast.
I’m not entirely certain that I like the new version. The old show was very much in the same vein as “Dr. Who,” with aliens, and strange occurrences. The cast had chemistry, and there were references to the doctor. The new show deals with one main event, and I keep thinking in the back of my mind that the doctor should be involved in this threat to earth.
I suppose as with most things, in this, too, I’m a purist. I’ll keep watching, mostly because I love John Barrowman as Capt. Jack Harkness, and I’m also quite fond of Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper. But I miss Owen and Ianto. Oh well . . . can’t have everything.
The Fitzgerald quote above is one of my all-time favorites. Just beautiful writing. Truly incomparable.
So speaking of my mom, I’ve planted the idea in Eamonn’s head that he might want to consider moving in with his Oma. Of all the grandkids, Eamonn would probably get along with her the best, and I know that I would certainly feel better if someone were living there full time. There’s plenty of room, and Eamonn is only home at night. I think that it could work.
We’ll see what happens with that.
It’s not that I don’t want him here, because I love seeing him all of the time, but it’s more that he would have plenty of room over there, and someone would be around at night if something happens to Mom, like another emergency. Of course, it’s a decision that they would both have to favor, so who knows what will happen.
I only know that if Eamonn is going to stay here, we have to do something about the garbage bags full of clothes, and he has to stay home long enough to move furniture.
Other than that, not a lot happening on the home front. We’re waiting for some expected funds so that we can get the work on the truck finished, and the Rodeo needs a few (more) things. I’d like to be able to send for my Uncle Ely’s Explorer in the fall as Brett will be driving the Rodeo. Of course, he needs to take his driving test, which doesn’t seem to be on the forefront of his list of things to do.
I remember that as soon as Eamonn was of age to get his driver’s permit, he wanted to take the test, and then he psyched himself out so badly that he failed the test a couple of times and had to retake it. My children are all so different. Of course, once Brett has his license, we’ll have to add him to the car insurance, which is not going to be cheap—that’s for certain.
I had a lovely telephone conversation with someone the other day in which the person with whom I was speaking told me that she found my last post quite inspiring. Apparently, she had been having a really hard time at work lately, and she was feeling down. She said that my post gave her the mental boost to keep going, that it reminded her that life’s annoyances are only temporary.
I thought that that was such a lovely thing to say. I had been a bit concerned of late that my stats aren’t surpassing 1,000 hits a day like they used to, but comments like that and many others that I receive from regular readers help me to keep things in perspective.
I may not have millions of hits, but I have a lovely little support group that reads me regularly and comments when possible. If I can cheer someone with my tongue-in-cheek irreverence, or if I can inspire someone with my collection of quotes and images, then that’s what makes this blog relevant, not the numbers.
Coming from my last position in which the numbers were the end all and be all of how well I was doing my job, it is far too easy to get caught up in the statistics and to forget that the numbers are actually people. And it’s the people for whom I write, the people who I consider when choosing subjects, the people I think about when trying to decide on the post’s theme, or the selection of content.
And if I haven’t said it lately: You guys are the best. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Let me close with the following:
From my favorite Doctor Who episode, “Vincent and the Doctor,” written by Richard Curtis:
Vincent: Hold my hand, Doctor. Try to see what I see. We’re so lucky we’re still alive to see this beautiful world. Look at the sky. It’s not dark and black and without character. The black is in fact deep blue. And over there! Lighter blue. [the starscape slowly transforms into The Starry Night] And blowing through the blueness and the blackness, the winds swirling through the air. And there shining, burning, bursting through, the stars! Can you see how they roll their light? Everywhere we look, complex magic of nature blazes before our eyes.
Doctor: I’ve seen many things, my friend, but you’re right: nothing quite as wonderful as the things you see.
More later. Peace.
Looking for a song by Blue October to go with my blue theme and found this beautiful one: “Congratulations”
Devotions of a Painter
Cool sinuosities, waved banners of light,
Unfurl, remesh, and round upon themselves
In a continuing turmoil of benign
Cross-purposes, effortlessly as fish,
On the dark underside of the foot-bridge,
Cast upward against pewter-weathered planks.
Weeds flatten with the current. Dragonflies
Poise like blue needles, steady in mid-air,
For some decisive, swift inoculation.
The world repeats itself in ragged swatches
Among the lily-pads, but understated,
When observed from this selected vantage point,
A human height above the water-level,
As the shore shelves heavily over its reflection,
Its timid, leaf-strewn comment on itself.
It’s midday in midsummer. Pitiless heat.
Not so much air in motion as to flutter
The frail, bright onion tissue of a poppy.
I am an elderly man in a straw hat
Who has set himself the task of praising God
For all this welter by setting out my paints
And getting as much truth as can be managed
Onto a small flat canvas. Constable
Claimed he had never seen anything ugly,
And would have known each crushed jewel in the pigments
Of these oily golds and greens, enamelled browns
That recall the glittering eyes and backs of frogs.
The sun dispenses its immense loose change,
Squandered on blossoms, ripples, mud, wet stones.
I am enamored of the pale chalk dust
Of the moth’s wing, and the dark moldering gold
Of rust, the corrupted treasures of this world.
Against the Gospel let my brush declare:
“These are the anaglyphs and gleams of love.”
~ Anthony Hecht, from The Transparent Man
Thursday, late afternoon. Thunder storms approaching.
I want to write, but then when I sit down at these keys, nothing happens. So much to say but seemingly unsayable, as if rooting around in my head trying to find words that I know, words that I know I know, but words that have become lost or have taken to hiding in the small creases in my brain.
Here is what I know:
The warmer temperatures are muddling my brain, making me dream of buying air conditioners with my mother and ex-father-in-law. But I become distracted in the dream, and look at plants instead—purple and pink plants in black pots. And I fill my cart with plants and Christmas place mats that are on clearance. This is better than the dream before of a killer chasing me down a yellow stairwell.
I awake sweaty and tired, feeling as if I have slept much too long, and I have, but I cannot get out of my bed. For days now, I cannot get out of the damned bed. Yesterday, I had another medical test done, then came home and went back to bed. I barely remembered the drive to and from the facility. Out-of-body driving?
My body feels spent and heavy with heat, and I long for tall glasses of umbrella drinks with rivulets of sweat running down the side of the glass. Not the alcohol, just the idea of the tall glass, the fruit, the paper umbrella—as the collection of these things would mean that I am not at home. I am somewhere else, anywhere but here.
It seems that the coming storm has taken days to get here. The air has been still, and yesterday evening thunder rumbled in the distance for hours, but nothing materialized. Then suddenly, just a few moments ago, rain began to fall, hard rain, hard enough to drive out the ants that have laid claim to the dirt mounds in the garden, the mounds that have been taken over as ant castles, forbidding the shoots of flowers and vegetables from breaking through. Now the mounds are mud puddles, and I can see green.
A tornado warning south of here. More tornadoes encroaching on this area of hurricanes. More proof that the earth is in turmoil.
I slip through virtual pages on this screen, looking for the source of a line I cannot get out of my head. “Jesus Love You” pops up right above a line advertising Mexican food and good prices on gold.
The Interwebs have a warped sense of humor.
My body is still in recovery from the preparation needed for Wednesday’s test. A purge, if you will. I find myself craving fresh fruit: peaches and red pears. The orange juice Corey bought me is not enough. My body wants vitamins from the source. I feel as if everything has been leached from my system, not just impurities, but the good cells as well, the ones that make me who I am.
I think constantly of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. I have no idea why.
Speaking of the Fitzgeralds, I read an article that said that the mansion that may have been his inspiration for The Great Gatsby had been demolished to make way for several mcmansions on the same plot of waterfront land in Long Island. I shudder to think about the former grandeur being reduced to rubble so that some developer can erect those paeans to conspicuous consumption that I abhorred even when I was in real estate.
Progress is not always better.
I remember the dark enclosure in my grandmother’s house in the Philippines. In the kitchen. Water from the well in the backyard. Coffee tins filled with this water, and how this was the only space in the house in which to find relief from the heat. I think of my father. I do not want to think of my father, not right now. The loss is acute today.
I read other people’s words, wonder how it is they are so talented, wonder where my words have gone, wonder if there are any new poems left to write, any new stories left to tell.
I have been collecting phrases as possible book titles. I don’t know why. I think I have six or seven. This is a recent event in my life; it means that I am acknowledging that the book is there. I think. Maybe not. But why need a title? I love book titles, book jackets. Clever book designs remind me of studying for my publishing degree. I still owe the university a fee. They are holding my diploma hostage until I pay this fee. I wonder if I will ever bother to pay the ransom.
In all of the medical tests that I have had done in the past six weeks or so, this is what I have learned: I do not have sleep apnea. I have a digestive system that does not work at the top or the bottom, and is sluggish in the middle. To learn these things, my body has been assaulted with tubes in various orifices. I think I already knew all of these things about my body and probably could have saved myself the insult of the tubes and the associated costs which will soon begin to turn up in the mail.
I have stopped reading about politics again. It has become too weighty and unbearable once more, and my minds needs a break from the madness, not just in this country, but all over the world. I prefer to live in ignorance for a bit, that is until I begin to seethe in righteous indignation over some maligning phrase out of some politician’s mouth. Then I fear it will be once more into the fray for me.
The wind outside is whipping the trees about as if they are being tugged on by giants. I like that image.
As the moveable slab upon which I lay slides into the scanner, I look up and am surprised to see the image of cherry blossoms on branches reaching across the faux-skylight above me—a vertical trompe l’oeil, and the technician tells me to hold my breath, and I do and do and do, and wait for her to say breathe, but the word does not come, and my lungs fill to bursting, and then she says breathe, and I do, and I realize that it has been mere seconds, and I think to myself that I have absolutely no stamina left.
I’ve been trying to learn Adele’s “Someone Like You,” but her voice is so powerful and the song so complicated, that it’s just not working. As with almost everything else, my voice is not what it used to be.
But the cherry blossom branches make me think of how wonderful it would be to have a real skylight, preferably above a bathtub, so that I could soak beneath the stars and ponder words, only to forget them as I dry myself with a towel.
I remember when I was about to graduate with my bachelor’s, and I had an interview with a small local paper in Maryland. An editor at the paper for which I worked arranged the interview for me. I stayed with a nice couple who owned a large old house that they were refurbishing. In one bathroom, they had built a wooden bathtub directly beneath a skylight. I had forgotten about that until just this minute.
I turned down the job, or more accurately, withdrew my name from consideration as I was in love, could not bear to continue my long-distance relationship with my ex. I wonder where life would have taken me if I had opened myself to that possibility.
Possibilities . . .
Studying abroad, visiting Greece, seeing the Great Wall, taking hundreds and hundreds of photographs of verdant Ireland and windswept Wales. Drinking wine at a small restaurant in Basque country.
Walking on a beach in Queensland with my flannel trousers rolled. Eating a peach. T. S. Eliot wondered if he dared, as do I.
Will I ever hear the mermaids singing, each to each? And how should I presume?
More later. Peace.
Music by Lanterns on the Lake, “You Need Better”
My Life by Someone Else
I have done what I could but you avoid me.
I left a bowl of milk on the desk to tempt you.
Nothing happened. I left my wallet there, full of money.
You must have hated me for that. You never came.
I sat at my typewriter naked, hoping you would wrestle me
to the floor. I played with myself just to arouse you.
Boredom drove me to sleep. I offered you my wife.
I sat her on the desk and spread her legs. I waited.
The days drag on. The exhausted light falls like a bandage
over my eyes. Is it because I am ugly? Was anyone
ever so sad? It is pointless to slash my wrists. My hands
would fall off. And then what hope would I have?
Why do you never come? Must I have you by being
somebody else? Must I write My Life by somebody else?
My Death by somebody else? Are you listening?
Somebody else has arrived. Somebody else is writing.
~ Mark Strand
The reality that has been today is such a cliché that I think I might have to go outside and hug a tree before I put my fist through a wall. It’s a classic case of good news/bad news; why can’t it ever just be good news?
Corey has an interview set for tomorrow for the port security position. He is absolutely convinced that it will not go well. Somehow, I have to convince him not to dig this hole too deeply, or he will fall into it and not be able to climb out again. This is the good news, sort of.
This is the bad news: Corey’s parents, who have spent the past few months helping us to stay on our feet, are now facing a crisis of their own. It just breaks my heart. Corey is convinced that the dark cloud under which we exist has now spread to his parents, kind of a bad luck by association kind of thing. I try to remind him that they have their own good ju ju going in the form of their deep faith. Yet somehow, Corey has assumed the blame for this, too.
Sometimes, I feel as if this whole life thing is much too confusing. Just when it seems that I have figured out how things work, something happens to make me realize that I really know very little. Sisyphus comes to mind: continually pushing that big boulder uphill only to have it roll down again. No forward motion. No gathering momentum. No strong foothold.
Don’t mind me. I’m feeling lost and confused and very, very frustrated.
I am in the process of developing something, though. It’s much too tenuous to talk about in any detail. Let me just say that if this works out, it would be tremendous. It would mean that I have finally found that small magic porthole through which I might be able to touch my dreams. And no, it’s not a job. It’s a project, a big project that I have thought about for almost ten years. Let me leave it at that.
I sent out yet more forms today: three to pharmaceutical companies, one to my long-term disability carrier, and one to the company that is serving as my interface to the Social Security administration. I collected everything last night, and Corey took all of it to the post office today. As a result, my desk is much cleaner now. Well clean might be an overstatement—perhaps neater is more accurate.
I just had to pause to listen to “Vide Cor Meum,” which is playing in the background. I’m playing all of my YouTube selections. If anyone is interested in subscribing to my YouTube account, I believe that this is the link: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=1B61E79445B7518E. I’m kind of new at this whole YouTube account thing.
I told Corey that I want to make some videos of my own for some songs that I cannot find, but I don’t know how to go about doing that. I imagine I need some kind of program. If you are a YouTube person, some advice would be much appreciated.
I took a look at my stats page yesterday, something that I haven’t done in a while. I always find it interesting to see who is linking here, and from which sites people are getting to my site.
I found a few new addresses, but it’s always a bit disconcerting to go to an address listed and find your own blog as part of a larger blog. I don’t really know how that works. I mean, I know about web crawling and spiders, and all of that, but it never fails to amaze me when I end up on things like a forum for psychologytribe.com. When I first began this whole blogging thing, I never anticipated having my blog name or url show up in some of the places that it has been featured.
Don’t misunderstand, I appreciate the exposure. I really do. I suppose it’s just that I’m still a bit ignorant as to the hows and wherefores of links and referrals. That being said, my two posts about beauty continue their unbroken reign in my top posts/most viewed, as does my post on The Great Gatsby. In fact, I just received a new comment on the Gatsby post from a 15-year-old girl who wanted to assure me that not all teenagers are mindless twits, which, of course, I already knew, but I was delighted that she took the time to comment.
By the way, I’m not ignoring the devastating earthquake in Chile. But writing about the quake in Haiti three times in a row took its toll on me emotionally. I am offering this link to an MSNBC slideshow featuring pictures from the quake in Chile, which was ranked 8.8 on the Richter Scale, one of the most powerful quakes to hit anywhere on the earth in over a century. Thankfully, the death toll is much, much lower than that in Haiti, mostly because of Chile’s stringent building codes. The quake, which hit 200 miles outside of Santiago, was especially destructive to the town of Concepcion.
Unfortunately, the tsunami that hit the coast after the quake was also powerful. The seaside town of Constitucion was hard hit by the surging tsunami, and hundreds of people are missing. Three waves hit after the quake, with the third one being the most powerful and causing the most damage.
Fortunately, the waves that passed Hawaii, Australia, Japan, and other places were much smaller than had been originally predicted.
That’s all for today. Images featured are more pictures taken after the snowstorm.
More later. Peace.
“When the Music’s Not Forgotten,” by Deadman (heard on an episode of “Criminal Minds”)
The English Patient: When Katherine and Almaszy are caught in the sandstorm in the desert, and he begins to tell her of the different kinds of sandstorms. It is an incredibly intimate moment, one that you know will lead to others to come.
Legends of the Fall: When Tristan (Brad Pitt) and Susanna (Julia Ormond) are making love for the first time.
Tristan+Isolde: The scenes between the two young lovers in the hut on the beach in Ireland before they know each other’s true identity.
The Red Violin: Although this scene may not seem romantic in the traditional sense, the maker of the violin takes the blood of his newly dead wife and child and mixes it with varnish to finish his perfect violin, thereby forever sealing them into a thing of outstanding beauty.
Philadelphia: The scene in which Tom Hanks’s character, Andrew Becket, and his lover, Miguel, played by Antonio Banderas, are dancing together, in fact, any scene in which the two men are together is touching for its realistic depiction of a relationship in which one person is dying and the other person doesn’t know how to deal with it.
A Walk in the Clouds: The scene in which everyone is battling the vineyard fire, and Paul, played by Keanu Reeves, and Victoria, played by Aitana Sánchez-Gijón are wearing the wings. The scene is made surreal because of the smoke and the backdrop of the fire, but it is lovely.
Age of Innocence: Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) cannot consumate his affair with the Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), so he unbottons her glove and kisses her wrist, one of the most passionate kisses in film history.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: The scene in which Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) is moving away from Robin across the lake into the mist.
City of Angels: Toss up between the pear scene between Maggie and Seth, and the scene in which Maggie is riding her bike with her arms flung out and her eyes closed in pure bliss. I know that what happens next is horrible, but for that one monent you know that she is filled with complete happiness.
A Room With A View: The kiss in the field between Lucy (Helena Bonham Carter) and George Emerson (Julian Sands) is set beautifully.
Brokeback Mountain: The tenderness between the two men is laid bare after Jack dies and Ennis goes to visit his parents. In Jack’s room, Ennis find their two old shirts from Brokeback mountain hanging together. Ennis breathes in deeply and then silently begins to weep the loss of his one true love.
Atonement: The scene in which Cecelia strips down to go into the fountain to find the pieces of the vase. Her complete lack of discomfort in doing so in front of Robbie shows that there is already something very deep between them, something that will only take a slight movement on the part of either one to make the relationship move to its logical next level. Briony’s interference ruins so many lives that night, something for which she will never be able to truly atone.
Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (1996): When the two young lovers (Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes) spend their wedding night together and awaken full of joy. Shakespeare’s lines have never sounded so alive as when they were uttered in this film version.
Braveheart: The whole film post Murron MacClannough’s murder is William Wallace’s search for vengeance and atonement for his beloved’s death.
The Notebook: The scene in the rowboat when it begins to rain and Allie and Noah realize that they have been apart for no reason. This only scene in the movie that is more painful and heart-wrenching to wach is the final scene in which the nurse finds the elderly Noah and Allie in bed together for their last, final embrace.
If you haven’t already seen all fifteen movies on this list, and you like a good, cathartic cry every once in a while, then I recommend any of them for an afternoon at the movies. I’m not a romantic comedy kind of person. I either like intense romance or spy/action thrillers. I did not include on my list some of my older favorites, such as The Way We Were, Casablanca, Dr. Zhivago, Wuthering Heights, The Great Gatsby, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Out of Africa, Sense and Sensibility, Witness, and The Princess Bride.
I did not include The Princess Bride on my main list because it’s also a comedy, and that sort of negates the romance, but it’s a movie that my daughter and I have watched together a million times, and from which we can recite lines (“wuv, twoo wuv”).
I’ll admit that I have to be in the mood for one of my crying movies. The English Patient is still my all-time favorite movie for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the movie is almost as beautiful as the book by Michael Ondaatje, which is rare indeed. A Room With a View by Merchant Ivory always makes me want to go to Italy because the background scenery is incredible. The scene in Legends of the Fall when Tristan crests the ridge with the wild horses and the music soars still gives me goosebumps.
Ralph Fiennes in Wuthering Heights is so dark and brooding, the antithesis of his character Almaszy in The English Patient, in which he is intese, but golden. And for once, Nicholas Cage’s hounddog eyes are perfect for the sad angel in City of Angels. His eyes look like an angel in despair, which is what he is.
Perhaps the one movie that always tears me up beyond belief is Philadelphia. Watching Tom Hanks virtually waste away on screen is so realistic, but the musical score is amazing. When I’m working on the computer and I need heartfelt music (one of my bosses called it music to slit your wrists to, but I think that’s carrying it a bit too far), I play the soundtrack; it’s very cathartic. If you’ve never heard the soundtrack, it contains Bruce Springsteen’s academy-award song, Neil Young, Peter Gabrial, Sade, Indigo Girls, and Maria Callas performing “La Mamma Morta.”
Call me a hopeless romantic, but “in love, there are no boundaries.” I still believe in one true love. I still believe in great love stories. I still cry when love is doomed to fail. I still yearn for the underdog to win. I still want love to conquer anything and everything and to vanquish the cold-hearted and those who would try to come between a love that is destined to be.
So yes, I am a hopeless romantic, and I am a hopeful romantic. And because I know that it’s possible and that it’s out there, I don’t want my children to settle for anything less than their true heart’s desire. I’ve seen too many bad marriages that have started out for seemingly the right reasons, but there was always something not quite right. The smiles were a little too forced. The arguments a little too often and a little too petty. One person definitely dominated the other. Things begin to show through the cracks very soon after the wedding, and the cracks only grew larger.
So I don’t want them to settle. I want them to search until they feel that little flip in their stomachs, the one that doesn’t go away after a few weeks or months and has nothing to do with sex. I want them to feel real romance.
And so ends this compilation of my favorite romantic movies. More later. Peace.
Without fail, everyone in high school is assigned The Great Gatsby, and almost without exception, everyone hates it, or at least, fails to appreciate it. My youngest son and I were discussing this subject months ago, and I agreed with him that this particular book is wasted on someone in high school. I mean, I realize the idealism of trying to introduce the young mind to F. Scott Fitzgerald. At one time, I, too, believed that this was a worthy exercise.
But as they say, time is a great teacher. Gatsby is not a character who can be appreciated by youth, certainly not by an egocentric youth whose only concern is the world that rotates around his axis. Now I know that there is a contingent out there who will argue vociferously that that in itself is the very reason that Gatsby should appeal to a 17-year-old boy: because Gatsby never grew up and the world seemingly revolves around him. But Gatsby never grew up only in the sense that his love for Daisy has never aged and the world that revolves around him is completely superficial. But everything else that happens in the novel is moving in real time, leaving Gatsby behind.
I was remembering that particular passage in The Great Gatsby when Nick remembers Gatsby looking across the water at the blinking green light: “I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out Daisy’s light at the end of his dock. He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. But what he did not know was that it was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city” (chapter 9).
I don’t remember how many times I have read Gatsby, or what new things I find each time I read it. I loved the original movie with Mia Farrow and Robert Redford. They were perfectly cast—Farrow with her breathless voice and wide eyes, and Redford with his impossible good looks in his ice cream suits. It was a case of the book being brought to the screen perfectly, with Sam Waterson as narrator Nick Carraway.
I suppose I am reminded of Gatsby for many reasons this cold afternoon: the time in which it was set—the 20’s immediately before the Great Depression, when things were still seemingly golden, but the veneer was starting to wear off. Fitzgerald’s narrative reveals characters who are so out of touch with their surroundings that they fail to notice the suffering of others. They fail to stop for a dying woman or to care that she was run down in the road like a dog. All that matters is Daisy’s suffering, which is superficial. Only Nick notices because only Nick has a real job, works for a living, and has any sense of connection with the rest of the world. In the book, only Nick is actually invited to Gatsby’s party. Everyone else just drops in as they please, which in itself is very telling. Nick is mired in reality. He is the touchstone.
As the book closes, Daisy and Tom move on, careless of what they have left in their wake: Tom’s mistress Myrtle Wilson is dead because of Daisy. Gatsby is dead, killed by George Wilson, spurred on by Tom. But the Buchanan’s take their little girl and their servants and their money and move on, as if life is a mess to be taken care of by the less fortunate: “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money of their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made” (chapter 9):
In high school, a sophomore or junior will probably take something like this away from the book’s plot: Gatsby made a lot of money and had great parties but still didn’t get his woman, so he must have been pretty lame. (I know, I’m being very simplistic.) But will they see the Buchanans as AIG, Shearson Lehman, and all of the other people on Wall Street? Daisy and Tom are the people who continued to collect multi-million dollar golden parachutes and head off to Cabo as thousands and thousands of people watched their retirement funds decrease in worth by 60 and 70 percent. In essence, the Buchanans are part of the $700 billion bailout package; you have to wonder what their cut will be, because undoubtedly, people like Tom and Daisy will come out on top.
Can a 16-year-old have an appreciation for George Wilson as a metaphor for Addie Polk, who, at 90 years old, shot herself in the chest rather than be evicted from her house? After all, all George Wilson wanted was a better life for himself and his wife. After George lost Myrtle, he had nothing to live for, so he killed the person who he thought was responsible for ruining his life, and then he shot himself. Addie Polk is recovering in the hospital, and her mortgage will be forgiven, but at what price the human heart?
And then there are the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg, always looming on the side of the road. He seems to be watching, but just how effective is he? He sees Myrtle’s death. He sees Daisy fleeing the scene. He sees everything that happens in the Valley of Ashes, that long stretch between the Eggs, where nothing prospers. But he does nothing. He is impotent because he is only a symbol. We know about impotent symbols. Oh, I’d say Dr. Eckleburg is about as effective as Congress and W. in their oversight of what was happening in the years leading up to this massive economic meltdown?
Which leaves Nick Carraway and Gatsby. I tend to think of the American people as Gatsby for the most part: looking for that green light, that signal that everything is essentially okay, never realizing that perhaps, the good days are in the past for now. Gatsby so wanted to believe that he could throw parties and buy new shirts and have great meals, and not have to answer to his past as Jay Gatz. But in the end, that’s who he was.
The only one standing was Nick Carraway, and he was left with the mess. Nick was always the smart one. He didn’t overindulge. He wasn’t taken in by Daisy’s cousin Jordan, even though she was beautiful and sensual. In the end, Nick was a changed man, not the innocent who entered the lives at the beginning of the story, yet he still grasps a tenuous kind of hope that things will get better:
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . And one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (chapter 9)
So who does Nick represent? The American people when all of this is over? The American People who voted for Barack Obama hoping for change, for better things to come. I suppose that we’ll just have to wait and see.
When I began this entry, I really wasn’t certain where I was going. I just knew that The Great Gatsby was on my mind, and as I continued to write, the connections to real-time events just fell into place. It’s odd how that happens sometimes: two seemingly disparate subjects meeting and connecting. Maybe it has something to do with that String Theory that I’m trying to wrap my head around, but I have to admit that physics is just beyond the edge of my relative intelligence, so we aren’t going there today.
The Great Gatsby remains one of my favorite classic reads, as do most of Fitzgerald’s works. I also find the whole Zelda Fitzgerald story incredibly intriguing, but I’ll save that for another time. But Gatsby himself is such a tragic portrait of a man, and I am only half kidding when I say that high school students cannot appreciate this story. More, it’s a matter of how much they want to put into the book in order to get something out of it. But as with many stories, the reveal does increase significantly with time.
Let me close with this wonderful passage from Chapter 6, one that I missed on the first few readings:
“He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”
Man, if only I had created the phrase “ghostly heart.” More later. Peace.