I resolve to age gracefully. Ha! Show me a 64-year-old man who feels, inside, like a 64-year-old man and I’ll show you a corpse. “Yours sincerely, Wasting Away.”
Speaking of 64, since when did Paul McCartney’s sweet, it’ll-never-happen-to-me vision of old age come true? “Will you still need me, will you still feed me . . . ?” (more…)
The last couple of times Cecily has called from Bishop it has been in the afternoon, during Boden’s afternoon nap. He’s a high-energy little guy, and will sometimes take morning and afternoon naps, to recharge his batteries. But now Cecily is trying to encourage only the afternoon naps.
She has found a day-care pre-school situation that will give her some time a couple mornings a week. It’s called Smokey’s. (The name comes from the fact that children of Forest Service employees – Boden’s dad Mike is a wildland firefighter – are reserved spaces at the school.) At Smokey’s there is no morning naptime.
We accept the need for naps at either end of Shakespeare’s seven ages of man – while little bodies and brains are growing fast, and again when things are slowing down, before we are “sans everything.”
My dad, who turns 89 in a few weeks, has earned his afternoon naps. He went hard for all those decades in the 20th century; he’s still busy, but now his schedule is his own. He’s got one of those very comfortable loungers that tilts back and pops a footrest up under your calves just so, supporting every inch of your length in soft leather.
He watches TV in that chair, and he falls asleep in it. He’s probably watching the U.S. Open tennis right now. But unless it’s a particularly exciting match, he may be catching a few zzz’s between points.
I was reading on the couch on Sunday. Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids. The early chapters zero in on her poor-starving-artist years in New York City with Robert Mapplethorpe, before he became a famous photographer and she became a famous punk-rock poet. This was in the late 1960s. They are almost exactly my age. (Smith is my age; Mapplethorpe died, of AIDS, in 1989.) They lived on day-old bread and lettuce soup. Smith would come home from her job at Scribner’s bookstore to their ratty apartment in Brooklyn, and the two would stay up all night working side by side on their art. From the sound of it, they rarely slept.
My eyes were swimming across the page a little bit. I had to reread the same paragraph twice. Then a third time. Ellen has a phrase: “Just resting my eyes.” Not sleeping, just resting my eyes. I placed the book face down on my belly and set my reading glasses on the table. I would rest my eyes for just a few minutes.
We frown on naps in the productive years. Unless you are sick. Or recovering from a hellacious night. As Americans we are expected to be doing, creating, generating wealth or at least producing satisfaction from our work, or our play. Doing nothing is a kind of Puritan sin. Napping in the middle of a perfectly good day is somehow unacceptable.
Look at Spain. They siesta after lunch and then they can’t manage supper until 11 p.m. Not productive. Not acceptable.
My mother took a nap one afternoon while hiking on Catalina Island. The rest of the family was roaring around on the beach, and she needed to get away by herself. She lay down in the dry grass in the shade of a small tree and fell blissfully asleep. She was awakened by an odd sound and found herself in a staring match with a rattlesnake just a couple of feet away. Though terrified, my mother managed to back away as carefully as Marcel Marceau.
I once fell asleep at the base of the White House Ruin in Canyon de Chelly. It was the middle of the day. I wasn’t supposed to be there. I’d scrambled down the opposite canyon wall at an unauthorized spot near some Navajo sheep corrals. For the longest time after I awoke I believed I had just scaled the impossible, featureless sandstone to the upper ruin in its cave. At the very least, I was sure I had been shown something inexplicable, something marvelous that haunted the rest of my drive to Colorado.
When I woke on Sunday, the sun had shifted position in the sky. For a second, I didn’t know where I was, or who I was. I felt sheepish for having “missed” the last 60 minutes. Then I wasn’t. And I was able to stay up until 11 p.m. finishing a couple of stories for this week’s newspaper.
Boden still needs his naps. Cecily is not about to deprive him of that sweet time, morning or afternoon. He needs his sleep. So does his grandpa.
Don’t you know it’s gonna be – all right. Shoo-bee-doo-wah. – “Revolution 1” by The Beatles
It’s not always easy these days to believe the John Lennon of 1968. Is it going to be all right? I’m not sure he believed the lyric himself. Despite what the Maharishi was telling him. (more…)
Cecily showed me a picture of their Christmas tree, a scrawny little thing with branches on just one side. It’s so crooked it won’t stand up on its own, so they attached it with monofilament line to a hook in the ceiling. “It kind of rotates a little bit now and then on its own,” Cecily said. “But it’s good; Boden can’t pull it down.” (more…)
I’m sick of shock, sick of gory . . . Is anybody here wise?
– From “Wise to the Ways,” by Catie Curtis
On the phone last weekend 3-year-old Alex told Ellen he was going to be a pirate for Halloween.
“Arrrr,” I said, eavesdropping in the background. (more…)
In a bit of serendipity across decades, a high-school friend of my brother’s wrote recently to say she is now singing in the choir at a church in Berkeley, a church my grandfather founded, and did I have any memories, any souvenirs, to share.
My mother’s father died in 1966, and, since we grew up in southern California, we didn’t visit all that often. So, any memories are necessarily distant. Mainly I remember Easter – which seems to be the time we visited most – my sisters in rustling dresses, me in slippery, polished leather shoes and starched collars (stiff anyway) that pressed into my neck as we sat for what seemed an eternity in the wooden pews.
Rev. Laurance L. Cross came from a long line of Alabama preachers, a Presbyterian who found that denomination constricting. (more…)
Here’s a column I wrote for Nurture, a new monthly supplement to The Watch newspaper.
I’ve got to be one of the luckiest grandpas around. Anyone who becomes a grandparent has been given a great gift, but I’m extra lucky, because I get to go to work nine-to-five with my newest grandson, Boden. (more…)
Ah, New England.
I had to call Adam when his Patriots lost to the New York Jets on Sunday. I knew he’d be devastated. (more…)
Here’s an essay I did for SKI’s January 2011 back page.
I had hip replacement surgery one month before my first grandchild was born.
The decision to do it, to go for the new hip, had not come easily. Back and forth I went over the previous winters: I’m too young. I can still ski. (I was 59 at the time.) I can barely walk back to the car after a morning on the slopes, but I can still do it, damn it! (more…)