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Monday, June 19, 2017

(1) FORTY DOLLARS FOR THESE TWIGS? HOLY SHIT!

5/19/2017  Note to visitors:  I had told Kathie I wished I had a photographic memory, so I could preserve my conversations with funny Jack.  She said, "I have a tape recorder I'm not using."  

     Jack was a fifty-two-year-old widower, and I was a year younger when we met in June of 1972.   In those days, Parents without Partners excluded from membership people whose children were over eighteen — female people, that is.  Males, with or without children, were welcomed as long as they weren’t comatose.  protested and persisted until finally I was steered toward a branch in Stoughton that accepted me despite the advanced ages of my progeny.     
     The first social event I attended was a cookout. We strangers milled around in the host’s back yard, smiling brightly at each other, having nothing in common except our loneliness.  It began to rain, so we migrated to the rumpus room in the basement.  After a while, I noticed we had been joined by a tall man with gray hair and glasses. "Well, here's another one," I thought, glancing at him casually.  ("You looked at me," Jack said later.)
     He appeared far from prepossessing (interesting word), but that was because I didn't know him.  When you're not in love, you can be quite blind.  As weeks went by and my vision cleared, Jack began to look more and more like Paul Newman.
     During our first conversation, we had hardly exchanged names and a word or two when a debonair individual with dark, slicked-back hair asked me to dance.  "Let's get away from this crowd," he murmured in my ear, tangoing me toward the stairway.  It had stopped raining, so he drew together a couple of patio chairs, took my hand, and began explaining why I was so fortunate to have met him.  While he was talking, I had the weird but insistent feeling that I was being unfaithful to Jack.  I knew he was worried about where I had gone and what I was doing.  I stood up, said I was going back to the party, and left.  Jack was waiting.
     For the first few months, I frequently excused myself and ran to the notebook I kept in a bedroom drawer. 
Examples of scribbled notes:
J:  Feeling self-conscious about my habit of watching him leave the house:  I wish I could just turn a couple of somersaults and end up in the car.
B: (Saying goodbye on the telephone)  Okay, Jack, I'll talk to you later.
J:  When will that be?
(At Migis Lodge in Maine)
      We went shopping to get some shorts for Jack.  I headed for the camera department to see if I could get my Nikon fixed and fifteen minutes later met him in the men's department.  He'd had a typical Jackish adventure.  A woman standing near him had been talking away, not realizing her husband had drifted to another department.  Suddenly she looked around, stared at Jack and said, "He's gone!"
      "I know it.  I didn't know quite how to tell you.  I knew it would be a shock.  But I've been listening in case you had any questions."
(phone conversation about alarm going off at 6:00 a.m.)
J:  Did it wake you up, angel?  You should have seen me strangling that thing.  The button is so little, it's hard to find, you know, so I just grabbed the whole thing and squeezed. With both hands, of course.  Poor little thing.  The way I pounced on it, it was like I was trying to throttle someone who was screaming.  Both of my hands over its mouth, hoping you wouldn't hear.  Someone should have been around with a camera.

     I was trying to combine smooching with figuring out how to rewind the film on my new Nik- kormat.  Jack felt he should have my full attention and finally said sternly:  "Do you want me to take away all your camera equipment?"

J:  I figured I'd put off calling you until I thought you'd suffered enough.  When I called and said, "Okay if I come over tonight?" and you said "Uh-uh!" I thought, well, she just hasn't suffered enough yet.
B:  The reason I don't call you when we're having a fight is because I know you're not suffering because if you were, you'd call me.
J:  I've got to think that over.  Somehow I have a feeling it means I can't win.

     I came home to an empty house and found a pretty pair of black wrought iron candlesticks on the kitchen table.  The short green candles had been lit, and a card from Jack was signed, "It's nice to have my own angel for Christmas."  Displeased with his running-out-of-ink effect, he had written underneath with another pen:
     "I said, `It's nice to have my own angel for Christmas.'"
     I tried to reach Jack to thank him, but his phone was out of order.  Later he told me he began worrying when he didn't hear from me.  He had visions of the candlesticks toppling over, a blaze starting, and the firemen looking at the candlesticks and shaking their heads:  "What jerk left lighted candles in an empty house?"
     Jack thought to himself, "That would really be the end, if I burned her house down. She'd say, `That's it, Jack.'"

J:  The first few days after our fight I'd say to myself, "So what."  In fact, I was so mad at you that when a customer came in and it turned out her name was Barbara, I felt like punching her in the nose.  There she sat, as innocent as can be, while I thought, "You want a loan?  Try and get it.  You'd like to open an account?  Hah!"
    Then all of a sudden, almost overnight, it seems, it becomes vitally important that I see you.  I can't stand another minute away from you.  And I say to myself, "What happened between yesterday and today, Jack, to cause this big change?"  
B:  How about the times when you're not mad at me, and a customer named Barbara comes in.  What do you say to yourself then?
J:  Awww . . . her name is Bar-bar-a!  What a co-in-ci-dence!

    This week one radiant spring day has followed another.  Kathie told me her neighbor, Richard Myette, got up one morning, looked outside, and reported to his still a-bed wife, "The sun is stuck."
     To Jack I was reporting that my golf was terrible, I couldn't hit a drive, I couldn't sink a putt, my scores were 120 and up.
     Toward the end of the week, the weather continued to be beautiful, and my golf continued to be rotten.  Jack listened patiently to my complaints.
      Finally he said, "I've been thinking about your problems and I believe I have a solution.  Why don't you marry me and let me take you away from all that?"

     Then there was the time I'd gone to a movie with the husband I'd asked for a trial separation.  I got home in time to pick up the phone on the third ring. “Hello?  Hello”  Silence.  Finally a voice said tentatively, "Hello?"
     "Jack, why didn't you answer right away? I thought--"
    “I figured you wouldn't be home yet and started to hang up.  Then I thought I'd wait for one more ring."    
     "Well gee, I thought you were a sex maniac."
     "I'll do my best."
         I said to my daughter, “He’s such a droll guy, I wish there were a way to preserve his wit.  I don’t have time to write letters or keep a journal.”        
     Kathie said, “I have a tape recorder I’m not using. . . .”
     When I heard Jack’s car pull into my driveway, I'd turn on the machine as automatically as I gave the mirror a last-minute check to make sure my hairpiece was on straight.  Okay, you're passable for a 51-year-old broad,  the mirror conceded.   Let’s go, hummed the tape recorder. 
     For the first few months our dialogue was dominated by mutual avowals of love -- nauseating to any ears but ours.  ("I have never in my life felt about anyone the way I feel about you."  "I feel exactly the same way.") Then something unexpected began happening--Jack and I would forget about the eavesdropper in the kitchen. Our turtle-dove billings and cooings were interspersed with the dissonant sharps and flats of dis-harmony concerning the double standard, politics, the new morality, feminism, homosexuality, transvestism, marijuana, the Vietnam War, and Watergate.  Also on tape were disputes about my volunteering, first for Community Sex Information, in Brookline, then for Boston’s suicide prevention center, the Samaritans. 
      Our arguments often escalated from raised voices to shouting matches that culminated in a chilly departure instead of the usual farewell embrace . After a quarrel, the machine would fall silent until one of us realized the folly of his ways and called with new jests.  Occasionally I turned it on when Ed paid a visit.  In all fairness I would give him my version of his Miranda Rights, but he was never one to remain silent for long.   His courtship, after years of baffling detachment, was turning my life into an implausible movie script. The change was so refreshing, I thought I’d died and gone to the Emerald City. 

B (looking out kitchen window)  There’s Ed’s car now.  While I’m gone you can play with this if you want to.  
J   I’d rather play with you. 
B   Later, I promise.  Push the left button for Record and this one for the mike.  If you get hungry—
JACK AND THE EAVESDROPPER
J   I won’t get hungry, I’ll get lonesome.  Where are you flying today?    
 B   Martha’s Vineyard.  I’ll be back in a couple of hours. [Beep from driveway]  Before I leave, I need a couple of hours worth of kisses.
J    Me too. . . .                                               

J    It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’ve decided to record some-thing on this . . . this thing.  I’m alone, as I wanted it to be.
      I find myself. . .  for the first time. . .  resenting your husband.  It seems to me that I should be with you when
you’re  . . when you’re not with me.  I don’t know if I should say that again and express it better.         
     I suppose there will be days in the future you will not be a part of.  . .  those are days I’d rather not be a part of either. . . .             

Persuading  Jack to share a bowl of pot-laced pudding was like asking him to eat caterpillars.  
B   Why aren't you eating your pudding? 
J    Because it doesn't look edible.  What is this little wormy thing?
B   It's probably something good, Jack. 
J   Eugh!  What’s in here? 
B   Just pudding, peanuts, and pot.  Let's see, it's quarter of nine.  By quarter of ten we should be in outer space.
(Jack hums a few bars of "It's quarter to ten.")
B   Jack, it isn't Silly Putty, it's pudding.
J    I know it's pudding.
B   Will you stop playing with it and take a bite?  Dip your spoon in and put it in your mouth.  Like this, see?  
J    How much pot is in here? 
B   About a cigarette and a half.
J    How much did this stuff cost? 
B   Twenty dollars an ounce, forty altogether.
J    You paid forty dollars for these twigs?  Holy shit!
B   So don’t waste your precious pudding.  If you don't eat your dessert, I'm not going to give you your main meal.
J   You say there's peanuts in here, too? 
B   If you feel anything crunchy, it's a peanut.  Come on, Jack, you're being difficult.  I'll feel terrible when I leave you way behind in another half hour. You‘ll be staying here when I take off.
J   You won't take off.  We'll eat this and we'll get sick, but nothing will happen.
B   Other people don’t get sick.  You shouldn't be letting me eat this pudding if you're not going to eat yours.
J   Why?
B  'Cause I don't want to get high all by myself.  Where’s your sense of adventure?
J   I try to leave it at home when I come here.  Is this a recipe for pot or for pudding?  Are the nuts in there because of the pot?
B   No, this was supposed to be Butterscotch Banana Delight, and I didn't have any bananas, but the recipe did mention peanuts.  Then you're supposed to fold in whipped cream, and I didn't have any whipped cream. JACK, WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
J   What are you hollerin' for!  I wasn't going far.  There's a movie about Christ on TV.
B   Eat your pudding and then you can see it.
J   Gee.  Fifty‑two years old and I gotta eat my pudding before I can watch television.
B   Would it taste better with a little cream on it?  
J    It wouldn't taste any worse.  I wish I could get it down quickly.  Pour it down somehow.
B   I don't think it's that bad.  It's easier than smoking it.
J   That's your opinion.  Twenty dollars!
B  Did you listen to that tape I gave you?
J   Was there a lot of loud talking?
B  One of us was kind of loud.
  One of us?  You, you mean?  You have a faculty of being louder than whoever is loud.  I mean I can be loud, but then above that I hear you.
B   One of the things about listening to a tape, you find things out about yourself.
J    That's right.  What have you found out about yourself?
B   That I get loud when I feel strongly about something and I'm trying to make a point, and I really should be able to make it without raising my voice.
 J   Well, you could possibly work on at least waiting until whoever is talking finishes—[oh, well, that's why I have to talk louder]—the sentence. 
B   By then I might be reaching my point.
J    No, you wouldn't.   I'm glad I’ve never been able to throw up.  This is something I wouldn't want to taste a second time.
B    You should have told me you had an aversion to butterscotch pudding.  I wonder what it would be good in.  I didn't think it was bad in the brownies.
J    I didn't think it was bad in the brownies, either.
B   But you said you were going to get sick if you had one more bite.  What can you eat two of without getting sick?  [Milk.]  Do you want some milk?  
J   Yes.  This is only one and a half cigarettes?
B   I guess the cooking shrunk it.  Tim's friend said to cook it until it started smoking.  I probably should have been trying to inhale the smoke instead of wasting it.
J    Have you finished your pudding?  
B   Almost gone.
J    Did you eat all those nuts?
B   I thought the nuts were good for disguising all those branches.  What are you picking out of there, a peanut or a twig?
 J   I don’t think it was pot, it was string-like. . . .
~~
B  I was looking for something in my desk, and I found this envelope addressed to Vonnie when she was living in California. It was almost exactly a year before I met you.  I had sent her these pictures and told her she could throw them away.  They were to give her an idea of what I'd been doing in my darkroom.  Vonnie knows I like to save old letters, so when she came home, she returned the ones I'd sent her.
J   (Looking at snapshots)  Where's this? 
B   That's our condominium in Fort Lauderdale, taken from the marina. 
J    Dad?  That stick figure on the on the balcony is Dad?  How did you know that? 
B   Who else would be there?  And that's the view from our balcony, looking down at the Yankee Clipper Hotel.
J   That's a pun, right? 
B   Right.  Here’s a picture of Mother.  I sat her in front of the hawthorn tree.  Everything blossoms beautifully along about April.
J   And there's Kathie lying beside the pool.  Well gee, that's really nice.  Nice pictures of your mother and  Kathie.  This is a letter that you . . .                                                                            



                                      
B   Sent to Vonnie.
J  (reading from letter) What are "the little blue pills"? 
B   They were antidepressants suggested by my psychiatrist, and I didn't want to take them.  I didn't like the idea of relying on something like that.  But things got very bad here one night.  Timmy was here and Ed became very unpleasant, and I said to him, "We haven't seen Timmy in a long time.  Can't we please try to have a nice, agreeable evening?" 
    He said, "I'm not making any promises."  And I ended up crying, and Timmy ended up crying, and I finally said, "Well, look, I'm going to try those pills and see if that makes any difference."  And about that time, I did.  Six months after I found the letter.
J   And those pills were called Elavil?
B   Yes.  I'm so glad I don't have to take them anymore, Jack.  That's what you've done for me, baby.
Did you notice what I got in the mail?.
J   I saw that.  That's a disgusting book.  The Joy of Sex.
B   But it is a joy, Jack.        
J  "Refreshing and wholesome,"  it says.  Maybe for you, it might be all right, but I don't like pictures like that.  I don't.  Now don't look so. . . so mis-understanding.   Do you like pictures like that?
B   I think a lobster dinner is delicious and I like looking at a picture of a lobster dinner.  If I can revel in the joy of eating a lobster dinner, I don’t see why there's something indecent—"
J   Okay, you're  really honest and open, and I can’t be, evidently. 
B   I don't think it's something you'd look at with just anybody.  You'd look at with someone you love.
J   No, I couldn't do that with you.  I just couldn't.  .
B   You can do the thing, but you can't look at the picture of the thing.
J   That's right, that's right ['Cause it's in the dark?]  It doesn't, no, it has nothing to do with, I don't want to see myself—I don't need that.  I don't need to— [laughter]  I know I don't like it, that's all.  [Poor Jack.]  Don't "Poor Jack" me.  This is what you picked up that day in the bookstore?
B   Yes.  And slammed shut again.  [I'm glad.]  It startled me, but since then I've seen it during my course for Community Sex Information..  At meetings people were sitting and reading it and I looked over their shoulders.  Marcia, that girl you talked to when we had a meeting here, is the most conservative of us all.  She thought it was great.
J   She can't be conservative if she's devouring that book.
B   She's married, and anything people do when they're married or like us, it's all right. 
J   I didn't say that it wasn't, I'm saying she can't be too conservative.
B   She's conservative about things like new lifestyles.  She's kind of Ladies' Home Journal-ish.  When I was in a small group discussing my marriage going on the rocks and Ed’s other women, she said, "Well, something must have been wrong at home."  That's  typical of the Ladies' Home Journal.  If you don't go around with curlers in your hair and cold cream on your face and keep your figure, your husband will never wander.
J    I would resent her saying that.
B   Oh yes, I resented it.  
      Ed called with some news.  He’s found a cottage at the Vineyard that he wants me to come and look at tomorrow.
J    What do you mean, cottage at the Vineyard?
B   He flew over there today and a realtor showed it to him. It's not directly on the water, but it’s on a salt marsh with a distant view. 
This is is to be  purchased?  
B  No, he'll be renting it. . . .                                                               
4-26-73
B   When I went to that seminar about divorce and separation, we finally reached the nitty‑gritty about the fourth or fifth week, how do you meet people?  All the guys said the same thing to us.  "You could walk into any cocktail lounge and you wouldn't have a bit of trouble.”  But in the same breath they said this was the last place they'd go to look for a woman they wanted a relationship with.
J   That's a lot of bunk, in my estimation.  I don't agree with that.  If they understand that this is the place single people would like to go, then why wouldn't there be decent people there?  See, it doesn't follow.
B   I used to go to the Village Inn occasionally, but I never met anybody I wanted to take home or go home with.  Nobody I could relate to, ever.
J   I'm glad you didn't.
With you it was different.  If I’d had my address sticker, I would have pasted it on your forehead.  I'd talked to you for all of five minutes.  Are you ready for breakfast?.
J   No, let's talk about the night we met.  I like that.
B   You really remember? 
J    Oh boy, do I ever.  To go home in the state I was . . . it's repetitious, I know.
B   No!  No, no, no.  I want to hear it again.  
J    I kept saying the same thing over and over all the way home. I'm saying, "She should be here.  I shouldn't be alone.  I shouldn't be going in this direction.”
     That's what amazed me because I assumed I would be taking you home.  In fact, I didn't even know you were with anybody.  It shocked me when you said you were.  Geez, I was crushed.  I'm saying to myself, how can she be with anybody else and be with me as often as she is?
B   I kept coming back, didn't I? 
J   When you went outside with that fellow, I kept saying, she's got to come back.  And I must have been talking to someone at the time, and I don't know what they were saying or what I was saying.
B  June, was that her name?
J   June, that's it.  And June's friend came over.  She was rather attractive, if you like the type.
B   I don't.
J    The great part of it was that I was on vacation when you called the next day.
B   I was surprised.  I expected one of your daughters to answer, and I was going to ask her what your business number was.  She said, "Just a minute, I'll get him."
J   They heard me talking to myself the night before.  They got up and said, "Who are you talking to, Daddy?" I told them about meeting you. . . .

2 comments:

  1. Well, I'm sure I'm reading out of sequence, but just wanted to let you know I've been here - although I'm nowhere near done reading!

    The tape recorder was a wonderful idea. Am greatly enjoying the accounts of your adventures (and the photos, as always, too!=)

    Lots of love n *k*s,

    rhapsody

    ReplyDelete
  2. Just became aware o your comment of a week ago. How exciting to be sharing these "caught on tape" conversations with you, Rhapsody! And to learn you understand why I thought the recorder was a great idea.
    Lots of love and kisses back to you!

    ReplyDelete