I ignored my blog for a couple of days and like a recalcitrant child it paid me back by totally misbehaving, resetting my presentation, deleting my lists, rewiring my wigits and just generally throwing a cyberspace temper tantrum. We are *almost* in working order again, though, after a strict time out and no desserts for a couple of days. Discipline your blog with a firm hand, I say, and do so immediately – otherwise it won’t understand the lesson.
So. Saturday. Can I just say, I have the the most incredible husband, the most amazing friends and the kindest family in the whole wide world? S. and I had planned to go out to dinner to celebrate my birthday with A. and maybe her sister on Saturday night at a nearby Italian restaurant. We spent Saturday in a normal fashion…well, normal for us. I found a dog I desperately want to adopt (I’m in line behind three other families for her so it does not look good) and S. worked on a take-home exam and ran a few errands. In the early evening we showered, dressed, each had 1/2 a vodka tonic, and left to pick up A. We pull into A.’s driveway and S. looks at me and says “Gotcha.” I have no idea what he means by this and I am busy man-handling a pile of books for A. and her mom to read so I roll my eyes in that “Whatever, you are such a weirdo” way I do and walked up to the door. I knocked, I walked in, and there….in A.’s living room….was every single person I know. Okay, not really. But ALMOST every single person I know. My mom. My dad. A. and her whole family. My cousin from chicago. My best friend M. and my dear, dear friend J. , both from Chicago as well. My co-workers. Friends from S.’s law school. Members of my writing group. K. and J. I could go on and on. Oh! My brother and his fiance from Pittsburgh. I could go on and on. And people kept trickling in throughout the night – everybody I love and care about all at the same time! Apparently A. and S. And M. and S.A. planned this together, the four of them figuring out to the best of their ability (and their ability is long and wide) who to invite. My cousin created a special drink in my honor – the Courtini. There was a keg on the back porch and a beautiful green and yellow cake and A.’s sister J., a chef, cooked bruschetta and spanikopita and dips. People brought gifts and food and alcohal and I’ve said it many times sense then: IT WAS ONE HUNDRED TIMES BETTER THAN MY WEDDING. S. agrees with that sentiment. It was just…the perfect night….so much laughter, so much joy – I felt (and here I could be wrong, but I don’t think so) – I felt like everybody felt HAPPY. I can’t even describe what it was like to see layer after layer of people peel away, revealing yet another person I love – people who confessed they’d been lying to me for two months in order to surpise me – people who still acknowledged my birthday on the actual day, with gifts and cards and phone calls. People who celebrated my thirtieth birthday twice with me. It moves me now to tears to remember it, to think of all the work the planners put it and all who showed up. I feel so thankful, and so humble to have these incredible generous people in my life.
Need I say, we stayed up well into the next morning? And that brunch the following day was long and lingering and luscious? And that in the late afternoon, when the last out of town guest left I felt both enriched and saddened for the time with them? I hate when people I love leave. It wouldn’t take much for me to join a commune, really – if I could get all those who were at the party to join me. In some ways it’s so ridiculous to me how much time we spend away from the ones we love – but then, who would direct plays and attend law school and teach inner city school children and run beautiful restaurants if not for these folks? I am so blessed. Thanks to everyone – there are no words, but you know me, I’ll keep trying for a while. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
In other 30th birthday news, the first book I re-read in my 30th Birthday ReReading project was (of course) Beach Music. I actually started rereading it in order to help me understand the plot of my own novel but I understood pretty quickly my book will be too slim for this to be a fair comparison so I read just for enjoyment. This is the book that first made me really consider becoming a writer – before reading Beach Music I was completely committed to becoming an actress. I read it when I was nineteen, during the summer I was directing childrens’ plays, and I remember so clearly telling my dad “Well, if I could write like this then I WOULD quit acting and become a writer,” and he said “Writing like that doesn’t just happen. You have to do it every day. You could be as good as Pat Conroy if you wrote every day.” A revelation, let me tell you. Anyway, for the last few months I’ve been anticipating rereading this, wondering if it wouldn’t be as good anymore, if I read it at a pivotal time, perhaps. It’s the book that pushed me into my first fiction workshop – the author that caused me to devour all of his books before reading anything else, the first of many authors I would tackle in this fashion (followed closely by John Irving, Margaret Atwood and Anne Tyler). It’s just, you know, one of those books.
Well, I am happy to report it’s as good as ever. Oh, sure…a couple thoughts crossed my mind. Perhaps Leah, Jack McCall’s daughter, could be ever so slightly less precocious – and maybe she and her dad could have ONE fight. And maybe the brothers could be a little less funny. But other than that, this is still one hell of a book and I, for one, wouldn’t want a less composed Leah or boring brothers. This book remains my favorite contemporary novel. For instance, who can resist John Hardin, the damaged, schizophrenic brother who lives in a tree house? One of my favorite John Hardin moments comes when all of the brother’s are in Lucy McCall’s hospital room where she’s receiving her chemotherapy treatment and he ridicules our hero, Jack, for living in Italy:
“I wouldn’t go to Italy if the Pope himself invited me to eat a Ragu dinner with him,” John Hardin said. “Italians’re the scariest people in the world. They’re always taking blood oathes and selling drugs to black people and killing each other with shotguns. The men comb their hair with pig fat and the women all have big tits and say the rosary constantly and eat food that ends with vowels. The mafia’s been there so long it surprises me there’s a single Italian left alive.”
For me, the live story between Jack and Shylah still rings true, from the time they first fall in love:
So we danced to the central motion of our lives. The winds roared and a strange love rose like a tide betrween us and rested in the crown of waves that was looening the frame of the house
to it’s conclusion (and here I am quoting the ending so if you don’t want it spoiled, skip ahead)
because she had promised it and because she had taught me to honor the eminence of magic in our frail human drama, I knew that Shyla was waiting for me, biding her time, looking forward to the dance that would last forever, in a house somewhere beneath the great bright sea
I could quote this book forever and ever – when Jack and his friends are stranded at sea I still felt the sense of despair settling over them, and when the Holocaust chapters arrive I am heartbroken for the Jews all over again, and when Lucy lets the loggerhead turtles into the sea I am swept away just like they are. I honestly don’t think there is any better contemporary American writer to read if you want to understand how to engage each of the five senses, create masterful characters and a seamless plot. Expect a lot of Conroy posts this year: I can barely stand the beauty of The Prince of Tides and The Lords of Discipline is a life-changing read.
One final note: I’ve been thinking about this blog and its content lately. I recently read review of a musician S. and I really enjoy and the reviewer said the musician’s latest album “chokes on it’s own earnestness.” I’ve been wondering lately if this blog might not suffer from some of that…choking. I’m not really into pop culture and I’m not particularly funny and I can’t do scathing social commentary and so I primarily use this blog as a starting ground for essay writing, a place to try my ideas before having to do so “for real,” and it’s also a place that friends like to come and keep track of me and where I meet other readers and writers. And so….no changes. everythinginbetween will continue to choke on its own earnestness because that is what I need my blog to be… it needs to be…a dumping ground, a processing plant, a place where my ideas both begin and end. And so expect only more of the same…I thought about going purely litblog or purely marriage blog or purely writing blog and then realized, well, where in the hell would I write about the disappearing honey bees? So everything in between will remain what it is.