This Summer I’ve been trying out all kinds of new reading material, and most of them bore me to bits.
Science Fiction: I tried The Martian Chronicles, a “classic” written by Ray Bradbury in 1950, but even on Mars it’s the lady Martians who stay home and do the housework. Yawn.
I’ve tried mysteries. P. D. James is supposed to be the gold standard here, but she writes about a life on earth that I am unfamiliar with in that, say, when her poet/detective Dalgliesh declines the offer of a biscuit with his tea he does so with a gesture of sorrow, the likes of which I have no way of knowing what the hell that means. Her exposition is so over-wrought. Also, I loathe poets.
Fiction: If a book begins with a description of scenery, either of a landscape or a building, I’m outta there on page one. I also don’t want to read about Naples, Africa, Scandinavia, American university professors, zookeepers, anything with “Wife” or “Daughter” in the title, or autism.
Deckle-edge is also a mighty huge turn-off.
There is only one sure thing, as far as books are concerned. I can not pass up a memoir written by a famous person: guaranteed satisfaction every time.
Carole Bayer Sager is, in my opinion, a superstar. Her memoir They’re Playing Our Song is about her life, New York to Beverly Hills, which includes amazing success as a songwriter in the 1960s (Groovy Kind of Love) up to The Prayer (1999) to 2016’s Stronger Together. One of her BFFs was Elizabeth Taylor; she also worked with Michael Jackson and just about everybody in the music biz in the past 50 years. She wrote TWO songs for the Monkees!!!
The best bits are about her marriage to and divorce from Burt Bacharach. Hoo-boy, she does not like him. I read this book in one day and her hard-won ownership of her life gave me permission to write about something this week that I wasn’t sure I should, but here goes.
This past week I was very unkind to an old boyfriend, and I feel a little bad about it, but I’m pretty sure he deserved it.
I met a guy in Paris in the Summer of 1976. He, being of a soundly cliche intelligence and because it was a “cute meet”, decided that we were crazily fated to be meaningful to each other the rest of our lives, according to a fantasy he had that I was his Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
In modern parlance, we “hooked up” a year later n California, and then again in New York City 1982 – 83.
I moved on, but Old Boyfriend has remained stuck in this fantasy of “us” for the last 40 years. He likes to get in touch yearly to talk about how crazy we used to be (Big Deal: We went to street parties on Bastille Day in Paris), and how whacky we still were at heart, even though he had long ago opted for marriage and kids and crappy vacation snapshots of the family all wearing the same hawaiian shirt and Xmas newsletters.
I used to marvel at this delusion of our “bond” until it stopped being kind of funny/peculiarand started to annoy me that he was never the least bit interested in updating his info on me. He had zero curiosity about my life; he was still invested in the 20-year old me, long, long, long after I had become completely bored with her and had evolved into a much more fascinating creature.
About five years ago it all got too creepy so I finally told him that we have nothing in common, NOTHING, and I had no desire to continue these communications.
Carole Bayer Sager makes the same point in her marriage to Burt Bacharach (spoiler alert): Burt was never interested in her as the person she really was; he only wanted her to be his muse — he was only interested in his idea of her. I totally get that. In my puny way, I get that (see: below).
Lo and behold, last month Old Boyfriend drops an email to me. Two sentences, along the lines of I still think of Paris and hope you’re doing well.
I let it sit in the ether for two weeks, then I emailed back: Life is spectacular. Being a Capricorn is starting to pay off: my 60s are so far a whole lot better than my 30s.
He emails back the same day:
Let me tell you what exactly about this email made me crazy with resentment and hatred. It was the line: I was just trying to figure out when was the last time I saw you.
Really? How can he not remember? That night about 19 years ago? How can he not remember that time he came to New York from his home in L.A. in the late 1990s to tell me that he’s been “very good for 14 years” (he’d been married for 14 years by then) and now he needed some fun and was I up for “fun”? How could he not remember how he propositioned me to help him cheat on his wife?? And how he expected me to jump at the offer??
Back on that evening in the late 1990s which I remember so clearly, I remember that my first reaction, upon receiving his offer of “fun” was: Jesus Christ. He’s so boring that he doesn’t even have the balls to go out to a bar and find someone new; he has to fly to New York to look up someone he’s already known since the ’70s. I knew he was lazy and had no imagination, but I didn’t know he was this lazy.
The next moment my blood boiled. How dare he think that I would be tempted to have “fun” — with him??? As if I couldn’t do a whole lot better on any Tuesday in Midtown???
And then I was disgusted. This just proved that in the intervening two decades between Paris and that night in the late 1990s — years I had filled with travels, my own marriage and divorce, and few interesting change of careers — he had taken in nothing new about me that changed the fantasy he had of me in my 20s. In my 20s, when we met, I was a much free spirit in that I was getting as much information about life as I could so that, when I grew up, I could make connoisseur decisions about what I liked and disliked, what I valued and what I disowned, and who I wanted to be.
And there I was, a full-grown woman, and here’s Old Boyfriend acting as though he is someone who does not fall far, far, far below my high standards.
(Also, let me say that, morally, I do not approve of husbands cheating on their wives, and certainly not WITH ME.)
It was on the sidewalk in front of the Film Center Cafe (now shuttered) on 9th Ave in Hell’s Kitchen that I declined his offer, told him I had to go home, and left to catch my train back to Westchester. I never saw him again, but took a certain delight in getting periodic updates on his dopey humble-brags about his incredibly dull life. He goes to Amsterdam off season! His son is elected high school class V.P.! His daughter gets into a third-rate college!
So, yeah, when he wondered when was the last time I saw you, I wanted to reach out into the inter webs and punch him in the face.
But what really set me off was his follow-up query: Where are you living these days?
Carole Bayer Sager (author of the memoir I’m recommending as a great read) channels my feeling about this little query on page 283 of her excellent memoir. She’s at a Hollywood/Beverly Hills diner party with the rich and famous: [The diner guests] engaged in the usual feigned interest in what everybody had been up to, though, of course, if they cared, they’d have known.
If Old Boyfriend cared about what I’d been doing lately, he’d have known. I mean, it’s not like it’s hard to find me out there in the inter webs.
So I sent him a nasty response:
Yeah, that’s me after three glasses of wine and a little bit of Don’t You Know Who I Am? (I am the most famous Vivian Swift on the planet, after all. No brag, just fact.)
And wasn’t it extremely nice of me to pick on him for that, instead of reminding him of his disgusting 14th-wedding anniversary offer?
Old Boyfriend sends me his reply, and I have to admit it’s kind of classy:
Damn. I was really looking forward to having it out with him.
So I guess that after 40 years, this guy is out of my life for good. As they say in Paris, Meh.
Thank you, Carole Bayer Sager, for writing (page 205, about Burt): I will not miss his narcissism or his inability to ever really hear or see me.
Patti Smith’s Old Boyfriend Sam Shephard died, and she wrote an obituary for The New Yorker. Oh lordy, I can’t stand Patti Smith: “…a cold, still night, when one could hear the stars breathing.” Hearing stars breathe is the kind of thing a very pleased with herself 16-year old writes. And good god, what a name-dropper: she’s not even out of the first paragraph and she brings up Yves Klein in reference to “a blue that might lead anywhere”. A blue that might lead anywhere??? What does that fucking mean?? And so on, and so on. Every other sentence is an atrocity.
For the record, when Patti Smith name checks Yves Klein she’s ham-handedly alluding to how he’s the one artist who came closest to replicating the intense saturation of Majorelle Bleu, which you can read about in my posts filed under that category in the side bar to the right. P.S.: It’s a blue that leads to Marrakech but, OK, if you want to call it “anywhere” go ahead. Just don’t call it “nowhere”, as Patti does in paragraph 2: … a sliver of a many-faceted nowhere that, when lifted in a certain light, became a somewhere. Oh sweet jesus, she is such a shitty writer.
However, I mention this obit because this, the relationship between Sam Shephard and Patti Smith, as she tells it, is how people navigate a relationship through the decades from their dopey 20s to their mature 60s and 70s. They update each other on the workings of their inner lives, they listen to each other, and they give each other room for change; they keep track of the events and the transformations, and they adjust their understanding of the other accordingly. They do not keep harping on and on about The Way We Were.
Then again, it seems that Patti was happy to make herself available whenever Sam called, at whatever hour of the day or night, used her as a sounding board when he wanted to hear his own voice. So maybe Old Boyfriends are all the same.
At least Sam Shephard was famous; my Old Boyfriend is just some guy with a condo in Long Beach.
Barbara Sinatra died on July 25 and I have a story about spending an afternoon in her house in Palm Springs and liking her immensely, but I got sidetracked and now this blog post is far too long and I haven’t even got to my weekly update on der Drumpf update because I care.
I could circle back to Mrs. Sinatra next week if you’re interested (let me know).
I’m only dealing with the little lies this week, as when der Trumpf brags that he got a phone call from the head of the Boy Scouts telling him that it was the “greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful.” THAT’S A QUOTE from der DRUMPF.
Then der Drumpf brags that the president of Mexico called him to congratulate der Drumpf’s victory on keeping immigrants from crossing the border.
Then the head of the Boy Scouts apologized to the nation for the crudeness of der Drumpf’s speech to the Boy Scouts and their Jamboree, and said that no one from the head office of the Boy Scouts ever called der Drumpf; and the president of Mexico let it be known that he has never talked to der Drumpf on the phone. Never.
How does devout Christian Sarah Huckabee Sanders live with herself ? After assuring reporters that no, der Drumpf didn’t lie about those phone calls, it’s just that the conversations didn’t take place on the phone, and those conversations never happened? How do all the devout Christians who voted for this lying, deluded, dumb-as-a-bag-of-Cheetos piece of shit live with themselves?
You don’t have to answer. I think I already know.
It’s AUGUST everybody! For all you dear Commenters in the northern hemisphere, it’s the height of Summer and all our Summer fantasies have to some true now or never!
Thea, you will be glad to know that Top Cat finally kept me company out in the backyard last Sunday, as we were seated in our sun set-watching devices, remarking on the beauty of the end of the day. He opened a prized bottle of St-Emilion and after one sip his exact words were: “Why have I been denying myself one of the greatest pleasures known to man?”
And for Jeanie and Becky, who loves a good Lickety pic, this is for you (taken over two days):
We have a smoked-glass dining room table. For some reason, Lickety has decided that Top Cat’s place mat on the dining room table is where he wants to nap lately.
Because some readers have recently sent me emails about not being able to Comment on this blog : Click the READ MORE button on the bottom of this latest chapter of my molehill life, scroll down, and leave a Comment. It’s a design flaw that I can’t seem to code out of.
Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. I hope all your naps are on the cool, hard surface of your dreams.