a moment in Prizzis (dance mix) -SaturdayMarch32001   

Note: this is a reworking of the entry for March 3, 2001, which I began writing on March 9th, 2001 as something of an experiment, with the inspiration being this AOL Instant Messenger conversation with Gretchen:

me: that's the way i write
me: it hasnt changed much
gp: it's true
me: there's a condescending quality
gp: have you thought about why that's the voice you adopt?
gp: it's not YOU.
me: even about the people i love
me: it's the only way i dont feel embarassed
gp: it's very new yorker "talk of the town." i find it false and tiresome, like there's reality underneath it that it's clouding. it's just like i feel about pot.
gp: the hard thing, the hard thing gus! the hard thing would be to face the embarassment (that wouldn't even be there in reality).
me: that's what jami told me about my entries of late
me: she said i seemed to be concealing something
gp: the hard thing would be to be real.
gp: i'm real. i'm here in the real world.
me: okay - tell you what
me: you change those entries to the way they would read if i was for real
me: and i'll use them as a prototype
me: for future writing
me: i'll use the changes as a prototype for changes in my style
gp: oh, i see...the old stuff you mean? the alex guldbeck? because there's little i'd change there, it would be very obvious to you. i know you don't need me to tell you that...
me: okay
me: then the new stuff perhaps
gp: you know me, right? you know me. you know what i'd do. i have an idea, too. rewrite a bit of the new stuff the way you think i'd want it and then show it to me and i'll tell you. but you really have to try crazy hard, NO FLIP, NO CATTY, NO PROTECTION, risk risk risk. the hard thing. what do you think?
me: okay - i can do it for one entry
me: (can i post it?)
gp: okay.
me: okay - the day we went out for dinner then
gp: you know how much i appreciate these big gestures, right?

Having become a poet in the dream time, Gretchen shares my interest in the details of nature. It's evidence of an underlying propensity, one that resonates between us. Those trips to the Oberlin arboretum we took in the Fall of 1988 were more than simply vision quests fueled by the drug of nascent romance. Had the nights not been dark and moonless (and all our nights we remember from that period were), I'm sure we would have stopped repeatedly along the path to investigate and celebrate the intricate patterns, familiar though they were. No matter how familiar something real might be, there's always more to be discovered about it. Pick up an object near you, look at it, and write down something new about it, something you've never noticed before. You can do this with any object.

The tip of this flat screwdriver
Is ruddy with discoloration
Though the rest of its metal still gleams.
Most of the visible patterns on its metal surface
Are traces of the form in which it was cast,
Their grain running parallel to the principle axis.
Their edges undulating softly like those of frozen liquid.
The suffering it has endured is relatively trivial;
A few diagonal scratches and two tiny oblong craters.

Gretchen and I went on something of a daylight vision quest today, wandering through the varied scenery of nearby Brentwood. Once you're north of the claustrophobic condos of West LA, suddenly there are lawns of endless diversity, each its own unique marvel. Some are kitschy, such as the house with the reflector-studded trees in front, some are just weird, such as the place with the yard tombstone. And everywhere there are the wacky plants of Southern California. Practically none of them are native to the region and most of them would not look out of place in a illustration drawn by Dr. Seuss.
One thing Brentwood lacks is open space, a place for people with altered serotonin levels to sit down and relax and appreciate the beauty of the world. We came upon a golf course just north on Montana Avenue and its preternaturally green grass (set as it was amid numerous Eucalyptus trees) seemed inviting, but there was no way to get through the fence that had been placed to keep us out. As we passed along the barricade, periodically we'd come upon gated portals through the shubbery where we could stand and watch distant happy white men fussing over their putts.

West LA and Brentwood are not the places to go if you're out in search of public space. For example, the park nearest my condo is a triangular sliver defined by Ohio Avenue, Santa Monica Blvd. and Bundy Drive, and it is utterly cut off from the world by a stout iron fence with locked gates. The nearest usable park is at 25th and Wilshire in Santa Monica. It's usually crowded like a Seurat painting, but there weren't really any other options. We brought a large container of water, a small bottle of Donald Duck grapefruit juice and a $5 pack of American Spirit cigarettes. Neither of us are smokers, but we felt like smoking anyway. We picked the most remote part of the park we could, a patch of long grass down near the lowest pond.
The park was full of little kids pedalling around on tiny bicycles. A group of them circled every closer to us, cutting through out patch of grass in an effort to beat each other in pursuit of their competitive goal of making the circuit the maximum number of time. "No cheating allowed!" one of them hollered. "I can cheat if I want to!" cried another. Eventually the heat of competion spilled over the limits of physics and two of them colliding, sending one face down hard upon the ground with a horrible crash. A brief pause was quickly followed by the inevitable. "Mommy, mommy oh mommy!" the injured child screamed in existential despair as if he was being broken on a wheel. The other kids stood around with looks of both embarrassment and concern, slightly tinged with what appeared to be a trace of fear that they might be in trouble. But there was no need to worry; mommies were running over to make everything better.
One of the refreshing things about Gretchen (and there are a few of these) is that she never throws an excessive fuss about children or regards them with any of the longing typical of childless thiry year old women. She gimaced painfully and told me she could "never live near that." In all fairness to Gretchen, none of these little boys were particularly cute, scrawny and awkward as they were in the sheltered comfort of their upper middle class Santa Monica youth.
Here in the public, in the park, we were in a terribly romantic situation. We felt like kissing but were forced to abstain because, well, Gretchen has grown accustomed to abstaining from public affection after years spent in a lesbian relationship (and starting now would only be taking advantage of her "het priviledge"). A wonderfully romantic skill Gretchen had developed in the lost years is that of commiting poems to memory. So instead of making out with me, she recited poems from memory. Some of them were so powerfully moving that tears started flowing down my cheeks. I've had a real problem with crying for the past couple of weeks.
I could tell that Gretchen had a deep, multi-layered understanding of the poems she had memorized. They had been thoroughly analyzed like any other thought or feeling and fully wired to the many necessary neural zones of understanding. In essence, they'd been held in the brain and gradually "digested" there. It's impossible to have such understanding as the result of a simple reading.
We hadn't eaten anything in many hours, and despite the appetite-destroying substances we'd taken, we were still hungry. It was the kind of hunger that is difficult to satisfy without that perfect hunger food, the French Fry (or, as the British say, the chip - cue scene from A Fish Called Wanda here). Gretchen fondly recalled the curly fries we used to be able to get at the Rax in Oberlin, so when we went into the nearby Jack in the Box I asked if they had curly fries. The atheist Gods were smiling down upon us - they did!
It was just one intensely romantic scene followed by another. The one in Jack in the Box was more of a retro-nostaligic experience, an odd bit of theatre referring to all that high school dating neither of us ever did. We were in the side wing of the dining room near the rest rooms, sitting side by side on one side of the table, commenting on the shape of each swirling fry as we devoured them. "Why do they put so little ketchup in these packets?" Gretchen demanded in dismay in a way that suggested she had pondered this question many times before.
The day had changed from sunny and warm to cold, cloudy and windy during the time since we'd left the house. So, with stomachs full of the unsubtle, disquieting satisfaction of curly fries, we hurried back home down Wilshire, Gretchen jokingly calling "Taxi!" at one point.
The bed, the privacy of my room, that is that place where the inevitability of our love is allowed to speak in a less intellectual voice. When two people are in love, the fish, the reptile, the toad, the lemur and the Einstein all need to peer at each other across the cold somatic vaccuum that defines individuals and say "Hello there specialness that I feel and that I see, you are worthy, we've made it to this point in time, it's time for reconnection and the swapping of stories."
These stories are complicated and can sometimes only be told by the people more dedicated to telling them than ourselves. This is the purpose of art, literature and music. First a song resonates with a crazy inexplicable force inside your head and then you want to proselytize it to the world. By others understanding the music you love, perhaps they can understand you as well. When two lovers meet after more than a decade of separation, much of the story of the emotional changes that took place over the intervening years can best be told by music. If you want to know that story, you must listen.

That guy David from last night was having a little get together at his place tonight and since it was my big night to finally take Gretchen out for a real restaurant dinner, she asked him to suggest a suitable place. His choice was Prizzis, an Italian place in Hollywood, and it sounded good to both of us. If I was lucky it might not even be frightfully expensive.
Justifiably, Gretchen didn't want to be the one doing all the driving on this vacation, so tonight I agreed to be the one behind the wheel. Not being able to perfectly pinpoint Prizzis, I dropped off the car with the valet at some other nearby restaurant, worried only slightly that bad things would result from such a disturbance in the karmic fabric.

more later?

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