Shave and a Haircut

When an old 70s guy like Tom Selleck shaves  his mustache he looks so different we hardly know him. When a long-haired girl goes short it’s dramatic too. Remember the cry that went up when  Keri Russel lopped off those curls she had as Felicity?

Great changes in appearance are jarring even for the person walking around with the new look.

I’m jarred myself today, not by anything to do with my hair which, over the years has gone from looking like Janis Joplin’s….

to looking like Demond Wilson’s as Redd Foxx’s boy in that great golden oldie Sanford & Son.  

I am jarred by what’s happening to our house:

It has gone bald. It took 15 years for the ivy to grow, as, inch by inch, it lifted itself to where its tiny green fingers now reach clear to the roof. 

How I have loved it in summer when it’s the bright green of a tree-toad! How I have loved it in autumn when it blushes with the cold and turns to shades of maroon and burgundy:

How I have loved turn the corner  at any time in the growing season and see how it has made the  whole south side of the house shimmer and billow.

But ivy is bad for old shingles – new ones too, they say – and we did need to paint. We knew the men would soon pull it all down to do their work as they would have done if had David not decided he wanted to do the job himself, in the same way you want to be the one holding your beloved pet when the doctor inserts the final needle. He came home from work that day, and without even coming inside, set his things down on the grass and began pulling at the vines. I could hear the ripping sound from inside a closed window, and in no time at all those shiny green leaves lay face down in the dirt.

I have rooted for the ivy, even knowing it causes damage; I applauded it this past summer when for the first time it rounded the corner and began growing outside the bathroom window.

To me it was beautiful.

Anyway here’s how the place looks now: new and ordinary, not old and a-shimmer and it feels like such a loss. 

Still, there is beauty in the new dark-chocolate stain and the bright white trim.

And the ivy, pruned to its roots, is still alive after all, and come spring, like the hair on the head of the vanquished Samson,  will once again be growing, growing, growing…. 

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Get it While You Can

Normally my latest columns go up top each week but where I’m a little behind with them I think I’ll use one here. This is called “Get it While You Can” and if you don’t feel like reading just scroll down to the video and watch Janis sing one of her best and God wasn’t she something, the greatest white blues singer there ever was they say and she just a girl in her 20s. She died of an overdose and the dazzling album “Pearl” was released posthumously.

I condensed this a bit to give everybody a break on a Sunday:

LOOK at that girl sitting in her boyfriend’s lap and kissing him, in public! We never did that in MY day!” That was my first thought as I passed the two teens in the park yesterday. My second thought? “No, Terry. The summer you met that certain guy the two of you used to lie right down and kiss – in this very same park even.” I remember a man in a suit passing us as we sat up after one of these lengthy smooch sessions. He was crumpling up the brown paper bag that had held his sandwich, heading back to the office. “Hey, get it while you can,” he said to that long-ago boy, now my mate of many years – and this two full years before Janis recorded the famous song by the same name.

On this day in the park everyone I saw seemed to be doing just that in this most civilized of urban spaces. Getting it all while they could I mean: the sunshine, the air so fresh it almost tingled as you inhaled it, just all of it.

I saw a Bernese Mountain Dog the size of an elementary school furnace, docilely loping along on the leash that bound him to his tiny mistress.  “WHO’S a good puppy!“ enthused a man clanking with tools, who then bent down to the beast and let his faced be slathered in kisses.  “He looks like Beethoven!” a woman in African told me as she looked on and I assume she must have meant the star of the 90s dog movie and not the composer as you think of him in the famous bust with his genius frown and his wild toss of curls.

The skinny teen with the girlfriend in his lap was under the shade of a giant tree but most people were seeking the sun – like the man with closed eyes who had propped himself up against his backpack. Whether he was sleeping there on the grass or listening to music delivered by the headphones clamped over his dreadlocks one thing was sure: He was in some ecstasy of inner calm….

Two hundred feet away, a woman lay flat on her back like a human sacrifice, her pale exposed stomach mounded like rising dough, her thighs so tanned and shiny they looked like hot dogs on the grill. Nobody bothered her.

There’s that kind of trust in a park – and sometimes there’s political action: At the top of the hill this day, an agitation of striking workers held signs and chanted slogans. “No justice, no peace!” they shouted, while like-minded drivers passing by hooted and tapped their horns and made thumbs-up gestures in solidarity.

Then suddenly, the cream ice man tooled by in his truck, his sound apparatus blaring out what seemed like every tune ever written in the last hundred years: about 30 bars each of “Ebb Tide,” and “The Theme From The Godfather,” of “Happy Birthday” and “Give My Regards to Broadway” of “New York, New York” and “Come, All Ye Faithful.”

The last one struck me as strange on a blooming June day but what do I knows? Maybe this is how we seem to God at any given moment: the sleeping and the wakeful, the lively and the calm, and emitting from us all as a kind of soundtrack, the distant tingling jingle of our lives.

And now here’s our girl, as alive-seeming today as she sounded and looked when she recorded this on the Dick Cavett Show so long and long ago.