The two fish pictured above, whether staged for sale, or captured in their final moments, gills packed, mouths agape in a gasp for “air,” moved me with its perceived spirit of, “Don’t give up!”
I’m drawn to fish faces, whether viewed in tanks, or when snorkeling and swimming with them. There’s something in their eyes. Perhaps because they are always open.
When my kids were little, we had a goldfish, named Cootie, which had a nice big tank all to himself. (We decided it was a he.) We loved him. He would swim to the edge of the tank and nostril-up to the glass whenever we were in the room, and stay there. I assumed he was happy as a clam, because he was always smiling. And he lived so long, that he grew to be the size of a carp. When he died, we buried him in the back yard.
There are barrels of studies that suggest a connection between fish and people, including:
And especially fascinating:
So, let’s give a Friday salute to the two fish out of water above, which were undoubtedly sold, then eaten. Let’s, instead, weigh them on the scale of our homogeneity of the human kind.
One morning I brought my camera with me as I walked crosstown. It was about 7:20, and the sun played havoc with the shaded facade of this building on 22nd Street. The black spikes in the iron fence are vertical, the white floor of the fire escape is horizontal, the windows are on a diagonal. The photo is a carousel of movement. But the close-up changed the mood. The photo is no longer about sharp edges and frantic energy.
I spotted these pipes above a parking garage on 20th Street. They are so organically woven, they seem to be channeling Fernand Leger.
These standpipes made me think of Egyptian dancers – heads to the left; bodies facing front.
I came back to where I started, felled again by the dance of sunlight against a building on 20th Street.
Julie’s post yesterday about growing up in Asbury in the 1960s and 1970s – the cards on beach, pinball on the boardwalk, and the Palace carousel with gold rings, was spot-on. I did the same things. Except I did them barefoot. I am a barefoot girl – have been so for as long as I can remember. To me, to have heels and toes mining the outside with nothing but skin on earth is one of the rudimentary pleasures of being human. It’s visceral. Let my skin feel the dirt, the grass – even the man-made earthy delights like pavement, concrete, wood, and floor. It feels boundless, worldly, and borders on the sensual. The blitheness of it all tickles my toes, then sings its way up. I feel real, healthy, alive; sure-footed.
When I was in my early teens, I would ride my bike to the beach in the summer (I was at least a mile farther away than most of my friends), barefoot. My mother used to worry about my exposed, pedaling feet against the street, the spokes, the chain. (Not an iota of concern for my bare head.) I could have potentially been out for 12 hours sans shoes. I’d go from beach to boards. From scorched soles to splintered toes. I would walk into snack bars, pinball arcades, (bathrooms!); ride the merry-go-round with bare legs and feet splayed out perpendicular to the horse. And then I’d ride my bike home. Sometimes in the dark. I think all of this is against the law today.
I still refuse to put sandals on when walking on a beach with hot-as-red-coals sand. “Suck it up!” I’d advise my kids, when they were younger, and would scream, then run towards the water.
“Pishaw!” I say to people who warn me, still today, that I shouldn’t walk across that parking lot that is rife with broken glass and rusty nails.
Even the gazillions of now-dead cicadas that own the outside of my house haven’t caused a cover-up. I just tiptoe more.
The love of going bare-footed could be a growing-up-in-the-sixties-on-the-beach thing. I sometimes feel, though, as if I’m part of a small group. I notice most of my friends and family shun it, and shoe-up. Even inside.
If there is a down side to 50-plus years of exposed feet (I never, ever wear shoes inside my house), it’s foot-bottoms as hard as pigskin, a bevy of broken, sprained, and twisted toes from years of tripping over door jams, and banging into walls without protection. I’ve inadvertently stepped on slugs, a dead squirrel; been punctured by rocks, stung by bees; slipped into a head-cracking fall on mud; sliced off toenails on steps.
But, I’m a lifer. Even come winter, there are no socks between my feet and boots or shoes. Though I may no longer ride a bike barefoot, I take my shoes off when I drive.
So, I stand by my bare feet. Forever. Yes, bury me with my boots off.
For me, the coming of summer triggers walks down lanes dotted with memories; picture postcards of the past.
I step back to the summer of 1970. Endless days spent sitting on the beach with friends, and hanging out in the snack bar at Loch Arbor Beach listening to, “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday,” playing Hearts or Spades. Nights that began with a walk from the Casino, at one end of the boardwalk in Asbury, and ended with pinball at Convention Hall, at the other end, until one of our parents would arrive to take us home.
And even earlier than that, I remember bike rides to Allenhurst Pharmacy for hot fudge sundaes, and trips to the Palace to ride the bumper cars, the ferris wheel and the carousel. I would try to grab the gold ring as the horses spun up and down and round and round. Way before the riots took down Asbury Park, the Palace, which was Tillie’s home before the Wonder Bar saved her, was an extravagant indoor amusement park.
And earlier than that, it was about catching fireflies. An empty jelly jar in hand, I was out for the hunt.
Flash 50 years forward – I never see fireflies anywhere; the Allenhurst Pharmacy gave way to a dress shop 30 years ago. But the Casino has been rebuilt from a battered shell, and Convention Hall continues to shine forever true.
And, of course some things refuse to change. Summer weekends I am sitting on Allehurst beach, albeit no longer playing cards, but still hanging with my card-partners from way back then.
Bathroom graffiti was an art form in the ’70s, and nowhere was it more varied and interesting than in the men’s rooms at Rutgers University. Of course, there were the crude illustrations of exaggerated phalluses, assorted orifices, and the two, conjoined, drawn with varying degrees of skill. But it was the wordplay that got me. I recall a wry trilogy of quotes:
“To be is to do.” Socrates
“To do is to be.” Sartre
“Do be do be do.” Sinatra
Today, online, they sell t-shirts that display those quotes.
Or a couplet, beginning with this plaintive cry in a looping, extravagant script: “My mother made me a homosexual!”
To which some wag replied: “Cool. If I send her the wool, do you think she’ll make me one too?”
There were also pithy declarations: “Patty Schasty does the nasty.”
Which could be viewed as a slur. or an endorsement, depending on your point of view. Ms. Schasty’s purported phone number accompanied the post, but I didn’t take it down. I wonder if anyone ever calls those numbers? It’s like a country song about loneliness – your phone number’s on the bathroom wall but you still can’t get a date.
Once I saw a listing of 40 slang terms for female genitalia, all in different handwriting. They ranged from disgustingly misogynistic to poetic, and after a week had spawned a companion list, equally extensive, covering the male organ. Puerile? Absolutely. But fascinating, too, to see how much mental energy people expend on the subject.
One incident was particularly disturbing. I was in the basement bathroom of the main library one afternoon, using the facilities and enjoying the artwork on the stall wall. To my right, above the roll of toilet paper, was the notation, “Right here Wednesday 4 p.m. good time had by all!” As I toyed with whether that was a historical note or an invitation to a future meeting, someone noisily entered the adjacent stall. I realized with a jolt that this was Wednesday. I checked my watch – 3:55.
As my new neighbor went about the usual business, I wondered: is this anyone’s idea of a romantic setting? I made ready to exit, but as I hastily pawed at the roll of paper I hit the separating wall twice, making noises that a hopeful suitor might easily interpret as an eager knock. My heart sank – there seemed to be a corresponding rush to paper on the other side.
I quickly exited the stall, strode to the sink with eyes downcast, and began washing my hands. The occupant of the adjacent stall appeared alongside me, and began to do the same. I considered furtively glancing to my right to see if he was checking me out but realized that if he were, and if he saw me do that, wouldn’t he think I was checking him out? Is that the drill? Furtive glance followed by knowing wink followed by an invitation to my stall or yours? Yikes!
Luckily, he finished washing his hands, and simply walked out, clearly not seeking a rendezvous. I left quickly too, afraid the true author of the scrawled invitation might show up slightly late, searching for love. I had washed my hands thoroughly, but I still felt slightly soiled.
Tracey Emin emerged on the art scene about 20 years ago. She became renowned for her 1995 installation work of a tent embroidered with the names of the 102 people she “slept” with, as well as other installations, such as her bed in its unedited glory surrounded by totems of her life in her 20s. To me, “My Bed” represents the chaotic frenzy, boundaryless partying, and hormonal passion that drives us when we are young. But the artist that was identified as one of the Young British Artists is turning 50. She was recently interviewed in The New York Times, and in response to a question about 50 being the new 30 she said:
Who’s saying that? When you’re 20 or 30, looking ahead, you see these benchmarks for relationships, career, ambition, sexuality, and they went off into infinity. When you get to 50, you look at what’s ahead of you, and there’s an end. It goes into a nothingness; a void.
This struck me as a somewhat dark, but fairly accurate observation of what hits the psyche at some point during one’s 50s; another of the “crossing the rubicon” thoughts that hover about as we transition from being “young” to the next stage. So, the bed – once a repository of day/night revelry now plays a primarily functional role. Let there be a full night’s sleep.
I’ve always found that June is the prime golf month in the New York area. In May, courses are still not done recovering from the winter. In July, the grass begins to burn out, and the tees and greens begin to show the wear and tear of hordes of weekend golfers.
I grew up with golf. In fact, I spent every summer from when I was 14 until I was 22 caddying at a New Jersey country club. I was never a good golfer, but I enjoyed caddying. You got to accompany people out having a good time. I can assure you it beats the hell out of accompanying them to court as I did later in life as a lawyer. Sure, the work was sometimes hard when the mercury hit 90, and the golf bags you were carrying were the size of a Buick, but you really can’t beat a job where you are paid for essentially taking a walk in the country.
Caddies came in two varieties – the schoolboys and the adults. The adult caddies, many of whom were on the right side of 50, ranged from family men who caddied on their days off, to winos who often tried to win enough at the caddyshack card game so they didn’t have to walk the course at all. More often than not, we would see these guys out on the course in late afternoon sun struggling to climb the 14th hole.
Golf carts have been around for decades, and they were in full use back when I was caddying. But the country club where I worked had a rule that was typical of the time – they required members to hire a caddy, even if they rented a cart. The caddy would just carry putters, advise the golfer on distances, and keep track of hit golf balls. This bit of featherbedding had the salutary effect of providing many jobs, not just for teens, but also for men who caddied to supplement their incomes. Notice I say “men,” because women, even if they could physically handle the job (and many could), would not be hired as caddies at most country clubs back then.
In addition to not hiring women caddies, back in the “Mad Men” days, many country clubs also restricted when women could play golf. The club would usually designate one or two days a week as ladies days. Women could also play on Sunday afternoons, but only if they were accompanied by their husbands. So there were large periods of time when only men were on the course. And of course, all the caddies were male. The members justified this segregation by saying that they wanted to be able to swear without having to worry about offending ladies. The thing was, when we caddied for women, they used just as much foul language when they missed a shot. I think the real reason why men wanted to play without women was because they seemed to take perverse pleasure in unzipping their fly and relieving themselves anywhere along the course. As a caddy, it was my job sometimes to act as lookout and a shield for a shy golfer who didn’t want to be seen heeding the call of nature.
But there was an art to being a good caddy. You had to be out of sight until just the moment when the golfer needed you. You had to offer encouragement after a bad shot. You had to share, with the golfer, your expert knowledge of the course you walked every day. And like all personal service jobs, you had to do it with a smile, even when the golfer cursed you out because a club clattered while he was putting.
After my caddying days ended, I lost touch with golf. Perhaps one of the joys of retirement one day may be to rediscover the game. But certainly at this time of year, when I smell dew-covered grass on a summer morning, I think back to my youthful days on the links.
Lois and I launched this blog on November 19, 2012. I was recovering from hip replacement surgery. Our goal was to see if we could keep it up for a month. We did not want unnecessary burdens on our shoulders.
As Lois said: “As long as we’re having fun. When it’s no longer fun, we’ll stop.”
Seven months later: We are still having fun.
So, my seven-month anniversary toast is devoted to the perfect partnership. I am a deep-brow worrier; Lois waltzes through the thunder. Better yet, she never gets tired of telling me that I do not need to worry. The water in my glass is usually a little below the halfway line; hers is flowing over the top. But we manage to crack up over the same things.
So, here’s to you, my friend!