On The Waterfront has always been one of my favorite movies, making the desert island list every time. Sadly, it was all I could think about while reading Bruce Jackson’s recent article. As long as the code of “D&D”, continues, and as long as people remain silent and vote with their feet rather than take on the issues, these problems will not go away. C’mon guys, we can do better than this.
What I am eating: I heard about Dinosaur Bar-B-Que from an Albany lawyer and depositions in Rochester yesterday finally gave me a chance to try it out. It’s not Kentucky Greg’s but definitely worth the trip. Okay, Rochester is probably still the only place in the world with multiple radio stations that play nothing but Brandy, You’re a Fine Girl but now, there is something besides Dan Miller in its favor.
What I am thinking: March 13 and still snowing. Hard. A recent pull-apart-the-entire-house search yielded a forgotten treasure—a box of letters from college friends. With the increasingly immanent departure of the First Born for Smith, my head has been filled with thoughts of my own college experience. Many of these thoughts have been intellectual--the wonderful professors, classes taken, challenges met. Rereading the letters last night put my heart there as well.
One of the po-ta-toe/po-tah-toe things in our house has been the correct approach to sickness. I don’t mean serious illness, more along the lines of the flu. I well remember Bill’s approach to being sick when we first met. In essence, the attitude was that any illness is essentially a moral failing. Never admit that you are sick. If you become so sick that you can no longer stand up, instantly retreat into your room, bar the door, never admit that you are sick and never come out until you are well. Then, if asked where you have been for the past few days, make up a story about aliens. This, so he claimed, was how sick people should behave.
My approach, bred entirely of growing up in my parents’ house, was quite different. When my siblings and I were sick as children, my Mother would plump up the pillows, lay cold compresses on our fevered brows, bring us iced juices and hot soup. Being sick was almost akin to being an aging starlet—fragile and fondly indulged as we prepared for our close-up, Mr. DeMille. Clearly, this privilege was not to be abused and you had better darn well be objectively, verifiably sick but, that hurdle having been overcome, you were entitled to every effort to ease your discomfiture.
Upon our marriage, this clash of cultures was bound to create, shall we say, a bit of strife. As a newlywed, I fully expected this same royal treatment from my husband when I had the sniffles. In all fairness, I was fully prepared and willing to deliver these services to him in his hour of need. It never quite turned out that way. Get a load of this--when he is sick, he wants to be left alone! No compresses, no soup. Sheesh! And what is worse—I don’t get any either. Of course, through the years, people do learn to make concessions. Bill’s concession is that he will now, when truly, really, undeniably sick, signal this fact to us. No words will be uttered, but the sick hat will mysteriously and ominously appear.
The sick hat is truly hideous. A freebie from the beer distributor we frequented [as in frequently] in Brooklyn back in the 80’s, the sick hat is a white terry cloth pork pie monstrosity with red letters that used to say “Drink Rheingold!” or some such nonsense. Alas the years have not been kind to the sick hat. Okay, I admit it. I may be partly to blame. I hate that hat. Ugly does not begin to describe it. I have thrown it away more times than I can count and yet it resurfaces, uglier and more worn than ever. Picture Banquo’s Ghost in shrunken, torn and misshapen cabana wear. The appearance of he sick hat is useful, though. Since we can’t rely on Lassie to tell us these things, and since our cat stubbornly refuses to assume this role, I guess we are stuck with this option.
As long as he is wearing it, Bill is telling us that us mere mortals would call his condition “sick.” We are to leave him alone, not to ask how he feels, not bring juice and not speak of this condition to anyone. Ever. When the sick hat comes off, it is a sign akin to white smoke rising from the Vatican. Then, and only then, may we acknowledge recovery by bringing gifts of Twinkies and Saranac. Don’t tell but that is actually our way of exorcising the hat from our midst. Don’t knock it, it works.
Although there are those who agree with Eliot that “April is the cruelest month”, these are people who have never been in Buffalo in March. By March, four months of freakishly cold temperatures have finally beaten us into submission. Like the sleep deprivation methods used by cults, unrelenting cold takes its toll. A normally cheerful, dare I say perky, friend leaned across the table the other day over lunch, affect flat, eyes twitching slightly, and pronounced “It will be like this forever. It will never be warm again.” March wants us to believe that and many do. Walking to my office the other day, I looked, really looked at the people on the street and realized that they have given up. The cold is palapable and omnipresent, like an occupying force. The citizenry has been bullied into submission. We know spring is coming because you can no longer purchase hats, gloves, scarves, boots, to replace the ones that have been inevitably lost. No, the thermometer reads 6 but the stores only stock bathing suits and resort wear. That is why normally well dressed people and even those usually fashionably dressed people now walk the streets wearing Buffalo-Bills-give-away-day knit caps pulled low, coats hemmed in dried road salt like a fringe of lace, one fluorescent green mitten and one blue ski glove and a glazed expression.
But herein hangs a tale of hope and redemption. My standard issue black leather gloves have been through a lot this winter. They have been left in restaurants and theaters, unknowingly dropped in the slush to be driven over and then encased in the frozen tableau of tire tracks in front of my house, rendered hard and stiff from salt after endless windshield scraping. Each time, I would pick them up, dry them off, desalt and shove them back in my pocket. Then yesterday the unthinkable happened. I lost one. The day a balmy 8 degrees Fahrenheit, I was unwilling to leave the house bare-handed. Suddenly I remembered that, in 1998, I had purchased a pair of fabulous, and I mean fabulous, red suede, ¾ length gloves. Tags intact, the gloves sat in my drawer lo these many years waiting for a special event of unknown character that would demand their use. There they were, just where I had left them, like an Easter egg, brightly colored, waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. Guiltily, I pulled them out and put them on. I fleetingly cringed at the thought of their inevitably getting salt stained and worn but this was great. Dazzled by their brightness like one who has looked directly at the sun, the red suede left me dizzy, bold. The red of the first tulips, the red of M&Ms, of ribbons on spring dresses! I had seen the power of light. Okay, 99% of my clothes are still black but my gloves are red and my heart is light. March tried its best but I now truly believe that spring will truly come.