After the fire. I went through some kind of fierce existential cleanse. I guess standing there on the street, watching the 6th floor go up in smoke, was a strange gift. I had my guitar, my two laptops that have EVERYTHING I cherish on them, my camera, and suddenly I got a little dose of "wait a minute" I have everything I could ever possibly need. There was my husband walking down the street toward me, there was my livelihood at my feet.
Life WAS good. I got busy, the most major spring clean ever, of course along with professional fire cleaning crews. Every wall, every ceiling, every everything got the once over.I gave away every possession I could think of that I didn't ever need to see again. I washed my most beloved things by hand. The rest went to the dry cleaners...I scheduled the doctor's appointments I've been putting off, got my estate (ha, that sounds grand, but I promise it isn't) in order, tied up every loose end I could find....
And then, I snuck away to Paris to work. Same theory. guitar, laptop, camera. What else did I need? But Wow. Cleaning house lets in the good stuff.
my fave spot
It's very intense getting back to "real life." So much still coming to the surface about my time with my mother. I wrote a little guest blog post to celebrate the premier of a film about Alzheimer's told exclusively from the perspective of the Patient! Wow. Check this out: You're Looking at me Like I Live Here and I Don'
And finally, a moment for Adrienne Rich. She inspired me so deeply. My mother and I shared her books back and forth over the years. I happened to have brought just this one poem with me to Paris, tucked in to my notebook at the last minute. Strange that.
It will not be simple, it will not be long
it will take little time, it will take all your thought
it will take all your heart, it will take all your breath
it will be short, it will not be simple
it will touch through your ribs, it will take all your heart
it will not be long, it will occupy your thought
as a city is occupied, as a bed is occupied
it will take all your flesh, it will not be simple
You are coming into us who cannot withstand you
you are coming into us who never wanted to withstand you
you are taking parts of us into places never planned
you are going far away with pieces of our loves
it will be short, it will take all your breath
it will not be simple, it will become your will
Adrienne Rich 1991
It is the end of an era I suppose. Today we officially subleased "Stoney's Room."
The Stoney Museum is gone,
her doggums are bereft.
We ceremoniously photographed the last of the cream of wheat...
(Julie, as mom would say "best beloved" angel.)
We really did sing the Cream of Wheat Jingle every day. Everyone who worked with Stoney learned it. That and "How Much is that Doggie in the Window." It kept us all in good spirits. Music and poetry were such connectors for my mother.
Come to the Rubin Museum tomorrow and be part of the conversation I am having with Dr. Gayatri Devi about dementia. She is the reason I even had the courage to care for mom at home. And she walked and talked me through many rough stretches. This will be unscripted. I will bring my guitar, and the melodies and stories that my mother and I shared through this last trek.
Hope to see you there.
The aftermath of fire is WAY more complicated than I knew. There is smoke damage everywhere, as we were right above the mess, and the wind carries everything from below right into our windows. It didn't help that the firemen barged into our apartment during the drama and opened all our windows.
We've had a massive team of restoration cleaners in the apartment all day every day since Thursday. Yup, including Saturday and Sunday. they've done an awesome job. In fact, the place has never been cleaner. Every inch of ceiling, wall, every object, every drawer, every surface has had a thorough once over. All our clothes went to dry cleaning, except for the 25 loads of laundry and a gazillion sweaters that i washed by hand. I guess it's a good excuse for the most major spring cleaning I've ever undertaken.
There has also been some exciting and dramatic intrigue around the fire. Let's just say the lady who's aparment went up in flames... has been waaaaaay less than cooperative. She has actually been yelling regularly at, oh, pretty much everyone who is in the business of trying to help. No one seems unscathed. The selfless doormen who risked their lives, the super (loveliest guy ever) the head of the board, the fire crew, the insurance people, I imagine she even gave the fire marshal hell. It's gone as far as her going after people physically and making abusive phone calls at 1 in the morning.
I am sure there is a very good story here, and I can't wait to get the rest of it. I just think, that if I had been at the root of that much damage and fear, I would be grateful for the help. I think I might even write thank you/sorry notes with wishes and hopes that everyone was doing ok, slipped them under all the doors. But no.
And so, today is the first somewhat-back-to-normal day. It's breathable here, everything is back in place. It's gorgeous outside. Life is still good. At first, in the conversations that I've been holding (out loud of course) with myself/my mother, I kept joking, "Hey Ma, it's me. That crazy stuff that last week of January, the wings on the terrace, and now the fire? Pretty bold stuff! Trial, ashes, wings, AND fire - I get it."
But now, it's "Ok Ma, let's have it calm for a little bit. All is well." It's what I would tell her when the moods were particularly despondent, and she was cycling. "All is well. I'm right here."
Caroline McHugh of "Never Not a Lovely Moon" (did you get yours yet?) sent a couple pix from the book celebration. (night of fire)
The incredible mirror where you see yourself as you really are seen. At first you look all crooked, but then you settle right in to your real self.
I guess it's not that I'm that superstitious, I don't REALLY think mom somehow sent those wings, or started that fire. I just like talking to her. She loved a good story. She loved when I would walk in and say "Hi Ma" in the particular way that I do. "Oh, I'm sooo glad you're here," she'd sigh.
And the moral of the story: All is well.
I kept hearing this annoying beep beep beep. I walked all over the apartment, it got louder in my room, fainter in the hall. Then I noticed the smoke pouring out of the windows right below mine. It wasn't just the guy on the corner roasting chestnuts.
"Holy shit, ROLLY! 6 is on fire!" I called the lobby.
I mean, it really was a lot of smoke. I grabbed my guitar (I had a wee gig singing a couple of songs for my incredible charismatic Caroline McHugh for her book release of"Never Not a Lovely Moon") I thought, ok, worst case, at least the show will go on...I grabbed my camera and laptop, and ran down the seven flights.
There had to be fifty full on firefighters there. 6 trucks, axes, two ambulances just in case.... (no one was hurt)
That has to be a lonely, adrenaline-laced climb. Who knows what you will find when you start smashing in the windows. I think the heat was so intense on the inside they had to blow out the windows first before the guys in the building would be safe breaking the door down and hosing.
I stood on the street, scraggly, but with my beloved Olson guitar. A crowd was gathering. People were phoning it in, texting friends. The guy next to me admired my beat up guitar case. His 5 year old son seemed unimpressed. Then he said, "I think I've heard you sing." I thought, that's impossible, you don't know who I am, and I'm wearing a dumb hat. He said, "Don't you sing that song about 'crumbs?' or 'crumbs' is somewhere in the song?"
Wow! What are the odds? One more reminder, as my husband always points out, music really does travel far and light. You never know who's listening.
I hadn't thought about the things that might imminently go up in smoke. I felt incredibly lucky, I had everything I needed right there. What a lesson.
I was able to get back into the apartment in time to grab nicer clothes, (ok, I kinda snuck past the clumps of hunky firemen) run down again and make it to Caroline's gorgeous party. And what a gorgeous party.
Of course the moon put on quite a show.
Get her beautiful book.