My husband has been home for a couple of months. It’s always nice the first month when he’s home. We go out to dinner, we cook, we go to the movies, we watch TV, we see friends, and we have for a while, a semblance of a normal life like other people live. After that month however, well… I want some peace and quiet and not to relate during the day. I want my freaking house back. I want him to shut up!
Film people are always worried about the next job. I worry too. He doesn’t have to say it, it’s written all over him. What if no one hires me again? What if this is my last job? The same thing happens to me when I finish a project and I’m waiting to start another, will I ever write again? Will the powers that control such goings on betray me and condemn me to staring at the empty screen for the rest of my life? Since both of us have lived this way for nearly all of our marriage, doesn’t make the whole process any easier. We’ve done some version of this in New York, in Los Angeles, in East Hampton. Sometimes we’d land on one coast, when he’d get a call for an interview and turn around and be on the other coast within 10 hours of landing. The old canard about shoveling elephant shit and giving up show business is absolutely horribly true.
I believe this is one of the reasons why our son has extremely short hair, lots of beautifully tailored suits, eight zillion ties and became a republican because it was as far away as he could get from the film biz and freelance life as he knew it where one minute daddy was home. And one minute he was gone. It seems we were always standing in the street waving at the departing cab: “Is Daddy really gone again?”
Often I fantasize that I might have married some businessman with regular hours. Someone who didn’t like team sports, but had a reverence for the arts; someone like Rebecca West’s husband who financed all her forays into Eastern Europe empowering her to write Grey Falcon Black Lamb. Yes, in my fantasy, I’m married to some sterling character who wears a bespoke suit and leather shoes and loves and appreciates me for my intellect and creativity. And of course has eight zillion bucks.
No doubt my husband has his own version of this fantasy. And wishes for an arts loving lawyer or doctor who works away from home, yet manages to get a healthy dinner on the table while she’s not earning eight zillion bucks perhaps enough to finance a small art film and so forth.
If he doesn’t get a job soon, I’m going to lose it, I’ve been telling myself for about two weeks now. I’ve left notes in the doors of places where I used to rent office space. I’ve tried working in the library to get away from here. I’ve tried earplugs, white noise, I’ve tried everything.
But now as of half an hour ago, after much ringing of the cell phone and pacing up and down on the wood floor above me whilst talking on said cell phone, the house is quiet. It’s just Henry and me. After a couple of phone calls, and a loud banging shut of the front door, the Beemer drives out of the driveway and he’s gone faster than you can say, “The script’s kind of cute, not bad… I’ll text you….”
And now of course, I’m somewhat bereft. The house seems very quiet. Henry is looking around wondering, “Hey where’s the testosterone flinging ball throwing guy with the hair on his chest?”
Same old, same old?
What I’ll do for a day or two is mope around, then everything will start to pick up. And by the time I get used to no company, being on my own, not making dinner and so forth and so on, he’ll be back.
You cannot win if you are married to someone in the film biz.
I remember once years ago, going to the cutting room of the moment on a Saturday night with our young son, so he could see his dad and have a bite. There was a period of time when we were doing a lot of this on Saturday night and Sunday night too. The cutting room was in a whole complex of cutting rooms in some office building. Saturday night and room after room had a tired editor in a greenish black dingy room staring at a screen.
In the room next to my husband, a tired editor got up, stretched a little. Like all editors, he was wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a pair of sneakers. His T-shirt read, “Never Love An Editor.” And I’ve never forgotten that T-shirt.
But it was too late by then. And now it’s way way too late.
I love the editor. I’m glad he’s got a gig and now, I have no excuse for not getting my book done. I’m busted.
It was my birthday last week and my good friend L gave me a coupon for reflexology—so thoughtful as I once told her my idea of heaven is having someone work on my feet.
“And you can walk there,” she told me, something she also knows I love, to be able to walk where you are going in LA.
The New Age healing center where my appointment was scheduled is a place I’ve often passed. It’s a brutal looking two-story post war affair less than half a block from the freeway.
My reflexologist was late. I sat in the waiting room reading the magazine published each month by the center. I was deep into an article on “recognizing verbal abuse” when a tall man appeared in the doorway. I was bemused because I had all ten signs of having just been verbally abused by my husband that very morning—and I thought we had enjoyed a fairly mellow time. Obviously the writer of the article has a low opinion of the quotidian dialogue between long married members of the Hebrew race.
The tall man was wearing an Indian tan color gauzy shirt and a crystal around his neck. He bore more than a striking resemblance to two very different looking people: the unsettling Bill Cosby; and a good friend of ours, the reassuring John Axness, a very blond, Nordic type. Right away, the Cosby part worried me. While the Axness part reassured me. Here I was in an empty building on a Saturday afternoon with a complete stranger who looked like Bill Cosby. Yet, John Axness is the one of the nicest men I’ve ever met.
“How much water do you drink?” he asked.
“Not enough,” I replied, which is entirely true.
“Here, before we start our work, it’s good to hydrate. I’ll go get you a cup of water.”
“No,” I insisted trying to hide my nervousness! “I just had a big drink, I forgot!”
I smiled. C/A nodded. Then he did this really weird thing, he closed his eyes and did, a New Age version of an Orthodox Jew daven-ing, rocking back and forth. With his own addition, a fluttering of the eyelids. I didn’t ask if he was praying over me, I just sat there and watched him.
“Take off your shoes. I start with the hands first. Then I move to the feet.”
I took off my shoes, he motioned to the table. At least I didn’t drink the water, I thought.
I lay down and C/A took my right hand. This went on for a while, and part of me was just getting into it. But part of me, I have to admit was on guard.
When he got to the feet, I began to remember a voodoo book I had purchased in New Orleans when I was nine years old. The voodoo Queen binds one set of healthy feet to another set of corpse feet. The blood of the living miraculously rouses the dead back from the underworld. The real question was: if C not A was working on my feet could he do mischief with them?
In spite of all my misgivings. I began to relax. Sort of. It’s hard not to feel good when an experienced practitioner is working on your feet.
I kept nodding off. I dreamed for a minute or two, an anxiety dream I will spare gentle readers.
I was awakened by the sound of a phone on silent mode. This went on for more than a minute. I started counting muted buzzes.
C/A dropped my foot and whispered into the phone, “I can’t talk, I’m in session.” He listened. He told whoever it was, “I can’t talk. I’m in session. You can’t call me when I’m in session.” He didn’t sound at all happy. I thought of the ten signs of verbal abuse. He wasn’t abusing whoever it was on the other end. He didn’t like that person calling. He was pissed. But he was “holding his mud” as they say. I took that as a good sign.
I closed my eyes. When I opened them, he was daven-ing over my body. Bowing, eyes fluttering. And then, all at once, it was over. I was putting on my socks, tying up my running shoes, and C/A was telling me, “I accept gratuities.”
“Wonderful!” I declared, fished in my purse and looked for a ten and settled happily for a twenty. He wasn’t C. He wasn’t A. What he was happened to be a pretty damn good body- worker.
“Thank you so much!”
I ran out the door down the stairs of the empty creepy building and leaned against the door. It was locked.
Fuck. I thought. It’s like Jason in Friday the 13th. You think he’s dead, but he ain’t dead, he is risen and he’s going to kill you.
C/A was coming down the stairs.
“I forgot! The door is locked.”
And that was it. I ran out of there, under the freeway, past the homeless encampment, the new track for the metro, past Ralphs, heart pounding in my chest all the way home.
My heart is pounding still as I type this.
In a recent edition of the New York Review of Books, the following ad appeared in Marketplace:
FOR SALE: Saul Bellow’s Desk $10,000 Victorian mahogany roll top, leather writing surface, pigeonholes. Part of the furniture of his house, appears in book jacket photo. Details.
An email address with the last name of Bellow followed the ad. I answered it.
I was curious.
And the seller, whom I’m assuming is his son Daniel, wrote right back. At first I pretended to be interested. And in a way, if I had ten grand to blow in such a way, I would be. I’ve always wanted a roll top desk. Also, could talent rub off? I have read somewhere in a feng shui book that one should be careful when buying second hand furniture. The vibrational waves of the previous owner are contained in the intimate belongings. Obviously, we don’t if we can help it, ever wear other people’s underpants. But a chair, think of how much intimate contact a chair has had with its owner.
Unwashed encounters, I might add…
A desk too, has been facing the heart of the person who sits behind it. If I had to pick five major male writers of the last century, Bellow wouldn’t be on my list. Not even if the list were major Jewish male writers of the last century. But I did like him, and I did read Henderson the Rain King, Humboldt’s Gift and a few others and thought they were great. (He also translated I.B. Singer who is on the top of most of my little lists.)
Would I want to sit at Saul Bellow’s desk? Maybe, if it could rub off some of its confidence, some of its zest for life. For he was a zesty writer. A passionate writer. I like all that.
Why do you want to sell his desk? I emailed.
He wrote back, I need a new kiln. The writer of the email and the owner of the desk is a potter in Great Barrington, Mass. The desk was left to him in his father’s will. He told me that.
In my next email, I ratted myself out and said, I really couldn’t afford the desk, and also didn’t think the NYRB was a very good place to sell that desk.
After that I didn’t hear back.
I have on good account, if you pay enough, you can rent the Sistine Chapel for fifteen minutes or half an hour. I just did a search. And in fact, private viewings of the Sistine Chapel are on sale online. From $369.71 USD (per person), your group of 15 can have the Chapel. That makes the experience for a plutocrat and his/her date, at roughly half the price of owning the famous roll top owned by the Nobel Laureate for life!
Everything has a price, of course.
I applaud the heir of that desk for parting with a famous piece of memorabilia to buy something for himself.
For my own part, never having had an engagement ring or any diamonds to speak of, in the past few years, I’ve inherited two diamond rings in a short period of time. I wear one (with the larger diamond and the prettier setting) and keep the other one in my underwear drawer; afraid to have it reset for something I’d like a whole lot better, like a necklace or something. It belonged to my grandmother whom I loved, and who loved the ring.
Love, superstition, desire to be close to the owner of the relic? None of the above, all of the above?
Saturday I received my new edition of the New York Review of Books and the ad wasn’t repeated. So I guess I was wrong and the NYRB was a good place to sell the famous desk.
My ring is still in my underwear drawer, though I bought a bowl from the potter’s website for 99 bucks. Here’s a link to it: danielbellow.com. Talent obviously runs in the family.
I hope he gets his new kiln!