he's leaving home

I’m writing his name in Sharpie on the towels he’s taking with him to college. When I first met Demetri I could have dried him with a washcloth, and today he’s packing the trunk of his 1994 Mercedes S-Class, grit still under his fingernails from getting it into tip-top shape, and preparing to drive it across the country. This country; the one that looks more formidable to me now, on the brink of having my oldest off on its roads, in its towns and cities, its red states and its blue states.

I helped him with his laundry, something I hadn’t done in years, and made sure he had a flashlight and some extra batteries and that his AAA membership was up to date. That’s all I can really do now; the rest he did himself, which is pretty much how it’s been the past few years. He’s big now.

I’m not sure yet how many ways I’ll miss Demetri. The house will be quieter; too quiet, probably. The piano will have no one who can really play it. The kitchen will be cleaner. I’ll miss his sense of humor. I’ll have to figure out how to use my camera. I will miss our night-owl conversations about life, cars, and balls of string. I’ll miss the King Tiny face.

When the kids were growing up there were lots of things that ended without us really knowing that they had. Yes, we celebrated when they were done with diapers and when they lost a first tooth, but we didn’t notice when they stopped making burglar alarms out of household items, when they stopped playing with Lego, and when they didn’t need us to get them juice any more. Had I known I would have savored the last time sitting in my lap. When they stopped saying things like, “If there were rioters, and they asked idiots, imps and scoundrels to help them riot, wouldn’t that be bad and very destructive?”

I’ve savored the last few months with Demetri, and now it’s coming down to the wire. The trunk is packed. Towels are there. Flashlight too. Now I’m just waiting for him to say, “Mommy, if there was a seismograph for how much I love you, for the rest of the time the earth was here, someone would have to keep changing the rolls.” Then I’ll lift him gently off my lap, pour him some juice and he’ll be off.



I wrote this in March.

I joined Facebook about a year ago. I have two teenaged children and I wanted to see what it was about. For a long time I stayed hidden under a pen name, until one person found me. Then another, and like a shampoo commercial from the seventies my “friends” list multiplied exponentially until I was soon “friends” with forty people, some barely acquaintances. Some had recently made guest appearances in my writing. A best friend from elementary school reminded me via my “wall” of a disgusting soda mix we used to drink. I had written of this concoction in my journal two months before.

It can get overwhelming at times, especially when people post photos of us as pre-adolescents, or unquiet teens, so young, so spirited, so na├»ve. Who knew then that Della would slit her wrists? That Natalie and Vicky would die of cancer, leaving young children to face monumental loss? How some of us would go to college, grad school, medical school, and become professionals while others floundered, never getting much traction. Are we all shocked to be on the cusp or over the edge of 50? We didn’t know then how much our teeth could hurt, how fat or farsighted we could become, or how dark could be the pain of losing a child.

I’m finding myself glad to be in the virtual presence of these kids. Yeah, for me they’re still kids, as am I. These are the barely-formed people who knew the barely-formed Monique, a perspective only they will ever have.

I’ll see some of them some time, I’m sure, during trips back home or to here or there. I’ll see them in their present adult forms, and hold up my mirror to see what is different and what is the same. What parts are essential to who we are, no matter the age and what parts change as we grow, wizen, age.

My assessment of Facebook, if anyone asks, is that sure, it’s great for today’s kids to network and share. But its real value is to those of us who have separated, and lost touch of our childhoods.



While driving recently with friends through Marin county we stopped in the little town of Point Reyes Station to walk around and find lunch to take with us to the beach. I became entranced by a rough knotty board, painted dark gray and nailed to the side of a building on the main street. It was a bulletin board, or was once. All that was left on it were small weathered corners of posters past, a profusion of rusty staples, and a couple of odd little drawings of faces or pieces of faces, painted onto thick rough-edged paper. It appeared that the board had been repainted, brushing right over a few posters.

This got me thinking about staples again. Staples in the context of history. What treasures have these staples held? What have they seen? What little piece of history, in the shape of a poster, has covered this small shard of steel, and that one? In my hometown of Woodstock, New York, there are telephone poles along the main drag rich with staples. According to wikipedia, “wood [utility] poles decay and have a life of approximately 25-50 years, depending on climate and soil conditions.”

I like to think the staples that held the posters advertising Paul Butterfield or Orleans; Johnny Average and Nicole, or Maria Muldour; or the post-Robertson Band playing at the Joyous Lake are still there, little tokens held close by the wood, part of a shiny and now rusty past.


i ramble

Last Saturday, after the movie and the party, just when I thought I was going back to Nina's for the night, she arranges for me to be swept up and taken to Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble, compliments of Mark and Karen. This just doesn't happen often enough in the woods of Massachusetts and I spend a little time adjusting back to “Woodstock legs.” The ones that keep you upright through the unpredictable.

Oddly, the guests for the evening were Chris and Lorin Rowan, who played with brother Peter many a night in the late 70s at Rancho Nicasio, the nightclub in Marin County that you may recall from my recent San Francisco post. What are the chances that 30 years later I’d walk into a barn on Plochman Lane in my hometown and find them playing? They still play often at Rancho Nicasio too.

Next up Levon. To zealous and loving applause he comes out and sits at the drums. He looks frail, and starch white, his dentures now too big for his throat cancer survivor thin face. But when he starts drumming it becomes clear that he is still the old master; always on time; eyes and smile communicating with fellow musicians; he is Levon. On doctor’s orders not to sing, he played his drums for us pa rum pum pum pum, and his mandolin too. His daughter Amy and a few guys in the band covered the vocals brilliantly for him.

Song highlights for me were a honky tonkish Simple Twist of Fate. It Makes No Difference, out no doubt to Ezra, brother of Amy, who died a week earlier, a suicide story as sad as any. And Cassandra Wilson, with her sweet deep jazz voice taking a few verses of The Weight. That song hasn’t sounded as good since the Staples got a hold of it.


woodstock. don't try to understand it.

Funny and interesting article, I thought.

“For young people the only career paths are law enforcement or lawn care,” said Peter Cantine, an owner of the Bear Cafe, a popular restaurant.
And restaurant work. Don't forget restaurant work.


i see stars

Yesterday was hot and sunny as I stood on line outside to see a film at the Tinker Street Cinema in Woodstock, movie house of my youth. I haven’t seen a movie here since I left in 1984. It’s the same and it’s different. I don’t remember the walls being red pleated cloth, but the tin ceiling with its peeling paint is the same, although the layer coming off is unlikely one I ever sat under.

I helped upholster those seats in the 60s, when Sy Kattleson transformed a small church into a cinema. I didn’t know then that it was an indy theater. I’m not sure that label had even been invented yet. Theaters were theaters, and they played movies, and that was that. I remember the seats being black vinyl, each of us children helping an adult by providing an extra set of albeit small hands to hold the vinyl in place while staples were popped through. The seats are cloth now. More comfortable and better looking. Upscale, even.

My brother worked there as a projectionist when he was a teen. He was one of those A.V. kids who could repair a break in no time and get the movie back on the screen before the audience got restless.

I saw a lot of people I recognized from growing up in Woodstock, but no one I really knew. Just vague faces from an out-of-focus past. The movie we watched was a special advance screening of Taking Woodstock, a film by Ang Lee and James Schamus based on the memoirs of Elliot Tiber. Lee and Schamus were there for a post-film Q+A, along with Michael Lang, brainchild of the festival, his face still as mellow and cherubic as it was 40 years ago. It was a sweet film, made sweeter by this cinema and this town and these people who have come to embrace their village bearing the name of, according to Mr. Lee, “the most important cultural event of the past 1,500 years.” It opens on August 28th. Go see it. It’s the feelgood movie of the year, nothing illicit required.


san francisco

I returned yesterday from visiting my friend Beth in San Francisco. I went with two other friends and we had a splendid, savvy-native tour. Good restaurants. Good parks. Good weather. Really good weather. Weather I would like to own. At the Ferry Plaza farmer’s market I ate peaches that made me think that perhaps there was a god. Illogically delicious peaches for a northeasterner who thought she understood them and is shocked to discover she didn’t. I could move there for the peaches, but that wouldn’t be the only thing. The strawberries were miraculous too.

We took a ride north one day, stopping at Rancho Nicasio, just off of the beautiful Lucas Valley Road, a nightclub/restaurant I worked at for a while during an interruption of my Woodstock years. I spent some months doing bookkeeping there, and house-sitting for the owners who were spending an extended visit with family back east. It looked pretty much the same, just cleaned up a bit. Thankfully the dingy dusty animal busts were still on the walls and the dark wood interior was intact. They removed the purple tie-dyed length of Christo’s Running Fence, a project completed in 1976 wherein he and Jeanne-Claude installed an 18 foot high, 24 and a half miles long curtain across the hills of Marin and Sonoma counties. It used to hang from the ceiling, billowing in the breeze of the fans. I wonder if the new owners knew what it was when they took it down, or if it was removed before they bought the place. I wonder where it is now, that 18 by 40 feet piece of cloth that had fleeting fame as part of a project that was deconstructed after 14 days and purportedly left no visible trace. I still think about it 33 years later.