Monday, August 10, 2009
Fifty-six years on the face of the earth
My birthday, a steamy day, the hottest of the whole summer. I worked in the garden, picked up my taxes in East Hampton (extension, delay, etc.), bought a new sprinkler and an elaborate blue wand for watering, sprinkled and watered, worked on an essay about Whitman's tomb I've been pursuing and thought about his deep fascination with death -- it never dawned on me before that, for a soul with so few borders, restlessly pouring into everything, death must have seemed the deepest respite. If you're everyone and everywhere, what would you lack except being no one and no place? Then, presents from Paul: a cookbook from our local organic farm, a handsome new black and white plaid summer shirt, and a lavish gift certificate from a beautiful nursery in Bridgehampton. Ah! Then we were on the way to the beach when the oddest thing happened -- much shouting and commotion across the street, and I wound up stepping into an assault, one neighbor attacking another. I won't narrate the scene here, as it led to an arrest, and I guess we'll all wind up in court. But it was the strangest outbreak, in our peaceful neighborhood where it's so quiet that, if you walk outside at night, you can hear another neighbor's clock chime as if it were a cathedral. A long process: waiting, talking to the police, giving a statement, waiting some more, signing the statement, feeling shaken by this unexpected eruption. We never made it to the beach. We went out for my birthday dinner, where we had to work a bit to shake off the afternoon. But we were helped by a deftly run and quite delicious Mediterranean restaurant reviewed in the Times yesterday. I had bacalau with the most delicious lentils I've ever tasted. I asked the waiter what was in them; he said, butter sauce. I think there was a little more to it than that, but it remains one of the day's better mysteries.