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.


kookaburra said...

What a bizarre clash of weather systems on your birthday. Try again for the peaceful dinner tomorrow, perhaps.

Literary Magpie said...

After paging through Mastering the Art of French Cooking again this weekend, butter does seem to be the secret ingredient: in sauces, glazing vegetables, finishing eggs and soups...

I hope the rest of your week is more peaceful.

David@Montreal said...

Belated birthday wishes for a memorable year Mark.


Peter said...

Happy birthday Mark.
And many more.

skellybean said...

I heard a funny story about Whitman's tomb from Daniel B. Ford who's a Whitman impersonator. He was hired as part of a tour of the tomb and was supposed to come out and give his schpeal. While he waited he took a nap on the actual tomb inside the vault. A lady wandered away from the tour and found him lying there asleep looking exactly like Whitman (dead). She screamed and woke him up and he screamed and the rest of the tour came running. He thought Whitman would've found this funny.

Melissa Barrett-Traister said...

Hello Mark:
Sorry that this is a few days late,but HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!
I wish you a wonderful new year in the world that you write so well of.
As for the unexpected events of the day,I hope that turns around rather quickly.

Have a great week.

Bill Matthews said...

Oh Gosh, belated Happy Birthday, and your luck with odd, rude neighbors doesn't seem to have changed with the move away from FIP!!! Sounds like a scary situation. Oh and an early welcome to RU. I'm on or passing thru campus often, still connected in many ways. Once you get settled I'll stop by and say hello. Oh yeah and avoid the resturants. on Easton ave, except for Edo, the Japanese place serves a terrific box lunch. Head up to the end of George st for decent Indian, Viet, Mex and even a good (but expensive )Afganhi place. Use the gym at the corner of easton and Hamilton NOT the cramped dark basement space in the lower level of the Colleg Ave gym---though there is a pool there. Be well, write well, and enjoy!

Paul Lisicky said...

You didn't say that your intervention--or presence, at least--probably prevented the altercation from going any further.

Also, it should be pointed out that most of our new neighbors couldn't be lovelier.

Mark Doty said...

Oh, it's true, I feel more at home here after just this summer than I ever felt in the Pines; the neighbors are considerate and pleasant, and we already know a growing network of writers, artists, gardeners, environmentalists, booksellers, and all-round good souls.

listener said...

. .♥ . ♥ . ♥ .♥ .♥ . ♥ . ♥ .♥. ♥. .♥ .♥ .♥
. ||.||.||.||.||.||.||.||.||.||.||.||
.~~~~~~~~~~~♥ H A P P Y ♥~~~~~~~~~~~~
.~~~~~~~~~♥ B I R T H D A Y ♥~~~~~~~~~
.~~~~~~~~♥ B E L A T E D L Y ♥~~~~~~~~~
.~~~~~~~~~~~♥ M A R K ! ♥~~~~~~~~~~~~

Enjoyed hearing you read and speak last Summer at beautifully restored Goddard.
Just finished reading Dog Years ~ laughed and cried and felt sea spray on my face.
Cannot bear to wait any longer for your book to come out:
{{ { Art of Description } }}

I'll celebrate #54 on Sept 10th. :)

Take care...all Gentlenesses upon you for the year ahead!
~ June Schulte, Goddard '93

Carmenisacat said...

That is called, mjaddra...the lentils and yes, they can be the best thing in the world.