20 January 2008...4:31 pm

I Sat With You And We Took Turns Guessing

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I spent Friday and Saturday nights at parties in Brooklyn with people who I hadn’t known very well before. All I know about them now is that they each have more than one t-shirt and will put R. Kelly on the playlist if ordered to do so. The chemistry is obviously great.

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Fleetwood Mac_Love In Store.mp3

Lily, Krista and I slept in Park Slope on Friday; when I got home on Saturday morning I went straight back to bed. As I was taking off my party clothes some pieces of paper fell out of my pocket and I said Oh man, Collette, there are so many phone numbers in my pants! I was immediately mortified, and Collette immediately started cracking up.

On our fridge there is a photograph of her, Spencer and I riding the Cyclone this summer before we saw Daft Punk. They look very scared, and I am sitting behind them, serenely smiling like a queen on her fear throne. It is a great picture, and Collette augmented it with a speech bubble that comes from my mouth and says There are so many phone numbers in my pants!

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Fleetwood Mac_What Makes You Think You’re The One.mp3

One of the phone numbers isn’t a number at all, but this note on graph paper that says: I’m sorry. You. Are Lovely. Was that written by a person who had decided I was lovely and pitied me for it? I know who gave it to me, and even though I am a generally argumentative and obnoxious person, there hadn’t been any specific altercation for which he might have needed to apologize. Maybe he felt bad that I was about to go sleep with Krista in our friend’s basement, maybe also he can see the future.

It’s okay. Lovely is a nice word! And graph paper is the right kind of paper.

In other news, I’m a total pirate these days; the David Lehman poem below was originally published in the Fall 2007 issue of the Paris Review. I don’t like it all that much; it is self-conscious, watered-down Leonard Michaels. In his story “In the Fifties” Michaels writes:

I was a teaching assistant in two English departments. I graded thousands of freshman themes. One began like this: “Karl Marx, for that was his name…” Another began like this: “In Jonathan Swift’s famous letter to the Pope…” I wrote edifying comments in the margins. Later I began to scribble “Awkward” beside everything, even spelling errors.

Read the rest of the story here; it only gets better, and less succinct.

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Fleetwood Mac_Second Hand News.mp3

Honestly, I wanted to post the David Lehman poem so I could hyperlink it; it’s full of proper nouns. I was also intrigued by the fact that the poet himself teaches a freshman honors class at NYU. Maybe he was the professor who took Hannah out to a bar in the middle of the afternoon? No slander intended, Dave, I’m sure you’re a stand-up guy. It just seems like maybe in 1971, you weren’t.

Paris, 1971
by David Lehman

In retrospect it was romantic to be the lonely American recovering from pneumonia, living in a hotel room with a typewriter and a sink in a Left Bank hotel in a gray Paris winter.

At the time I was constantly cold, it rained seven days a week, my feet were wet, I was awkward with girls and wanted sex so badly I couldn’t sleep at night, in London.

In retrospect I was neither Alyosha nor Ivan, nor Orwell in Spain or Hemingway on a fishing trip or Henry Miller in Clichy.

At the time I saw The Wild Bunch, Sergio Leone’s Duck, You Sucker, The Go-Between, Sunday, Bloody Sunday, and Woodstock.

In retrospect the gloom of the deserted streets and the sound of footfalls were full of strangeness in medieval Cambridge.

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At the time I became self-conscious about my American accent. I began pronouncing the t’s in words like city or university, and I said to-mah-to at the greengrocer’s.

In retrospect I spent more money than my friends did at restaurants like the Koh-I-Noor, the Gardenia on Rose Cresent, and the Rembrandt. Then I learned to cook.

At the time I went to London for the weekend. There was a new place called the Great American Disaster that specialized in hamburgers. I saw John Gielgud in a matinée.

In retrospect I met a Swedish woman named Eva, blond and beautiful, and the sex was great but we had nothing to talk about and I grew melancholy in the Scandinavian manner.

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At the time I moved to an apartment near the Rue d-Ecoles with a dandy who had a magnificent cane and liked walking with me to Montparnasse where a couple of Chaplin films were showing.

In retrospect I read “Le Cimetiére marin” by Paul Valéry.

At the time I was a naive American in a trench coat and fedora trying to make ends meet in Berlin in the waning days of the Weimar Republic.

In retrospect Beckett and Lorca.

At the time Stravinsky and Frank Zappa.

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In retrospect Otto Dix, André Derain, and the Ballets Suédois.

At the time the POMPES FUNEBRES sign between Saint Suplice and Saint Placide.

In retrospect we spent hours in the Rond-Point café playing Dipsy Doodle and other pinball machines made by the U.S. manufacturer Williams.

At the time steak tartare with capers and cornichons at Le Drugstore. I was sick for two days after.

In retrospect Le Dôme, La Rotunde, Le Select, La Couple, and the best of these was Le Dôme. At the time Nicole asked me to find out whether she could come to England to have an abortion. She was my friend, not my girlfriend. I wasn’t responsible.

In retrospect the English doctor have me as dirty a look as I’ve ever faced.

At the time of the Ali-Frazier fight at the Garden a smell like that of peaches wafted in the air, and spring was only weeks away.

In retrospect the Opéra, the Madeleine, the Sainte Chapelle, the Sacre Coeur, the Saint-Germain.

At the time the Jockey Club where Lew played piano and we cheered him on–Gail and I and Tim and maybe even Edna.

In retrospect I visited Paul Auster in a garret near the Louvre, which he got with the help of Jacques Dupin.

At the time I read Simenon in French and (on Auster’s recommendation) “The Real Life of Sebastian Knight.” He gave me a copy of his poem “Stele,” and Larry Joseph filched it.

In retrospect I began a poem entitled “Interrupted Messages” and left it on my desk. Jonathan Lear came by when I wasn’t in and wrote a note on the poem ending in the hope that he didn’t “sullied a vital piece of paper.” I liked “sullied.”

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At the time the blue airmail letter arrived on a Tuesday morning. The in-flight movie on the way home was Love Story. I didn’t see it. The off-duty flight attendant sitting next to me was enagged to be married to a minor-league shortstop from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

In retrospect I took French lessons at the Alliance Française and went with a Spanish girl to a movie with Jean Gabin and Simone Signoret as an old quarrelsome married couple.

At the time I watched the little kids sail their toy boats in the Jardin du Luxembourg.

In retrospect I was always alone.

At the time I sat with you in the Bois de Boulogne and we took turns guessing what was in each passerby’s mind.

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Buy Fleetwood Mac here, and David Lehman here.

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