PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
August 30, 1999
I have a day job, so I need to make it clear to anyone who comes here that the opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer, my family, or your great-aunt Mathilda. Offer not valid in Wisconsin. You must enter to win.
Table of Contents:
Please note: an extra-short PSACOT this week; I've been away for two weeks and have much to catch up on.
Marlow Goes Off To College
Marlow moved into her dormitory room --Hartley 8B9, on the campus of Columbia University in The City of New York (she is a first-year student at Columbia College) on Thursday, August 29, 1999. I helped her move.
If you're a weather junkie, or live in the East, you'll recognize that date as the day of the rush-hour monsoon in Manhattan. Two inches of rain fell between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m., shutting down the entire subway system as well as all Metro North commuter trains. Cabs vanished as they always do when it rains in New York. The 15-minute ride from the Empire Hotel at 63rd and Broadway (across from Lincoln Center) to the U-Haul facility at 11th and 23rd took two hours. The West Side Highway and FDR were closed; 12th and 11th were flooded in several places. Amazingly, none of this made the papers in the West in any way that people noticed.
Eventually, however, we loaded up her suitcases and boxes, cruised onto College Walk (illegally, but no one stopped us) and moved everything into her room. It fit!
Then we bought Marlow a 16-inch oscillating fan (no air conditioning!) and some thumbtacks. Finally, we grabbed waterproof pants (she'd forgotten hers) for her hiking camping trip (she's still in the wilderness as I write these words). I had planned a rather sentimental goodbye. Or at least one where we were both standing up, face to face.
Instead, a Columbia cop waved us away from our attempted wrong-way entrance onto College Walk from the Amsterdam Avenue side. So, Marlow leaned across the wide gap between the two captain's chairs in the front of a U-Haul van, gave me a quick peck on the cheek, and lept out so she could attend a 4 p.m. orientation meeting for campers. I delivered her fan--except the suite door was locked, so I had to leave it in the hall. I hope she--and not someone else--actually got it. I'll find out when she gets back and gets her phone turned on.
I won't see her again until Family Weekend on Oct. 8, and then not after that until Christmas. This is what it is like to become a bit player in the life of your oldest child.
As my mother always said when we were kids, your goal in raising children is to raise them strong and wise and self-confident so they can go out in the world on their own. And yet, when you succeed, it hurts like a son-of-a-bitch.
Adair Lara's Take On Separation
Normally, I print only excerpts from columns, but this one is too good and too relevant. I have included a link if you wish to see it in its original context.
You Have to Let Them Go
Or so it seemed to me as I watched from below, unable to chew my tuna sandwich. Above, their mother watched, barely visible in a red tank top. I could not see her expression, but I knew from her frozen stance what she was feeling: that she had to trust them, had to let them climb around the falls.
People think that being a parent is a way to express one's natural feelings. I've found that being a mother means getting up every single day and doing exactly the opposite of what comes naturally. You let them cross streets, walk to school by themselves, get on bikes, drive away in 2,000-pound automobiles. There's nothing natural about that. Your heart is lodged permanently in your throat, and yet you are supposed to smile and wave and say, as I do to Morgan as she hits the road, ``Drive recklessly, sweetie. Try to tailgate as much as you can, and exceed the speed limit whenever possible.'' Trying to make a joke of it, because what else can you do? Now Patrick, 19, has just gone off to New York to attend Hunter College. His dad is a wreck. "Patrick's idea of New York is based on 'Friends,'" Jim says grumpily. "Mine is based on 'NYPD Blue.'"
``Why does he have to go, anyway?'' he asked, looking at me as if to say, ``This is your fault. You encouraged him. You took him to that place and made him fall in love with it.''
That's when I remembered, again, going to New York with Patrick when he was 15. He loved even the fact that the deli man was rude to him. I remember, though, watching him trip down the subway steps at 42nd Street as he went off by himself to find a coffeehouse in Greenwich Village to write in after declining to come to a play with me. And I had to just let him.
Patrick himself accuses me of wanting him to go to a nearby junior college, living at home where I can see him every day, where he can come down and borrow my gel and say, ``Hi, Mama,'' in that tender way of his, where I can tell from the way he's digging his spoon into his Honey Nut Cheerios that's something on his mind, and we wait until everybody else is gone, and talk.
``I don't want you to be gone,'' I say, ``but I want you to go.''
He smiles. I tell him about going to Paris when I was 20, deliberately sending myself to a place where something could happen to me. I remember standing at the bow of the ship taking me across the English Channel, the spray hitting my face, and feeling exultant, as if I could see the whole world spread out in front of me. For the first time in my life, no one knew where I was.
I was not thinking about my mother, who had had no say in the matter of whether I could take myself off to Paris or not. I was just going, and that was all.
I remember being 20, and scared -- I cried all the way to the airport, my sister and her boyfriend looking at me curiously -- and how my tears stopped the moment they left me alone. That was 27 years ago, but that girl in her ridiculous long leather coat and her heavy red corduroy suitcase looks at me from across the table and says, ``Don't you have some frequent-flier miles he can use?''
SO HE WENT. I couldn't think of what else to say in the airport, so I reminded him to always look behind him when he was about to leave a car or a room, to see if he was leaving anything behind.
We had to break it to him that we won't be setting him up in an apartment of his own on the Upper East Side. He has a couch in Queens for a week, and then it's up to him to find a place to live.
And all this is fine with me. I'm glad he's gone. Really.
My thoughts returned to the woman watching as her two children played on the rocks amid the steeply down-rushing falls. I realize it only looked that dangerous from where I stood on the rocks below. The mother watching had done what mothers do, assessing the pleasure and adventure against the risk, and let them go.
Looking For That Bill Gates Profile
My friend and correspondent Craig Reynolds didn't find the New Yorker with the profile of Bill Gates before it went off the newsstands. Fool that I am, I threw it away. Can someone in my readership snail mail me a copy? If you do, I will get it scanned and post it here so others who missed it can read it in full.
Joecartoon.com is the real name. It is home of the frog in the blender, gerbil in the microwave, and more. Great fun for the immature and immature at heart.
The Top 14 Little Known Items in the Marlboro Miles Catalog
It will be a while before I make the list again; I didn't have much time to write while I was in NYC the last two weeks.
[ The Top 5 List www.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 1999 by Chris White ]
14> Complete framed collection of Surgeon General's warning labels
13> Treadmill with built-in ashtray
12> 100,000 miles: Upgrade to First-Class Chemotherapy
11> Jackie Gleason's "Wheezin' to the Oldies" workout video
10> 500,000 miles and a $10,000 contribution: The Senator of your choice
9> Oxygen Tank Racing Stripes!
8> 100 miles: Bumper sticker saying, "You can have my cigarette when you pry it from my feeble, trembling hands."
7> 100,000 miles: Iron Lung
250,000 miles: Platinum Lung
6> "Marge Schott Hacking Up Some Greenish Shit" Screensaver
5> "What's That Lump?" board game for the kids
4> 80,000 miles: Marlboro Man ballet shoes and tutu
3> "Nice 'n' Pink" lung rouge
2> The "Cougher" -- Lights on... *cough* *cough*, lights off!
and Topfive.com's Number 1 Little Known
Item in the Marlboro Miles Catalog...
1> 1,000,000 miles: John Wayne's bronzed lungs
Selected from 145 submissions from 53 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors included:
Chris Gleason, Gaithersburg, MD -- 9
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 9
No Movies This Week
If there were facts, they would be here, (courtesy of the Internet Movie Database).
How About That Broadway?
First of all, Kudos to my brave and talented friend Dan Rosenbaum, whose showcase I attended last Thursday. The Arc Of A Love Affair was a first class piece of solo singing, in a lovely little lounge just west of Broadway. I wish I had the nerve and talent to perform like that. A few standards (One More For The Road), a few oddities (Popsicle Toes), added up to real entertainment and talent.
On Saturday Night we tried to see Chicago, Annie Get Your Gun and Ragtime. All of them were sold out. So we made reservations. What we did see was:
Chicago: I saw the original 25 years ago. This version really is rather anemic by comparison. It is the stripped-down "concert" version. Sandy Dennis apparently doesn't "do" the Sunday matinee. Still great songs and an amusing book. It would be nice to see it actually staged again, with sets and things like that.
Forbidden Broadway: I love Ethel Merman in the second act, even if hardly anyone knows who she is anymore. This is two actors and two actresses doing sketch-length parodies of Broadway shows of the present and near-past. This is the fourth time I've seen it. I never get tired of it, and they keep it constantly up to date. It is nasty and funny, and you should really go, especially if you like Beach Blanket Babylon, which it resembles in concept.
Miss Saigon: Madam Butterfly with helicopters and machine guns. This was my second viewing. It is a perfectly tolerable piece of theater, but nothing to write home about. No hits, nothing to hum when you leave the theater. Some clever set pieces, some clever sets, and of course the helicopter landing on stage. A downer.
Ragtime: I didn't see it, but Marlow and Rae did. They like it. I liked the book. I hear it will run forever. I'll say a little more about it when I finally see it myself.
Sidemen: Talk about downers. This is a straight play about the decline and fall of horn-playing sidemen, and spans the era from the late 40s to the 90s. The narrator is the son of a famed but virtually penniless trumpet player. If you're looking for something serious that isn't a revival, this could be the play for you. Especially if you've ever played an instrument or known musicians.
But Larry King says I may soon have regular "Letters from England."
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