Friday, June 26, 2009

Hungry heart

This morning I toured the gold vault at the New Federal Reserve. They keep it all in the basement, five levels below the subway. It’s stored in little cells as if it’s being held prisoner in the Mayberry county jail. I don’t know much about the nuances of the federal economy. I really just wanted to hold one of those $300,000-worth-of-gold bricks in my hand. Carolyn, who gave us the tour, pointed out that ever since the gold standard was done away with, gold only retains value based on how beautiful we seem to find it.
And it is beautiful. Since gold is so malleable, the bricks have to be mixed with another precious metal to hold their shape. The gold mixers, (who are they? Do they mix it up in a big vat? Do they wear chef’s hats?) generally use either bronze or silver, so that when you take a few steps back and look at all those chunks piled on top of each other, you can see how their tint varies from red to white, their quality from old to new, all sparkling even though they are kept too far deep in the earth to catch the light of anything.
One brick would change my life! And there are so many down there, over 500,000. Who would know the difference?
When I was little, my dad took my brother and me on a tour of the Denver Mint. In the gift shop afterward, my dad bought us each a coin stamped with the face of our favorite American president. My brother chose Carter. I chose Nixon.
That was right after I’d seen the Anthony Hopkins film about him. I cried so hard when Paul Sorvino, (Kissinger), exclaimed “Think of the greatness this man could have achieved if he had only been loved.”
Who could have loved Nixon enough to free his greatness from its little cage? Could Pat have scrambled his eggs with more tenderness? Could Tricia and Julie have brought him his slippers with more sincerity? No, only Nixon could have loved Nixon enough to achieve the greatness he fell short of. He didn’t, but only he could have.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Meeting across the river

Oh blog, we are truly friends. I know this because I’ve been treating you badly in the same way that I treat other friends badly now and then. For one reason or another, time puts a little distance between us. You are always somewhere upon the desk of my mind, but you’re buried beneath stacks of nonsense labeled URGENT. And the more I avoid you, the more I avoid you. I begin to wonder, what will I say after all this time? My wonderful memories of you are blurred by my own guilt! You become obscured by the silly smog I create by overthinking! Did you know our relationship was undergoing such a climate change? Probably not. I tend to compose these stories in the privacy of my own head. It takes saying them aloud to set them free. And once they’ve trotted off into the wild, you and I can resume the relationship that BOTH of us take part in. Oh blog, will you take me back?
Blog, I’ve been itching for an adventure. It all began a few weeks ago with a trip to Mexico. I know, blog, that should have been adventure enough! But it wasn’t, it was just a little taste. It was long sleepy days next to a pool with piƱa coladas and the smell of sunscreen and it was nights in the back of a cab trying to string together the Spanish that I promise I could speak once upon a time! The Spanish was a sense memory trigger for the years I spent in South America.
I moved to Formosa, Argentina as a fifteen year old who had never studied Spanish. My host family plucked me from airport, drove me to their home, stuffed my face with milanesa and empanadas, and used the little English they knew to explain to me that the bidet in the bathroom was what “you wash your ass in.” I was tired all the time, but because I was learning all the time. I didn’t have to motivate myself to hunt down extracurriculars. I just had to sit with people and try to piece together what they were saying.
We let a stray dog with mange die in our garage. It took so long, we called her Miseria and left her chicken bones that she could barely chew. We threw rocks at the big round trees lining our block so that bats would scatter like fireworks from their nests inside. The power went out every summer night and we sat on the roof staring at the water tower. I learned how to tolerate dancing till 7am. I learned how to cuss people out in Spanish. I got a really tight pair of jeans. I had lice for a year!
I rode on the back of someone’s motorcycle next to El Rio Paraguayo with the full moon so bright it felt like we were being stagelit. I caught piranhas in that river! I sat at the hospital while my friend’s little body tried to thwart the bus that had run it over. When it couldn’t, I went to my friend’s funeral and felt queasy from its crudity. Her skin puffy, her knuckled clotted with blood, her mouth stuffed with cotton, the smell of formaldehyde unmasked by the bouquets that surrounded her.
I worked at a disco!
I started a pastry peddling business out of my kitchen!
I forged signatures for my host father’s gubernatorial campaign!
I was so little, how was I so brave?
I want to get on a plane to wherever and find that feisty little fifteen-year-old me. I want to ask her if she’ll be my tour guide.