The story within the story

Reporters will tell you there are two, maybe three narratives in the Middle East. They’ll split the stories into perspectives and call them Palestinian and Israeli or East and West or Arab and Jew. But that’s like saying Moby Dick is about a whale and a man. I don’t know what Moby Dick is about — I still haven’t read it. But hundreds of thousands of people have and I can’t believe it’s because it’s a story about a whale and a man.

So it is with the Middle East.

There are so many stories. People. Lives.

READ THE FULL POST (in the Times of Israel).

 

Love Song for a Vampire

If I had nothing else to do in my life right now — no full-time job, no school, no household chores, no parenting, no community commitments — I might decide to drop everything and pursue a journalistic investigation of music and memory.

Truth is, I am doing this already on a very personal level. For those of you who follow the blog, you might have already sensed my budding fascination in some of my recent posts (Check out “Both Sides,” Don’t You Remember You Told Me You Loved Me,” and “Seeking the Language of Music“). These snippets appear in large part due to a long form piece I am in the early stages of writing that explores how music shapes a person, and how a person, often unknowingly, shapes her Self under the spell of music. It’s about how embedded music is in our memory, how memory sticks because of its attachment to music, and how, we can or do use music to maintain memories we deem integral to our sense of Self.

But what about the memories that don’t stick? The ones we let sink down into the darkened depths of forgetfulness? Either on purpose, because they are too painful? Or accidentally, because we think we no longer have use for them?

I am finding that all it takes is a journey … an intentional journey of remembering … for those memories to ascend on their own from the deep. We have a drawer, I’m realizing, we didn’t know we had access to. It’s our subconscious — And we can open it and take out what we need if and when we need it. Of course, there are times a memory surfaces before we realize its usefulness. And then it’s up to us to make the connection.

One such memory levitated to the surface of my consciousness yesterday, seemingly from nowhere (though I am starting to understand that nothing surfaces from nowhere.) It happened like this:

<A few haunting notes tap tap tap on my brain>

What’s that?

<Paying closer attention now>

Are those train horns?

<Even closer attention>

It’s certainly familiar…

Wait, is it this?

No… no, not quite that. Something similar, though.

Wait a minute.

Oh my God.

<Startled look on my face>

<Heart skips a beat>

<Can’t catch my breath>

Oh my…

It’s this.

<Sigh>

I haven’t thought about that in years.

And it all comes flooding back.

The memory — the very visceral experience, actually — that I hadn’t recalled in oh so many years was that of listening over and over again on my Walkman freshman year of college to a love song. In particular, “Love Song for a Vampire,” performed by Annie Lennox off the soundtrack of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (a film I have never even seen …surprisingly.)

The introduction of the song, indeed, sounds like train horns. And maybe that’s all it took yesterday, as I rode the train from Binyamina to Tel Aviv, for a memory to stir, to shoot up like a bubble waiting to be uncorked. All it took was the sound a horn makes.

I searched for the song on my smartphone, but couldn’t get to it due to a bad connection. So I obsessed a little all day long until I could return to the computer. In the meantime, because I had time to kill on the train, I pondered.

Why? I thought. What purpose does this memory serve now? Why do I need it? How does it apply?

I still don’t know the answer.  It’s on the tip of my tongue, just like the song was yesterday, and while I don’t see the purpose yet, I know this memory will be a valuable one in my writing. This piece (this book, this short story, whatever it becomes)  — it’s not just about music and memory. It’s not a clinical piece. It’s about me. About my own passage into middle age. About coming to peace with my past in the face of my present and in the prospect of my future. It’s about accepting myself for who I was and who I am now — acknowledging and embracing the differences.

It’s about forgiving — yourself, others, the cruel linear aspect of time.

And I think, in there, lies the key to “Love Song for a Vampire.”

Maybe.

In the meantime, I’m listening…

 

I’m no Katie Couric — but I really don’t want cancer

In order to be adequately prepared for a colonoscopy, you need to get to a point at which your poop looks like pee.

It’s the one time in your life when yellow liquid shooting out forcefully from your butt is a WIN!

I share this with you not to gross you out to the point of leaving my blog never to return, but in order to do my part towards colon cancer awareness and, like Katie Couric (although not as gracefully) to show that colonoscopies are not as bad as they sound.

I’ll let you know on Saturday if that’s true or not since I’m heading in for my first one tomorrow.

Sure — colonoscopies involve your butt, or as Dave Barry so appropriately coined it, your “behindular zone.”

And yes, the prep towards colonoscopy involves a lot — yes, a lot — of poop.

And no, poop blogs are not as popular as mommy blogs or political blogs, but since this is a personal blog, I decided I couldn’t receive full penetration by a camera attached to a long tube without sharing the experience with all of you.

I won’t be instagramming my IV insertion (since it’s usually a long and painful process for a nurse to find my veins), or tweeting my ease into sedative-induced slumber (because if the IV found its way in, it means it’s time to finally relax), but I do hope to encourage a few folks who have been putting off their recommended colonoscopy appointments by detailing how “not-so-bad” my experience was.

Here’s why:

My grandmother died of stomach cancer.

I was 12 when she died, but I vividly remember her wasting away in the months prior.

I remember what my grandmother looked like before — alive, full-busted and round. And what my grandmother looked like after — suffering, yellow and skeletal.

All my life, I have been troubled by a sensitive stomach and by these images of my grandmother, and if a colonoscopy can somehow alert me to pre-cancerous polyps, I think it’s well-worth the poop.

Wish me luck.

  • EDITOR’S NOTE

I completed the procedure this morning after the moderately challenging prep and happy to report clean results. I will say this — reading message boards about the prep before doing actual prep (drinking a laxative mix that makes you go for 24 hours straight) scared me into thinking the prep would be much worse than it was. It wasn’t that bad. Of course, this coming from a lifelong sufferer of IBS who is not stranger to spending 24 hours on the toilet.

Bottom line: Colonscopy is a lot scarier in your mind than in reality. Get it done. I’m not scheduled for another one for 10 more years. Woohoo!

He gets like that

One of my dear friends turned 40 today. She was the first of my group of childhood friends to get her driver’s license, the downside of which, I said to her today, is that she also is the first of our group of friends to hit middle age.

Of course, none of that statement is true.

Our friends — the ones who celebrated her 17th birthday years ago — are now scattered around the world, and some are no more our friends than the random stranger from Kenya who friend requested me yesterday on Facebook.

And, what really is “middle age?”

Is it literally the day you turn 40 — is that truly the middle of your life?

I feel as if I passed middle age long ago. Could be that my opinion will change, but I measure time as BC (before children) and WMBBTS (when my boobs began to sag).

So I pretty much hit middle age 10 years ago.

Contemplating my friend’s birthday and hearing a familiar voice in the back of my mind, I searched YouTube for the last scene of one of my favorite childhood movies — Stand By Me.

Somehow — and I am constantly amazed at how prescient I was of the nostalgic longing that accompanies aging — 12-year-old me was certain that grown Gordie’s words in the closing scene of the film were, and would remain, poignantly, heart-breakingly true.

From the film Stand By Me

From the film Stand By Me

It’s Richard Dreyfuss’ voice I heard this morning and whose voice I hear from time to time when I consider the impact my friends from childhood had (and continue to have) on the creation that is grownup me:

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve…. Jesus does anybody?”

But when I watched the final scene of the film today, what struck me for the very first time is the unspoken, yet classic writer’s epiphany that prompts Gordie to tap out satisfyingly the closing line of his book.

Grown Gordie’s son enters the study to find his father staring at the computer. The kids ask Gordie to hurry up and they roll their eyes when he (for the umpteenth time) tells them “Okay, I’ll be right there” and continues to stare at the computer monitor.

The son turns to his friend and says:

“My dad’s weird. He gets like that when he’s writing.”

Gordie laughs.

I laughed, too, when I watched the scene today. I know well the “like that” of which his son speaks.

I know it as this feeling, this presence that soars into my heart when I finally grasp one of my life’s great truths — like the incomparable experience of knowing someone when you were 12 — and when I am able to transform this truth into words.

And share them.

When I can nod my head along with the cosmic consciousness in understanding.

And know for certain that you, the reader, will understand it too.