Another Pair of Glasses?

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More Designer, Less Worrier, please

 

It’s fascinating to realize how much of our–or, should I say, my time–is lived in the future, or to be more specific,  in worrying about the future.  A future that may or may not arrive.

Take, for instance, my breathless search for a new pair of glasses at the very cool, very chic online designer-glasses outlet, Warby Parker.

I am in love with almost every pair of glasses on the site.   Yet, what if they look vastly different on me than they look on the site?

Yes, You Can Try Them On At Home

Not to worry.  And, what a novel idea:  via the Warby Parker website, I can order up to five pairs of glasses to be sent to me, so that I can try them on.  At home.  In front of my own mirror.  All at no cost, so long as I return them.

How cool is that?

But How Will I Decide?

Even as I am excitedly clicking my way through various angles of online images though, I am simultaneously wondering how I will make a decision once the glasses arrive.  After all, I might like two pairs equally well.

I am also wondering if the prescription I received from my eye doctor will need to be modified; since she’s an M.D., she wrote the prescription in a manner different from the standard optometrist’s measurements.  Will I need to call her office?

And, what if one of the pairs I like will be too much like the pair of a person whose glasses I would not like mine to look too much like?

All this worry, and I haven’t yet picked the five I’d like to try on.  At home.  In front of my own mirror.

But Will the Warby Parker Box Fit in My Post Office Box?

Once I choose the five I’d like to try on, I may begin worrying about which day the glasses will arrive at my post office box, whether I’ll be able to make it to my post office box on the day they arrive, and whether they’ll come in a box that will fit in my post office box.

In the meantime, I need to get back to worrying about choosing the five I’d like to try on.

Happy Day After Day After Father’s Day, Edmund

Handsome

Handsome.  Charismatic.  Charming.

Dad @ 19These are three of the words that  I remember adults using to describe Edmund when I was young.  As in, “Oh, your father is so talented and charming.”  Or, “I always thought your father was one of the most handsome men I’d met.”

I recall accepting compliments directed toward Edmund’s appearance with an odd mixture of pride, and uncertainty.  Proud that grown-ups found my father handsome, and uncertain as to what I was to do with that information.

Now, with the advantage of both time, and distance, I can take an objective look at Edmund, and declare, that, yes, he was indeed, a “very handsome man.”

Adventurous

Edmund was also adventurous.  Not so much in the physical, mountain-climbing way, but in the “damn the torpedoes” attitude, the we-only-live-once kind of way.

He had suffered severely from polio when he was young, and one of his legs bore testament to that struggle, so his exploits were of necessity more intellectual, more existential, than physical.

Edmund was adventurous in his love life, and in his writing.  So, too, he was wildly adventurous, some might say recklessly so, in his artistic endeavors.

I would place creating larger-than-life-size nude sculptures of his lovers, and exhibiting those sculptures at Laguna’s Sawdust Festival, on a par with sky-diving or mountain climbing, even if the consequences weren’t as potentially fatal.  But, maybe that’s just me.

I would also place his experience with meeting a woman, entering into a contractual living arrangement with her, and writing a book about that arrangement up there with adventurous acts of vulnerability, like say, undressing in front of strangers.  But again, maybe that’s just me.

Smart

Edmund was, perhaps above all else, smart.  In some of my fondest memories of him, I see him tinkering, experimenting, creating.  A chemist by education, he was an alchemist of sorts, and was light years ahead of others in his experimentation with fiber optics.

He was able to combine his curiosity, intellect, and command of writing to make even annual reports and user manuals at once authoritative–and entertaining.

And, he was a storyteller with an encyclopedic command of current events.   Wherever Edmund was, there was sure to be a world map nearby.

And so it is

Twenty years’ of Father’s Days have passed since Edmund died.  Twenty years since I last had the opportunity to send him a card, to call him, to tell him that I love him.

To be sure, we had our rough patches.  Our very rough patches.  I’d like to think, though,  that I never missed a Father’s Day opportunity to thank him for being my father.

Just in case I did miss a year or two, I’m taking this opportunity to express that gratitude, to thank him for the many gifts and talents he gave me.  Thank you, Edmund, from the bottom of my heart.

 

“Fading Gigolo,” Fading Gracefully

Expectations

I admit, I went into this John Turturro-Woody Allen movie with a high level of anticipation based solely on the fact that Woody Allen was going to be playing a leading role.   For answers as to why this fact was central to my level of expectation, take a look at “A Woody Allen Kind of NYC.”

Expectations Met . . .

Yes, to the extent that Woody Allen was tortured with anxiety, that his face and hand movements singularly broadcast his unique discomfort, and that he invited us, the audience, to agonize with him the way only he can do, Fading Gigolo was all that I hoped it would be.

And to the extent that it not only captured scenes of my beloved Manhattan and Brooklyn, but actually placed the film’s events in believable context within those familiar spots–and didn’t just gratuitously throw the neighborhoods into the mix–it exceeded my expectations.

. . . and Unmet

And yet.  And yet, I found it as implausible that John Turturro would acquiesce to Woody Allen’s scheme, and sell himself for sex, as the idea that Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara would pay significant sums (or any sums, for that matter) for such sex.

Even more, the theme emanating from timidly beautiful Vanessa Paradis’ widowed Orthodox Jewish mother-of-many, while laying the groundwork for a movie all its own, never was able, for me, to weave itself into the central theme of John Turturro’s turn as a gigolo.

And so . . .

In the end, I left the theatre feeling as if I had received exactly what I had bargained for:  a sentimental visit to my New York story, and a nod to the man who continues to tell it–whether as actor or as director–like no one else can.

A Woody Allen Kind of NYC

Note:  This post began as a review of Fading Gigolo, the 2013 John Turturro movie, featuring Woody Allen as a character that perhaps only Woody Allen can play.  It evolved into a send-up of sorts for the NYC that perhaps lives only in Woody Allen’s movies.

Manhattan-Love

In the mid-1990s, I lived on Manhattan’s East 55th Street.

Down the block from my apartment building, there was a lounge, Michael’s Pub, where  I’d heard that Woody Allen played clarinet.

Many evenings, I would slow my pace as I walked past the pub entrance on my harried way home from the stifling subway station, hoping that I might chance a glance upon the  famed Annie Hall director.

I’d stare at the pub door, relishing the thought that the man whose films evoked the NYC I dreamed of, had mere moments before walked through it.

Even then . . .

Negative news had emerged in the early 90s about Woody Allen.  The photos of Mia’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn.  The dysfunctional households.  The nasty break-up with Mia Farrow, and of course, the charges that flew back and forth, from one to the other, skimming the Central Park tree tops that separated their two homes.

Even so, I found myself still drawn to this complex man’s films. I know I was not alone.  It was as if there was a sort of disconnect between Woody Allen, the man who romanced the adopted daughter of his long-time girlfriend, and Woody Allen, the director, the maker of movies and the weaver of dreams.

 A Woody Allen Kind of NYC

After all, his movies held the promise of a New York City that had, for all my seasons spent there, still eluded me.  His was a city of scotch and existential sophistication, of chance meetings in wood-paneled bookstores with like-minded people who thought deep thoughts together in brilliant bursts of harmony.

To this day, I’m not sure if that New York City has really ever existed beyond Woody Allen’s movies—and my imagination.

 

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There once was a lion named Leo

What’s in a name?

Please meet Leo.

Leo owes his name to several convergences.  He was born in August, and hence, he’s a Leo.

He has a four-legged neighbor, named Michelangelo, so it seemed only fitting that he would take the name of that other great artist from long ago.  The only problem with that artist’s name is the logistics of shouting “Come, Leonardo Da Vinci!” really fast, three times in a row,  at the dog park.   So, we shortened it to Leo.  Just plain Leo.

And then, there’s the matter of his size.  Or, lack thereof.  Leo tips the scales at 8.5 lbs.  How fitting then, to have a name associated with that master of the jungle, a lion.  Leo the Lion.  All in a package that weights less than 10 lbs.

Poodle + Chihuahua = Poohuahua

I wish I could take credit for the catchy name that describes Leo’s half-breed status.  But I can’t.  A friend coined it, and it’s stuck.

Leo is the only poohuahua I’ve ever met, and poohuahuas don’t have the clout and pedigree of those other poodle hybrids, labradoodles.

Perhaps, if a future President of the United States brings home to the White House for his daughters an adorable combination of poodle and chihuahua, poohuahuas will gain the same stature as their much larger cousins.  Until then, I’ll be content having the only poohuahua around.

After all, I like saying the word, and people seem to like hearing it.  And for now, that’s just fine.

Of lunchboxes and possiblities

The Lunchbox, the movie

A few weeks ago, I not so much saw the new movie from writer and director, Ritesh Batra, The Lunchbox, as I did inhale it. It was that good.  That sumptuous.

Savoring the aroma

Amid the glorious colors and the cacopohony of steel against steel in the trainyards of Mumbai, one of the most gratifying aspects of the movie was to watch an Indian office worker, whom one might imagine would be jaded by the temptations of Indian cooking, take in the aroma of ageless spices, and close his eyes as he savored each pungent taste.

That is what I do, a world and a culture away.  I close my eyes, inhale the pungent, exotic aroma, and savor each bite of Indian food.

Take me away

Food thoughtfully-cooked, in general, transports me.  It takes me to another place–both gastronomically and geographically speaking.  For that brief instant, I am in Mumbai. I am in Cairo. I am wherever the taste I am tasting was first tasted.

A new day of new possibilities

Today, as the fiery snap of coriander punctures my taste buds and the subtle scents of curry waft through my nose, I am embodying those who’ve tasted the same taste as I am, millions of times before me. And, for that brief moment in time, I am again transported to a world of possibilities. A world of endless lunchboxes and endless possibilities.

Money, and all that jazz

Our house (rented) on a cliff overlooking the ocean at Laguna Beach, California

Our house (rented) on a cliff overlooking the ocean at Laguna Beach, California

We rented richly

I don’t remember us being rich as I was growing up. Nor, however, do I remember us being poor.

When I was born, we were living in a house a mile from the ocean in Laguna Beach. When I was one year old, we moved to a house across the street from the ocean. And, when I was five years old, we moved to a house on a cliff, directly above the ocean. When you look at it that way, I suppose we were rich.

We lived on rich land, indeed.  It was land that would become even richer.  Yet my father, Edmund, rented. He refused to buy.

A renter in a buyers’ market

Long before hedge funds and mortgage-backed securities were household names, long before Silicon Valley teemed with venture capitalists, Edmund had the foresight to move his young family to a place that would one day rival New York City zip codes for the priciest addresses in the country.

In what would become one of the world’s hottest real estate markets, Edmund chose not to buy property that would one day increase exponentially in value.

On being un-wealthy

Edmund, who was sent as an adolescent from his boyhood home in China first to boarding school in Korea, and then as a teen to The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, would regale us with stories of having gone to prep school with the sons of the very wealthy.   He, the son of Presbyterian missionaries to China, by comparison,  was poor. And that worldview seemed to inform his thinking about having money from then on.

My memory is that for him, being without wealth was a way of staking his identity.

Heading West

His was a fascinating combination of fear and bravado. On one hand, when he was contemplating moving my mother, Helen, and my older siblings West, from Ossining, New York, to Laguna Beach, he wrote of his fear of making the wrong choice, financially-speaking. Later, as fervently as he had promised Helen a new start in Laguna Beach, he justified why it had not worked out the way he had promised.

Adrift in a sea of new-age wealth

It’s ironic, and not quite surprising, that Edmund never did buy property in Laguna Beach. Ironic, because he had turned his back on wealth, yet he had planted his family in the epicenter of it. Not quite surprising, because to him, having no wealth, in a sea of wealth, seemed to suit him just fine.

Edmund died relatively young, and poor. I’m not sure he would have had it any other way.

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In a snapshot: missing Mom’s embrace

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Photos that were never taken

The photo here is one of my favorites. It is one of the few I have of my mother, Helen, embracing me. It is one of even fewer I have of her smiling while embracing me. And it is the only one I have, in which we are both smiling while she embraces me. I wish I there were more.

Cameras were not ubiquitous then

Yes, it’s true that when I was a toddler and adolescent, cameras were not ubiquitous, must-have parts of everyday life as they are now. And yet. And, yet there are plenty of photos of me–as a toddler, and as an awkward adolescent, as a more awkward young teen, and then as a self-absorbed, blonde California teen.

In the few photos where Helen joined me and my sister when we were young, she sat–or stood–apart, erect. No hugs. No spontaneous smiles. And, in the final years of her life–my teens–the only photos I have in which both she and I appear, are forced, posed “family” photos: Helen, my stepfather, Brad, my stepbrother, Barry, my sister, Kristin, and me. Oh, how I wish there were photos of just Helen and me.

Memories blurred, presence blurred

What is sadly wonderful about the fact that there are so few photos of Helen with me is that it squares with my memory of her, which is to say, that I don’t recall her spontaneously embracing me in the limited years she was in my life.

This, in turn is sadly ironic, as I have lately come to learn that in the view of my siblings, I was my mother’s favorite. How is it possible, then, that there aren’t photos that speak to that affection?

As I alluded to in another post, “Parenting Ourselves,” my mother was often nearby, yet equally often nowhere to be found, emotionally speaking. She was compelled to anticipate my father’s needs. Then to nurse his ultimate betrayal. Then to nurse herself in sickness. And finally, to die.

It’s different now

Perhaps because I was an older mother, I felt the relentless march of time. I knew that I would not likely have a second child, hence a second chance to take more photos. I knew as well that time would rush by me, and I would wish I had been physically, and mentally present–in life, and on film to capture those moments of life. And so, (almost) anytime the opportunity arose, I said “Yes,” to the chance to be in a photo with my boy.

Little fingers, lasting memories

In fact, one of my favorite photos is of Lorenz, at five, and me, on a wintry day in New York. We were on the beach at Coney Island, our sweaters protecting us from the chill. I knelt behind him, while his beautiful fingers curled around my forearm.

A stranger had seen us laughing at the wind-tossed surf, and asked me if I’d like him to take a photo of us. I am to this day grateful that I said, “Yes.”

Contract Cohabitation Softcover

Contract Cohabitation

Contract Cohabitation Softcover

Two bookends, and a book

If a cruel confrontation with polio in his childhood, and a visit from the same foe in his last years were the bookends to my father, Edmund’s, time on Earth, then surely one of his most prized accomplishments, set midway between those bookends, was the publication of his own book, Contract Cohabitation: An Alternative to Marriage.

Published in 1974, while the scent of the hippy movement was still in the air, and the promises of “Open Marriage” had not yet been betrayed, his book was widely and well-received, even earning him a turn on “The Merv Griffin Show.”

The essence of Contract Cohabitation as a concept is a rejection of the limitations of traditional marriage, in favor of an employer-employee relationship in which either party is free to leave within thirty days.

Looking for love in all the wrong places

As Edmund tells it in his book, he came upon the idea of Contract Cohabitation almost accidentally. After leaving my mother for her former best friend, who was also the wife of his own former good friend (and the mother of my childhood friend), he was swallowed-up by a series of tempestuous romances filled with passion and recriminations. One day, as he was driving in Northern California, it came to him: he envisioned a relationship that would allow him to be himself, and yet still have committed companionship. For this, he was willing to pay a salary.

Blank contract included

At one-hundred-ninety-two pages, Contract Cohabitation is part-memoir, part- narcissistic showcase, and part-instruction manual. The book, published by Avon and by arrangement with Grove Press, Inc., is physically impressive, and includes a blank contract for the parties to fill out.

There is also an engaging compare-and-contrast between the ideals of Open Marriage and Contract Cohabitation. Edmund opines that Open Marriage rarely works in practice because one partner to the marriage invariably is overcome by jealousy or feelings of rejection. In the realm of Contract Cohabitation, however, such feelings will never be an impediment, because both the employer and the employee are free to leave at any time (with a thirty-day notice).

When sex is involved, can it really be that easy?

In a perfect Contract Cohabitation world, calling one partner an employer, and the other an employee, and signing a contract and paying a salary will obviate the need for jealousy and possessiveness. This, even though sex is an integral part of the arrangement. And, as we know, any time sex is thrown into the mix, all bets are off, no matter what you call the relationship.

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A story ready to be told

 

 

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Made in China

My father, Edmund Lorenz Van Deusen, was born to Presbyterian missionaries in Tsingtao, China, on December 13, 1923.  He would go on to create a firestorm with his free-love lifestyle, and a titillating book about that lifestyle, entitled “Contract Cohabitation.”

A life prematurely lived fully

Edmund died on January 18, 1994, a mere one month and one day after his seventieth birthday.  Proudly unrepentant to the end, he died alone, in his small home. He was ten years older when he died than he had expected to be, yet more than twenty years younger than his older siblings who are still alive. Years of alcohol and tobacco abuse usually do win out in the end.

I am my father’s daughter

Edmund’s story is my story. It is a story that is at once too painful to tell, and yet too compelling not to. Edmund epitomizes 1970’s California, and more specifically, Laguna Beach, land of tie-dye and patchouli, free love and divorce. On these pages I’d like to tell his story, and by doing so, tell the story of those he affected so profoundly, including my mother and me.

"Your life sounds like a book," she said.