Sunday, June 27, 2010

Turning the light on

I took my father to "A Prairie Home Companion" at Tanglewood last night. Now, my experiences at Tanglewood have almost always involved negotiating the lawn, rain or shine, hefting coolers of food and booze, warding off selective swarms of mosquitoes (and sometimes drunken men in golf shirts and boat shoes who have no idea that I'm stone sober and won't even look at a guy without ink).

And, of course, illicit activities in the maze, always.

I've never had a problem with my Tanglewood experience. The masses sit on the lawn and get loaded and watch their kids run around, the rich people sit in the shed on the hard ass wooden seats and thank god they are protected from the rain.

Well, last night, the tables were definitely turned...sort of. Dad and I were dressed the part, that's for sure. He even had the boat shoes ('course his red/brown leather skin and corn cob pipe detracted heavily from middle class milk toast guy). I wore a linen skirt, how "summer in the Berkshires."

But, we are who we are.

First stop on the way up to Stockbridge--the Clown. Yeah, you heard me, we hit McD's right out of the starting gate. After downing a million fries, half of which ended up on the floor of the van because of a "sharp" turn Dad took on the straightaway, we swung into Housy, quick stop at Aberdale's, and voila, Schmirnoff lemonade for all. Sipping the sickeningly sweet poison, we both lit up, he his pipe, me one of my last cigarettes ever (I am cold turkey as of tomorrow, god help us all) and he talked of a time, in the now ungraspable past, that he was young, and reckless, and lived just for the sake of filling his lungs with air.

After the stories were told (many of them I've heard at least 59 times, one for every year of my father's life), after we shifted into our wooden shed seats and guffawed at Garrison Keillor's wit and the melancholy chords of The Wailin' Jennys. After the show I finally took off my 4-inch wedge heels and strolled injun foot around the grounds, after all of that mixing and pretending and remembering, my dad turned to me. He looked almost like he felt sorry for me.
"You know, Chole, what the bitch about your thirties is?"
"I can probably guess at a few things," I said, taking a ridiculously endearing drag. "What is THE bitch, though?"
"In your thirties, you finally might know what you want. The bitch of it is, it takes so goddamn long to get it."
I didn't dare ask him how long. He's almost sixty. I didn't want to know. I still don't.
I told my friend the Sisco kid about this little piece of wisdom. He stopped short in his tracks, and suddenly, his face became wise like my father's. Leathered and wise.
"Well yeah," he said, casually flipping his cigarette in the air, "Because in your twenties you're just fumbling around in the dark, you don't even f*cking care what you run into, or that there's bottles all over the floor. But in your thirties, you're still f*cking tripping on things, bumping into things, the only difference is the light is on, and you still can't make your way around the room without hurting yourself."
I nodded my head, took a very, very long drag and shook my head at the truth of it all.

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