I saw something beautiful today. Wait. Let me interrupt myself-I'm a terrible interrupter-to give full warning to the reader-did I mention I was a terrible interrupter?-that I write this while in a spooked state of mind. I meant to sit down after work today, after walking Henry, after running myself, after making myself some of this great new canned organic Indian Food I found in my new "Fuck it, I'll try Indian food" lifestyle, before walking Henry down to the Brooklyn Ale House where poochies are welcome and C. might be back from his honeymoon and behind the bar, and write a little about this beautiful thing I saw.
But I was heating water, listening to songs shuffle through my computer and thinking about how one stretches "I saw something beautiful today and here is what it was" into something a little more appropriately long for a blog entry weeks in coming and the goddamn computer started reading my mind. I thought of other beautiful things I had seen and songs directly related to those events popped through the speakers. A song from one of two cassette tapes I had in my truck that summer I worked on Martha's Vineyard. A song I used to love from the period when I thought I would married and happy forever. On my way over to the computer to investigate, it hid itself behind the screen saver, which displays random pictures from the hard drive. There on the screen, C., in all his glory, behind the bar, clumsy as he tried to strike the pose of a quarterback holding my American Football.
All of which kind of spooked me out.
But I did see something beautiful today.
Not the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, though when I think about it, I'm not sure what that would be. It is a question you almost never get asked. I may have never been asked that question. People are dying to know plenty of other things:
"Where's the craziest place you've done it?"
"Who's the worst boss you ever had?"
"How much did you pay for that?"
Maybe if I was a different person it wouldn't be that way. I imagine Viggo Mortensen can't make it twelve feet across the room at a Hollywood fund raiser without some woman mustering the white wine courage to half-accidentally weave into him and ask that question.
"I just want to know...Viggo...tell me...what was the most beautiful thing you ever saw..."
But left to my own devices, and without the advantage of previous inquiry, the most beautiful thing I ever saw is a tough call. Today was not it, of course.
There was the time I was working on Martha's Vineyard. Mike had come to visit/work and we were out late.
Late for Martha's Vineyard, which means around 11pm. Tired from a day of diving off bridges, we were both still up and nearly giddy. Mike because he was out of the stifling Boston summer and me because Mike had actual money burning a hole in his pocket and on my wages I was eating the same exact meal every day: oatmeal for breakfast, a can of beans for lunch and oatmeal, redux, for dinner. One of the healthier diets I ever had, actually, as Steinbeck will tell you in "Sweet Thursday."
Anyway, I had heard of a nice beach protected at night by a closed road which forced a mile and a half walk.
Outfitted with a six pack, we left Brownie-my trusty '78 Ford 150-tied to the metal bar that blocked the road and set off down the trail on foot.
I had learned a lot about moonlight by that point in the summer. Outside the three main towns the roads on Martha's Vineyard are unlit and I had learned, for instance, that under a full moon, I could drive without headlights in perfect safety. I had also learned, the hard way, that riding a bicycle home on a night with no moon required the courage to pedal forward through ink so black the double yellow line in the center of the road was invisible, waiting to hit one gravel shoulder or the other and adjusting course. We had about three quarters of a moon that night and the path was wooded but wide. Easy going.
We had been walking for a while when we left the woods and started up the dunes, each of us with a crushed empty beer can in our pocket by this point, my fingers through their former collars, dangling the rest of their doomed gang. We could hear the breakers, of course, but the dunes rose from the edge of the woods, so we never saw more than the next dune and the stars. Finally, laughing and reckless and all wrapped up in our stupid, laughing, reckless world, we came over the last dune and evaporated.
Everything were saying, everything we were thinking, everything we were, it all just stopped, instantly, and floated away.
In front of us, empty beach ran about 200 yards and around a corner to our right, to our left, as far as we could see. Not just empty beach, perfect beach. The beach had been closed before high tide. It was now low tide, and as it was pulled away from the earth and out toward the moon, the ocean had put each grain of sand in place, leaving it smooth as glass, without a footprint, without a ripple. 60 yards away, maybe more, the waves broke. Trying to describe ti seems silly. I'll just say the night was crystal clear and with no clouds to reflect, the surface of the ocean was an impossible black quicksilver type of force, drawing in the moon's light. So black it was almost not there. But then a wave would peak and curl, and the foam would burst into existence, pushing the moonlight back out into world, and you could see that the ocean was there, still there, and what it was up to.
And of course we wept, silently, smiling, because that was the most beautiful thing we had ever seen.
That did not happen to me today.
Not that it couldn't have. I don't know why people, myself included, weep when something is beautiful. Out of thanks, maybe, or maybe just because it is the most intense expression of emotion we can bring to bear without breaking something or making others feel left out. Whoop and shout and throw your arms in the air and people wonder why they can't feel that way and if you've possibly done something behind their back, that they may be the unwitting source of the fun. They want in.
Nobody looks at tears on your cheeks and wonders "When, oh when will that happen to me?"
It has happened to me, since then. Once I was so young and so in love with someone that making love to them was the promise kept of a world gracious, fulfilling, compassionate and warm. I wept then as well.
It's the sort of mistake you only make once.
I didn't even realize it was a mistake until months later when we were in therapy and that experience had forced its way past epic struggles with finances, fighting, insecurity and just plain bad timing to make it to number two or three on some sort of "Inventory". That night had convinced her, early on, I was either crazy or gay. A word of advice:
If confronted with such a question while in therapy with another "Who isn't, in these troubled times, a little of both?" is not the correct answer.
Odd, isn't it, how humor is just not appropriate during what are clearly the most absurd moments of your life?
Today was not absurd, though it did contain an absurd moment, when at one point there were two carpenters, two counter top installers and an electrician all trying to work in the same galley kitchen. I was one of the counter top installers, helping my friend Fynn on a job in Brooklyn Heights, which is a neat neighborhood unless you have to park. I did, and forgetting just what sort of situation I was about to face, jumped into Fynn's Subaru wagon without my coat, on my merry way to quickly stash the car. A half hour later, striding coatless up the hill and through the 20 degree, 20 mph wind at a pace I hoped would keep blood flowing into at least my most important organs, I looked up. The squared-off spire of a 30's era hospital (why did they put towers on hospitals in those days?) shot up beyond the brownstones, the excess steam from it's furnace being twisted by the wind around and above the top few floors. The sky was High Wind Clear and the sun at that exact moment was just across the hospital tower from me, giving the handsome old building the back lit glamour lighting it deserved and making the steam sparkle.
I was still really cold, and I didn't stop walking, much less weep, but it did remind me that there are beautiful things to see in this city. And though it is a place where every subway station has at least one corner that smells like piss, and every block has certainly, at one time, been a crime scene, it is also a place where we've built, from time to time, glorious things, and where you can't walk five blocks in any direction, in any season, without passing an opportunity to buy flowers.
So that was the beautiful thing I saw today.