Saturday, February 13, 2016


world, be my valentine

Valentine's Day weekend, and Ryan and I are snowed in.  All in all, a good place to be.  I feel lucky and blessed to be part of a couple, to live in a partnership and marriage with the chosen friend of my heart.  It makes life so much more bearable.  And so much more fun!  (Fun is underrated!)  I realized this anew after reading Patti Smith's new memoir, M Train (Knopf 2015), which I've had sitting around for a few months now.  I bought it as soon as I knew of its existence, because her previous book, Just Kids, is so stunning (already read it three times, will read it again), and because she's Patti Smith, for god's sake.  I was talking with an old friend recently about how hard it is - near impossible, really - to be old and cool, at the same time.  David Bowie: an exception, obviously.  And, Patti Smith, who seems to get cooler and cooler, the older she gets.  Her book M Train is deeply cool.  It's an elegy and a requiem to lost things - her beloved husband (dead), her favorite coat (lost), the cafĂ© she frequents for a decade (closed), the boardwalk at Rockaway (Hurricane Sandy), a certain television crime-drama (not renewed), the idols she's looked to her whole life (Genet, Plath, Akutagawa), whose graves she makes pilgrimages to.  She cleans them and adorns them with fresh flowers and symbolic offerings.  The book is has dream sequences and surreal passages which don't make much sense in any literal way, but which serve to shore up the straighter sections of narrative, and feel like music.  It's a lonely book, and makes the woodstove here at our house feel all that much warmer.  But, even though she's alone, she writes beautifully about being in love with the world:    

"When you don't have one, everyone is potentially your valentine.  A notion I decided to keep to myself lest I be obliged to spend the day pasting hearts of lace on red construction paper to send out into the whole of the world."

"The world is everything that is the case.  There's a positively elegant wisecrack courtesy of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico, easy to grasp yet impossible to break down.  I could print it in the center of a paper doily and deposit it into the pocket of a passing stranger.  Or maybe Wittgenstein could be my valentine.  We could live in a little red house in cantankerous silence on the side of a mountain in Norway."  (pp.79-80)

She's still such a grumpy punk and I love her for it.  And she speaks of what she knows.  Her book is full of love and memory, and tender, sad observations, and perfect sentences such as this: 

"Images have their way of dissolving and then abruptly returning, pulling along the joy and pain attached to them like tin cans rattling from the back of an old-fashioned wedding vehicle."  (p.232)

Her writing reminds me yet again that as we age we love the things and people we love even more deeply.  Whether they are present or not.  And there is no end to it, this feeling:  

"I love you, I whispered to all, to none."  (p.253)

I'm in...old and cool, not me but it could be right?
We can dream.

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