Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Kiss


Karen was the roommate of a girl I was dating during my first year as an attorney in Atlanta. She was a former Bunny at the Atlanta Playboy Club before a fire closed it down in 1975. She was a stunner, the kind of woman that attracted mens eyes with laser like stares. Karen was beautiful, sensual, sexy, and in her own sweet way, innocent, almost naive, the kind of woman who got a pass in life, just because of her looks. Karen was also a kept woman, working as a part-time escort/girlfriend to a very wealthy and generous gentleman who lived in Chicago. Karen's job was to be his eye candy companion and sexual partner whenever and wherever he chose. It paid well and about every other weekend she was on a private jet, or via a first class ticket, off to some exciting city or exotic destination. There was one problem with this set up. Karen drew men to her constantly not so much by choice, but by the law of natural attraction. Some women can put out an air of flirtation just by how they smile at the world. That was Karen and it was why she needed a friend for her time in Atlanta, a companion to keep her from being alone, to protect her from being constantly pursued, to keep the wolves at bay. That's why Karen had a roommate, Carolyn, and Carolyn had me.

Karen and I took a liking to each other immediately. I wasn't rich, or urbane, or anything like the pick of men she had in her days at the club, but I was a nice guy, low key and funny, smart, professional and mostly unthreatening. Plus, I was dating her roommate, posing no romantic threat to the good thing she had going with Dr. Chicago. At least so long as I was with Carolyn.

My dating Carolyn wasn't to last. In a sudden and unexpected corporate shuffling, her company, American Express, relocated Carolyn from Atlanta to Denver. It all happened in about a week, and Karen was left living by herself, alone in a big city full of hungry men. Karen and Dr. Chicago were faced with a new dilemma, find Karen a new roommate, one without a gaggle of men hanging around her, or move Karen to Chicago. They chose the latter, but the move needed some time to make happen, so who would keep Karen company in the interim?
"What about Carolyn's old boyfriend, the lawyer you said you liked? Does he know about our arrangement? "
"Yea, I like Allan, he's a really nice guy and has never come on to me. I'd like that." 
I willingly became Karen's safe male companion and her social life until she moved to Chicago. When she was out of town, I had my own social life. A young lawyer with a red Fiat convertible in Atlanta in the mid-70's, where dating Southern women was casual, easy and with no strings attached. When Karen was back in Atlanta, the two of us hung out. I accepted my role and played the part very well. We were both careful enough to not cross the boundary of being just friends. That might take the shine off of the expensive gifts, jewelry, travel, the good life she was living, transient as it might be. It was fine with me, I enjoyed the company of a beautiful woman. It was a win-win.

Eventually, Chicago beckoned, an expensive downtown penthouse was much more convenient for them both. Our platonic relationship, which had become so much fun and fulfilling for us, was coming to an end. It really doesn't take long to get to know someone, to develop feelings, to start to think about someone way too much. In any other circumstance, I was so out of Karen's league that I would be lucky just for the opportunity to walk by her on the street, notice and stare at her, just like the men who walked by us while we were together, trying to make eye contact with her, glances that she would never return. Karen was a loyal and faithful pretend girlfriend to me.

In a short time we built a surprising emotional bond that transcended our unwritten agreement.  We got to know each other well, having fun discovering the best parts of each other. Karen wasn't just beautiful, she had a kind and seductive heart and in her own way, was just an innocent bystander to the life she was living.  As for me, I was above all, a nice guy, intelligent and unassuming, unlike any of the men she had been used to. I kept my hands to myself and came to like her for what she was inside as well as outside.  I wasn't chasing her, just enjoying my time with her, treating her with respect and curiosity, not just the goddess she was used to being treated like. In return, she let her guard down with me, I was no threat and without any carnal desire for her, at least none that I let her know about.

We made a special date to spend her last night in Atlanta together, just dinner at nearby restaurant and a walk back to her apartment. When dinner was over, we walked slowly back to her place, with not a word said about the good-bye waiting for us just ahead. Before long we found ourselves at her front door. Karen and I had never kissed, it just wasn't allowed and from the start it was understood that any trappings of romance between us was off limits. But I wasn't about to let her go without one show of the affection for her that had been building up inside of me for the past couple of months. She was leaving. There was nothing to lose.

We were standing at her door and as she turned to say good-bye, and before she could say a word, I leaned in and pressed my lips against hers. It felt so right, so natural, and before I could pull away, Karen kissed me back. We held our lips together way, way, longer than we intended. I finally pulled back just enough to see her eyes, now moist with the realization that her time with me had come to an end, that she was never going to see me again. We stepped apart and stared at each other, maybe for a second, or two, or three.
"Allan, what are we doing?"
"We're saying goodbye."
Sometimes things just happen. It's like seeing a person you never saw before, you can be passing on the street you look at each other and for that moment, for a few seconds, your eyes meet and there is a
kind of recognition that you both know something, but then the person's gone and it's too late to do anything. You remember it because it was right there and you let it go.

I kissed Karen because if I didn't, there would never be another chance. I kissed her because I felt something special for her, and she had to know it. Words wouldn't do. When she kissed me back, it was her way of letting me know she was beginning to feel something too. Maybe I wasn't so out of her league after all, that there was a part of me she was attracted to, she wanted, that she would not find in Dr. Chicago, that she may never find with anyone, anywhere. Maybe that scared her, maybe for once in her life she felt desire for a man for the right reasons.
"Goodbye."
"Goodbye."        
I turned and started for my car. Karen turned and put her key in the door, opened it and stepped inside. I heard the door close behind me and heard the latch lock from the inside. I walked down the street to my car, got in and just sat there, my eyes now moist with the realization that my time with Karen was over.

Four decades later, as I write these words I'm still standing with Karen at her door, kissing her and being kissed back. What a time that was, and now with all that has gone by, the lives that she and I created independent from each other, all of the people, places and things that have happened to us, I remember that night so clearly, what we said, what we did, what we felt.

She was right there, and I let her go.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Homeward Bound

"I received this long, handwritten letter from a guy who lived on some island in South Carolina. I remember it was like this long catharsis, flashbacks of his life in song, my songs. He went through every concert he attended, starting with one he went to with his first date ever while in high school in 1966 at the University of Detroit. Artie and I still remember that gig, it was one of our first big venue college concerts and we were scared shitless. When the curtain opened and we saw a full house, Artie and I knew something had changed for us, we were real singers now and that too scared us shitless. This guy wrote about how we was on his first real date and how by the end of the concert, he said that, "she had fallen in love with me...or maybe it was you.," But it didn't matter to him, he wrote something like, "it was close enough." To know you have that kind of effect on people, while it is flattering, it's something I never intended. I'm just a songwriter, a singer playing my songs and all I ever cared about back then was entertaining. He went on about the songs that he said affected his life, something I hear a lot. Then he ended with remembering the last concert he went to, in Atlanta in the late 80s. It was at another college venue, Georgia Tech. Artie and I had both gone solo back then, maybe for at least 20 years. I think it was on our first Simon and Garfunkel reunion tour. This guy's father had died a few weeks earlier and he wrote about how he just lost it when we did Homeward Bound, one of the encores on those reunion tours. His words, his intense emotion, he took me back to my youth, my mom and dad. He touched me. I thought to myself, "We're even." - Paul Simon, Interview in The New Yorker, 2003.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

I saw you

I saw you
When you were not looking
Searching my eyes
As I have so often searched in yours.

Empty gazes
Sad and lost
In the fading light
Of our last goodbye.

Times remembered
Endless affection
Now your touch
Forever gone.

Two memories
Ablaze in sorrow
Two hearts
Invincible no more.

I saw you
When you were not looking
Leaving me
As love fell from view.




Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Unbelievable Serendipity Of Love

I wish I had spent more time living than writing. More time happy, than sad. More time touching than looking, more time dancing than sitting, more time playing than sleeping, and more time in love, than out of love. The unbelievable serendipity of love, so easy to miss, so costly to lose.

Time leads, and then follows, it is relentless. They stream in and out of my sleep, breathing first with me, then against me. The faces, the names, the stories never change. The beginnings, the middles, the ends, never change. Paths cross, mingle, hold together, then break apart.

Reflections of the past, and every nuanced moment in love. In a distant forgotten time, lays an intimate beautiful life. I am holding her soft and perfect hand. My eyes open and there is a waterfall, the spectacle of water cascading, letting go, and then finding its way. It flows on melancholy, unbroken and determined, chasing sirens into the sea.

The unbelievable serendipity of love; so easy to miss, so costly to lose.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tangled Up In Dylan

On April 12, 2015, sitting in the Altria Theatre in Richmond, Virgina, my two daughters on either side of me, I watched the greatest voice of a generation for what will most likely be the last time. Almost exactly 40 years ago, in the Beacon Theatre in Boston, I was seven rows from Bob Dylan, watching him for the first time. In-between those two concerts, he and I have lived most of our lifetimes.

Nothing stays the same, it's part of the price of admission to this thing called life. At 73, Dylan comes off as an aged shadow of his former self. At 65, I sit in wonder and respect for a man whose love of his craft has outlived his voice and energy as a performer. Would I pay $77 to sit in the same room as this man for two hours? You bet I would. He can hum and I would be just in awe. (On some of his songs, he should have hummed.)

I have two epiphanies about Dylan and his body of work. First, one of his most popular hits," Mr. Tamborine Man," is a beautiful song about death. As a young man in his early 20's Dylan contemplates his own mortality in a way that only he and I understand. A bond between two strangers, although it's inconceivable that this man could be a stranger in light of how well he understands my heart, and has touched my soul.

The second epiphany is that Tangled Up In Blue is a love song, not about two lovers, but about all of the loves of our life, every damn one of them described by every word and image in the song. It is from this perspective, as you listen to the song over and over again, that a recognition takes hold: Tangled Up In Blue is the preeminent love song of our (children of the 60's) generation.

As a testament to his age, his fatigue, the weariness of Dylan's never ending tour, he is a stanza into Tangled Up In Blue before the audience of 4,000 even realizes that he is singing it. The reaction, and the realization of just how powerful this song is to those of us who have lived that life, one of love, regret and of longing, is that Dylan gets a standing ovation mid-song. Even he had to understand for that one moment just how powerful a poet, folksinger, and in way, mentor that he has been to us.

Songs impact us in different ways, and just as we live our lives along our own imperfect paths, not all songs effect us in the same way. Mr. Tamborine Man and Tangled Up in Blue are just nice songs to some, incoherent rhymes to others, or piercing revelations of love and death to others. It is in this latter circle of aging hippies that I belong and the epiphany of it all is that he wrote these two masterpieces from deep inside of me. How he got there is the story of his greatness.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Gelato Wars

I brought home a container of Italian gelato last weekend, a very unusual purchase for me. I don't do well with temptation, but if it matters at all I bought it at Whole Foods, so its healthy, right? The first time was exquisite. Something called Salt Caramel Swirl that based on the orgasm, is the new porn.

The problem arose later that night. I was tucked in, had shut off the TV, was looking for some music on my iPhone for a little un-stimulation into sleep, when Ms. Salt Caramel Swirl came calling. I like exotic forms of sugar as much as the next guy, and just because of that I purposely do not bring them home for consumption. Yet there she was, sweet caramel gelato, creamy silk vanilla, so touchable and with arrogant blonde and caramel streaks, so alone in the cold, calling me out. I unleashed the hounds.

[Here's a tip: Do not walk out of the kitchen with a spoon and an open container of Salt Caramel Gelato. You will return in a sugar rush from a time-warp, carrying only a very polished spoon.]

About a month after my last scorched relationship, I finally found some quiet, that rare and elusive state called tranquility. It had been five hideous years of an alternating current between passion and torment. Torment finally won out, having massacred all in its wake. Left alone in the corner was one life standing, the one that used to be me.

A month passed, then another, then maybe a few more. One single date seemed harmless, just like that impulsive purchase of gelato at Whole Foods; sweet, good for my mind, my balance, mix things up, keep some skin in the game. Only I forgot about that intoxicating spell cast by the sirens allure; lovely, soft gentle touches, soothing, melodious whispers on a pillow next to mine. I hear them now, out far in the distance so sweetly singing, while I sit here enchanted, just me and my spoon.

The gelato wars. So it begins.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pale Blue Dot

“Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Detroit, Detroit

Sweep up
I've been sweepin' up the tips I've made
I've been livin' on Gatorade
Plannin' my getaway
Detroit, Detroit got a hell of a hockey team
Got a left-handed way
Of makin' a man sign up on that automotive dream
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fifty-One Years Ago Today

Who killed the Kennedy's?
When after all, it was you and me.
-Mick Jagger
Can't let today go by without my small, humble remembrance. It was a day everything changed and don't ask me to explain, because if you were not there, you will never understand. If you were, there is nothing else to say. That we have let the questions go on so long without answers, it is our bad. The killers walk among us.

Every year, without fail, the president dies all over again. For a few days every autumn, the entire media is overwhelmed by those haunting photos from Dallas. Those cruelly happy and innocent pictures of a young president smiling and waving at bystanders, the first lady clutching a bouquet of roses. With their soft, prelapsarian colors, they seem to hail from another universe—one that has been stolen from us.

Perhaps it is that feeling of loss that explains the lingering sense of grief over John F. Kennedy’s assassination year after year, when the anniversaries of other, equally shocking events—from Pearl Harbor to 9/11—are generally quieter affairs. But there is also something unfinished about Kennedy’s death, a lingering suspicion that no one has ever been able to banish.

The real JFK mystery, 50 years later: Why the infamous murder must be reinvestigated