Redheaded Ramblings: Sheila A-stray  

"This race and this country and this life produced me, he said. I shall express myself as I am." -- James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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June 6, 1944:






Front page of the New York Times, June 6, 1944

  contact Sheila Link: 6/06/2003 11:12:00 AM

Friday, June 06, 2003  


Read this post by Michele, at a small victory. I agree with every single word.

It seems to me to be quite an urgent problem. Like: something has GOT to be done about this, and SOON.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/06/2003 10:28:00 AM



Here is a long entry from the summer of 1990. I was living in Philadelphia with Tonio, my first boyfriend. Everything else is pretty self-explanatory.

July 4, 1990

Sitting on the beach with Tonio. Long Beach Island is an amazing place. You drive down the main strip and look to your left: Ocean. To the right: Ocean. No matter where you are. The whole place is a beach. It is a hot blue sunny day. I have gotten some major sun. Freckles coming out. We walked on the beach. The sand is white. It is TRUE Atlantic Ocean. Crashing, relentless, spectacular. Strong scary undertow, weird shoreline. Tonio kept comparing it to Narragansett.

Had a dream about Kelly Byrne. For some reason, Kelly Byrne is someone I will always remember. She is kind of a symbol to me about what was so shitty about high school, and human relationships in general. Let me explain: her beauty so intimidated me (and so intimidated everyone) that I never talked to her. In fact, I resented her. We all did. We attributed bitchy qualities to her (unfounded) and because she looked like a Barbie doll we assumed she was one, etc.

Now, in looking back, how silly of us. She was just as lonely and as fucked up as we all were – maybe even more so. She was so pretty that no one ever really gave her a chance. From Day One. At least that's how I see it now. It all started a couple of years ago, Mere and I were watching the SK Pades tape, and there was Kelly, and Mere suddenly said, "Y'know what? Look at Kelly. She was having JUST as bad a time as we did." That was all that Mere said but it really struck me, and I remember how it made me feel to this day. I had never thought of that before, but the more I think about it, the more I know it's true. Someone like Cris D'Agostino seemed to truly DIG high school. It was obvious. But Kelly never did. Cris had her one boyfriend, a date for all the dances, but who did Kelly ever go out with? I am sure she intimidated guys.

Oh, who knows what was really going on and why should I care? I don't know why, but I do. And the couple of times I have seen Kelly around, at DelMor's, the Coast Guard House, Bess Eaton, URI, we have stopped to talk and they have been really nice talks. I honestly can't remember ONE conversation we had in our whole 4 SK years. Now that is just silly. And a shame, too. We always called her a snob, but we were snobs, too. Because I think we could have been friends.

And last night, in my dream, we were. We were the best of friends.

Still sitting on the beach with Tonz. Long, endless, wide, relatively uncrowded beach. We have discovered a goldmine. An escape. We have been swimming and sunning and reading and drinking beers surreptitiously.

And tomorrow is our two year anniversary.

Oh yeah, after our last weekend jaunt to Long Beach Island, it was about 7 pm, we decided to go to Atlantic City. We each had $10 to spend. Gorgeous sunset. We had clothes to change into, but we couldn't find a place to change, no public bathrooms or beach pavilions. We were parked at this quaint little bay, tiny parking lot, looking out to the misty mainland behind which the sun was setting. We sipped cold beers. The water was like glass. Much calmer than on the other side of the island. Idyllic, tranquil. Soft muted colors. We changed in the car. It was very difficult. It involved draping towels over windows, opening doors, standing guard … A lot also had to do with attitude. If you just nonchalantly do it, people won't take as much notice than if you secretively do it.

But finally we were both changed and we hung out for a second, enjoying the scene: hair damp, skin with that tight clean after-beach feeling. Then, off we went too see the seedier side of life.

I wanted to see the Taj Mahal so that's where we went. Trump's Taj Mahal.

Atlantic City is incredible. It was a cool dark night. We zoomed along the dark highways, up over the hill, and there it was. On the horizon. Miles away, but we knew what it was. Red neon, towering buildings all clumped together. The thing that really struck me, and probably strikes everyone, is the absolute poverty surrounding all of these lush out-of-hand casinos. It was the grossest poorest city you can imagine. I couldn't believe people lived in the burned-out war-torn this-property-is-condemned buildings I saw. And in total view, wherever you are, are these towering glittering castles with flashing lights and laser beams. There was a 3-D laser show in the air. I found the whole thing very depressing. It was all very interesting, and filled with great people-watching opportunities, but it was too much.

As we strolled through the Taj Mahal in all its mirrored tacky splendor, I was conscious, almost the entire time, of the blackened bombed-out dead town surrounding.

What a drag.

But besides that: quel spectacle!

There was so much to look at. Too much. We played $6 worth of nickel slot machines, and won nothing. Not a cent.

Every employee was dressed to the hilt in Taj Mahal garb. The cocktail waitresses walking around … the first one I saw, it was as though it was a slap in the face. So this is what we have become. After all this evolution. Look at what we have become. Look at what men want women to be. The waitresses were dressed up as circus horses. Feathers on heads. Feathers on heads. Prance in a circle, girls. Show your legs. Ruffle your feathers for us.

One day, Tonz and I were walking down near Independence Mall and we passed a horse and buggy, sitting at the curb, waiting for a tourist to come along for a ride. And the horse had blinders on – heavily strapped in—just standing there – patiently – just standing – How that horse wanted to be free of the harness, and straps, and not have to clod along on pavement, but to be in a field, mane flowing, running as fast as he wanted to run. The horse, just standing there, had a little American flag on his head. A little sad drooping flag. God, it just made me want to cry. It was the flag that killed me. the taking away of this horse's dignity.

'That horse doesn't want to have a flag on his head." I said.

Tonio looked, saw, saw what I saw, felt what I felt, and took my hand. We walked a little more.

Tonio said, "Stuff like that makes me want to cry."

We looked at each other, both our eyes filled with tears.

Two years. Pretty good.

So anyway, at first, when I saw my first Taj Mahal cocktail waitress, that was how I felt. Look at her. Look at what they have made her into. In a supposedly civilized world.

But then I thought:

She's not passive. Or unaware. Or stupid, like the horse. And someday I may find myself in the same kind of costume. If not as a waitress, then as a Hat Box Girl in Guys and Dolls … and I'm sure I won't feel exploited. Or used. Or like evolution has failed. And I am the symbol of the objectification of women. I will still be me. I have power. I make choices. Everybody makes choices. Those cocktail waitresses aren't idiots. No one makes me into something I don't want to be.

And by the end of the night, watching them stroll about … Yeah, it sucks, that there is this image of women … but these women looked damn tough. They looked in control. Not passive, like the horse with the drooping flag on his head. They strutted about proudly, tough women. They were just wearing costumes, like actresses.

Okay, I have just discovered the difference, and here it is:

In Boston, Tonio and I hung out on our roof all the time. From our roof we had a view of The Holiday Inn at the bottom of the hill. And on the top floor was a bar, all glass windows, with pink neon, and then late at night, whirling lights. And we used to laugh about that bar. It just looked so cheesy. Tonio said it probably had a name like "Raspberries" or something. Then when we got our telescope, we inspected "Raspberries" up close. So close that we could see the suspenders on the bartender, and the pink neon glinting off his bald head. We could also see what those pink swirly letters spelled out as the name of the bar. Not Raspberries. But Reflections. In spite of this, we still called it Raspberries. We couldn't help it. It just seemed to fit.

On our last night in Boston, we took a traipse to all our old haunts, even though it was raining. We had a big dinner, took a walk, and decided on a whim to go up and check out Raspberries. I was wearing hightops and chemical pants, going up to this sleazy hotel pick-up bar. It was sleazy in a very slick disco-tech way. Swirling flashing lights, trying to create an atmosphere of excitement and possibility, chrome, cushioned seats, round tables, a little round dance floor.

We did have an amazing view from up there. The entire city of Boston lost in mist.

We sat down to order some drinks. Our waitress came over. She was like a beautiful soap opera star. Beautiful, but in such an empty way. Platinum hair, big round blue eyes with nothing behind them, a little rosebud mouth, hair DONE, makeup DONE. Somehow she didn't look human. So we ordered, back the drinks came, something like $4.50 a drink – Then I noticed her clothes. I hadn't before. She had on a classy white silk shirt, and what looked like a classy tight black skirt. Then I noticed that the skirt was slit all the way up to her waist, on the side, and she had a red lace garter around her thigh.

Why did this infuriate me so much? I'm not sure. But I got so pissed that we left soon after. Raspberries was making me sick.

And here's the difference between Raspberries waitress and Taj Mahal circus horses: Raspberries woman looked passive. Like a victim of something. There somehow was not a conscious choice behind her ridiculous outfit. This girl, who happened to be pretty, was put into a skirt with a slit up to her neck by the management of RASPBERRIES, they put a garter on her, and there you have it. In fucking REFLECTIONS, a hotel bar. A stupid bar at the Holiday Inn.

Totally unnecessary. Why did the waitresses there have to be dressed like that?

The Taj Mahal women were wearing circus horse costumes and harem-girl costumes. Everyone fit into the grand picture somehow. But … at REFLECTIONS? Red lace garters? Gimme a break. Somehow it seemed so much more exploitative and sad. Also, because the woman at Reflections wasn't wearing her costume like armor, like the casino waitresses did. She seemed to just have on what her employer wanted her to wear.

But Atlantic City was fun in a garish way. Like a freak show might be fun. I saw SO FEW healthy-looking people. Some looked like they had crawled out from under a rock five minutes ago. Many fat white pasty people. There were no robust healthy folks, working there or gambling. So that made it kind of depressing. Even the women dressed to the nines looked kind of sickly. With leathery tans, hard little breasts, too much makeup. I was completely out of place, with my long red curls and my freckles.

It is nice to work at the University where mostly everybody looks healthy, active, outdoorsy.

So Atlantic City gave me a very peculiar feeling inside.

From the poverty-struck dumps outside to the feathers on the waitress' heads, to the weirdo performer singing old time rock 'n roll in a glittery shirt … I just felt weird.

We sat in this bar called The Oasis, and had a harem-girl wait on us. She was wearing see-thru ballooning pants. She served us killer strawberry daiquiris. Very very strong. There was a real and juicy strawberry perched on the edge of the glass.

As we sipped away, sitting on low cushioned couches, with a glass table in front of us, the glass resting on four elephant statues, we grinned gleefully at each other. Tonio kept saying, "We're having fancy strawberry drinks in the Oasis at the Taj Mahal!"

In a tone that said, "How the hell did this happen?"

  contact Sheila Link: 6/06/2003 08:33:00 AM


Me being me, I have to back up a couple of days to tell the story fully. Actually, this is already inaccurate. I have to back up many years. The journey begins in 1992 when I first read the novel Mating, by Norman Rush. It is one of the most pivotal books I have ever read. I posted an excerpt from it here, a while back.

Today, that book is dog-eared from use. The cover is taped on. The pages filled with underlinings. And in the back, on the couple of blank pages, I have crammed up that blank space with as many dictionary definitions of words found in this book as I could. The vocabulary in the book is, as my friend Allison called it, "daunting". I agree, and I have a pretty good vocabulary.

ressentiment: rancor expressed covertly against benefactors
proleptic: the anticipating/answering of objective/argument before it's put forward
omphalog: the naval/a center
copula: a verb that identifies the predicate of sentence with subject -- usually a form of 'to be'. "The girls are beautiful"
syncretist: attempt/tendency to combine or reconcile differing beliefs (philosophy or religion)
bolus: a small round mass. Greek: lump/clod

WHAT? Expanding my vocabulary was part of the fascination of the book.

But the hold Mating had, and still has on me, goes way deeper than that.

The characters in the book (mainly the two leads: Nelson Denoon and the unnamed female narrator) live on in my mind, the way characters like Holden Caulfield do. Or Captain Ahab. Or Anna Karenina. Their life, their potential life, does not stop with the words "The End". You cannot tell me that Holden does not live. It seems an insult to Salinger's creation. There must be an alternate plane out in the ether, with fictional characters wandering about. Not every fictional character, because not every author manages to create a living, breathing, human personality. Actually, "human" is too limiting as well. Because, to my mind, Charlotte the spider lives on. She exists on that alternate plane. It's sort of like the plot of The Velveteen Rabbit. Once the rabbit is loved, and loved deeply, it becomes real. I love these fictional characters in that way.

Mating is the story of a love affair. And much much more. But the main theme is something the author calls "intellectual love". Rush locates and describes a very specific kind of love, and because he did so, the concept became real to me. He articulated one of my deepest longings in a way I had never before encountered. It was like his words illuminated my own needs. Very interesting. Some quotes from the book in this vein:

My utopia is equal love, equal love between people of equal value, although value is an approximation for the word I want. Why is it so difficult? Assortative mating shows there has to be some drive in nature to bring equals together in the toils of love, so why even in the most enlightened and beautifully launched unions are we afraid we hear the master-slave relationship moving its slow thighs somewhere in the vicinity? It has to be cultural. In fact the closest thing to a religion I have is that this has to be cultural. I could do practically anything while he was asleep and not bother him. I wrote in my journal, washed dishes in slow motion if we hadn't gotten around to them. I was emotional a lot, privately. I wanted to incorporate everything, understand everything, because time is cruel and nothing stays the same.


He was appropriate for me and the reverse. I felt it and hated it because it was true despite his being around fifteen years older than me. What did that mean about me? I also hated it because I hate assortative mating, the idea of it. One of my most imperishable objections to the world is the existence of assortative mating, how everyone at some level ends up physically with just who they deserve, at least to the eye of some ideal observer, unless money or power deforms the process. This is equivalent to being irritated at photosynthesis or at inhabiting a body that has to defecate periodically, I am well aware. Mostly it comes down to the matching of faces. When I first encountered the literature, I even referred to it privately as faceism. I will never adapt to it, probably. Why can't every mating in the world be on the basis of souls instead of inevitably and fundamentally on the match between physical envelopes? Of course we all know the answer, which is that otherwise we would be throwing evolution into disarray. Still it distresses me. We know what we are.

A couple of people I recommended this book to were extremely annoyed by the writing-voice, as evidenced in the passage above. I, however, feel like that voice: cerebral, obsessively psychological, yearning, illogical -- comes from right out of me. I relate. Here's more. The book is encyclopedic on love.

If I overdwell on this it can't be helped: love is important and the reasons you get it or fail are important. The number of women in my generation who in retrospect anyone will apply the term "great love" to, in any connection, is going to be minute. I needed to know if I had a chance here. Love is strenuous. Pursuing someone is strenuous. What I say is if you find yourself condemned to wanting love, you have to play while you can play. Of course it would be so much easier to play from the male side. They never go after love qua love, ever. They go after women. And for men love is the distillate or description of whatever happened with each woman that as not actually painful in feeling-tone. there is some contradiction here which I can't expel. What was moving me was the feeling of being worth someone's absolute love, great love, even. And to me this means male love whether I like it or not. C'est ca. Here I am, there I was. I don't know if getting love out of a man is more of a feat of strength now than it used to be or not, except that I do: it is. It's hideous. It's an ordeal beyond speech. When I'm depressed I feel like what was meant by one of his favorite quotations: A bitter feast was steaming hot and a mouth must be found to eat it. Men are like armored things, mountainous assemblages of armor and leather, masonry even, which you are told will self-dismantle if you touch the right spot, and out will flow passionate attention. And we know that this sometimes does happen for one of our sisters, or has happened. This comes full circle back to my attitude about kissing, which he never adjusted to. You want kisses, obviously. But you want kisses from a source, a person, who is in a state. This is why the plague of little moth kisses from men just planting their seniority on you is so intolerable. Of course even as I was machinating I was well aware I was in the outskirts of the suburb of the thing you want or suspect is there. But at this moment in my life I was at the point where even the briefest experience of unmistakable love would be something I could clutch to myself as proof that my theory of myself was not incorrect. Theories can be reactionary and still applicable.

And now, here is Rush's (or his nameless female narrator's) treatise on intellectual love. Obviously, this page in my book is covered in notes, and underlines. Oh, and I don't agree with every sentiment here, but that doesn't matter. I don't read books to meet people just like me. But it is the concept articulated here, the concept of 'intellectual love' which, for me, when I first read it, was like a lightbulb going on, or a door opening. I saw something new. I recognized the longings of my own heart when I read the following passage:

Intellectual love is not the same animal as landing a mentor, although women I've raised the construct with want to reduce it to that. I distrust and shun the whole mentor concept, which is just as well since I seem not to attract them. Nelson was not my mentor, ever. I gave as well as I got, with him. But there was intellectual love on my part, commencing circa that night.

Intellectual love is a particular hazard for educated women, I think. Certain conditions have to obtain. You meet someone -- I would specify of the opposite sex, but this is obviously me being hyperparochial -- who strikes you as having persuasive and wellfounded answers to questions on the order of Where is the world going? These are distinctly not meaning-of-life questions. One thing Denoon did convince me of is that all answers so far to the question What is the meaning of life? dissolve into ascertaining what some hypostatized superior entity wants you to be doing, id est ascertaining how, and to whom or what, you should be in an obedience relationship. The proof of this is that no one would ever say, if he or she had been convinced that life was totally random and accidental in origin and evolution, that he or she had found the meaning of life. So, fundamentally, intellectual love is for a secular mind, because if you discover someone, however smart, is -- he has neglected to mention -- a Thomist or in Baha'i, you think of him as a slave to something uninteresting.

What beguiles you toward intellectual love is the feeling of observing a mental searchlight lazily turning here and there and lighting up certain parts of the landscape you thought might be dubious or fraudulent but lacked the time or energy to investigate or the inner authority to dismiss tout court. The searchlight confirms you.

Mating was the context in which I went through the major "love affair" in my past, with a man who shall remain nameless. My friend Mitchell, who also read and loved the book, referred to my love as "your Nelson Denoon". The similarities were arresting. And when everything fell apart, leaving a nightmare in its wake, that book was an anchor.

In the past couple of weeks, I took Mating out to read again. It is a first novel, and what a first novel. He has not published anything since. There was a book of short stories called Whites which came out years ago, but besides his magnum opus, Norman Rush has been silent. I have begun plans to write a novel myself, and so this time around, with Mating, I was more studying it than reading it. It was a huge hit, it won the National Book Award in 1991. He clearly put everything he knows about everything into that book. It's about love, obviously, but it's also about Africa, and politics, and socialism, and the position of women in Africa, and religion. It's a big book. And obviously extremely personal.

And the ending. The last section, a kind of epilogue, is called "About the Foregoing". It is very mysterious. It ends on a very ambiguous note. She has left Africa, and has left Denoon, her great love. Things have fallen apart. She is now trying to get her life together when suddenly she gets a mysterious message, telling her to come back to Africa. It is not Denoon who calls her. It is a woman. She does not know who it is. Or why she has been summoned. She obsesses about it, wondering what to do. Should she return? What would be waiting for her in Africa? If Denoon did not summon her, then perhaps she would not be welcome anymore? The book ends with these two lines:

Je viens.
Why not?

So, the book leaves you knowing she is going to return, but you do not know the outcome.

I have been haunted by this. Then what? Then what? It has been so long since Mating came out. I have tried to reconcile myself to the fact that I need to, a la Rilke, "live the questions".

The fact that the book ends mysteriously, that it could go either way, confirms for me one of the essential tenets of my life:

You just never know what will happen. Things can always go either way. Also: Things never really end. Not really. They transform, they morph. Love never dies. Ever. I'm not an "I love you I love you - oh you don't love me back anymore? Then I hate you I hate you" kind of girl. Sometimes I wish I were. It might be easier if love turned readily to hate, but for me, it does not.

So alongside my relatively quiet life now are the vibrant exciting love affairs of my past. They make me who I am today. They do not go away, or submerge into the past for good. They are still very much with me, late and soon.

Literally last week, I became obsessed again by the up-in-the-air ending of Mating. What does it signify? What is the message?

And more than that, on a more literal level, on a more literary level: What happened when she returned to Africa? Are they together now? Out on that alternate plane for fictional characters? I always liked to imagine that they were. It made me happy to imagine so. It made me happy to fantasize that on that alternate plane, all turned out well. Eventually.

It's a sort of "Somewhere over the rainbow" sentiment. Things may be lonely here on this plane, but somewhere -- even if it's just for characters in a book -- things might work out. And this alone gives me reason to hope. Things just might work out -- because the ending of Mating doesn't make it clear whether they do or no. This is the degree to which this book affected me.

On a personal note: I used to have these old crazy fantasies about "my Nelson Denoon", fantasies which felt more like getting a glimpse of a never-before-seen alternate path. I comforted myself, after it was all over, by imagining that on that other plane, down that other path, things might have worked out. Or in another lifetime, although reincarnation and alternate lifetimes are not quite in my belief system. However, I became convinced that this was not the first time around for me and "my Nelson Denoon". I would obsess about it, in the terrible aftermath. "Were we married in another life? Or ... with each successive lifetime, are we coming closer to one another? It just so happens that I am stuck in the lifetime where it doesn't work out..." I was blithering like that to my patient friend Kate. She listened. And then she said, "Actually, I bet that your Celtic tribe probably slaughtered his Celtic tribe." We roared.

So I digress. All of these crazy thoughts are very tied up, for me, in Norman Rush's book.

All of this came up to the foreground again, in the last week, (it all began dovetailing), and I thought, impulsively: "I should just write to Norman Rush and ask him what he's up to ... if he's working on anything ..." He hasn't published anything else since Mating, so -- I wondered --- is he chugging away at a sequel? Is he dead? I needed to know desperately.

"Mr. Rush -- are you just going to leave me hanging with the end of Mating? Do you know how important it is, how essential it is in terms of my understanding of how the world works, that I know what happened with the two of them? Will I ever know the outcome?"

Wanting to write to Norman Rush was a random fleeting thought. I have written to authors before, so it wasn't too far-fetched.

Then, a couple of days ago, I stopped off at a computer place to check my email. While there, I visited my SiteMeter for this blog, to check in on my traffic. I saw that someone had gotten to me by typing "Norman Rush" into Google. It led this person to that excerpt. And this piqued my interest. Somebody else is looking for Norman Rush right now? Why? Is something going on?

So I blatantly Googled the man.

The first thing that came up was Village Voice article dated May, 2003. I opened it, and lo and freakin' behold, it was a review of his new book. The man has a new book out. Mortals. I hope I have conveyed how important this is to me. But I am having a hard time finding the words. It would be like hearing that JD Salinger had suddenly come out of hiding and published a new novel. While Salinger is still alive, there is still hope that he may write again. He just might.

So Rush has a new huge novel out. And again, it takes place in Botswana, Africa. Botswana! The country that Rush made live for me.

Mortals (and I just skimmed the article feverishly ... I didn't want to read any spoilers, no give-aways, nothing that would ruin the experience) is NOT about Nelson Denoon and our beloved unnamed narrator. It is another couple altogether, although Rush again tackles man/woman relationships. This time in the context of marriage. Not so much about finding the right mate, and how arduous that process is, how it can break your heart. Rush now goes into the realm of established intimacy, and ... what happens then?

And here's the thing:

I raced through the book review excitedly and could not believe my eyes: Nelson and "she" DO show up in this new book, peripherally. They ARE characters on the outskirts. And, oh so casually, Village Voice reviewer states: "We learn that they have married."

What? They married?? I almost shouted out loud for joy.

I didn't read the rest, I signed out immediately, paid my bill, and hustled my ass down to Barnes & Noble to find the book, which had been published THAT WEEK. (Okay, let's just take a moment to reflect on how weird that is. I contemplate writing to Norman Rush, pestering him to write a sequel, and dammitall if he doesn't have a new book published on almost that same exact day.)

And there it was. A huge book. Hardcover. A map of Botswana inside. I got a chill of excitement. I felt voracious. Almost sick to my stomach, actually. I wanted to download the entire book into my brain immediately. I glanced through and saw that there was a chapter called "The Denoons", and I had to restrain myself. Prolong the anticipation, more pleasure that way.

And as I was walking down Washington Street, with my booty in my bag, I suddenly got weirdly emotional.

It was like: I had heard that real friends of mine had finally gotten married after much strife. It would be like if me and "my Nelson Denoon" ever got hitched (not a possibility anymore) -- my friends, who went through the whole thing with me, would probably jump up and down for joy, yelling, "At last!" Okay? This is the power this book has for me. I felt -- well, it's a bit embarrassing to admit, but I was almost in tears, truth be told.

There have been times in the past couple of years when life has been the cliched howling wilderness. Hopes up, hopes crushed, hopes up, and then crushed. Nothing close to real has happened in that arena of my life. "My Nelson Denoon" remains a kind of monument, a sort of goal. I have tried to knock him off that pedestal, but I have finally accepted the fact that he actually deserves to be up there. Whether I am with him or not. This is a bit more personal than I normally write, but this is my blog, and this is what is going on with me right now.

When things did not come to fruition between us, my baffled thought was: If that didn't work out, that which seemed so damn right, then what the hell will work out? For quite a long time, my answer to that question was: Nothing. Nothing.

But then ... here ... years later ... walking down Washington, knowing that she and Nelson got married -- after all that --

I suddenly felt this upsurge of hope. Not for me and "my Nelson Denoon", because like I said earlier: that is no longer possible. But what I mean is: hope in general. In terms of my prospects.

A word on hope:

Hope for me, now, always goes hand in hand with a bittersweet and rather vague pain. Hope never ever comes by itself anymore. The way it used to when I was a little kid, or a teenager. I suppose that's indicative of age and experience. It seems so to me anyway. That's life. I am not saying this exactly as I wanted to. Basically: Hope no longer comes alone.

This sadness and hope I felt, walking down the street, wasn't about Nelson and she ... at least, not only about them. The sadness and hope was from how I see life now. In terms of mating. I feel like I had my run. It was a good run. I had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs. But that all has stopped now. And that's why hope never comes alone anymore. I still feel hope, occasionally, but never ever by itself.

So I got overwhelmed by this weird sense of sad hope --- a feeling that STILL, after all THAT, "things" might "work out". For me, in my life. It's awful when one becomes afraid to feel hope anymore, protecting oneself against the inevitable disappointment. This is a constant balancing act. I am not a young girl of 22, with a couple of disappointments in my past (like David W. saying no to being my date at the junior prom, etc.) ... I am in my 30s, and I've been through a hell of a lot. Not all bad. Of course not all bad. Like I said: a lot of laughs. Much fun. But now, I just find it easier not to hope ... at least in that arena ... and focus on other things.

But ... but ....

They got married. They got married. What does that mean? For me?

I am so used to the state of affairs I live in now, since I have lived there now for about a decade. I mean, I have changed and grown, of course, I have moved from city to city, I got my Master's, I've made new friends, it has been a very full existence. But I have been alone the entire time. THAT has not changed. Not even close.

Perhaps a breakthrough is approaching. A breakthrough in how I see all of this. And the appearance of Norman Rush's Mortals is the harbinger of something good. Or, something different. Something exciting, unforeseen, challenging. That's what I was feeling as I walked down the street, too. I'm scared of it ... and yet. Perhaps it is time. I don't know. Even as I write that, the logical side of my brain, the side that has all the experience, that knows the let-downs, etc., says: "Yes, but you have felt this before. You have felt this so strongly before. And you were never right."

But maybe ... maybe ... Maybe this is it.

There is SOMETHING weird about how all of this has come about:

The book being wrapped up with my own Nelson Denoon
Wishing the characters well -- hoping they are happy in another reality
Holding onto a weird strange hope that things worked out well, at least for them
Wondering if a sequel was coming
Studying the book over the last couple of weeks ... as a good example of a hit first novel ... an inspiration ... for this new realm I am going into ... being a writer
That book, for me, is the monument, the goal
Wanting to write to Norman Rush
Someone coming to MY blog, through Googling Norman Rush ...during the very week I was obsessing about Rush, and where he was, and whether or not he was writing
Finding out that Rush has written a new book ... published last week ... in which we discover the Denoons have married
And so:
Things are not what they seem.

Back to the old painful belief: You never ever know what will happen. You can never tell what the future will hold. Your predictions will all be wrong.

I have tentatively and slowly begun Mortals, forcing myself not to browse ahead, looking for references to the Denoons. I want to savor every word.

I have waited for this day for so long.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/04/2003 10:50:00 AM

Wednesday, June 04, 2003  


An excellent observation made by Charles at Little Green Footballs, something I completely missed. Go check it out. Very very good point. Hypocrisy staring at me right in the face, but I am so used to it I no longer even see it.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/02/2003 03:07:00 PM

Monday, June 02, 2003  


The Disaffected Muslim takes on the concept of family, and what it means in Islam, as opposed to what it means in the West. As always, as with all of her posts, it is a must-read.

Muslims often complain that things that seem unjust in Islam, such as honor killings and the like, are really just Arab or Persian or some other ethnic tradition with no basis in Islam itself. The problem is, much of it is in fact codified by the Shari'ah, such as the patriarchal family, and it presupposes a certain societal structure and attitudes that directly lead to such atrocities, such as the absolute insistence on female virginity, to the point where women and girls are killed by their families if even suspected of being alone with a man. Also, if Islam is a "complete way of life," as so many Muslims boast, not just a "mere religion" separated from the rest of life, how can anything that takes place in Islamic society have no basis in Islam, which, as mentioned, encompasses every element of life and is the very basis of the society? Who decides what is Islam and what is tradition?

It would be nice if Muslims could really and honestly look at Shari'ah as something open to change, to be looked at with fresh eyes and reinterpreted according to societal needs, instead of proclaiming it the absolute Will of Allah, which must not be changed in any way, regardless of how things have changed from the 7th century. This leads to stagnation, which leads to death.

I applaud her continued courage in telling the truth.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/02/2003 12:20:00 PM


Larry Miller (funny funny man) weighs in on what he calls "Battle Fatigue". I read it, thinking: Yes, yes. This is exactly what is going on with me right now.

After so much passionate debating, thinking, and maneuvering for so many months, from the supermarkets to the offices to the talk shows, I think most Americans are either taking a breather from the big picture, or have just about had it. I have an image in my head of a stick-thin, all-black-clad writer at the Nation, and a chubby, Brooks Brothers-clad writer at National Review, both getting the latest, daily, thirty-page, small-print, CENTCOM report dropped on their desks, and both shoving it away, muttering, "Oh, Jeez," and then both calling out to the hallway, "Hey, anything new on Laci Peterson?"

Ha ha

I hit my saturation point a while back as well. I continue to follow the news, because it is engrained in my DNA to do so. But the passion I felt a mere month ago has dissipated, leaving me pale and apathetic. I can't live in that zone forever. I am not a perpetually outraged person. I have my limits.

(Found this Larry Miller piece via Patio Pundit.)

  contact Sheila Link: 6/02/2003 12:09:00 PM


Browsing through my pitstops this morning. Things that caught my eye:

Bylines, Datelines and Fault Lines at The N.Y. Times The continuing story ... It does not cease to amaze me. It's like watching a train wreck in slo-mo.

The Zimbabwean nightmare... I got to this through the indispensable AfricaPundit. A showdown is approaching. Things do not look good. But then again, things never look good in Zimbabwe.

Andre at Curveball (a terrific blog if you have not discovered it) has multiple posts up right now on the situation in Africa. What the hell is to be done about the disaster that Africa has become? What is the solution? It is not money. The developed world has thrown billions and billions of dollars at Africa, and still ... still ...

Rudolph captured. The story of the weekend. My favorite part of the story was the rookie 21-year-old cop, taking Rudolph in on suspected burglery, only to discover that he had just captured one of the most wanted men in America. Amazing. Rick Ross, "an internationally known expert regarding destructive cults, controversial groups and movements", wrote the following piece about Eric Rudolph, and the white supremacist lunatic groups he was a part of.

Beginning in childhood he was submerged in a subculture that includes as many as 50,000 Americans in more than a hundred desperate groups scattered across the country. This subculture is often called the "Christian Identity" movement.

Christian Identity believes that whites are the descendants of the biblical tribes of Israel and God's elect. And also that the world will soon be engulfed in an apocalyptic struggle. In that struggle whites will battle against a worldwide Jewish conspiracy.

According to the movement's proponents Jews and non-whites are actually descended biologically from Satan. That is, Satan had sex with Eve in the Garden of Eden and this union produced the other races.

It's ugly stuff to read, very ugly stuff, but it is good information. Context is, as always, decisive.

Long Days Journey into Nighton Broadway. Sounds like a must-see. I waited in line last week for Standing Room tickets (which are only $26 as opposed to $101 regular price). I got there early and joined the line, waiting for the box office to open. New York is such a great place. Any obsession you may have, you can rest assured that there will be many others sharing it. I was not the only freak sitting on the sidewalk at 8 in the morning, waiting for the box office to open at 11. I wasn't even the first one there! Finally, at 10 am, someone from the theater came out and said, "I just want you all to know, so that you are not wasting your time, Vanessa Redgrave will not be performing tonight. I repeat, Vanessa Redgrave will NOT be performing tonight." Half of the line, myself included, got up and walked away. She, to my taste, is the only reason I want to see it. I cannot WAIT.

Some compelling excerpts from the review:

Good old pity and terror, the responses that Aristotle deemed appropriate to tragedy, are seldom stirred on Broadway these days. But Ms. Redgrave elicits them again and again as Mary wanders restlessly through the long day of the play's title, dispensing blame and love, cold lies and scalding truths. You understand on a gut level why O'Neill, when writing this autobiographical play six decades ago, was said by his wife Carlotta to emerge from his study gaunt and red-eyed, looking 10 years older than he had in the morning.

And finally, this:

"The past is the present, isn't it?" Mary asks famously. "It's the future, too. We all try to lie out of that, but life won't let us." Ms. Redgrave's Mary reminds you that O'Neill's "Journey" is a ghost story, in which the phantoms are not things of ectoplasm but blood relations. This Mary is a living specter who haunts her own life as she does the lives of her husband and sons. No one who sees Ms. Redgrave's performance will ever again be able to say there are no such things as ghosts.

A letter to President Bush from Lt. Smash (another great blog). I found this on Instapundit.

Very good and long post (with lots o' links) on Instapundit about "postwar malaise". Well, it's not just about the malaise, it's also about: what now? What is going on in Iraq now? Are we on the right track? What do the people on the ground say? How are the Kurds doing? What the hell is actually going on? Very good stuff. I recommend you surf through these links.

Dr. Frank, at Blogs of War, has a terrific post up about Michael Moore. Just read it.

Crackdown in Burma. (Or should I say Myanmar). Aung San Suu Kyi taken into custoday again. They are closing down universities. People being arrested. Burma has been promoting itself as Myanmar since 1989, and the world does not recognize that as its name. Well, actually, the world map on my wall does have a space for the triangular "Myanmar", but still: articles still have to say "Myanmar --- formerly known as Burma" or whatever. The name has not stuck. Indicative of something else, I believe. The complete illegitimacy of the military junta there. The whole world responds with a rolling of the eyes: "You wanna call yourself Myanmar? WHATEVER, boys. You'll always be Burma to us."

Crackdown in Iran continuing ... women's clothing being the issue. Thanks to Iranian Girl for keeping us up to date on what is going on. As the summer arrives, the harassment of women intensifies. Their country is falling apart around them, and the mullahs focus on women's ankles and foreheads.

Andrew Sullivan's latest article for the Sunday Times: So where are they? WMDs, Iraq, and Iran. Here is the crux of the matter, as Sullivan sees it. It all comes down to a matter of perspective:

If you believe al Qaeda is an exception; that there is no profound terror threat to free societies; and that the significance of WMDs is overblown, you will tend to look at Saddam's Iraq and say: so what? If someone proposes war, you'll demand absolute and incontrovertible proof of the danger. And if that proof is hard to find - as will always be the case in closed, dictatorial police states - your gut will tell you to stay out of trouble.

But if you see the rise of Islamo-fascism as a broad and terrifying phenomenon, with clear animosity toward the West, you'll take a different view. If you believe that a chemical or biological 9/11 is on the terrorist agenda and that an avowed enemy of the West and ally of terrorists is capable of creating such weapons, you'll shift the burden of proof toward those who deny the danger, not to those who fear it. And barring clear evidence that the regime itself has changed its nature, you will prepare to get rid of it.

That was and is the rationale for what was done in Iraq. That's why the Bush administration seemed at times to conflate the issue of disarmament and regime change. In fact, they rightly believed that the two were one and the same thing, and that no regime headed by Saddam could ever be relied upon not to deliver WMDs to the West. It can never be proven if that fear was fully justified - we cannot predict how a future Saddam would have acted. But the choice was between removing the regime or declaring the regime weapon-free and removing sanctions from the beleaguered Iraqi people. 1441 was Saddam's last chance to prove he was a changed person. It proved he wasn't. If he had nothing to hide, why did he try so hard to hide it? And after all we know now about Saddam's evil police state, on what possible grounds could we have trusted him in the future?

Aaron, at 6:01 a.m., links to the New York Times special on summer reading. Seems to be a goldmine.

Powerline compiles a bunch of links on the Robert Scheer article (the one where he declared that the rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch was a fake).

And finally, on a lighter note, I found this quiz on One Hand Clapping, and had to take it myself: What Matrix Persona Are You?

You are Morpheus-
You are Morpheus, from "The Matrix." You
have strong faith in yourself and those around
you. A true leader, you are relentless in your

What Matrix Persona Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

  contact Sheila Link: 6/02/2003 10:04:00 AM


Rain pouring against my windows. Last night, Jen and I sat in our living room, listening to the thunderous downpour wash down onto our roof. One of my favorite sounds. I also love the sound of cars driving by when it is raining. The wet tires splashing through the puddles.

More to write. So much more. Stay tuned.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/01/2003 10:01:00 AM

Sunday, June 01, 2003  
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