Breakfast

I’m in the city this morning, and I’m searching for a cup of coffee. Because of health reasons, I’m on this new diet where I’m not allowed to eat anything that tastes good. I decide, then, to go over to Angelica’s Kitchen, in case they’ve got something besides oatmeal with soy milk.

My waiter is this tall, gangley kid wearing parachute pants with either tiny octopuses embroidered all over them, or skull and bones. (I’m blind.) But the main thing is he’s got a haircut like Don Draper—it’s perfectly shaved around his narrow white neck, parted OCD-style, on the side, with that bump in the front. Listen up, boys: No one looked like Don Draper then, and no one looks like him now. What you look like is that big-baby-headed Pete Campbell, whose mother probably gave him baths in the washing machine to get him that clean and white.

Little boys had that haircut, and it was totally queer back then. It took a revolution to cut it out, and it was the first thing to go—big-baby-headed ridiculous-bump haircuts for little white boys. Imagine if the latest style were to tattoo numbers to your forearm.

Anyway, the big-baby-headed waiter is talking to a lady at a table nearby, about David Lynch (of course!). He’s being obsequious, and she’s being herself: a sixty-year-old East Village crawler, with long, lank grey hair and rimless glasses, wondering if he’s seen the new television show based on Elmore Leonard novels. She’s not a pretty woman—her clothes hang off her, and she’s an overall shade of grey—and her mixing of literary and television-y makes me sad. My generation is a joke too! We are all, all of us humans, so weird. (Can you imagine bombing Libya, while people are eating newly radiated spinach and living out of cardboard boxes nearby? Have we gone even more insane?)

Onward. They don’t serve coffee at Angelica’s Kitchen. No wonder most of the tables are empty. I have to walk back to Fourth Avenue, to Think Coffee, where everyone is so cool they’re nasty. I’ve had to switch to soy in my coffee (blech!), and they make pretty good ones there, though they do throw them at you. Like the French in the 1980s, the staff must have been told to get nicer, because everyone is smiling, and they’re playing Bob Dylan for a change.

Last night I saw a musical in a loft, the audience sitting around tables, as if they were at a cafe. The only other prop was a bed, around which the tables were placed. Guess what? Every scene (and there were a lot of them) ended with people fucking—while singing—on the tables or in the bed. Sigh. It reminds me of what Dzongsar Khyentse likes to say: that we have become so numb that we’ve had to move on from whips and chains to cheese graters.

Dad Memory #3: The Sky

My dad's car was kind of like this, but black.
He had a black Lincoln Continental. I think it was from 1956, and I think it was a limited edition (though I might be wrong on both counts). It had leather seats—dark maroon.

Though he’d been a lawyer when he was younger (he was 48 when I was born), my father owned a bunch of properties—a beach club in the Bronx called Shorehaven, part of the Miracle Mile in Manhasset, and a golf club up in Greenwich called Green Hills—and he worked at both Shorehaven and Green Hills. The way I saw him, he was kind of the Ambassador of those places—he was always tan, and he would wear spiffy, pressed clothes, and he was social: he walked around talking to people, smiling, shaking hands, like that. Maybe I see him that way because those are the times I saw him at his work; I didn’t see him much in his office. (I wonder why?)

Anyway, one time at least, I drove up to Green Hills with my dad, just me and him alone. I remember sitting in the front seat beside him. Though my mom was the kind of parent who talked to her kids, my dad, from my memory, was the kind of parent who didn’t talk much. So I remember driving that long drive from Long Island to Connecticut in silence. I was very small—below window level—so I spent the time looking up at two things, my dad, peacefully driving, and the blue sky, filled with puffy white clouds and the tops of tree branches, passing by.

Posted in Dad

Dad Memory #2: The Tiny Photo

First I’d like to remind you all of that feeling of feetie pajamas; you’ve got that thin layer of white plastic between your feet and the floor, and your feet kind of stick to it on the inside, though you can slide around a whole lot better on the out. It is this kind of memory that is beginning to awaken the sad monster.

Anyway. In my parent’s bathroom was a mirror that I believe I’ve described before: it was the kind you see at a tailor’s, or in more expensive clothing stores. It was made up of several full-length mirrors in wooden frame, all on hinges, and you could fold the mirrors around you (if you were five), and be inside a mirror cocoon. But this isn’t about the mirror. This is about the tiny photo.

Beside the mirror was a set of drawers made from the same wood that framed the glass. They were built into the wall, beside my father’s closet. (Maybe I’m making this up—I have full memories that turn out to be completely wrong.) Anyway, one of the things that my father kept in those drawers was a little jewelry box, and in that jewelry box was a golden charm. It was a tiny book, that you could open, with a page made of gold inside. On that page, inside my father’s drawer, was a tiny photo. It was of my brother Ian, when he was a baby.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons I figured my dad loved Ian more. That and the story about how, when he had a heart attack while he was sick, he called Ian’s name. Diana, my brilliant and glamorous therapist, believes that my father adored me. I was his only daughter. There is evidence to think this might be true. But it was not in the jewelry box in my parent’s bathroom. I will have to look further.

Dad Memory #1: His Teeth

O.K., that isn’t fair: what this memory is really about is the sink in his and my mother’s bathroom. It was a double sink—his the one closest to the window that looked out over the Sound—and every time I stood in front of it, I measured my height from where I was (my eyes at the same level as the tube of toothpaste by the sink) to the mirror, high above. One day, I used to think, I would be able to see over the sink. I looked forward to that day.

If I sat on the toilet (with the lid down), though, I could watch my father shave. I think I remember him in pants with a belt and no shirt, but that may be because I have a photograph of him like that, with me hanging on his back, my arms around his neck, my brother Ian pointing at the camera with a Civil War hat at a jaunty angle, my brother Peter squatting on the floor, smiling.

Anyway, I remember the white bottle of Old Spice, its neck tapering. I remember my dad’s ring—a small one, with a diamond—by a glass. Somehow I remember his teeth in the glass, immersed in water, but I don’t remember ever seeing him toothless. The truth is, I’m writing this down partly so I can see how much I remember: Is it a finite number of memories? Once I get started, will they go on and on?

This is what I would do: I would put shaving cream all over my face, including on my forehead, and I would shave it off with one of my mother’s bobby pins. I would stand on the toilet, and look in the mirror while I did this. I don’t remember if my dad was there—though I think he might have been—or I did this while I was alone. I did it, though, because I admired him. (And because I loved shaving cream.)

Posted in Dad

Honestly I Might Be Stupid to Think Love is Love, But I Do

My Dear Blogateers,

I’ve been remiss. I know—I don’t need to tell you that. It has to do with my voice, I think, and lack of certainty about how to say what I want to say in this light, bloggy form. I haven’t been feeling light and bloggy lately, as many or most of you know. Anyway, I have a new assignment: to write about my father. Probably much of that I can’t do in this form, but who knows? Do you want to know the sad, gritty facts of devastating loss?

The thing I haven’t really inspected, you see, is that fact that I loved my father as much as a person can love another person. Or I think I did. That is, the aftermath of his death was pretty bad for ten-year-old Deitch, and I’m pretty certain that I went back, just after he died, and did a little rearranging of facts and feelings, let’s just say, so that devastating loss would disappear. Maybe I toned down the love a little bit, and later made my dad a bad guy.

Anyway. The point is that I’m going to try to tell you some of the the stories. I’ll start with this intro:

Last week was the forty-fifth anniversary of my father’s death. Can you believe that? It was a different anniversary from the many, many that have gone before it, because I’m reeling from another huge loss right now, and another, and another, and another, and so my heretofore brilliant grief-and-pain-stuffing ability seems to have broken down, and all that stuffed stuff has built up huge steam. I didn’t know this, exactly, until a few days ago, on the anniversary of my father’s death, when I suddenly felt it, walking up Madison Avenue in the Seventies: the physical, energetic pressure—hundreds of pounds of it, all there since 1966 or before—pushing up through my muscles and joints and veins and organs. I didn’t know which to do first, vomit or cry. (Deitch has been doing as much crying on New York City Streets as men are doing shitting in open fields in India.)

Anyway, to keep myself from exploding into a massive cloud of sad particles that will cover the earth and enter the spinach and milk of everyone, I’m starting to let out little bits of very, very sad steam, every few hours. I’ve got it under control until I don’t. So that’s the start.

That and the fact that I took a pair of jeans out of the closet this morning, that I hadn’t worn in a year or two. Upon lifting them off the hanger, fifteen dollars fell out of the pocket. I had the usual minor thrill at having discovered forgotten money, but the main thing I felt was that this was money that had secretly been living in my pocket during my old life, before it unceremoniously and suddenly and horribly ended. This was happy, innocent money—money that was in my pocket when Scout was alive, and Dolly and Scooby. When Julia and I were probably sitting at Community over wine and hamburgers, laughing about something we both thought was very funny, or walking down Broadway at night, pointing at the ugly clothes in locked stores and saying, “I bought that for you.” When we were friends. This is money from the time when I was feeling light and bloggy and happily talking nonsense about whatever: about the magic of things, mainly.

I put that money in my drawer today. I’ve decided to keep it for awhile. It’s covered in magic. I’m not giving it away—and I’m not letting anyone take it away. I will finally suffer the loss of my loves, but I’ll do it with it with a few talismen from the past in my pockets and drawers, to remind me that it wasn’t always dark like this: you can’t lose it, if you haven’t had it.

Here’s a song for you:

You Belong To Me

I’m sorry for the lack of video here, but I don’t know how to upload music on this site yet, and I wanted to play you this song. I heard it in Starbucks this morning, while I was working, and it struck a chord: this was the background music of my young life, and it (and music like it, and the sensibility surrounding it at the time) became the foundation for my dreams. And then this other life happened. Now here I am, in Starbucks, in this utterly materialistic world, tsunami/earthquakes destroying cultures, radioactive material seeping into the air, the world gone crazy—with denial.

Not to be too much of a downer, but rhonestly…. I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with my life now, and the sanest choice seems to be to go into a three-year retreat and try to look below this slick, Starbucks, samsaric, self-centered surface. And yet here, right here—with you—is where I want to be.

For Free

There’s a guy who busks on the uptown side of the 6-train station on 86th and Lexington. He’s there sometimes at night—around eight, eight-thirty—and he plays hits from the sixties, seventies, and eighties, mostly, on his acoustic guitar. There are so many buskers in the subways these days—a bunch of them funded by the city, somehow—that I’ve begun to tune them out: the constant din of mediocrity and all that, despite everyone’s good intentions and massive need.

Anyway, this guy is different. There he is in his funky loafers and his too-big, caramel-colored winter coat, a black billed cap on his head. He has shoulder-length hair and long eyelashes, and he’s not too tall. Sometimes he looks sad, and on those days he plays sad songs: Last night he was playing a Beatles medley of Norwegian Wood and And I Love Her. The thing about him, though, is that, no matter how he feels or what he’s playing, he’s got something extra going on: He’s got very, very quiet, unassuming, heart-aching and heart-breaking soul. He can’t stand still—even just a little, he’s dancing. He’s dancing because he can’t help it.

I look forward to seeing him, and sometimes I’m disappointed when he’s not there. I watch the people walk by him, talking: guys in shorts with crewcuts and gym bags, ladies in hot-pink parkas and matching winter scarves, lost in their iphones. He’s like a shadow among them—an individual among followers. No one notices.

I thought of him today when I was having breakfast alone uptown. Two upper-east-side ladies were sitting in the corner of the restaurant, eating giant omelettes and toast. They had matching hair: coiffed and streaked and sprayed so that the dos looked exactly like beaver hats, without the tails. They had matching manicures, matching gold rings, matching big hoops in their ears, matching tans, matching extra pounds. I found them so fascinating that I couldn’t stop staring, and then one of them looked at me in mid-bite and blinked: she had egg in her mouth, and she took a bite of toast to go with it. She caught me, her lipsticked mouth full of breakfast.

I suck. I judge people. I love that busker and I think these ladies are just plain weird. I think the guys in shorts and the girl with her ipod are stupid. There. It’s all just so sad. Which means, I guess, that it’s all equally beautiful.