9/03/2003

In Which a journey is once more begun

The heat lingering in his cheeks from their second, and last, kiss, he lowers himself into the basket, like some recalcitrant cobra resisting the charms of a winsome tune. Through woven wicker, the lights of the boats are visible, bobbing on the surf. He looks back up through the dark oval of the basket’s opening, at the angelic eyes that beam down at him. He doesn’t have to say anything; for a brief second she draws back her veil and bares her face to him once more, a countenance so fierce he fears for a second it might set the basket on fire. “Remember me,” she says. “Always,” he tells her. “Be good,” she says. “Always.” For an instant he considers rising once more, stepping out of the container of his salvation and into her arms. And he would—nothing they could throw at him could compare to the torture of the orphanage—but for her. She has told him that these are her wishes, and as her Knight of the Intemperate Countenance, he is duty-bound to honor them. Even as these thoughts are unspooling in his mind, the lid is lowered, a dark moon eclipsing her radiance. He has looked upon his true love, he thinks, for the final time. And as he feels himself hoisted into the air by ungentle hands, jiggled and jostled on the shoulders of stevedores, he tries to lower his own lid on the coarse and vulgar speech that drifts through the wicker. He tries to block out all that prurience, and to burn onto the surface of his mind the image of her in her purity, like a postcard he will carry with him on all his future journeys, pour voir, de temps en temps, et souvenir.

9/01/2003

Jersey's Got It All

From the parking lot of Giants Stadium, you can see a whole lot of America. The white lines painted on the asphalt run off to the east, toward the vast meadowlands and the broken skyline beyond. On Saturday night, the Empire State building was lit up in red, white, and blue, and a low, flat cloud formation almost touched its tip. You can see the industrial parks and warehouses. You can see the lights that trace the highway, the roiling of the cars. Flags are everywhere. Off to the west is the actual arena, the residential sprawl of northern Jersey, the sun dropping from a clearing sky. And closer are the thousands of people who have descended to drink beer and wait for the Boss. It's a little America, almost--a white America, to be sure, but nonetheless a democratic mass, a rabble of out-of-shape, old high-school buddies playing touch football, former Deadhead dudes, families, women with gravity-defying hair. This is what people don't understand when I tell them I'd like eventually to settle down in New Jersey. I know it's ugly. I know there are pretty spots, too. It's the mixture of the two, the infinite gradations between them, the varied carols I hear when I'm there, that fascinate me. Walt Whitman was from Jersey. Allen Ginsberg. Frank Sinatra. And, of course, the Boss. Who played, by the way, a ridiculous show.