July 2011



In the touching there is texture;
layers of what we are made of
      to be explored.


In the speaking,
before the mind has had the chance
to assess the worth of a thought,

words can spill out like pennies.
“I love you” comes to all of
      twenty-nine cents.


The tongue that is held
can go to a deeper place.

The signs that read “Do Not Touch”
set the stage for reticence.
Yet funny how the fingers
      cannot resist
the pull of that which warns: “Wet Paint.”
More the belief in the touch
than in one’s very own eyes.


So touch me, hold me,
as a Madonna might her child.
A love so unspoken
that no canvas can contain it
as it takes its leave
      of mother earth.
And I will in turn
      take you
to a far better place as well.


—Ron Vazzano





You Can Go Home Again



That “you can’t go home again,” is an alleged truism taken directly from the title of the posthumously published 1940 novel by Thomas Wolfe. (Not to be confused with Tom Wolfe, best selling author in the perpetual white suit, who is still very much alive and kicking). We hear it often. And in that novel it is George Webber, the protagonist, who gives voice to it this way:


“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood…back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and fame…back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.” Source: Wikipedia


We beg to differ with George Webber and the Wolfe putting words in his mouth.


You can go home again if the family and friends of childhood, those who love you and who you love in return, are still there and ready to receive you with open arms. And they are. And they do.


You can go home again if you’ve already achieved those young man’s dreams of glory and fame, as we have been fortunate to have done, at least by our own tempered measurements of glory and fame.


You can go home again, if home is not a place in the country, but New York City, the greatest city on earth. Fuggedaboutit. And the gritty, grimy New York of our youth, and then the slumping one we left behind some 30 years ago, cannot not compare to the almost magical place it has become. “Magic” to be defined more fully at another time and place…but it starts with its parks, now all so beautified and accessible. The ones you once would take your life in your hands to walk in. And all the street is a stage. To which this YouTube video passed on to us might attest. YouTube - wellsfargo's Channel.


You can go home again, if in spite of old forms and systems changing, you can adapt to those changes. Especially when they have been for the better. (Though they’ve got to get rid of the MetroCard.)


You can go home again, when time and memory are seen—not as escapes George Webber— but as guiding lights to wisdom, that can only come with having spent a good deal of time experiencing life and remembering the “right stuff” of which we are made. (And we have just switched Wolfe’s in midstream, quoting the “Tom one” now; author of The Right Stuff.)


That is what has been our experience.


And it was brought home, so to speak, in the party we threw last month for many old friends and family; some with whom we go back 60 years. And then there were those with whom we go back 60 minutes; the new friends we have made in the short time since our return. And unlike, say at a wedding, a bar mitzvah, a milestone birthday, each of the forty guests who were there, wanted to be. And not because they were held hostage to some sort of obligation.



So yes, you can go home again. We’re here


Finally, and while we are at it, why not take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous quote: “There are no second acts in American lives.” It’s a variation of sorts on the Thomas Wolfe theme, that there are no “do-overs.”


Maybe there was no second act for you “Scotty” because you drank yourself to death at intermission. But we are about to enter what is arguably “Act V” in our life, and thrilled to be strutting our extended “hour upon the stage.” And now it seems with that last reference, that we have taken on The Bard himself. Best we quit here, and not overplay our hand.







Quote of the Month



“…there are two questions a man must ask himself: The first is ‘Where am I going?’ and the second is ‘Who will go with me?’ If you ever get these questions in the wrong order you are in trouble.”

—Sam Keen
Fire In The Belly: On Being a Man







Getting Off On Angelina Jolie



We are not easily smitten. We are not the smitten type. Especially when it comes to high profile celebrities. They tend to turn us off rather than on. What with the hype, the plasticity, and the over-the-top posturing that seems to accompany every public exposure.


The last celebrity who sent us over the edge was Ann Margaret in that opening song in Bye, Bye, Birdie. (SEPTEMBER, 2009 MUSE-LETTER Mad Men Mesmerized by Ann Margaret).

But that was 1963. (We were about to add an exclamation point there, but F. Scott Fitzgerald has said: “Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” And while he is starting to become a pain in the ass—see previous essay—we’ll refrain for the moment…but we digress).


As for Angelina Jolie? She just has never registered with us. In fact, we have come to resent her face constantly in our face, with that sultry look staring out from the cover of virtually every magazine on the rack; daring us not to acknowledge her quintessential gorgeousness. And we could do without Brad Pitt always looking so smug on her arm. But we have held our ground. Until now. Seeing her in a different setting, a different pose, and in different clothes, we cry uncle.


It came upon us so unexpectedly, triggered by a photo taken of her by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz in Cambodia this past May, for an ad campaign by Louis Vuitton. Accompanied by the tagline, A single journey can change the course of a life, we caught it on the back cover of New York magazine last month.


Louis Vuitton apparently has decided to try to buy a soul in the goal of selling more handbags. And they have decided to have Jolie, make that sale. And why not? And why not in Cambodia? After all, she does have an adopted Cambodian child, and she and Brad are dedicated travelers to the more underdeveloped nations of the world. It would all be so believable, no?


So here she is…sitting in a rather shoddy yet exotic craft, that is designed apparently to negotiate the swamps. It looks as if it might have been built in Biblical times. Yet she seems perfectly comfortable, as she strikes a meaningful pose (or is it a meaning, full of pose?) with one arm and shins and feet exposed. And while we don’t have a foot fetish, we are thinking of working on one. For that is ironically the first place to which we are drawn, so long and slender are hers. The right foot apparently ending in a perfect set of toes; the left arched just so. And the feet give way to tapered ankles and shins that must have been shaped on a lathe.


And then there’s the safari-ish clothing, in which every wrinkle seems to have been prearranged, nicely accentuating the left buttock. No wrinkle out of place— we simply love these duds. And the pants are rolled up because at any moment, she may have to leave that primitive craft among the lily pads and wade to somewhere out of the frame. You never know.


Her hand supports what we are sure would be a gorgeous knee. We would kill for a peek. But with the pants rolled up only so far, the caps must be left to the imagination. But their shape against the garment suggests perfect symmetry. What else.


Finally, there it is…the face. And yes, immediately, one is seduced by those Angelina lips that just won’t quit. And to think we tried for so long to ignore them at every checkout stand. Long and perfectly accented at the sides, with the slightest hint of upturn. And as for the dainty heart shape of an upper lip…well you couldn’t draw it any better. And she is staring off in the distance with those devilish eyes. Not with that usual sultriness, but more in contemplation. As if she sees somewhere off in the distance, the anguish of this impoverished nation.


The jaw line. Not exactly fixed as any artist would imagine either. For one thing it starts so soon after the corner of the lips, and just misses coming off as too angular. And as for the chin? It sits a tad too close beneath the shadow of the lower lip. And yet it all works. In fact this whole lower half of the face, seems to be the fitting end of a declarative sentence written by the gods. Or God, if you’re a monotheist. But why quibble about heaven with this woman here on earth.


The hair off to the right side of her head, cascades like a waterfall or a dangling participle. And you knew just a wisp would find its way toward covering the corner of an eye. We’d like to think it the work of a gentle breeze, and not the makeup artist rushing out of an air conditioned van who has been summoned by a nervous art director, to add that punctuation mark. And while there they must have taken a brush— just one more time— to her auburn hair, so as to give added allure to this oh so casual, yet intoxicating coif.


Neck, collar bones, forehead—pick any feature. And what you will find is perfect proportion. And maybe that is what makes for beauty; how everything is exactly the right size and in the right place. Even the small mole above the right eye, though diminished in this photo, is spot on.


And finally, the point of it all, we notice a rather sizable Louis Vuitton bag across her delicate left shoulder. Though the weight of this oversized accessory is supported by the planks atop this funky boat, so we need not worry. And we think… she is the only woman on the planet who could carry this off—Louis Vuitton in the backwoods of Cambodia. The only woman deserving of such a bag.


Here’s that thousand words. Don’t you agree?






Bursting With Pride So Gay



In the course of a Sunday walk, we found ourselves coming off the High Line (still one more New York project designed to bring people out into the streets), and into the Meat Packing District; an area packed with people who meet weekend mornings to brunch. From there it was just a short meander into the Village.


Suddenly, we found ourselves within a swarm of passionate bystanders craning their necks for a glimpse of the flamboyant parade passing by. Yes, it was annual Gay Pride Day. Which on the heels of this headline from The New York Times that Saturday, made this one especially euphoric and poignant within the gay community:



Imagine in 1969 during the Stonewall Inn riots—when homosexuals for the first time, fought back rather than accept being beaten—that a Gay Rights movement would come to be born on that night. And then imagine if someone had told you at the time, that the day would ever come when the sacred institution of marriage (the sacredness somewhat sullied by the more than 50% of them that end in divorce), would be made available to those of the same sex. What would you have said? And yet some 42 years later, it would come to pass.




Our intent here is not to debate the issue, pro or con. Nor to take a moral ground, high or low. Rhetoric, for us at this point, is beside the point. For what invariably strikes us, is not the politics of change, but the sociology of change. And then always, the irony that is the footnote to most change. That what once could not even be imagined, now becomes law and thereafter woven into the social fabric—leaving at times, the jaw agape.


Whether it is people reduced to sneaking a smoke out in the cold in dark doorways (“outlaws now” as we once described them in a poem) or people flaunting their sexuality in the middle of the street, the phrase, “That This Day Would Ever Come?” —resounds as if a clock striking twelve in our head.


And so too such thoughts must have rung in the heads of those on the day… that the Declaration of Independence was signed… on the day slaves were emancipated… on the day women were given the right to vote… and yes, on the day a black man was elected President of the United States. Change concerning human rights. And in this country, we glory in that. We cut our teeth on that very idea: "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."


And we could not help but smile as we always do, when people take to the streets, not in anger—we saw too much of that in the sixties— but in celebration. And as we say, this one seemed especially meaningful. You had to be there to feel it in the air. Which only by happenstance, we were. And we—straight as the proverbial arrow— were happy for them. And in turn for ourselves. And for our state. And for our country.









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