A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ladies Who Lunch

I didn't start out having a get-together today. My actress friend M and I were going to meet for coffee. I suggested my house, and upped the ante to lunch since she was coming all the way from Northampton. Then my high school pal Alma called and I invited her to join us. And then Lorna, another high school friend, called. She happened to be in Springfield, and I told her a party was shaping up, so over she came.

I made urad dal, which I've had on the brain since sampling it last week. A platter of Persian-style rice and some sautéed spinach to go with it. Tea and cranberry-lemon scones for dessert.

M and Alma and Lorna pulled out pictures of their kids and complimented one another on the beauteousness of their daughters and the handsomeness of their sons. I didn't need pictures--I called Ali and Amir and lined them up in the kitchen for inspection.

M had just scored an audition for the Showtime series Brotherhood. She practiced her lines, and we gave her input. Lorna chattered about her three weeks in Florida. Alma and I related our recent adventure in Chinatown on the set of the "Untitled Blackjack Picture." Lorna marvelled that she had eaten beans, which she supposedly hates. Alma begged a few scones for a friend. Everybody wanted the recipe for the rice. Taz ran through her tricks and waited for food to drop.

At this point in my life, I think I'm spoiled for a 9-to-5 office job. I work hard, but I'm totally flexible. Nothing stops me from sitting up in my loft and writing all night. So I always have time for ladies who lunch.

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Is That a Painting Under Your Kimono?

This afternoon I attended a little party one of my neighbors threw to celebrate 30 years living on Elliot Street. Bob McCarroll, nominally the Treasurer, is more like the Dean of the Mattoon Street Historic Preservation Association. One of the first to invest in the neighborhood when it was rehabbed in the 1970s, Bob worked for the city planning board and has run the Mattoon Street Arts Festival for years.

Next to the doorbell Bob had stuck a photograph of the exterior taken before renovation. Sagging porch, peeling paint, cockeyed clapboards, the whole bit. Inside were similar pictures, posted near the portions of the house they depicted. Broken fixtures, a stairway littered with trash and dirt. It looked like a crack house. In fact, it had been a crack house.

The person who had bought it in that condition, and Bob after him, worked hard to bring the house back to something like it must have looked when it was first built. Painted and papered, rubbed and polished, overflowing with furniture, paintings and bibelots in the fussy manner so common to the Victorian era, it's show house material. For the occasion, Bob had added a bowl of champagne punch and several beautiful cakes on the dining room table, plus a mysterious object shrouded by a silken kimono.

Bob is active in his church, city affairs, and many historical and cultural organizations. As might be expected, he knows lots and lots of people. It seemed that all of them wanted to join him in celebrating this anniversary.

When the party was well underway, Bob called for everyone's attention. He explained that, after the last Arts Festival, the neighborhood association had given him a painting to be commissioned by Susan Tilton Pecora, a local watercolorist. After much debate (his house? his lakeside cottage? the cherry blossoms in the park?), he had decided on a view of the Henry Hobson Richardson church seen from Mattoon Street during festival time.

He then introduced Susan and whisked the kimono off of the mysterious object, unveiling the finished watercolor. I had a very nice conversation with the artist, not about painting but about the various dogs we have adopted. I had some pink punch and some pink cake. Then it was back to the twenty-first century to write write write and keep the wolf from the door of my Victorian money pit.

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