Friday, February 27, 2009

Annie Leibovitz, What Have You Done?

What is the world coming to? It can't be coming to anything good when photographer Annie Leibovitz pawns all her photographs to pay the mortgages on homes she inherited from her longtime partner, Susan Sontag. According to the Daily Mail, Leibovitz has put her photographs up as collateral for a loan from an "art pawn shop." Her photos will only be sold if she defaults on the loan.

So, all is not lost. The artist may yet be reunited with her work. I'm guessing the properties mean a great deal to Leibovitz—after the death of a loved one, sometimes remaining in the home(s) they shared provides tremendous comfort to the surviving partner. Still, the fact that Leibovitz apparently had to choose between her photographs and her real property represents a disturbing snapshot of the times in which we live.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Haiku for the Current Moment

certain as sunset
only death and taxes once
now foreclosure too

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Big Six-Oh!

Today is my sixtieth birthday, the big six-oh—oh as in Oh, my God, how did this happen? It seems I barely hit forty and here I am, sixty. All shock aside, I've been looking forward to turning sixty. I think of sixty as the age of permission, when it's okay to finally let myself be who I am.

When I look at my face in the mirror and notice a wrinkle or two (or three), now I can say, "Hey, I'm sixty, of course I have a few wrinkles," and when I feel like watching "American Idol," I can just go ahead and do it, to hell with my formerly high-brow tastes. If I go out to lunch or dinner with a friend, it will be because I really want to, not out of some sense of obligation or politeness. And when politics comes up, I won't feel I must go along to get along. I can say what I really think. Because, after all, I'm sixty. I may have to suffer the indignities of older age, but I'm determined to enjoy its privileges. A friend of mine once described the occasional outbursts of elderly people as "geriatric disinhibition." I may not be geriatric quite yet, but I'm ready for a little disinhibition.

Still, old habits die hard and I'm worried that even turning sixty won't free me from the bonds of over-cautiousness. On second thought, maybe I shouldn't abandon all my careful ways. After all, they've gotten me to where I am today—great friends, wonderful family, alive and kicking and psyched for my seventh decade.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Even Worry in My Dreams

Last night I had a doozy of a dream. I was in a car with my husband, Eric, in a mall parking lot. We were trying to find our way to the exit, when suddenly some kind of gas was released into the atmosphere, enveloping us in a pinkish-white cloud. By osmosis, or some other process magically available in dreams, I immediately realized that this was the Viking flu, a deadly strain extracted by terrorists from formerly frozen explorers. I knew we had to get home, where I'd hidden (conveniently) a stash of anti-virals, our only hope of combating this deadly flu virus.

I thought of my kids and recollected, in dreamlike fashion, that in a fit of hyper-protectivity, I'd given them some of the anti-virals long ago. But you know kids—I was sure they'd left their stashes behind during their various moves from apartment to apartment. So, I was filled with worry about them. I considered calling my younger son, Alex, who lives in Brooklyn, and telling him to wear a surgical mask on the subway. Fat chance. And I wanted to urge Aaron, my older son, to stay home from law school, that cesspool of lecture halls and germs. Equally unlikely.

In my dream, Eric and I made it back home, where my worries continued. We always live on the edge, food-wise. I can't seem to shop more than two days ahead. Ergo, there's almost no food in the fridge or even on the shelves. So, if we had to stay home to keep from catching the flu or because we'd already caught it, we'd starve.

Then there was Cosmo, our toy poodle—who would feed him if we were in extremis with the flu? Not only would we starve, but poor Cosmo would, too. And where would he relieve himself? On our eleventh-floor terrace? This part of the dream was such a nightmare that it woke me up.

It was five o'clock in the morning. Not surprisingly, I was so disturbed by the dream that I couldn't fall back asleep. So now I have a new worry—if I have many more dreams like that, I won't get enough sleep and I'll come down with the flu.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Obama Bell Jar

When I tuned into President Obama's first news conference on Monday night, I expected a thoughtful explication of the Democratic bailout plan, perhaps leavened with a bit of wit. I was disappointed on both counts. The President was serious, long-winded, and even patronizing, and he didn't cogently explain how the bloated bailout bill will pull the country out of the coming depression. Instead, he scolded and even lectured the press and, by extension, the rest of us.

I expected better from President Obama and I'm concerned about what his tone portends for the future. He's only been in office for a few weeks, yet the bell jar already seems to be descending. Like a delicate object displayed under a bell-shaped glass cover, where it can be seen but not touched, Obama may already be trapped in the isolation of the Presidency. Obama's message during the news conference seemed to be that we should adopt the bailout plan because he's the President and he knows best. That sounds eerily similar to our last President. Remember him? He was the "decider."

What drew me to Obama during the campaign was my conviction that here was a man who sought the views of all sides and really listened. Yet during his news conference, he denounced those who oppose the bailout package for "playing politics rather than trying to solve the problems of the American people." Is that listening? I'm worried that soon Obama will only hear the congratulations of his staff, who surely patted him on the back after the news conference and exclaimed "Great job, Mr. President."

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Bang for My Buck

The other day I went to my hairdresser for a bang trim. I'm 59 years old and I still wear bangs. Bangs are cute on a three-year-old, perky on a teenager, sexy on a sultry twenty-something, but bangs at 59? Isn't there something more sophisticated I could do with my hair?

Probably. But the fact is, I like my bangs. I've had them for so long that they're who I am. When I pull my hair back in a hairband or mousse it off my face, the person who stares back at me in the mirror is someone I don't recognize, someone older, more severe, my evil twin. I feel exposed. There's something comforting about hiding behind a soft fringe of bangs.

During my early twenties, I overcame my distaste for a fully-exposed face and grew my bangs out. I felt comfortable and, at times, even pretty without bangs. But after a few years, a hairdresser persuaded me to let her cut bangs and the instant I saw them I knew I had rediscovered my true self. I've kept my bangs, more or less, ever since.

Still, I worry about what my banged-up state signifies. Am I fated to live in a perpetual limbo—years away from childhood, yet not quite a full-fledged adult? It's hard to say whether the bangs keep me feeling young or whether it's because I still feel young that I keep my bangs. But now that I'm about to turn 60, I find myself wondering, will I ever grow up?

Until my recent bang trim, I'd been once again toying with the idea of letting the bangs grow out. I hadn't cut them for several months and had even trained my hair to go back, off my face. I got somewhat used to letting my wiry eyebrows see the light of day. Sure, I looked older. Yes, those lines between my eyebrows were no longer obscured. But hey, I am older. At almost-60, isn't it okay to look old? I decided I should flaunt my age, not hide behind a youthful fringe.

But then, in a moment of weakness, after catching sight of the lines on my forehead in a harshly-lit mirror, I backed down, went to the hair salon, and undid all those months of growth. Last night, I saw some friends for the first time since the recent cut. One and all, they said how good my hair looked. That clinched it. I'm a bangs girl. At least until it's time for the next trim. By then, I may have changed my mind again.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Duck Duck Duck

I'm worried about a very ugly duck. It's a Muscovy duck, one of three that live on the grounds of my Miami apartment building. In addition to being ugly, Muscovy ducks aren't too bright, and this duck is no exception. To make matters worse, the poor dumb duck has a peculiar handicap, a tangle of dirty streamers that somehow got caught in his feathers and has affected his ability to fly.

The ducks have a great setup here. A water fountain has been fitted with a plastic pipe that dispenses water at ground level, so they always have a supply of fresh drinking water. They live amidst grass, flowers, palm trees, even a tiny beach, all amounting to nothing short of duck paradise. But instead of lolling on the grass under the shade of a palm, my foolish duck and his equally foolish buddies choose to spend an inordinate amount of time in the building's parking lot. It's a busy area, with cars frequently coming and going. If a car gets too close, I've seen the two able-bodied ducks fly to safer ground. But their crippled brother can no longer fly, so I fear it's only a matter of time before he becomes pressed duck under the wheels of some hapless sedan.

Still, things could be worse. I used to worry that the disabled duck would be abandoned by his companions and that he'd slowly die of starvation or even loneliness. But I needn't have feared. The ducks have shown a remarkable loyalty to one another. They stay together. They rest together in the shade under the cars. I've grown to love the ducks, all three of them. And of course I worry every time a car turns into the parking lot.