Sept. 10: Under the Ghostbusters Sky

Michael and I sat up on my roof for a couple of hours on the late afternoon-early evening of Sept. 10. The sky was what I call a “Ghostbusters sky” – smudgy, charcoal grey, heavy and low – dramatic. Smudgy almost-black clouds overlapping each other, pressing up against each other. The buildings of our fragile beautiful skyline came out in stark relief against that black sky. Occasionally, a stray red gleam of sunset would break out from behind the clouds to the west (behind us) – and then, suddenly, the buildings of Manhattan would GLOW. But only for a moment. The spire of the Empire State Building would blaze into a golden-white paper cut-out, the Chrysler Building beaming – and then, as the clouds closed up again – the gleam would subside, back to the shadowy building shapes of late afternoon.

We were surrounded by butterflies. Big orange butterflies, soaring in the wind, not even having to flap their wings, just taking off, hanggliding, but then flap flap flap flap pumping it up a notch, chasing each other – At one point Michael and I literally had two orange butterflies hovering over our heads. Were they like the little angel and devil who sit on your shoulder at the same time, whispering contradictory demands? At first we thought there was only ONE butterfly – we kept seeing him – and he certainly seemed to get around – first he was here, now there … but then we realized there was a whole PHALANX of them. Not really watching over us, no, they were too self-absorbed for that (and who can blame them? Have you ever heard of an altruistic butterfly?) … but it did seem like they hovered around our heads protectively. Taking shifts. “Okay … you go off and hangglide for a while … I got these two … no, no, you go … have fun! I got it, I got it.”

We had been walking around all day – breakfast at a diner in Hoboken (we HAD to go to a diner, for old time’s sake) – we talked our heads off (a bit jazzed on caffeine) – then we walked around Hoboken for a couple hours. We went into the second-hand bookstore. We talked. Michael so enjoyed the overcast sky and the cool wind – coming, as he does, from living in LA. He had been so excited that the forecast was “overcast”. We went to Barnes and Noble. There were a couple of hysterical moments – involving a certain Pulitzer Prize winning author with whom I have a checkered past – ahem, no further comment – HA!- Michael, looking at the book, because he had asked to see it, and saying, bluntly, “I will NEVER buy this book.” hahahaha So protective. heh heh

After that we walked to Frank Sinatra Park and sat on the low wall for an hour or so, the Hudson slate-grey and choppy – the buildings of Manhattan in shadow – the clouds marching down from the north, heavy and low and portentous. We talked about cults. They had come up a couple times – so Michael finally asked, “So why are you fascinated by Co$?” I said, “Oh God. How much time do you have?” Turns out, he had a LOT of time, as a matter of fact, he egged me on. “So tell me more. What else do you know?” This is like blood to a vampire. – He talked about how he had been trapped next to Scientomogy member on the plane – and how the dude had a stack of Hubman books in his lap AND Hubman’s lecture tapes playing on his iPod. Seriously. And he had started up talking to Michael, and he had seemed so nice, and so interested in Michael – and then, of course, out came the recruitment moment – and Michael was like: Fuck YOU. It’s the emotional blackmail – the “bait and switch” – that is so offensive. “I am so interested in you, you seem so fascinating, I really like you, wanna come check out my cult?” We talked and talked about brainwashing and cult recruitment and Patty Hearst and the strain of power-worship that goes through all cults –

Meanwhile, there’s a cool breeze, so sailboats go careening by, there are teeny little whitecaps slapping up against the dock … the sky is low and black – but still: no rain. I had forgotten (sort of) how easy it is to talk with and be with Michael.

Then we walked the length of Hoboken again, talking about libertarians, and Christopher Hitchens, and the 9/11 myth dummy-dumbs, and Katrina and politics and elections. It was fun. I don’t think we ever talked about politics when we were dating – it was all books and movies and actors and our own emotions – so it was great fun. He’s such a smart dude. I enjoy him.

I couldn’t face walking back up the damn cliff to my town so I called a cab. Somehow, as we were waiting for the cab, we started talking about our relationship. That took place, uhm, 5 billion years ago. Oh, I know – it had to do with crossing the street. He and I always used to have these mini showdowns when we would go to cross the street – because Michael would always charge across the street just as the light turned yellow, regardless of whether or not cars were coming. I would always just wait for the light to turn red and this drove him batshit. Hilariously: as we walked around in Hoboken, I silently noticed that this dynamic was still going on. Yellow light. Michael would start across. I would silently hesitate, looking down the street, and then follow. hahahaha I had to smile to myself. I LOVE continuity of any kind. We were young when we dated – or much younger than we are now – but there is something eternal in both of us. I do not know why I doubt that. Perhaps because I am alone, and with my thoughts too much. People who live with the same person, day in, day out, probably have a much better grasp on how some people never change, how the same things keep coming up (actually, no – I don’t mean “better grasp” at all – I need to re-think how I’m wording this because I actually think that MY way is better – but let me re-think this – I will come back to it)… Maybe people who deal with someone else’s same-ness on an everyday basis get frustrated by it, or annoyed. Because they’re over it, they’re used to it, it’s not evidence of something eternal and beautifully unchanging – it’s ANNOYING … But to me? The fact that this whole silent “how to cross the street” battle is STILL going on – even with the intervening years – even with not seeing each other in so long made me smile. Made me feel like there was a silver thread of connection between us now and us then. I love that stuff. Also – there’s a sense of being confronted with something that is eternal. And this is a huge comfort to me. Things change, people grow, move on, move apart … every day is a little loss, things must be grieved – small and large – you must always be letting go, every day a process of letting go. Naturally I have a terrible time with this. I have lost a lot. It’s hard for me to let go. But our silent traffic-light moments – our silent different ways of handling crossing the street – is eternal. If we see each other when we’re in our 70s, it would probably be the same damn thing … except maybe we both would be walking with canes or something. I love eternal stuff like that. Again: I think my consciousness comes from the fact that I do NOT have that sort of continuity in my life on an everyday basis. I relish those moments. It’s intense. I am intense. Michael was never put off by my intensity, though, and he still isn’t. He goes right into it. He asks about it. He asks for more information. Maybe because he’s the same way? I don’t know.

Anyway, I somehow said, “Remember our whole crossing the street thing we used to have?” He thought a second and then just BURST into laughter.

So what used to happen – when we were dating – was that Michael would call me on it. He was a hot-blooded young rebellious guy and he hated that I would hesitate. So he would yell at me. Literally: YELL. And I would yell back, pointing at the approaching car that was 1.2 miles away, as evidence of why I wasn’t crossing. We were both howling at the memory of this. The two of us, standing on random empty corners in Ithaca New York, yelling at each other. To him it was a symbol. If I crossed the street the way HE did then I would have a breakthrough as an actress, a writer, a woman … Michael was just guffawing as I reminded him of this. “So I was basically bullying you to be a better person?” “Yes.” “At age 20?” “Yes. You were a 20 year old bully.” “Jesus.” hahahahahahaha We were laughing, I said, “Yeah but have you noticed how that shit is still going on? I mean, you’re not YELLING AT ME anymore … but it’s still the same thing when we cross the street.”

We eventually got home – the light was low and heavy – my apartment cozy and late-afternoon-ish – He hadn’t been up to the roof, so he took his New York Times and I took my Cymbeline script and we went up to hang out on the roof. Of course we didn’t end up reading, just talking, and laughing, and sometimes just silently staring across at the glowing/shadowing skyline. The slow march of clouds. The butterfly army watching over us.

He said, “So what else. Besides crossing the street. What else do you remember?”

So we talked about what we remembered.


I lay in bed memorizing my lines. He sat in the chair reading the New York Times “cover to cover”.

Sometimes we talked. Mostly we didn’t. We were wrapped up in our own private concerns. But we shared space. It was so nice to have him there. His presence. Night fell outside. We ordered dinner. We ate at my kitchen table. Then we talked for hours and hours. There is years of information to catch up on.

So the black Ghostbuster sky was still there, I imagine – I imagine the black clouds continued to march by overhead, in their smudgy procession – but they blended into the general blackness of night. My lamps glowed out, soft, golden, homey. Talking. Late into the night.

I felt safe.

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10 Responses to Sept. 10: Under the Ghostbusters Sky

  1. RTG says:

    Luminous, gorgeous, beautiful.

  2. just1beth says:

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sometimes.

  3. amelie / rae says:

    ‘And I would yell back, pointing at the approaching car that was 1.2 miles away, as evidence of why I wasn’t crossing.’

    hahahaaa, i love this.

    my friends were always astounded by my streetcrossing techniques. i never seemed to pause, and they’d wait for the opportune moment with cars 2.2 miles away. and we’d be walking, and i’d just keep going, and by the time i got to where the car would’ve driven, it had just passed, and i’d be walking behind its retreating bumper. [granted, it helps that this is all in smallish cities and towns — nothing like New York. i can’t even *imagine* New York. never been, and all that.] my friends, if they’d never walked with me before, their jaws would just drop. ..a few of them have refused to learn my way of crossing even yet, and complain when they can’t hear what i was continuing saying!

    .. sorry about the tangent, sheila. it just reminded me.

    i love the relationship you have with Michael. you’re so blessed, you know?

  4. red says:

    amelie – ha!! Yes – just like you said! Michael would charge across the street, the car would careen by in his wake – and I would then be stranded on the other side, and this would FILL HIM WITH SCORN.


  5. Eric the...bald says:

    That whole entry feels cinematic to me. You are fortunate to have this time with him; so many people who made an impact on us in the past are lost to time and distance.

  6. miker says:

    Love the street-crossing story, red. I know exactly what you mean about the comfort of feeling that some things don’t shift or degrade with time. I’ve always believed that traditions – not society-imposed duties, just whatever things make sense for us – are a really important part of life. In a world where everything seems to be changing faster than we can possibly keep up with, little rituals and traditions that help us feel grounded and inter-connected take on an even more critical role.

  7. Kate says:

    So beautiful. Why do I find this piece kind of haunting? And yet comforting? I don’t know. But I think that you must have described those couple of days just perfectly. It was written with an enormous amount of compassion–for him, for yourself. Oh God, I better stop trying to put my finger on it because I sound like a pretentious asshole. I just really loved what you wrote. That’s all.

  8. red says:

    Oh Kate. You couldn’t sound like a pretentious asshole if you tried. Or, no, scratch that – you certainly could if you tried, I think I’ve seen you do it!! But no, not now. I love that you said I wrote with compassion. What a beautiful thing to say. I’ve been a mess for 24 hours – all weepy – Michael has been very good about it, sweet and not freaked out – and tonight was my audition and it went great! After all that work, they didn’t need the Shakespeare monologue – I just read sides. HA! But I had totally prepared Imogen from Cymbeline – worked on it all weekend – I LOVE her -What a great part and what a MESSED UP MISOGYNISTIC PLAY. Sheesh! I hate her husband for going along with Jachimo’s fucked-up plan. But anyway, I prepared the monologue where she says to Pisanio: “Look! I draw the sword myself, take it, and hit the innocent mansion of my love, the heart.” That line always made me choked up. “the innocent mansion of my love”. It was that one word: “innocent” – that got me every time. sniff.

    Oh and at the beginning of the monologue, Imogen says (and I know you know!! ha!), “False to his bed? What is it to be false? To lie in watch there and think on him? To weep twixt clock and clock?” I was doing it for Michael and I accidentally said, “To weep twixt clock and COCK”(uhm – Freud?) which of course became the big joke – we couldn’t stop saying it. “So how you doin’?” “Oh, fine, except for the fact that I am weeping twixt clock and cock.” But then it terrified me that I would accidentally say that during the audition. hahaha

    Anyway – I love poor little wronged Imogen. Thanks for the tip about that scene – it’s kick ASS. Twixt clock and COCK, baby.

  9. Jon F. says:

    I don’t know how you do it, but the way you wrote this post actually makes me MISS NYC, and I can’t stand the city!

    The cold, the sky, your observations and comments… I want to come home!

    I love these little insights into your life.

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