“Revolutionary road? Is that a book about everybody giving up their cars or something?” The question made me feel warmly towards him.
“No, it’s not,” I said, “though I would like a book like that.”
He gave me a funny look while continuing to smile. He asked what it was about.
I said “It’s about this area, in the 1950’s. Troubled marriage. Great.”
He took the book in both of his hands. His wife smiled nervously at me.
“Why can’t books be nice?” he asked. “Why does everybody have to be depressing?”
I felt like I was talking to my kids or maybe somebody else’s kids, though I’ve never heard a child ask a question that stupid. I had absolutely no idea what to say, so I said, “I don’t know.” I agree with Mr. Hand—“I don’t know” is an extremely satisfying response.
Then I felt small for assuming I was superior. What the fuck do I know about his life? Their life? Nobody has the slightest idea what satellites orbit me or what cables of misery are wrapped around my bumper. People can look at me and think “Look at the fuck. That fucking fuck. What a retarded book. Fiction is dead.” Maybe this couple has gone through mayhem and now they just can’t stand to read anything that rings even the smallest bell. Their batteries could have been run out by grief and disappointment. It’s not like I can’t think of twenty people like that off the top of my head.
The man smiled some more and explained that he and his wife were on vacation from Chevy Chase, Maryland. They had read in a guide book that Martha Stewart liked the restaurant, so they had come to Pane Vino hoping to see her. As if to prove he hadn’t made this up on the spot, the man turned and asked the waitress if Martha Stewart ever came in. Apparently she did, yes. And Don Imus. And Paul Newman. The man mentioned several times that they were disappointed they hadn’t seen Martha, almost as if he was expecting to get a break on the bill. There was some overly long talk of Martha helping out the prison chef. At first I thought the whole Martha thing was low-calorie comedy small talk. I eventually took him at his word.
I had the thing they wanted and could not get. I had seen Martha Stewart a few weeks before at a movie theater in Norwalk. We were going to see “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Stewart was standing in the lobby. It is a small theater, an old school two screen joint, the kind with sticky red carpets. The lobby is well-lit and pretty much the last place you’d hide if you were hiding. Martha was waiting for someone. Nobody was bothering her. She was taller than I expected and had nice legs. She was wearing blue tights, the kind that come down to the knee. (What are those? Workout pants? Clingy Capris?) We’d seen her once before, at this kickass Italian restaurant in South Norwalk, with someone we assumed was her mother. Both times she looked like the saddest person in the world. (I didn’t see Martha in our theater, so I assume she saw “Before Sunset.”)
While watching the movie, I thought of all the corpo villains gamboling amidst the wee privet hedges of DC and then thought of Martha, doing time for something that wouldn’t even make the big boys blink. People probably have all sorts of legitimate reasons for hating Martha. I have never thought about her for more than about twelve seconds. (I was in a hotel and watched her make something out of melon cubes on TV once.) What I think while sitting in the movie theater is that Americans are not disposed to like a successful, rich woman who doesn’t owe her success to a man, especially a woman who made her fortune by making visible some of the invisible work that isn’t even considered work. Martha’s hardly an undocumented nanny with no health care, but don’t make the mistake of thinking her work isn’t classed with the huge black hole of labor that is the “home,” the place you come home to, the place that is never counted.
Yesterday, I took the boys to Carvel. We sat outside with our ice cream. Jonah said the melted blue M&Ms were the ocean and the mountain of butter pecan was the land. Sam kept putting ice cream on his nose and looking at me with his beautiful snaggleteeth and big chrysanthemum face. There was a man sitting next to us with his son. They were both having soft serve vanilla cones with that new fucked up cherry coating bullshit. The father was wearing docksiders with no socks and the boy was wearing shorts with little cowboy boots. I wanted to give the father a clinically effective but harmless sleeping pill and spirit the child away so I could tell him that it’s totally OK not to wear little cowboy boots if you don’t want to.Posted by Sasha at August 6, 2004 11:50 AM | TrackBack