jolie laide

jolie laide

I started this when I lived in Brooklyn and struggled for grace in a city that grants moments of beauty and ugliness breathtakingly close to one another. Now I live in a place where things are a different kind of ugly and the beauty is pedestrian. I struggle with that.


Port Authority Bus Terminal on Christmas morning is over bright. High harsh lighting, saturated fierce colors, a blizzard of advertising. People are moving about with their packages, their bundles, their wheelie-carts, some because they are going somewhere, some because they live here in this echoing cavern. Blinky holiday lights, shops not yet open, an unfathomable fading poster of Angelina Jolie wearing a tight T-shirt with the silhouette of a machine gun on it.

I am heading west with two good bottles of wine. West to my friend’s hundred year old farmhouse, her little parcel of acreage elbowed between the cliffs along the river and the foothills of the mountain range. The area is now overgrown with squat ugly mushroom houses, but hers still has the original barn, elegant and sagging ridgepole, darkened hayloft with scabs of empty wasp nests on weathering boards.

The bus lets me off and I walk down the long drive to enter at the back. The front door is too formal for me, it is for company, and here I am family. Here is bustle and warmth and the children dart through, in a cape, in a party dress, in a tutu, zig-zag through the chairs and dash out. There are toasts and more toasts and someone’s holiday tradition of serving waffles. I eat mine buttered, hot and topped with thick slices of ham.

Later there is a fire that pops and sparks that test the flue, talk of Traveling, tea with milk and an apple tart, small tokens of affection are exchanged. I am made a gift of half a dozen fresh eggs, so precious, and when I leave I am very conscious of their need to be protected. It is a cold night and raining, and I am back in the glare and harsh of public transportation, waiting for the dollar van to take me across the George Washington Bridge, walking the long chill hall to the A train, transferring again underground in Brooklyn, then, finally, home to my simple bed with its clean white sheets, in the room with its red walls, in the house with the moon that creeps through the windows.


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