Reflections in a Sad Eye

NightPub

The last bus stopped running an hour ago.  The publican has rung the bell in the nearby pub, calling out “Time gentlemen, please.” The night‘s action is most definitely over out here in the ‘burbs of London. The streets may be quiet and the locals are at home…but it’s still light out!

It’s only a bit after 10:00 pm.  In truth, the nearest pub will be remain open until midnight so it’s not entirely an empty neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the late flights from Capetown, Rio, New York and Paris are approaching touchdown…their wheels are lowered and they are slowly approaching the runway about 255 feet above my head.

Yes, my head that has been hit with a massive case of hay fever or some sort of allergy since I walked through customs a few hours.  I can’t use my handkerchief any more; it needs to hang out to dry.  I’m down to using a roll of toilet paper to stifle my sneezes.  Even the woman tending bar at the pub noticed my agony and offered her own personal pills she claimed worked for her hay fever.

I tend not to take pills from people I never me before.

The flight from Shannon was only about an hour.  The “food” was a box of crackers, some cheese, a small chocolate bar, some vegetable pate, small can of tonic, and a glass of water.  All for €7.50.  Aer Lingus must be in financial trouble.

We’re in the very B&B we used in 2012. It was cheap, near the airport and provided a free shuttle to the terminals.

I doubt we’ll travel this cheap again.

The room’s light was dingy, quite brothel-like.  There was no shower curtain and only one towel each.

I’m writing this with my iMac Air and using it like it’s supposed to be used…on my lap.  But I have a bad back and I’m leaning against a pillow that is, if I’m lucky, two inches thick.

I’m a hugger.  I don’t know, maybe my mother took my teddy away too soon, but I need something to wrap my arms around.  I’m going to be forced to use my neck cushion.  The kind of thing that looks good in the W.H. Smith store but is difficult to pack…like a football.  People  sleep with them on planes and trains.  Mine’s blue in case you’re interested.

I’m not very happy right now.

This was meant to be a reflection of a wonderful trip.  But, as usual with me, it’s bittersweet.

We said good-bye to Brian on Sunday.  Ireland seemed to be a little emptier without his companionship, wit, charm and sense of amazement at what he saw and what we shared.  I’m quite proud of myself for planning a trip that included a medieval banquet, being on his own in a few pubs in Cashel, and climbing to the battlements of our ancestral castle in County Tipperary.

Thinking back on the entire trip, I can recall some awesome sights and some frustrating moments.  I’ve looked down haunted wells where a violated youth was thrown.  I’ve seen the withered hand of a saint who founded the Abbey that later became Ely Cathedral.  We’ve rubbed fingers with mummies in a crypt in Dublin, threw a pence into the Liffey from Ha’Penny Bridge.

Up in County Sligo, at a cemetery in Enniscrone, I stood at the grave of Tom and Kate Egan who once served me tea from water that had been boiling all day over a peat fire.

That was over thirty years ago.

I’ve looked out over the fields my people plowed and had their cattle graze for decades.

Stone walls don’t change much in human life times. The hedges grow for centuries. The rains fall and the people keep smiling.

In England, our friends edge toward retirement and think thoughts about where it would be a nice place to live.

To me, I couldn’t think of any place more in tune with the beats of my heart and yearnings of my soul than England or the west of Ireland.

Being of Irish background, I thought of what it would be like to live there.  My body is pulled two ways.  My blood says to go back to the soil that first made you who you are…melancholy and love of the written word are my genetic markers.

But, I’m happiest when I’m walking.  And, there is no place with footpaths that lead to all my dreamscapes than England.

If you drive six miles through Wiltshire, Somerset or Dorset and not pass a dozen “public footpath” signs, then you have a bad case of tunnel vision.

My adventure is over and I’m a sadder man because of it.  In the coming weeks, I will sit and tell funny stories of our trip, but deep within me, I’ll long for the footpath.  I’ll long for the place when the biggest decision I need to make is which direction to walk.

Yes, the Adirondacks have hundreds of miles of trails and I live in the center of it all, but somehow it lacks the ancient history and mythic lore that stirs my soul as I stand inside a stone circle that was constructed before the Great Pyramids.

I am cursed with restlessness.

But the posts will go on. I’ve not shown you things or told you stories of many things.  Some will keep you awake at night. Some will make you smile and some will make you cry.

If I can do all these things…I’ve succeeded in what a writer most wants.  Getting people to read.

Right now? I’m going to shut the dingy overhead light off and switch on my Barnes & Nobel reading lamp.  I’m working my way through Dickens at the moment.

Its title is very appropriate:

“Great Expectations”.

GardenHeathrow

 

[This post is written in England but it will be posted from Penn Station when we get back. This hotel wants £4.00 for Wi-Fi. I have never paid for that service before and I’m not going to start now.]

 

Alternate Endings 1

Sometimes film directors will shoot several endings to a movie.  I’ve heard that Michael Curtiz had another conclusion set to go for Casablanca.  In this version, Ilsa does not get on the plane with Victor Laszlo.  One wonders.

Yes, one wonders.  Are sad endings better than happy endings?  Personally, I feel strongly that the Janus face of drama does indeed have two faces: Tragedy and Comedy.  After all, in all good comedy, there is a strong core of the tragic.  Chaplin can bring a tear to your eye.  Laurel and Hardy are every men, destined to make mistakes and go through life bumbling…like the rest of us.  I could go on.

I will go on.  Here are three very short tales (Part I).  I’ll do the set up…you construct your own endings.  In Part II, I will share my own alternate endings.

ACT 1–Mary stood with Ron on the platform of the west-bound tracks of the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad.  Her ticket stub had 4:20 pm stamped on it.  There was only one ticket and it was only one-way.  Mary did not plan on coming back to this town, not anytime soon…not anytime ever.

Mary and Ron were married five years and twenty-nine days ago.  They were crazy in love back then.  There wasn’t a hillside or shady riverbank location that was unknown to them.  They knew all the places to neck, kiss and make love.  That ‘making love’ is what started the great love they thought they had to diminish.  Mary never wanted a family.  She wanted Ron all to herself and the thought of sharing his affection with a child struck fear in her heart.  Ron waited outside the hospital room while Mary delivered the baby she didn’t want.

The infant could sense the lack of love from his mother.  This intense need on little Billy’s part was never met.  So, out of loneliness and a chill of the little heart, little Billy simply found another way to get love.  He let himself die to be with the Lord’s mother.

Ron could do nothing to stop this.  Billy’s loss was the beginning of an emotional barrier he built between Mary and himself.  Their marriage grew cold and soon Mary was talking of going to Chicago to live with her sister.  Who knows, she told Ron, maybe things will change with me.  Right now, though, I want to be apart from you and this horrid little town.

So they stood on the platform, waiting.  Ron was heartsick.  He loved Mary,  Indeed, she was the only thing he really did love.

He heard the whistle from the train approaching the station.  He looked at Mary, her eyes were dry and determined.  Ron wept openly and without shame.

Mary boarded the train carrying all she cared to keep in a small cardboard suitcase.  She turned to look at the wet eyes of Ron and as the train jerked forward, she blew him a half-hearted kiss.

Ron watched the train as it rounded a distant curve and was out of sight.

He found his car keys despite his tears.

LackawannaStationOwego

ACT 2–Gary Stebbins had been drafted.  He had been to basic training at Fort Bragg and was completing a weekend leave before being shipped to England.  It was 1944.

His mother, Mae, simply could not let go of her son.  She always felt she had an ability to sense the future…and at this moment, the future was a place without her only boy.  They stood in Penn Station waiting for the train to return him to Fort Bragg.  She was the only person seeing Gary off to war.  His fiancée was bed-ridden with the flu back home in Kingston.  The father, Harry, had been killed in a freak accident at a saw mill three years ago.

Three months later, Mae found herself standing in Penn Station again.  She wore a blue dress and didn’t bother to use make-up to hide the red eyes and pale cheeks.

Soon Gary appeared in the doorway of the arrivals area.  He was all smiles and proudly held his Purple Heart up to his chest.

That night, they dined at Delmonico’s.

Penn Station 1955

ACT 3–Mavis waited outside the ER at St. Basil’s Hospital.  Her husband of thirty-two years, Dave, was undergoing emergency by-pass surgery.

He had been a long-time smoker and failed to get the exercise the doctors had told him about a year ago.

Just then, the doors swung open and the orderlies pushed him past her.  All she saw was the sheets and part of his head with plastic tubes going into his nose.  She followed behind as they took him to ICU.  Nobody spoke to her.  Mavis was treated like a bystander.  After everyone left, she looked through the plexiglass window at her husband.  She could hear the beeping of the Machine.

She sat down and grabbed a copy of Good Housekeeping.  An hour later, the beeping stopped.  A nurse came out and told her the sad news.  Like a robot, Mavis walked to the chapel and lit a candle.

WomanAloneItaly

TO BE CONTINUED…