Every Saturday I walk west on 23rd St and a rather sexy young fortune teller beckons to me, in her gypsy-west-indian musical tongue--- Come... have a reading… like she wants to share something with me, like she is not soliciting and having to make what must be a pretty stiff monthly rent for her space, and her perfect manicure, and her cards, and her neon, and her Starbucks double espresso. This terrifies me--- the idea that she will paralyze me with some prophecy… even the preposterous sliver of gossamer power-ball chance that she can actually see something. After all, there might be a ghost in my apartment. There are sounds no rodent makes, and there are dimmings of light, and cold draughts, and a shirt will fall from a towel rack and its random shape on the floor will remind me of some ex, some night that is farther away than a dream.
But nothing annoys me more than my friends who are the armchair astrologers. Most of my favored 'ologies' do not personify with an 'er'… you have 'ists' and 'ians'… but these are realer sciences. Whoever granted these star-children people scientific credibility? How did this random chart-manipulating become newspaper- worthy and does not the fact that Bob Marley and Ronald Regan have the same birthday mean all bets are off?
How do we become who we are anyway? A friend of mine has moved to another city and seems to have reinvented himself as a patron of the arts. Really he had a mad obsessional crush on a young beautiful violinist…but I always have the feeling he stepped into some script he had borrowed from a film… the way teenagers see a movie or watch some TV program and become the character.
Recently I watched this film called 'Interlude' which I remembered seeing when I was a young innocent girl. I was so taken with the affair between a young carefree journalist and a world-renowned conductor (Oskar Werner)… I met an older (27?) poet one Saturday at the Museum of Modern Art and tried to fit some of the film lines into our conversation. We made a date to meet again; I even parted my hair like Oskar's lover, and made myself an Interlude-esque 1960's tent dress. I learned how to make tea the way she did. Well, the guy probably figured out I was like 15 and stood me up. But it affected me, the way I dreamed about and visualized my life.
My son was born exactly 9 months after my birthday. Do we not have some kind of astrological 'simpatico'? Apparently not. Apparently I had a little too much to drink at my own party, and was careless, and the most important event of my life just happened, 9 months later. If he had been born prematurely, would he have a different astrological prognosis? Why doesn't astrological life begin at conception rather than birth? Women can theoretically schedule a Cesarian so their baby conforms to a more 'pliant' astrological sign. Which Horoscope would they then read?
At my Christmas gig, a charming but drunk Indian girl grabbed my hand with great force and bent it nearly out of joint before she reassured me that I had an incredibly long lifeline. I admit I felt reassured. But did that girl who was killed last week on 96th and Broadway-- crossing the street--- did she have a long lifeline? Did her daily horoscope tell her to stay home or to look both ways? Doubtful.
Neither do I believe that my ex-husband's alcohol binges and boyish charm were attributable, as one of my friends insists, to his birth sign.
I do think we are altered by these images--- by someone who captivates us, or even a film or television program-- a song which gets inside us. It seems so teenaged, so random, as the kids say. Why is it I am unmoved by so many people and yet I will give the hat off my head (and I have) to my young doorman who is a former gang-member? Why is it that all these young girls are straightening their hair and buying shoes they can ill-afford because they want to look like that girl in some magazine who doesn't even look like herself because everything is so airbrushed and altered?
I am older now, and I am less sure of what I am than of what I am not. My friends seem ambivalent about making decisions--- about going places-- about leaving their house--- about gigs, and even making recordings--- about mixing, about their cd photographs and what they should wear. They consult psychologists and astrologers. There are days I avoid these people. I don't want anyone to ask me who I date and when they were born. Then there are days I walk downtown and see an old man playing a violin on the sidewalk without music, and I think, I am this man; he is me… and his melody goes right through my heart, like a ghost walking into me.
In January and February I am always interviewing kids for scholarships. I've been doing this for years and I am always touched by their eagerness not so much to please, but to be the 'winner', the hero… the chosen one. They have agonized and consulted friends and mentors about what to wear, how to speak, whether to drink coffee, whether to be mature and say little or whether to be charming and garrulous… and none of it really matters, because I am simply the messenger.
Tonight I returned a phone call to a man who's been flirting with me for years, who finally had the courage (or sufficient alcohol) to approach me on New Year's Eve… but who has waited these weeks to call… maybe his horoscope was discouraging--- or as he explained he's bi-coastal and miles away---but when I called him back, it just seemed so -- chattery-- -and --well-- just boring…
What I want is: yes. Last night I played a gig and called an old friend and YES! she said. I'm THERE.
It was so refreshing and great--- so 'Interlude-esque'… .although I remember Oskar Werner using the word 'No' like a verb, like an interrogation… and it was such a silly movie. But there she was, with friends… all of them saying YES without changing their clothes or putting on makeup. And I was so grateful.. .and we all had such fun.
But here I am, early Sunday--- letting calls go to voicemail… saying, as is my custom too often… Perhaps… because we have this illusion, some of us, that if we don't make a selection, all possibilities still exist… and life goes on, and the man playing the violin has packed up and gone home, and the day which is dawning is its own world, with unexpected births and deaths… and I well know that Oskar Werner was not a conductor and lover but an actor who died a reclusive alcoholic at close to my present age….and the gypsy downtown is at this moment explaining to some lovesick girl that she must light candles to dispel the curse she has inherited, and these will cost her $60 each, and the girl is pale with longing for a man, and pays…. and I will go to sleep and dream of missing dogs, and lost children, to a soundtrack of music I will forget, and of the feeling of being loved, the 'Yes' of my past, and perhaps, of my non-astrological future.