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Looks like somebody's home. I know it isn't you.
But I have to tell myself some pretty little lie. Some silly reason to keep taking these medicines. Some bright spot on the horizon to watch while I swim through the night.
Sunday night. More paint play in the chapbook. More paint arrives soon. My inky fingers are enough to make me happy for tonight.
Saturday night. Another page in the chapbook. Paint, ink, paper, and the jazz of Oliver Nelson. ‘Midnight Blue’ from ‘More Blues And The Abstract Truth’ The sweet saxophone riff coming from the left hand speaker and the drum and cymbals from the right make me feel like I have myself together. Tonight I am compact and self-contained. I have my world and my preferences. Horn heavy jazz. Big band swing. Memories of stockings and heels. You, in your chesterfield coat, standing in the cold on the sidewalk outside Blues Alley inhaling a cigarette so fast I could hear the paper burn. You stood there in the cold, your face aglow from the music, the drinks, and the long night to come. Smoking like a dragon, smoke rolling from your mouth and nose and steam rising from your body through your unbuttoned coat. Radiant heat leaving wisps of steam as we both walked from the oven hot showroom to the car.
A cold car ride through the sleeping city and then you opened the car door for me in the driveway of your house. I remember the gleam in you eye and the way your tongue brushed your lips when you closed the living room door on the outside world. The smell of gin on you breath and smoke in your hair gave way, as your clothes fell, to the scent of sweet fresh sweat and the dark musk of excitement. We crumpled to the floor, in slow motion, with our arms tangled around each other grabbing and clawing and grasping from one naked place to another. In that tumble, one minute awkward and making us laugh and the next tying us together with frightening intimacy, I felt alive and real and connected. Each of us hungry and feasting, we kept glancing away from the other’s eyes. The connection wavered from sumptuous to frightening. An odd place in our lives together, we were all in and yest still pretending we could easily walk away. So afraid to fall but we had already fallen.
Then the chilly practicality of waking up just before dawn laying on the floor with your head on my belly. You were naked, long limbed, and beautiful. I still wore heels and stockings. Tenderly you unbuckled my shoes, slipped them off and put them on the coffee table. You helped me up from the floor, took my hand, and walked me down the hall. I sat on the edge of your bed, rolled down my stockings, unhooked my garter belt, and returned to the mundane world.
I tell myself my posts are rumble tumble and nonsense. Not the prose of a popular blog. But I don't care. This little backwater is where I indulge myself with awful first drafts and the abstract hope that maybe I reach you. I know the rules, I know the game...... but I howl anyway.
I dreamed I saw you walking in the autumn rain on a city sidewalk. The crowd was light and the light was fading for the day. You were half a block ahead of me. I ran to catch you. I called your name. You walked through a set of art deco chrome and glass doors into a hotel.
When I caught you up, the doors had turned into a window. Through the glass I could see you in an elevator, disappearing behind the closing doors.
Tonight I imagine you nestled down asleep in an art deco room. Quiet shades of grey, cream, and black. Worthy of a film noir. Worthy of a Hercule Poirot myster. A wool and silk cocoon, holding you safe until the rain stops and I find a way to you.
I think tonight, you never want to be photographed again. That's just the feeling I catch coming through the air. Sometimes I feel you out there and sometimes I think you must be dead.
Tonight I don't even know myself. I feel totally lost. Another page draws itself in the chapbook. A juxtapositon of symbols and images that maybe I know the key to. Feels like calling down the ancient magic we must have known sometime.
The call to talk to you here is too strong to resist. But so are the feelings of being silly and small and deluded. If you have been watching this page, you must think me beyond reason. Perhaps I am. Perhaps that is good. Howl. Howl. Howl.
"Tonight I just feel stupid."
"What purpose does that longing serve?" R asked me today.
It threw me. When I thought about it, I didn't know what purpose longing ever serves. It is the flip side of 'missing' someone. You want that missing to stop.
That didn't seem like a total answer either. I wanted to run from the question.
"It has to serve some purpose or you wouldn't feel it." She paused but I didn't bite. "You can feel whatever you want to feel. Whatever you feel is valid. But what purpose is this really serving for you? Especially with things the way they are now, you can't go out and do anything about it. You can't go to him. Even if you could otherwise, you certainly can't go now. I understand he has to be where he is and you can't be there. There's nothing you can change. All that longing does is make you suffer. What can you do to not be in pain right now?"
"All I can do is keep calm and carry on." I replied.
She knew I wasn't going to go any farther. Some people can't be talked out of what has hold of them. Today it was me.
Is this a lesson of time and patience and fate and wasted days? Damn if I know. Tonight I don't want to contemplate the cosmic. I want to feel your arms around me. I want to hear you tell me every thing is going to be ok. Even if you have to lie.
New toys arrived.
Having a go with the colors left in the paint rack. More are on order. All will arrive in January when they revive the post office.
Wherever you are, you better be praying for me. It looks so simple to hang on to the side of this collapsing building and draw in my chapbook. Honestly I'm terrified. My passport's no good or I'd make for someplace else.
The longing is so much more brown than black tonight. It is a dull ache in the pit of the stomach. It is stammering and resignation and the taste of stale tea.
Friday evening after supper.
Thinking of fall with summer's warmth still with us.
The smell of cooking fading from the house.
Four in the morning on the grand canal. A single power boat speeds by.
Someone running away? Someone running to where? Someone running to whom? Running late for work or running late for sleep?
Why does staring at the dark night sky over Venice make me feel so connected?
The corn moon comes but once every 3 years.
Tonight it is sailing high over Venice ruffling the clouds.
I'm staring at the moonlight in the sky far away and here it is raining. The thunderstorms have sent the cat to hide. The rain is throwing petrichor from the newly mown lawn. I guess I'm one of those women in suburbia the press keeps talking about. They are bubble brained idiots. With any luck they will all be in the street come January and the world can turn to issues more pressing. Like overcoming COVID and sending caged children back to their parents.
Be safe my love, wherever you are.
The lights are on in the apartment.
I keep telling myself it can't be you. But part of me hopes it is.
Next time the security camera sweeps by, stand at the window and wave.
August has come and gone in a rush. I've stayed out of the hospital, but I've been down sick. I just have to remember to keep calm and carry on. One day at a time until I see you again.
"We will always have Venice.
Sooty night velvet.
Stealing our slice of time. "
I feel like I should write about the Suffragettes. Or maybe why I picked the photo of Venice. But I feel like hell. I've been sick for a week. It's not COVID, but it's more of the same that has stolen most of my life for the last 17 years.
You take care of yourself. I don't know where you are, but you better find your way home soon. I'm afriad I'm losing the last of my reason.
Nota bene: I know the print is screwed up on this page. I am not in the mood to fight with it.
A little bit of whimsy from the shelf hogging stack of empty journals. French Kitty takes a turn as Holly Golightly from "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
When all you got is all you got, you keep right on going. Sell it dear and keep calm and carry on.
Month 6 of lockdown started today. When catching the bug that's going around is a one way ticket to see Jesus up close and personal, you keep your butt in the Inn.
Nota Bene: Got a blank email from a garbled address. Hope you are ok.
On March 16, the first day of lockdown, I rummaged my stash of empty journals, pulled out this green velvet book, and started a daily log.
Today, August 16, I turned the last page of the book with no end of lockdown in site. I feel like I should say something deep and meaningful. But today I'm tired and I don't feel well.
I'm still in lockdown 5 months later. I'm still blessed to be alive, healthy, working remotely, and to have enough. I am grateful.
The last page in our lockdown journal is up tomorrow.
The staff here at the Tuxedo Inn wonders what that means.
Cause I got a school boy heart, a novelist eye
Stout sailor's legs and a license to fly
I got a bartender's ear and beachcomber's style
Piratical nerve and a Vaudevillian style
--- Jimmy Buffet Song "Schoolboy Heart"
Life is unkind to aging pirates. ---- Justine McQuinn
“Sorting out the bookshelves. Keeping calm. Carrying on.”
Shuffling the cards tonight. Consulting the tarot.
Asking questions. Looking for guidance. Considering the answers
No fretting tonight, just listening.
Today was a blur.
Saw the doctor. Faced down another harrowing experience for the sake of hope.
Ordered granite clay. Ordered washi tape.
Started planning an ink and clay header for the web page.
Spoke to an old friend only to find they are failing fast.
Time is spinning and pooling and spooling around.
I am feeling desperation.
The boiler in the basement is raging brightly.
Life goes on.
The violets on the windowsill bloom.
I’m not ready to get out of the pool.
I’m not ready to lose you .
I’m not ready to abandon this lifetime with so many treasures left un-found.
I’m not ready to admit defeat.
I’m not ready to trust the cosmic wheel.
Come back to me.
Remind me there is still time.
Wrangling my monkey mind tonight, every thought is tumbling and spinning like a drowning machine. Each catches the end of the other and round and round they go.
The fear is there, it seems to hover all the time. It’s the only tool anyone seems to use any more and they’ve saturated the ether with it. The constant screams of ‘If you’re not enraged you aren’t paying attention.’. If I spend all my time enraged and afraid then I am held powerless to think or to act for myself. Stop with the manipulation games.
Then comes the bone grinding tiredness of the chaos and destruction meted out by the rich, old, white, greedy, demented men in power. They suck the moneyed teat and sell the nation down the drain. They were weak when they started their whoring life at university. Now they sell themselves to big business and big brother from another dictator. They have more than they’ll ever need but they can’t get enough. Poor little rich whores, nobody loves them. Least of all themselves. Jaded gluttons popped out by Daddy Warbucks and bought and paid for mothers. Such an end to all that potential.
The ferocious to-do list sits on the desk. Stock the winter pantry as best you can despite rising prices and shortages. Will we have a revolution in November? Do we need ammunition? How is the canned goods pantry? What difference will any of it make if the government falls outright?
Is there any place to run? I checked my resume against ‘desired skills’ for emigration months ago. I had lines on a few jobs out of the country but COIVD has made us all lepers.
Holed up in this house alone for months on end, how much of any of this is realistic? How much of it is the strain of isolation?
Will the military refuse to fire on its own countrymen? Will the generals be the last to hold the line?
Keep calm and carry on.
Time is going to pass regardless of whether I panic and sit in terror or not. All fear does is make me sick. Sick doesn’t feel good and accomplishes nothing.
The bookshelves still need culling. The shower still needs scrubbing. The bills have to be paid. The budget needs to be made.
There are prayers to be made and angels to talk to. There is spirit to attend to.
That left knee still needs daily P.T. The core still needs ministering so the back will arch and the spine remain supple. I still need to sweep and bend so that, the day you return to my arms, my body can tangle with yours and our souls can talk to each other again.
All this great being lost from each other and what was once our life, it tumbles out from the mundane to the cosmic.
Shirts getting dusty on the hangers. The cold side of the bed. The mirror with no fog or shaving cream first thing in the morning.
I tell myself to keep calm and carry on when I want to stand in the yard at scream a the sky.
Utnapishtim and powerless Gilgamesh and speck of dust me, all screaming at God. No matter how alone or lonely I am I can’t call those I love back. Back from where fate and life and madness carry them.
All these thoughts tumbling together in the drowning pool of my mind. I promised myself I would write and I would post. Crappy first drafts. Just get it down. Say it because it needs to be said. Don’t sit and stare at the sunset and feel powerless. Stand on the roof in the dark and howl. Howl because you can. Howl because you need to. Don’t ask why. Just do it.
Nota Bene: I got the blip on the wire. I know you are safe. Miss you madly.
Today feels like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, or the Lusitania, or maybe even the Bismarck.
The sun is shining. The washing machine is keeping time with the music streaming from YouTube. The cat is sleeping on top of my handbag.
I’m trying to plan a dinner that doesn't use the oven. August heat is grinding down with air quality alerts in tow.
I promised myself I would sit down and write today. Here I am.
Instead of writing, I want to scream at the top of my lungs about all the things that are obvious and wrong and terrifying.
A tiny voice at the back of my head says “Keep Calm and Carry On”.
That slogan wasn’t used in WWII but it’s everywhere now…and maybe that’s because we need it.
The day after it was announced that COVID 19 would keep HRH Queen Elizabeth II from her public duties, she appeared in press photographs riding horseback across the lawn. The Queen stays calm. She is not a frail senior, she is the Queen. She makes the best of a bad situation.
When COVID stopped her granddaughter’s wedding, the Queen had her coronation gown made over as a bridal dress and hosted a socially distanced wedding at the palace. She is not daunted. She leads. She leads from the front.
My mother was a war time first lieutenant in the Air Force. My father was the navigator on a bomber making combat runs. My grandfather was a nylon spinner working double shifts to make war time requisites. My grandmother ran the family business alone and raised a victory garden. My uncle fought in the battle of the bulge.
All them sacrificed, served, and did what they believed was right to make the world a better place.
All my silly ass can do is stay in the house, keep after my politicians, and vote.
I have to keep calm and carry on.
My work is considered critical but I can do it from home. I even have a home office with an oak desk, comfy chair, and big picture window.
My community service involves getting on the phone and making the rounds through text or calls. I make sure everyone knows they aren’t forgotten. I check to see how well they are eating. I make stupid jokes. I make sure they are registered to vote. I email absentee ballot info. I forward info on the best grocery delivery services and where to order comfy fabric masks.
My mother told me that in her military service she was the ‘face of home’ for wounded service members. I try to be the voice of home, the reminder of normal life.
After I wash my hair tonight, I will put it up in pin curls just the way mom taught me. She taught me pin curls will tame any grown out hair cut. She taught me it’s important to keep yourself as ‘spruced up’ as you can under bad circumstances. She taught me it makes you feel better and gives a lift to those around you.
Hope the cat appreciates the pin up girl coif.
I will turn up at the desk tomorrow with my hair combed, fully dressed, and with a cup of tea.
But tonight, I do not know where you are. It makes me afraid. I know if anyone can weather this madness it’s you. I’m afraid anyway.
Maybe you are on the move. Maybe you are out of satellite range.
I know sometimes you can read the web but not send email. So, I am running the blog again….hoping you will know I am alright.
This is me, up on the roof, howling at the stars and hoping you will hear me wherever you are.
I don’t know if it helps you but it helps me to keep calm and carry on.
The Tuxedo Inn relaunch. New format. Still the web presence of Justine McQuinn