Thursday, February 16, 2012


My neighbor Jacky stopped by with his labrador Charlie this evening, to see if Basil the dachshund and I wanted to go for our usual walk. We go almost every evening, although lately I've been slacking off. Too many other distractions: going to Richmond for Elliot's performance in Elephant Man; saying goodbye to Alex who is en route to Sydney Australia for his first serious job, even as I write this. All that's been going on, as well as my teaching schedule.

But we set off for our walk again this evening, Jacky, me and Charlie and Basil, past familiar neighborhood houses, their lights shining through windows. Yesterday on our walk we encountered a man who was thinking of making an offer on one of the houses for sale in our neighborhood. Jacky said afterwards that, "We gave him the fire-hose version..." a full on blast of everything we loved about our neighborhood - its safety and convenience, great schools and Saturday Farmers Market. We even noted the McMansion upgrades, which we privately scorn.

Tonight, as we passed one of those McMansions, we saw a single kitchen light on the ground floor of an otherwise darkened home. We saw the silhouette of an elderly man eating from a bowl, with chopsticks. "What a picture," I said. "What does that tell you?"

Further down the road, looking into windows - "Don't you love it," I said to Jacky. looking through the lighted windows of a neighbor's split level stucco house, its ocre walls, hanging pictures, the shadows of plants.

"Reminds me of the Hollies song Look Through Any Window," Jacky said.

"I don't know it," I told him, so he hummed a few bars while Charlie the dog took a poop. After a little more conversation about Graham Nash and my brother Robert, we parted as usual, on the corner. I walked down Gordon Avenue to our house - past the corner renovation - and our next but one neighbor's newly painted split level with turquoise front door, a collie asleep in the doorway, down to my own house with its faded wreath on the blue front door, its view through lighted windows of book case, sofa and paintings.

I remembered then The World According To Garp -- how Garp and his wife liked to hire a babysitter so they could peer through the windows of their own home and watch the life inside.

Objectification. That's the pleasure of looking through windows. You look into a frame and form an impression. Impression is a beautiful thing, because it allows you to fill in the details with the best things from your own imagination.

As I write this, Alex is en route to Australia. And when I open my own front door, Ben is downstairs, hooking up audio equipment. It's the final stage of his basement renovation. For the first time in the history of our house, the basement has been swept and painted to its furthest reaches and corners. Music floats up as Ben plays the first vinyls we owned as a couple. A recording by Roxie Music, for instance - of "our song" .... Wont You Take A Chance With Me.

One of the things that happens when you have an empty nest is that you realize you and your partner are actually separate people. With others in the home, Ben and I became a single body, a single entity. I outsourced things to him and he outsourced things to me - and together we worked as a unit.

But now that we're alone we are back to being individuals. Separate people, looking at each other and rediscovering each other's separate identities.

I saw my home through the windows as I came in from my walk with Jacky. I heard music from the basement. It seemed to purify our household from the roots.

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