Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Odd convergence of memory and current events
Just this week I was re-telling an awful story from my teenage years. This story involved a young man who had been my friend since I was ten years old (or maybe younger). He's now a very public figure, but until this morning, I was ignorant of just how infamous he has become. He is Adam Bellow, the son of the author Saul Bellow, and the editor of Sarah Palin's new book (or as some consider it, his book.) Putting the embarrassment of my ignorance aside, I find this new revelation to be funny. My last encounter with my childhood friend was an exercise in this once young woman's awakening to the cruelty of sexist men, and finding he is one of Palin's supporters seemed more than fitting. Reading his telling of his "conversion" to conservatism this morning also woke me up to how far I've traveled from my roots, roots steeped in a New York Jewish assumed liberalism, intellectualism, and presumption of financial success. My parents had neither status, degrees, or money, but we did live surrounded by all three, and were surrounded by those who had not only those, but Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, wings with their names on it in museums, and chauffeurs (naturally). The chauffeurs were often the more interesting of the bunch, but I digress.
Adam and I were buddies in playing the cello at a young age. He was better than I, but of course; he was the golden boy. He moved to Manhattan while my family stayed on Long Island. Visits were memorable, especially a birthday party that coincided with a solar eclipse. Later, we were both rebellious young tweens, good and quiet kids to our parents, but early party kids. By high school, we had lost touch.
When I was in my first year of college in Manhattan, I was thrilled when I heard from him out of the blue. He was in the city; we should get together. I hadn't seen him since I was in junior high school, but he was someone whom I thought of as a potential lifelong friend. I was thrilled to finally hear from him again. I never once thought of this as a "date" - we had been buddies, nearly partners in crime. But no, once I opened the door to this now young man, I knew things had changed. His face showed it with no reservations. Like other privileged rich boys before him that I'd been set up on blind dates with, I could see his disappointment writ large upon his face. I was a dog in his eyes. Still, he deigned to go with me to Max's Kansas City. By the end of the night, four things had happened: 1. In spite of my status as the spurned ugly female, we had fun talking. 2. He was left without a word after he had found the hottie that he presumably bedded that night. 3. He passed me a joint that contained angel dust. 4. I almost killed my room mate after running home during the near-psychosis that PCP induces.
That night, so long ago, was a pivotal moment in my life. I vowed to never smoke pot again, which was probably a good thing, though no big deal. But I was deeply hurt by my old friend's lack of courtesy (a nice way of putting it). His issues with being the son of a famous philanderer and even more esteemed writer had finally taken hold of his personality, in my eyes. It saddened me. He was such a smart and fun youngster. That person was gone. Why this affected me so is hard to understand, even now. His rejection, however, felt more than a personal thing between us; it was a signal to me that my inclusion in the society of the privileged, though always tenuous, was over. I was excluded by not being gorgeous in the eyes of the hetero alpha male, and my belief in my own intellectual and creative capacities wasn't great enough to make up for my lack in the arena of sexual allure. After three days of PCP-induced psychosis, I woke up to my new status as an outsider.
And now Adam is a figure of great interest, influence, and controversy. He has finally received the kind of attention he craved as the son of a famous person. If it was someone else, I'd say "good for him." In this case, I wonder if he got what he deserved, and I don't mean that with any good will. I was going to say that I'm sorry for that, but I promised I'd end the apologies. But still, I'm sorry to see that this old friend has become a person whom I'd hate to even sit down and have a short meal with. But that'd be no loss to him; in his world, even a bite of bagel between old friends means nothing.*
Image note: I played 3rd cello (the worst) to Adam's 2nd. I have no recollection of who was sitting in the 1st chair. This is the piece of music that drove my playing. I remember happy times as Adam and I played the cello in my family's apartment. Bach may have been great, but we listened to rock and roll, though I can't for the life of me remember what.
Addendum: I had more once pulled down all my nasty posts about Sarah Palin. I wonder, as I re-read this (I did, after all, write it at 4:00am), and wonder if it falls into the same category as that which I had once pulled. I had vowed to not speak ill of others. I appear to be doing that, aren't I? And that which I put an asterisk next to - * - why would I imagine such a thing of this man? Sounds like the proverbial sour grapes. Yet, I'm letting it stand. No more self-censorship, even if it means seeing how I've broken my Buddhist vows. I won't be going to hell for it, and I've started to believe it's better to air this stuff. Don't want anyone to think I'm some sort of saint (I doubt I was in any danger of that). Speaking of which, there's a new feature on Facebook that allows people to answer strange questions about one. It's awful! One person answered three this way: 1. Is Julie a pervert? No. 2. Does Julie break the speed limit? Yes. 3. Would Julie sell you out for $1000? Yes. She was wrong on two counts, but we never knew each other that well.