Friday, September 30, 2011

This Too Shall Pass

Last full day of vacation. In between plans for dinner (I have yet to have my lobster and steamed clams);what to do today (the weather is perfect, probably the last "summer-ish" day of the fall, so the beach is on the agenda); and which of the myriad souvenirs, tchotchkes and items of on-sale clothing to buy to take home (do I really need an antique Chinese jar, or the bronze sculpture of an acrobat balancing on one hand?) ... among all these considerations I am concentrating most on enjoying what's left of the vacation. As usual I looked forward to this week away for months, convinced -- like the kid I used to be -- that it would never arrive. And when it inevitably did it went much too fast.

But as my mother used to say, "This too shall pass". And it applies equally to the pleasant and the unpleasant events in life. Intellectually I know that vacation doesn't last forever, but there's always that glimmer of hope, irrational as it may be, that one week will somehow stretch into two or four or, better, just go on indefinitely -- perhaps in some alternate universe where I stay on the beach, eat lobster and shop for half-price treasures, while the "other" me goes to work, shops the supermarket and balances the checkbook.


But the truth is that the older I get the faster time seems to pass, and the quicker the things I look forward to come screeching up then whizzing by. As the years pass I find myself talking about Christmas or tax day or the next colonoscopy using expressions like "It'll be here before you know it" or "It'll be over before you know it".

So vacation will end in a couple of days. (We head for home tomorrow but will have all day Sunday to decompress.) I'll go back to work on Monday. And maybe it's another of those functions of being older, but I'm really not stressed about it. It will be what it will be. It isn't that I don't care or that how I perform at work doesn't matter, but I feel as though I'm heading back with a renewed sense of confidence, calm and self-possession. It's not that big a deal. This too, etc.

Of course inasmuch as I had been planning on early retirement when my job came along, out of the blue, I know that my tenure at work has a definite expiration date. And it's not that far off. I enjoy what I do, I love the people I work with but I do look forward... You know, it'll be here before I know it.

And let's face it, if you stay on vacation forever, you'll never know what happens in the rest of your life. Transient though it all may be, you'd probably miss some wonderful stuff. Which sooner or later will pass. So it's the moment we really have, the right-now. That's all.

It's a beautiful Cape Cod day outside. I've had my coffee and a big cinnamon roll. The beach awaits. I'm outta here.

This too shall pass. In fact, it's passed already.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The weather is here, wish you were beautiful...

About 9:45 p.m., now, on Wednesday night. Spent the day strolling Commercial Street, window shopping, browsing. Lunch of fried clams (whole, belly clams -- not the strips) overlooking the bay and the harbor. I had a small financial fire to extinguish... nothing serious, no one died -- just slightly embarrassing. I noticed a rather large discrepancy as I checked my bank balance online, and had one of those heart-stopping moments I used to have much more often in the days before computers and online banking and Excel spreadsheets made it more, you know, automatic. A call here, two calls there, brief discussions with a handful of customer service people and my financial advisor, and it was all straightened out.

But it's a testament to the atmosphere in P'town (among other things) that I was able to get through this petite crise without melting down and letting it ruin the day -- to say nothing of the rest of the week. I just told myself that it would all work out and, in the meantime, we had enough to get by till the end of the week, we'll manage, etc., etc., blah, blah... And we went strolling and had lunch and that, as they say, was that. No big damn deal.

I tell you, it's the air up here.

Not that life would be all skittles and beer if we moved here (which we've often talked of doing). Unlike in many other parts of the country, the real estate market here is still fairly robust -- it's Cape Cod, after all, and a very choice part of it. So anything livable would cost. Make that "co$$$t". For example, there are "condos" here that started life as motel cabins or a a few rooms in an old house (like the one we're renting this week) that, depending on their location in town, proximity to the water, the view, etc., go for anywhere from the high $250's to half a mil or more.

In addition, the weather here is fierce during the winter months and, though P'town has become a much more year-round destination it's easy to imagine going just a little stir crazy given how isolated it must feel come February and March. Good, strong friendships would be a necessity.

On the other hand, the Provincetown zip code boasts the largest concentration of same-sex households in the country.

10:21 p.m. The wind has picked up and rolls off the bay in great gusts that rattle the windows. There's a fog horn in the distance. The air is full of the sea.

Make of this what you will. But this place is unlike anywhere else.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The News from Provincetown

I've been here since Saturday -- Chris arrived Sunday afternoon, having attended his father's memorial service in Maine -- and it wasn't until sometime around yesterday afternoon that I began to feel as though I were really on vacation. Away. Time off is one thing, extended time off is yet another... but time off in a peaceful location by the sea, hundreds of miles from home is something entirely different.

Yet I must continue to remind myself that I don't have to do anything, I don't have to be anywhere or report to anyone about some terribly urgent matter that cannot wait lest it negatively impact the future of someone I've never met...forever. This morning I had a donut first, then breakfast -- scrambled eggs, toast and linguica, Portuguese sausage made in New Bedford and not generally available anywhere but this part of New England. A pot of good coffee. And when I've finished this post, maybe, an iced cinnamon roll.

Provincetown hardly changes, year to year. Stores open and close, of course, while others have been in business for decades. Restaurants come and go, depending on the trends, while others are mainstays that serve consistently good food no matter the season. In season, Commercial Street is packed with day-trippers and vacationers, window-shopping and having their pictures taken with the seven foot drag queens handing out cards for their shows. (Observation: there are always a number of posters around town advertising appearances by lesbian comedians -- comediennes? -- who seem content to go onstage as themselves to do their thing; while I don't think I've ever, in all the years I've been coming here, seen a poster for a male entertainer who wasn't wearing a dress and a wig the color of Kool Aid. I'm just saying...)

Off-season, the streets are quieter and the sales have started -"50% Off Entire Store!"- meaning that, at least in the case some of the men's shops, there's a lot of inventory that's now only rather expensive, as opposed to "are you fucking kidding me with these prices?!" expensive.

The beach, of course, does change, the shoreline constantly eroding and being built back up. The marsh one traverses to get out to the far reaches of Herring Cove is never the same year to year, yet always seems the same: the tidal pools, the grasses and scrub pine and beach plums. The smell of the sea. The tidal pools full of minnows and the crabs with the black shells, decorated with gold calligraphic patterns, burrowing in the sand at your toes.

I've been coming to Cape Cod since I was a kid. My mother was born and raised here. I've certainly been to other seaside resorts, other beaches in other parts of the world. But there is nowhere like Provincetown, tucked into a crook at the far end of the Cape, surrounded by water, its air and light unlike those of anywhere else I've ever been. It isn't home, it may never be, but it always feels like it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Strange Days

I don't know why, but it seems the last few weeks have been...strange. Have you ever gone through a brief period -- a few days, a week or two -- where the air seemed different, the "vibe" seemed off, somehow; and you were never quite sure what the next step should be?

I suppose it's partly the weather: it's been tempestuous, for sure, although where we've been spared much of Nature's real wrath, so far. The storms and tornadoes seem to have done their damage all around us, while sparing our neck of the woods. And of course, it all started with that earthquake, which was disconcerting (as earthquakes generally are, no matter where); the moreso because it happened in Virginia, and we felt it in Philadelphia! Strange.

I've been settling into my job a little more each day and developing a real relationship with my boss. In addition to filling in in another department, juggling two jobs, essentially, and cementing my reputation as someone indispensable to all and sundry. I was told over and over, by several people, that it would be a good year or more before I began to feel comfortable and they were right. In October I should be up for a review and I hope the good outweighs the bad; that the things I did that worked will overshadow the missteps. Still, I can't help feeling from time to time that I really don't know quite what I'm doing. (So I'm reading a book, "Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life" which is, in its way, teaching me that what I think about a given situation, what I project about tomorrow and what I feel about myself are just thoughts... not facts.)

And on top of it all, I'm involved in two productions for the Philadelphia Fringe Theater Festival: with my improv group, Tongue & Groove and the Hear Again Radio Project, which performs old time radio scripts live, complete with live music and Foley sound effects.

And then Bell's Palsy!

About ten days ago I began to feel feverish and had a scratchy throat... but only on the right side. I thought I was coming down with one of my sinus infections and so had my doctor phone in a prescription for a Z-pack and started the antibiotic. Then last Saturday I was on my way home from a performance, driving, and trying to whistle. But I couldn't. My lower lip, the right side, wouldn't cooperate. It felt numb, as though I'd had novocaine. And when I tried to squeeze my eyes shut tight, only the left one really shut! The right one closed, but... wouldn't cooperate.

By Sunday morning people were telling me to get to the ER, so Chris accompanied me to Cooper Medical Center in Camden where, after a lot of intake and interviewing and paperwork, I was variously diagnosed with Bell's Palsy -- which is caused by a virus and can make one side of your face droooop hideously; a trigeminal neuralgia, which is very like Bell's Palsy but with the addition of sharp, shooting pain; or Lyme disease, although that's a remote possibility.

I'm on Prednisone, now, a steroid; and Valtrex for the viral part of it (the same virus that causes herpes), but the palsy goes on. It is the weirdest feeling in the world to look at yourself in the mirror, grinning widely, and seeing your face NOT doing what you think it should be doing. The right side of my mouth just sits there, droopy. My right eye is a little lazy too, but not terribly. At least I'm not frightening small children in the street. No Phantom of the Opera mask needed. Thus far.

But strange... this is one of the strangest things I've been through yet. It upends your whole life -- you're not really sick enough to stay in bed, but something is... off. Like the slanted floors in an old amusement park funhouse. You're moving forward, but slowly, off-kilter, slightly in the wrong direction.