Judith Miller

I love intrigue. It’s like gossip except that it matters more because it’s people who are much more important than me.

Anyway, Egalia has an intriguing post that I will point you all to. I have no opinion one way or the other (amazing, I know) except to say that the whole thing is so weird (Why isn’t Robert Novack in jail?) that it really seems like something more must be going on.

I’ll try to come up with something else entertaining, folks, but I was just planning on popping one* off and going to bed early. Finding the Butcher home and cooking dinner has ruined my plans.

*Women, we need better euphemisms. “One” hardly does it justice.

Up So High and Down So Low

As much as I love being the only woman in a group of men–even if they’re all drunk and playing some iteration of Grand Theft Auto and laying around my house like living piles of the Butcher’s laundry–I’m well aware that, like the physicist trying to plot an electron’s velocity or place in space, my being there changes what I’m observing.

I was thinking this morning on our walk about this. Specifically, I was thinking about two things. One is the ghost story my much-discussed grandpa told me and the other is the home movies my mom’s uncle once showed us.

My mom’s uncle put the elevators in at the Sears Tower. He was also on the crew that put the elevators in at the deepest mine in North America. I don’t know how many people can say that they’ve been as high as a man-made structure can take you and as low down as well.

When we went to visit him and his wife in Florida, he brought out some home movies that he’d shot while working on the Sears Tower. Way up in the air, half naked in the heat, were my great-uncle and his co-workers looking out over the city.

And then, someone had the brilliant idea of somehow tying the camera to a rope and tossing it out over the skyline in these grand, sweeping arcs.

To me, that moment, of seeing the earth and the sky and the skeleton of the building and the delighted men all slowly spinning together as the camera pulled away and then swooped back in, felt like I was really seeing something of my grand-uncle’s soul in a way he could never have put into words, maybe in a way that can’t be put into words.

Then I was thinking about whether or not I had any really happy memories of my grandpa and this is what I remember. I remember that, for some reason, I’d been left alone with him for the afternoon. We were sitting at the dining room table, he in his spot at the head of the table farthest from the kitchen, and me on his right hand side. He was trying to teach me some game that was like tic-tac-toe, but you played it with marbles on three levels.

I asked him if he knew any ghost stories and he said that he didn’t believe in ghosts, it was just foolishness. But then, he told me this story about how one of his friends had a son who was in World War II and how his friend was sitting in his living room one afternoon and the front door opened and the man’s son walked in, walked across the living room, and up the stairs.

The man was so surprised to see his son that, at first, he didn’t question his odd behavior. He just figured the son had traveled a long way to be there and had probably just gone upstairs to take a nap.

After a little while, the man went upstairs to check on his son and found, as you’ve guessed, no trace of him.

As you’ve also guessed, the man came to find out that his son had died at about the same time as his dad thought he saw him.

Here’s the very strange thing my grandpa said to me: “Can’t you see how that was just wishful thinking?”

How a man could wish so hard to see his son at the moment of his son’s death that he would see him, without knowing that it was the moment of his son’s death, my grandpa never explained.

But here’s the weird thing I realized this morning: I already kind of told you guys this story.

Muriel Cigars

It delights me whenever someone remembers how much I love cigars, though I don’t smoke them much any more.

You can’t really not really smoke cigars, sadly. Either you do it and your body just gets used to it. Or you don’t do it, and your body doesn’t care. But, if you see a strapping blond at a party with one and you decide to share, even though you haven’t smoked in years, you’ll regret it the next day.

I tried to teach the Professor how to smoke cigars, because it’s a useful skill to have if you want to play poker or drink rum with Ogoun. But I guess she wasn’t that interested in the proper accoutrement of either of those activities. I try, America, but her use of the word ‘metaphysics’ and mine differ so greatly as to be insurmountable.

There used to be a time when we girl cousins would smoke Muriel cigars whenever we got together. My grandpa, like Ogoun, loved cigars and women and was prone to violent outbursts. He ruined our fathers, and yet or and so, we would open the box, and sniff and smell him as real as life, and then light up and smoke and feel mellow and at peace with each other and with him.

They say that smell is the sense most strongly tied to memory and it seems to me to be true. I can smell a Muriel cigar and see my grandpa before me as clear as day, his stubby fingers and boxy hands lighting cigar after cigar the way some folks smoke cigarettes. Always at the card table, always hollering about something, always with a deck of cards in his hands, fifteen two, fifteen four.

There’s nothing to hold onto. You will lose everything. Twyla keeps reminding me and I keep refusing to hear it. When we took the littlest nephew back to his dad, which meant he would go back to his mom and, effectively fall off the face of the planet until she got tired of him again, I had this brief crazy impulse to have a baby right then, someone as cute and as smart and as charming as the boy whose mom we can’t depend on, just in case…

Let there be one kid, I thought, who we could throw birthday parties for and put up Christmas trees with and take to zoos and parks and restaurants without thinking that we might never do this again. But that’s always true. We always might never do this again.

And yet, there are the things you seem destined to do over and over again, and if not you, then the next bunch.

Anyway, my cousin A. is getting married–the youngest girl cousin–to a guy I really like. It’s always a worry. How will it play out? Will she, like our grandma, be the girl who settles for the man who turns out to be a monster? Or can we just let that alone?

I would like to, if I get a moment while I’m up there, go out to the cemetery and sit on my grandpa’s tombstone and have a cigar with him and exorcise our demons yet again.