This is a blog post I wrote at a friends, without access to the internet, and forgot to include at it's appropriate place, in July.
Good morning heartbreak. The last few days were instructive in a millilon ways, as well as indicative to me of the gold behind a willingness to stretch beyond what I would prefer, to the new place of stasis with my friends.
I have visited Chris and Caryl Burne three times now. And while I always enjoy myself, and State College Pennsylvania, the beautiful locale that is their home, I also always see the play of the generations on a number of my friend, David's, oldest friends. And the whole is a sort of class reunion, of broken, and otherwise relatively unscarred people, coming together again.
The most remarkable would be Toonch, of Turkish extraction, but now middleaged and very much a expert of and afficianado of, American pop culture, and Jazz. It's easy to discount the guy upon aquaintence: he's as pale as a vampire, chain smoking, and staring into the distance punctuated by small bursts of contention against yourself, or perhaps merely the sunlight. Once you think of something to say, and it becomes obvious this thing is not a minor insult against Toonch, he may grant benevolence upon your choice of subject with one, perhaps two short grunts. You'd be surprised the pleasure these grunts bestow upon your person. Who can say why?
Toonch grew up with David, in State College. I forget why Toonch's parents ended up in State College for, but I suspect something related to Penn State. In any case, Toonch was alone in David's school cafeteria, repelling his fellow man, through some strategy of antisocial self expression (something to do with captive flies, go figure) and David, as repulsed as a wad of sticky gum, sat down next to the sad little guy.
In no time, I'm guessing, David was eventually regaled with Toonch's deep knowledge of esoteric subjects, especially subjects important to children, and began his fascination with the man that carried him all the way to my person so many decades later now. Those little boys, sniffing each other out, and not overwhelmed at the odor, are still inhaling now, nearly forty years on.
I could carry on about Toonch. I was not surprised to hear that his muse (name forgotten) has decided to no longer play the role she once did as curator of the Howard Stern wing of his house. As impressive as his filing system was, and as somewhat bohemian the clouds of cigarette smoke always seem to suggest, the hopeful glinting of that woman, at least, was a seriously odd contrast to the cold, dark, certitude, of a man so in need of shelter. Not in those arms, Toonch.
This would be far sadder, had one not witnessed the realm of their creation. As it was, it stood once as a vision of Toonch alone... still does. This is far less sad than it would have been were the creation truly mutual. Toonch suffered in his loss, of course, but... what's strange and delightful abount Toonch was never that woman.
There are a number of other individuals less quirky than Toonch, who brained me with the Pathos and nuance of their lives:
Chris Burne: son of a famous chess grand master, and early childhood friend of David. PHD Mathematician specializing in a few games of his own, namely game theory. Designs weapons systems for the Pentagon, and consults with Quantico once a month, on who knows what. He skipped Quantico to party with us. I guess you can skip Quantico. File that away.
Caryl Burne: Married to Chris for years now, mother to three daughters, and homemaker. Extremely quiet, perhaps introverted, it's difficult to say. The whole of her voice comes from high in her chest, in the manner of a different era of American femininity. Methinks a fair portion of this end of the register can be accounted for in her petiteness. She weaves, in their beautiful open vaulted living room (obviously constructed, by them, over time... it really is something, their house) tapestries, and other gorgeous works of textile magic. Her face quickly moves between a grin and the pausing look of a good recipient, or listener. At her age, her bone structure and figure seem to indicate that she was a hell of a beauty when young. She's still got a chin you could park a yaucht beneath, and twinkling eyes. Her pictures of her over the years, however, display a woman who never much enjoyed attracting visual attention. Three years ago, when I asked her, while walking in the small neighboring town of Fountaine, "Did you enjoy your single years? My parents in many ways never had any." She answered in the most emphatic term, "No."
"So you were glad to meet Chris?" I asked in my usual manner of pretending to not understand the simplest thing.
"I was simply so glad it was over." One of the most nuanced, and honest descriptions of happiness (for a time) I have ever heard. Hit me like a ton of bricks.
I could go on. Caryl avoided our merry, smoky, boozing band like the plague. Never once, really, do I remember her enjoying her house with us. This is, of course, very strange. It is none the less the case. Staying in her house you get the feeling that you are being endured. But, also the feeling that this woman endures much that is not accountable for, by a stranger. "Don't make assumptions," comes to mind. However glad a person might ever be, it is rarely over. Till it's over.
Last, for now, was Caroline (not her real name) wife of Carl. When I met her, it was in the yard of The Main, a sort of Union for Penn State. It was dark and some smashing Jazz musicians were playing (they had been practicing in Chris' and Caryl's basement, while we all ate upstairs, earlier in the evening.) When I first met her, she merely seemed a dark haired, middle aged woman, with a bald husband, with a quick smile, and extremely broad set eyes. Later when I saw their children her husbands eyes came back at me, incredibly wideset, and beautiful: futuristic, exotically gorgeous women.
As I was talking to Caroline it became obvious to me that one side of her face was somewhat slack, even in the dark. The next day while going to a party, which she'd be attending, David explained to me that she had suffered a stroke, at perhaps, forty five years old. She's maybe forty eight or nine.
"She was a very beautiful woman?" I asked David.
"My God," he said, "black Irish." I could see Caroine inhaibiting such a description, and fought my rising pity. At the party I made an effort to ease my discomfort deciding which eye to setle on, and redirected my probity to asking her questions, and being, how could it be otherwise, delighted by the answers of this beautiful, black Irish, mother of two gorgeous girls. She'd lived in Alaska, she'd done all manner of interesting things. We didn't get a chance to talk long enough, but my God, I felt no pity at the end. More on Caroline later.
Adrianne : Abe
Keleigh (Kee Lee)
Two of Chris kids were there: Grace and Keleigh. Keleigh is nearly thirty now, and fresh out of an investment firm, travelling the world. Highly educated with the most beautiful curving eyes, and the seemingly sad nuanced visage of her mother, but obviously ennervated in a far different fashion by the presence of her jumping jesus Dad. Quite a confection really. And I think, a killer woman. She made a number of attempts to sit with me and share conversation with a number of the extended party members. I felt a huge desire to secretly get away and have converstaions like we'd had in the past, but there was no way I was going to settle my attetnion on this gorgeous woman to the exclusion of these toddering contemporaries of my friend, David. Duh! Anyone could guess whom I'd rather be talking to, though to a certain extent, with some individuals, that was not exactly the case. But yeah, I fantasized about an extremely long night talking with Keleigh about whatever. And I have a feeling we will share a lot through Email. Sort of an ace in my fly... so to speak.
Adrianne the singing, flute playing, keyboard crashing, musician of statuesque proportions, was in L.A. trying as all of the description must, to bust through the paper target, and fall in a posture of stardom. Her fathers face, when describing her, is probably something of a burden to his other children. But you know, beauty isn't very hard to see.
Grace is a very young woman in her early twenties who seems to be just beginning in the department of adulthood. She'd fit right in in Bloomington, with her knarly hair, half shaved and knappy as all get out. But State College has it's own pantry of such delights and I've no doubt, whatsoever, "It's all good."
Not much else to say now about the trip. It was, as I knew it would be, a mixture of pleasure and pain. Though the cast of characters can't help but entertain.