“Imelda”: Our Guilty Pleasure

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What’s in a name? If the eponym happens to be “Imelda” (2004), then the answer is a closetful. The mere mention of it generates a universal reaction – those shoes! When in 1986 the Philippines’ former first lady and her husband, Ferdinand Marcos, fled the country for exile in Hawaii, the presidential palace, Malacañang, was opened to the public as a museum of greed. I was there. Among the items I viewed: a receipt from Italian couturier, Valentino, for the purchase of two dresses the sum of $150,000; throne chairs; and a hand mirror that bore the initials IM encrusted in diamonds. The grand showcase was saved for the last. Underneath Mrs. Marcos’s boudoir, racks of stilettos, slip-ons, and pumps in leather or woven in bamboo – many of them of the same style in various colors – lined a basement the size of a department store warehouse. The place could have been a DSW outlet, only with every Ferragamo fitted for one woman and with somebody else footing the bill (namely, the Filipino tax payer).

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For the public’s amusement, the Ramona Diaz documentary titled after one of history’s most infamous consorts depicts much of the excesses. Everybody adores a rags to riches story, especially when the story turns sour, and this is the reason Imelda Marcos feeds our fascination. No ordinary woman can boast a trajectory from a hayseed in a third-world archipelago of a nation to a glamazon bejeweled in Cartier, ballroom waltzing in the arms of Lyndon B. Johnson and Adnan Khashoggi. At the peak of her power, the Marcoses amassed a fortune estimated at $10 billion. Their illegal holdings included such New York real estate as Lindenmere – a Long Island mansion that flaunts 16 bedrooms and seven gables – and the Crown Building. Then the People Power Revolution broke out. Mendicants and millionaires took to the streets in rallying for an end to the 20-year dictatorship. Nuns formed human barriers between tanks and protesters that chanted, “Cory! Cory! Cory!” – the nickname of Corazon Aquino,  the soon-to-be new commander-in-chief and widow of slain Marcos opposition leader, Benigno Aquino, Jr. A nation was being reborn.

That such a shift in government was about to happen was overwhelming, to be sure… the Marcoses had held the number one position in the land my entire life… but not as overwhelming as my transition from adolescence to manhood. I was on my freshman year at Tufts University in Boston when the uprising in the Philippines made international headlines, distraught that my academic experience away from home was bereft of the parties and clubbing that exhilarated my sister’s own undergraduate years in New York, and so absorbed in an image I harbored of myself as a trendsetter dressed in black and white that the current event gripping the world’s attention was of minor significance. Issues of sexuality compounded my indifference. I lived in an all-male dorm. My two roommates – one from Puerto Rico and the other from a town 40 miles southwest of Boston – griped that they were denied co-ed dorms because all the slots had been taken. I voiced the same fate. The truth was that I had opted for an all-male boarding situation, motivated by hopes of a boy meets boy romance.

Regardless, my inertia to politics and efforts to escape Tufts could not keep what truly mattered at bay. As I spent weekends with my sister, who was on her first year at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the People Power Revolution was brewing. My mother wrote of my father’s and her involvement in a letter:

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On January 7, the Management Association of the Philippines (Daddy is the president this year), the bishop, Businessman’s Conference, and the Makati Business Club had Cory Aquino as the speaker during their combined meetings at the Intercon. The affair was flashed briefly… A picture came out in the USA Today paper, January 8th. Daddy was in the picture. He gave the closing remarks on that day. Cory’s speech was very good and she intelligently answered questions from the floor… People are clamoring for change that a big number are volunteering to help Aquino. On my part, I volunteered for NAMFREL (National Movement for Free Elections) and we help any way we could. 

By the end of February, the revolution swelled. The news featured scenes of military helicopters landing on Aquino territory as their pilots renounced allegiance to President Marcos and of citizens that numbered in the millions thronging Manila’s main thoroughfare, Edsa Avenue, with the banners they waved and the confetti that danced in the air yellow, Aquino’s official color. Suddenly, I was no longer invisible. Guys in my dorm would ask, “What do you think about what’s happening in the Philippines?”

I have no recollection of what I might have initially answered. Only when my Puerto Rican roommate showed me a New York Times picture of Imelda Marcos taken during her husband’s 1965 inauguration did I fully see of an existence beyond my personal coming-of-age saga. She is pristine in a bubble do and a white gown. Her smile is serene and her eyes are limpid with conquest. I wondered what must have gone through her mind at that instant. A decade earlier, she had been a salesgirl in a music store. Now… “She was beautiful,” my roommate said. She was, indeed. She was also omnipotent and omnipresent. Everyone from high school classmates to my mother’s friends had an Imelda anecdote to tell: Imelda once ordered a Philippine Airline carrier to be available at her disposal, leaving the passengers stranded at the airport; Imelda had reserved two floors at the Waldorf Astoria; Imelda would throw $100-tips to the bellboys.

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I most relished my father’s anecdotes. Malacañang Palace would call our home every so often to extend an invitation to a social function, all of which my father would decline. Nevertheless, Imelda Marcos would summon him for a so-called discussion on the Philippines’ economic state, during which he along with other businessmen would ride in a van to the presidential palace with the first lady as a fellow passenger. She was always seated in an elevated section at the back. “I’d be right in front of her,” my father once told me. “Whenever I turned to say something, I’d be talking to her knees.”

What did I think? I was all for Cory, but Imelda was one colorful character on the par of the evil queen in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” as comical as a Disney villainess, and because of her, the People Power Revolution bordered on entertainment. (http://www.rafsy.com/films-1920s-1950s/snow-white-and-the-seven-dwarfs-someday-my-prince-will-come/) The jokes were non-stop: raise Imelda Marcos’s 500 brassieres on a flagstaff and salute, “Erin go bra”; Imelda Marcos makes Marie Antoinette look like a bag lady; Did you hear that Imelda Marcos committed suicide? She piled up all her shoes then jumped.

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And this brings me back to the footwear. At Malacañang Palace, a pair of sandals was on display on a pedestal. Bulbs in transparent platform heels flashed with the zaniness of lights in a pinball machine. “Madame’s disco shoes,” the curator said. Ideas of my own purpose in life percolated right there. Adolescent blues, goodbye. They were momentary stuff. The factor intrinsic and everlasting to my being was my identity as a Filipino man. It’s no coincidence that I was born two years after the Marcoses ascended to power. The stories about their exploits became my stories. The nationalism that led to their debacle was in my blood. Write it, I thought. Hence, my calling.

“Hello, My Name Is Doris”: In Defiance of Age

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I went to watch “Hello, My Name Is Doris” (2015) with a group of gay men. We were about a dozen in all, and we ranged in age from our forties to seventies (with the exception of one tricenarian in possession of an old soul). I loved the film. As someone soon to turn 50, I saw in the title heroine my own attempts to retain a youth that no longer is and my imaginings of a life that could have been. Doris Miller (Sally Field) is a dreamer somewhere in the half-century mark. Dolled up in Minnie Mouse hair ribbons and vintage ensembles of cardigans and pleated skirts the muted colors of a 1970s snapshot, she has been severed from living due to an adulthood as caregiver to an infirm mother. She is given the chance to compensate for the years lost when her mother dies and she befriends John (Max Greenfield), an officemate so much of a charmer that every one of his gestures, be it a parting kiss on the cheek or late night phone calls, awakens in her the probability of a romance.

Half Doris’s age, dimples, eyes as translucent as afterglow, and a hot bod… John can put anybody in a trance. He sure did me. Plus, he’s got slicked hair the brown of chestnut combed high in replicating the style of bygone movie gods (think Montgomery Clift). If I had hair like that, I’d ornament my hip pocket with a comb. So the fantasies begin. For me, my John came in the form of an online hook-up ten years ago named Scott.

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Now before I proceed on Scott, allow me to emphasize that I rarely get hits online. A lucky night for me generates five messages despite the numerous appeals on my part, and of those five messages, even rarer is my attraction to any one of the senders. Imagine, therefore, my incredulity when I first saw Scott’s pictures. Holy mackerel, I thought. With dark follicles and a swimmer’s physique, Scott could have been cousin to Doris’s own object of infatuation. I had not even sent the man a message. He would later tell me upon our meeting that a filter search produced my username (feednseed), which he found “interesting”; thus, his initiative to reach out to me. In his message, Scott didn’t merely introduce himself nor did he limit his communication to some lame remark such as “what are you up to right now?” (my line); he provided his phone number. I would also learn that Scott was new to the site. He had signed up three days earlier, and within 72 hours, his profile garnered over 300 hits. “I started clicking on each one,” he said, “and then I stopped. It was too much. Ridiculous.” That was how oomph the man was.

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Unlike with Doris and John, I had the fortune of consummating my desire for Scott. More than that: we formed a connection. I recall the precise second the zap of a visceral charge transmitted between us. We were rolling in the sheets when at one point I released myself from him to lie on my stomach. I turned my head. Our eyes met. I chuckled and so did he. And that was it. As if upon the touch of our fingertips, my insides burst with all the good feelings known to human – Scott had brought me to life. Doris may not have a physical interlude with John, but she does experience this form of internal light in talks where they share bits of themselves never before divulged to others and in the comfort of one another’s company. Their friendship has the marking of a love affair. So instantaneous and entwined is their connection that no wonder Doris develops delusions of a courtship.

Delusions, however, played no part in whatever I envisioned as possible between Scott and me. The guy asked me out to dinner after our first night. There’s nothing to misinterpret about a date, particularly when it ends with a smooch at the MUNI station. It’s this easy, I thought on the subway ride home. Love doesn’t require effort. Love happens on its own. My sister has said that the right person “fits like a glove.” If the disparity in age between Scott and me had caused concern (I was 39; he was 28), it dissipated as the subway chugged along. On the window, against the blackness of the underground tunnel, my reflection was a beaming face. Although I can’t say for certain that Scott and I were a fit, something was right.

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The rightness gradually eroded in the string of missed opportunities that ensued. The letdowns consisted of missed phone calls. I didn’t pick up when he attempted to contact me at work for lunch. He tried once again during a weekend I had left my phone at home while with my parents in Monterey. Indeed, something as innocuous as failing to answer the ring of a mobile or to respond to a text can alter the course of a relationship. Scott must have assumed I was no longer interested.

I believe the real deal breaker came on our second sexual episode. An adult film was playing on the TV monitor. I was far from the right frame of mind. The happenings onscreen preoccupied me more than did Scott, and this led him to comment that I was disconnected from him. My efforts afterwards for future meetings, both romantic and erotic, resulted in declines. How is it that our initial encounter should offer such promise and end up two months later generating a bust? In addition to a spectacular first night and first date, Scott sent signals that I read as an invitation for a boyfriend. He would sign off his e-mails with the closing of “hugs and kisses”; he left a voicemail expressing concern in response to my voicemail that my father had a stroke; and those missed phone calls, no doubt they suggested his interest in me exceeded the platonic. A friend said that my being distracted during Scott’s and my second mating might not necessarily have put him off, that perhaps the inclination to have me as a partner was never there to begin with. If it had been, he said, then Scott would not have given up, for love spurs a person to dive in, not to hold back.

I didn’t need to wonder for long. In his last e-mail to me, Scott blatantly stated, “I do not feel the same way about you.” This the night before I was scheduled to appear at a function to read from and promote my novel, “Potato Queen.” (http://www.rafsy.com/art-of-storytelling/the-reward-of-being-an-author-it-isnt-money/) We’ve all been up through the late hours of dawn, in a state of such helplessness that we lose our hold on life, in the darkness of our rooms. Add heartache to this. I sat in bed, the walls around me creating a box that entrapped, and I screamed at the slashes ripping apart my insides. I wanted Scott. I was in love with him (or so I thought). I was angry and desperate and lonely, the condition Doris sinks into when she faces a moment of truth about John.

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Yet on I went with my appearance the next day, dressed as a kid in a Superman t-shirt. Silver-haired men constituted a large chunk of my audience. The event was in a hotel banquet room. The carpet was frayed and stained. (I don’t even remember the color.) The chairs were brown vinyl cushions in metal frames. One fellow reader, a professorial type advanced in age – bald with spectacles and a raspy voice – spoke about a liaison with a go-go boy in Bangkok, the basis of his memoir.

While mouthing answers to a Q&A, I guessed at what might have been had I calculated my moves more carefully in order to have circumvented certain gaffes with Scott: I should have brought my phone to Monterey; I should not have been messed up on our follow-up fuck; blah, blah, blah…. I questioned when I would have another chance with another guy, at what age would the golden goose of reciprocated love be mine. I’d be damned should I find my match in a macho dancer five decades my junior. Scott would have been perfect.

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Alas, it was not meant to be. What the heck. Tomorrow remains as it does for Doris. Spunky woman that she is, she permits neither age nor failure to deter her dreaming. Certainly, other men exist with whom she could experience the connection she does with John, and in so doing have someone’s hand to hold by the fireplace. The potential is available to us all, whether young or old, so long as we keep our hearts open and welcome love’s setbacks with the fierceness we do its blessings.

“Edward Scissorhands”: A Volatile Friendship

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What persecution life would be if we were incapable of holding those we love. This is the curse our title hero in “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) abides by for his duration on earth. As if deprivation of human contact were not enough, Edward (Johnny Depp) has an added cross to bear. An inventor’s creation, he is immune to the biological function of aging, which renders the sum of his years equivalent to infinity. The inventor, a nameless genius in the guise of Vincent Price (he of the graveyard eyes and ghost-white hair mold) was not motivated by malice when he implanted an inanimate object with a heart and a brain. He wanted to make a man in the vein of Adam, the embodiment of kindness and innocence, a creature in his likeness who could reinstate Eden to the paradise God had intended, Eden in this tale being the garden to the inventor’s castle that rises ominous on a hill overlooking American suburbia.

For reasons known only to a genius, Edward has shears for fingers. The inventor intended to replace them with the tendrils you and I possess, only on the day he was to do so, he croaked. Alone, non-existent to the world beyond, Edward seeks solace in the garden, sculpting shrubs into animal forms – his imaginary friends – until the afternoon Avon lady, Peg Boggs (Diane Weiss), ding dongs her way into the castle and wisps Edward off to the neighborhood downhill, an enclave of houses painted the colors in an M&M packet. With his taciturn demeanor and lugubrious eyes, our hero is a hit, particularly among the ladies, all of who offer him their heads so that he could groom their hair after every fad of the 20th century from the beehive to the asymmetrical cut.

No tale of innocence lost would be complete without a love interest. Here she is in Peg’s daughter, Kim (Winona Ryder), Edward’s light and darkness. Because of her, Edward soars so high that he kisses the moon. Because of her, he plummets so low that his existence henceforth is a bottomless pit. A nick on the cheek, a gash on the hand, blood, tears… for all the beatific transports of love, it can also rip our flesh and drain us of our substance, leaving us dry and forsaken. How can it be that an embrace, an act expressive of compassion, can inflict harm? Perhaps this is why break-ups happen.

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Such partings need not be exclusive to a romance. A friendship can suffer the same fate, the kind of friendship between two persons so emotionally conjoined that a disagreement, minute as it may be, results in a reaction the toxicity of a power plant explosion. When the parties involved both happen to have sensitive personalities, the relationship is all the more fraught. So it has been for Doug and me these past 25 years; we are proportionately guilty of cutting one another to shreds.

The night  Doug and I met I was wearing a brown button-down shirt with white stripes, one designed by a Japanese label, and a pair of GAP jeans. (I have a knack for remembering my attire on life’s impactful moments.) A friend, Eric, introduced us at the End-Up, a San Francisco club with a dance floor and sliding glass doors that lead to a back porch, the perfect set-up for a co-mingling of bootie wiggling and conversation. Eric was one of my first gay friends upon my move to San Francisco half a year earlier. He had been telling me about Doug, describing him as this cute guy from the Midwest who had an affinity for Asians, while simultaneously informing Doug about me so that by the night Doug and I first shook hands, our curiosity for one another had already been roused. He has thick palms, I thought. And, of course, I was taken by Doug’s boyish handsomeness: brown eyes, brown hair succulent curly, and a cleft chin.

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Not until a barbecue shortly after that night did Doug and I exchange numbers. We went on a dinner date. He was quiet throughout the meal, speaking only when I would ask questions and smiling at my effort to fill the silence; I was so at a loss for dialogue that I rambled on about tennis lessons I had taken at 13. Regardless, we went on a second date. On this occasion, I was more hopeful. I threw a duffel bag of condoms and lube into my car trunk, then I drove us to Twin Peaks, a hill where couples make out in their cars to the panorama of the city, balls of light scattered about like an ocean of electric pearls. Though Doug and I might have kissed, the duffel bag never left the trunk. As we called it an evening, Doug held my hand. Politely, he said that he enjoyed my company but that he wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. He did call me three days later, this time with the intention of a social interaction, and herein began our friendship.

Just as with Edward Scissorhands and Kim Boggs, Doug and I became close in gradual steps, none of this crashing sensation of two persons having found in each other a kindred spirit. We developed a bond that could not have been possible had we been lovers. As a result, no filter exists to screen our words. Doug has a self-deprecating sense of humor, the very virtue that has been the root of our many arguments. His fair complexion, his self-perceived skinny legs and other physical “flaws,” his attraction to men of color… Doug has joked about these. Frequently. But the jokes are his alone to make. Should anybody else poke fun at him on the same matters, he would consider it an affront, which he has accused me of committing. I have shot back by telling him he has no intellect. My rejoinder occurred in a video store. We were searching for a film with which to spend the evening. That he considered boring my choice, “The Story of Adele H” (1975), uncorked my arrogance.

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Not that Doug isn’t worldly. He and I have a shared interest in cultures beyond the comfort of our upbringing and an appreciation of beautiful things. We dress similarly in blazers and tailor-cut shirts. He studied in Scotland and has toured Asia. He read “One Hundred Years of Solitude” upon my recommendation. Yet the criticisms we hurl at one another, how they cut. He is callow for never remembering my birthday. I am trivial in my demand that he keep my home tidy during his stays. He is infantile in his temper flares. I am cruel for calling him a child. Nevertheless, present in each other’s lives we will always be. As Doug himself has admitted, we’ve been friends for too long for one to do without the other.

We accept our friends’ foibles as much as they accept our own. Ultimately, their assets win in the end. This is the benefit friends have over lovers. Edward and Kim never get the gift of time to develop the flame that kindles between them… so dangerous is Edward’s touch that he can only adore Kim from afar… but for the brief moment they do have, she uncovers the human beneath the freak, and this enables her to grow from a spoiled girl crazy about the neighborhood meathead of a jock (Anthony Michael Hall) to a woman who comes to understand the true meaning of love. This is the Kim whom Edward cherishes forevermore.

As for Doug and me, we live in two different cities now. He is in Los Angeles, while I remain in San Francisco. It’s just as well. The last time we spent time together, two Thanksgivings ago, we were at each other the way a dental drill strikes a nerve. Apart from him, I heed little thought to our outbursts. I remember instead the way we were – two young guys fresh in exploring our identities as men attracted to other men, grateful that through this one commonality, we found other mutual interests that made us feel we had finally found someone to belong to.

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“The Trip to Bountiful”: A Vessel of Breath and Light

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Bountiful is a rural town in Texas that has been destroyed by the Depression. A lone house hunches on a turf as expansive as the sea. The walls are decayed. Windows and doorways reveal a hollow interior. Whose flesh once touched this skull of a habitation? Whose soul served as its eyes and ears? To imagine a young person old is difficult just as it is to imagine an old person young. And yet, imagine we do. With fragments of bones, that they constituted the physical foundation of a life is inconceivable. We see disintegration, ash, and emptiness. This house could never have been a home, a safe lair of painted stairs and a roof radiant with the reflection of the sun, of voices and footsteps animating its rooms. A tomb-like silence enshrouds the structure.

But the house isn’t entirely dead. It will never be. For whatever time she’s got left, Carrie Watts (Geraldine Page) holds the house sacred to her heart as a vessel of breath and light. Carrie is an elderly woman in Houston under the care of her son, Ludie (John Heard), and his wife, Jessie Mae (Carlin Glynn), neither of who understand her longing to return to her roots. The two have concerns of their own. Ludie agonizes over a promotion as an office manager. Jessie Mae highlights her days by gossiping with friends at the drug store. A night out involves a movie. Such is the existence for working class citizens in Truman-era America. The city provides upward mobility and diversions, reasons to dream. So when Carrie begs them to take her to Bountiful, a place that she describes as eternally verdant, where flowers and fruits sprout upon a single raindrop, they tell her to hush, that she should bury these visions; they belong to the past. The future is in Houston. Of course, Carrie is aware of this. What the two youngsters don’t realize is that her dreams are comprised entirely of the past. Coins in a pouch, a pension check tucked in a purse, she runs away and buys a bus ticket for “The Trip to Bountiful” (1985).

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Picture Carrie Watts: plump on the bosom and heavy on the hips; cotton candy sleeves on a floral-patterned frock; a straw hat; gray eyes that gleam with memories on a face a map of folds and wrinkles. She could be any old lady in our own family. She could be my grandmother. When Grandma Susan had an aneurysm, her mind rapidly declined. She forgot names, didn’t recognize the faces of her children and grandchildren. Towards the end, bed-ridden, she would gaze at the ceiling and mumble. “How eerie,” my sister-in-law, Margie, said. “I suppose that happens to all of us when we get to be that age.” We could only guess at the images and words Grandma Susan saw that hovered above – a visitation, a summoning from a greater force, God, prayers. And then one day, she mentioned a name, that of a girlhood friend.

My grandmother had grown up on a hilltop province. Houses of stone and wood line dirt roads. A blackish-gray behemoth of a church with plants that grow from fissures dominates the square. In the outskirts, a creek runs through a sylvan. My aunt, Tit Tessie, laughed. “She’s remembering herself at 13,” she said of Grandma Susan. “She would play in the creek with her friend.”

As children, we are ignorant of the notion of time and memory. Souvenirs bear no importance to us because we believe that today will never pass. The year I turned 12 (1979), my father’s managerial position at the Bank of America required my father and his family to relocate from Manila to San Francisco. In cleansing out my closet, I discarded a mishmash of items from a desk calendar of hand painted flowers to a Bionic Man doll, from a collection of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books to Sanrio goodies. Two things I regret having disposed of: a pair of caricature sketches of me drawn during a visit to Europe. One depicted me as an Asian Goofy with tombstone teeth, oblique eyes, and a neck wiry long. The other presented my profile, a sesame ball rotund head atop a stump of a neck. They were done in Copenhagen, within minutes apart from each other. Since I was displeased with the first, my father had taken me to another caricaturist across the square. I tucked in my neck and suppressed my smile so that what I got upon the second attempt was an image of pure corpulence.

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My heart sunk the way it does when, brimming with excitement, we unwrap a big box on our birthday only for the box to contain math books. I don’t know what I had expected. A glamour portrait, perhaps. Our European vacation was in 1975, and for years afterwards, the caricature sketches were stashed rolled up in my drawer. Then off they went to the garbage. If they could materialize before me at this instant, I would frame them. Over 40 years later, they are as precious as photo negatives, testimonies of a moment relegated to the remote past.

The avidity to preserve applies to every castle we have dined in and loved, slept in and dreamed, presided over as master. In grieving for what Ludie and Jessie Mae regard as nothing more than a ramshackle house, Carrie Watts in “The Trip to Bountiful” grieves for a period long gone when the laughter of all those dearly departed reverberated through its hallways. The singular person who sympathizes with her is a stranger she befriends at the bus depot. A young bride whose husband has gone off to fight in the Korean War, Thelma (Rebecca de Mornay) prays day in and day out against the threat of loss.

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Human ephemerality hit me hard when I turned 20. (http://www.rafsy.com/films-2000s-present/ill-see-you-in-my-dreams-a-golden-renaissance/) So evanescent was the present that I started a journal in which I recorded not only the date of each entry, but also the day and the time right down to the precise minute, as if by doing so I could freeze the now. I was barely 23 when already I wept for the passing of my youth through the manifold addresses that identified me with the stamp of a social security number:

120 West Hall. 2 Wren Hall. 6 Rue Emile du Bois. 280 Harvard Street. 4 Trowbridge Place. 10 Dana Street East. Each place for a point in my life was home, and each place I had to leave to go on with life. There’s something sad about leaving a place. It’s like saying to yourself, “This is it. There’s no looking back, even if what’s back there is simply great. Move forward because only in moving forward can I progress.” You leave behind the life you had while living there, and you leave behind friends and a part of your youth.

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I have resided in four addresses since, the current and longest being 1170 Sacramento Street in San Francisco. My parents purchased the condo the summer of 1990 towards the end of my second year in Paris, where I had gone to be a writer after graduating from Tufts University. The condo is on the fifth among 17 floors of a building that stands the tallest on Nob Hill. I have a balcony view of naked fountain cherubs in Huntington Park; the Gothic twin towers of Grace Cathedral; and the Fairmont Hotel, a construction that recalls a Gilded Era Vanderbilt mansion. I will never forget my reaction when I first walked into the unit: “Wow!” Layers of personal history have since accumulated: my coming out, my mother’s month-long visits that led to tiffs over my late nights of partying, and Grandma Susan’s 75th birthday.

My friend, Doug, hit the nail on the head when he said, “The day you empty these rooms and pack up to move somewhere else, it will be a very emotional experience.”