It’s been raining heavily in Boston for three days now. The lilacs, dogwoods, and magnolias have lost their flowers and now I tread on them. That delicious smell of cement that is just wet by new rain is drowned by the extra foot of water. I sat through another Mother’s Day talk for Singles yesterday. The bishop told us that any blessing we weren’t getting now we would get, at some future, undisclosed time. 75 hours it’s been raining and I am lonely. Loneliness tastes to me like really burnt chocolate chip cookies.
I remember when I was 10 years old and it had been 22 hours since I had seen my dad.
I went to bed at 9pm on Friday and slowly it got to be 7pm on Saturday. At first that loneliness tasted like Peach New York Seltzer and Twizzlers since I had pilfered around his studio apartment for change, but eventually the taste turned to burnt cookies too. My parents got divorced when I was 9 and I periodically went to spend weekends with my dad in Midvale Utah. He lived in Candlestick Lane apartments, right next to the Smith’s off of 72nd South. He would leave sometimes, I didn’t know where, I think because his loneliness got to be too much. At age 10 and as one of his 7 children for whom he could not provide, I did not ease his loneliness. I was responsibility and thereby left to be lonely too. It was the fourth weekend that this had happened, me coming and his leaving and by 11:30am, after two trips to Smith’s, I started to cry.
With no hope for relief, I turned on the TV and there was Xanadu. Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly in a 1980 musical that is surely a precursor to Moulin Rouge and everything else great. I watched intently, positioned 18 inches away from the TV screen. It was mesmerizing. Olivia and her muse sisters came alive from a wall painting and danced their way off into space. Neon beams of light shooting from their limbs. Olivia tap-danced her way into Gene’s heart. A rock-and-roll band and a jazzy big band had a singing duel and then slowly merged into one, making the most divine dance music I had ever heard. There was a roller skating love duet that transformed mystically into Bluth animation. I didn’t think once about my father.
It ended with one of the best musical finales ever and then went to commercial. And there was that burnt cookie taste again. And no dad. But then after five commercials, Xanadu started all over again. This time I danced. I jumped, somersaulted, twirled and leapt. I came alive on “I’m Alive” and tapped like Fred Astaire on “Whenever You’re Away from Me”. And my finale. My. finale. was. Remarkable. Five commercials more and it started again. It played five times over that day and ELO genius Jeff Lynne and the Shadows’ John Farrar had worked magic on my lonely little heart.
When my dad finally got home, full of self-loathing because he couldn’t face his 10-year-old daughter again, I was dancing the 5th run through of Dancin’ Round and Round. The Greek muse Kira had again inspired the lost artist Sonny and they were again building Xanadu, the roller rink/dance club, with Danny McGuire. I was delighted five times over and my dad danced with me exuberantly.
1987 was a good year for Xanadu re-runs as it played 27 of the weekends I spent at my dad’s apartment. I memorized the lyrics, the head tosses, the choreography, the lines, the roller skating moves, the hand-clapping routines. I was smokin’. Never to taste the burnt cookie flavor at Candlestick Lane again.
When I got home last night, in jeans soaked to my kneecaps, I stood in my bedroom staring at my closet and I realized I had that horrible taste in my mouth. So I threw on this tattered Xanadu slip I have, put on the soundtrack and danced and I haven’t felt lonely since. Thank God for my dad’s loneliness. It has led me to this.
We’re all so post-modern, so fragmented, so moneyed, so blogged that I’m sure all of us feel twinges (or heart attacks) of loneliness. At one time, I felt guilty that Jesus couldn’t ease my loneliness, but I’ve given up on that guilt. Besides, Jesus probably helped make Xanadu.
What do you do to get that burnt cookie taste out of your mouth? If you have nothing, I recommend learning the lyrics and choreography of Ms. Olivia Newton-John.