Who lives along the Northeast Corridor, lots of time in DC, & spends nine consecutive days in Baltimore? For what? God. Mari came to me in April, way back, and said, "I have a conference in Baltimore at the end of June. I have to attend because I am presenting. I want you to come. All of you."
Ok, so the way I reasonably interpreted that was, I know you will find a place simultaneously way nicer and way thriftier than the stupid conference hotel, plus then I can bunk with you, sweet thing. You are beautiful & smart.
Whatever. It's like I have to be everyone's wife.
But nine days? In broken-down Baltimore? What on Earth?
I used HomeAway to let a cute dollhouse in a neighborhood. Of course, the minute I did it, I was seized by panic. I've used HomeAway before, but to stay in Chicago, where I could draw an elaborate diagram of the house's neighborhood from just the address. All I knew about this place was ... nothing. I know nothing about Baltimore.
It turned out fine: we were in a neighborhood flanked by a couple of campuses, which meant there were places to eat & pick up a few groceries; we were 10 or 12 minutes from the downtown area by way of a few transit options; the house itself was truly lovely, like staying at a friend's house, if you have a friend who likes really nice things. She & her husband lived a few blocks away if we needed anything. It was all just fine.
I did not want to get involved in the whole Inner Harbor, Baltimore-sightseeing thing. I ws looking at Groupon for other things to do & there were good deals for yoga. I bought a voucher for Fifille & I to enjoy unlimited yoga at a studio with multiple locations & a rich + varied schedule of classes; for Garçon, I purchased a voucher for 10 Bikram classes. When the children or anyone asked what we would do in Baltimore, I said, "We're doing yoga, every day."
Fifille & I were walking back from a class at the Fells Point studio, toward the end of our stay, and she told me her abs were really sore. Say what? She spends seven hours every week in the ballet studio! But it was good to know & talk about, because she is at an age where a. she has been dancing a long time & her body is so changed & the demands the dance makes upon it and b. dancing is not enough to be in condition for dancing any longer. This summer, extra training is upon her. She has five classes every week now, though, so she is seeing some payoff for her extra work, so it makes it easier. We'll talk about ballet another time.
The first morning we were in Baltimore, Fifille & I went to a class described on the schedule as "Beginner." We went in, fully expecting to just chill, like, "We'll learn how to have good alignment in Tadasana! We will be refreshed of the meticulous arrangement of our limbs in Ardha Matsyendrasana! Let's go!"
No. Charm City Yoga is a vinyasa studio. We had entered a beginner vinyasa class. It was terrible & awesome at the same time, like the greatest adventure! It still cracks us up to remember our shock & surprise to one another & also to recall how when we were done, we felt so, so good. Triumphant! Sweaty!
Mari went to his conference every day & we three lazed around until it was time to bustle in every direction to make our different yoga classes. Then three of us reconnoitered & lazed around more until Mari returned.
Overall, it was a good trip. If not for its recreational value, then for its family value. It gave us time to talk about the fiction in this narrative which people are always so eager to hang around our necks, the one that says, "Oh, it must be so hard for the children, with Mari working three days in Washington."
No, it isn't. Mind your own business.
I mean, it is, ok, work is hard. Would that we were all independently wealthy & we could lie around, like on Gilligan's Island! Ahahaha!
But this idea that we should live with Mari's job smashed up on top of us is naive, like the kind of thing Thurston Howell, III might say. There isn't any way a person will work at Mari's professional grade & not have a 12-hour day each day, so ... we can have those days compressed into a three-day week or we can live the life we have when we are in DC now & then, or while we were in Baltimore.
Mari got up every day, before the kids were awake, and left to go to his conference. He got back, every night, around dinnertime -- maybe a little past the time we three would have preferred to begin dinner -- just in time to eat, get his things together for the next day, and go to bed. Every day. That puts a lot of pressure on a weekend. Mari & I can't imagine. Even when we are in DC, when he comes home -- there is nothing but pure mayhem. I'm making dinner, maybe a contractor was there all day, Sal is making cocktails, the kids are pissed off at each other because it is late & they are hungry -- it doesn't seem like a nice homecoming.
On the other hand, when he comes home here, it's an event. I vacuumed & put on lipstick! He has a plate on the stove! We got ready all day to welcome him home! And then he is home! Maybe a conference call or two, but he is all ours, all day, for four days & four nights!
The weird thing about it is that everyone who asks this probing question -- OMIGOD, is it so hard on the kids? -- goes to work. Plus has a spouse who works. So where is all this relaxing quality time they think they have? I don't know, I don't ask; normally, I mind my business.
Garçon said to me, about halfway through the week, pouting a little -- Why are we even here?
Oh, I know, like why are we in the only major city in America where a born & bred city girl could think -- while walking in broad daylight on a block with a filling station, an auto-body shop, and a pasticciera -- Oh, I hope I don't get abducted! Yeah, I don't know why.
Instead just said, "I know, baby. Mari wanted us to be here."
Nine days is a long time. But nine days, man is it a long time. Thank god for yoga! Garçon went to a Bikram class every single day we were there. When we got home, they called. The woman said, "He was here 9 times in 9 days & we wanted to follow up because he should get back in here!" I told her we had been vacationing, that he enjoyed their studio, that I wanted him to sort out his various interior troubles there in the hot room, silently or whatever came upon him. A lot of yoga people have told me they wish they had been doing yoga when they were 15, so I guess that's good.
He came gamely with us one afternoon to a vinyasa class, labeled "gentle." Being there with him, I saw it the way he does & felt terrible for bringing him & at the same time touched by how open he remains to a "regular" class. People get down on Bikram, but the fact is that a non-sporty teenaged boy doesn't really have another way into a modern American yoga studio, with all its cuing by body parts & talking in Sanskrit, and no mirrors to see what you are doing anyway. But he can do 26 poses 2 times in 90 minutes the same way every teacher, every time. He is doing great with it.
A couple of times, the kids went to the library in the neighborhood where we were. One day, we went to the Walters Art Museum.
One of the things I was thinking about when I was there was ... I feel like every municipality has its own strain of destitution and when you live in that place, you grow accustomed to it, you develop ... not an immunity, but a certain kind of resistance. It becomes part of your home and it is not shocking. But when you leave to go somewhere else, you have nothing built up against the sharp realities of poverty on a different landscape. It's mindblowing, like it comes in through yr eyes & blows off the back of your head & you're there, lying on a dais, rambling on about all that you've seen like Colonel Kurtz.
I sent the Israeli an email one morning at 3, in the middle of a night not sleeping: Please pray for the man in soiled hospital pajamas living at the plexiglass bus shelter, sleeping on the bench day after day, eating from the garbage can, and please maybe also pray for me, because I might be going crazy, this might be the end.
I knew what I wanted to do -- I wanted to wait for the bus & just take it, leaving behind for him a bag with canned food & clean clothes -- but I couldn't figure out how to do it. He wasn't asking for anything, and the longer we stayed, the more I noticed this kind of hospital émigré all over, so I was not sure what it signified, and so how to respond, like a song with a predictable melody, but I had none of the words. Anyhow. That makes me sad & I wish I had done what I wanted, instead of overthinking it until I felt too shy & useless.
I think, too, that it makes me angry. In yoga classes, for the whole month of July, on the mat, this is a thing that comes up for me at least once a week -- This is all so stupid! And useless! I hate this! I'm leaving! Why am I even here? Dumb! -- and I don't know what it means. I am super infuriated about the futility in action, how being good has to be its own reward, but that only rewards you! What? I stay on the mat anyway, because it seems rash, like something to stay with. I already paid, anyway.
I told Mari last week that I think everything said in Buddhism boils down to WHO CARES BECAUSE NOTHING MATTERS. He did not know exactly what to say. Generally, I take all matters of spiritual counsel to the Israeli, speaking of polyamory! I do love everyone, unless I do not; it's a pretty binary situation with me. Je reviens xo