Roots

http://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/43144-my-life-on-the-post-road-roots

Roots

Although I started out in the Bronx, and lived in Killeen, Texas while my dad was in the Army National Reserve (where my sister Suzanne was born in a military hospital), the first place that formed vivid early childhood memories was Howard Beach, Queens. Our parents bought a co-op there in Lindenwood. Apartment 5F. I imagine it was a real “we’re movin’ on up” moment for them. It was the suburbs compared to the small Bronx apartment we shared, in a Greek enclave near my father’s immigrant parents. Come to think of it, my mom must have been delighted to put some distance between her and our dour ya-ya, her mother-in-law.

I haven’t been back in the 45 years since we left for the real suburbs of Westfield, New Jersey, but Suzanne and I had been talking about a nostalgic trip back every year for the twenty that I’ve lived here.

“Wanna go get some Greek food in Astoria tomorrow and then go to Howard Beach?” she asked last Friday.

“Definitely. You must have read my mind,” I told her. “Flying in and out of JFK for Portland reminded me of how low the planes flew overhead when we lived there.”

So she, her husband Bruce, and I set out for the far away borough over the eternally clogged Whitestone and onto the perpetually congested Van Wyck in search of our past. New Yorkers endearingly never feel the need to say “bridge” or “expressway.” We just know.

We drove down 155th Avenue past the “garden apartments” where some of my friends lived – I so envied their small patches of grass – and pulled in to the same hairpin driveway where our dad would park our black VW Bug. Where the Good Humor truck pulled up in the summer. When we heard those bells ringing we pled like Pavlov’s dogs with our mother to throw down two quarters in a twist-tied baggie, and raced around from the playground in back to the driveway in front to catch him in time.

“Hello, Nancy!” He called all the girls Nancy. “What’ll it be today?” We’d order a Toasted Almond or Chocolate Éclair because we’d need $0.35 for the more deluxe chocolate-bar-in-the-middle Chocolate Fudge Bar.

I remember seeing him out of uniform in the Waldbaum’s once. Suzanne and I were dumbstruck. We thought he lived in that truck.

Our building, and the one directly across the driveway (where we attended nursery school in the basement before it was called Pre-K) looked much the same, if not better kept than I’d expected. But they looked shorter, too. I guess a six-story building looks taller to a six-year old thank to an admittedly short adult.

Back then the playground featured a surface of decidedly kid-unfriendly gnarled asphalt. It split my lip and chipped my front tooth when I slid down the steel sliding pond face first. My tooth is still yellow from that poor choice. It got so hot in the summer that it singed our already pre-sunscreen seared skin.

In those halcyon days, my sister, three years my junior, and I would play for hours unattended in that playground behind our building, or ride our bikes on the adjacent oval of rose-colored concrete that we affectionately called “the pink.” We could commiserate with Joni Mitchell over its having been paved over so they could “put up a parking lot.”

Our mom would hang out of the window now and then to check on us, or to alert us to an impending meal or bedtime. We’d argue futilely for a few moments before her voice rose to the decibel level that indicated nonnegotiability. Those twin buildings provided a gaggle of in situ friends, and an abundance of easily accessible Halloween candy.

 

We snapped a few photos, looked up at our bedroom window, and then drove down to our alma mater, P.S. 232. It, too, is in remarkably good shape. Suzanne and I sang our school song: Children, from P.S. 232, Children have lots of work to do, Working and then we’re playing, We’ll have lots of fun when work is done!

The mean Mrs. Martin picked relentlessly on Dennis Gibbons in third grade in that building, and I learned Spanish there with Mrs. Romano in the fourth. Back then, before the fear of predators kept kids on a short leash, Suzanne and I used to go across the street with $1 each from our mom (on the rare day she didn’t feel like making us PBJs) and sit on red vinyl swivel stools at the luncheonette counter and have a lunch of hamburger, French fries, and a Coke in a white paper cone sitting in a red hourglass-shaped plastic holder.

Through the miracle of Facebook, we have reconnected with many Howard Beach friends. It’s great to share memories like how our mothers would leave us, sleeping, with the front doors ajar, so they could listen for us (before baby monitors) while they played mah jongg in an adjacent apartment.

We didn’t stay long, and we didn’t do much besides touch the school building as if doing so would somehow reconnect us to that part of our history. It sufficed to be there and remember where we came from.

On the way home we watched a big papaya-colored sun dip behind the Manhattan skyline. It reminded me of The Cyrckle singing about the sun as “a red rubber ball.” I listened to Cousin Bruce, on WABC-AM, on a small transistor radio by the public pool. It reminded me of the pink Spalding ball we bounced on the playground: A my name is Annie and I come from Alabama, my husband’s name is Andy and we sell Apples, crossing a leg over the ball after every word starting with the letter “A.”

It seemed that just being back there, walking that same concrete path that we’d followed thousands of times, was enough to trigger a hit parade of memories. Maybe Thomas Wolfe was right in saying You Can’t Go Home Again. But it was sure nice to visit.

Powell’s 

http://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/43127-my-life-on-the-post-road-powell-s-city-of-books
Powell’s City of Books, established in 1971, is the largest independent bookseller in the world. Titles spread over a city block, arrayed in color-coded rooms. Blue for literature and poetry. Pearl for art and photography. 
It’s poetry month, so all titles were 15% off. I love a sale, and took advantage and milked it as illicit permission to linger longer amongst the poets, including my crush, Shakespeare. I pored over selections ranging from brand-spanking new LGTBQ poems to rarer, older tomes wrapped in protective plastic. I passed a red Shakespeare t-shirt that read: “This shit writes itself,” but resisted the temptation to buy it, and snapped a photo instead.
It’s a readers’, writers’, and book lovers’ paradise, so big and so awesome that I visited twice on my first day in Portland. This is a marathon, not a sprint, so I checked out and shipped the first basketful of books off before I went to reload. Also, I had to stop for sustenance and to regroup mid visit. Fortunately, the World Cup coffee shop is located in the red room surrounded by erotica, anime, and manga. 

The level of eclectic here is unrivaled on the Post Road. The metal hanging from one cashiers ears looked like replacement auto parts.

I felt self conscious because my hair is just brown and not some color of the ubiquitous rainbow. Portland is delightfully inclusive, and rainbow posters in many establishment windows proclaim that loud and proud. 

A man sat close by crafting daffodils, calla lilies, and morning glories from napkins and straw wrappers. Between each creation he hand danced like an Olympic ribbon gymnast with his raw materials to music from his earbuds. 

A Kathy Bates (circa “Misery”) look alike and her look alike husband sat, comfy and dumpy, hunched over a mountain of books and their lattes. It may have been Easter Sunday, but this was their church. 

My seat at the wooden counter at the window allowed me to watch the world go by: Buffalo Vintage across the street was closed for the holiday, but Patagonia and Icebreaker Merino were bustling. The passing cars were small and disproportionately electric, and the bicycles plentiful. And by some stroke of fortune, so was the sunshine. 

Checking back on the crowd inside the cafe, I watched a young woman with jet-black hair in pigtails that pointed up to the cosmos, like antennae looking for alien life, cross stitch a raven onto a gossamer piece of beige gingham. Her short sleeved shirt pattern blended seamlessly with her tattoo sleeves. 

A young man with a voluptuous red beard and seemingly matching red plaid flannel shirt approached the paper sculptor. He wore a pussy hat composed of quilting squares, and had what looked to be a small Navajo rug safety-pinned to his back. Snug white kitty-clad tights covered his legs. 

The man next to me watched Game of Thrones on his iPad. 
Refreshed and refueled, I dove back into the volumes, wandering through all the colors. 

After nearly three hours, I pondered exactly why this place felt like nirvana. What sway did those stacks hold over me?
In part, maybe because I write, I have an endless, insatiable fascination with the multitude of ways that others find to twist and tie a finite number of words together to create seemingly infinite quantities of delight. They hold the power to teach, transport, and titillate. I lament only the limited time to tackle these treasures.
Also, I think about my dad. He and I shared this passion. There was not a garage sale, bookstore, or street fair that he’d pass up if it featured books. They held his attention longer than almost anything, except maybe fishing on Highland Lake. We could indulge in this activity and be together without saying a word. We bonded silently in reverence for the written word. He bought me the first in my antique book collection, and contributed to it often. When he died 15 years ago, one of the hardest things for me was sorting through, and ultimately donating, many of the books we’d bought together. Maybe, I though, another father and daughter would peruse and select the collection together. 

On my way out of Powell’s, a disembodied voice from the PA system announced “attention Powell’s shoppers. If you left your Tupperware in the ladies’ room please come to the information booth on that level. It’s waiting for you.”  

And as I exited, red beard man stood pointing at Powell’s: “That’s a big bookstore! I’m a small bookstore, and he pointed at his chest. Several bundles of small square cards, which I realized were completed sudoku puzzles, hung from his neck from colorful ribbons. “I made these! They’re books!” I stepped closer to admire them. “Really nice,” I said. “My son makes books too. He’s taking a class on bookbinding now.”  

“Cool,” said red beard as he smiled and nodded. 

As I thanked him and turned to go, his handmade books flipped around. On the back of each is the word YES, writ large.  

“Yes,” I think. Yes. Yes. Yes

Las Vetas

http://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/43115-my-life-on-the-post-road-las-vetas-lounge

Monkeys perch precariously overhead holding electric candles in each hand for illumination. Bookshelves overflow with vintage LPs and classic-rock-themed hardcovers. Fairie lights line the place where the walls meet the ceiling, a nostalgic array of ceramic mugs hanging from hooks just below them. The colorful cardboard boxes atop the counter offer tempting treats reminiscent of penny candy stores of yore: Wax Lips, Fireballs, and Mary Janes that would challenge any molar.

None of the chairs or tables match – that adds to their charm. Most belong in a Formica-clad 1950s kitchen. The piano in the corner sports a bust of Beethoven and business cards from local musicians.

Rock memorabilia fills nearly every inch of wall space in this funky, hipster, local independent coffee house right in the heart of downtown Fairfield. Bob Dylan, Elvis, and the Beatles preside over this neighborhood haunt, the “Cheers” of local coffee shops.

The chalk-scrawled menu offers items like “Rock-n-Roll Tomato Soup” and “Big Bertie’s Chili” along with coffee concoctions named for the cadre of Fairfield University student staff.

The clientele is an eclectic mix of yogis from next door (Yoga For Everybody, where I practice and sometimes teach), staff from FTC down the street, Fairfield University students, commuters, and, especially on the weekends, families coming from and going to sporting events. Everyone looks up and smiles, nods, says “hello.” I’ve often fallen into engaging conversations with a wide array of fellow regulars. This is the Anti-Starbucks (and don’t get me wrong – I’m a denizen there as well). A homey, independent enterprise, the likes of which seem to be endangered in these parts.

The owner, Andrew Vetas, presides behind the counter, sunglasses often atop his head, greeting patrons by name and whipping up delicious, custom-made breakfast sandwiches on the griddle. His warm smile and mellow affability spread a chill vibe over the place. If he’s working when I come in, he’ll personally brew me a Jasmine green iced tea sweetened with just a bit of honey that he dissolves with hot-but-not-boiling water before adding it to the elixir.

Like the Cheers theme song says, “Sometimes you want to go/Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.”

At Las Vetas, everyone may not always know my name, but they usually remember my drink and make me feel like they’re glad I came. I’m glad that a few of these mom and pop shops still exist in Fairfield county and wish there were more like it. If you’ve not visited Las Vetas, take a drive down Unquowa Road to this gem of a coffee shop, have some joe, and tell Andrew “Namaste” for me.

Photos by Diane Lowman

I Had to Put My Cat Down

My hands are raw from Purell and washing them in hot water for as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday. The length of time preschool teachers tell their students it takes to get rid of germs. My mom was a preschool teacher. Miss Barbara. Purell has become a verb. “Purell your hands before you come in here!” Mostly for her sake. The leukemia from which my mother suffers has suppressed her immune system so we cannot risk infection. Everything in the hospital is a-glow, in my mind, in a germ aura. We move in a bacteria/viral/fungal cloud.   We have to protect ourselves. We have to protect her.

We have hope for the former. None for the latter. My mother has migrated from curative to palliative care. Hospice.

She arrived from Florida a couple of weeks ago, on Halloween, to explore treatment options for acute myeloid leukemia, but during one of her doctor appointments to do just that, she is so short of breath that she has to pause every minute or two to gasp. I watch her struggle as she creeps down the corridor in the bright red quilted jacket that she reserved for trips “up north”. Her blood count is too low to risk removing the fluid that an X-ray reveals between her chest wall and her lung, though. One pinprick and she could bleed out.

“You’re scheduled for a transfusion on Monday anyway,” says the hematologist, Dr. Ruskin. “Go home. Rest. After the transfusion we will extract the fluid and you’ll feel more comfortable.”

As will often happen over the next few weeks, the target keeps shifting; we lose sight of the goal. We forget about leukemia treatment and just hope she can breathe through the weekend. She can’t.

Mom, who was staying with my sister Suzanne, knocks on her bedroom door Saturday morning, scared and desperate for breath. Suzanne calls me; they head to the ER immediately and ask that I to meet them there. I rush in, desperate to find them, and I’m met by a Rent-a-Cop reading Rifleman Magazine “guarding” the entrance. Just in case that did not tip me off to the clusterfuck into which we were about to sink, the 3 ½ hours of mayhem in the crowded, blue-curtained ER cubicle left no doubt. We helplessly watch her discomfort escalate while myriad doctors, nurses, and various other unidentified scrub-clad clones poke, prod, and ask repetitive questions while they joke with each other and roll around the floor on wheeled barstools, staring intently into attached computer screens. “Missing Zacky’s soccer game this morning,” one says, making a little pouty face. “That might not be a bad thing!” chortles another, eyebrows raised. “Fuck you,” I think. “Come help my mother.”

Each time the limp blue drape slides open we hope that someone will tell us they know how to make her better, and plan to take immediate action, but the tail-chasing entourage dashes our those hopes repeatedly. We hear “soon,” and “I’m sorry” ad nauseum. To what depths of despair have we sunk when the news that they need to admit her elates us? How sad that we are happy to follow her, in her rolling bed, up to oncology central on six? Little did we know that we would spend the next eleven days here, and she would not leave alive.

The weekend is a bad time to check in to the hospital. The A-Team is at home with family. The skeletal B-Team is stretched.   The constant, incessant cacophony of beeping, coughing, whimpering, and expectorating eclipses the details of her diagnosis, condition, and treatment. We get nothing but “I’m not sure,” and “I’ll check,” from the few staff we can snag and drag into the room. The hall fills with the smell of bodily fluids, bad hospital food, and ineptitude.

Mom only seems comfortable when she sleeps, but sleep evades her. The bed shifts at preprogrammed intervals to prevent bedsores. The oxygen tubes irritate her nose. The blood pressure cuff squeezes and bruises her arm. Random people shine lights in her eyes at irregular intervals to check her neurological function. The IV fluids make her need to pee. Which she can’t do alone because she is a “fall risk”.   This feels urgent to no one but her, and assistance often arrives after it is too late.

Mom, at 77, even as sick as she is, is upbeat and more worried about us than we are about her. She is also resigned and ready to die. “I’ve had a great life,” she tells us and everyone else that comes into the room. “I have a great family. Thus, we know she is gravely ill. She usually only waxes this sentimental after one glass of white zinfandel. She may be ready but I am not.   I cannot imagine the earth without her on it. I am not ready to be the senior generation. I am not ready to lose the one person in the world to whom I matter more than anything.

*               *               *

Suzanne and I keep ten-hour vigils on Saturday and Sunday. We are closer neither to answers about her condition nor to having the fluid removed. We are obviously exhausted physically, but increasingly, we erode mentally and emotionally. Hospitals are not soothing places; I look toward home for a brief respite; for solace from Cleo, my thirteen-year-old cat. She is my constant and only companion. I head for home to feed her, shower, and sink into the sofa. Which I do, with a glass of mead wine in hand. I glance over to confirm that she is sitting in her customary mysterious pose of simultaneous rest and vigilance, but she isn’t. She is walking in slow circles, head bent at an odd angle, eyes flickering like erratic Christmas lights. Cleo, too, as it turns out, is a very imminent fall risk.

“You’re kidding me, right?” I think for a moment. But she is not joking. The inoperable tumor deep in her right ear canal, which until now has only caused messy, foul-smelling secretions, has clearly grown enough to cause acute neurological distress. Again, I see what I don’t want to see. It is clear that Cleo will not make it through the night.

I feel badly but call a very groggy Suzanne and deliver the news. “You’re kidding me, right?” “I’ll be right over, she says.” We need to get to the vet right away, but I know I can’t drive myself. She’ll have to take us. I text my ex-husband Donald, too, who is always there for me in crises.  “You’re kidding me, right?” “Let me know where you’re going; I’ll meet you there,” he texts back. I call the vet, who is alone in his oblivion to the incredulous irony. Dr. Dan directs me to the emergency clinic, conveniently located right next to the hospital that I’ve just left. My boys are both at college. I feel like everyone important is slipping away.

Suzanne pulls up to transport me and a caterwauling Cleo to her end; Donald and his wife Samira meet us at the clinic, rushing into the examination room into which we’ve been ushered. I cradle a shivering Cleo in a thick blue quilt, which hides the hastily inserted IV ports. She moans and shakes until I stroke her forehead and whisper to her. It’s surreal in here, with this small coterie of support. They won’t do the deed until I’ve paid, so Samira slips out to takes my credit card to the receptionist.

“Are you ready?” asks the doctor. I look up at everyone, searching for – what? An alternative? Agreement? Permission? Conspirators, we are, in giving her a gentle exit. They, somber, nod. “Yes, Yes.” Cleo calms and closes her eyes, and all too quickly, dies in my arms, her body going limp and tension releasing as the sedative and heart arrester work their way into her veins. I close my eyes, too, and touch my forehead to hers.

I hold just her softness and sob, not so much for her, as this seems immensely compassionate and kind, but selfishly for the loss of my companion; my aloof but alert and loving friend. And for the knowledge that while we face this same situation with my mother, it’s unlikely that she’ll meet such a swift or humane end.

At home, the wine has lost its appeal. I feel restless and overtired, so I do the one thing I know will settle me and make my mother proud. I clean. I package up or toss every vestige of evidence that Cleo ever existed because I feel my heart will implode if I stumble over and bump into her stuff after waking up without her curled up, purring, on my chest.

In the morning I drop off all of her paraphernalia at her still-closed vet’s office, with a note of thanks and a request to either use or donate her belongings. And then drive right to the hospital.

Back on six, mom looks sad. Sad about Cleo. Sad for me about Cleo. And just sad. Smaller. Sad. I go in to hug her. She looks up at me askance. “Did they save any of those drugs for me?” she asks. We chuckle quietly, awkwardly, but both wish it could be true.

 

Raisingmothers.com

 

House Guest

http://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/43102-my-life-on-the-post-road-house-guest

I had a young man in my apartment this weekend. Very young. Seven, in fact. My boys’ brother. The son of my former husband and his wife. They had planned a long-overdue weekend away for their anniversary, and she’d put together a network of friends to look after him while they were gone.

He arrived right after school on Friday, with his Mets overnight bag. We hopped right into my car and headed to the Bow Tie Cinema across the street to see “Beauty and the Beast.” It was delightful. We laughed and sang out loud together in the nearly empty theater and enjoyed elegant dining at nearby Jordan’s afterward. The waitress, who has known our family for nearly 20 years, said she couldn’t believe that my boys were “grown and flown” and how big and polite their younger brother was.

We snuggled up on the couch, after he’d snacked on Trader Joe’s cat cookies and chocolate milk, to watch the women’s Final Four basketball tournament, although neither of us could stay awake for the historic defeat of the U. Conn women. Before his friend’s father picked him up in the morning, he brought me out the Disney’s “Hercules” towel I reserve for his visits all folded up and asked if he should put it by the washing machine. He loves that towel because both of his brothers used it. It is frayed with their childhood, but it works.

He came back to me Sunday afternoon, and we repeated our quick getaway to the same theater, this time to see “Boss Baby.” He sipped a blue Icee while we chuckled at powder fart clouds and spit-up carrots. He rested his head on my shoulder, tired from his activity-filled weekend, and what I suspected was abbreviated sleep the night before. We shared pizza at Romanacci, where the barista made him an elaborate hot chocolate milk concoction topped generously with whipped cream. I chronicled our weekend in candid snapshots that I sent to his parents and my boys.

When his parents came to pick him up at my apartment, he hid under a blanket on the couch as I lamented, “I don’t know where he is! I remembered the leftover pizza but forgot to bring him home! Have a seat on the couch while I call the restaurant…”

His mom sat right atop him as he giggled with glee at the successful subterfuge. Happily reunited, they walked down the long hall, as he regaled them with tales of his adventures.

“Why,” people often ask me, “would you watch your ex’s son so they can go away?” Or, “You are so good to do that!”

Here’s the thing: bizarre as it may seem to some looking in from the outside, we’re family. Perhaps some odd, hybrid 21st century version, but we’re family. My boys and he are brothers. We don’t say half brothers. Maybe they’re brothers from different mothers, but they are full brothers. No qualifications. There are no official societal words for what his new wife and I are, but in simple terms, and at very least, we’re friends who care deeply about each other’s children. She has watched out for and nurtured mine as surely as I do hers.

We have collectively made this work because love, in whatever unconventional forms it takes, works better for everyone than anger and resentment. We celebrate birthdays and holidays together, not on some divisive, court-appointed schedule.

So, why do I do it? Because I got to hold someone’s hand in the parking lot again. Buy chocolate milk again. Crack up over poop jokes again. Have a little kid in the house—and be a little kid myself—again. And have a big, beautiful pair of brown eyes look up at me and say, “Diane, I love you!”

I am not so good. Love is.

Outer Space Inner Space

http://books.hamlethub.com/booksink/local-writers/43094-my-life-on-the-post-road-outer-space-inner-space

I have seen “2001: A Space Odyssey” at least a dozen times, but never like this. Last weekend I watched it on a big screen in Westport’s Town Hall auditorium, with Dave. Bowman, that is. Or, as he’s known in real life, Kier Dullea. And he spoke. And then I spoke to him.

This cinematic opus – a futuristic, sci-fi, mind bending, metaphysical adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel of the same name – regularly appears on Top Ten Films of All Time lists. Stanley Kubrick, who co-wrote the screenplay and directed the movie, broke the mold with this one. The film changed film and minds forever.

Its themes and images have become ingrained in our collective culture. The monolith is, yup, monolithic in the gestalt. The jump cut from the large femur bone leaving the ape’s arm to the orbiting spacecraft, accompanied by the Strauss waltz, is arguably the most famous in all of film. The prescient and at the same time nostalgic images from 1968 are all still relevant today: a Pan Am space shuttle, Hilton and Howard Johnson’s hospitality on the space station, and Kubrick’s own version of Skype.

But for me, at least, the most enigmatic and intriguing part of the film is its ability, at each viewing, to cajole me into seeing something new. About myself, my relationship to the world, and our place in the universe. About the meaning of existence. Pretty heady stuff.

This screening was no different. And, other than the lady behind me who decided it was a critical to take a large red delicious apple from her bag and crunch on it during the climactic “light show” scene (yes, really. Check out my Ten Commandments of Moving Going), it was delightful.

But even more than the movie itself, sitting only a few feet from the man who uttered those unforgettable words: “Open the pod bay doors, HAL,” and listening to him regale us with stories from the filming, was, well, out of this world.

Here is some of the inside scoop:

  • When complimented on his acting finesse, he humbly replied, “It wasn’t exactly Hamlet! I mostly just talked into a camera.” I beg to differ. I think it was pretty good acting.
  • Out of two hours and 41 minutes, there are only 88 minutes of dialogue.
  • The renowned Canadian Shakespearean actor Douglas Rain voiced HAL. But since he was not on the London MGM set, a cockney-accented assistant crewmember did the dialogue with the actors.
  • The spacecraft from the iconic jump cut is actually a nuclear weapon satellite, so Kubrick took us from the first, most rudimentary weapon to the latest and most complex.
  • Dullea himself suggested that he knock the wine glass off the dining table on Jupiter to direct his gaze to himself dying in bed. Kubrick liked the idea and used it.
  • During the Los Angeles screening someone jumped up during the “light show” scene, stormed the stage and ran completely through the screen shouting “It’s God!!!”
  • Kubrick (unlike Otto Preminger, who Dullea also worked with) was delightful and easy to work with. And, despite rumor and speculation, was stone cold sober throughout filming.

But perhaps the most momentous revelation came from Kubrick himself, via Dullea. In response to the most often asked question: “What does it all mean?” Dullea read Kubrick’s own words. I paraphrase: He did not intend to deliver any assertion about the meaning of life, the origins of the universe, or the existence or lack thereof of god.  He simply wanted to encourage further, deeper, and more inquisitive thought about these metaphysical questions. He just wanted to make us think.

And that, after all, for me, is the joy and pleasure of all art: it challenges me to reexamine and question everything, and encourages introspection.

Afterwards, Dullea signed 8x10s of the iconic movie poster for a fee to support The Westport Cinema Initiative. What a treat! When I gave him my boys’ names for personalization, he told me long stories about how Dustin was his grandfather’s middle name (and its historic derivation from Hannah Dustin) and how Devon was the name of one of his favorite roles (in The Starlost). He asked that I wish Devon success in his pursuit of the visual arts.

I could feel people in the line behind me start to shift from foot to foot with impatience. I thanked him and stepped aside to make room for other fans, and ! went home, thinking how happy Kubrick might be with me, to think.

I love that, at least for Kubrick, the monolith, the light show, the fetus, and the movie itself, signified nothing preconceived. That he intended everything as a catalyst to encourage each viewer to glean meaning – or not – on their own. As Arthur C. Clarke said, “The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.”

Photo courtesy of Diane Lowman