You are the promised kiss of springtime

A true jazz standard, penned by Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics) and Jerome Kern (music) in 1939 for the stage musical "Very Warm for May".

That makes the lonely winter seem long.

The musical was not a success, but All the Things You Are managed to become popular.

You are the breathless hush of evening

It was first brought to the top of the charts in 1940 by Tommy Dorsey1.

You are the promised kiss of springtime

Since then it has been recorded by a lot of great musicians, like Gerry Mulligan, Sonny Rollins, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Dizzie Gillespie, Chet Baker, The Modern Jazz Quartet and Frank Sinatra among others.

That trembles on the brink of a lovely song.

Personally I love the lyrics, which are exquisitely delicate and epitomizes a true love song.

You are the angel glow that lights a star. The dearest things I know are what you are.

On top of that the chord progression makes it a fantastic piece of music to improvise over.

One day my happy arms will hold you

Just taste these chords:

And someday I'll know that moment divine

Em7 Am7 D7 Gmaj7
Cmaj7 F#7 B7
Bm7 Em7 A7 Dmaj7
Gmaj C#m7-5 C#7 F#

G#m7 C#7 F#(maj7)
Cm7-5 Fm7 Bb Eb Gdim

Em7 Am7 D7 Gmaj7
Cmaj7 Cm7 G Bm7-5 E7
Am7 D7 Cdim G(maj7)

When all the things you are are mine.

1 Ereneta says: Jack Leonard was the vocalist for Tommy Dorsey's recording.

The stones tell lies.
Even stars are born
Every mountain will be leveled
Even darkness will die.

Their empires reign in moldering books,
The grandest king all but forgotten,
Great universities reduced to rubble,
The sun fades red amid long silent clocks.

What hope have we then, you and I?
When permanence but a daydream
Extinguishes our immortal promise
And leaves us calling to one another
in broken poems.

I had lunch with a friend whom I haven't seen in several months. We went to a brew pub to catch up on life, which meant for each of us the status of our divorces. Even though my ex-wife and I separated on the most amicable of terms, the process had been like crawling on my hands and knees through a long funeral procession for every beloved dream I'd ever had.

On the other hand, Don's was an ascent from the pit into the light.

Since I'd seen him last, he'd slept with ten different women. Well, okay -- thirteen including the two that were from L.A. and the one who went back to Singapore. He wasn't talking about those because he had learned that when you start getting into the 10s and 20s of encounters, when any one is deniable, it's best to deny.

He said, "What's the worst thing to happen on your death bed? Are you going to look back and wish you worked more? No. Are you going to look back and wish you had taken more vacations to Maui? No. But are you going to say to yourself, 'I wish I had a bigger folder than DeSantis?' Yeah."

If I hadn't just got off the plane from Alaska, I might have been nonplussed. Instead, I lifted my beer glass and said something like, "Drink to that."

Later I thought about what I had said and reconsidered. As only about twelve seconds had elapsed I decided to raise my newfound objection.

I said, "Er, Don. DeSantis is a total wacko," because for at least two decades those of us who knew DeSantis said it to each other openly. We'd even said it directly to DeSantis, who seemed to relish the quality. He'd told all of us he'd slept with several hundred women, each of whom he'd photographed in the act of performing oral sex upon him.

According to DeSantis, he'd saved all the photos in an album he kept in his sock drawer.

"What do you plan to do with it?" I asked the day he told me about his treasure. "Pass it on to your son on his wedding day and invite him to add his own?"

Ernie DeSantis replied, "I'm going to stare at it on my death bed."

I told him he was a whack job to which he replied he was. Then we went back to mountain biking.

I'd never seen the fabled DeSantis treasure album, though Don apparently had.

"It's pretty amazing."

"And they let him do it - I mean, he whips out a camera and starts shooting, and they go all porno actress on him."

"Yeah. That's what happens. Wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't tried it myself." Don finished his 22-ounce Raccoon Red and signaled our waiter for another. "Though, eventually a couple want the pictures back. But with digital -- well -- can't fetch anything back from the internet."

"Why the hell does Maria let him keep that thing?" I said, hinting at the fact DeSantis's fully-fledged Sicilian wife could probably get her brothers to break Ernie's legs for keeping something like that around in the same home that shelters their sister, one nephew, and two nieces. "What the hell are his kids going to say when they find out?"

Our waiter brought both Don and me new beers, even though I hadn't asked for one. Good waiter.

While Don drank I decided to flush the backlog of stuff in my head. "He was in his 20's when he was pulling that crap. Now he's married with kids going to high school. Good Lord. He's not entirely right in the head. Once he told me that when we were in college he went swimming in the Raritan River during a hurricane just to see what it was like to do the crawl at 20 miles per hour. And he drowned. A park service ranger saw him washed up in New Brunswick and pulled him out over on River Road and had to revive him with the freaking paddles. If the guy hadn't spotted him, he'd be dead like he should be. And during the semester he slept in a lean-to in the woods because he was spending his financial aid money on booze and couldn't make his dorm rent payments."

Don raised an eyebrow, then smirked.

I said, "We're middle-aged men, homie."

"I think of it like my 401(k). It's never too late to start your own album."

"How do you do it? We've got daughters. I can't even stand in the grocery line behind women in their 20's without wanting to lecture them about doing their homework or wearing less revealing clothes."

Don said, "Nah nah nah. Nothing like that. Listen - we're talking middle aged women. Something happens to them. They become more like us. You date them once - I mean - you're not even finished with dinner and they're poking around to see if you'll take them home."

"So you're saying if they're into it, it's okay."

"Yeah. That's what I'm saying."

I raised a glass to women in general, and the ones I've slept with in particular, of whom the only photo album is in my head.

"My album would be really small," I said.

"And if you get Alzheimer’s, you won't remember any of it."

"I'm thinking that on my death bed I might not be thinking about sex," I said. "Though, my dad watched Zena: Warrior Princess on his deathbed. So maybe you're right."

"Well, then there's Allison."

"Your latest? Got pictures?"

"On my phone," he said, pulling out his cell and thumbing the buttons.

"Er. Don. You don't need to --"

"Nah nah nah. Not like that." He turned the phone around so I could see a picture of a pretty brunette standing in the doorway inviting him to come out to her car.

"She's gorgeous."

He said, "Damn gorgeous. Five foot one. You dream about women like this but you never get to meet one. I told her about all of them. Well, not about the ones from L.A. or Singapore."

"You told her. About the pictures?"

"Look - you know, my marriage. We had sex exactly three times in fourteen years. Our wedding night. My birthday a year later, and we had Georgette. My birthday three years after that, we had Mary. And that was it. Until I separated, well, I haven't had sex for eleven years."

"Now you've got one woman for each year," I said. I'd finished my beer and was on to the new one the waiter brought me. Don was already signaling for another.

"Sometimes I wonder--" Don said, "not that having sex four times a week with different women is bad or anything --"

"Can't imagine anything bad about that--"

"--sooner or later you need to talk about something. Take Betty, for instance. Betty could give head to the statue of Lincoln in the Memorial and make him smile. But what the hell does she want to talk about? When she's not doing it she's watching television. I don't know shit about American Idol or what's on Oprah. Really."

"And this Allison?"

"Well, for one, she's a lot smarter than me. I go over her house, she's got a stack of books beside the sofa and she's giving me details on the construction of the Aswan Dam or the failed Nazi military strategy. Five foot one--"

"--so you said."

"Cutest thing. She runs five miles a day. Up the St. Joseph's trail."

"You should do that, too," I said, referencing Don's well-over-300-pounds profile.

"She's got me exercising. I'm losing weight. Damn, I don't know what the hell she sees in me but for once in my life I'm -- well, I've never worried about women, you know? I never worried about getting them. Never worried about losing them. Now it's like. Here. Look at this."

He shows me another picture on his phone. This is a self portrait. Allison behind the wheel of her car, smiling into the camera phone.

"Is this a love thing, Don?" I ask him.

"Nah nah nah. Nothing like that. You're the one who falls in love and gets all wrapped around the axle in trouble."

"Right. And you're the one taking pictures."

"But not Allison."

"No, she sends them to you. Dude, she's sending you pictures --you ever think that maybe--"

"Yeah. I think that all the time. Right back. Gotta piss." He went to the restroom and left me surrounded in bar noise and unwatched televisions spewing various sporting events.

I got about half the way through my beer when the waiter who brought Don his new beer set another full one down in front of me even though I'd never said a word about wanting one. The good waiters know how to judge their customers. There's a sort of invisible tactile interplay between customer and vendor that when pulled off correctly, leaves the customer with less in his pocket than he intended to leave with, and the vendor with more, and both very happy for the outcome.

"We're becoming more like them," I said to Don when he got back. "Maybe that's what happens when you grow older. Sex involves discussion. After you do everything once it's less the physics than the idea of it."

"She understands me," Don said. "She goes: I know, you want it to look like this -- and then I'm in a porn movie starring me."

"She's dialing you in. You're letting it happen. Maybe she's got issues."

"You know anyone without fucking issues? We get to be this age, we all have history. I'm too old to care. And what's the difference if I'm happy?"

"Drink to that," I say, looking for an excuse to start the new beer I didn't order.

After a long quaffing pause, Don said, "You know what my philosophy is? You know why they all say I'm the best lover they ever slept with? I know how to make them come first. I've studied the female anatomy. I've read all the female self-help books. I know what they're worried about and I don't even get started until they're exhausted."

"The definition of a gentleman is someone who makes everyone around him comfortable," I said, because I'd just seen it on the movie "Blast from the Past".

"What the young guys don't get is that once you make them happy, they're all about making you happy, no matter what it takes."

"Don. Haven't you always been that way, too? Wanting to please? Haven't you always been just a really nice guy?"

"Yeah. Here it is -- all those years you spend when you're young you're wondering: why the hell aren't they interested in me? They want the bad boys or the rich boys driving daddy's Porsche. Then everyone grows up and they figure it out. Everybody dies alone no matter what you're driving. Everybody dies and do you want to spend your time up to then being treated like shit?"

"The nice guys finally win."

"About time."

"And then what are you doing with the pictures?"

"What pictures. I never took any fucking pictures."

"Never thought you did."

"Allison wants to meet you, by the way. I told her about you. She's interested in the south pole. I think you'll like her."

"I'm sure I will."

"Saturday, then."


I tossed my Visa card onto the bar bill we didn't ask for.

I said, "I'm glad you're happy, Don. You're looking really good."

"For once in a long time I'm happy to be living my life."

"You know you've got this Allison all over you, don't you?"

"Better than the Stairmaster."

"Five foot one."

"Little thing. Cute as hell."


Start Again


For much of my nearly eight years in Florida, I told people that my soul was anchored in New Hampshire. I spoke of it as a place where I found spiritual calm, where everything seemed to flow in the right direction and things just fell into my lap, unexpected and undeserved. It was the place where I came to be known by the name "Magick." Things seem to work out so easily for me it was rumored I could have walked on water if someone asked me to.

There are places in the world where we can find parts of ourselves we cannot find elsewhere. Things just come together in a certain way and magick happens.

Trying to make magick a permanent fixture of your life just doesn't work. These things are fleeting and temporary. Claiming sacred ground by driving a stake into the turf and flying a flag on it can only make the earth bleed.

Going away to college to start my freshman year in 1983 was my first attempt at starting a new life. I wanted to be removed from what I saw as the disappointments and failures of my youth, something that in retrospect had more to do with my self-defeating perspective than any tangible failure. I was very lucky in that I fell in with a very good group of guys who fit together like a puzzle as they inhabited the place known as suite 324. The twelve of us made up a collection of some of the strangest dudes ever thrown together, and were it not for having to live together, few of us would have even noticed each other.

The leader of our suite was John, in his sixth year, sporting a full beard, and old enough to keep us stocked with liquor, no questions asked. Although he barely went to classes, drank from the moment he got up until he passed out, he managed to have our admiration. The easy booze supply was one thing, but his ability to attract women and convince them to spend the night awed most of us youngsters. At the other end of the spectrum was Mark, a computer nerd before being a computer nerd was any kind of cool. He was paranoid, locked himself in his room and spent hours upon hours typing at his keyboard. On those rare occasions when he emerged, usually to cook cans of corned beef hash or Dinty Moore's beef stew in the suite's kitchen, he would do so while mumbling insults under his breath, most of them directed at the rest of us suitemates.

One night while the rest of us were trying to drink as much beer as we could fit in our bodies and Mark was locked in his room beating up his keyboard, the tales started to be told. Mark was using his terminal to access the university mainframe to reprogram reality so it would be more to his liking. The story caught fire and I began writing it as an ongoing serial, "The Adventures of Suite 324," and posting episodes on the door to my room daily. Within weeks there was a line at my door. Along with my suitemates were several dozen students I didn't even know who were coming by on a regular basis to read the latest episode. For a brief time I became a cult figure and I couldn't help but smile when I was in the cafeteria and heard students I'd never met whispering, "Hey, it's the author, the guy who writes about the matrix."

Before 1994, my experience with New Hampshire was limited to memorable summer excursions to the White Mountains and Hampton Beach. It had never been anything special to me, or at least no more than Cape Cod or Long Island, where most of my cousins lived.

In June of 1994, following my personal metamorphosis, I found a curious item in my mailbox. It was one of those now laughable AOL free trial discs. At the time, I had a personal computer but had used it almost exclusively as a word processor. The concept of this thing blew my mind. According to the literature accompanying this floppy disc, I could log into some kind of web of people who were able to communicate through their computers. Seems comical now, but at the time I had never heard of such a thing. I'd been rather isolated in my misery for several years and a lot of things just sailed past me during that time.

There were a lot of reasons why this blew my mind.

In the late 1970s, my father was working towards a degree in computer science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute to augment his career as a mechanical engineer. He often took me with him to the computer lab and taught me to program in Fortran. I spent a great deal of time writing programs that were essentially text based "adventure games" based on stories I had written where the player could be the character in the story. I got bored writing and playing them myself, so I started sending what were essentially email messages to random students who I saw on the listings of those logged into the DEC mainframe. Some of them found my games a humorous diversion and began sending me regular messages about how to improve the games or ideas for new ones.

"Why would anyone write game programs in Fortran?"

"It is the only computer language I know."

"You aren't a programmer, are you?"

"No, I'm a writer. I'm experimenting with interactive stories."

I remember an exchange that went something like that. Hiding behind the anonymity of type gave me balls, but eventually it was learned that I was thirteen years old. It wasn't hard to sniff me out. Aside from when I snuck a modem home, one of those weird ancient things you have to shove the handset of a telephone into, there were only three places on campus where you could get computer access.

I became known as "The Kid" and was accused of being a genius and a hacker.

The last thing I remember of that brief time was telling my "fan club" that there needed to be a better way to communicate through use of the computer. The way things were at that time, communication was something of a pain in the ass.

Five years later I was writing a serialized story that revolved around an insane computer genius reprogramming reality.

I left Southeastern Massachusetts University after my freshman year, one of many foolish moves I've made in my life, foolish because the reasonings were on the south side of silly. I was convinced that I needed to get out and to a new college because I'd had a chance to lose my virginity after one night of rather extreme drinking and the advanced state of intoxication had caused me to lack any sort of sexual function. Being eighteen and believing that getting laid was the way you proved your manliness, I became convinced that everyone knew what had happened and they were all whispering about my "impotence" behind my back. In reality, no one cared about that, and I doubt anyone actually knew. I was still "The Author" in everyone's mind except my own. In my mind I was "the idiot loser who can't get it up." My life before 1994 was pretty much defined by a ongoing and obsessive self-defeating and paranoid view of myself.

After eight months in Tucson, Arizona, attempting to "start again" at the University of Arizona, I came home broken. My transfer had been late and I had to move into an off-campus apartment by myself, where my shyness and social awkwardness led to near isolation, with the exception of a weird effort to pass myself off as a rock singer that led to an incredible level of embarassment, after which I locked myself in my apartment for weeks at a time without leaving except when getting food and other supplies became of paramount importance. One of the first things I did after my return from Arizona was to make a weekend visit to my former college, where I was received as some kind of returning celebrity.

"Are you writing any more of that story?"

"Not really. I've been writing other stuff."

"You ought to write more of that matrix story, it was really great. I used to read it every day and laugh my ass off."

"Actually, I've been fooling around with the idea of turning it into a novel."

"That would be cool. You could make suite 324 famous."

It started as a personal quest to reclaim "lost glory." If I rewrote "The Adventures of Suite 324" as a novel and got it published then my feeling of personal failure and my desertion of the suitemates, who had stood by me and been my friends, would be avenged. I changed the title to "The Matrix" and spent nearly two years converting a serialized story that was little more than a collection of in-jokes and references into something more. In 1987 I felt it was complete and began working on getting it published. After multiple rejections I hooked up with an agent who was a friend of a friend and asked her what I could do that would make the novel more "publishable."

"I see two big problems," she told me. "The title is a problem. It isn't very marketable. No one knows what a 'matrix' is and it sounds like technical jargon. The other thing is this thing with people talking to each other over their computers. I guess I can see computer programming types doing that, but kind of hard to believe ordinary people would type to each other over computers. Why would they type when they can just use the phone?"

I don't have to tell you the punchline.

So, in June of 1994 I got this AOL disc in the mail and found out my computer had a modem I had not previously been aware of. Hell, I'd had my own computer since it was possible to own one, my father insisting on turning me into a programmer, something I rejected outright on principle, since frustrating my father was a way of life for me as a teenager. When they told me this business had been around for a while I didn't believe them. Strange thing is, after my efforts to kill myself in 1994, everything seemed to change... as if I had somehow reprogrammed reality. Everything that I talked about in my novel had come to be. It was a twisted way to see things, but it sure as hell seemd that way. Suddenly, I was hooked into the web and talking with ordinary people who were typing to each other over computer lines. My inane superstitions regarding these events is why I still insist on using AOL despite thousands of very solid reasons why I shouldn't.

As I fooled around with this new "toy," I bounced around the place, ending up in a New Hampshire chat room. I didn't take it seriously and played the clown and the fool. In those days I was preoccupied with "extreme dating," where I used every method at my disposal to meet women and date them, another effort to avenge my perceived shortcomings when it came to romance in the preceeding years.

Eventually I realized that these chat rooms could be more beneficial to my dating crusade than any of the other methods at my disposal.

The New Hampshire chat room would have "parties" every weekend where they would all but take over a bar or club. At first I preferred to stay back and prowl, privately chatting with various women and convincing them to meet me, including once driving all the way to Yonkers, New York to play pool with a woman who lived there. I would drive anywhere, go anywhere and do anything, and eventually I became known as "Magick" because I did all this while looking for nothing in return.

"You aren't out to get laid. You aren't looking for a relationship. You have all these women throwing themselves at you and you never take advantage of them. What the hell is your deal, Magick?"

"I'm looking for something."


"A reason to stay."

"Stay where?"

"In New England. I'm haunted by these dreams that keep telling me to go where there is no snow. I don't intend to let dreams tell me what to do, so I'm finding reasons to ignore them."

"Bullshit. If you were looking for reasons to stay here you wouldn't avoid making commitments and actually put down some roots instead of what it is you're doing."

"What am I doing?"

"Avoiding finding a reason to stay."

There is something inherently romantic about the "triumphant return." So many of the greatest epic stories involve the theme of the triumphant return in some way. There is the rise to glory, the time of goodness and celebration, followed by the decline which must inevitably must lead to the triumph at the end of the story.

Life is more complicated than any epic, regardless of how many pages it consumes.

Going back and expecting the triumphant return is a recipe for disappointment, and trying to script the triumphant return in real life, as opposed to writing it into your stories is a difficult matter. What was cannot easily be restored, nor is it likely to be possible. Time passes and things change.

Going back to suite 324 a year after my departure to Arizona brought about a memorable weekend, but in the end, that reunion reminded me that I no longer was part of what was happening. I was just visiting and had given up being a regular part of things. As time went on, the 324 suitemates dispersed, some graduated, some transferred, and some dropped out.

I came back to New Hampshire for reasons outside of my old existence. I expected to still have the magick, but found too much had changed, including myself. Almost two years after moving here I've made plans to get together with old friends from the days when I was Magick, but those plans always seem to fall through. Ten years gone and people have moved, gotten married, gotten divorced, gotten married and divorced and remarried, had kids, sent their kids to college... the tide keeps moving.

Leaving is easy. Coming back is harder.

Memories are like miracles. Very little is capable of living up to the legends in our minds. The further removed you are from something, the more wonderful it becomes in retrospect. We tend to remember the good things, the great things, from times past while packing the bad things away in boxes and shelving them until we find reason to pull them down again. The present tense has a hard time competing with the glorious images preserved in our memories.

Miracles are like memories. When you think you know what form a miracle will take in order to change a life that has gone off the tracks, it will surely take another form. You cannot script miracles. You cannot script life.

The present tense is the stuff of future memory, and as such will undoubtedly become more glorious in retrospect than it truly is. What we were, what we are and what we will become... we are all these things and all these things are.

We pick up the pieces and go on.


Incidently, the novel I have been working on for the past three years, Beauty Atrophies, with original draft versions of bits of it appearing here on E2, starting with Guided at night by factory lights as well as (to a lesser extent) Every beauty is a tragedy waiting to happen, involves Suite 324 and is something of a "prequel" to events told in The Adventures of Suite 324/The Matrix. Everything is everything eventually. I've sort of promised myself I would finish it this year.

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