Sunday, March 11, 2012

Big Ass Moon. West 106th Street. Saturday Night

It had been a day; actually, it had been a week; in fact, it had been a month, or has it been a decade or two...?

So my life is nuts. Chances are, if you live on this island, yours is too.

Which is why a big ass moon, flattish on the top like an elephant had just stepped on it, is a cool sight to see late on a Saturday night, coming back from a party, shivering from cold, tipsy on tequila.

This wonderfully robust yet table-topped moon presented itself to me as I was crossing W106th Street and Broadway. It made me pause and snap a photo.

It made me stop and take stock.

Though I am forever bemoaning the lack of balance in my life, things have been full, kinetic, exciting and a good way.

Far from perfect but perfectly imperfect if I take a long, moon's-eye view of things.

I'm working very hard, several projects at once, partying hard, too. Purim was an epic adventure. I was lucky to be out of town last weekend and came back wearing a tan and clutching memories of walking in 80 degree sunshine. The Urban Bungalow is under construction, courtesy of Columbia U (our landlord) and now my room has electric blue walls, gorgeous wooden floors and a smooth ceiling and Little Babe's room is a musician/teen/man cave with similarly beautiful floors and freshly painted crimson walls. Middle Babe's room is a work-n-progress and our kitchen now has walls the color of an autumn sky.

My daughter just got the thrilling news that she was admitted into a grad program in Human Rights at Columbia for this fall. Big Babe, a resident of Berlin, has been a resourceful freelancer, with his coverage of the Berlinale (film festival) appearing in news venues large, small, local and international and his steady stream of thoughtful art and culture journalism. Little Babe and I have started to visit college campuses and are collaborating on a rock'n roll feature story for a well-known news site. He's studying for the SAT's. Distracted by music, given to playing guitar and bass at least six hours a day, he is attempting to hand in his schoolwork on time...or at least by the end of his junior year.

My frantic fear of culture deprivation has been assuaged as I've darkened the doorposts of several museums lately, catching extraordinary exhibitions. My post-J School quest to publish articles -- alongside my public relations projects -- is being rewarded, if slower than I would like. I realize that I've also managed to grab precious time together with friends; not all of them, by any means, but some. And real time, not virtual, although thank God for virtual forms of communication because that at least offers a bridge to people I love and do not see frequently enough.

And thank God for Shabbat, because Shabbat is the great enabler of getting together with people who are similarly crazed. Within Shabbat, another brilliant invention -- shul -- offers a one-stop-shopping place to connect, catch-up and network...if only with the local Jews in one's life.

Between conventions and meetings and phone conferences and the projects on my plate, I found three days wherein to visit MOBB and FOBB (mother and father of Bungalow Babe) in their newfound paradise of Boca Raton at the end of April. And my visit is not purely social: I will be interviewing them for a book I am writing.

Ever resentful of my compromised exercise time, I've managed to get to the gym with greater frequency. Though I'm slacking on the lifting of weights, I've increased my time on the treadmill due to the discovery that the workout room is wired, allowing me to watch endless episodes of "Law and Order" on my iPad. New music Little Babe downloaded onto my iPod fuels my running on the elliptical.

It's all about inspiration.

Where I am woefully deficient is in the literary department. I am reading, but not in love. Applying a phrase from the dating world, I am hooking up, not having meaningful relationships. I have book buddies, not novels I am passionately engaged with. I am reading around. While distracting, it is a rather empty endeavor.

Which brings me to a matter I've been contemplating lately as I collect anecdotes from newly-divorced or freshly single friends. It is something that is aided by the instruments of our cyber-lives such as Facebook and dating sites like JDate and OK Cupid: the epidemic of promiscuous, one-off pairings that constitute a lifestyle, not just a phase that one inevitably goes through or one crazy, drunken night.

It is a "point and click"method of sexual partnering, an approach to getting laid, something far different from relationship building or even that old fashioned, possibly extinct activity -- dating.

It is American college campus-style hooking up, involving booty calls, friends with benefits and F#%$ Buddies.

From what I hear, it is as common among the newly-liberated Modern Orthodox fifty-somethings as it is among never-marrieds secular folks in their thirties. Pushing the envelope, it involves, for some, a lot more in the way of experimentation. Fill in the blank as you will.

Though I want to be impressed by the high degree of sexual liberation around me -- simmering just under the radar screen -- though I want to react to stories I collect with a tolerant, "live and let live" attitude, I am struck by a number of observations which preclude applauding this new, post-relationship paradigm for, well, relationships.

One is that this activity has introduced STDs to a population that never would otherwise have been infected.

Another is that my female friends seem less than happy with the arrangement, excited initially to be found desirable and thrilled to have the chance to "catch up" on what they might have missed by being married (i.e. monogamous) then conscious that perhaps they are putting out just to be in the running and finally, disenchanted by the inherent disrespect of being treated like one in an endless procession of sexually available females.

The libertarian in me wishes to salute the uber-modern institutionalization of the fantasy Erica Jong termed The Zipless F#%$ decades earlier; now in my time and among my social set. But what strikes me, again and again, is that this consumerist approach to human interaction, this depersonalized understanding of sexual intimacy is actually a form of self-medication against crushing loneliness or existential emptiness. It is compulsive and reflexive, as "natural" as eating to satisfy hunger or going to the bathroom, as one friend recently explained to me. Some people are as frantic to get laid as I am to get to the Stein siblings exhibition at the Met...for a similar reason: F.O.M.O or fear of missing out.

But seeing lots of art is not the same as screwing lots of people. What scares me about it is the soul-numbing and heart-hardening that the latter activity produces. What terrifies me is the creation of a society of sexual Zombies, which are really spiritual Zombies. Or Golems. Choose your favorite soulless monster.

Standing on the corner of Broadway and W106th Street, mesmerized by the maternal moon pendulous in the eastern sky, I summon the bonds of my family -- HOBB in Rome with Big Babe, Middle Babe out with her Gentleman Caller, Little Babe at home composing music and working on his 11th grade assignments.

I hug close to me thoughts of my beloved parents in their Boca Raton paradise, SOBB -- Sister of Bungalow Babe -- in Israel and her family, including my beloved brother-in-law and nephew whom I just saw. I similarly embrace BOBB -- Brother of Bungalow Babe -- and his family in Great Neck and my other brothers-in-law and their families. I take a vow to be in touch with my BSOBB, the Birth-Sister of Bungalow Babe, discovered in my twenties but no less beloved to me. I have fallen out of touch with her and her family and feel the absence keenly.

I think of my friends and loved ones; I pledge to be in touch more, to be a better friend, to arrange visits and trips and phone conversations. Standing beneath the big ass March moon on a windy winter night, I take stock of my life and embrace it in all of its imperfect, stress-filled glory, counting myself lucky to have that most precious acquisition of all -- spiritual intimacy and the bonds of human love.

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