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Iridology

 

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Holding her close for the first time I saw the gold flake in the iris of her left eye.

After that, I always saw it.  Always knew it was there.  It was something special about her that I looked for whenever we were close.  I didn’t know what it was or what it meant.  Fran considered it a defect, but to me it was just another deeper mystery that made her more interesting and hypnotic to me.

Sometime in 1992 at a lecture by a professing iridologist, we had him “read” Francine’s eyes for telltale signs of systemic illness, just for the sake of being proactive in our health.  We were always doing stuff like that.  You can see what always appeared to me as a gold flake in this photo from that event.

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This is the level of intimacy we shared, where even a gold flake in the eye is a point of fascination.  Perhaps it would seem trivial to an outsider.

 

Fran’s Garden

Francine learned everything she knew about growing things from her grandmother, who loved her dearly.  Grandma Myrtle had been raised in the country and was a repository of an enormous amount of horticultural wisdom.  They were very close and spent many hours in the garden together preparing the ground, planting, weeding, picking bugs off the plants, and spreading about whatever magic that successful gardeners spread about.  We’ve seen Myrtle stop to admire a plant, obtain a small cutting from it and then cultivate it into a plant that would dwarf the original.  When Grandma Myrtle passed away, she left hundreds of beautiful, orphaned, plants and a legacy that would stay with Francine throughout her life – her love for the practical beauty of a garden.

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Francine continued to always make a garden in Myrtle’s absence, and the results were never quite as miraculous, but always hard-earned victories.  In her struggle to bring the magic into it, she often mentioned missing her grandma.  Tending her garden was a kind of tribute to grandma, as well as her favorite recreation and therapy.  These are some pictures from around Fran’s garden in the last years…

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Always wanting her happy, I helped her in her hobby.  We moved a lot of earth, built fences, tilled ground, ran the hoses and sprinklers everywhere, but in the end, I had learned nothing of agronomy from her.  As a result, her once beautiful garden is ruined under my watch.  I’ve come to think of it as a metaphor of my life without her.

However, there appears to be life in the soil, even if the magic is completely missing.

I’ll try again this year to grow some parsley and kale for my rabbit.

 

Magnetism

I had been flirting with her at work for weeks.  She wasn’t just cute.  She had minute idiosyncracies and some mystery that had been affecting me.  Up until then our relationship consisted almost entirely of joking around and making fun of our stuffy manager.  I didn’t know how to ask her out, so began searching for a plan.  When I heard Carlos Santana was coming to town I knew this was the opportunity I’d been waiting for.

I didn’t want to take any chances that it might be sold out, so I went to the box office to get the tickets.  That night after work I asked her to sit with me for a few minutes.  I must have stuttered a bit from excitement, but managed to offer the proposition and when she accepted I was both pleased and relieved.  How was I to know it was the beginning of everything meaningful in my life?

I’ve tried to reconstruct the details of that night, but my faulty memory can’t even recall how we got to Mershon Auditorium.  I can only trust two memories for sure.  First, that we had the worst seats in the house, directly behind the stage and nearly all the way to the roof, where all the marijuana smoke ended up.  Neither of us smoked, and we were surprised that the numerous police in attendance were not interested in busting pot smokers.  Well – we were new to this.   Bobby Womack and Peace opened the concert, and I wish more was remembered.  The poor acoustics which plagued our section drove us to find better seats before Santana came on.  

Although Santana was promoting their new Caravanserai album, they played many songs from the previous three, including Black Magic Woman, which became our song by default.  I managed to find the playbill.

 

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Among the memorabilia

 

The second reliable, unforgettable memory is holding her hand on the walk home and learning more about her.  I sensed her own loneliness in her storytelling.  When we arrived at her home I wanted to kiss her for many more reasons than before we left.  That first kiss… well, those details I leave to your imagination.

I can attribute a portion of the success of that first date to the music and the electric experience of being with each other – doing something new.  But there was certainly something much more going on.  It felt like the Fates, turning us.

Walking home, I knew there was no way back to the lonely existence without her.

Other concerts we were able to attend over the years included Emerson, Lake and Palmer (1973 – Cincinnati), David Bowie (1978, Richfield, because I won tickets on a radio giveaway by knowing the answer to the question “What substance revives mummies?”), King Crimson (1981 – Columbus), Leon Redbone, Devo, Peter Gabriel, Rodriguez

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At the ELP concert

 

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The Fates © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Meterology

…the branch of science concerned with the processes and phenomena of the atmosphere…

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We were walking near the Ohio State University stadium on an early summer mid-afternoon, just exploring as we often did.  The sky suddenly became very gray and looking to the southwest we saw why.  A black line in the sky was approaching and pushing the gray clouds ahead of it.  We could feel the wind velocity increasing and shaking the trees but we were transfixed.  The black line, stretching as far as the eye can see in both directions was an amazing, apocalyptic, thing to see.

The closer it came, the darker the sky became and more violent the wind.  Behind the dark line were more heavily packed rain clouds and before the black line was overhead we began getting pelted with fast moving rain and hail.

We took shelter under a tree but the hail was busting right through the branches so we ran looking for shelter and came across a very large storm drain, which I think is located here We ran inside and watched the hail get larger, then smaller, then move on entirely to be replaced by a torrent of rain and lightning.

Looking around, we saw that the storm drain, about six feet in diameter, disappeared into the darkness to the east.  We decided to explore but could only go about a hundred feet before it became pitch black.

When the storm subsided we headed out and saw the damage everywhere.  There were a lot of people out now, and many asked us, “Did you see that?”  And everyone who didn’t ask got asked that question by us.  A nice phenomenon to experience.  I’m glad we weren’t in a movie theatre, which is where we were usually found that time of day.

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We told our friends about the storm drain, and everyone thought it would be a fun thing to criminally trespass and see if it came out anywhere.  So the following weekend we took our flashlights and matches and the six of us drove to the stadium.  It was dusk when we arrived.  Even though there were no warning signs we suspected this was ill-advised and possibly illegal.  But there was nothing to stop us, not even a single no trespassing sign, so we disappeared into the strange underground darkness.

The drain was corrugated steel and the floor, being uneven, was difficult to get used to, and progress was slow.  After the culvert made a few turns it became very dark.  About a half hour later, and having not seen a single outlet, the girls were getting nervous, so we started telling stories of giant mutated alligators to make sure we got the full experience.  We yelled loudly to hear the echos, but could not hear anything else.  At this point we didn’t know if we were under the road, the stadium, or even how far in we were.  We were all feeling claustrophobic, and only went another few hundred feet before we ended the exploration and headed back.

Outside again, we realized it was much later than we had thought.  We began to make our way to Bernie’s Bagels and Deli on High Street and had to walk around the stadium.  For some reason, a chain link gate was open.  Not fully open, but not secured and slightly ajar.  I think it was the fact that we had survived the culvert exploration that made us think we could get away with another trespass.

We ran all around the stadium, even climbing up to the flagpole platform (seen in the foreground of this picture).  We ran the entire length of the field, throwing a pretend football between us.  I (gently) tackled Fran and kissed her on the fifty-yard line.  Not many people can say they kissed anyone on the fifty-yard line of the Ohio State University stadium, but no one but me can lay claim to kissing Francine there.

We didn’t push our luck anymore that night.  We found our way out, got a bagel and lox and headed home, pleased that fate had given us a small adventure that didn’t land us in jail.  I’m sure access into that culvert has been obstructed by now with railing.  At least, it should be, to protect the unexpecting explorers from the giant mutant alligators.

 

Oh… and good luck wandering into the stadium at night to kiss your sweetheart on the fifty-yard line!

 

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This one was taken at the beach in Frankfort, Michigan.
Fran said, “Look!  That cloud looks like one of your drawings!”

 

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“What I remember most…”

 

At some point, most of Francine’s friends have said,

“What I remember most about Fran is her sense of humor.”  

That’s probably because, from the time I first met her, she could go from this…

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…to this…

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…in a moment.

For years I fell for her April Fool’s joke in which she would advance the time on every clock in the house and wake me up saying something like, “You’re going to be late if you don’t get going!”  And then she would go about whatever she would normally do with a sly, barely perceptible smile.

Once I got all the way to work and wondered why isn’t anyone else here?

After about five years of that, I caught on to that smile.

 

 

Zoology and Chemistry

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Here is the girl I fell for, as she looked just a few seasons from when I first met her.

Still using the Brownie box camera her grandmother gave her, I captured this image of Francine leaning against the rail at the bear den at the Columbus Zoo.  We must have been nineteen years old.  The image is damaged, but her beauty still fills me with longing.

Her hair exuded a pheromone carefully crafted to attract only me.  If I ever smelled it again I am sure my heart would stop beating to suspend the moment.  I caught her romantically, she caught me chemically.

I had to fight off other less deserving suitors for this lovely creature.  Young men who wanted her for the wrong reasons, I assumed.  Unlike those bears who would have quickly resorted to their claws, I used diplomacy, fate and luck against them.

But claws were always an option.

 

At least one member of my family will blush at this entry.

Afterlife

Early April, 2019: just finished viewing Afterlife, the short series by Gervais about a grieving widower who has given up on life, dragging himself around a meaningless routine.  A lot of what he has done here rings true, and it is clear he did his homework on the suffering of survivors.  Unfortunately, the atheism of his depressed character brought nothing positive to his photoplay.  The arguments against God are tired and easily answered, or at least capable of intelligent exploration.  But he can believe what he wants, and the character does find something positive to dwell on in the end – to heal yourself if possible and then make honest attempts to heal the suffering around you.  That message came through.

Like others who have been through this experience, I saw myself in the same swamp of pain and how it shuts out the world.  This happens because the world doesn’t want to suffer along, it has its own problems.  When you miss the nail and hit your thumb with the hammer it is impossible at that moment to appreciate the suffering of the world, though you’ve just been given a valuable hint.  Afterward, you can say that you know what that pain feels like, and you’ve got the scars to prove it, but it is still only your pain.

The reason I bring it up at all is that there was something spoken in the play that sounded like plagiarism.  As if Gervais had been listening to Francine and I talk when we were so in love we couldn’t stand it.  In the last episode, Gervais’ character is speaking with a wiser widow who acts as a type of oracle in the play.  Within the dialogue, we hear her say, “I’d rather live missing him than he live missing me.”

There was a time when we were sitting together in Union Cemetery and a moment passed between us in which we realized our mortality and the fragile nature of our bond.  Francine said, “I hope you die before I do.”  We both smiled at the absurdity of such talk, and in the next breath, I repeated the sentiment.  We knew exactly what each other meant.  She knew fully how much I needed her, and how I could never be without her again.  She knew it because I expressed it so clearly in word and deed, and sitting there under a tree in the cemetery, she loved me so much that she would rather take on the suffering of our separation than wish it on me.  And of course, I wanted in on that contract.  But in reality,  though I would die for her, I never wanted to live without her.

It was my narcissism that wanted to believe I was capable of loving her more than she loved me.   In my childishness, I still believe it, just as the suffering of others can’t be fully understood.

Well, that was a long time ago.  Children dreaming and talking silly.  That kind of crazy love fades, or rather evens out, as it spreads over the years.  Changes.  But like a Shakespearean couple, their words expressed their heart’s desire: to suffer, if necessary, for love.  And that was never forgotten by either of us.

 

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Nice hat, kid.

 

 

 

Relevant song: “Time” by Pink Floyd