Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Remains of the Day

Pretty Lady didn't get much sleep last night. Her departure for The City can no longer be postponed, and the prospect does not thrill her with anticipation and delight.

"Don't think of it as 'going home,'" says her sister. "Think of it as rescuing your cats."

Ah, to what dim horizons have we faded. Indeed, the prospect of cat-rescuing is more compelling than most of the others.

Pretty Lady's 4-wheeler had a good time yesterday, though. The group of us (Pretty Lady, her sister, her brother-in-law, and the doggie) went in the 4-wheeler to examine a prospective homestead; the 4-wheeler now bears honorable marks of having been used for its 4-wheeling purpose. "I am bad-ass," the 4-wheeler will be able to say, upon re-entering The City. "I have traversed muddy ditches that would have neatly extracted the suspension of a lesser vehicle."

The rest of us had a splendid time, too. More research into such things as winter plowing-schechules and power-line extensions will, of course, be required. But failing the exposure of any prohibitive drawbacks, Pretty Lady is ready to bestow her preliminary approval. The prospective homestead has a View, a field, a forest, a gentle slope, a vast tract of wild blueberries, and backs up upon a granite mountain. The silence, moreover, is profound, except for the occasional passing-by of All Terrain Vehicles.

(This last, Pretty Lady disgustedly remarked, is truly an all-American phenomenon. Where else will an entire subculture of humans develop the habit of using loud, gasoline-powered vehicles to ruggedly traverse Nature, becoming intoxicated and obese at the same time? Pretty Lady has never harbored serious regrets about not marrying into the South of France, but occasionally she wishes that her resources allowed her to emigrate, solo.)

Hiking the prospective homestead, incidentally collecting a respectable bucketful of wild blueberries, gave Pretty Lady a flashback. Some of her college professors built small homesteads in the hills, once upon a time, and invited Pretty Lady to visit them there. One of them seduced her.

One of Pretty Lady's early opinions, upon engulfing the great classic, Middlemarch, was that if Dorothea Brooke had gone to college, that whole horrible marriage need never have happened. She would have developed a crush on Mr. Casaubon for perhaps half a semester; by the end of the term she would have discovered him for the humbug he was, and moved on. Certainly this happened to Pretty Lady more than once. Thank goodness most of those fragile gentlemen were already married--although, contrary to appearances, Pretty Lady's taste was never quite so bad as Dorothea's.

Indeed, the genius who eventually attempted to carry her off to his homestead in the hills, immediately upon graduation, was genuinely a genius. Pretty Lady retains her respect and admiration for him to this day. The problem wasn't that he was a humbug; the problem was, simply and entirely, that he was more than twice her age. All the Romantic Hardships in his life had already transpired--growing up orphaned upon the streets of Bangkok, rising through sheer talent and force of will to the position of Chief Sculptor to the King of Thailand, emigrating to become a Modern Western Artist, pumping gas, and eventually obtaining the post of Distinguished Professor, where Pretty Lady fetched up against him.

He was so much the opposite of a humbug that in the course of one semester he managed to reverse a great deal of the damage inflicted upon Pretty Lady's psyche by that twit of a British Sculptress--but that is a different story. Suffice it to say that he and Pretty Lady resonated, on an artistic level, and that Pretty Lady held him in sincere worshipful admiration.

It still surprised her extremely when, as soon as she obtained her diploma, he asked her out to dinner, and pounced before she knew what was happening. She would have been quicker to draw the line, except that he was also the first man she'd ever met who knew what he was doing, from a purely technical perspective. Gracious.

The next few weeks went by for Pretty Lady in a sort of hypnotized astonishment, as her erstwhile professor wined and dined and rubbed her feet, and showed her over every detail of the studio-home he'd designed himself, and the myriad, wondrous Great Works within it. This was no cynical seduction; the poor man was genuinely smitten. Pretty Lady, twenty-three, conscious of her own fledgling ignorance, could not for the life of her see why. Well, no, that is disingenuous. She was conscious that she was young, attractive, gifted, and possessed of an insouciant originality of spirit which was likely to attract the more perceptive man. What she didn't understand was why he thought that the laying of treasure beneath her feet was what she required.

For Pretty Lady, at twenty-three, did not wish to live upon a pedestal, tucked away from everyone. She wished, however foolishly, to go out into the world and get Knocked Down. And oh my goodness, did she ever get her wish.

Pretty Lady has been wondering, during the last month, whether it's time to leave The City. She has come to no conclusions; she feels that any such conclusions would be premature. But increasingly, all of her youthful reasons for wishing to get Knocked Down no longer pertain. All that experiential wisdom that Pretty Lady lacked at twenty-three? Yoo-hoo. She's got it now. Alright already.

Please do not think that Pretty Lady regrets leaving her dear professor. With time, she has come to understand that the gentleman really was less mature, emotionally, than she was, despite being in his fifties. The skills required to attain artistic success from orphaned beginnings bear little relation to those needed to maintain a healthy relationship; Pretty Lady is glad she fled.

It would be ironic, however, if eventually she turned into someone just like that--a mercurial recluse in the mountains. She's not quite ready, but she can see it from here.


Anonymous said...

"More research into such things as winter plowing-schechules and power-line extensions will, of course, be required."

And broadband. ;)

I bet you could do the recluse thing, as long as your trusty 4-wheeler could get you back to civilization occasionally.

Pretty Lady said...

Definitely broadband. That's on the 'deal-breaker' list.

I could do the recluse thing, as long as my sister were next door. This is crucial. However I do not think I am in any state of mind to make such a decision at the moment. There is always the question of re-building a business from scratch, in an area where there are virtually no potential clients.

In addition, I notice that some Islamic terrorists are making some fairly specific threats regarding NYC and nuclear bombs. The Angry Atheist always said this would happen; I preferred not to dwell on the possibility at the time. I still prefer not to dwell on it, but will keep my radar honed.

Anonymous said...


Now that you have seen Paris, could you really go back to the farm?