Here In The Vestibule

It’s way too early to be up. Damn that charming vintage digital clock by the bed, I forgot to change the time. So here I sit at 5:45 am, wishing it was 6:45 am.

It really is 5:45. Daylight savings time is over.

Maybe I should use the change as a boost to really start getting things done. There is so much to do, yet I find it hard to stay focused. Is it wrong to just want to enjoy life for a minute?

Take this past weekend for example. My friend Joyce was having her birthday in Connecticut, near New Haven, and I’d seen that Emma Swift was playing at Cafe Nine in New Haven the next day. Eric loves Joyce and he wanted to see Emma too, so we marked out the time. Joyce, birthday dinner, Saturday evening. Cafe Nine, Sunday afternoon matinee show.

Eric and I are both self-employed artists. True I have a part-time job at the local bookstore/bar but overall the work we do must all be generated at home, by us, and so we work pretty much all the time. And that’s fine. That’s what we love. Eric in his studio and me upstairs in mine. Sometimes I go downstairs into his studio to work with him. I’m more secretive up in my room and usually shoo him away or look startled or ashamed when he breaches the threshold of my lair – I feel sure it has something to do with growing up in a house of five men (well, one dad and four brothers) who had the power to turn any of my lame endeavors or even decent efforts into cause for hilarity for the entire family. I live in fear of that kind of exposure, being made the laughing stock of the house, which might explain why I try and beat anyone to it by exposing myself first.

So we work a lot and love it. But the weeks and months and years go by and occasionally you need to take a break and do something just for fun. That’s one reason having a small boat is good, because when you’re down on the water there’s really nothing else you can do. This summer I had my dad to deal with and Eric was in England and then when he came back the boat was pretty waterlogged and we just didn’t get in the groove with it until it was time for them to pull up all the docks. Earlier this week we had to take Tin Machine out of the water. We had one last glorious ride and now it’s on a trailer by the side of the house until next spring.

I committed to Joyce’s dinner and bought tickets for Emma so even though I felt a little under the weather with the cold that’s going around (numerous Covid tests showed negative) we set out on the two and a half hour drive through stunning countryside. Leaves were just about all down here but a little further south they were still showing gold and russet on the trees. I had the feeling of holding back time, just a little. With the approach of Thanksgiving there’s a sense of everything speeding up and the new year is as good as here. Wait! I want to shout. Just let me finish this book, play that show, have those friends over for dinner. We need to replace the dishwasher, clear leaves out of the gutters, get more recording under our belts. That old feeling “work will still be there tomorrow” doesn’t make much sense after a certain age. The future doesn’t feel like a given anymore.

We had a lovely dinner with Joyce and her boyfriend Jordan and some friends I’d met at one of Joyce’s writing workshops in Guatemala. Jordan lives in a pretty enclave near the beach on the Long Island sound. We all walked under a full moon to the water’s edge after dinner. It may be the closest I ever get to being in a Nancy Meyers movie. Joyce and Jordan played themselves; Eric was a roguish, younger Anthony Hopkins and I of course was Diane Keaton in a spotless cream colored cashmere turtleneck (only the weather has been so eerily warm, it was probably more a simple white cotton t shirt).

They were setting off for Guatemala very early the next morning and left us to spend the night, hang out and lock up. “So this is what it’s like to be normal people, on Sunday,” I said to Eric. We leisurely made our way to a quaint Connecticut town and stood in line with locals to put in our brunch orders. Brunch! I don’t think I’d even used the word in years, out of solidarity with my daughter who used to work in restaurants. Then we strolled around a leafy square, looking in shop windows. I imagined this is what you’d do for fun if you hadn’t spent many years of your life waking up in strange towns and grabbing coffee and food to get back on the road and do it again the next day in a different town. It felt cozy.

Then we locked up and headed to New Haven. We’d gone light on the brunch because we knew we had to get pizza. Eric and I have both played at Cafe Nine, a great club in town, several times and it’s often a matter of choking down a few slices in the dressing room before the show and then devouring the leftovers on the drive home. Here we were like other folks, just lazing around on a Sunday! New Haven is of course the home of Yale University but it’s way too complex a place to qualify as a college town. It has wonderfully quaint architecture here and there and also some brutal 70s efforts, all ensnared by the most insane web of interstates (95 and 91 converge here for some reason having to do with Connecticut weirdness and the compact nature of New England I guess) and roads that make no sense and were probably started as tributes to England’s cow paths back of the 1700’s. 

We parked Eric’s Buick in the Sally’s parking lot but the line was way too long. We weren’t completely footloose as we needed to be at Cafe Nine by 4 pm for the gig. Tried Frank Pepe’s down the block and the line was amazingly light. (If you’ve never experienced New Haven pizza, it is a sort of religion. We’d seen a church crowd earlier that day but the fervor in the congregation’s eyes as they left the church was nothing compared to the looks of rapture seen through the windows of Frank Pepe’s, or the hushed reverence of the college boys lined up outside of Sally’s. ) 

Our pies were all we’d hoped for: thin, crispy slightly charred crust that doesn’t wobble, with the perfect ratio of toppings. Walking back to the Sally’s car park we were a little worried that we’d neglected to move the car when we’d changed allegiances. I hid around a corner with the telltale Pepe’s box while Eric retrieved the Buick, the people from the tail of the line when we’d changed course just now making it to the front door.

The show at Cafe Nine was Emma Swift, whose album of Dylan covers called Blonde on the Tracks I’ve loved since it came out in the early days of the pandemic. We were greeted so warmly by Paul the owner of the club, Fernando  the promoter of the show, Lys Guilhorn who did a nice opening set and practically every member of the audience who’d all seen us play, separately or together, at some point over the last twenty years. It was wonderful to feel so welcome. Now if only they’d all come at the same time to one of our Cafe Nine shows, which always feel a little like secret society meetings.

But we always come back cause it’s such a good place. Emma had her partner Robyn Hitchcock play a short set before he accompanied her on guitar. It was a stunning show. The audience was great – absolutely attentive. It was nice to see Robyn who Eric and I played a gig with in Leicester at least a dozen years ago. And to meet Emma, whose voice is even more perfect live and is just delightful.

We used self-restraint to keep the leftover pizza in its box during the drive home.  Had we played a show ourselves there would have been no attempt to be civilized like that. The driveway was covered in leaves when we pulled in, glowing pale yellow on the blacktop. They really had all come down. I felt happy we’d taken a little trip out of town. I like the beauty of Connecticut, the old New England style houses and preponderance of strip mall Italian restaurants dotting their wacky road system. I was grateful to see friends and be transported by music. But I love home.

I stumbled through the day after the clocks changed back, thinking it must be dinnertime when it was only two in the afternoon. I don’t think they should make daylight savings time a permanent thing as they’re proposing to do. It’s like trying to fight jet lag. Better to embrace the feeling of being disoriented. The two days — clocks forward, clocks back — are like a vestibule going in and out, from winter to spring and summer back out to fall and winter. Blink your eyes and collect yourself. Taking these bookends away might speed up what’s happening anyway, seventy-something degree days to rake leaves in.

Maybe I just don’t like change. Our beloved local cafe HiLo closed last week, to be reopened by new owners who rumor has it come from tonier Dutchess County down the road. It’s possible they’re vegans. I should accept it. But we spent five years practically living in the place, knowing it was just down the hill for a coffee or to see our friends behind the counter. I wish there was a way to return to last week and have one more coffee at HiLo, like seeing leaves on the trees further south when ours are all gone.

*

Two days later I sit next to my dad’s bed in the Actors Fund nursing home, Englewood, New Jersey. I dressed for my visit as if going to a job, trying to look neat and elegant, as that’s always meant a lot to my father. Last visit his only real communication was to tell me how much he loved my red leather jacket, that I looked “like the cat’s pajamas.” I remember back to the chaos and distress of three months ago, when he was thrown out of memory care assisted living for aggressive behavior. Now he’s in full-blown dementia. It was hard to see him raging but seeing him just a shell, still well-dressed in khakis and LL Bean shirt, soft leather moccasins on his feet, is heartbreaking in a whole new way. Outside the window of his room, the afternoon sun filters through yellow leaves on the tall trees. Autumn foliage is holding on here, just like in Connecticut.

Having my dad not acknowledge or know me hurts but it’s inevitable and he’s very old. What do they say, you don’t really know what you’ve got til it’s gone? I feel like I already went through it once with my mother, where post-car accident she didn’t know me or couldn’t express that she did. It’s existential doubt on the deepest level: without my parents how do I exist? So I like every post my daughter puts up on Twitter or Instagram, sending silly exploding hearts or hands clapping.  “I see you!” I’m saying. “Cheering on everything you do!” Love, Your Mom. I’ll miss Twitter if leaving becomes imperative.

Maybe I’m wrong and we should do away with the time change. It can get dark here in the vestibule.

This is a recording I made of one of my fave Dylan songs, Not Dark Yet

12 thoughts on “Here In The Vestibule

  1. Joan Hreno

    I love your blog/ newsletter whatever you want to call it. Keep on please. Your fans are legion. And the gritty details of your life at this point in time are a comfort to many of us.

  2. Christopher

    Hi Amy. Thank you for always sharing your stories with us. My family lived in Old Saybrook, Connecticut for 50+ years and I have such wonderful memories of visiting my grandparents and enjoying the area. Unfortunately, we lost both of those grandparents, one to dementia (among other things). Hugs to you and Eric. Stay well and strong. Cheers and Peace.

  3. Donald Ciccone

    So sorry to hear about your dad. Would love to try that New Haven pizza someday. I could do without Daylight Nonsense Time. Always hated it. It’s like adding to a plate that’s already full, then serving nothing when you’re starving. Anyway, stunning version of the Dylan song! Just started reading his new book. Have you read it yet? I met Robyn once, when Oasis played a little joint here in San Francisco. Tall fellow.

    1. amyrigby

      Thanks Don. He had a good long run.
      Glad you liked my cover! I’ve read select parts of the Philosophy. Always interested in what the guy has to tell us so am looking forward to reading it properly. Take care!

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