Nadav Spiegelman


Patricia Lockwood
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My Highlights

If I have any memories of this time, they are of castle walls and chocolate-brown pews and bright banners hanging in high places. Lutherans have a passion for banners that approaches the erotic. They are never happier than when they are scissoring big purple grapes out of felt and gluing them onto other felt.
My father greets us with his usual largesse, disparages the president in passing, expresses a belief that the Cincinnati Bengals are going to “win it all this season,” yells out “Hoooo-eee!” for no particular reason, tells my mother to wash a jumbo load of his underwear, and then pops back into the kitchen and begins to cook one pound of bacon.
The orotund, indignant sound of Rush Limbaugh was blasting from a radio in the corner, and the drunken leprechaun sound of Bill O’Reilly was blasting from the television. It was my father’s pleasure to listen to the two men simultaneously, while emitting the occasional “hoo-HOO” of agreement. He was wearing his most formal boxer shorts, the ones you could almost not see through.
“Disintegration of the family unit!” my father shouted, apropos of nothing—I suspected he hadn’t really been listening—and then disappeared upstairs to fondle his guns and drink cream liqueurs in secret, which was his way of dealing with grief.
We tiptoed upstairs to my spartan little room. When we kissed, perhaps because we had so many teeth, it was exactly like two birdcages touching together.
Two poets up the street ran a reading series, which meant every month we all got drunk on cheap whiskey while listening to traveling poets read, then walked home shoulder to shoulder swaying like long grasses.
JASON WORKED AT THE NEWSPAPER: editing and designing pages and following the exploits of the local politicians, who all had names like “Saxby Chambliss.” He entertained himself by slipping increasingly outrageous puns into the copy, which culminated in a headline about a dachshund race that read, “All Wieners in the Long Run.” He was so pleased with himself over that one he brought home a bottle of champagne that night. “To the wieners,” he toasted, “and to their long lives.”
THREE WEEKS LATER I sat in the chill waiting room, picked up one of those magazines that are always telling you how to “surprise your man” during sex—as if what the volatile male animal needs is to be surprised while he’s inside you—and looked at a perfume ad of a sparkling white horse appearing to make love to a woman on the beach. Such wonderful art was everywhere in the world.
and all humankind is her Timmy. The only magazine she ever subscribed to was called Prevention, and it exclusively carried articles about which fruits could prevent cancer. The cover always featured a picture of a jogging young grandma in a sports bra pumping her fist in the air as she overcame any number of invisible diseases.
to prize traditionalism above all else in a church that began in revolution is to do a great violence to it.
The bishop bids us good-bye. “I will look up your poems,” he tells me, and I physically restrain myself from saying, “Please don’t do that.”
“This scenery really is . . . GORGE-eous,” my mother says slyly. She’s ingesting caffeine at a suicidal rate, and her puns are beginning to overtake her.
“WATCH YOUR FORM!” my father shouted from the sidelines, and then buried himself again in a thick Tom Clancy novel about men being nervous on a submarine. He adjusted his sunglasses and smacked his lips with satisfaction. The men were SO nervous.
BECAUSE MY FATHER WASN’T allowed to hunt hippies, he decided to settle for hunting deer instead. It was a good compromise, all things considered. Deer were the pacifists of the animal kingdom.
“No matter what you do, do not go into the bathroom,” my mother interrupts, bustling past us with a pile of Rags and throwing them straightaway into the trash can. “Something might be dead in there.”
She taught us the interior smile, since you couldn’t actually smile when you were singing. You had to arrange your face as if you were smiling except completely subtract the smile. It was impossible, but singing was full of things like that. Singing was worse than Buddhism. It was no wonder so much of it was done in churches. Here’s another one: “Open up the barn door in the back of your head.” This is what I’m talking about! It meant nothing but you knew exactly what it meant, same as poetry.
She looked like she knew where Prague was, which at that moment in time I did not.
Of all the opera singers, I liked Maria Callas the most because her voice was capable of being downright appalling. If Ella Fitzgerald stole from the horns, Maria Callas stole from the barnyard—from the goose, from the hog, from the bullfrog. At times she sublimely approaches the sound of the chicken impersonator; at times a bok-bok almost emerges. On a continuum of all animal noises, she is the furthest point, which is perfection.
THE PRIESTS ARE kissing books constantly, with wet, juicy, openmouthed kisses. This is the only part of the ceremony I understand.
“I don’t know how you survive them,” Jason says the morning after one of these nightmares, over an egg-white omelet called the Triathlete. “You can’t even watch movies where moms and dads fight. You get scared by the sound of violins.” “Tense violins, that are playing as a girl walks through the woods to her certain death,” I say, pouring cream into the coffee that helps me stay so nervous. “Besides, you got scared once when you looked down, saw your shadow, and thought it was a little child hugging your leg.” “Both of us are easily frightened,” he acknowledges. “It’s why our marriage is so successful.”
EVER SINCE I WAS A CHILD,” the prophet said, “I’ve been afraid of very beautiful people.” I looked around the circle and was reassured. “Very beautiful people” were not a big danger here. Everyone who attended was a sibling or a cousin, so that our faces repeated each other with bland variation, like casseroles.
EVERY YEAR MY MOTHER cooks gumbo for the seminarians. Don’t ask me how this tradition got started. It’s just more proof that my father associates spirituality with shrimp. The gumbo is not authentic, exactly—if my mom ever saw a bayou, she would shout “DROWNING HAZARD!” and “WATERY GRAVE!” as loud as she could till men came to drain it, and that would be the end of Louisiana—but it’s at least respectful.