Middlefield 7 Especially Pie

WHAT PLACE LOOKS LIKE

 

 

Like this

one of those villages

doesn’t much change

same kinds

of problems

what life looks like

how life

usually lived

families, real

messy, earning

some kind of living

or trying to.

Food each week

potatoes in ten pound bags

onions too all in the basement

if there is a basement

supermarket bread.

Weekenders New Yorkers

they carry bread in the car.

Some even take baking classes

They say there’s no

bread in upstate New York.

Coffee either.

Locals drink plenty of coffee.

Outside inside.

money college

absolute assumptions.

Amy Goodman

Rupert Murdoch

NPR and FOX.

Both sides

I know I’m right

What is education?

Firewood? Hannah Arendt?

Can we have both?

Self righteousness

downfall

of everyone

they each know

something big

something small

don’t tell one another

difference breeds anger

instead of curiosity

white sugar versus

agave as though

one is closer to truth.

Plumbers and architects.

Taste stands in for taste.

All just preference. Of course

There are facts. But facts

Aren’t Truth.Nearly everyone

thinks their preferences

significant. Me too.

I like old doors

better than Home Depot.

But I know

doors don’t matter much.

Even a little.

We all try.

Some of us grow old.

We go to supermarkets.

We buy milk and eggs.

Organic or not.

Some tell us each choice

a moral decision.

 

All our houses continue

breathing.

Zucchini and tomatoes

every summer

If we are lucky.

How we

use them depends

on the books

we read. On the books

we don’t read.

On grandmothers. And

what we remember.

We try for pleasantries.

Hot. Cold. Rain is expected.

I heard a storm

Will come.

Not enough rain.

Maybe tomorrow

will be nicer. Years

of survivals. People

live here. People

who give this place

what life is. People

whose lives

whatever they are

are real stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Especially Pie

 

 

 

 

When we heard that people from Brooklyn good

 

looking thin young people one was even a composer

 

and she wrote music that sounded, she said, like

 

bananas peeling what did she mean? when we heard

 

they bought the small funky church hall down the

 

road from us, really from Brooklyn, Williamsburg or

 

Sunset Park or Bedford Stuyvesant or some other

 

neighborhood with newcomers wearing wonderful

 

shoes, we all moaned and sighed. Hipsters moving

 

into the neighborhood, to our part of the country.

 

We have been, for the 12 years we are here, pretty

 

much exempt from hipsters. Artists yes, but no

 

hipsters. Not much in this countyside. No artisanal

 

anything much. We don’t run into hipsters much,

 

with well-dressed children and chic baby carriages,

 

wearing clever hats.

 

Ours is a poor county, where many people are

 

overweight and struggling to get by. Daily problems

 

mostly trump aesthetic pursuits. Though not always.

 

 

 

Artist hipsters who were turning an old

 

church hall into a loft, and using words like elegant.

 

The church has always been beautiful.

 

Hasn’t been a church for years.

 

It’s deserted. An old sign in front saying Free Will

 

Offering. When we first moved here

 

hairdressered ladies, mostly Methodists, their hair

 

that funny beauty parlor blue, would walk

 

into the church space with honeyed hams, with

 

macaroni salad, a few kinds of potato salad, with big

 

bags of cheetohs and chips and white paper plates

 

every Saturday afternoon and by 5, the parking lot was

 

full, hams consumed, and every member of our entire

 

community proclivities aside had eaten

 

a good slice of pie from blueberries or cherries or

 

peaches. And ice cream, Stewarts ice cream. As

 

much as you could pile onto your pie.

Supermarket coffee brewed in one of those

 

gigantic metal coffee makers. Coffee for

 

forty eight.

 

 

 

Hipsters have always seemed like another species of

 

being. Especially all knowing hipsters who home

 

schooled their kids and used the words grass fed and

 

local and organic organic organic in

 

relationship to food, who were certain and self

 

righteous about food wrongs and rights, who didn’t

 

allow white sugar anywhere in the vicinity of their

 

significant loved ones, especially children.

 

White sugar was kryptonite. They’d rather die than

 

eat a piece of pie.

 

 

 

 

We were sort of hipsters once. Twenty years ago when

 

we were in our twenties when we bought our house in

 

this small village of Middlefield we were the smug

 

outsiders, young and certain, well positioned to

 

remake reality, to

 

turn someone else’s old

 

house, the place we bought, into our version of

 

imagined paradise.. More hippyish than hipster,

 

we were more of the Anything Goes school than

 

believing that Everything Absolutely Everything Was

 

Under control. . Live and

 

Let Live was our philosophy. We’ve

 

always eaten plenty of pies.

 

Still we had our sanctimonious moments, our heritage

 

tomatos, our perfectly friend zucchini blossoms, even

 

stuffed with white anchovies, our scrape the walls to

 

what they should be instances of quasi perfection.

 

The hipsters seemed worse than we were. We watched

 

them get out of their car (the thin handsome man was

 

holding a copy of a book by Paul Auster. His wife held

 

paperback novel by Auster’s ex wife. Did

 

they only read Brooklyn authors? Was even their

 

reading de rigeur?

 

It’s not that I didn’t have my Good and Bad books. I

 

did. But the summer we moved

 

here, years ago, I read an essay in my dentist’s office.

 

I hate dentists, and have some degree of

 

Dentalphobia. Just sitting in the chair and having a

 

stranger check around has always

 

made me sweat. Still I love my dentist. George. He’s

 

just about the most good

 

natured human alive, and never even raises the

 

subject of flossing. He mostly discusses

 

white water rafting, and his wife Naomi’s ex husband

 

Jack. I forget about my teeth when I

 

visit George, which is a good thing. My teeth are

 

 

He had an odd magazine in his office, years ago.

 

Patients give him subscriptions for

 

Christmas gifts. I picked it up because of its title:

 

MOON. An essay inside was written

 

by a high powered man, a CEO Type A kind of guy who

 

decided to DROP OUT, just to

 

be. Whatever that even means. So he left his job and

 

moved upstate, to a small town 60

 

miles south west of Buffalo. He lived in an open and unfinished barn. His first

 

summer he went to an auction and bought boxes of

 

books for a dollar. He said the

 

books were unpredictable: books about canning and

 

caning, about astronomy and

 

Mormons. He read six novels he’d never heard of and

 

liked them all, liked the chance to

 

keep reading books he’d never heard of, by authors he

 

didn’t know. He called it pure

 

reading , and doing this formed the heart of his life.

 

Pure reading changed him, he said.

 

For months and months until he was

 

able, he said, to remove himself from all the big

 

influences, to feel like he was back in

 

touch with who he was and wanted to be.

 

I stole the magazine from Dentist George, although I

 

wrote him a note, too, telling him that

 

I had his MOON. I knew he didn’t care. I copied the

 

article in a XEROX place, and gave

 

it to everyone I knew. It seemed like one of those

 

pieces that are important forever. That piece started

 

my Forever file.

 

I walked down the road to invite the hipsters to dinner.

 

If they were bikers or hikers I’d have invited them too.

 

Inviting people to dinner is one of the few tasks I

 

know how to do. There’s so much I’m not good at,

 

not good at all, but I’ve always been able, even

 

as a little child, to go next door and ask the

 

neighbors to come join us. They almost always do.

 

 

The hipsters said yes. What’s funny is they came to

 

their door, beautiful old church door, earnest, sincere,

 

and I thought to myself what’s so bad about them?

 

They were wearing black clothes. Black is OK. No color

 

isn’t ok.

 

The church looked less like a ham cafeteria and more

 

like a space where the word installation would apply.

 

Stripped down to what it once was. White walls.

 

 

Alex and Alex were their names. Two Alexes. Male and

 

female. They wanted names that weren’t gender

 

specific. So what if they

 

chose them themselves. Their parents

 

probably didn’t have all that much imagination. I

 

didn’t want to ask what they did,

 

but they told me anyway: 3D and Imaging Installation.

 

I’m not sure what either of those is, as a job. After

 

they left, I googled Image Installation but couldn’t

 

find much. What was there was written in some new

 

obscure these words mean nothing

 

language, and I went back to feeling that there’s

 

nothing too good about being a hipster.

 

Even so I was committed absolutely to inviting them

 

for dinner. Nick asked me if I would

 

have invited them over if they’d moved in from

 

Gloversville and put plastic pots with plants on their

 

front lawn. I’d like to believe the answer is Yes. That

 

anyone who moves in should

 

come by and have a meal. But I’m not sure that’s

 

entirely true. Would I invite

 

someone liked Sarah Palin?

 

Probably not.

 

The outside was a different white than i

 

the old

Methodist church. I had to think for a while about how

 

I felt about whiter. Was there

 

anything intrinsically wrong with whiter? Half the

 

peopleI know had their teeth made whiter in the last

 

few years. Now their mouths have that fake Clark

 

Gabley glow in the dark look that everyone claims

 

Takes ten years off your life. Even Keith Richards

 

has fake white Would I be equally critical of a color I

 

cared nothing

 

about, a color in the negative column Wellfleet

 

periwinkle blue?

 

Was I somehow secretly competing with the youngish

 

Brooklyn hipsters?

 

Making rules that only I could win? Or was the over

 

earnestness, the humorless

 

self focus that I imagined was their lives even real?

 

They appeared at our door, and introduced

 

Themselves again. Could anyone forget Alex and Alex?

 

 

Female Alex had two different earrings:

 

non silver metals that didn’t dangle. They just hung

 

down in some purposeful

 

way, as though she could control their swinging.

 

Hello she said, more Tilda Swinton than Rosemary

 

Clooney.

 

On the other hand, our Methodist neighbor Beulah of

 

multiple light blue pillbox hats, maker of peanut

 

butter pies with old fashioned

 

CRISCO, the same stuff that probably coats your

 

arteries for a lifetime, is

 

just as odd. Beulah had three husbands. All dead she

 

says. But she claims she’s looking. Four’s the charm

 

says Beulah.

 

Welcome to Middlefield, I said to them both. And then

 

felt stuck. My follow up was equally feeble:

 

It’s beautiful here. Both Alexes stared thoughtfully,

 

seriously. Giving me the benefit

 

of the doubt, maybe. And maybe not. Looking in that

 

expectant way that makes you

 

feel you should say something important or at least

 

interesting. And you just can’t.

 

You can’t help but continue with platitudes. What a

 

summer I continued. I never

 

talk about the weather.

 

It’s been so hot. It’s a little cooler today.

 

I’m happy you’ve come to dinner I said, and wanted to

 

Be happy. Or at least a little happy.
Male Alex, handsome and silent, looked to his female

 

partner for help. He didn’t seem to know what to say

 

any more than I did.

 

 

Female Alex smiled at me. Beautiful. Generous even.

 

“I forgot to mention,” she said. “That we don’t eat

 

gluten or sugar. Or pie. Don’t worry,” she said. “I’m

 

sure we’ll all be fine.”

 

Esther Cohen
Let me tell you why I'm here, and why I hope you'll join me. I am here to poem, to play with words, to tell stories when I can, and to ask you for yours. Words are what I love, how I see, and what I say. Words are how I know my life, and how I find my friends. I'm here to ask you to join me. Right here. To send me your stories, and your poems. And to read mine when you can.

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