“YOU CAN SEE THE STARS AND STILL NOT SEE THE LIGHT”
One of my favorite Eagles’ songs and best line, in my humble opinion. Glenn Frey’s voice played in my head two days ago as I sought to write something about how the past seven weeks have exhausted my spirit. Using the line as title was as far as I got. I must relay the vast tangle of emotions clogging my brain piecemeal. Thinking I had to blah it all out in one go overwhelmed and kept me silent. Silent and stewing.
This won’t be a “how,” as in how my eyes lost their ability to see the beauty around me but a “how,” as in an object — a book — started the millionth healing process.
I’ve never been able to resist the “New Releases” list on my library’s home page. Never mind the ten books already out on loan or precious stack of purchased books waiting patiently on bookshelves I pass a dozen times a day. I’m aware I’m not alone in my book addiction. And once I’ve caved and begun browsing the virtual stacks a calming inward sigh escapes, like those of panicked heroin addicts who’ve just shot up and lean back against the wall in drowsy rapture, and nothing else exists.
On one such recent occasion my peepers lit upon an utterly beguiling book cover. A moment’s hesitation, like that of a bad liar preparing to lie, was ignored as I hit the “Check out item” button or whatever it reads. Scanning its information as only a longtime user can, I honed in on “Peter De Vries” (author), “Humorist” and accolades from the Saturday Review, Washington Post and maybe more importantly, Kingsley Amis. Oh, and the title, The Tunnel of Love. I clicked “Place Hold” before the mind could process that I’d fallen off the wagon again.
But wait — a second equally beguiling book cover from the same author (re-releasing some of De Vries’s 20+ novels with copyrights dating back to the 1940s.). “Place Hold” clicked lickety split as I knew a literary jackpot when I saw one. Or thought I did. Bingo! I did.
It hurts to admit but I don’t laugh much anymore. I used to laugh like a multi-millionaire comedian can afford to now. I needed a fix like yesterday. I scored. As the master De Vries’s words coursed through faded denim veins, I noticed a warming sensation throughout my body as I relaxed back into sofa pillows, breezy laughs at long last released into still air. A starlight high, man.
One of many “laughed so I read it three more times” excerpts (narrator husband’s been coerced into writing and starring in comedy sketch for the next PTA meeting; a rehearsal), and best read aloud:
“I strolled out in flannel slacks and a houndstooth jacket and extended an imaginary dry Martini to the lounging Isolde, murmuring as I did so, ‘One for the Gibson Girl.’ I then kissed her and sat down with a cocktail of my own, whereupon ‘my wife’ worked the conversation around to how much she had saved on redecorating the house and by skimping on clothes, with me deflating her at every turn in a way that was as foxy as it was deft. In the course of all the persiflage, I fetched her two more Martinis, kissing her each time I handed her one to show that I was flesh and blood beneath this fabulous exterior (and ad libbing repetitions of the Gibson Girl mot, which I assumed my hearers had not caught as they had not laughed). My wife tried to explain to me the difference between cord and seersucker. I reached for my glass and drawled, ‘I had supposed, my dear, that a seersucker was someone who spent all her money on fortune tellers.’
Mills clapped his hands for us to stop and came forward.
‘This has been going on for twenty-two minutes,’ he said. ‘Where’s the action?’
‘Why, in the grain, the subtlety of the give and take,’ I said.
‘But this is a skit. It shouldn’t take more than five minutes at the most. It isn’t a three-act play.’
‘It isn’t?’ some card out front whispered.
I said, ‘There’s some conflict coming up in a minute. Where she says she’s going to Lord and Taylor’s tomorrow. I say, ‘What do you have to go to Lord and Taylor’s for?’ And she says, ‘Because I want to go to Hattie Carnegie’s next week and I haven’t a thing to wear.’
‘And your diction — ‘ Mills continued with his strictures.
‘I’m playing him with tongue in my cheek,’ I said.
‘Maybe that’s why I can’t hear you.’
It got the first real laugh of the evening, and we resumed with some sense of the ice having been broken.”
I laughed again.
(The Tunnel of Love. 72–73. FYI, it was published in 1954.)