October 27, 1989
By Ed Ochester
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
He was in a hotel in Baltimore
in a suburb near Johns Hopkins. He would
give a talk there, and they would pay him for it.
It was night, and he was alone; sirens were racing
up and down the streets. The room was very large.
Most of what he had wished as a boy was to write poems,
to have some power with the word, to be paid
for talking. Don't smile, please. He wanted
to be put in a beautiful room like this.
Bonnie would pick him up in an hour. He saw
out the picture window a few men in trenchcoats
walking toward the parking lot, and beyond that
headlights and taillights on a freeway a mile
or so away. He'd been reading Carver's last book
of poems, reading "Gravy" and the other valedictories.
He remembered Carver a few years before his death,
kidding about his prosperity, kneeling before his Mercedes
and waving a fistful of dollars, because he was so amazed,
he supposed, to have them, that good man, whose last poems,
written in the knowledge of imminent death, said
love the world, don't grieve overmuch, listen to people.
The beautiful room was a good place to read; he'd finished
the book (for the second time) at the pine desk, where
the indirect white light hurt his eyes. He didn't think
he'd ever be as famous as Carver, but who could tell?
He was sorry the man was dead; there was nothing
he could do about that, but he was sorry for it.
He got up to look out the picture window. He could
see the red spintops of some cops' cars. Other than that
nothing special: in the entrance courtyard a lone cabbie
smoked a cigarette; spotlights shone up through the yellow
foliage of a clump of maples. A few slow crickets.
He had everything he really wanted, he had learned
that friends, like love, couldn't save him.
We went to Baltimore early to see Happy Feet on the IMAX screen at the Maryland Science Center. The museum was mobbed, probably partly because most Maryland school districts were closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and partly because Happy Feet was selling out all its showings -- ours was packed. My in-laws met us at the museum -- they had not seen the movie before, and were impressed with it -- then we all went out to lunch at the Harborplace food court, where I had excellent crab cakes and fries. It was nearly 70 degrees even by the water; even the ducks looked confused.
My in-laws had to get home to take care of their elderly, ailing dog, so we went without them to the National Aquarium. It was already 3 p.m. and both kids had homework to get home to, so we went quickly through the Australia and main buildings without seeing the dolphin show. Ironically, since the science museum had been so crowded, the aquarium was as empty as I have ever seen it and we got to spend lots of time in front of the tide pool exhibit and things that are often too mobbed to see properly. We couldn't find the baby puffin in the North Atlantic seabird exhibit and the golden lion tamarins were already out of the rainforest for the evening by the time we got up there -- apparently they wreak havoc after dark if left to wander in there -- but the poison dart frogs weren't hiding today and the flying foxes were out!
One of the many varieties of birds in the exhibit...the zebra finches were dive-bombing the tourists, moving too quickly for photos!
A pig-nosed turtle. I adore these guys.
One of the amazing, colorful varieties of anemone in the main aquarium tanks.
We had to stop at the food store on the way home, so didn't have dinner till 7:30 and then it was time for the Golden Globes. I missed the whole pre-show except for the credits, so I need someone to explain to me why Jake Gyllenhaal was performing "And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going" complete with wig! Younger son had only one concern -- would Happy Feet win awards -- so his mood swung wildly during the early part of the evening. Son was very pleased when Happy Feet won best song for Prince, then very angry when it did not win best animated film. Poor Justin Timberlake clearly had not been told what to do if Prince was not there yet but he had the only creative presenter ad lib of the entire evening, I think.
I was totally thrilled that Mirren won for playing both Elizabeths -- what an extraordinary year she had -- and her speeches were both wonderful. "Elizabeth I would have an amazing speech at this point, wouldn't she?" she asked, adding that she had nothing to say but thank you. And then that people fell in love with Elizabeth Windsor, not with Mirren's portrayal which she just hoped was honest, though the Queen already has an orb to go with her scepter so Mirren was willing to gratefully accepting the Golden Globe. I was also delighted Jeremy Irons won for Elizabeth I and said that if you cannot support Helen Mirren, you can't do anything as an actor; he claimed they worked out the relationship between their characters at the read-through when he put his elbow on her thigh. (And he kissed Jack Nicholson's daughter, who was Little Miss Golden Globe or whatever the title is, and then gave Jack a look like, "You're not going to punch me for that, are you?")
But Peter Morgan, the screenwriter for The Queen, gave the best speech of the lot, asking what we have to do to get our leaders to listen to us, praising public protest and running out of time to say any of the usual boring thank-yous beyond "I love you, Helen!" Meryl Streep (who has won enough of these things, and is doing far more of the ha-ha I'm an insider joking than she ever did in her heyday, which is not terribly charming) gets props for telling people to ask big chain theaters to show independent movies like The Queen and Notes on a Scandal, so good for her.
I was pretty apathetic about the TV awards, but America Ferrara was lovely saying what she said about the message she hopes the role sends the rest of the industry, and I'm glad Hugh Laurie won and glad Grey's Anatomy won the drama award given that the shows I'd have voted for weren't nominated. Warren Beatty talked for way too long (when he said he had an announcement to make people nervous, I honestly thought for a second he was going to say he was running for president, but no, it was just more movie blather), but I did howl when he said he had bottles of moisturizer older than Tom Hanks. The Dreamgirls awards made me happy even though I haven't managed to see the movie yet -- Jennifer Hudson trying not to cry and clearly not having written a speech, and the producer saying he wouldn't let his speech get cut off and would sing "And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going" if he had to!
Sasha Baron Cohen's speech was utterly fucking hysterical -- "I better win a bloody award for this" after having to look at his co-star's anus -- but I think my favorite award of the night was Forest Whitaker's for The Last King of Scotland, one of the most extraordinary performances I have ever seen. That movie only played in the downtown arts theaters -- it's one of the ones Meryl was right to say deserved wider release -- and we only saw it because I won a pass to a preview from The Washington Post. It would make me so happy if he won the Oscar, because DiCaprio will have (and has had) other opportunities, but Whitaker deserves far more exposure than he's had; I think the last time he got this kind of buzz was for The Crying Game. So, should I see top drama Babel, or if I'm only going to see one Cate movie before the Oscars, should it be Notes on a Scandal?
Was reading about planned uterus transplants and feeling alternately really lucky that I had no problem getting pregnant and kind of astonished at the risks people will take to have a biological child. If I'd had trouble getting pregnant, I am pretty sure we would have adopted without going through the more extreme infertility treatments, but maybe that's easy for me to say because we never had to face the issue. I just keep thinking about the health hazards and expense of transplanting wombs versus all the kids who may never have loving families (there will be more of those if Virginia passes its latest round of abortion restrictions, too).