17: “Like Love” (Raymond Chandler)

        “Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off.”
        -Raymond Chandler

        First off, it’s funny. It’s cynical, it’s witty, and it’s simply, sharply, darkly funny. “That’s too close to home,” my student said, but he said it with a wry smile. There’s room in the world for thought and inspiration, kindness and dedication, but the world’s too big for just those. Isn’t there room for a little dark laughter, too? Isn’t there room for wryly pointing out the mistakes we make?
        Secondly, I like that this quote points out so clearly a hurt I sometimes feel. Sometimes the earth we thought would hold us becomes so much mist and smoke beneath our feet. Sometimes magic does become routine. Sometimes the wind doesn’t sing. In those times, we can try to make things ‘better’ by “taking the girl’s clothes off:” by forcing our experience a little further, by trying to rush a little closer, by insisting, like a loud drunk, a little more on life as we expect it to be. That doesn’t usually work.
        We can also make ice cubes out of the ice that’s freezing us, mix them and some water with the fire that we’re afraid will burn us up, and have ourselves a drink. “You know what you can do with darkness?” Chandler asks. “Face it, name it, and don’t be so damn serious about it.” You can stick a cigar in the side of your mouth (though I don’t plan to light it), pour yourself a glass of something that burns, and grin your teeth at the world. And why not? At the dinner party I’m putting together, there’s room for Chandler, too. Anything truly holy will survive a little irreverence.
        Looking too much for the beauty you thought would be here can be just as blinding as turning your face to the wall. It’s exhausting to try and be Thoughtful and Wise all the time. Instead, Chandler’s books often end with the lonely middle-aged loss of a man who’s figured out a mystery for someone else, but can’t figure out much for himself. He goes back alone to his dim apartment and the dust, puts that morning’s coffee cup in the sink without washing it, and sits, pondering the problems he won’t work out. Yeah, this is my buddy Chandler, and this is me; we’re not always like this, but we’re like this sometimes. It isn’t what we want to do, but sometimes it’s what we end up doing. And it sure is a relief to stop trying to look so Impressive for a while.

2 thoughts on “17: “Like Love” (Raymond Chandler)

  1. Antilamentation by Dorianne Laux

    Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
    to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
    Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
    in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
    Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
    the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
    who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
    that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
    Not the nights you called god names and cursed
    your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
    chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
    You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
    over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
    across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
    coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
    You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
    you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
    of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
    when the lights from the carnival rides
    were the only stars you believed in, loving them
    for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
    You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
    ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
    after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
    window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
    of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering
    any of it. Let’s stop here, under the lit sign
    on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.


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