So there she is. I carried this picture of The Big Blonde around in my wallet for years and even laminated it; thus the crinkles and reflections. She’s standing at the top of our steep hillside driveway at the house in Hollywood and below her is the vacant lot now filled with a house supposedly worth some three million dollars and inhabited by a TV star on some offshoot of Star Trek and her husband, the head of a company that books theaters all over the country at tremendous profits.
That smile. There’s a summer sun warmth to Oona’s smile, a big encompassing expanse of pleasure in other people. She’s the most sociable and social person I’ve ever met. She’ll walk into parties full of sullen Entertainment Types and beam at them: “I don’t know anyone here!” brightly and launch that smile at all the people she suddenly knows. She can talk bikes with bikers and science with sciencers. One year at the TED conference, I found her surrounded by at least ten entrepreneurs and scientists, each falling over the other to engage her and the smile in their projects and dreams and schemes. There are guys on movie sets all over Hollywood who bring her pictures of their kids and their cars and their dogs.
We used to talk on the phone for hours, before we fell in love.
It’s not some whacky smile, that smile. Look at her eyes. She’s looking at you, she’s wondering where she fits with you.
She’s in her twenties here in this laminated world, early Seventies of the Late Lamented Twentieth of Centuries. I took this picture, so she’s looking at me, wondering where she fits with me. Over thirty-five years later, it’s turned out to be some fit. We figure we’ve only spent three nights apart in all that time, due to a couple of work problems in the Eighties of the …(yeah, yeah, yeah.) We’ve never had kids, just kind of adopted stray relatives here and there. We spend a lot of time together, more than most couples do, I think.
We are each other’s kid, she and I.
Lately we’ve started watching King of the Hill which is a cartoon series originally on Fox but now replayed on the Adult Swim program block on Cartoon Network. We’re hardcore adult swimmers, our favorites being Aqua Teen Hunger Force, 12 Oz Mouse, Squidbillies and Family Guy, the Venture Bros. and their ilk, and we never watched King of the Hill, thinking it to be just the usual: either Rougenecks making fun of us or us making fun of Rougenecks. We were wrong. It’s strangely in the middle of all our favorites, the episodes beautifully written and occupying a kind of reality of place and reality of real missing in the more absurd denizens of the Cartoon Sump. Anyway, when we’re taking a shower in the morning, or eating breakfast, we’ll quiz each other on who woke up when and watched what episode of what at any given time of the night. We’ll recount episodes to each other as if we were Jane Austen and – oh, I don’t know – Nathaniel Hawthorne recalling books we’d read.
We’re readers, she and I. So this addiction to TV animation and it’s wonderful voices and artists is like our mutual lifelong addiction to reading. One of the things we used to talk about on the phone, just before we fell in love, was Vanity Fair.
She’s not Becky Sharp, it turns out, but her view of life is as full as Thackeray’s, as sociable and as wise and as detailed. Maybe there’s something in the smile that works as a writer ought to work, something that bridges art and not art. Maybe she’s looking to see how the word fits with her, how she can work her way into its heart, as she is in mine.
Spring in the Northwest. We’re planting now and my friend James loaned me his tractor for a week and I dug a new thirty by forty pond and we’re starting to landscape it. We bought another hundred native trees and plants to grow alongside the hundred we bought last year which are leafing out now. Aspens and Cottonwoods and Pacific Rhododendrons and Mock Orange and Oceanspray and Cedars and Willows and all, all growing now and shooting up. Temperatures rose into the sixties last week and sun was here and there.
Its year thirty-seven for me and the Big Blonde. My birthday is Opening Day and hers is the World Series. Nothing much has really changed in all those years, not with us.