Faye Rapoport DesPres

Life

The first week of August…

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“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone.”

~Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting…

A link to my guest post on the Superstition Review Blog

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“California, a prophet on the burning shore,
California, I’ll be knocking on the golden door”
- John Perry Barlow

I always think of the Grateful Dead song “Estimated Prophet” when I travel to California. As a matter of fact, when I woke up in Benicia, a town located about 40 minutes from San Francisco, on Saturday morning, I opened up my iPad case, found the song on YouTube, and played it for a few minutes. I do love this state, as different as it is visually and culturally from the Northeast and the Southwest (the two areas where I’ve lived in the United States). I’m here now visiting family. My elderly parents wanted to see my sister, her husband, and their two children, and it was too much travel for them to handle on their own.

It wasn’t an easy trip. Thirteen hours, including a flight from Albany, NY to Atlanta, a layover, and then the flight to San Francisco. But my husband came along and he and I are here now, on our own in a small but new and comfortable hotel. Yesterday we enjoyed perfect sunny weather with a light ocean breeze as we watched my niece perform in a high school marching band competition in Vallejo, walked to the marina and up and down the main street of Benicia, which is lined with quirky shops and fun restaurants, and sat around my sister’s large dining room table sharing a feast of Indian take-out with the family at dinner time. At night, Jean-Paul and I joined my sister and her husband for a night out at a local bar/night club. As we walked in and made our way through the small crowd toward the bar, the band on the corner stage was singing Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.”

California.

This post won’t be much longer than that, because it’s not easy to type on an iPad! But I did want to share the link to a recent guest post I wrote for Superstition Review’s popular blog. The blog, which is worth bookmarking, offers news from the journal, general literary commentary, and writing tips and advice. I wrote my post 10 days after the bombings at the Boston Marathon and talked about the incidents in life that we can’t shake and how they often eventually translate, for essayists, into writing.

Here’s the link:

http://superstitionreview.asu.edu/blog/2013/05/09/guest-blog-post-faye-rapoport-despres-what-does-this-have-to-do-with-writing/

And now, back to California. …

A new day

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It was a long, difficult day in Boston yesterday, but by late evening we knew that the remaining suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings had been apprehended. He had been hiding in a boat parked in the backyard of a house located 3-4 miles from our home.

The ordeal is far from over for the victims of the bombing and their families, or for the family of the young MIT police officer who was killed during the suspects’ rampage two nights ago, or for the transit police officer who is still fighting for his life. But today, after a gray and rainy morning, the sun has come out, people are out on the streets again, businesses have re-opened, and life for the rest of us is returning to something close to normal.

Yet it all leaves you wondering…why? What was the point of causing such pain and devastation, of taking the lives of innocents?

The remaining suspect might reveal something about his motives or connections. We don’t know yet. But will whatever agenda he might claim to have be enough of an explanation for these unfathomable acts? It’s hard to imagine that it will be.

In the meantime, we pick up and move forward; it’s a new day.…

The morning after the Boston Marathon

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It is 6:30 in the morning the day after the Boston Marathon. I am sitting at my desk in our den/my writing room. One of our cats is snoozing on the single bed next to the window that overlooks the street. Outside, the early morning light is illuminating the top half of the house across the street; the bottom of the house is in shadow. A garbage bin and several blue recycle bins sit at the curb in front of the house. Normally garbage pick-up is scheduled for Mondays, but yesterday was Patriot’s Day, a state holiday in Massachusetts, so the garbage and recycling trucks will rumble up and down the street today.

Such a normal thing. The garbage sitting out on the curb as a neighborhood wakes up to a Tuesday. But today nothing feels normal on this street, six miles from the site where two explosive devices detonated at the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday. Just a couple of miles from here, thousands of runners streamed along Commonwealth Avenue throughout the day, battling to make it up the Newton hills before the final stretch toward the finish line. Crowds of people stood along the side of the road to applaud and offer their encouragement.

I am not a native Bostonian. I was born in New York City and raised in upstate New York. I first lived in Boston during my college years, and then I returned for a few years after graduate school. On one Patriot’s Day holiday back then, I rode my bicycle along the marathon route and stopped for a while to watch the runners. I witnessed one indelible moment, when a wheelchair racer passed by using his arms to power up one of the hills. The crowd went crazy, cheering him on as he labored to get that wheelchair up the hill. I suddenly felt choked up by the sight of the wheelchair racer struggling up the hill while perfect strangers clapped and cheered and yelled that he could do it. It was one of those moments when, even if you feel cynical about humanity much of the time, you are reminded that there are good people in the world.

Yesterday, people who had come out to watch the marathon were experiencing such moments all along the route. Patriot’s Day is a state holiday in Massachusetts, a day when you get outside and enjoy the sunshine after a long winter. It is a day when you feel as if you are playing hookey because your office or your school is closed. You start thinking about putting mulch around the tulip bulbs in your garden, or painting that back deck. In the meantime, runners from around the world have descended on Boston and are packing the hotels, excited for the event they have been training for, for months or even years. A few elite athletes are running to win, but most are here simply to make it to the finish line. That is their dream.

Patriot’s Day is a celebration – a joyful day, a fun day. No one expected, yesterday, that it would turn into an unspeakable horror.

For about an hour after the explosions at the marathon finish line, while horrific images flashed over and over across the television screen, I waited to hear from a friend whose father helps organize the race. My friend watches from the finish line every year. I sent her a text. I called her cell and left a message. I didn’t hear back. I didn’t know at the time that cell towers in the area had been shut down to avoid the possibility that a cell phone might detonate another device. As I waited and waited and got no response, I sat shaking in front of the television, watching as tidbits of news came in – the number of injuries, how serious they were, two dead, three dead, the Green Line shut down, air space closed, airport arrivals halted. Residents, stay at home.

About an hour after I had tried to reach my friend, she sent a text saying that she was OK. She had left the finish line minutes before the explosions and had seen the blasts from her office nearby. She sent a photo of the scene from her office window. She was traumatized but all right. I felt relieved and grateful that she was OK. Many people weren’t so lucky. The latest number said 133 injured. Later, 140. Police were guarding the hospitals, a fire was reported at the JFK Library (this was determined to be unrelated – another friend with a connection at the library helped me spread the word at the time).

The hours passed, darkness fell, and eventually there was nothing left to do but turn off the television. What was the point of seeing it all, over and over?

This morning, I checked in on the news before I sat down to write. Nothing yet about who did this, or why.

So I am sitting here thinking about those who are gone and those who are injured and those who had dreams – dreams that might seem unimportant now in the face of what others have suffered. We tend to think of dreams as moments or things. A nice house. A good marriage. A college degree. Someday crossing the finish line at a marathon. Of course some people dream about having enough food or a roof over their heads, and I don’t mean to minimize that.

The cliché is that dreams can so easily turn into nightmares. A lot of people will say that is what happened to the dreams of the runners and attendees at this year’s Boston Marathon.

But today my dream is this: that we will remember the man in the wheelchair and those who were cheering him on. That we will think of everyone who struggled up and down those hills, and those who encouraged them with applause, and those who stood watch over …