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Conceptual Irregularities

The modern composer refuses to die – Edgar Varese

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Neil Bakalar

Nancy Doyle 1962-2021

I could hear Nancy’s voice amidst the din of the party at Neil’s last weekend.

It’s been a couple of months since she passed in January. I guess, for the most part, we’re ok with it. We were expecting it for years. She had stage four ovarian cancer and the prognosis wasn’t good. This came on top of the MS she had been battling for years.

Neil seems no worse for wear and is getting on with his life, traveling and fixing up the place. He finally gets to do his pond, an endeavor of which Nancy was not particularly fond.

At Shiro

It was the first time that Neil, Tony, Tami and I had all gotten together since she died. This little coterie has been our core for twenty years now. There have been so many dinner parties, Nancy cooking up a storm, the rest of us sitting around or helping in one way or another. We had a ritual on Friday nights: get out of work, ride the T home, get the stuff for the weekend together (usually masterfully handled by Tami) and drive the Mass Pike for 3 or 4 hours with Jiffy Pop and come in the door at Knapp House to be greeted by Nancy in mid story and Neil mixing cocktails. Tony would call from the Lee rest stop to let us know where he was. It was Friday Night in Copake and it was the best.

Now that Tami and I live out here, it’s not the same. There is no drive and no euphoria any more. It’s not our getaway any more; it’s where we live. We have lives here and are woven into the community. This is great; I wouldn’t have it any other way. But things change.

A big part of the reason we moved here was to be with N&N while Nancy died. It took longer than expected, a blessing and a curse. We got more time with her but she really was in a lot of pain for much of the last year. Patrick and Cynthia also moved up from Brooklyn and they have been wonderful.

Cynthia and I were there on the last day when Neil came out of her room and said he didn’t think she was breathing anymore. We went in and couldn’t find a pulse and that was that. She had been hopped up on pain killers for the past few weeks. There was a drug she was taking for her trigeminal neuralgia  which was really helping with the excruciating pain in her jaw but it was causing anemia, which in the end may have been what she died from, not the cancer.

Nancy Holding Court

Nancy held court like the New Yorker she was. Strident, declarative, and awfully sure of herself. She learned from her father how to tell a good story and never forgot his advice that a story was more than just the truth. She loved her cats, her cooking, and her audience.

And she loved her Neil. I have never known two people so attached at the wrists and ankles. When they were apart, they would call each other a few times a day. It never seemed like they were saying anything important, they just needed to connect. Now, I love Tami but we never feel compelled to call each other when we travel separately. But they got together at a young age and grew up as a couple. Old habits were formed in their twenties and stayed. They were never very demonstrative but their abiding love for  each other was clear.

Love

So last weekend when we sat around their rusted smoker, The African Queen, chatting in the afternoon, I could hear Nancy’s voice echoing through the years and it was nice.

Middle of the Night

At what point does one’s home become something more than an abode? I am sitting in an empty house. There is practically no furniture. The only things that remind me of me, other than the TV stand I made, are the paintings on the walls, all by artists who are friends: Desmond Hussey, Jeanne Risica, Babe Bakalar, Neil Bakalar, and then some Gaucho prints from the Argentine which have graced my family’s wallls for as long as I can remember. There are Tricia Lowrys, Hiro Watanabes, and Patricia Pedreiras in storage. And probably others I am not remembering right now.

The art connects me to my life, to my home. Stormy roots around on the bed. He will wake me at exactly 4am and want to be fed. We will go to the kitchen and he will eat and then we will both go out and stand at the end of the driveway in the quiet night. We will see the woman running, I think she’s Haitian, and say hi to her. She used to run with her son, who never looked like he wanted to be out running at 4 in the morning. He looked no more than 10 or 12. I guess by now he’s grown old enough to say no, but for a few years there it was a comforting sight.

The odd car goes by. If it gets late enough, a Boston Globe truck or a bakery sedan delivery. I will always notice the moon, what its phase and position is. I will think about the eons of humanity who have looked up at the same moon and thought the same things. This little slice of the galaxy that surrounds us and provides us with some kind of consistency.

This weekend is the Perseid meteor showers. Every year on our anniversary. We always go out to Copake where the wedding took place 16 years ago. We sit out on the grass in our Adirondack chairs, eyes trained on the sky. Someone sees a shooting star in the direction opposite from where you are looking and everyone turns but it is always too late. You see a meteor and you feel like you are the only one that saw it, but in reality there are thousands of people on lawns up and down the east coast looking at the same meteor and thinking the same thing.

My bride has fallen asleep out in the living room on the futon we have folded into a makeshift sofa. This is just like she used to do. Since we got rid of the sofa in the living room, she has been coming and joining me in the bedroom which I love to no end, but realistically, after 50, couples sleep alone. There is just too much mishegas when two old people are in the same bed. There are going to be a lot more bedrooms and living rooms and sofas in the new house. We’ll see…

She is my home, my everything. As difficult as this whole move has been, we have been tackling it together. We don’t necessarily talk much. But we get it done. And we provide a home for each other.

This song came up on my playlist today, a Matt Skeele song we recorded back in 95 or 96, “I Wake Up In The Middle Of The Night”. It is such a beautiful evocation of love and comfort and his singing and playing is so beautiful and it is one of my better atmosphere productions if i do say so myself. Enjoy….

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