03 September 2006

The Last Divorced Lady on Earth

I love Burning Man.

The best thing about it is that there are so many parking spaces in my neighborhood this weekend.

As my son Liam and I were returning from a party this evening, a charming couple of women from Canada and London happened by, and we chatted in front of my building in the misty San Francisco night air.

"Oh, there are plenty of spaces this weekend on my block," I gushed. "It's Burning Man."

I babbled on. "Actually you can block that driveway across the street, as my neighbor isn't there on weekends, and there are only workmen during the week." I was divulging classified information I wouldn't share with my grandmother. "The City lot's on 21st Street, Gramma," I'd say. "Vat?" she'd answer, if she were alive and didn't live on Ocean Parkway and drove a car. "You vant I should park dare? In dat doity LOT? Oy, Jul-is, vere goink."

Well, back to the party I was returning from. Instead of Burning Man, I went to Burning Chicken Thighs, but unfortunately, when I requested a breast, I was given one with yellow, goose-pimply flesh. The Burning Thighs looked much better. When they make a movie of this post, the chicken thigh shot will symbolize guileless yet wanton lust. There were also Burning Sausages, and some Burning Corn-on-the-Cob, which I saw birthed from the grill and swaddled in aluminum foil, but they were whisked away like they were struggling for life and I never saw them again.

The best thing was this salad that had Wasabi peas (is Wasabi an ethnicity? a geographic location in Japan?) and fresh white corn and limp lettuce leaves and mozzerella cubes we mistook for jicama until we realized they weren't crunchy. The salad was provided by an elegantly-dressed German woman who I noticed immediately looked sort of like me: tall, blonde, she wore big white sunglasses like mine, the kind that should be worn under a silk scarf knotted at the chin and over a 1964 Peugeot convertible. I wondered if I was as scary-looking as she was. She looked so sophisticated, in that Eurohip kind of way, like a woman who designed BMWs or curated for the Secession Gallery in Vienna. I thought about getting a haircut like hers. My hair was flying all over the place like when I was 14. I needed a silk scarf knotted at the chin. I ate a little Burning Tri-Tip.

"How did you think to put Wasabi peas in there? I asked, eloquently. "What a fantastic combination of flavors!" She looked at me like I was an idiot. "I don't know, I was looking around the kitchen for some nuts, and all I had was Wasabi peas." Sure, I know the feeling, I thought. I like to put 'em on my Cheerios. They're awesome on pizza. It's fusion-style cooking, yes? My friend Marty recently told me he made Potato Salad Mole. I thought that was more like confusion-style cooking. Do they have mayonnaise in Mexico? You never see it in your burrito. Marty's very friendly; he could've loosened up Fraulein Wasabi Peas considerably. We could've shaken her down about whatever else she liked to throw into her eclectic salads: scarlet Italian anchovies, Eritrian sourdough starter, grubs.

I was looking for Intelligent Life at the 50th birthday party of a pleasant-looking stranger named Matt. But most of the Intelligent Life there was married. If they weren't married, they were 13 and playing video games. I love married people. Married people are great—hey, I was married for a couple of decades myself. But why do I often feel these days like the only divorced person on earth? All these married people look so goddamned happy. A few years ago, when I had a boyfriend, the Universe was full of divorced people. Divorced men. A few straight men, even. And now I'm the Last Divorced Lady on Earth.

One guy made eye-contact with me as soon as I arrived. Then he stood next to me and I just knew I wasn't very excited about it. His eyebrows were knitting furiously, as if he was suffering from intestinal pain. He told me he met all his dates at AA meetings. This made me want to drink. I was more excited about wooing the Wasabi Pea lady.

Then I spotted him: a guy who looked just like my cute ex-boyfriend, One-eff Geof, but not as crazy-looking. I walked up to him and said, "You look just like my ex-boyfriend, One-eff Geof." He was very pleasant, an architect, friendly, and even laughed at my jokes, and then he introduced me to his brilliant gorgeous daughter who is just graduating from Lowell (San Francisco's version of the Bronx High School of Science) and his good-looking wife, and left. I started worrying about whether or not I should be worrying about whether or not Liam will get into Lowell.

Finally I relaxed a little. I ate some cake. Then I ate some more cake. I talked to a couple who knew my friend Lisa. (Everyone knows my friend Lisa. Haven't you ever heard of the game, "Six Degrees from Lisa Gross?") The female half of the couple liked my button jewelry. We talked about having pubescent children. She was a Corporate Executive and Baby Masseuse, and he was a Landscaper. She made Martha Stewart seem a little lazy. They'd brought some drink involving vodka and cucumber slices; a recipe she'd found on the Schweppes website. OK, hands up— who has time to be a corporate executive, massage babies professionally and surf soft drink websites? I gave this perfect, gorgeous couple my card in case they wanted to buy any button jewelry. Then, just as Walk This Way by Aerosmith and Run DMC came on, we had to go home.

I thought about last year, when the people in New Orleans were suffering so, and the people at Burning Man had no idea about that until they came home. I thought about how, as each year passes, I become less and less interested in Burning Man. I still don't get it; it still doesn't get me. If I had all the time and money and energy it would take me to go to Burning Man, I thought, I'd go to Paris, or Prague. I'd rather go to the fucking moon. I'd rather sit in my car in a great big parking space right here on my block in a silk scarf and white sunglasses and just savor the experience.