David Rakoff,

David Rakoff,

A weeklong electronic journal.
April 28 1998 3:30 AM

David Rakoff,

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       Back from a weekend in Toronto. My father's 70th birthday--"The New Middle Age," I've counterphobically labeled it. Weekends in Toronto are anticipated with no small amount of dread: that my life in New York will be deemed a hoax, green card revoked, adulthood rescinded, etc. (The problem with a diary so public is knowing that friends are reading this--or perhaps not--thinking: "Oh, God. Is he really trotting out those tired old anxious tropes again? Tiresome queen.") Poor old, much-maligned Toronto. Really a lovely city, actually. But it still harbors bad associations for me, from a time just over a decade ago when I suffered a touch of cancer there.
       On the way out to La Guardia, passing the vast Woodlawn cemetery in Queens (it is Woodlawn, isn't it?), two balloons hover over the gravestones--one black, one white--before they eventually float up and out of sight. An image with all the cheap, icky, maudlin poetry of one of those hysterical '50s ballads about dead and dying teens--on railroad tracks, in car wrecks--and their last, posthumous wishes that their undying devotion be conveyed to some hapless girl waiting in vain at some dance or party or bake sale.
       I fly Air Canada. Somewhere over Lake Ontario, the plane dips precipitously and rather violently. I am woken out of sleep. A woman whoops involuntarily from the front of the plane. Glances are exchanged and knuckles whiten for just a moment. No announcement from the cockpit. "I hate Canadian reserve! On American, the ax-head-featured pilot would have come on to tell us what happened, while flight attendants tried to win our confidence back by plying us with conciliatory nuts," I think murderously to myself. I am regressing fast; Sullen Teen is taking over my brain.
       There are two Mormons on the subway in Toronto. I recognize them immediately: "initially handsome and then not really on closer inspection" blond faces; short-sleeved, polyester, white dress shirts; surprisingly misshapen and fat asses. I'm proved right when I see one carries El Libro de Mormón in one hand. I remember them well from when I lived in Tokyo. They traveled on bicycles in pairs. At the only rich Westerner expat party I ever attended in Japan, I was talking to a small circle of investment banker types about these missionary duos.
       "It seems unfair," said a young woman with Credit Lyonnais. "Space is at such a premium in Tokyo, and they make them room together." We were in an apartment in the Asakusa district that was huge even by New York standards.
       Her English banker boyfriend explained. "Well, there's a reason for that. They're supposed to keep an eye on one another, in case one of them is tempted to masturbate."
       "That seems reasonable," say I, drunken, 22-year-old, arrogant wiseacre. "It's infinitely more fun to masturbate with someone watching." I was not invited back.
       The parents now live in an apartment building downtown that is filled with old people. Last June, when my father had a mild heart attack, I was walking past the security desk on my way to the hospital when a cleaning woman bounded down the stairs and told the guard to come quickly because she had just found the old woman for whom she did, dead.
       This time, the carpets have been replaced by a truly hideous and comically large-patterned broadloom. Suitable only for someone whose eyes are failing and for whom it would be beneficial to really be able to see the floor rising up to meet them very quickly as their brittle spun glass bones shattered beneath them. All the doors to the parking garage have large electronic opening buttons imprinted with the universal sign for a wheelchair. Indeed, the facility seems more and more geriatric each time I go, which freaks me out a bit. Tell Laura I love her!
       Return to New York City on a cold, rainy Sunday evening. My very favorite weather, actually. Time was, upon returning from Toronto, I would dump the bags and go out in pursuit of libidinal activity. Oddly enough, this time I am sufficiently calmed and gladdened by my tasteful apartment and my many, many material possessions. Outside, a modest parade of about 60 Tibetan Buddhists with orange lanterns, drums, cymbals, and a five-tiered pagoda palanquin on a U-Haul flatbed drown out my Edith Piaf tape as they bang and clatter by my window in the rainy dusk on 16th Street.

David Rakoff is a writer and actor living in New York. He works in the publishing industry.