Friday, January 29, 2010
“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all.”
I have this line, among many others, underlined in my tattered paperback copy of Catcher in the Rye from roundabout 1984. I related to Holden Caulfield, so much so that we very nearly named our youngest son Holden. I was skeptical of the phonies, eschewed the bores, and intimidated by those whose suitcases were nicer than mine. And to this day, money makes me feel blue as hell.
My high school penciled notations in the opening of the book indicate that the same words would be appropriate in my memoir one day. See, even at a young age I wanted to write. This was after math and science kicked my ass to Nova Scotia and I realized that the closest I'd get to medicine was as a doctor's wife (which didn't happen): “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
Holden, though he was an angst ridden, complicated, yet wise, youth of 17, spoke my language. I, a 15 year old in an all girls boarding school surrounded by phonies, wannabes, and American duchesses, could never navigate my way through the social kinks and curves. I was lost and often alone. I felt like I was the only sane person in a loony bin because no one shared my story, or admitted to it anyway. Holden must have become real to me then. My 15 year old self.
I'm almost 42 now. I won't re-read Catcher in the Rye, for I don't want the lines to lose their glow. I want to remember Holden as the boy whose ear flapped hunting hat wasn't out of place in my world, the world more sodden with fancy labels and Bergdorf buys. We even bought a hat like Holden's hunting hat for Bird when he was a baby. He was a doll in that thing, puffed out chunker cheeks pooching out beneath the corduroy and faux fur. Holden would be 75 today. I have a hunch he'd have much to say about the phonies and bores in these, our modern times. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Today I tip my hat to the venerable JD Salinger who died yesterday. He was 91.
Writer. Recluse. Crackpot. Enigma.
Let's inhale a healthy dose of peace, wrap up in a stole of silence, and sip some rye.
Catcher in the Rye
3 ounces Templeton Rye
Splash of ginger ale
Teaspoon or so of maple syrup (It is imperative you use the real deal here; Mrs. Butterworth isn't worth it!)
Pour rye over ice in a lowball glass. Add ginger ale. Slowly stir in maple syrup. No garnish today. Holden, and JD Salinger, would find garnish to be a grand gesture stinking of superfluousness.
Some parting words from Holden Caulfield: "What really knocks me out is a book, when you're all done reading it, you wished the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it."