The future ain’t what it used to be (Yogi Berra)

The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless S Weinberg

In an infinite multiverse, there’s no such thing as fiction S Adsit

With so much recent hype about multiverses, the idea of alternate paths taken/not taken/repeating cycles has been on my mind. Particularly there’s the many worlds/separate space theory and the every possibility at the same time conundrum wherein though many scenarios play out in real time, most folks can only observe one version. Those able to observe multiple scenarios and describe them often get committed/heavily medicated. There’s also the curious ripple effect, where events and decision made previously reverberate in the here and now. I’m wondering if 1991 wasn’t one of those everything years and whether I’d somehow swallowed a red/blue or date expired pill?

Against all odds, better judgement, and an attorney friend’s advice, I remarried for the 5th time in 1991, in Jamaica, on Halloween, on a nude beach… What was I thinking—that practice makes perfect; that in for a penny, in for a pound sort of made sense, or third time was the charm (we’d broken up twice before)?  Had I asked enough questions? Why might this marriage work when the others hadn’t? What did we really have in common? How could I marry a man who’d lied to me—more than once? Is it feasible to have it all—corporate job, house in the burbs, separate walk in closets, travel companion, and someone to watch over me—but not break my stride or dish out double standards?

This was the 90’s, the prosperous & sometimes preposterous 90’s; it would end with a worldwide millennial event. It was the decade the cold war (begun 1947) and the Soviet Union ended. India stopped its dirigism policies, licensing of rajs, and began to liberalize its economy. A UN-authorized coalition force from 34 nations fought against Iraq in Gulf War. Iraq had invaded and annexed Kuwait the previous year. It would mark the beginning of a constant American military presence in the Middle East. The clash between Serbia and the other Yugoslav republics would lead to Yugoslav Wars, which ran through the rest of the decade. The year after the liberation of political prisoner Nelson Mandela saw S Africa Parliament repeal its 1950 Population Registration Act, overturning racial classification of its population, a key component of apartheid.

Martha Stewart’s magazine debuted in 1990; my daughter was a big fan. Whereas Xaviera Hollander’s The Happy Hooker was popular in the 70s (selling over 20M copies), championing a women’s right to enjoy multiple orgasms, Martha’s Happy Homemaker was the rage in the 90s, pushing domestic bliss. She spawned a glossy magazine, TV show, and an entire aisle in department stores dedicated to overpriced good things by Martha. Later she produced a culinary anthology: Cooking the Books… Meanwhile, an accomplished woman who had better things to do than bake cookies was about to become lst lady. That year my annual holiday missive was a Martha parody letter, in which I joked I’d made the paper myself, and edged it with left over gold leaf I’d used to stencil the ceiling with stars. This letter, I commented, would be shorter than previous ones as I still had to string 25,000 cranberries and…My daughter wasn’t in the least amused.

The Internet went public, and Bill Clinton, the man stuck between two bushes, was elected President. The digital train began gathering speed. We were introduced to Grunge, an alt rock sound, and the mainstreaming of hip hop rap music. Pan Am and Eastern airlines folded their wings, and the Hillbillies Nancy Kulp, ballet’er Margot Fonteyn, Bryd’s founding member Gene Clark, novelist Graham Greene, saxophonistist Stan Getz, Ponderosa’s Michael Landon, Wine & Roses Lee Remick, It’s a Wonderful Life Director Frank Capra, actor/writer Tom Tryon, Star Trek’s Gene Roddenberry, French crooner/actor Yves Montand, and Queen’s Freddy Mercury all winged into the absolute elsewhere. In Michigan, Dr. Kevorkian was barred from assisting in suicides. There was a coup d’etat in Haiti, which wouldn’t be resolved until 1994, and bombs launched by provisional IRA exploded at 10 Downing Street and at multiple London train stations. Kuwaiti oil fields were set afire in February, and wouldn’t be put out until November. Motorist Rodney King was beaten by LA cops; the incident was filmed and streamed. News and scandals anywhere, anytime went live. What did I miss?

The Oz factor was present in 1991. Over 55 tornadoes wreaked havoc in central USA, the worst one was over Dorothy’s Kansas. Cyclones battered Bangladesh, killing over 138,000, while earthquakes swallowed nearly 300 in E EU’s Georgia and damaged Central America’s Costa Rica and Uttarkashi, India. Hurricane Bob touched down in NC and New England, causing $1.5B of damage. You could feel it, something big was coming, something larger than the massive solar eclipse that occurred in July. For me it was that marriage proposal on April Fool’s Day. For Bill Clinton it was a Presidential nomination, and for Boris Yeltsin it was a new term of office in re-imagined Russia. Ukraine declared its independence, followed by Belarus, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.  On 9/11, George Bush gave his New World Order speech to Congress, Few paid it much attention. In October, conservative Clarence Thomas was narrowly confirmed as the newest Supreme.

Vuja de or déjà vu? Over the years, I’ve created many boring To Do and Like/Dislike Lists. Times and tastes change; mine certainly have. In February 1991 my list was filled with lots of dislikes: shoveling snow, working for clueless bosses, sports in general, not having enough time to read, needy men, pastel colors, feral cats, chocolate syrup added to a cannoli or Irish Coffee, my mother’s endless criticisms, fancy wristwatches, cigarette smoke in my hair, dieting for more than a week, disingenuous flattery…Sleeping in/breakfast in bed with Sunday’s Washington Post, heated stone massages, the natural highlights in my daughter’s hair after months in the sun, and cinnamon in my coffee made it onto the short list of things I liked. If you studied a dozen lists penned over a decade, patterns and clues about who I was then appeared. In a few years, dating sites would use check list answers from dream date/mate seeking hopefuls to deliver to them a perfect stud muffin. Had I bothered to analyze my lists, I might have said no to the man who proposed to me on April Fool’s Day.

It wasn’t so much a proposal as a query: what will it take to get you back? Friends kept asking ‘does this mean you’re finally settling down?’ I added a new verb/adjective to my loathsome words list: settle. Future spouse suggested we do a pre-nuptial—a pre-settlement sorting of possessions and assets that inferred this marriage was also doomed. I declined. Just what was it I was settling for?

In another timeline, in a nearly parallel universe, I said NO and left road runner exit marks. I absolutely refused to settle. I left family and friends behind and went in earnest search of the sublime. In 1757 Edmund Burke defined sublime as ‘an artistic effect that produces the strongest emotion the mind is capable of feeling.’ What I chased in that alt reality was more like what Pirsig pursued in Zen and the Art of and pinned down in Lila. It’s what Lind sang about in Elusive Butterfly—the magic of the quest, thrill of anticipation, the pursuit of a quality of being you can’t quite define—or grasp.

What a difference a decade makes. Ten years earlier, Reagan hollyweirded into role of 40th President—two months later, John Hinkley tried to make Reagan’s stage go dark. May 13th, another assassination attempt, this time on a pope in Rome by a Turkish gunman. In June, lst case of AIDS recognized by the CDC (in 1983-allegedly-the NIH officially id’s the virus responsible. Assassinations continued—October 6th Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was killed. Later that month, a gas explosions at a coal mine in Japan killed nearly 100 people. In early December, a Yugoslavian charter flight carrying 180 people crashed into a mountain on Corsica, killing all aboard. On December 8th, #21 mine in Whitwell TN exploded, leaving 13 people dead. Not to be outdone, on December 11 the Salvadoran Army killed over 900 civilians (El Mozote massacre). Patterns repeat, coincidences mount. The Chinese word for coincidence (fuhe) is composed of fu (symbol) and he (come together, join). It means ‘symbols joined together.’ Coincidental patterns may be evidence of magic clues, hints about what we can’t quite see. What happens when we experience a clusterfuk of coincidences?

In 1991, I was working for a brilliant scientist with oversight for all the stages of development of the $170+M TOPEX weather satellite. It launched from French Guiana and began topographically mapping ocean floors and currents. Because I spoke French, I was asked to join the launch team in Guiana—I almost went. In a parallel universe (one twist of the kaleidoscope) I did go. I was kidnapped by the Bandaloops, a mysterious Himalayan group of roving immoralists featured in Tom Robbins Jitterbug Perfume. We are boogying our way across the universe…

Several friends were sure synchronicities and coincidences were the result of the universe winking at us via a coded language. My Wiz of Oz friend Jinn like to recount a true story about the wizard’s coat. Actor Frank Morgan was given a top coat; it wasn’t right so the wardrobe department scoured thrift shops. The coat they selected was a perfect fit. Inside was a label: Made by Hermann Bros, expressly for L.Frank Baum (who had been dead for 20 years). My engineering/scientist colleagues argued we infuse patterns of coincidences with meaning to make the world more interesting…It’s nothing more than selective attention and confirmation bias in reality.

In the 90’s more people were being identified by their zip code and profession than by their surname or place of birth. Nevertheless, 1991 was the year my genealogy research resumed in earnest. I pestered my parents for more info, wrote a letter full of questions to an aunt (and received a dismissive reply), and bought books on heraldry and theories of Irish origins. Graveyards and genealogy are things that binds the living to the dead, and the far and recent past to the present. It’s a topic I wish I’d thought more seriously about when I was a teen only thinking about my generation. There was no late bloom sexual awakening for me. I had an early onset perennial form of perpetual lusting, itching, and longings, a sort of sexual insomnia I’ve yet to put to bed. It’s the opposite of jamais vu, which is a feeling of being unfamiliar with or forgetting something that is, in fact, familiar.

There was one book (The Descent of Women, 1972, by Elaine Morgan) which did give a vague sense of jamais vu. I’ve reread it every few years since its publication, and always receive new insights. It was about women’s equal role in the early shaping of human evolution. It sent me on quests that involved higher education and heads down research, activism, heated arguments, and the desire to write a book that linked Irish origins with powerful, mystical women. It started me searching for my tribe, my kindred—but not necessarily my kin. The result is the book I’m posting, chapter by chapter, on this blog: Remains to be Seen.

I’d like to report that by the 90’s my pursuit of love and tempering of longing had stabilized. For some of my friends, it had flat lined. The not so figurative phallic carrot continued to dangle and seduce, taunt and beckon. This challenge was mirrored in the 90’s version of the age old battle of sex versus blood, with people like Bill Clinton on the sex, love, and liberty side, and old money folks like the Bushes on the blood, war, and murder side. When the cold war ended, evangelicals arrived in full force, as well as white supremacists, neo-nazis, and pious right-wingers. Though it was revealed Prescott Bush, the George’s dad/grandad had been an active Nazi supporter and in 1942 his Union Banking company had been seized by the Government for collaborating with the enemy, his family was given a free pass. That’s another story for another time.

For a brief moment that year, I embraced Yoga again, not the Western exercise version, the Eastern way of the mind after buying a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, with amazing Karma Sutra’esque illustrations. Turns out, yoga’s goal is to be able to sit perfectly still. Per Chapter 6 of the Gita ‘yoga is the journey of self, thru the self, to the self.’ As a writer, reader, movie goer/office worker, and sitting on the dock of the bay kind of person, I realized I’d already mastered the zen art of stillness. Which was remarkable as I was born with travel itchy, gypsy feet and like Oliver Twist, am always searching for more please. The 90’s was becoming as bizarre as the weird tales I’d read as a kid. It was replete with conspiracies, weapons of mass destruction, government machinations, pollution, confusion, extremist cults…while being thin on standards of quality and a healthy ozone layer.

One month into the new marriage, I had confirmation the vuja de (sense of doing something familiar while feeling it’s completely new) I was hoping might develop from this relationship was unfortunately going to be another trip down déjà vu lane—after a gun was literally held to my head. My cocky optimism had backfired, or I had jamais vu’ed myself into forgetting how the other marriages devolved.  By solstice, 12/21 of 1991, with the formal dissolving of the Soviet Union, my glasnost intentions regarding marriage dissolved as well. Country crooners The Judds held their first (love can build a bridge) farewell concert in Tennessee on December 4th, and gave additional farewells in 2000, 2010, 2015, and 2021. I would perform my own déjà vu farewells during those years.  

Next dirty dozen year: 1986