“This is great,” Peter Boyle tells another aging customer.
“I found this channel the other day and they were showing that Roberto Duran fight, you know, ‘No mas, no mas.’ ” There is a Keno board with flashing numbers on one wall and a tumbler full of entry forms at each table: You pick numbers and give the card to the barkeep and wait for your numbers to show up and win big bucks. Glasses clank and the spritz of beer bottles being twisted open gives the place the feel an old Jerseyite like me can call nostalgic.
But I have the example of my wife.” “Carole.” “Yes, Carole.” “You’ve been with her a long time.” “Thirty years …” “Can’t fathom that. ” “Sort of, but she isn’t so much into the family tree as such, or into whether or not she has a coat-of-arms, but rather, that she is made up of the hand-me-downs, genetically, of the ancestors, the piling up of character — of meaning — that has concentrated in her.“lemme see, seven wives, official and unofficial, no, eight, if you count Helen, although she never actually moved in, and either I left them or they left me. “But the family you create is akin to the friends you make: It’s voluntary.At least in our culture, you get to choose your wife. Further, and this is an important point: Your wife or your husband is the only family member you actually want to have sex with, or at least that you are allowed by custom or law to have sex with.And if you are in a daring mood, it can come with pepperoni. It also takes 30 minutes from order to table — unless you are buying it by the slice, that is.Well, the Nanuet Hotel is a seedy bar and grill in a tiny, decaying town just north of the New York/New Jersey boundary.She grew up with her great-grandmother in the house, who was a Civil-War widow, and sees history not in paragraphs on a page in a book, but in her wrinkly skin.She wants to know how her great grandfather came to live in North Carolina, whether he is Scots-Irish, why they eat collards or sing certain hymns as opposed to others. A good deal is cultural, but I don’t think Carole makes that much distinction: It is all roots, all the long line of ancestors, which, for her, go back — and I’m not kidding — to Adam and Eve, or whoever you want to pick as the ur-progenitors.“Thus, family for her isn’t simply the people who she shares Thanksgiving dinner with, as if they were all discrete entities, but rather as if they were the acorns hanging on the same oak tree, in a sense, a single person with multiple incarnations.At Thanksgiving, even if she is alone, she is having dinner with all of them.” “Well, that is Carole, through and through, isn’t it?It isn’t that we don’t like our parents, but rather that our parents did what they were supposed to do: They didn’t choose us, either.Oh, they chose to have us…” He thought for a moment. “But whether they chose to have children or we came by accident, they didn’t choose to have the particular kids they did have. “I’m not sure, but I think that in the past, and I mean centuries ago, maybe eons, people didn’t travel as much, didn’t meet as many people, and in more tribal times, clan and family gave you something you felt you could trust — despite the evidence of all those family epics you mention, whether Homeric or Faulknerian.