Lourdes Mint's Mid-Life Miracle

Real-time memoir of the coming year (5/20/14 – 15) and the achievement of a life-long dream

Archive for the month “August, 2014”

Day 82 (Daily Prompt) The Name’s The Thing: “PEOPLE ARE A BUNCH OF BABIES, REALLY.”

Prompt: Have you ever named an inanimate object? (Your car? Your laptop? The volleyball that kept you company while you were stranded in the ocean?) Share the story of at least one object with which you’re on a first-name basis.

Most people don’t know this, but in the world of inaniAppleAlbertmate objects, it is considered most unfortunate —- condescending, insulting, patronizing, however you want to look at it —  to be “named” by a person. Labeling, for practical purposes, is OK (e.g., “toilet,” “calculator,” “door”). Even brands are fine. But dubbing a couch “Harry,” a car “Nelly,” etc. — it’s just not good for the object.

“Well, it’s embarrassing at the very least,” Ole Pokey, a pick-up truck owned by the same guy for 20 years, explains to me (via a mechanism I’ll discuss in more detail on another day). “Probably akin to how a dog wearing a sweater feels when he runs into a bunch of other dogs who aren’t in sweaters. Like the other day, we’re at the gas station and the guy yells ‘Back again! Looks like Ole Pokey’s developed a drinking problem. Yuck-yuck-yuck!’ The yellow Mustang and black Yukon just pretended not to hear. And really, that’s a best case scenario.”

The other, unnamed inanimate objects regard the named ones as something very different from themselves, such that Harry is no longer really a couch and Nelly is no longer just a car. They don’t do it out of meanness, but out of a sort of prudence that is a most fundamental quality in objects. “Let it be” is practically a religion for them. And they’ve observed that most of us (all, actually, as the next one I interviewed argues ) have a hard time with that whole concept. In their view, the named objects have become contaminated by the human drama, entangled in our convoluted stories and complicated desires.

“I’d like to say ‘tinker,’ here, to be polite, but I’m going to have to say ‘fuck,'” an unnamed apple tree tells me. “[Humans] fuck with every single thing that can be fucked with. They think just because they can, they should, you know? Bust a move or die! And look what they’ve done with all their MOVEMENTS? Shit on everything, that’s what. They make me sick… .” I decide not to pick an apple. I also decide not to say, “Thank you for your time, Albert,” even though I’m feeling a bit miffed.

In the world of inanimate objects, it should be said, trees (and other plants) are in a special category because they’re alive, but that’s also a subject for another day. For now, I’ll just say that these inanimate objects are among those that are the most disgusted with us, and the reasons for that — again, for another day.

As far as the named objects go, well, what can they do about it really but wait it out, which — as you can imagine — can be an eternity? Lucky for “Corrina,” though, a food processor in a young couple’s household, she knows it can’t last forever, especially with the way they misuse her.

“They never even read the instructions,” she says. “They just tore me out of the box the second they returned from their honeymoon and stuffed me with a bunch of practically whole root vegetables. They do no ‘prep’ whatsoever. Complete idiots.”

When I ask her why she thinks they named her, she shrugs — “Who knows? Maybe some kind of joke about an ex-girlfriend or ex-roommate … you know, named Corrina.” But why name a food processor at all? She is quiet for a long time. “Fear,” she finally says, “of the Big Nothing.” The Big Nothing? “Yes, people cannot bear the thought that they are outnumbered by THINGS, things that mean nothing in and of themselves, things that care nothing for them. People are a bunch of babies, really.”

It’s hard to explain why all of this is unless you’re really in with inanimate objects, and few of us are. I mean, we THINK we are: “I LOVE our new home —  it just feels like it was built for us.” “This bike and I have been through so much together.” “I feel like selling that old China is like selling my past.” “This quilt is, hands down, my very best friend.” But really? NO, not really.

Deep down, we know we are better than all of this stuff. And that’s because we are alive. ALIVE!!!!!

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/the-names-the-thing/

Day 76 (Weekly Challenge): Ray Bradbury Twist — coins, balcony, Greece, suspicion, mother

Russell[I know this is a week late, but it was a STUMPER. Hope you enjoy…]

Ray Bradbury Twist: … “In today’s challenge we’ll ask you to write a new post using some nouns from various sources.”

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/bradbury-list-twist/

Once, during a summer vacation in Greece when Russell was nine or ten, he had just placed a row of twelve Greek coins along the railing of the balcony off the family’s hotel suite. He stood back a bit, in the open doorway, to take a look—mesmerized at the sight of the gold-colored disks, all fired-up by the sun against an impossibly blue sky. Then, hearing the laughter of kids just below, he went to the railing and saw two boys very nearly his own age, Greeks, chasing a skinny dog with a stick. They weren’t hitting the dog, Russell could see, just playing. Maybe a game of fetch was about to begin?

The taller boy noticed Russell watching them and called out to him, spoke, happy and encouraging sounds Russell didn’t understand. Were they inviting him to come play? Russell retreated into the shadows at first, but then moved back into the sunlight… and further still. Then, as he leaned over the railing a bit—with a vague hope of communicating or connecting somehow—he accidentally knocked four of the coins from the railing to the ground below. The boys abruptly stopped their play then; even the dog froze. Everyone stared at the coins.

Russell allowed the memory to play itself out in his mind now, as he often did, knowing that it would restore him to his preferred frame of mind. He and his wife, Melody, were on their way to his mother’s house, where she was throwing an elaborate baby shower for their expected. He could already see his mother scrutinizing the offerings, poking around for gift slips. His throat tightened.

Most people, in Russell’s experience, were generally good, often generous — cool about most things. And Russell was often perplexed by the generally suspicious and paranoid attitudes many people displayed toward others. His own parents were his earliest and most enduring examples. His father, Ernie, who had been an FBI agent for decades before becoming some kind of securities consultant, had seemed convinced that Melody, Russell’s wife of five years now,  had married him for something other than the usual reason(s). He’d never come out and said it, but Russell — everyone — gathered it from comments that were so embarrassing to Russell, not only because they seemed completely unfounded to all who knew the couple, but also because they were in such bad taste, stupid, made his dad look like a total dumb ass (and himself, he feared in the moment, by extension).

It started when they were dating, comments to Melody: “I don’t know why a nice kindergarten teacher would choose a UPS delivery guy for a boyfriend. I guess he’s got a nice package.” Ernie repeated some version of this “joke” during the wedding toast. And this was basically the same way he talked about Michelle, Russell’s mother. He often alluded to her undying passion for his bank account and lusty glances at the bulge in his pocket: “my wallet, that is! Ha ha ha!” And when she introduced him to anyone as her husband, he’d say, “I believe that’s pronounced ‘Has been.'” To be fair, Russell understood his father may have had some reasons for feeling this way about his mother, but why had he stood for it? Why hadn’t he tried for something better, with her even. Maybe things could have been different, but — thinking of Michelle now, Russell had to admit — probably not. In any case, finally he came to see that his dad was a child and woman hater to boot. He could and would leave the old man behind, not long after his mother did.

Michelle was a rarer case, much harder to figure, march harder to ditch. For whatever reason, she had tried to school Russell from a very young age in the art of hiding, expertly, just about anything—including himself, if needed. “Whatever it is you have, there’s always going to be someone, somewhere, who wants it,” she’d explained on many occasions. “And more often than not, they’ll try to take it if they think they can get way with it. This doesn’t make them bad, just human. People are like this. Don’t try to kid yourself into thinking otherwise. Don’t be a fool — that’s the very, very worst you can do with your life: live like the world was the way you wish it was.”

Back to Greece…. Before Russell could utter any of the few Greek words he knew, the boys, who Russell understood even then to be poor, ran to where the coins lie shining on the dusty ground and scooped them up. Each boy, holding two coins in his hand, looked at the other and after an almost imperceptible nod, the taller one smiled up again at Russell.

“Thank you, thank you,” he said in English, pointing to the other boy and then to himself, and then to Russell also—followed by something in Greek and laughter. But it was merry laughter, Russell always recalled, nothing dark there. They took off then toward the market square with the dog running close behind, leaving their stick where the coins had been.

“Thank you,” the boy shouted again from a distance. Both waved their hands, then both their hands, and then both their arms with such enthusiasm, their whole bodies whipped about, their feet seemed briefly to leave the ground.

Russell waved back, smiling too (to himself? maybe …). He felt happy, even though he guessed maybe they’d sort of gotten the better of him. He imagined what they would do with the coins, which he knew were worth something, the foods they might buy in the market, and the story they’d tell over a special meal that very night. What he would give to be there, even to watch from nearby or hear about it the next day — just a small piece of that warm, noisy scene he imagined would have been enough.

Russell’s mother suddenly appeared in he door way. He wasn’t sure what she’d seen, but judging from the way she was looking at him, he guessed not much.

“I’m going to take a picture of you and your coins,” she said, setting her cigarette in a tray. “Stand with your arm out above them, like you’re giving us a peek at what’s hidden in your cape.” Russell did as directed but shuffled sideways a bit to obscure the actual number of coins, just in case his mother had been keeping track.

“Oh, this is going to be really cute. I’m going to caption it ‘Russy’s treasures.’” She went on: “Those are your treasures, just like you are mine: my gold coin, shining in the sun.” She kept her eyes on him, smiling, waiting, he thought, as she struggled to replace the lens cap without looking down at it.

“Thank you,” Russell finally said, quietly, shifting his gaze to the lens cap.

“You betcha,” said his mother, clicking the cap into place, and then shifting her attention to her own long arms. They had become a rosy brown in the days since their arrival. “This sun likes me,” she said dreamily, but then suddenly, jabbing a finger toward Russell’s coins, her new bracelets clinking together: “Before I forget: make sure before we go to dinner that you hide those coins like I showed you.”

Russell said he would. But when the family was eating, he remembered that although he’d carefully collected the remaining coins from the railing, he’d neglected to hide them, leaving them on top of his dresser instead. When the family returned, the room was tidied, the beds were made, all was fresh again, but the coins were gone. In a momentary panic, Russell considered stealing a necklace from the market square at his earliest opportunity so that if his mother asked about the coins, he wouldn’t need to reveal the disappointing truth, could say he spent them on a gift for her. But it passed—the panic, the trip, the rosy brown tan. She never asked about the coins. And life brought more treasures, an endless supply of new things to hide, Michelle would say, while Russell continued to do a pretty crummy job of hiding them. Ahhh, well.

As Russell and Melody pulled into the driveway where a spot had been saved for them, they both laughed to see Artie, a teacher from the school where Melody worked, as he clowned with the large package he had just hauled out of the trunk, pretending to struggle beneath its weight Buster Keaton-style. So many friends had made it out to the island for this special day — it was hard for Russell not to blush a little, a life-long habit he’d tried to rid himself of through a variety of techniques including hypnosis and others he’d never admit. The blush faded when he spotted Michelle, the only reliable cure, immaculate in her immaculate surrounds, perfect in a simple pale blue sheath that probably cost more than Melody’s car.

Bored of the guests already, he supposed, but far from through with her surveillance activities, she stood arms folded squarely to the side of the door, which her “new friend” Francis opened and reopened for the guests after she herself greeted them, thanked them for coming. She would remember any who had been there before to visit with Russell in the summer, the exact year and month, and mention a charming detail or two. But her eyes remained otherwise locked on Russell’s little family, alone, as they made their way closer: her treasures, her gold coins shining in the sun.

Oh Lourdes! “Real-Time Memoir” and Other Things That Might Not Make Sense

I don’t want to go back to my About page. I really don’t, so I won’t. Not today. Sometimes I do heed my gut. 😉 I remember the gist and my one goal for keeping a blog, which is to be achieved in less than a year — so fewer than 300 days from now. What I don’t remember is how I thought blogging could support or help me meet my goal, how in the world I thought it would not take away from the small store of available time/energy for working on my fiction that I had then, which is now even smaller. And how could I not recognize that for me anyway (knowing myself as I do), blogging could turn out to be just another form of procrastination, the blog itself another place to dawdle, a way to psyche myself into thinking I’m making some sort of progress … when really I have been here — exactly, precisely here — creatively speaking, for 20+ years?

Also, how could I not anticipate (knowing myself as I do) that this world, your world — inhabited, cultivated by so many committed, serious writers — would become one that would matter to me, one that I might care about and want to belong to and even stand out in? I don’t know. Part of the reason is inexperience, ignorance, whatever. I’m not trying to flog myself here, but I never dreamed I’d blog, rarely read blogs up till now (except my mom’s and a handful of friends’), and really, simply had no idea what was going on out here. I thought they were mostly about making crafts; getting super-awesomely organized or happy or healthy or just BETTER in some big way; or making/saving/managing money — not that there’s anything wrong with any of those things. But I see now: I have been more than a little out of it and this out-of-it-ness has been deliberate on some level, I suspect, a fearful reaction to something I could sense but not bear to look at directly, find out more about: the world of writing, and publishing, is forever changed and changing still! It’s eye-opening and maybe a little intimidating, not just the quality of some of the writing here (in my own humble opinion), but also the sense of community and the thought, care, and generosity that obviously go into reading and commenting on one another’s work.

So I look and cannot help wondering, is there hope for me, my stories? I do think so, but I can’t seem to figure out how blogging fits in — I mean, in a way that makes sense to me as/where I am right now. I get the obvious benefits: the very real opportunities that blogging has brought to some, the success many of you have  found, and even the immense satisfaction — of which I’ve had a taste or two — of simply connecting with a few others.

Why all this angst now?

Well one, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Daily Prompt guy’s post yesterday re: gimmicks (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/raymond-carver-simplicity/)  ……………  And I had to ask myself, what is a “Real-Time Memoir” anyway? (This term is in my blog’s subtitle.) I can’t really answer that, so I start thinking: gimmick! Now, I’m not crushed here, not going to panic, but I do think it warrants some thought and that, ultimately, I should have some sort of explanation. I must have had something in mind when I came up with it, which I sort of remember (yammering on about it to a friend while walking the dog, months before Sarah came), but all’s a bit fuzzy now. Maybe the cure for this bout of doubt, the answer to my questions about my blog, lies somewhere in exploring the idea, though. Maybe I’m just not clear on what my blog is for.  [Can’t seem to get rid of these italics.] 

Two, and I almost hate to put this into words: after a long conversation with my six-year-old about lots of things, mostly what we’ve got going on for the rest of the summer, which led to talk about the new school year and how we will try to be better organized in the morning, not so rushed, on time on a more regular basis. Always, even? ………………. I run late, which means WE run late. A lot. We are late as we are having this conversation. So when it comes up, he says, point blank: “You should know better, Mommy” — in the gentlest way possible. But ugh. I should. I do. I start to think about the blog again. Real-time nothing!

Three, I read: “Night Is Young” (http://abozdar.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/night-is-young/), an apparent response to today’s prompt about writer’s block (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/writers-block-party/). And boom! Somehow the juxtaposition hit me like the final line in that Rilke poem, the first time I read it, about the torso of Apollo (see below if you don’t know it; image borrowed from The Paleo Periodical). I started to think about the blog again, doubting it and somehow so much more, slowly but surely inching my way into a comfortable shadow that remains.

Featured Image -- 507

Archaic Torso of Apollo

by Rainer Maria Rilke

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Like the time I read Nausea and Grendall during the same summer vacation (bad idea for me at the time), somehow this combination of events has packed a good punch.

I hate the way all this sounds, by the way.

May need to reconsider my space-time coordinates (0r those of my goal, rather), recalibrate, reboot, re-re. Or just go out and celebrate my eighth anniversary with my husband tonight (night is sooooooo young now) and, later, sleep on it. 😉

 

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