Saturday, May 14, 2016

Reading About Writing

I'm reading Douglas Kennedy's The Moment, some of which is set in Berlin in 1984. The protagonist is a writer, gone to Berlin to observe and take in - to find a story. He lodges in the apartment of a painter, and - watching him one night - notes that, "Every so often there is a here-and-now in the realm of creative work .... A strange switch is thrown in your brain. You are not pondering or cogitating or thinking about what happens next. You are simply doing. The work has taken you over.... That's it. The moment. The most unbridled form of romance imaginable. Pure mad love." [italics his]

I remember that experience during the writing of numerous essays and humorous writings, an experience reminiscent for me of what I have heard sculptors say, that the work of art was already there in the stone, and they were freeing it by their pounding, chiseling and cutting. (I drove past an abandoned gas station-truck-garage-restaurant complex in the desert, killed by the Great Recession of 2008; and I saw that the work of art was there, turned around and went back to photograph it - and it was there, just waiting for me to find the lines of sight, and I did. I knew as soon as I saw it - at 65 miles per hour - that the piece was there, waiting to be seen. Finding the lines to capture this tragedy was simple, just a matter of being open enough to see the loss and emptiness. Attention had to be paid.)

The moment is what matters.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Being There, Glad to Have Been There

I was part of an unusual and nice occurrence today. I had just left our home and turned the corner to walk to a medical appointment a couple of miles away when a car pulled to the curb next to me and a voice asked me a question. A man and a woman were in the front seats of a medium-sized car, with people in the back seat. I walked towards the car, and the man driving asked if I knew where Children's Hospital was. The man and woman appeared to be Latin American - Guatemalan was my guess - and I noticed that the woman did not speak. I said I knew where that hospital was and began to give directions. At the same time, the right side rear window began rolling down, and I saw a young girl there, looking with curiosity and what seemed to be enthusiasm. Through the front passenger window I saw a second young child in the back seat. Although the man spoke English my efforts to give directions seemed to be failing. So, I said I would show them if he would like for me to ride along. He did, so I got into the back seat. He followed the turn by turn directions I gave, and drove to the hospital, perhaps half a mile. When we arrived, I started to get out of the car, but he insisted on driving me back to my home. I resisted but soon saw that he wanted to do this in order not to have inconvenienced me more than the few minutes since we had met. So, he drove me home, and we all - I would say warmly - wished one another well. The adults were grateful; I was gratified to have been helpful to these nice people. The two daughters seemed enthralled by the adventure of it! Both had been smiling for minutes and waved good-bye.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Hallmark Days

It is the beginning of the period of #ExceptionalAmerica days - Mother's Day [gag], Memorial Day ['Merica is the Greatest Country in the History of the World, By God], Father's Day [Allow Me to Make Fun of You'all with a Paper Necktie; Have a Beer], Independence Day [We Are Not Only *Still* the Greatest Country in the World, By God, but for Now and All-Time, By God, We Are the Empire that God Loves], and then Labor Day [When We Pretend to Admire the Crum-Bum, Dirty Working Man on Whose Backs the Elite Stand, Sneering]. If anything identifies us, it is our love for these phony days of idealization and idolatry.

Each year - I am about to be 68 - I try - sometimes hard, sometimes harder, sometimes my very hardest - not to look down on our (my) culture or express my birthright of pain from the 1950's Eisenhower era of seeing no evil, hearing no evil and (especially) saying no evil about the middle class, conservative, upwardly-striving, suburban, status-conscious, longing-to-be-elitists among whom I endured a childhood of abuse and condescension in a culture of self-congratulatory self-righteousness and keeping up with the Joneses. This year, I won't even try. I no longer give too much of a damn about the feelings of those people, nor do I give too much of a damn about not toeing any lines or being inappropriate - in order not to be un-Amurrican or un-Christian or immodest in my rage.

I *HATE* these holidays. I especially hate Mother's Day with all its jewelry advertising, flower bedecking and mother-placing-on-pedestals AS THOUGH something about giving birth anoints mothers to be caring, present, sensitive and protective guardians of tiny-then-small people. Nothing so anoints mothers, and not all of them have any/all of those qualities. The damage and wreckage is bad enough; the damage and wreckage from having mother and father who had none of those qualities is worse. The requirement to celebrate mothers on Mother's Day - in church, in ads, in AA and Al-Anon meetings, at ballgames - is mind-bendingly horrible, akin to the horribleness of ever-present Christmas carols during "the holidays" for those damaged by Christian religious people/fanatics.

To anyone inclined to recommend therapy, please try to understand that I have endured the work of therapy for decades ... and am happier and healthier than ever before. To anyone inclined to recommend medication, you are reading the words of a veteran of legal, psychoactive meds. Some things don't go away; fortunately, some damage can be ameliorated ... and fortunately in my case has been. To anyone inclined to recommend "taking it easy," please understand that this is a (now) fairly rare expression of intensity that I decided to express on this day of days.

To anyone inclined to urge me to celebrate how much less terrorized and haunted I am now than ever before, I say, "You are correct, but PTSD does not go away; and I have not forgotten."

To anyone inclined to remind me that I have also had advantages that many people had not, you are correct - and I have not forgotten. Life has improved, and my life is better than it was and better than it might have been. I do not minimize that.

In my opinion, we are still a culture of seeing, hearing and speaking as little evil as possible, preferring almost always to seek the closest-as-possible-to-Hallmark views of us as possible. I say to hell with that.