Tuesday, June 26, 2012

That book, that boy

I was given a year, not to live, but to write…a book. I didn’t have to get a job, cook or clean, unless I wanted to prove I wasn’t a freeloader. For that year I didn’t prove anything. Tried. Failed. Learned.

My parents gave me a choice, finish college or live in Johannesburg, South Africa, with my aunt and uncle for a year. I packed my bag; one suitcase which could not exceed 44 lbs., was a challenge, considering it had to hold a year’s worth of clothes, but I did it. (Mini skirts don't weigh much). It was a great experience, a year living under apartheid, but as I’ve often said if I had a do-over, I would have stayed stateside and finished college; Rutgers.

My year 12,000 miles from home, taught me a lot about how the world works, about how what we see and hear on the news isn’t actually what really happens. No matter how free we think we are, how informed, how sophisticated the internet, (no internet back then), we see what someone else wants us to see; government, media, individuals. Political diatribe aside, this is not what this is about, it’s about that book I had a year to write, that book which tuned out to be a miserable attempt at a failed education. That book which started it all.

I don’t remember the plot, probably because it didn’t have one. I do remember the name of my main character, Violet. Where the hell did that name come from; the color of her eyes maybe? Don’t remember, don’t care.

I do remember the hum of my uncle’s electric typewriter, plugged into a transformer the size of a New York City phonebook. The transformers were used because US power was different than RSA power. Enterprising Yanks and South Africans stole the transformers out of the US Coke machines. My uncle didn’t steal it but he bought it from someone who did.

After a quick tour of the beauty which was South Africa back then I spent two months pounding out the story. Don’t remember what the story was about, probably because it didn’t have one. Day after day I communed with those keys dreaming about fame, fortune and a flight back home. I hated South Africa. I wanted no part of system which not only strangled blacks but the whites who ruled them. I should have kept a journal, a diary; I should have jotted down my experience like a good writer does, but I did not because I was so wrapped up in misery.

I wanted to go home more than I wanted to breathe.

But as life does and people do, I switched things up, got a job, fell in love and then went home with a marriage proposal and a dream of living half way around the world forever. Couldn’t do it though, couldn’t give up freedom both personal and political.

And the book; gone to the memory of a girl named Violet. What did I learn? That writing can replace loneliness for a while but by the time you reach a hundred pages you better have something of value to hang on to besides the hum of a typewriter and an unrealized dream.

Writing a book is a project, a serious project taking dedication, discipline and time, lots and lots of time alone in your head and away from people. I’ve written two. Loved almost every minute spent creating something other than myself and almost love it as much as life.

South Africa is free now. It’s wonderful the news reports say, it’s beautiful Oprah sings, but I’ve heard about the ghetto which once was my beautiful neighborhood. I’ve heard about their Aids epidemic. Do I ever want to go back, maybe someday?

And what about that young beautiful Swedish South African boy I fell in love with. I think he died; if not from life than in my mind. It never would have worked. No transformers for hearts.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hope...not as in Bob

So what do you do when you’re waiting for the guy to ask or the girl to say yes? How often do you walk to the mailbox looking for the school acceptance packet or sign on to your on-line bank-page to see if the check was deposited? Waiting for the stick you pee on to turn blue or the sound of the car pulling in the driveway, when the one you love is overdue, turn’s minutes into hours. What do you do when one of the most respected educators you know tells you your writing “humbles” them and that your book should be read by millions? What do you do?

You hope.

The definition which gives oxygen to the breath-holder: “Hope is the emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life.”

I am hoping because I believe. I am hoping because I do not want to think all of the time I have spent is wasted. I am hoping because to do otherwise would negate every dream I’ve ever had and I am hoping because yet another person has told me, convinced me,  that what I have created has worth. I know that but sometimes…it’s just so hard.

So hope becomes the mist of work. And so it goes.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A loved life

My cousin died today; ALS.

He was a cousin of another generation, younger than the first batch of us. I remember him as a baby and then as an adult home from the service because he was sick, they said, and then diagnosed with ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
What I knew about him I learned from his mother,  my aunt. She said he loved life and I often wondered how could he love a life that offered him so little. Then I thought about the circle around him, of friends and family, what a gift. I know of some, with two good legs and arms and hands that work just fine, and yet they live solitary lives, with no one to love them, or worry about them, no one to pray for relief if they were to suffer serious illness. They are empty people. I don’t have a clue what his family has been through but all I do know is that my cousin was a lucky man to have the family and friends he did.

I must confess I have told his story many times, particularly at work. When someone would complain, sometimes about the stupidest stuff, like simple aches and pains, and even more serious issues, I’d tell them about my cousin who was not able to do much more than blink his eyelids; how much he’d love for a leg with a knee that hurts, or achy arms and hands that could turn a car key, hold a spoon or touch the one he loves. They always shut up after I told my cousin’s story. And, many times I’ve had to remind myself that what I considered a limitation he would have thought of as freedom.

My cousin died today. His life showed me how to live. Rest in peace…no I take that back…don’t rest. Raise hell, run, dance, sing loud and take in the life in heaven you never got to live here on earth.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Golf is a game

Yes I am a detective and a writer. IT'S amazing how one can weave words into something almost believAble. Non-fiction is what I do best but FICTION is my form. Golf is a game. Where's Waldo is a GAME and so is Where's Betsy.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Water for Thirst

Sometimes my life, like watching fireworks on TV, just doesn’t work.

If this were the 1800’s I’d either be a village elder looked up to and sought after for my wisdom or dead. Since I’m not dead, yet, I must have answers to some of life’s most puzzling questions.
Every single human being on the face of the earth, even those with the mental capacity of a pea has, at one time asked, why was I born? I don’t know why they were born but I know why I was; two people decided to start the New Year off with a bang. My parents never came right out and said I was conceived as an opening salvo for the New Year but, I’m an October baby, do the math. According to a survey done by anybirthday.com October 5th, my husband’s cake-day, is the most common birthday in the US, most likely because of its gestational distance from one year’s slide into another.

In my family, and my husband’s, fucking in the New Year is a tradition. We have October 1, 5, 10, 12 and 14 covered for birthdays. I work with another 1; and I have friends that are the 2, 4 and 20 which may or may not qualify.  So if any of them asked me why they were born I have a pretty good answer as to why, with a side note that alcohol was probably a contributing factor.

As the village elder I might also be asked…why am I here? Well, you are here because you are not there. If you were there your life and existence, as a valuable component regarding the betterment of the current human condition, would most certainly be considered an influence beyond the realm of your familial societal condition. Which means, you’re a outsider and of little consequence.

I’ve always been an outsider doing, saying and accomplishing that which is considered beyond the norm. For my entire adult life I have strived for ‘the norm’ and have succeeded somewhat but the foundation on which my life has been built was stacked with bricks of fear and indecision and mortared with dreams, all of which have pretty much come true.

I was taught to believe talent, nurtured and relied upon like water for thirst, was what constructed a future and success. My teachers of this theroy, (my parents), were dead-assed wrong. Talent has very little to do with success and even less to do with happiness. Choice is the breeder of smiles and contentment, and the builder of bank accounts, if money is the carrot. I’m not into dollar bills; I’m into comfort, security and the need to worry less. I wish I had known about choice forty years ago when the brass ring was hurled my way. I thought talent would take me forward. No, being an asshole pushed me back. Can’t change the route once taken, can only change the number of the next exit.

I’m the elder, listen to me; I have the answers and if you don’t believe me, go back to your own room down the hall by the wheelchair entrance. They are really nice here don’t-cha-think?