Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Road and the Roots

For quite some time now I've had a hankerin' for a small movable living space, not unlike a gypsy wagon. Sort of a movable feast for my gypsy soul. This will not come as a surprise if you've been around these parts for any length of time. I once spent a couple of months in the southwest traveling and living out of a van so I'm not unfamiliar with what's required.  Despite the settling down I've been doing here on my Minnesota land I still have a desire for the sound of wheels beneath me, that ribbon of road spooling out before me. But, the voices that beckon are softer now, more of a whisper in my ear; they speak with less urgency. The road isn't going anywhere and right now I'm appreciating a place to be, a place where I'm establishing roots that will be here waiting whenever I go traveling again.

Staying put has taken some getting used to. It's a grand lesson on how to be at peace within. A lesson I'm learning, I'm happy to say, and I'm more at peace than I've ever been. Besides this wonderful chunk of land I call home I also have a great companion named Buddy. This little golden buddha-boy has taught me much about unconditional love and pure, unmitigated joy in the simplest things. He arrived just in time to help me with this settling-in process.

What got me thinking again about these caravans is a book by Iain McKell, in which he explores the lives of new gypsies through a series of photographs. There seems to be a resurgence in this lifestyle, particularly in the U.K. Out of choice or necessity, I don't know. My sense is that, for the most part, people choose it; it's what they prefer. Maybe it's about the sun coming up on golden fields.

The idea of parking a caravan at the edge of a field, living the simplest of lives, is still very appealing. I know it's a romantic idyll but it's also who I am. Even now, on this place, I have a small home and a very simple lifestyle. Perhaps it goes back to when I was a child and was so enamored of the woman living in the black van which I wrote about last year in,  "An Old Black Van and a Ripe Yellow Pear."  It's who I've always been.

I've included a short video of the history of gypsies - I love old footage - and was surprised to learn that their origins are in India. I had long thought Romania but that's just where they migrated way back when. There are other videos available, one oof a gypsy woman herbalist I found interesting, and just because I love music and I like this song, I had to include a link to Brian Hyland's version of  "Gypsy Woman."

Photographs are by Iain McKell:

Monday, August 29, 2011

It's Like, Definitely Beautiful, You Know?

You're probably familiar with slam poetry.  These poets deliver their poems with a bit more oomph, shall we say. My friend, Diane, sent me a link to one of Taylor Mali's poems on youtube and I really liked it. He's a former teacher whose poetry has led him down a new path. Advocating for teachers is one of the things on that path. I went exploring a bit and found another one that jumped out at me. It's been around for several years, but it's new to me. Perhaps it will be for you, too. If not, forgive me for being slightly behind the curve.

Things have changed a great deal since Norman Rockwell painted, "Teacher's Birthday."  But, about this time every year, teachers still return to school for another attempt at teaching young people how to spell and think, among other things. So, this is for teachers everywhere, both former and present, and for anyone else who is considering what to do with the rest of their lives.

First, a link to the one Diane sent. It's called, "Totally Like Whatever, You Know?"

And,  "What Teachers Make."  There are several versions of Mali performing this, but I chose this one because I like his delivery. It jumps right in, so in case you're wondering if you missed anything when it starts, you didn't. And even if you're not a teacher, I think you'll appreciate them both.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Going Hog Wild with Mr. Rogers

My neighbor, who has one of the most beautiful vegetable gardens, caught me outside on more than one recent morning, while either hanging clothes on the line or trying to convince Buddy to stop chewing on Mama, and offered her surplus of green beans, cucumbers and zucchini. Nobody in their right mind would say no to organic veggies, and despite what someone might say about the state of my mind, I gladly said yes.

Those cucumbers are the definition of delicious. Better than candy. I've sauteed some of the zucchini, but a few found their way into zucchini bread. The recipe called for two loaf pans and I only had one. It offered as a second option a bundt cake pan. I've never been part of the bundt cake pan crowd, but I remembered that the lady who owned this place before me had inexplicably left one behind (I love that the Universe handles the details). I didn't have walnuts, either, but I did have pecans and so they went in as a replacement. I actually prefer them to walnuts and they worked out more than fine. I ate some, I froze some, and I'm giving some away. I didn't offer any to the neighbor, as she had already concluded at the outset that she had enough zucchini bread of her own making. Thus the surplus.

I hadn't snapped beans for awhile, but I dove in with the precision of a factory worker, snapping away, boiling water for blanching, followed by a cold water bath before freezing. I found a little curly bean amongst them and it made me laugh out loud. Just finding joy in the simple things in life, and getting pretty good at it (let's not go back to that right mind thing). A friend had sent me a late night link to some great rockabilly music and so I snapped and danced in the kitchen, while Buddy slept under the table. He never gets too far from the action. He opened one eye, realized it was only Mama going a little bit crazy, nothing too much to worry about, and went back to sleep.

Now, on to the apples, the ones the bears didn't get. Yeah, they're here, back again for another summer of pickin' and poopin'. With Buddy here, I'm glad they're working that tree either late at night or very early in the morning. There aren't as many apples as last year, it tends to go that way, so I'm thinking apple pies.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood and Fred Rogers just crossed my mind. Wasn't he a kind, good soul?  I read an article about him in Esquire magazine many years ago, around the time he passed on, and I was so taken with his goodness, his clear vision of life. Mr. Rogers and his red sweater, zucchini and green beans, cucumbers and apple eating bears, all on a Saturday morning in late August.  I love my life.

This was my breakfast:

I went a little hog wild.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ghost on the Canvas

Last night, I watched a video of Glen Campbell and his wife of almost thirty years, Kim Woolen, as they talked about his diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. Apparently, the symptoms had been coming on for awhile. Glen said he didn't feel any different, didn't notice anything, but it was obvious his wife had, and they were dealing with it. Watching this made me sad, but because Glen himself seemed unfazed, for the most part, I felt a deep sense of joy, also. This man, whose music I've loved for over forty years (don't you just love that blue guitar?), has a new album and a new tour, and, along with it, there's a renewed interest in and understanding of what he's brought to our world.

His catalog is filled to overflowing with great songs, timeless classics. He was blessed with some of the greatest songwriters of our time, John Hartford and Jimmy Webb, to name two.  I name John, especially, because he wrote one of my favorite Glen songs, Gentle on my Mind. I never get tired of hearing it. Other favorites include By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Galveston, Try a Little Kindness (what a great bit of musical advice that is), The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, and, of course, Wichita Lineman.

This man came on the scene in the 1960's, stayed around quite awhile, got himself into a bit of trouble in the relationship category, fueled by alcohol and other drugs, and then met his current wife, Kim, one of those people who sometimes makes all the difference. He spent many years performing in Branson, Missouri, the place where country singers go to bide their time and play to an appreciative audience until their time comes around again. I wish his time had come around again under different circumstances, but come around it has and I'm glad for that.

I'd love for you to listen to Gentle on my Mind. It has the perfect melody to match what I feel are some great lyrics. I just love this song:

What I was amazed at, in watching the video of his ABC interview, is that this man can still really sing. No studio alterations here. I heard very little difference from then until now. And that's not always the case. If you wish to watch it, you'll find it online, but interviewers, almost without fail, ask stupid questions and rather than give her anymore time, well, you're on your own for that one. I mean, who needs to hear about Elvis when you're talking to this good man right in front of you?

I've purposely chosen videos that are just about the song, nothing to watch here folks. As a matter of fact, I prefer my Glen songs as I'm working in the kitchen. They belong in the everyday of life, because that's what they're all about.

Hell's bells, as long as you're here, you might as well  listen to Wichita Lineman, just to be reminded:

All three of these songs take up not much more than ten minutes of our lives, but they span decades and will stay with me forever. They're a very big part of the soundtrack of my life.

Glen's new one, Ghost on the Canvas, has some lines I just love: wheat fields and crows. Anybody coming to mind?  Here it is. I hope his tour lasts a very long time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Every Purse Tells a Story

This is my story of purses (I can see those eyes glazing over from here), but I encourage you to stick around. It may get interesting. Okay, it may get semi-interesting. Well, Linda, at wants to read about them, so here we go, Linda, and anyone else who may or may not wish to identify themselves.

When I was about five years old, I got my first purse. It was clear plastic, with pink flowers and a bit of white bead work. For a little girl who spent a good deal of her time in the woods, you wouldn't think a purse would be a want, but I had a habit of quietly getting into any purse left lying around, friends of my sister, Judy, being my chief victims. More than once I was caught with my hand in the  "cookie jar." I wasn't larcenous, I just saw them as portable treasure chests, where anything was possible, and I wanted to know what they were carrying around in there.

On one particularly dark night, I left that purse sitting on a table in a cafe I had gone to with my parents. After playing "Sugartime" on the jukebox enough times to drive my parents and anyone else within earshot stark raving mad, we walked out, into the dark and to the car, not realizing until we were long past the turnaround time that I had left it behind. Despite my parents promise that they would see what they could do to get it back for me, I held out little hope for ever seeing it again. The town we'd been in was about sixty miles away and that was a distance in 1958. I can't imagine what was in it, little to nothing; every nickel I might have had went into that jukebox, along with my dreams of being one of The Lennon Sisters. I can see my small self sitting in the back seat still, sadder than I'd ever been. That little purse never found its way back to me.

Thus began a lifelong obsession.

They say everybody needs a hobby, I guess this one is mine. See that brown and black one in the upper middle?  Buffalo hide. Bayfront Blues Festival, Duluth, MN., sometime in the mid '90's. Ditto for the deerskin in the far upper right. Same festival, different year. I used to wear it tied around my waist, aging hippie that I was. Am. The little beaded brown suede pouch on the far left was bought from a Native American woman near Page, AZ., while on my way to Lee's Ferry, a place with some historical interest, if not significance. It's sort of an amulet bag.

The other beaded one was bought at a consignment shop when I first arrived in Santa Fe in the fall of 2001. Got it for only $10. I've never understood how it could go for so little. I had a long blue coat that it seemed to go with perfectly.

The little pouch with a tassel, made from an old serape, was bought from a woman who had a store next to the art gallery where I worked on Canyon Road. She made some very cool jackets, also out of serapes, and was a painter as well. She lived in the back of her gallery/store, an old adobe known as The Bodega. When things were quiet she'd sit on a bench just outside the door, wearing her own creations, a quintessential Santa Fean. Her name was Teal. She was well-loved and respected among the locals. I wish I'd gotten to know her better. She kept her illness very quiet and no one really knew she was struggling until she no longer walked up to El Farol in the evening to join her friends on the patio. She was gone shortly thereafter. Every time I use it, I think of her.

Then, there's this brown velvet one. I bought it at a Salvation Army store. It has a peach silk lining and leopard print velvet gloves inside. It always makes me feel good.

My still burgeoning collection began with that little crocodile bag. It could be alligator, but I think it's crocodile. I got it at an auction for just a few bucks. My sister, Chris, knew I coveted it, but it was in a box with some other things and it wasn't coming up real soon. We both wanted to expedite things, so she simply took it out of the box, told the auctioneer's assistant I wanted to bid on it, now would be good, and so he put it up next. I was the sole bidder and got it for just a few bucks. We hightailed it out of there, with me happy as can be on a Saturday morning in June. That was back in 1980, I believe. I used it a lot, so the handle wore out and I, in a moment of pure purse genius, replaced it with a necklace my grandmother had given me back in the late '60's. I'd never worn it, it wasn't my thing. Maybe it was waiting to become a handle for my purse twenty and some odd years later.

Which takes us to the yellow one. Bought in a vintage shop in St. Paul, it remains one of my favorites. It's been the most fun. And there's a bonus.

That's right. Matching flip-flops. They're not vintage; they're just happy happenstance.

Well, that's it for now. Thus ends the story of my purses. I may be back for a part two. There are more, as you can see from the picture, but their stories can wait for another day. See that black one with the beaded bow?  Viva Las Vegas, baby. Yeeeah. Now you want to hear more, don't you?  Maybe next time.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Picasso's Mandolin

The other day, Old Jules left a comment that included the title of a Guy Clark song I was unfamiliar with, so I looked it up and found a great video. I  love the song and the images to go with it. Pablo seems to be swirling around in my head these days, for an undetermined reason.

Sometime back in the spring of 1980, I hornswoggled my then boyfriend, George, who later had the misfortune of becoming my second husband, into going to Minneapolis to catch the Picasso exhibit at the Walker Art Center. His somewhat tongue-in-cheek response to my request?  "He makes funny guitars."  But, we went anyway, with the promise that the weekend would include other activities. Turns out, he actually enjoyed it. He told me so.

Along with seeing a great bunch of paintings and feeling a part of the Bigger Picture by being there, I scored a Picasso T-shirt. By scored, I do mean purchased. Shortly after our return, in a matter of days, the Picasso family legally stopped production. Apparently, the company producing them didn't ask permission for misusing his name on something as lowbrow as a T-shirt.  This morning, I took it out of the box of memorabilia where it's been languishing, took pictures, and decided to show it to you. What the hey. I've thought about framing it, but then I wouldn't see the back, so it's going on a hanger in the hallway, next to my handbag collection.  Here it is, wrinkles and all. And smaller than I remember. How did That happen? 

Here's Guy Clark and "Picasso's Mandolin."  I think you'll like it. It has a catchy tune and some fun lyrics:

And, here are some more of Picasso's mandolin paintings:

Old Jules can be found at So Far From Heaven on my sidebar.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

4-H: From Radishes to Rosettes

When I was a kid, 4-H was a pretty big deal. All the kids I knew belonged to it, including my siblings. Most of us were farm kids, to one degree or another. Some families were serious farmers, some had other ways to make a living, but did some farming because it put food on the table. We belonged to that second category.

When I was old enough to join, I had some mixed feelings. I knew I was supposed to look forward to it, but much like baptism, I wasn't sure it was for me. I liked the idea of it, the actual  practice of it not as much. It was a club and clubs had rules and regulations, along with what felt like, to me, too many expectations.

For starters, most of the girls were expected to do girl things: baking and sewing for the younger group. I wasn't violently opposed to these things, but I was not particularly enamored of them, either. Produce from your garden was a possibility, too, but arranging potatoes on a plate to be judged at the county fair didn't sound too appealing. So, I made less-than-delicious oatmeal cookies, sewed dresses that were unseemly (the puns are semi-intentional), and even participated in a fashion show where everyone wore the dresses they'd made. I don't think I was such a bad seamstress as the choices for material were not appropriate for small town country girls. Blue and white geometric patterns didn't go over well among the local 4-H elite. White ribbons were not uncommon and humiliation came easy. Yet, I forged ahead, because it was expected.

My sister, Jane, a couple years older, had a similar penchant for less-than-acceptable clothing. One year, she made yellow, dotted- Swiss bellbottoms with white lace sewn around the bottoms, right up to the knee, with matching sleeveless cropped top. By cropped top, I mean her belly was exposed.  We were not supposed to expose our bellies, but we did. As often as possible. It was the sixties and we were going to participate, come hell or high water. I can still see the look on the Agriculture Extension Agents's face when he came to our meeting and saw her project. I imagine his stifled smile arrived with the realization that, "the times they are a changin'."

One year, probably the same year, a boy named Allen, who I had heard through the grapevine had a crush on me (the grapevine being my cousin, Karla), decided to join our little band of potato growers. Unfortunately for me, he showed up for the first time on the same evening that I was expected to give a little talk about something or other, the project we were currently working on, or something else of interest and apropos for 4-Hers. I had to stand up in front of the group and deliver. Right now, in this very moment, what I spoke on just came back to me. I had, with the help of my mother, decided to give a talk/demonstration on how to make rosettes from radishes. I kid you not.

Handling a knife with Allen in the audience, audience being about a dozen kids or so, was not what I had planned. It became a blur, but I got through it.

And never went back again.

I never got to do photography, floral arranging, or pinning butterflies onto cloth under glass. And that was okay with me. My parents, however, may have occasionally wished I hadn't cut my 4-H years short. Allen did, eventually, become the second boy I ever kissed. We were supposed to be at a youth group meeting at our church, learning to be better youth. I discovered I liked kissing better.

Which brings me to our pledge. It always hung above our booth at the county fair. I'm pretty certain I broke it more than once over the years.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sleeping on the Ground and the Persistence of Memory

What do Salvador Dali and Mary Oliver have in common?  Very little, I would suppose, but one never knows. I'm going to forge ahead anyway, because they both popped into my noggin about the same time. We'll see where this thing takes us.

It actually started with an allusion to Pablo Picasso I'd read yesterday and I wasn't sure exactly when these two gentleman's lives might have converged so I looked up their dates. As I suspected, Pablo arrived on the scene shortly before Dali. One set the bar as the King of Quirky and the next one raised it. None of that has much to do with my subject which, believe it or not, is camping, sleeping on the ground to be a bit more specific. Dali's painting, "The Persistence of Memory," got me thinking about memory and in popped the homemade tents my sister and I made in the yard a whole lot of summers ago.

These tents were made of blankets, as many as we could abscond with from the house. We would string some clothesline between two trees, tie it off and throw the blankets over it using clothespins to secure them and rocks to hold down the corners. It was quite a makeshift camp we had. The payoff was sleeping on the ground, feeling the earth beneath us, and being able to open the end blanket to look up at the stars overhead any time we felt like it. Which was fairly often.

On more than one summer night, a breeze would blow, the night would grow cold, and we'd find ourselves trudging back to the house in the middle of the night. On the nights this didn't happen, we would almost always find ourselves sleeping under the night sky at some point, with the blankets fallen down around us. We'd scrunch down inside them a bit more and wait it out 'til morning. Some mornings we'd wake up only to discover it had happened unbeknownst to us, we'd slept right through it and the morning sun was shining on our faces.

I've done a lot more camping in my life, with a real tent. Some of it has been up on the north shore of Lake Superior with its spectacular scenery, some of it at state parks elsewhere in Minnesota, a whole lot of it in southern Utah. There's a campground on the banks of the San Juan River, a few miles outside of Bluff, that has some nice sites and Deer Flat Road up on Cedar Mesa has a particularly nice spot to set up a base camp from which to explore the nearby canyons. Watching a full moon come up over the rocks and pinons had such a surreal feeling one night I thought I'd stepped out of a dream and into a painting, Rene Magritte this time, but that's all the further I'll take that as this is already occupied by some pretty surreal fellows. Well, maybe one image won't hurt.

There's something about sleeping on the ground, or pretty close to it, that has an almost primordial feeling to it. Close my eyes up there on the mesa and all sorts of lives float through. It's not at all difficult to imagine being inside an alcove, tucked into a canyon wall, my children softly sleeping next to me, or lying up on a rock ledge behind walls made of mud and juniper with a dog at my feet. It feels good. It feels natural.

These days I sleep on a queen size plush top mattress and that feels pretty good, too, but it's the nights inside those homemade tents made of blankets and clothespins that still call out to me across the years and make me wish for just one more night, to sleep under the stars with the full moon on my face.

A while back, I'd written down in a notebook a poem by Ms. Oliver I thought I'd like to share at some point. I guess that point is now.

"Sleeping in the Forest"

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

~ Mary Oliver

Paintings by Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, and Jules Breton

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Salvation and Baptism, Nothing Too Heavy

Somewhere between the ages of nine and ten, I got baptized. It wasn't that I felt the need for it, it was just the thing to do at that age and in that church. Perhaps my parents or my siblings felt it was time, maybe even past time. I felt about as much need to be baptized as I did to have my soul saved. It just never made any sense to me. It felt off, like something people might do to feel better about themselves but I couldn't see how that involved me in any way. For the most part, I felt fine about myself.

When the call to the altar came one Sunday and salvation was nigh, my cousin Shelley, who was sitting next to me, decided it was time and stepped forward. I, however, hesitated just a bit too long and next thing I knew the time for repentance was over. For that week. The next week, there it came again, same call, same altar. I felt no need to go, but with my cousin nudging me (apparently she felt I had the need), I walked forward with the others feeling foolish and small. I can't articulate exactly what I felt, but it didn't feel right.

After I went to the altar and they prayed over me, asked if I wanted to be saved (I thought it best if I agreed at that point), they took me into this small side room along with everyone else who came forward, talked to us some more about our personal salvation, read some appropriate Bible verses and what have you. I remember almost nothing about that except the way I felt and it wasn't good. For the life of me I couldn't understand the need, what the hoopla was all about. I didn't feel saved. I didn't feel better. As a matter of fact, I felt worse. Diminished somehow. Of course, I didn't reveal these feelings to anyone. I may have mentioned not feeling all that much better about myself to my sister, Jane, but when cousin Shelley asked, insinuating how much better I surely must be feeling, I quietly nodded. At least she felt better.

The salvation thing happened when I was about six, possibly seven years old; the baptism took place a couple of years later. I suppose I needed to prove myself worthy, which I managed to pull off long enough to get a dip in the lake. This was before I went to Bible camp and gave evidence to the contrary. That story is here:

My baptism was in a local lake on a Sunday afternoon. Rainy Lake is a pretty little lake not far from where I live now. I've taken a dip or two in it since but not for baptism purposes. I can tell you I felt better than I did that Sunday afternoon when the pastor held my nose, one of the deacons held down the turquoise skirt my mama had made me, and gently pushed me backwards into the water. Afterward, I walked to the shore not feeling anything but wet.

Here's the baptism scene from, "Oh Brother, Where Art thou?" with Alison Krauss and, "Down in the River To Pray." One of my favorite movies and one of my favorite singers all rolled into one. Speaking of one, I think that's where the salvation thing comes in. We're all One, all connected to the divine, nobody needs "saving."  It's a fun scene anyway:


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fox on the Run

Sometimes, I have to remind myself of all I have to be grateful for. It should be easy to remember, but life crowds in and if I'm not careful the simple beauty of life gets pushed aside. I forget to remember.

Today, I just wanted to recall a few of those things that make my life such a good place to be. So, without further ado, recent scenes from My Book of Gratitude:

Flowers, of course, lots of 'em ...

My place along the river ...

What looks to be a bumper crop this year ...

My little buddy, who isn't so little anymore ...

And falling asleep tonight to the wonderful smell of sheets fresh off the line ...

Tom T. Hall's,  "Fox on the Run,"  keeps running through my mind. Maybe it's the fox scat I found beneath my grape arbor. "The Fox and the Grapes."  Silly old fox. 

Here's Tom. I love this man:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Anthems of Summer

In the summers of my youth, I spent an inordinate amount of time hanging out at a resort on Leech Lake, here in Minnesota. It's a terrible name for a beautiful lake. On its southern shores, there's a little town called Whipholt. It's mostly a residential area with the resort as its focal point. At the edge of town there's a long sandy beach where I hung out on a fair number of summer days. On one of those summer days, an afternoon in late August, I lost my virginity on a grassy hill overlooking that beach.

My boyfriend, who later became my first husband, worked at the resort. After he was done bailing and gassing up boats, cleaning fish and mowing the lawn, we would hang out with other local kids, along with a few who were vacationing at the resort with their parents. A garage at the resort had become a sort of rec room: a table with a few chairs, a ping pong table, and most important, a jukebox. The jukebox didn't get much rest, it was well-fed, but for the life of me, the only song I can recall now was, "Let's Live for Today," by The Grass Roots. It became our anthem that summer.

Many years later, sometime in the late 1990's, long after that husband and I had gone our separate ways, I went to a Fourth of July celebration where The Grass Roots, on a reunion tour, were performing in the bandstand. There they were, alive and well, still looking and sounding almost as good as they had thirty years earlier. They encouraged us to sing along, and we did.

Later that night, on another grassy hill, I sat with another husband to be, as we watched the fireworks rain down around us.

This summer, on July 11th, Rob Grill, lead singer of the band, moved out of sight on this River of Life, and it brought to mind that long ago summer, sitting on a table in a garage, listening to the jukebox, and becoming all too aware that my boyfriend and a girl named Helle were more friendly than I was comfortable with.

I wouldn't want to be young again for all the tea in China. But I sure do like this song:

For those who might be interested: their guitarist at the time, on Rob's right, is Creed Bratton, an actor now, who plays one of the guys in, "The Office," with Steve Carrell.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

That Magic Moment

While I seem to be on the subject of clowns and dummies, I thought I might as well go ahead and tell you my "Magic" story, which was alluded to in the previous comments. It brought to mind an incident many years ago that has since raised a question or two, questions I've used to look at the nature of reality, which happens to be one of my favorite topics.

It's the winter of 1979, and I'm going to see the movie, "Magic," which is based on a book by William Goldman. Goldman is one of my favorite writers. He also happens to be a favorite for my friend and movie-going companion (same friend that's in my "Deja Vu All Over Again"  post of a couple of weeks ago).  We'd both read the book and wanted to see the movie. A young actor named Anthony Hopkins, someone we'd heard good things about, was starring in it. Ann-Margaret was playing the female lead, and although I didn't think she was a great actress, it seemed she'd fit the part quite well. We were going to see it at the Cooper in south Minneapolis, one of the new surround sound theaters just gaining momentum in the movie-going biz.

If you've never read it or seen the movie, it's about a ventriloquist and his doll, aka dummy, who have, shall we say, an unusual relationship. It builds accordingly, all leading to the  moment when I actually, for the first and last time ever, hid my face momentarily in my companion's shoulder. It was actually scaring the heck out of me and I couldn't watch. Sort of like the kid with her hand over her face peeking through her fingers. For those in the know, it's the scene where the dummy is hiding around the corner in the hallway and you realize in that very moment that things are definitely not what they seem and they're about to get ugly. The movie is not typical horror movie stuff; it's intelligent and has a real story to it, but that doesn't stop it from being scary. The really weird part of the evening was yet to come.

We leave the movie, glad we saw it , thought it was good, and that Hopkins guy is one fine actor. We decide to head over to my sister's restaurant, Hoggetti's, in north Minneapolis, for a bite to eat and a visit. When we arrive it's quiet, too late for the dinner crowd and too early for the bar rush. We sit down in a booth and start visiting. Without paying much attention, someone comes in and, in an almost empty restaurant with plenty of seating, sits down across from us. The guy starts talking to us and it's then I realize he's a ventriloquist and he's laid his dummy down on the seat in his booth.

I try to remain calm, but the weird factor is building along with the heebie-jeebies, and I know I'm not alone in this. My companion, who was not entirely unfazed by the movie we'd just seen, knew I was getting ready to bolt. I don't recall now if the guy started talking through his dummy, but I do know we fled with barely time for niceties. I don't recall the discussion that must have surely followed in the car ride home, but we were both left more than a little off-center by it.

Now, I was young and foolish, so the strangeness, although certainly not lost on me, also was not seen from the perspective that I have since gained on this experience. As a matter of fact, I've noticed more and more that the universe seems to be mirroring my thoughts, and often, now that I'm paying closer attention. I see it on bumper stickers, billboards, the computer, in simple incidents that happen in my everyday life. This was the first time I recall it happening so blatantly.

I don't see these as mere coincidences anymore. I see them as something more. What exactly, I'm not certain, but I do know it happens and I'm kind of enjoying it now. It's fun to look at and occasionally ponder. I don't know if I need answers, I doubt it's possible from this human experience, but I am going to continue to acknowledge them. If nothing else, it seems to be affirmation that I'm on a good path and life will keep unfolding before me in the wake of that goodness. Sort of like the number 222, which is another story, for another time.

If there's anything half so much fun as being alive, I'd like to know what it is." ~ Frederick Buechner