imagination

In the Beginning

rocker200…I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t there.

I wasn’t at my birth either, though I’ve heard the story and it’s quite humorous.

No, the consciousness that is me, wasn’t actually around until about the time of this picture. And yes, that IS me—I’ve always had those dark-ass gypsy eyes and fake smile.

Life, for me, began on a very specific night. I don’t remember much of anything that came before—only faded recollections of memories too far gone and long forgotten to be anything remotely clear. My existence before that night consists of running watercolor canvases filled with the blur of three dogs, the bars of my sister’s crib, and monster-sized blue bottle flies on a window sill. I vaguely recall the smell of a house whose interior I can’t picture, and the surroundings of a glass-topped fishing lure case I apparently danced on with my black patent-leather shoes. And I remember once remembering the chimes of a cuckoo-clock, which mom said was at a babysitter’s, but I don’t remember the sitter or her house, and only “just” recalled that she had a son I later went to school with.

No, me and the memories that make up me started one dark (though not stormy) night.

We had just moved into a new apartment. I don’t remember where we came from, or the act of moving in, I just remember that night, that place.

The apartment had those old ginormous cast-iron radiators. I was standing next to one taller than me, holding the teddy bear my grandfather gave me—which I still have, upstairs, on the dresser. I stared out the window at the moon. It was huge. Bigger than me, my family, our new apartment. Bigger than life as I knew it. Around me were smells I still remember clearly—and almost fainted at when I moved into a new apartment after my divorce and was hit with similar smells thirty years later. The apartment of my beginning had lots of woodwork. Old varnish, new polish, life absorbed by the grains and held tight in the knots—it had a smell.

And a sound. But the sound wasn’t the wood. It was my grandfather, on his hands and knees, pounding the nails down in each and every floorboard to make sure they were flush and wouldn’t hurt our tender little feet. Our. Because even though I don’t remember her that night, I know my sister was there. Probably sleeping in her crib.

That was the night my life started. With the sounds and smells of my mother making coffee in the kitchen wafting through the apartment and mingling with the smell of  wood and sound of grandpa hammering. And the moon. My moon. The gypsy’s moon that hangs in that sky every night and calls to me with its secrets and wise silence. The moon I’ve gone back to time and again.

I remember so many things, from big events to tiny details, from that day forward. That’s where I fell in the mud as a ghost for Halloween. That’s where I cracked my head open on the sidewalk thanks to Billy and Kong. That’s where the lilac tree lived across the street, Trina had a better tan, a mime lived downstairs, the Cottons across the yard, kindergarten started eventually, and grandma lived across the alley—where she made lovely green ice cream drinks for the adults but wouldn’t let the kids have any. It was where grandma made me sit on the Sears catalog because I was short, and then ran me to Sears for portraits when I fell down the stairs and got two black eyes, because that’s how we roll in my family. I remember a ton. Mostly good. Very little bad. My mom’s 8-tracks (sorry for shredding those), and an album with a fairy tale on the cover or a wolf or something that my mind turned into a fairy tale. I remember the claw-foot tub and being afraid to flush at night because I was convinced the monster that belonged to those feet would come up and eat me. I remember “the vice” (sorry Jen), and the awesome-tube, and hiding behind the couch when the wicked witch appeared on Wizard of Oz. Lasagna and mom’s friends. Climbing in the bathroom window because mom liked to forget her keys. Laying in bed listening to the sounds outside, and the voices inside. I remember…

But nothing concrete before it. Nothing solid before that moon and the sound of grandpa making my world safe.

Sometimes, feeling safe is more important that we realize. It can become the beginning as we know it. Sometimes, we take advantage of or get comfortable with the fact that we’re safe. And only realize it when we reach an end. Sometimes, the moon needs to wink and remind us to appreciate it, or seek it out, or spread it to others. Because even when the clouds cover the moon and the comfort of a teddy bear is outgrown, safety is still there, still whispered, in the quiet presence of memory, and everyone should have a beginning.

Vascular Access

ERdrawersHippie told me to write. I wrote. On muscle relaxants and pain killers. He laughed while taking care of me. He made fun. He told others. He video taped me.

And then Jersey said put it online.

Sooo… still jacked up on meds, I’ve decided to think about that. Three short stories, written while under the influence, sans any lucid editing. I’ll offer it as a pdf chapbook type download for $5.00 (oh shit, self-publishing!) and the proceeds will go to either my medical bills, a good lawyer, or bail.

Whatcha think? Ohhh… a question, and it’s not even Thursday! Would you buy it? Would you like to see what happened after the video the Hippie went and posted on facebook? “Vascular Access: A writer’s journey through pain management” bwahahahahaha uh oh. Meds are kicking in… time to write!

None of this is real

Nightmare“It was a dark and stormy nightmare.”
~ Neil Gaiman, “Sandman”

I have this neat trick. I don’t lucid dream (oh but don’t I wish!), but I can wake up. The second I realize, or think, or say “none of this is real” or “this is a dream”, I ‘m instantly awake. Of course, I wish I hadn’t said that during the Johnny Depp dreams of 2007 but alas, I did. Which is only mentioned to point out that it works on good and bad dreams. Well, and because it’s Depp. It would be nice if I had more control. If I knew that saying that would wake me. I don’t. It sucks. But in a good way when it’s a nightmare.

I had four nightmares last night. Back to back. I kept realizing there was no way this was happening and waking up… and then going right back in. Now, mind you, not back to the same dream or same spot, though I’ve done that accidentally in the past. No, I mean that I went back into that negative world. The characters were the same. The outcome the same. But how we got there each time was different. It was like a special edition DVD with alternate middles instead of alternate endings. And each time, I got a little further into the horrible end before my brain put the brakes on and screamed “I don’t think so!”

So, since it’s Thursday, and this week’s been nothing but remnants of Monday masquerading as its siblings, let’s talk dreams—good, bad and ugly. What do you do? Can you wake yourself? Can you go back in and pick up where you left off? Can you control things going on, or people and places? What tricks does your nocturnal mind have that it’s not sharing with your conscious?

Entertain me… I could use it this week!

And then I died

crowgrave

“…an eagle came and swooped me up
And through the air we flied,
But he dropped me in a boiling lake
A thousand miles wide.
And you’ll never guess what I did then–
I DIED.”

~ Shel Silverstein’s “True Story” from Where the Sidewalk Ends

I posted True Story in it’s entirety once, I only needed a tidbit for this entry. Basically, I only needed the last line…

Have you ever had the fleeting thought that you actually died at one point in your life and all of this is just you dreaming in your coffin? Or your afterlife? Or that millisecond before death and you imagined all this is what would have happened? Not in a morbid, gothy-whiny sort of way, but in a more elusive, disenchanted, disconnected and possibly surreal moment kind of way. And for our purposes, without the use of drugs to get there. Have you?

I have.

And I’d always thought it a bit odd. One of those strange thoughts I have that I keep to myself for fear of being locked up. But, as a little moonlight and a lot of tequila have revealed, I am not alone in this thought. It’s fleeting and not at all suicidal, it’s more of a “what if” situation.

And so, I drag it into the garage for this Thursday’s question. Never mind if you have or haven’t had the thought, I wouldn’t want to out those of you still protecting yourself from the encumbering styles currently available in high-end straight jackets. Rather, for giggles, let’s pretend you all have… now tell me when you died. What moment could have been your death? That near miss on the highway? That accident that didn’t happen on the farm? Whatcha got?

Me? I drowned when I was six. I was swimming with the daycare away group in some shallow rapids and hit one of those soft spot drop-offs. I remember going under, hitting bottom way over my head, springing up and gulping air, and then going down again. I did this several times before… Before I died, and dreamed the rest of this life I’ve had =)

That was my moment. When did you die?

Tastes like Summer

dreamsicleA single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.
— St. Francis of Assisi

I love dreamsicles. No, really, you need to understand… I turn into a twelve-year-old when I hear the ice cream truck. I jump up and down and run to find my wallet or the hippie’s pocket, bat my eyelashes, and smirk like a kid that knows what they’re getting for Christmas. And every time the ice cream truck stops, someone brings me back a dreamsicle. They don’t ask what I want. They know. Because I love dreamsicles.

Because they taste like summer.

I heart Ra in general. Sunshine is a good thing. It makes your soul smile and your skin tingle. But if you zero in on the generality of sunshine and just consider summer… well, that’s where I went while savoring the last dreamsicle I had.

I said it tasted like summer to whomever was standing there, and then I thought about that. What else tastes like summer? Better yet, what other senses bring summertime to my mind?

I hit that thought again at work during last week’s heat wave. As many of you know, I abhor shoes. I am barefoot whenever possible, even if it gets me yelled at by certain waitresses that will be missed at HFW this year (Nora!) or other people of supposed authority. As such, I was barefoot at work when I went out to get the mail. Walking across the parking lot was like walking on lava, but instead of cursing the heat, my mind traveled back to a summertime long ago.

When I was seven, we lived in Texas. Across from our apartment building was a giant field, then a 7-11. I was sent to get tomato paste. I don’t know why I remember it was tomato paste mom needed, but I do, because the mind and memory are weird like that. I have no idea what I learned in eighth grade history, but I know thirty-four years ago my mom needed tomato paste. And I was barefoot. And the parking lot of that 7-11 was like lava.

Pavement threatening to blister my feet feels like summer.

And then I remembered what I said about the dreamsicle and I wondered about the five senses of summer again. So I started thinking about it. Dreamsicles taste of it. Hot asphalt feels like it. What looks, sounds and smells of it?

Smell could be lilacs, but that’s cliché and more spring than summer. Bonfires? Perhaps. Because they remind me of parties at the point, burning tires, laughing with friends and sitting on the sand. Sound could easily be associated with the ice cream truck music, but that’s a little too close to the dreamsicle and each sense deserves its own trigger. A new summer sound would be cicadas. They’re loud and obnoxious and absolutely fascinating, if only because they’re still new. Perhaps next year that will sound like summer. This year, it’s too fresh and sound will have to settle for being… I don’t know. And I don’t have any idea what summer looks like to me. I’ll have to think about these things. Or rather, pay attention. Because I don’t believe I can just remember, or decide, what summer smells, looks or sounds like. Not with that same rush of warmth through my chest that the dreamsicle and asphalt brought to me. Not with that tickle in my mind that reminded me of childhood summers and the escapism brought with them. I think those things have to be experienced with an “Ah-ha” moment, where I become twelve again and declare “this” smells like summer.

Moments of declaration are a strange thing. In this case, a whimsical thing. Equating a sense to a season is just a fun exercise in silly at this point. But silly is good. It keeps you young. It makes you buy sidewalk chalk and blow bubbles in the house. I keeps your spirit high when stress wants to drag it down. And it helps you live the only life you’re going to get.

Summer is different now (sorry mom, I’m going there). Summer is warmer and lasts longer. It comes earlier and stays late, like a canadian trying to suck the most out of a three-day weekend. It brings fireflies by the droves and a night sky that doesn’t quite look right to me. It smells like tiki torches and feels like the cool water of a kiddie pool. Someday, I’ll figure out the other senses—by accident. Right now, I have a dreamsicle, that tastes just like summer.

Adult Logic

… can be such a killjoy!  Yes, I have an overly mouthy opinion ready to post for Monday’s madness, but first this interlude.

Lake pier at dusk.
Enter two parents, 11-year-old son, and 7-year-old cousin for some fishing adventure.
Add leeches and imagination, mix well.

Just as we were winding down the catch & release program of “No—too small and I’m not cleaning it,” the boys and I spotted something large on the darkening horizon.

“What is that?!”

“Oh my god, what IS that?”

It’s black, but so is most everything at that time of day.  It’s on the surface and has what looks like a tail, horns, and… something.  My (ex)husband continues to fish, ignoring us and the object, as we stare at it and ponder.

“Giant Squid!”

“Cthulhu!” [I heart my son]

“Sea Monster!”

It gets closer, and closer.  “It’s flocking this way!”  [Yes, Jurassic Park quotes are popular in my house]

“What IS that?”

“How big do turtles get, Auntie Kelli?”

“Not that big.  Well, there was that movie I saw when I was little…”

“I’m telling you, it’s a monster.  Can’t you see the tentacles?”

“No really, what IS that?!”

The three of us are giggling and the story of what it is gets more and more “Sci-Fi Original” with each sentence.  Everything from an alien to a giant man-eating toad is guessed.  The boys start to slowly move away from it, as they continue giggling and guessing while they nonchalantly sidestep toward shore.  I walk out further, step onto the left T-section of the pier and squint.  I’m blind.  I have horrible twilight vision and this thing is huge.  My imagination is no better than theirs, but I’m slightly braver.  Meanwhile, the hubby is still ignoring the entire exchange from the right T-section as he puts another leech on his hook and tosses it to the murky depths.

“What IS that?!”

“It’s swimming against the current.”

“It’s getting closer!”

“Mom, come back here!”

Enter Mr. Killjoy.  He who can see a turkey at 500 yards and tell you if it’s missing a tail feather and what kind of predator’s teeth marks are on the remaining plumage. He’s decided to turn around and see what the heck we’re all excited about.

“It’s only a garbage bag.”

Three heads turn to him and three mouths fall open.  I don’t know about the boys, but my expression was far more “Butthead, why ruin our fun?” than it was “How the hell can you see that far in the dark?”

We waited for it to approach.  Sure enough, it’s a garbage bag.  The tied ends were horns, the still partially folded tip was a tail/tentacle, and the wind had given it just enough air to allow it both size and freedom of movement.  Mystery solved, leech supply drained, and daylight gone, so we head back—imaginations tucked safely away in our disappointed minds.

Adult logic can really suck the fun out of life sometimes.

Side note for this weekend’s camping extravaganza: You know you’re hardcore if the temperature is cold enough to snow, the waves are high enough to cover the dock, there isn’t a single boat to be seen on the lake and several people have given up and gone home, but there you are.  On the dock with your 11-year-old son.  Because you were going fishing, damn it, and not even pre-hurricane weather is going to stop you!

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