Alf has surprised me with daffodils and purple flowers popping up this summer. My garden has never looked so colorful even though we have the worst soil on the planet. The Sahara has more chances of sprouting flowers than my front and backyards. It’s hard clay, that when broken up with toil and sweat, smiles at you for a moment, and then calls out to the clods and they come scampering back to form an impenetrable layer of steel that refuses all welcome to things green.
Sort of like the attitude people have when confronted with the truth. It can be about anything. Health, food, books, religion, even where to take a vacation. Nobody likes to be told about something they haven’t thought of themselves. There’s an immediate revulsion. Never mind that what you’re suggesting is really good stuff, and will help them. That doesn’t seem to be the point. It’s being told something they have to do that makes them bristle. So I ask why the TED Talks are so popular, or the online seminars for turning you into a celebrity for 10 minutes garner thousands of likes on social media? Maybe the clue lies in this: if you appeal to a person’s ego instead of his well-being you stand a better chance of being heard.
There’s a word for that – pride.
“People are basically insane,” playwright David Manet says in a writing class I’m taking. “We miss a connection, we have an evil impulse that wants to lead us astray,” he goes on. “We live on the dark side and the cure is religion. Another word for religion is drama.”
Did I hear him correctly? Yes. Manet is a devoted Jew, and espouses his religion with conviction and fervor.
“All drama is failure and lies,” he says.
You can say that again. Story of my life.
“Don’t be boring,” he warns.
How can you be boring if your life is full of drama? Everybody’s life is dramatic. It’s so dramatic Hollywood couldn’t invent it, I say. And since you’re the protagonist in your own story, make it good.
“Dialogue is just gossip,” he tells me. Now he’s talking. I’ve got enough for several books.
“Narration is the death of drama,” he continues. No wonder school is boring.
“The live audience in a play are idiots individually, but collectively they’re genius,” he says. “They paid you a compliment by coming to see your play. Drama helps them face the truth and they come for the truth.”
“Movies don’t challenge people, drama does,” he says. I’ve been saying that for years. To prove the point, just listen to a child explain away something he did, like break the TV screen with a baseball. It’s drama at its best.
Calvin says, “It’s drama for me when I go after a rabbit. My nose quivers, my body is on alert, and my singing voice takes over. Better than opera.”
It was beginning to appear that her interesting face covered a most uninteresting mind. – Anne Perry
He would look at you as is he were really interested in all you said. He never seemed to be merely polite. It was almost as if he were half expecting you to turn out to be special, and he did not want to miss any opportunity to find out. – Anne Perry
Don’t mistake a street address for where you actually live. – Ruth Reichl
Art is what we call the thing an artist does. It’s not the medium or the oil or the price or whether it hangs on a wall or you eat it. What matters,
what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human. Art is not in the eye of the beholder. It’s in the soul of the artist. – Seth Godin
“So was that the reason you left Herminia?” Miss Prim said.
He looked at her in silence for a few seconds, as if trying to guess what lay behind her question.
“I think you didn’t really love her,” she said.
“No, that’s where you’re wrong,” he said firmly. “I did love her. I loved her very much. But the day came, or maybe the moment, I don’t know, when I realized that she was asleep, whereas I was fully awake, absolutely, and totally awake. I’d climbed like a cat up onto a roof and I could see a beautiful, terrible, mysterious landscape stretching out before me. Did I really love her? Of course I did. Perhaps if I’d loved her less, cared for her less, I wouldn’t have had to leave her.”
“I thought the religious were closer to other people than anyone else.”
“I can’t speak for anyone else. I only know what it’s meant to me. It’s been my touchstone, the line that’s split my life in two and given it absolute meaning. But I’d be lying if I said it’s been easy. It’s not easy, and anyone who says it is is fooling themselves. It was catharsis, a shocking trauma, open-heart surgery, like a tree torn from the ground and replanted elsewhere.
“And there’s something else,” he continued, “something to do with looking beyond the moment, with the need to scan the horizon, to scrutinize it as keenly as a sailor studies his charts. Don’t be surprised. My story is as old as the world. I’m not the first and won’t be the last. I know what you’re thinking. Would I turn back if I could? No, of course not. Would a newly awoken man willingly go back to the sleepwalking life?”
– From The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera
Calvin says, “Oh brother, what have you been drinking?”
Everyday on my way home I walk past a cafe that has one gold chair in it. You can’t miss it. It’s one-of-a-kind shiny gold snakeskin faux leather. It’s by the bookshelf spilling with pre-owned books that nobody reads. The other tables and chairs are functional and boring, and usually filled with customers. The gold chair stays empty.
“I find it odd that nobody sits in it,” I said to Jasmine, my friend at work.
“Oh, it’s because nobody reads anymore,” Jasmine said.
“Like nobody sits down anymore either?” I said.
“Not in that chair, they don’t. They’d be self-conscious.”
“You mean, reading is now a self-conscious behavior?”
“If you’re not reading on a tablet, or your smart phone, you’re dated,” Jasmine said. “Nobody wants to stand out like that.”
I love to read. Real books. The kind with lots of pages crammed with words.
The next day on my way home, I made a detour and went into the cafe. I ordered an espresso at the counter, paid for it, and walked over to the gold chair. I sat down. I looked around. The other customers were engrossed in their conversations. Nobody noticed me sitting there. While I sipped my espresso, I turned my attention to the book titles. One of them caught my attention.
The book was: Historical Rumps on the Gold Chair by Sir Robert Bottoms-Up.
I laughed out loud.
A few people stopped talking to look at me.
Then the chair began to vibrate. At first I thought it was an earthquake. Nobody else seemed alarmed. The vibrations got stronger to the tickling point. I laughed louder. This time more customers stared at me. I looked around me. I was the only one experiencing this. I had a choice. To enjoy the massage or bolt.
What would you do?
A restaurant. A man and a woman at a table, having dinner and discussing a play they had just seen.
Woman: There aren’t any nuances about, “Take the garbage out.” For a woman that says I love you.
Man: I’m married to you, I understand that.
Woman: This isn’t about us. I live with you. I feel what you’re saying.
Man: We have our language.
Woman: The woman in the play didn’t know what that meant. She was waiting for someone to interpret things.
Man: She didn’t understand without speaking. Body language, looks, it was all there.
Woman: Subtlety evaded her.
Man: You and I live in the sub-text. It’s fun.
Woman: Except when you forget to take out the garbage.
Last night I browsed in an independent bookshop. I think it’s the last one left in San Francisco (http://www.bookshopwestportal.com). You know the kind. Hardwood floors. Well lit. Wood tables stacked high with literature. Yes, literature. Not the latest mass produced drivel. Titles that beckon your attention. Books with a distinct voice. Intelligent writing. Compelling stories. Just breathing the air made you smarter.
“What are you looking for?” asked the saleswoman. She was a woman in her fifties with short, dark hair, and a few wrinkles around her eyes.
“I’m looking for something well written, with charm, wit, and a story worthy of my time and money,” I said waiting to see a blank stare cross her face.
“Come with me,” she said. “Do you like mysteries?”
“Yes. British. Women protagonists,” I said.
Before I knew it I had a book in my hand, by an author who was new to me, that bore the marks of a decent read. “She’s smart and her stories have depth,” the saleswoman said. Clearly she was a reader.
She rang me up. I thanked her for the personal attention. And I’d be back to let her know how I liked the book.
I made my way to the front door. The blue computer screen on the counter stared at me unblinkingly.
Calvin says, “I love the personal touch. It’s like getting scratched behind your ears.”
People don’t want to be fixed. They want to be loved. They want somebody to listen to them. They long for the spotlight. To be the center of the universe, even if the universe is a family, a club, or an office. There are some who demand a larger stage. They become actors and politicians. Where do these people go when time catches up to them? They write memoirs, of course. They believe their audience still cares. Like Tony Blair. I bought the book. I read four chapters. Yawn. It proves once again that nothing interests people so much as themselves.
Calvin says, “That’s why a dog is still a man’s best friend. We keep the illusion going.”