Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Flavor of the Day

        The writers' conference of which I recently wrote, was, unfortunately not an 'only child' in the 'intimidation family'.  Several weeks prior, I had received a submission - sent by me to a publisher - which was plastered with yellow post-its filled with condemnation.  The piece was non-fiction, limited in length and 'pre-titled', "The Butterfly Experience".  The handwriting of the person critiquing was illegible - thankfully - but the last note, printed, concluded, "This is Awful!".

        I have alluded to this subject matter in the past on this blog; I don't recall there being a spillage of printed outrage when the song "Tears of a Clown" was released; followers who know me - both of you - are quite familiar with my enjoyment of/dabbling in things dramatic.  I concluded regarding that final comment that in the words of my favorite T-shirt, "Writer's block: when the people in your head stop talking to you."

        Morbid curiosity compels me today to share the unabridged object of professional derision of which I spoke.  Perhaps, if moved, you'd add your own commentary.  Don't hold back.

The Emancipated Butterfly
                It is said that just when a caterpillar was about to die, thinking it was all over, he morphed into a beautiful butterfly.  Often, a seemingly minor event, word, daunting experience - or an emancipating one - 'happens' that alters our lives, perhaps even defines our lives, forever.  For me, "The Words" - out of nowhere/sans provocation - effected for me an emancipating change.
        Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life - in my case, one lived in shabby gentility - "words" suddenly come along and interrupt and there is the birth of . . . well, given the setting and circumstances, a 'fairy tale'.  I believe/ed in magic; that fairy tales did/do come true.  Seeing is believing.  (Indeed that statement - as pretext - is my reality, my 'way of being in the world'.)  I became/am living proof of that maxim because I found lasting, unadulterated good in the one others called/call "YOU".
        The Words in question were, "What if I'm Not Me?"  They had/have had a relentless hold on my life.  They made me doubt, experience fear, question reality as I knew it, wonder what it would be like to know success unbridled, failure, rejection - an olio of potentials that could not be contained - then or now.  What if I'm not me?  Who makes the call if I'm not?  Can I return to being me after being someone else for awhile?  Have I done so already?  Then, smothering under a blanket of guilt, I shook as animals do to rid fur of unwanted, excess water.
        Once 'dry' enough, I apologized to my Creator, asked forgiveness, 'willed' that demons be gone and steadied my station in life:  five or six year-old female child, forging ahead in this experience called life.  But 'ahead' came up "ERROR" on my 'mapquest'.  Seemed I wasn't going to be getting there.  So I took every opportunity to investigate/interpret "The Words" which had become/continue to be my director.  This is why lasting, ongoing good really had its beginning on an extraordinary day, while I was shabbily gentle, receptive to, if not in pursuit of, a fairy tale.
        Beginnings are often unhappy times. I've come to realize this must be so if they are to lead to something better;  bring about change that shuns an inferior past.  As a dissatisfied, wilting cherub, little 'Miss Poutiness' extraordinaire, I was more than ready to stop maintaining the fiction of obedient-social-behavior-befitting-my-station-in-life.  And what ho!  Dawns the light - disguised as "the words".  This beginning-born-of-unhappiness was hackneyed and it had to be so.  Steeped as I was in a nubile form of arrogance, an unhappy beginning was necessary to fulfill the requirements of change.
        I had been looking around - more often than not - at my environs and thinking, "Is this it?"  Then these simple words, "What if I'm not Me?" caused the tiny balls inside the lock to cascade down until poof!  All was open.  I would no longer be sentenced to be 'just me'.  Rather, the cast of 'THOSE' who would come to be called 'ME' was endless.  Without relinquishing an iota of familial, legal, christened identity, I would simultaneously assume the roles of each character - waiting in the wings of the greatest stories ever told.  The costumes - a perfect fit;  the talents - already honed to perfection;  the casting - brilliant.
        I recall one glorious, shining autumn day in the 1960's.  I was working in the Coronary Care Unit at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.  It was my one day off and, thanks to the generosity of the Ambassador from Bahrain who had the good taste to succumb to his heart attack while giving a speech at the UN and become my patient, I was in a buoyant frame of mind wearing his gift of "Ramu" perfume (none of the other nurses like it so I had seven bottles) and a tres chic tailored beige suit avec tres short pencil skirt.  Having attended a runway show at Bergdoff's (another gift from his Bahrainianship) I squandered an entire extra duty shift's paycheck on a floppy felt hat and sauntered down Fifth, stopping to drool over the china in the window at Ginori.  (Having sold china at Macy's for two years, two nights/week and all day Saturday, I knew from Ginori.)
        I became aware of a tall, tweedy presence behind me - also admiring the china.  Turning to continue what I knew looked like an 'I-belong-on-Fifth-and-live on Park' stroll, the gentleman politely asked a question about the window display.  Smiling abashedly enough, I feigned an Italian accent, miming in shards of 'Itanglish', "Scuzzi. . .no speak. . Ciao!"  and and sauntered, sidewalk south.  Such fun!  I believed me and just knew he'd be telling the chaps about the 'Eyetalyan Countiss' he met  at Ginori over lunch at The Pierre.
        Recalling days like that, I bless that unhappy day in that ordinary life, interrupted by a seemingly hackneyed phrase.  You see, in the realm of the apocryphal, that day gave me the relish for people of thunder and lightening who have a distaste for the humdrum.  In the world of theater, of 'being someone else', these people have a compelling force that sets them apart for life.  They are said to be indifferent because they can so easily puncture pretense and bombast.  But they are said to be passionate performers because they can portray these same unpleasant qualities with spark.  And this seeming indifference is in fact a protective coloring - like a costume - of a temperament whose secret, innermost recesses contain a deep reservoir of emotion.  Thus, the 'contradictiction' is resolved!
        Absent this gift, I could not be in the world as a duality.  With it, one personage is always available - on a variety of photo IDs.  Meanwhile, the other is telling a myriad of otherwise untold tales, using a 'universal Equity Card' without which coveted roles are denied, the curtain never goes up.  The magic, the fairy tales, the true 'happily-ever-afters' - all happen with the constancy and regularity of a perfectly contrived world of good.  They happen because once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, "words" are not only permitted but invited to interrupt.  The sad ending becomes a 'sad' beginning - over and over and over again.  Do not die, fly. . .
Later, Lorane
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