Sparked by Words

Archive for May, 2019

A Certain Word

This article isn’t exactly X-rated but it’s a little blue in the face, if you know what I mean. A bit off-color, but just a bit. You might not want Grandma to read this, and definitely should turn on the TV for the kids. Let them watch some murder show or The Bachelor.

If I’d had a lot of friends in high school, if I’d been part of any group – the soches, the athletes, the brains, the goofusses, the ASBers, even the kids one hop short of a bunk bed at juvie – I probably would have known better.

But it was not belonging, not knowing, that makes this incident possible. I was a loner and belonged nowhere. Plenty of teenage angst loomed in my corner but an absence of other teens to inform me about secret adolescent passageways kept me in the dark. I didn’t know the references, the lingo, the flippant signs of kids slipping and sliding their way to adulthood. I lacked a map, a key, a password. My fault as much as anyone’s.

There are words you learn backstage, under the bleachers, at the street corner late at night. But only if you hang with someone who will teach you. Me – I hung out in my bedroom, pretending to do homework but mostly daydreaming about when I could get out of there. Out of the bedroom, out of my parents’ home, out of high school, out of Tulieville.

College was my operative escape route and though I planned little other than landing in those academic halls, I expected to blossom into something. Anything other than the painfully shy, unattractive nobody who looked back at me from the mirror, remarking, “You ain’t nobody, kid.”

First attempt to recast my fate: I declared my major in Theater.

The university was only one year out of the mint. The administration had begged for a few willing pioneers to defect from their first colleges to attend ours, the promise of the very first undergraduate diplomas ever to be given their carrot stick reward.

I entered as a raw freshman, raw being an operative word. I’d been a thespian at my high school where we’d mounted such theatrical productions as Little Women, Ben Hur, The Night of January 16th, and George Washington Slept Here. I’d only had character parts in a few of those plays, mostly doing backstage work. You could safely bring Grandma to our plays and she wouldn’t raise a chaste eyebrow. As I said, I had little social life, not even the usual backstage fun.

At the university I intended to try out for a part in the fall play, The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, written by Peter Weiss. Sure, I knew Marat/Sade, the leader of the French Revolution, the turbaned dead guy hanging out of the bathtub in Jacques-Louis David’s painting.

I didn’t know much about the play, nor about how much a brand new university would do to get itself on the academic map. Crap, I was barely 18 and hadn’t been to my first rock and roll concert, to my first anti-war protest. I’d never smoked a cigarette and hadn’t yet had s— maybe TMI here.

So I went to the tryouts. Hell, I could act, right?

This brand new university featured so few buildings that the history, science, math, and literature departments shared the two lecture halls. Barely room for French and calculus classes, but we had a theater, by gum, we had a theater, complete with backstage, ascending/descending audience tiers, a polished stage draped with velvet curtains, and an orchestra pit.

Try-out day. We pining, thirsting young actors sat in the rows. Across the stage strode our young director. He was not only a god, being the man who would select actors for the parts. He was a GOD. Young, handsome, confident, he looked as if he’d be at home on a warhorse or a surfboard, but there he stood on the stage where our fledgling Broadway careers would be launched.

Clutched in the crook of his arm was a clipboard. The uni must have handed out free clipboards to all the instructors as every professor on campus flouted their own. Mark of the chosen perhaps.

At center stage our director, clip board firmly grasped, stared into all our yellow eyes. (Yes, Mr. Sendak, mine were yellow with anticipation, at least that day.)  Then our director god made his announcement.

Were we fortunate enough to be selected for a part in this play, we would be expected to do something on stage. Something specific. Very specific.

The act is a word that begins with an M, ends with ate, and in between I’ll let you figure it out.

The actor wannabes remained quiet. At least that’s how I remember the moment. Something about that word…

I went home and looked up that three-syllable word in the dictionary and thank heaven it was an inclusive dictionary, not the elementary school tome. No, I did not yet know that word, (few friends, remember?) and yes, I had the intelligence at least to consult a dictionary rather than ask my mom.

My eyes might have remained yellow but on reading the definition, I could feel my face turn shades of red. Crimson, scarlet, burgundy, ruby, beet – what other color best describes embarrassment than red? My cheeks burned hot enough to toast s’mores.

And no, I could not do that on stage. Could barely do it … TMI.

So I went back to the university next day and changed my major.

Never saw the play.

Gotta laugh.

 

Painting The Death of Marat by Jacques Louis David courtesy Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Doughy, dumpy, and droopy but dauntless and otherwise technically inept woman seeks readers willing to look beyond her physical features and miserable mechanical skills to read her words.

 

Are you willing to consider the qualities that make you look beyond surface rubble for the luminous interior?

 

Apply within your own counsel.

 

 

Just a Thought 74

 

 

Painting Old Woman Reading by Yehuda Pen courtesy Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Dark Wine at Dusk is an Intoxicating Read

Happily ever after isn’t served on a silver plate. Cerissa and Henry struggle together to find theirs in Jenna Barwin’s Dark Wine at Dusk.

I was excited to read the third Hill Vampire Novel. Having devoured the first two books in the series, I couldn’t wait to open the pages of her newest story.

Stop right here if you haven’t read Dark Wine at Midnight and Dark Wine at Sunrise. Start with those – you’ll be so glad you did and well prepared to continue the story in Book 3. The sumptuous covers alone are worth drooling over – why deny yourself such pleasure as the reading will provide?

Dark Wine at Dusk picks up with the continuing mysterious murders on the residents of Sierra Escondida. This is a unique colony inhabited by vampires and their mortal mates, a place dedicated to preserving their lifestyle.

Police Chief Tig Anderson is focused on finding the mastermind attacking them, but his identity is difficult to decipher, masked as he is by subterfuge and cyber barriers.

While Tig tries to secure safety measures for her community, we enter the private domain of Henry Bautista and his new mate, Dr. Cerissa Patel.   Their passionate romance alights everywhere throughout his mansion. One of the most inventive love romps I’ve ever read is the hide-and-seek game they play in his vineyard. (Oh, to be chased. Oh, to be found!)

Henry reveals his youthful violent behavior in scenes so visceral that my skin tingled in horror as I read them. Cerissa reacts with grave distress over whether she can trust him, the molten fire of their love struggling to stay alive.

In addition, mortal mates are campaigning for equality, and everyone feels the mounting threat of death by an unknown enemy. Universal issues of morality, medical ethics, and personal relationships swirl in a complex brew, the outcomes uncertain.

The story escalates as Cerissa and Henry become dangerously involved in an attempt to identify the person who is targeting vampires for true death.

Then all hell breaks loose in a scene so unexpected I dropped my iPad.

I won’t tell more as story spoilers are not in my toolbox, but the tension and shock of the volatile climax will keep you riveted.

If you enjoyed the first two books in this series, you’re going to love this one. You’ll imagine yourself born with Lux wings.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance copy of this book. My review is entirely my opinion.

 

All images courtesy of author Jenna Barwin

 

 

 

 

Down the Stairs

 

“Yes, I pushed him down the stairs

But he’s the one who fell.”

Not a valid defense for violence.

Doesn’t turn a terrorist into a freedom fighter.

Won’t create justice for the wrongfully accused.

Can’t replace lies with an ethical mission.

Won’t douse fire once ignited

Or salvage what’s been destroyed.

Not a reason to hold hostage the innocent.

Does not showcase nefarious behavior as decency.

Won’t grant a medal for heroism

Or a trophy for humanitarianism.

Unconvincing as policy for disguising acts

Of bigotry, racism, misogyny, deceit, or hatred.

Address God in any and every language,

It doesn’t make an evil deed holy.

And it sure as hell isn’t a mandate for peace.

Only cowards push and blame.

 

 

Just a Thought 73

 

Painting Steps in Algiers by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

Once a Thief

 

Amazing how many thieves there are, in all enterprises. So many politicians in fields so far from politics. So much dishonesty though the claim for integrity tops a company’s mission statement. We pride ourselves on the highest standards of ethical behavior in the industry. Sure you do. Don’t sit – your pants are burning.

I used to design artwork that became fabric bolts that were made into active wear, a lengthy process involving many companies and several countries. Think bathing suits, bikinis, Hawaiian-style shirts, all directed toward teenagers and college students. Also the usual hangers-on who acted cool and hip, ignoring their aging thighs and bellies.

As an artist, the prima ballerina position in the company, I was supposed to get back any of my original work that was produced by a manufacturer. There was no monetary gain, just a phantom badge of honor for having created the artwork that had been purchased for production. An artist’s coup, the feather in our cap. Look, that kid over there is wearing my art on his tush! You’re familiar with the companies but I can’t name them here.

Over the years, none of my original art was ever returned to me, and I questioned Boss Lady, the art department lead. She insisted my work hadn’t been used by the manufacturers. My artwork must not have been returned to our company – lost in the mail, eaten by mermaids, something like that. It wasn’t true but I had no proof. You can always tell when someone is lying. She couldn’t look me in the eye, she fidgeted with desk doodads, her voice dropped to her lowest register so none of the other artists in the studio could hear.

One day I sorted older fabric samples and there I found my art printed on cotton, proof of purchase and manufacture – except Boss Lady had manipulated my original work. She’d changed just enough that she could claim it wasn’t mine – but hers. Where I’d painted turtles, she’d changed them to fish. Where I’d used one color way, an orange-purple-lime combo, she’d switched to another – orange-purple-turquoise. She’d assigned me the wrong information to intentionally force me to paint something incorrectly, then made the “corrections” herself, and called the “new” designs her own.

I’d been hired by a previous department head and had no formal art training. (I had a degree in English but had done free lance art commissions.) Boss Lady constantly flouted her art degree. She hated that I had a gift for art that hadn’t been university trained.

Boss Lady was talented and accomplished. Once she became the department head she had little reason to fire me as my work was excellent, but she fabricated a work place that was palpably unwelcome and emotionally toxic. But why would she do this? Basic jealousy. Arrogant disdain. Pure nastiness. She probably considered it eminent domain.

It’s always about power in the end. No matter how altruistic one may appear before their whiskers grow in, no matter how much talent and passion may have directed first forays into a field, eventually the corporate ladder and the wallet’s bottom line take over. Laying claim over others’ successes, denying culpability for all failures becomes modus operandi for managers. They call it delegating authority, a catchphrase for dishonesty.

I resigned the fabric converter company after three years of their soul scorching routine and launched the career that defined me. That fulfilled me. I taught art through a city recreation program, then in several schools, developing curricula for kindergarten through twelfth grades.

And I always remembered, throughout those decades of teaching kids, of watching them flourish and delight in their creations, that their mastery was not mine to claim. They trusted me to teach, not to take credit for their work.

No one trusts a thief.

 

Photo of Hawaiian fabric courtesy Pixabay

 

Popcorn Bowl

I filled the dog’s water bowl with my popcorn.

She won’t drink water from anything but my popcorn bowl and I’ve grown weary of arguing in barks and growls.

The popcorn tastes of salt. I can’t be sure if it’s the spice of the bowl, the popcorn, or my tears.

 

Just a thought 72

 

Popcorn image courtesy of Max Pixel