Archive for the ‘Sweet Tooth – Issue #13’ Category

P.Q.

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

When conversations turn to writers, inspiration is inevitably mentioned. No one knows how it happens but everyone agrees it is what a writer seeks. I think they are dead wrong. I do not need inspiration. Everything my five senses, plus E.S.P., encounter provides inspiration. What I need is protection from the onslaught of my gift. I know that sounds absurd but such is the reality of my life.  I am a writer. Most people choose what they do. I have no choice. I can be a fireman, a nurse, an actress, or an astronaut.  I still have to write.

The mind of a writer is a tyrant and no respecter of time or place. The most innocent of comments churns the creative cauldron. I have written on the backs of envelopes, during the sermon, on my hand. I can talk to you while writing in my head and you will never know it. There are warnings about texting while driving. No one warns about writing while operating a vehicle.

My protector is an elf named P. Q. He stands three and 7/8” tall, wears a black bombazine soutane with crushed agate vertical stripes and a sapphire yarmulke. Quill and parchment in hand, he takes charge of the chaos and stores every thought I have and every word I write. His whispery voice echoes all.

Long storage cabinets made of ebony, three feet tall, six drawers each with ruby knobs, are his charge. He climbs an antique oak library ladder to each drawer and calls on a cousin of Hercules for the heavy work.

 As each one is filled, P. Q. starts another. As long as I live there will be an ebony cabinet waiting. There is no need for an index or table of contents. Memory and imagination along with P.Q.’s echoing voice navigate better than any G.P.S. could.

P.Q. monitors those drawers carefully. The writer’s salvation and damnation are found there. When the drawers are closed, there is no turmoil.  The writer’s mind can be still. There is no need for protective clothing or being sure the word-drowning policy is in force.

Life assumes an orderly pattern; breakfast at seven, a walk in the park, afternoons with aged aunts, dinner at eight. The days flow until a twinge of tomorrow, a case of the utmost absurdity, or the mind numbing certainty of eternity causes the ebony to tingle.

Tingling ebony translates to trembling drawers. The pesky words assail until they find a crack. Then in an unrelenting torrent, they assail the writer.

His life is words. He cannot live with them or without them. Their constant and demanding presence suffocates. The writer, gasping, fights for air among the verbs, nouns, adjectives. Abbreviations pelt him with periods and sling arrows at him.  It is said time and tide wait for no man. The writer learns early the same is true of demanding words.

In self defense the writer grabs pencil and paper, keyboard at the ready. He struggles to give the intruders place.

 “Me first. No! Me first! Take me! Move over, pal, I‘m next.”

Bowing to his fate, the writer surrenders. Once again in thrall of his gift.

“Molly never expected to find herself in such a situation.

 In fact, she had often told Uncle George,

 that it would be a cold day in Hell before he would find her…….”

I have tried not to write. I tried denial. I tried escape. I feigned deafness. I played the idiot, even changed my name. Nothing worked. Blessing or curse, words are my master and whether they bellow or whisper, I must answer their call.

I pay homage to the gods who allow me to write; knuckle-white with terror they might abandon me. All the while knowing sanity and salvation are mine thanks to P.Q., that unlikely protector in black bombazine.

Muses’ Lament

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Free us from fetters
of seventeen syllables.
Ganache nous, cherie

Inspiration and Aspiration

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Louis Nizer was a British-born American lawyer with “spellbinding oratorical skills”.  His courtroom career lasted more than six decades, and he wrote many books about the tension of his work and the passion that fueled it.  He is said to have spent many long hours in his office meticulously preparing his arguments, and although he didn’t memorize them by rote, he spoke them very eloquently in the courtroom.  He once wrote that his work was ever challenging, ever intense, and surprise was ever present.

My favorite quote from him is, “A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.”  Within the confines of time and space, our hands, brain, and heart are all we have.  Putting all we have into something is somewhat of a risk.  But, perhaps the greater risk would be holding any part of ourselves back.  Nizer wrote a personal piece which he called “The Lawyer’s Prayer”.  The closing words are, “… I know that when you finally touch us with your fingers to permanent sleep and examine us, you will look not for medals or honorary degrees, but for scars suffered to make the world a little better place to live.”

My own experiences of creative work involve intensity, challenge and surprise.  When I set out, I have a vague idea of where I want to go, but it’s frustration and agitation that set the wheels in motion.  For me, making art is fitful work that ain’t always pretty.  When I’m in the throes of it, I sweat, my hair gets greasy, my back aches, and I pace nervously and wild-eyed.  Then there come the moments when I move beyond all the fervor and I’m lifted.  Somebody or Something else has a foot on the accelerator and I am propelled along by what feels like no effort of my own.  The gears start shifting and the rush of having spoken some sort of truth blows all the tension away.

The Muses of classical Greek mythology were daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (goddess of memory).  Before the introduction of writing, Mnemosyne represented the “memory” required to preserve the stories of history and myth.  The Muses acted as intermediaries for the gods…a source of memory and knowledge for man, who lacked the fullness of these virtues.  And then there is the modern form of a muse…a human who acts as an agent for the creation of art through others.  One example is Lou Andreas-Salomé, a woman who is said to have provoked Nietzsche, Rilke, and Freud to some of their greatest literary works.  She was beautiful, unconventional, intelligent, and had ideals of God, consciousness and love.  Like an addictive drug, she had the power to possess their minds.  But being the agent of her own destiny as a writer, she left them abruptly.  As much as Lou herself, her abrupt departure from them was the muse that inspired them to their best work.  Her absence was as powerful as her presence.  For some of us, our muse is more of an ethereal idea, or a passion, that lives somewhere in our hearts and impels us to speak to it.

Whether mythological, modern, or mystical, one thing is for sure…muses are agitators.  They mysteriously show up and mysteriously slip away.  They Inspire us with a breath of truth and a longing to make it known.  If Inspiration is the breathing in of divine influence, then perhaps Aspiration is the breathing out of its effect on us.  Inspiration and Aspiration.  Where the two meet, Creativity happens.

The Paint on Your Wall Should have a Really Good Name

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

“Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.” Charles Dickens

When I was a kid, my family moved every three years to a different Marine Corp base: Quantico, Virginia, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, etc. It was exciting. I don’t remember regret at leaving; I remember the enchantment of a new house to discover. What were the windows like, what color the walls? I have lived in Baton Rouge since 1987 – the longest I have ever lived anywhere, yet I have moved constantly into at least 18 different apartments. There have been many adventures in creating each Grotto von Heiterkeit i.e. a poorly translated German-ish term for Den of Serenity. (I don’t know where I got that, just picked it up along the way.) Every new place was an opportunity for a design experiment including the all white room on S. Acadian Thruway, Queen’s Violet walls on Carlotta Street and the perfect Pink Barbie Dream House on Highland Road.

My constant companions through all these moves have been my vinyl records and an ever growing collection of Architectural Digests. I may have worried about making that water bill payment but I managed to scrape up the money to renew my subscription. Tidy white stacks of possibility kept me from feeling broken about being broke. I call my decorating style “Early American Poverty” since I was living on plasma money and minimum wage. My furniture was crates and cardboard but the walls were Avocado semi gloss and those crates were covered in silk scarves or painted flowers. Greeting cards become art when they are framed and mounted on scraps of gorgeous wrapping paper. Garage sale sheets become curtains. On Azalea Street, I built a frame from pvc pipe and spray painted it gold. It hung from the ceiling on chains and was draped in yards of white voile sumptuously spilling to pool on the floor to create a $20.00 canopy bed that felt like a million dollars. I have been living the high life my whole life no matter the budget.

One of the best features about Architectural Digest is the “Extraordinary Homes for Sale Around the World” section. Sweetie, Darling, come sit on the veranda and drink a mint julep with me while we choose our next vacation home:

1. This lovely home in Newport, Rhode Island is a 16 bedroom, 12 bath, 24,340 sq. ft, circa-1875 Tudor Revival design. The ballroom is one of the town’s largest private rooms. The 4.3 acres include greenhouses where the estate’s signature pink geraniums are grown. Only 17.9 million, mere pocket change.

2. Perhaps you would prefer the Chiang Mai, Thailand compound comprised of seven pavilions erected around a courtyard pool. Crowned with steeply pitched roofs, the buildings incorporate local vernacular styles and feature woodwork of reclaimed golden teak. Three gazebos, lush gardens, and a pond bridged by walkways distinguish the four-acre plot, set in the foothills of the Himalayas. $15 million.

3. Hmm, I am not sure, maybe we should settle for the budget friendly manor house in Castletown Geoghegan, Ireland. The 62-acre parcel includes woodlands, formal gardens, and a masonry cottage. Adding to the estate’s historic charm are the ruins of a medieval church. 8 bedrooms, 7 baths, only $3.9 million – a bargain! Let’s buy that one!

18 moves later the Early American Poverty style has been informed by a Harold and Maude Caboose aesthetic with a hint of circa 1940’s Werewolf Movie Gypsy Wagon. Collected art, ceramics, prints, paintings, sculpture and bits and pieces from travels to China, Europe, and/or the countless little antique shops that make driving back roads of Louisiana so much fun, are packed into in the house I bought almost ten years ago. That’s not junk, my dear, that is Junque!

I had hit a rut, I even let my subscription lapse. I was feeling bored, overwhelmed, underwhelmed, uninspired. I was blue – not Azure Skies – more like a blah blah acid washed jean sort of color. I had blank walls! After a time, the best part of me got really irritated with my pit of mediocrity and mailed a check to Architectural Digest.

Gordon Mese: Mayoral Inspirations

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

My inspiration came when I purchased a Christmas tree at Garden District Nursery and I realized the owner, Gordon Mese, created this wonderfully exotic yet down-to-Earth environment. So when I found out that he is running for Mayor, I thought: what if Baton Rouge could attain the atmosphere cultivated at Garden District Nursery?

And his macaw sits there on top of her cage, inspiring my photography.

It all… fell together.

I planned a meeting at the nursery early one morning, of course it rained, but we didn’t let that stop us. When I got there, Gordon was so into creating an “American Gothic” style image. Shovel, tongs, guitar, bike and BBQ pit, he embodied the many-armed Renaissance man. This is not the first time his creations have been written about in this publication. I spied an old “Sweet Tooth” still taped to the glass door. So he knows his audience, referencing a famous painting and his sense of humor for the photo session. Charming, really.

Part of Gordon’s inspiration for a mayoral run is reaffirmed by his proximity to Mid City Bikes. His grand plan contains “Complete Streets” which includes lanes for pedestrians, bikers, skaters, cars and buses. As a born and raised Baton Rouge-an myself, I fully understand Gordon’s idea to create a city that we can be proud to raise our children in.

Some nitty-gritty details about Gordon are: he is an independent and always has been, he is born and raised in Baton Rouge, he is a business owner and landscape architect. His family is also from Baton Rouge, through and through. He knows about planning in a grand sense, in a city wide sense. In his own words:

“I was one of 10 residents asked by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation to answer the question ‘What would you do if you were the benevolent ruler of the parish?’ My answer does not appear in their latest edition of “Currents” , magazine (page 48) because they felt it would be too political to publish since I have announced my candidacy for Mayor. For this reason, I am posting my response here as follows: If I were the Mayor, I would focus on the quality of life issues facing our community and not re-election. We have allowed problems to persist in our community and we deserve better. This begins with great planning and superior execution. I envision our Baton Rouge to be a city that is inclusive, vibrant, and desired. If we are going to achieve this vision, we need to stop wasting time and money on redundant studies and do something. I submitted an idea to three lane Government Street, with bike paths, 12 to 15 years ago. Today the idea still has wings, but nothing has happened. Another idea is to create a linear park system that connects areas of the parish. This could provide for economic development, mass transit and recreational opportunities. Imagine a large green space with bike and jogging paths and a roadway for express buses, running through the parish. This would revitalize impoverished areas, reduce traffic and give new opportunities to entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs graduate from three colleges in this city, every year, and most leave. We need to stop this exodus and provide opportunities. When government is at it’s best, it provides opportunities, at it’s worst, it paints bicycles on the streets.”

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