“If you don’t have the experience of something you’re not at liberty to write about it.”
Do you agree?
Can I tell if I’m telling my truth? Am I writing for an audience that I’m trying to impress? Am I trying to impress you right now?
Here’s what I want you to know: I struggle to tell the truth because sometimes I don’t know what it is until I write about it. Which… is probably why I write.
What’s the truth?
In recalling from altMBA that we are all irrational, I can assure myself that even if I think I’m telling the truth, I’m probably not. Or maybe, it’s my truth today, but it will be different tomorrow. Is that possible? Does truth change day-to-day?
Do you want the truth? “You can’t handle the truth,” Jack Nicholson’s character says in the movie A Few Good Men. The truth can remind me of something. It may remind me of hurt. I don’t know. Or happiness? OR wishes, that are not the truth… just wishful thinking.
Here’s the thing: Stuff “above the fold” or at the top of the iceberg above the water may or may not be the truth. The stuff below is the ‘truth-y’ stuff. And I should go there more often to write my truth, even if it hurts, and maybe even if I have not experienced it directly. Is that cheating?
I had a silly, wide grin on my face the whole time behind my mask… I was happy.
I attended my first in-person Flamenco class last night since March 2020.
And. It. Was. Awesome.
I had a silly, wide grin on my face the whole time behind my mask, but I saw it in my eyes in the mirror. I was happy.
I danced ballet starting when I was five, but alas, dancing in toe shoes eight years later was my undoing. Call it “Achilles Toes.” It was not for my feet. Then, six years ago, I discovered flamenco. And I was horrible at first. Then, little by little, I learned to shift my weight. Move my feet. Connect my arms, legs, and hands, wear flowers in my hair, and big ruffly skirts! And we dancing ‘flamencas’ are connected in our earnest endeavor to master that which is as old as the gypsies and dates back to India centuries ago.
When was the last time you tried something for the first time? Well, flamenco may not be your cup of tea, but I liked it. What did you do when you were five that you could do now? Or something related? Have FUN!!! Grin with your whole body. Oh, and sweat too.
“Is it growing, Mom?” Tony said, concern in his voice.
* (The name of this painting is “California Street.” See below for artist and detailed publishing information.)
Retaliation in Red
A Short Story
No one knew how the red spots got there. They just appeared one day, and they were spreading. People’s brains were worn thin from trying to figure it out. The spots grew on the street and slid up along the walls. Sometimes it got in your hair if you weren’t careful. Mildred Lee took her ten-year-old son Tony to the cable car that day. As she dropped him near the cable car stop it seemed there were more red dots on the streets than last week and even more than yesterday. “Is it growing, Mom?” Tony said, concern in his voice. “I don’t know,” she said glancing at her watch. “But I gotta run or I’m going to be late for work. Hop on the cable car and I’ll see you tonight, Honey.”
But she would not see him as he was that morning. No. Tony ran after the cable car, but he didn’t reach it because he slipped on the red goo and got a mild concussion. When he woke up he was in a land far away. It was red. The sun was red. Tony’s clothes were red. His hair and skin were red. The people around him were red. They wore red clothes. Bright red. Cinnamon apple red. He was afraid at first, but then, he realized it must be some joke his friends had played on him. He was not hurt. And the color would wash off. He was sure of it. The people seemed friendly enough but they smelled funny, so he wanted to leave right away, but how?
Tony seemed to have found a way out of the red city, because the next thing he knew he was standing outside his home.
“Hi, Mom,” Tony said, skipping into the house through the kitchen door. Tony’s mom fainted. Who faints anymore? Well, she did.
She came to with smelling salts that Tony’s dad administered. He whiffed some himself.
“What happened to you?” both Tony’s parents said at the exact same time.
“I don’t know. I was running toward the cable car and I slipped. When I woke up, I was in another place. And I was red. But then I fell asleep again and I woke up outside the house, but I was still red.”
“Well, I hope this washes off,” Tony’s mom said, licking her thumb and rubbing it on the back of Tony’s arm. Nothing changed. Tony was still red. Very, very red.
“Tony! Who did this to you?”
“I don’t know. I think it’s kind of cool,” Tony said admiring his face in the dining room mirror.
“It’s not cool because it’s not washing off. I’m calling the school.”
Tony scratched his red head with his red fingers. “I never made it to school that I remember.”
“What? Where were you?” Tony’s dad said. “Now don’t make up stories.”
“The place was different. Like, the people there were red, and the buildings and streets were red.” He paused. “Even the dogs were red.”
“Maybe you slipped and passed out. You were dreaming is all. Now let’s see if we can get this off you. Come with me, young man,” Tony’s mom said. Then to her husband, she said, “Call the Sedgwick’s. Their son is in Tony’s class. See if he was at school.”
While Tony’s mom scrubbed Tony’s skin with every thing from spot remover to cleanser and steel wool, Tony’s dad had called five other kids’ parents. It took several tries as the lines were busy. Finally it was determined that out of those five, the three children who were anywhere near that particular cable car line were red. All reported going to the same strange place where Tony went where people, clothes, and dogs were red. And all the children had remained red with no amount of washing that would alleviate the stain. The children peed red. Finally Tony’s mom stopped scrubbing. Tony was crying. She was crying. And the next morning Tony’s mom and dad were red, along with everyone else in San Francisco. The lobsters had retaliated. But they didn’t like the taste of humans, so they let them live.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
* Please note: Do you see the red spots on the street? The story popped upon the page from this wonderful piece of art! This post is a pure fantasy riff on the above painting in the book Bay Area Scene Paintingsby Gordon T. McClelland & Austin D. McClelland, Copyright 2018. No disrespect is intended.
Page in Book: Page 26 and Cover
Artist: Jade Fon
Media: Watercolor and gouache
Book Description: Looking down California Street from Nob Hill with China Town on the right side, the business district down below and a section of the Bay Bridge is visible through the towering canyon of buildings.
The four of us hesitated as if to say, “Is this a good idea?”
In their eyes, I saw their questions. “Are they safe? Are we?” We, too, had doubts.
Our little family had taken showers, washed our hair, and used hand sanitizer. The wait was over. I went first, and I hugged our older son, inhaling his shampoo-fresh scent. I didn’t cry.
Then I hugged his wife. We held back our tears, but I’m not sure why.
My husband hugged our son and then our daughter-in-law. Finally, we stood apart and took in with a reverent silence that these were our first human contacts outside our spouses since March 16, 2020, three and a half months ago.
Our fear-stiffened bodies surrendered. Our Covid stoicism breathed a tentative sigh of relief, wondering if before-Covid behavior could be trusted. There was only one rational thing to do.
And, that’s what we did.
Pop quiz. What do you do when family comes to town? RIGHT! You eat. And so, we cooked, and boy did we eat well! One night we had barbecued chicken slathered in a sweet-spicy sauce. Coleslaw with mayo/yogurt dressing. Corn salad with surprising roasted hazelnuts! Who knew? What a treat. Wait. I almost forgot to tell you. I made a turkey. We had Thanksgiving dinner in July with stuffing and mashed potatoes with gravy. We had leftovers for days. Sandwiches with turkey and avocado on homemade sourdough oat bread. Turkey tacos with salsa, black beans, cheese, and piquant guacamole. Burgers. Hot dogs. Sweet potato fries.
We had a full week together. Over our many delicious meals, we shared what we knew had changed. The pandemic had forced us to revise our futures in ways never before imagined. We used to wake up with some silvery expectation—a chocolate raspberry smell in the mornings that today was going to be wonderful, and tomorrow “wonderfuller” still. We didn’t know any better. We thought our pretty purple petunia patch would be there next week. Next month.
Now, we realize the idea of planning has sharp edges. The round world looks flat. The melty chocolate chip cookies from yesterday could be a bread loaf now, baking in a neighbor’s oven. And that was only if they were lucky enough to find flour. Or yeast.
We could go down that road. Yes, we could. But, we could take the road less travelled by where we sign up for wet happiness in a paradise of waterfalls. The conscious mind lets us reimagine our lives—revise our reality—with a fresh inhale, and a subtle exhale that reminds us that we can choose how to respond. We have the power to react. Or not.
Man, it’s a scary power! But, I’ll take it because right now, I need it.
So, how are you doing with reclaiming your power? Revising your reality? You’re doing okay? Awesome. Yay you.
Craving fresh air, we head to the beach on a particularly fine winter day in Southern California. We do not go often, and yet we live within a 30-minute drive. The beach this day is gloriously empty.
The best part about the ocean is that she doesn’t change much. She’s so rare. And yet she doesn’t care. But to be fair, there’s so much to spare, whether it’s this ocean here or an ocean anywhere, she’s just there.
Take off your shoes and roll up your jeans. Approach the water like a merchant marine. Start with one toe, and then dip the other nine. After a while, you will feel sublime. You might pick up a rock, and taking a firm grip, toss it sideways and count the skips. My brother was good. He could do five or six.
The beaches are crowded in the summer months. Oh, and parking is diabolically difficult. The locals know to carpool and to come early.
If you go in the summer, you’ll see wall-to-wall sunbathers, families, boys, girls, men, and women. Umbrellas of all sizes, shapes, and colors dot the beach. People mostly just hang out. Read. Play. Talk. Eat. Relax. Seagulls hang around trying to look bored but give themselves away when a morsel of food drops. “Mine, mine, mine,” they seem to say. The best idea is to stay out of their way.
If the wind is just right, you might see kites fluttering in the sky. Don’t you like kites?
Be ready to smile as you watch the children splashing and playing in the waves. They don’t seem to feel the cold or get tired of being sandy, salty, and wet. I miss being a kid.
Almost any time of the year at certain posted beaches, you’ll see big dogs, little dogs, and medium-sized dogs of all kinds, on and off leash. It’s a sniffer’s heaven. They all seem to love being at the ocean.
We think the ocean doesn’t care. But she secretly likes visitors. I think so, or why would she be so inviting all the time? She even likes surfers.
Skip out sometime. Take your dog, your kids, and anyone else that needs a nature hit down to the nearest ocean. Or a lake. Or a park. Skip out. Take a break. It’ll do you some good.