Art and Analysis

On_the_Waterfront_posterWhen I ghostwrite memoirs, I often ask my clients to tell me the movies they loved when they were young teenagers, say between the ages of 12 and 15. Young adolescents are very impressionable, and it’s at this time in our lives when we start paying attention to the world outside our family, and making decisions about what is good and bad and how we fit into that world. Our decision making ability is in its infancy so we often draw the wrong conclusions, or conclusions that are too black and white, but the movies we’re exposed to during this time often color our personality, beliefs, and even deeds for our entire lives. So when we remember those movies from our early teens, the results are always illuminating and help me to “get” my client’s personality so I can write as them.

This works when you do this for yourself, too, in order to explore who you are. It’s an easy form of self-analysis. When I did this for myself I googled which movies were popular in the years I was 13 and 14 – and discovered that although I did remember some of them, none of them made a big impression on me, so I thought my great insight was wrong. But then I remembered that the movie that did make an impression on me was an older movie, one that was made around the time I was born, but that I saw on TV when I was 13 or so. It was “On the Waterfront” with Marlon Brando, and it indeed did speak to me and color my development. (I must admit that as a 13 year old girl, Marlon Brando’s hot and sexy looks may have contributed to my admiration.) The movie is about corruption and politics, but what I took from it was how admirable it was to act on what you believed to be right, even if it went against your family and cost you your job, your community, even your life. Because if you didn’t, you would never be a contender. At the time in my own life I was dealing with my own beliefs coming into conflict with my parents’ beliefs, and it was costing me plenty. The movie contributed to my rebelliousness that both fueled me and held me back during much of my twenties.

Good art is so much more than entertainment. What movie or movies furthered (or hindered) your development? If you’ve got a story, please share.

Haiku Friday: Hop

HistoriansToday my haiku is from March 27th of my new book A Haiku Book of Days for Historians, Storytellers, and Other Guardians of Truth, one of a 7-book series. The haiku topic for today is “Hop”:

look at me! we cry
babbling pretty stories while
hopping on one leg

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

You can purchase this book on Amazon here.

Ghostwriting for a Dog: Side Effects

CatnipAlex Terrgi here. Here’s another way dogs are superior to cats:  we do not do drugs. We eat real food only. This does not include plant material that makes us act weird. But cats – they do not have the self control of dogs. They like to act weird, the weirder the better. This is why they like a substance called “catnip.” My human wrote a haiku about catnip, which goes like this:

scratch up the best chair
mew and purr and yowl and hiss
roll in some catnip

Now to be fair, I like bones. And I also like squeaky toys. And I like to kill birds and squirrels. But these are all natural pastimes. They do not cause side effects. My eyes do not go all wobbly and I don’t make whistley sounds and I certainly do not rip up the furniture. (Well, sometimes I rip up the squeaky toys, but that is what squeaky toys are for.) When The Cat is stoned on catnip she does all these things. And then she goes back for more – and more and more and more, until the human takes away the catnip. Then The Cat goes to sleep for sixteen hours or so, and when she wakes up she’ll do it all over again if the human lets her.

This does not seem like healthy behavior to me. I am glad I am a dog.

Haiku Friday: Science

HistoriansToday my haiku is from March 20th of my new book A Haiku Book of Days for Historians, Storytellers, and Other Guardians of Truth, one of a 7-book series. The haiku topic for today is “Science”:

pesky mysteries
playing Stump the Scientist
may never be solved

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

You can purchase this book on Amazon here.

Impetuosity

Wedding Day portrait0001March 20th will soon be here. This date has significance in my family because it was the day my parents got married. As you can see from the photo, their wedding was not a typical one of tuxedos, veils, and bridesmaids. This is because theirs was an impetuous affair, hurriedly arranged. It’s always been one of my favorite stories about my parents, so I’m going to share it here. I hope you enjoy it too.

My parents met when my father Armond was in the CCCs in 1938, and my mother Lois was in high school in a tiny mountain town north of Seattle. They were not romantically involved at the time. Armond was focused on getting into college, and had little time for girls. Lois was interested in Armond, but accepted that she had no chance with him. But she made sure she got accepted into the same college he did, in 1939.

But in 1940 Armond was drafted into the Army, and Lois quit college to get a job in Olympia, the state Capitol south of Seattle. They remained just friends. Although Armond and his army buddies would often come down from Fort Lewis and take Lois and her friends out dancing, this was the extent of their “dating.” Times were uncertain, and Armond felt it would be unfair to get serious with anyone until he got out of the army. Lois was disappointed because she still harbored a secret crush on Armond, but managed to get over her disappointment. It wasn’t like there weren’t plenty of other soldier boys to date. When Armond left for San Francisco and then overseas in late 1941, the extent of their intimacy was a kiss on the cheek.

While Armond was fighting, Lois did volunteer war work and then joined the Marines in 1942 (a story in itself). They kept up their friendship via letters. (We have many of these letters, because they saved them.) The letters do reveal a growing level of romantic interest on Armond’s part, although it was hinted at only, never overt. For her part, Lois kept her letters to him friendly, although in her letters to her mother she did reveal that she was conflicted over her feelings for Armond and her feelings for the other boys she dated, especially one named Bob, who like her was stationed in Philadelphia. Bob had asked her to marry him more than once, but she hesitated. She wasn’t sure if she was reading too much into Armond’s hints in his letters – was it possible that he felt the same way about her as she did about him? Maybe she should pass up Bob, although she was very fond of him. Or maybe she should accept Bob’s proposal and give up on a man who kept her guessing about his feelings. And of course there was the uncertainty of War. No one knew what would happen.

Then Armond was wounded in July of 1943. At first no one expected him to survive. When he did come back home in early 1944, she was stationed in Philadelphia, and could not visit him in the hospital in Spokane. She was still dating Bob, who was a persistent fellow and kept asking her to marry him. Lois did not know how badly Armond was wounded, and he was unsure if he would remain disabled and unfit for marriage. Their letters reflect their mutual confusion over the relationship and where it might go, or even if they would ever see each other again. After all they had not seen each other since 1941, and they had never been romantically involved anyway. How could they know if a romantic relationship would work?

In March 1944 Lois got leave to go home to visit her parents. Armond was still in the army hospital in Spokane. She wrote to him and told him the train stopped for two hours in Spokane; perhaps they could meet at the train station, just to say hello for old times’ sake. He applied for a half-day leave from the army, which was granted. But there was a mix-up on which platform her train arrived at, so he waited at the wrong platform, and although she went looking for him, she didn’t find him on time and had to rush back to catch her train. So they missed each other. Lois wondered if it was an omen.

Lois arrived in Seattle on Thursday March 16, 1944. Her parents met her and they drove home to the tiny town in the mountains, Darrington. On Friday, Armond went A.W.O.L. from the army, borrowed his sister’s car, and drove over the mountains, arriving in Darrington that afternoon. Lois was stunned to see him. They went for a walk by the Sauk River and he proposed marriage. She accepted. (Let’s hope they finally got to kiss.)

That same afternoon Armond and Lois borrowed her mother’s car and drove to Seattle to obtain the marriage license. Although long distance was expensive, there was no time to waste, so when they got back to Darrington Lois called her friend Lela in Olympia, and Lela got hold of the minister of the church she and Lois had attended there, who agreed to marry them on Monday. Armond called his 16 year old brother Gaylord in Spokane and told him he’d pay for his train ticket so one of his brothers could be his best man. Armond and his future father-in-law met Gaylord at the train station on Saturday and rushed to the store to buy Gaylord a suit. Everyone met in Olympia on Monday and Lois and Armond were married.

On Wednesday Lois took the train back to Philadelphia and Armond went back to the hospital in Spokane, where he was not punished for going AWOL. After not seeing each other for three years, and having never had a true romantic relationship, they started their married life by having less than a week together. It wasn’t until that summer that Armond was discharged from the army and joined Lois in Philadelphia.

I would call this impetuous. Yet they were married for 65 years.

Haiku Friday: Grandchildren

HistoriansToday my haiku is from March 13th of my new book A Haiku Book of Days for Historians, Storytellers, and Other Guardians of Truth, one of a 7-book series. The haiku topic for today is “Grandchildren”:

grandchildren are born
knowing the way to your heart
and they don’t give it back

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

You can purchase this book on Amazon here.

Ghostwriting for a Dog: The Chicken Strut

Alex THen0001errgi here. Finally, my human read me one of her haiku that was not about cats. It wasn’t about dogs either, but at least I didn’t have to listen to another cat haiku. There’s only so much I can stand. Today she read me one about birds. It went like this:

soft dawn and sharp peeps
the chickadees are awake
strutting their small stuff

 Birds do strut, you know. I’ve never seen a bird who didn’t think it was something special and want to show off. Birds think they are smarter than dogs, maybe even smarter than humans. They think that right up until the time a dog sneaks up on them while they’re strutting around – and rips their heads right off their feathered butts. As my human says (to The Cat, not to me), “Arrogance is stupid.”

The other day when we went to visit my human’s daughter, I was surprised to find out there was someone new living there. For some reason my human’s daughter had acquired a chicken. The chicken is penned up in their back yard, which is visible from the sliding glass door in the kitchen. That chicken is a show off like all birds and it spent the entire time we were there strutting its stuff and fluffing its feathers while I watched. My human said I was watching “Chicken TV” and she laughed at me, which made me hate the chicken even more.

Humans and chickens have a lot to answer for.

Haiku Friday: Rust

Haiku Book of Days for Historians, Storytellers, and Other Guardians of TruthToday my haiku is from March 6th of my new book A Haiku Book of Days for Historians, Storytellers, and Other Guardians of Truth, one of a 7-book series. The haiku topic for today is “Rust”:

down deep inside you
an iron door, rusted shut
pry it open now

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

You can purchase this book on Amazon here.

Texting, Good or Bad?

Hand holding mobile smart phoneI am ambivalent about texting. Most of the time I dislike it. For one reason, I find it physically difficult. It makes my fingers feel fat and clumsy and my eyes old (those little screens!) I also have artistic reasons to dislike it. Texting has no nuance, no emotional connection, no exploration of meaning or wonder, no complexity of thought, no poetry, no beauty. It’s the equivalent of what I imagine early humans used when language was just being developed: “Me hunger.” or “Me want food.” Or as I once wrote in a haiku:

writers hate texting
modern equivalent of
see bird. kill bird. yum.

On the other hand … maybe people felt this way about writing itself when it was invented, complaining that writing was a way to distance themselves from each other, because writing eliminates facial expressions and gestures and eye contact and touch from communication between individuals.

But then when writing caught on we saw that it also enables us to communicate across distance and even overrides time itself. Remember when letter writing was an art? It is now a lost art, which is a shame. For a time it was replaced by email. I like email; some of mine, especially the ones I write to my children, are gems of humor or pathos or righteous indignation. I keep copies of these for posterity, just in case my grandchildren will not recognize great literature in this form.

But now email is being replaced by texting, and that is an even bigger shame. I am trying hard to realize that texting too has its place, maybe even its own charm. Kind of like writing haiku instead of sonnets. And as anyone who reads this blog knows, I like haiku. So I guess it follows that I should like texting too.

Well not yet, but I’m working on it. I’m now contemplating sending my Haiku Friday haikus as texts – but only to people have been really really good to me.