Category Archives: Photos

Art, Self-Care, and Celebration

My husband was away this weekend, and since I was on my writing break, I got bored. I needed to do something creative but I didn’t know what.

Poking around in Facebook I saw an ad from a corsetry shop a friend owns. The featured corset was made with the lace from an old wedding gown which was in tatters. I thought that was a great idea. Then I remembered that my first wedding gown is under my bed. I had it cleaned and preserved after the wedding, and it has sat in that box unseen for 31 years.

But it’s much older than that. My dad and my uncle split the price, and my mother wore it in 1954 for their wedding, and my aunt shortly after. When my first husband and I got married, I wanted to wear it too, so a few alterations later, it was ready for the big, extremely ill-advised day in my 20-year-old life.

body memory 2

The pictures of me are so funny; she looks like maybe we are related but not the same person. Well, we aren’t the same person. I mean, few of us are the same as we were at 20, I don’t think. Unless you are 20, then hey, you do you.

But the dress is not sacred, we split up after five years, so why on earth should I leave it in its box like a mummy in a sarcophagus?

To recap, I was alone, bored, and had a 65-year-old gown with two previous owners including my mom, that I wore 31 years ago and haven’t seen since. Nope. Nothing there to set a person into a spin.

I dug it out from under our bed, brought it into my dining room, and started to unbox it like Howard Carter but with fewer “wonderful things” and deadly curses.

I had forgotten how heavy it is, and how fragile the lace was even back then, and the veil is so huge I sat on it when I was wearing it.

It did not fit. I am a tad larger now. But I found that if I unbuttoned the back I could slip my arms into the sleeves and it looked, from the front, like I was wearing it. It is old and cracked and the pearls are dropping off with each step and something had to be done with it. Something…spooky.

I was alone, and the good camera was with Chris so I decided I would just take some random goth-y photos as selfies with my phone. And then I had an idea. I made a little photo-narrative. I used the plastic skeleton that is in my profile picture, (Ermastus, meet everyone, everyone, meet Ermastus) to be the…

You know, I’m torn here. I am fairly dark by nature, I cut my teeth on Poe and Lovecraft, I’ve always leaned to the macabre, and to me, the Paris Catacombs are beautiful and life-affirming. But not everyone shares that and this page is not meant to upset anyone, so I’m not going to explain it.

Here’s one of the photos that is not spooky.

body memory 5
You can tell it’s art because the background is black and I’m not smiling.

I do have to explain this though. Part of the process was getting a photo of me in crippling pain; pain so deep and so unfathomable, my mind has left the physical world, never to return. In order to do this, I had to make the faces and body language to capture it (while holding a phone and trying to disguise that I’m taking a selfie,) and after an hour or so of this, something odd happened. I started to feel deeply, horribly, crushingly, depressed.

I took off the gown, put my jammies back on (who are the people who dress in street clothes in their homes?) and left the room. I looked at the photos. Seeing my face and body like that, in an old storied gown, remembering my mother, long gone, my aunt, my first marriage, long ended, every single wound and unnamed pain, and every time I considered suicide…I closed the photos and thought about the void.

Here’s a picture of my cat, Crazy Legs.

body memory 8
He says hello, but Ermastus is being shy.

This is why it is so important to know how to practice self-care. I was alone, and I would be for two more days, so I did familiar things, ate some leftover gnocchi, sat on the sofa with Crazy Legs, and started to marathon “Parks and Recreation” for I think the fourth time. I love that show, it’s comforting and normal and is not even acquainted with depth. I can do it nearly line for line and I love every single person on it.

I do wonder though, how someone looked at sweet, tubby Andy and said, “Hey, let’s make him Starlord!” But I’m glad they did. I could have watched any of the Marvel Movies too.

After a couple of hours, I was fine. But something very intense had happened.
My art is mainly on the page, and sometimes on canvas or three-dimensional. Photography is new to me, and this sort of quasi-acting is unknown to me, so I was not prepared for what it would do, what it would dredge up.

Holding that pose, over and over and over, pretending to scream and wail, I was not prepared for what that would do to me. Chris has acted, so when he got home he told me that’s what actors may go through; it can really fuck with a person’s head. I only did it for an hour. They do it for days or weeks or more. The body/mind connection is powerful. It can hold emotions that can be triggered by anything, touch, smell, vision, or action in this case. The mind brings it forward, affects the body, and so on.

Now, I did get some beautiful shots from this whole thing, so it was worth it. But it was hard, and knowing what to do to shake it off was critical.

Whatever it is that you do, whatever might bring pain to the surface, you need to have a full toolbox, ready to grab what you need to fix it. Sit down, take stock, and think – what makes you happy, what simple thing can you do to make yourself feel safe? A certain food? An animal, a beloved T.V. show or film? What is your simple joy?

Also, celebrate all the victories, big or small, cute or spooky. For me, I’m writing again, I’m making art, so here’s an alcohol-free toast to all of us!

body memory 6
I’m in my jammies and no make-up so this is it. I’m only going to go so far with honesty.

Dreams and Regret – It is never too late!

The picture on the left of the banner is me, 1993, 25 years old.  The grey-haired woman on the right is also me, 2018, 50 years old.  Several lifetimes have passed in those 25 years; some very hard lessons learned.

I started to write poetry when I was a child. When I was the young woman with the dark hair, I decided I would compile some of them, and I made a book I called “Life Songs –  A Collection of Poems.”  I did finish, but I put it away and fell into a pattern of self-destruction and failure that lasted for years.  Life Songs died.

life songs 1
Bound and ready, and forgotten.

But at 50 I began to wonder; what dreams have I let go?  What are the seeds of regret?

My dreams of singing professionally were done, too much whiskey and smoke had taken its toll.  That one hurts.

My paintings are unlikely to hang anywhere, my photography is hit or miss, and having a business to call my own died a premature death.  Don’t go into business with friends, that’s my advice to you.

But there was one thing left, my first love, my greatest love, my sanctuary, my heart, my everything.

Writing.  That I could still do.

It had been 25 years since I put Life Songs together, then I drank my muse away.  I killed her with my hands around a bottle of Jack.

life songs 7
My muse scribbled on scrap paper. I don’t remember drawing this.

 

I also made the grave mistake of majoring in Creative Writing and taking many poetry classes which put an inner critic in my head I had never had before. Everyone is different, but for me, this was a massive mistake.  

Anyway, as I neared 50, I realized that I needed to complete Life Songs and get it out.  So I read it over, all bright-eyed and optimistic. Then I closed it and stared into space.

Many of the poems were, well, let me put it this way, I separated it into chapters based on content, and I decided that each chapter heading would be a take on “Ten Definitions of Poetry” by Carl Sandburg.  Trouble is, I’m not Sandburg now, let alone at 25, and it went…poorly.  I will not be sharing any of those with you. Oh my, no. So I was stuck again.

Then on a warm summer night, after a lovely meal with dear friends, we began to talk about our projects.  I never had anything to add to these conversations since I had no muse and no art in my soul.  But this night I did.  This night I talked about it, and as sometimes happens when thinking out loud, I had an epiphany.  I am not the same person I was back then.  So why not let the grey-haired lady speak to the dark-haired one?  Choose poems that are relevant or particularly painful or funny and talk to her?  Maybe I could find healing in that.  Maybe I could help another reader find healing or hope or at least know they are not alone.

Maybe I really could finish Life Songs.

And then, just like that, my muse came home.

When I sat down to work, everything came back. The traumas and moments of life, sure, but that’s not what  I mean.  I mean the absolute and overpowering joy of writing, of moving my hands on a keyboard and making the words I want to say appear. I had forgotten what it felt like to write.  It’s like forgetting what it is to taste ice cream or smell freshly mowed grass.

Many of my friends are writers. They post on Facebook, share funny memes, talk about their process and craft. I would be happy for them, but I would also burn inside. I was not a writer anymore. One can call it a dry spell for a while, but after two and a half decades, you’re no longer in the club.

But after I wrote a few pages, and after I started this blog, I was a writer again. I could respond to the comments, laugh at the memes, and talk about my process and craft.

I was a writer again.  I was in the club.

I worked on Life Songs, I thought about it when I wasn’t, I dreamed about it at night.  Then the first draft was finished.  I celebrated with some non-alcoholic sparkling apple cider in a flamingo glass.  It’s tradition.

life songs 2
1993 -2018 Absolute joy!

Then the final was done. After twenty-five years, I was almost ready to publish.

Now, I don’t know Photoshop or anything like that, and I can’t afford a professional photographer, so I decided to stage and shoot my own photos. I had a good idea what I wanted it to look like and every single prop I used I already had, so I set up a photo “studio” in the dining room, complete with the lights with umbrella things and my husband’s Nikon D90, and got busy.

life songs 6

Two months and about 3,000 photos later, I got seven or so that I loved, and chose two for the front and back cover.

I sent them to the cover artist my mother-in-law, a professional writer, had recommended, and prepared to upload my manuscript to Amazon.

Then I typed up the title page

Life Songs – Discussions with an Angry Child

by – …….

And I froze.

Belle Chapin is a pseudonym. I started this blog under that name because I was afraid to use my real one. (Belle Chapin was my grandmother.) I was afraid of not getting a job, afraid of trolls, afraid of being so vulnerable.  So I was going to publish Life Songs under that name as well.

I backspaced my real name out, and I typed

by Belle Chapin

And then I cried.  And then I cried more.  This girl is me. This is my life, goddammit. This is my life, my heart, my work.

It took some time with my therapist, but I finally came to a decision.

This girl is me. This is my life, my heart, my work.

I sat down at my laptop and I opened the title page.

Life Songs – Discussions with an Angry Child

by Sue St. Blaine

And then I closed my laptop.

The cover artist sent me the final product.  I opened the attachment I cried so hard I nearly passed out. It was real.

I finished my life’s work.

life songs 4
So happy I posed without makeup!

The way I’ve lived my life, the choices I’ve made have left many scars and regrets.  I know there are things I didn’t do because I didn’t have the confidence, I was scared, I was drunk.

I was drunk. The seeds of regret are sown.

But it’s been a year since I published Life Songs.  It is sitting on the shelf behind me. My heart fills as certainly as my eyes when I think about it.  I did it.  I finished it.

In a life full of mistakes, this is something I did right.

I wish that for all of you.

 

 

Golden Spikes and Memories – Not Just for Rail Nerds

Guess what I’m doing?  If you’re in my general circle you know because I won’t shut up about it.

Chris and I are going on a road trip, listening to podcasts in the daytime and then spooky old time radio shows after dark, and eating cheese-poofs with chopsticks because it’s tidier.  We’re fancy.

https://www.relicradio.com/otr/show/horror/

We’re going to Utah for the 150th Anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad — (aka Golden Spike)  May 10, 1869.

https://www.visitutah.com/places-to-go/parks-outdoors/golden-spike/

One of the line of the largest steam locomotives ever, Big Boy No. 4014 is there, and I get to see it.

https://www.up.com/heritage/steam/4014/

There are probably about five people reading this who know what that is and also, are excited about it.  Maybe six.  But those half dozen folks are really impressed.

Rail BIG BOY 6
Yes rail fans, I know, this is 4019, not 4014.  Don’t freak out.

On Friday morning there is the ceremony of the Golden Spike, and I will possibly cry because that is a thing that I do at any given moment.

I come by this passion honestly.  In the ‘50s my dad became a member of a railway museum that opened in 1946.

http://www.wrm.org/

I cannot properly put into words how much I love this place.  It is a shiny blissful memory in a childhood that was not always so happy.

My sister and I had absolute free rein to a degree that my mother probably would not have approved of.

We would ride the cars, swing the heavy poles when we got to the end of the line to go back the other way.  This would have been in the late ’70s to mid-’80s so I would have started when I was in the 11-year-old range.  Not sure we’d get away with that now.

Rail POLE 9
Those poles are heavy and wobbly and I loved it!

We’d poke around the car barn and its many pointy bits and pieces, run down the mainline tracks to find dead sheep.  After closing time dad would let us run one of the cars.

I also got to work in the bookstore, an old building warmed entirely by a Franklin stove. In the cold days of winter, it was perfection.  There was an old-timey cash register I got to use.  Eleven-year-old me felt very important.

“The House” where the guys stayed was full of dusty, weathered antiques, mismatch dishes, a probably-safe-why-not fireplace.  I would spend hours in there too, enjoying the privilege of being my dad’s daughter.  It was private, set far back from the public areas, but we came and went as we pleased.  There were also many stray cats and kittens who would sleep in the planter boxes in the sunroom.  We’d pick them up one by one, snuggle their kitten faces, plop them back down when their mothers came back.  There was a small room crammed with bunk beds; this is where mom drew the line.  We always stayed in a hotel in Fairfield.  In hindsight, I would have done exactly the same.

Since I grew up with all this, it was normal, and I took it completely for granted.

I would like to go back in time right now and just sit there.  Actually, I just did.

In the summer the valley was surface of the sun hot so we would alter our activities accordingly, so we did not actually die.

But the winter, the winter was magic.

There’s a thing called “tule fog” that is thick and cold and billowing.  It hugs the ground in a flowing blanket that made me feel calm and contemplative, as it blew wisps of ground cover that made everything unreal.  There were few tourists there if any, and only a skeleton crew, so I could be absolutely alone most of the day.  I would sit by the duck pond and imagine that I was the last person on earth, that the ducks were my only source of food and I’d have to scrounge to get by in this new, human-less world.  I would walk through the fog around the trees and grass, around the tracks, back into the empty house and imagine utter solitude.  It was bliss.

Rail TULEY 3

Tucked inside this blanket of fog was the nonfunctional steam locomotive #334.  I bonded with her very early, and she will be in my heart for the rest of my life.

That’s her in the featured photo, as I knew her back then.  But this is the view I generally had, leaning out the window of the cab staring down the track as I flew along to points unknown.

Rail LONG SHOT 4
“The House” is dead ahead.

There was a decaying wooden seat inside, held together only by habit. Sometimes when I sat down I could hear it creak out a warning, there will be splinters soon, but I didn’t care.  My heart and my mind were worlds away.  For hours and hours, I would go away.

The levers and knobs inside still moved a bit so I could control it, and the cover of the firebox would open with the grind and squeak of very old metal so I could stoke the fire.

Every now and then Casey Jones was the engineer.  I was already fairly morbid.

Rail CASEY JONES 8
An American legend.  If you don’t know who he was, check it out.  It’s a heroic and tragic story, complete with a folk song.

Anyway, sometimes I would be on a track, sometimes I would be in the clouds.  Generally the wind blew so strong that with my head out the window it was all I could hear. I was absolutely free as I was nowhere else.  My dad was doing his thing, any siblings were doing older sibling stuff, so no one was watching me, no one was bothering me, no one was telling me to get out of that fantastically dangerous, tetanus-ridden jungle gym.

It was magic.

So off I go to this incredible event, this huge event, and I will be there. I will write again about it I’m sure, and I’ll post some photos.  Probably not ones where I’m crying but, besides that.

I hope that even if you are not a rail fan, you can enjoy the story and pictures.  Maybe you’ll find yourself getting lost in the daydreams and fantasies, the utterly romantic and spooky glory that is rail.

Rail 1
Dream fodder.  I don’t think I would ever leave.

 

 

Musty Smells and Daydreams

I live in an older building, built in 1927, which has its quirks and issues. Recently while doing some repairs, the plumbers found the pipes are not up to code, so parts of walls in every apartment have been slowly torn apart to fix it.

One of those is in what’s called the “butler’s pantry,” the small space between the kitchen and the dining room. There’s a built-in hutch and decals of crows and branches on the walls. We like the spooky. (We got this place on pure luck – a hand-me-down from a friend. I always feel compelled to point that out.)

Wallpaper Crow kitchen
S’up.

We also love history. This building has a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s called that because it “bridges” the Golden Gate, just a fun fact for you. The people who lived here then could watch it being built.

I would love to see an inside photo of the apartment from around that time. I would love to see how people in 1927 and thereabouts decorated, how they lived, what was new and trendy. I want to know what it looked like, but finding these photos has proven impossible so far. So we painted and decorated it to reflect my beloved 19th Century instead, with additions like a TV and penicillin, and I am left to daydream.

One of the quirks is water leaks so when we noticed the paint was buckled and blistered on one section of the walls we shrugged and went on with our day enjoying indoor plumbing and horseless carriages.

But when the workers cut out part a wall in the butler’s pantry, it caused one paint chip to fall off the wall next to it. My husband peeled it off figuring it will have to be repainted. Then he called me over.

I nearly passed out. Seriously, I gasped so deeply I made myself lightheaded.

Under all that paint, layer upon layer for who knows how many decades, was the most amazing wallpaper. I haven’t researched it yet, so I don’t know when it was put up, but the design looks to be around the 1930s. If anyone knows from the photo, please leave a comment with that information, I will be your very best friend.  Also, I have cookies.

Wallpaper 6 Wallpaper 20190322_090244

She is a faded beauty, an aged but lovely lady patiently waiting to be unveiled and make an entrance. She is water damaged, faded, ripped and pulling from the wall, but I cannot stop looking at her. Wallpaper is female, apparently. I didn’t realize that either until typing this.

Now my head is swimming. What did it look like when it was new? Did it cover the entire little room? Was the hutch painted white at that time, or had that particular crime not yet occurred, so it was still the bare wood it was meant to be?

These people went to a store, chose that pattern, and had it put up. At that time the building had a dumbwaiter and kitchen so one could order food to be sent up, so I’m assuming they did not do their own work. I imagine a small forest of plants.

Wallpaper plant
Not a green thumb to be found in this place now.

What was in the hutch? What dishes did they have? They were likely wealthy so did they have a maid who laid the table?

We are not wealthy, we painted the apartment ourselves. By “we” I mean “my husband.”

I keep going back to look at it, stand back, move close, and touch it with my finger, tracing a line around the palm trees and bridges. It smells musty, old glue and paper and probably mold. It’s a lovely smell, like old books tucked into a proper library. The smell brings so many questions and flights of fancy for me. So much wondering about the people and their lives. Among those lives, my family, going back to the 19th Century. I was born across the Bay, a fact I will forever be bitter about.

Family stories are wonderful, but seeing this relic in my own home, something that, judging by the thickness of the paint layers has been lost for a very long time, it’s like finding a ruin, counting strata to figure out how long it’s been there.

This is how my mind works. This is how I see things. A strip of wallpaper has sent me into a rabbit warren of daydreams and an aching desire for a time machine. But since I don’t currently have one on account of they don’t exist, all I can do is wonder and smile.

Eventually, probably next week, the workmen will come back to patch the holes, and at that time the jig will be up, and they’ll probably have to paint over that spot.

But before they do, we are going to slice that strip of paper out and frame it, and then hang it right in that spot. I’ll walk past it every day and smile since she’s right back where she belongs.

Update!

Well, I had finished this article and we sliced out the paper. Lo and behold, there was another behind it! This one was against the plaster, so it is the original. We cut it out too, and they will both be framed. I’ll share that when it’s done.

Wallpaper 2nd layer 11

 

Perfect Imperfection

At a glass blowing show, in the back of a cabinet, set away from the perfect art, was a proto champagne flute.

It sat on a perfect stem, but the bowl hadn’t set properly.  It was going to be melted down, but I loved it, so I brought it home.

It can’t be used as a glass, so it sat on my dresser.  It existed only to be beautiful to me.  It has no function, it is beauty for the sake of beauty.

 

Imperfection 2.1

 

Immediately I saw the elegant watery dance of this perfectly imperfect vessel, the ripples on a pristine lake sneakily snatching the moonlight.

Imperfection 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It makes me smile. Maybe it is a kindred spirit.  Perfectly imperfect.

 

Imperfection 4

 

From a twisted glass, a reminder, look for beauty in the broken world, you will find it.

A quiet walk on a peaceful trail, pine trees have dropped branches, dead on the ground.  Brown needles, brown cones, brown earth, brown death.  But tiny yellow flowers pop through, green stems burst from the nurturing mound.  Life begins again.

 

Imperfection 6

 

From death, a reminder, live while you can live the best you can, find the beauty in the perfectly imperfect.

In the end, yellow flowers may grow from your bones, your ash or flesh in the air we breathe. Your life means something, even as it floats away. It will become something beautiful.

Strangely beautiful.

 

“Earthly bound to mortal cares

Greedy death awaits us.”

 

Imperfection 2

All of us as one, perfectly imperfect.

 

 

 

Flip the Telescope and Have Fun!

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, And that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”
– Dr. Seuss

Like most kids, I grew up with these books, the numbers and colors of various fish, the color of food one will or will not eat, and of course, the Grinch. To this day, it is not Christmas without Boris Karloff’s endearing lisp teaching me about the preferred size of a heart.

Dr. Seuss is so deeply entrenched in our hearts, my husband and I wrote our vows in the appropriate rhyme scheme,

Will you take her as your wife?
Will you love her all your life?

Will you take him as your spouse,
never treat him like a louse?

It begins

There are a few things I can point to from my very early life that helped to craft my sense of humor (Warner Bros cartoons) my love of 19th Century romanticism (Beatrix Potter) and my deep and abiding love of silliness and poetry, that would be the gentleman quoted above.

Notice anything there?  Cartoon, cartoon, cartoon.

I have never been a big fan of normal. Why look at things from the right end of the telescope? Why look at a rock and see a rock? It’s a tiny mountain, and even tinier creatures live around it, carrying on with their tiny lives and tiny little tandem bikes.

I took this picture a few months ago. It’s a plushy goat’s head with a Hello Kitty bandage on the horn.

4.0

While I was giggling and snapping the picture with my phone, someone asked me what the deal was, why was I taking a picture of it. I ran those words over and over in my head to make sure I heard what I thought I did, and then I said with a shrug and furrowed brow, “Because it’s funny.”

I really don’t understand the reason for the question. The plushy goat head is funny, it made me laugh, I squealed and jumped up and down when I saw Hello Kitty, so I had to have a picture. It’s the telescope the wrong way round, why would I look at the world any other way?

I’m used to those questions though, and the looks as well; people looking at me like I am a Martian here to steal our Danish apple reserves. They are mad for apple Danish on Mars, most people don’t know that. And it’s quips like that that cause people to stare at me all mouth-agape.

I don’t care. I love my world.

Play pretend is important

I don’t believe in unicorns. I don’t believe in any supernatural things. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have fun looking for cloven hoof prints when I go hiking. I suspend my disbelief, that’s all. Try it, you won’t look silly, no one even has to know unless you tell them. Look for the unicorns and smile. I bet you that someone else wants to play too, but don’t think they can because they’re a grown-up.

You know how some games have an age range, “For ages 4 – 8” that sort of thing? You know what doesn’t have an age limit? FUN! PLAY PRETEND!

Yes, play pretend. People may think, adults don’t do that. Wanna bet?

Recently a friend’s kids asked if I would play with them. We set out to catch a dragon. Should you need this information, dragons eat rocks. baby dragons eat rocks, shells, and crispy Cheetos, and lizards eat rocks and shells. We found so many dragons! I got to hear what colors they were, how big, if they breathe fire or not.

I learned this because I asked them, and they told me. And then they asked me what I saw, and I told them.

There is no age limit on fun. You can play pretend with anything.

Fun with photography

I took my own photos for my book because I can’t afford a professional.

I set up my photo equipment in my dining room. I had the background stand, a tripod, and three of those lights with umbrellas.

4.1
Nothing is more fun than the lights with umbrellas.

I staged the props, took a picture, moved a light, took another, lowered an umbrella, moved stuff around. I did this for a couple of months, probably took about 3,000 pictures, and I got about 10 I actually think are good.

4.2
Yes, it’s a shameless plug, but I never claimed to possess an ounce of shame.

I could call that learning a new craft, or practical use of resources, or taking care of business. All of those are completely correct.

But what I was doing, for all the fancy adult words, was playing pretend.

I am not a photographer, I had zero idea what I was doing, I was learning things as I went and had the time of my life.

You want to play pretend, but think you’re too old?  Dude, I’m 51. Nobody is gonna tell me I’m too old, they’re not the boss o’me.

(For those who are not from Northern California, “Dude” is unisex, not species specific, and not specific to biological life.)

And they’re not the boss o’you either.

We have to be adults sometimes, of course. We have to work, pay bills, raise families, whatever your life looks like. But nobody gets to take your imagination, nobody. Your thoughts and dreams are your own.

It’s ok to play, in fact, it’s essential to life and mental health. It’s not a cure-all for those of us suffering, but it can ease the pain, or even help keep it on a leash. Look through the telescope wrong way round. Have fun.

Oh, one thing, a comically undersized umbrella will not protect you from falling anvils. That’s a safety tip for you.

acme catalog
Why does he keep buying ACME?

Past, Present, and a Future without You

So I think we can all agree that I am the worst blogger of all time.  If there were a trophy for this, like a guy throwing a bowling ball or doing that one arm forward, one back holding a football about to toss it to the outfield (I don’t know sports) my trophy would be an empty pedestal because I disappeared for months and forgot about it.

To my followers though, look at it this way, you know I won’t spam you!

I never actually forgot about the blog, I’ve just gotten sidetracked by other projects and shiny things.  I’m working on another book, which is going to be much bigger in scope than Life Songs and much more difficult to write.  Life Songs lived in my poetry, my head, my heart, it was written from inside.  The new one is going to be complicated and if I can pull it off, important to others like me.  That’s my goal.

The working title right now, by the way, is Nightmares and Laughter.

I want to take you with me on this one.  Life Songs was very personal, very intimate and there really wasn’t anything to discuss.  But this new one, heretofore called N&L (I’m fancy like that) is so involved that I want to bring you along in the process.  This is not entirely altruistic; writing things out, sharing them with someone else, can help keep me inspired.  And it will be a good way for me to keep up N&L the blog, while I work on N&L the book.

I’m certain that while I go through this process, “talking” with you will help me sort things out.

I will be honest with you, it’s Tuesday morning, I’m in my jammies drinking coffee, and I’m watching the pouring rain outside my window, thinking about my book.  You do not have my full attention, and I may start to ramble.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you know this is not super unusual.

Lost in Thoughts and Daydreams

Since N&L starts with my old diaries, I’ve been living firmly in the past for a few months.   This is not entirely good, given the things I’m reading and reliving.  I had 10 physical diaries covering ages 9 to 33 to read page by page, capture notes, analyze…and remember.

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Why can’t I just write children’s books?

This journey thus far has not been pleasant.

Here’s what I do to stop a downward spiral, and it works a lot of the time.

I have many photos and drawings of long-dead relatives, some going back to the mid-1800s.  I can see my face in a smirk, or a side-eye, or pursed lip annoyance, I can see these long-dead relatives in my siblings, my parents.  Except for my sister, all of these people are gone.

Bear with me, I’ll get to the comforting bit.

See, most especially with the very old photos and drawings, these people have been gone a long time.  They had trials, pains, headaches, menstrual cramping before Ibuprofen, (girlfriend, respect!) They lived through the Civil War, WWI, the Depression, WWII, and a million problems I can’t even imagine.  But those human events, all of them, are over.  Whatever one believes about an afterlife, those pains, as well as the joy, are done.

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L to R – Grandpa (on the far right) with his sisters.  Grandpa and Grandma in their vibrant youth.  Grandma during the Depression.  The same beautiful couple late in life, laughing and enjoying the snow.  Good times, bad times, laughter, and hunger.  Lives lived and long gone.

I try to hang on to this, look at these pictures and see my family, imagine what they went through. Did they keep diaries?  To my knowledge, there are no actual diaries for any of them.  How is that possible?  I can’t believe that in a family as artistically inclined as mine there is not one journal.

Maybe you have figured out where I’m going.

I will die someday

I’m not afraid of death, I don’t believe in an afterlife of any kind, so I’ve no fear of that.  But I do fear dying.  Any pain, regret, and worrying about what will happen to my journals, my writing, my photos, those beautiful family photos I take comfort in.

Neither my siblings nor I had children.  I have no close blood relations who might care about this random woman in San Francisco.  Will my diaries, at the moment I have kept 21, be in a landfill?  Deleted? In an antique store?  All my thoughts and fears and joy and pain will be gone.

But then I look at photos.

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Three generations greet me every day.

All of those people are dead, there are no diaries, no way to “hear” their voices. They are pictures in a frame. I can do a family tree, I can trace exactly how they are related to me, (the lady in the picture on the cover of Life Songs is my great x3 aunt Alice) but they are strangers.

At the end of our lives, we are stories.  We are not the photos, we are not the antiques, we are the stories.  Once we are gone, we have no control over our legacies.  Regardless of what you believe or not, we are gone.  I can’t imagine an afterlife that involves worrying about human concerns.

Grief is for the living

My brother died in June, my first sibling to die. Of course, I miss him, but there was something else.

He, my sister, and I formed a whole lifetime of memories.  No one has all of them, we filled in the blanks for each other.  Now with him gone, 1/3 of our memories are gone.

This made me very sad first, but then I realized we have the photos, the memories, the stories.  There are a great many stories where he is concerned. Kenneth was quite unique.

And that’s my point.  He lives in stories, our lives, our memories.

My close blood relatives are dwindling, but I have many friends who are my family.  They have children who are my nieces and nephews; I love them dearly.

Will they care about my “stuff” when I’m gone?  I don’t know.  But they will have stories, oh I guarantee, they will have stories.  From my grown niece who calls me her Fairy Goth Mother, to my little nephew Mini Cooper who has resigned himself to the fact that I will always call him that, and everyone I hold dear, there will be stories about me until there are not.

And I will not care, because I will be dead.

This is comforting to me.

Legacies Long Gone

I got an old phonograph from my brother, with the hand crank, and a collection of old 78 rpm records.  I love to listen to long-dead artists living their dreams.  I know too many musicians to think that they did not sit around and argue and swear and fight artistic differences.  One of the records is the Andrews Sisters.  They straight up hated each other.

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But the music, ladies.  The music!

But they all made beautiful music, they all left beautiful music.  And these passionate musicians will all be forgotten in time.

Except for the Beatles.  That’s just science.

 

Dreams, Death, Second Chances

One finds the oddest things when going through old photos.

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I have no memory of this postcard. I assume it was my dad’s since he was the musical one. It’s just an ordinary photo of a long forgotten group, who lived their dreams for a little while.

It’s what’s on the back that made me stop what I was doing and get lost in a time warp.

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I think it’s the same person writing all those little quips, and I assume who drew that lovely lady and the rather odd…dolphin? Airplane? I think it’s a dolphin. Anyway, I have no idea which one of those young men did, and I never will except in the astronomically unlikely event that one of them sees this article, looks at the photo and says “Say, that’s me n’the boys!” I’m not holding my breath.

Besides the little sketches, there are the things one would expect, the name of the band and members, and of course the promotion.

“The One and Only Quartet – Good Nuts”

A quick (image search off) Google search turned up nothing, so it looks like these boys went the way of most bands and found themselves working at insurance companies or warehouses or, well, the photo isn’t dated, but I think it’s safe to say they could have left us in the war. It’s likely we’ll never know.

I started to read the little scribbles around the edges. Random thoughts and silliness written by someone probably around 80 years ago or so, things he thought were interesting or funny or little bits of truth disguised as mirth.

“Don’t ask me if I got married when school was out!! Imagine. Aah. I can’t.”
“I learned a new song, real cute.”
“On what grounds were her aspirations founded? Those are $10 words.”
“My man’s a garbage man.” (I assume this was meant to be said by the lady, but it still makes zero sense.)

But what stopped me, what made me catch my breath, sit down, and disappear, was this, “I have one chance, shall I take it?”

Assuming this photo is from the late ‘30s, early ‘40s, I think it’s safe to say these boys are no longer with us. So did he take the one chance while he had it?

Are you taking your “one chance” while it’s there? Am I?

Between the silly sketches of fur-coated ladies and dolphins with underbites, there is this one little snip of truth, this one doubt that we all share,

“I have one chance, shall I take it?”

The words of a young man, uncertain and maybe scared to take a leap, whatever it was. A new band? Writing songs? Putting himself out there somehow, at a crossroads in an old-timey car, the signs labeled “Safety” and “Risk” with a hitchhiking, bindle carrying hobo, for some reason?

This hit home for me because my life is at crossroads like that, has been for a while. I’m taking the chance in some ways, finishing my book and putting it out there, working on some future plans, even this blog is a chance of a sort.

But I’m not doing enough. I’ve let so many dreams die. So many years I can’t get back. But I have now. I have right this minute.

This is why the musings of a man who was living his dreams 80 odd years ago landed firmly on my heart.

I have been going through my photos and mementos to put together a display for my brother’s memorial service on Saturday. He died June 18 of prostate cancer. Family photos always take me away sometimes very far in the past. But this one, I have no memory of it. It won’t go in the display of course, but it did cause me to think.

Did this boy in a quartette called Good Nuts achieve what he was looking for? Did he at least take the leap and was happy for it?

Did my brother?

He died young, only 57. That’s too young, but cancer doesn’t give one half of a shit about our wishes. So ready or not, here it comes. Fuck cancer.

I will make you all a deal, ok? Let’s all hit at least one thing we’ve always wanted to do. Just one thing, even if it’s small. If you can, grab a dream and hold on, ride it out. I will do the same, and in a little while, I’ll report back. I would love it if you told me what you are doing.

You are alive. You’re filling your lungs with air, and your blood is pumping through your heart, and you feel hungry, and your arm itches and you get eye-boogers…you are alive.

Don’t let that slip away. Have your adventure, whatever it is.

“I have one chance, shall I take it?”

Yes. Whichever young man you are in this picture, I desperately hope you did.

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Reach for your dreams.  If you try and don’t make it to the top, you tried.  Rest easy when time has its way.