Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Pain Unable To Explain

The Pain Unable To Explain
Just before Christmas of 2008, I wrote a blog post about my childhood friend Dina (pseudonym), who found me on the internet and then sent me a magical box filled with every letter I'd ever written to her. She thought it would make a good book one day. So do I.

When I first started coming to Paris, I had recently made a final break with corporate America and decided I would finally, at 50, become a writer. I'd been in denial and avoiding this precious part of myself for way too long. I blogged religiously, finding my voice. But I never worked on my book ideas, some of them quite developed. I had, and still have, an inordinate fear of taking this big step in my life, daring to legitimize myself as a published writer. The devil on my shoulder continues to say, "Who the hell do you think you are? Calling yourself a writer. Pffft!" Instead, I allowed myself to get distracted with other people's problems (my forté) and when I found freelance work, I dove into it with the same obsessive overworking that almost killed me in my past career.

A difficult relationship breakup, a writing contract for a PSP game, a teaching contract at the same time, a multi-year French work permit application process...all combined with my terror of finishing and publishing a book...made me hide in my apartment in a paralysis like I have never before experienced. I stopped blogging. I stopped living. I was just surviving from day to day, as I gathered enough nerve to go to the grocery store or to work, literally gagging from fear at every step.

Last week, I finalized my French work permit and suddenly, just as Paris has been drenched in sunlight for seven rare days in a row, I felt lighter and full of hope. I wouldn't say I'm without fear, since fear has been my nasty little habit for such a long time. I will have to retrain every cell in my body before I could dare to call myself fearless.

But this morning I finally took down the box Dina sent me, from the top of a dusty tall cabinet. It's the first step in cataloging the letters and figuring out how I will present this little gold mine. In the box is a Son of Big Chief writing tablet, filled with letters, poems and my drawings. According to Wikipedia, these tablets were printed for more than 80 years, but died a quiet death in 2001. However, I share the use of Big Chief with other literary luminaries: "In John Kennedy Toole's novel A Confederacy of Dunces, the protagonist Ignatius Reilly pens his philosophical ramblings on Big Chief tablets." What's hilarious about this Big Chief tablet cover, is the fact that because of the time that I bought it (circa summer of 1972), there's a hippie Big Chief instead of the standard Indian.

So, to get me started, I'd like to share one item with you, a story I wrote spontaneously, built around a drawing I made. It's obvious, based on my own drawings, that sometimes I copied other people's art as a way to teach myself. And this particular drawing looks like one of those copies. I named the character "Fwed" and wrote the following story when I was about 15 years old. (I didn't edit the punctuation or spelling.)

This is fwed. Fwed's my buddy. We met in a Chinese hairdresser salon while he was having hairs inserted above his ear so that he'd look like he'd have hair if he wore his cap. (I won't tell you what I was doing there...) Anyway Fwed and I started a lasting relationship over our fortune cookies and bamboo shoots. He was a master at chopsticks in any form and he lovingly instructed me of their use as he noticed most of my meal down my blouse and dribbling down the chair legs whenever we went out to eat. "Tsk Tsk" he'd say (he's got the cutest way of saying that!) and he'd wipe it all up to use as leftovers. He was the swankiest person I ever met - and high society? Whew - you name it - he was there. Remember the 1968 garbage collector's ball that was so highly publicised - Well - I was there - along with Fwed of course. I owe it all to him. He was so suave and debonair (to add a little of that "parlay-vu") (tee hee) that night. He almost swept me off my feet. I'm glad he didn't though - the floor was awful dirty - it needed it more than I did.

Fwed was a professional olive stuffer but out of business since the last pimento strike he's been free lancing as a Presidential campaign delegate - all just night work you know - so I haven't been able to see him lately. During the day he's free though and we go to all the dog shows to see if we can find his lost doberman pincer - the one who chewed up Fwed's round bed and headboard. Fwed was so mad that he scolded "pooch" cruelly which brought on an attack of shame to the dog along with "sticky-paw" (the pain unable to explain). Pooch took off for the mountains - on invitation of course - by the Don Juan of dogs himself whom no one has ever really seen. His sticky-paw dissapeared after a few days of nursing by those sexy poodles of Don Juan's. And the shame? Who knows - hopefully he's forgotten - we wouldn't want him to have a nervous breakdown. I know all this because pooche's girlfriend, smooch, travels to this area once in a while and visits my dog, mooch who in turn reports the latest. Fwed still thinks that pooch is lost and caught an attack of amnesia which stops him from coming home. His taste has become more educated and he prefers satin slippers and the like to round beds.

I've known Fwed for a while now and have gotten to know all about his personality - bad and good. He's the most different person I've ever met - to put it mildly. Why, he sleeps on top of his kitchen counter at night - due to the fact he has no bed anymore. I once asked him how he managed to stay up there all night without falling off. He claims there's a bottomless pit below which explains why he jumps onto the chandelier every morning and makes a dive for the couch which also was a surprise to me because I was sleeping on the couch. I don't know how he ever had anything to eat because the bottomless pit was right in front of the stove, sink, and refrigerator. I also wonder how he gets up on the counter to go to sleep at night - the chandelier is only a one-way deal. Yes, Fwed is a very peculiar person.

But I like him just the same. I would never marry him I'm afraid - I wouldn't be able to stand listening to that garbage he plays on the radio.

The End.

As I read this story, I can see all of the influences at the time I was writing it:
  • I had a best friend in Arizona whose swingin' single mother had a round bed...covered in deep purple velvet, no less.
  • My father used to say he wouldn't eat Chinese food because he hated eating "grass and bamboo shoots."
  • My mother hated rock n' roll and frequently called it "that garbage on the radio."
  • When my mother looked at my skinny brother, she'd say, "I don't know why he can't gain weight. His stomach is a bottomless pit."
  • "Suave and debonair" was a favorite saying of my brothers, for some reason, who pronounced it like this: swave and dee-boner.

I have no idea where the following line came from however, but I know I must use it someday, somewhere in my writing: the pain unable to explain.

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