We used to be richer, younger and thinner.
June 20, 2010 ~ Toni
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This writing thing? It’s a carnival all my own. The Biggest Little Show on Earth. Step right up, Lady. I can take a chance, try my skill, test my strength, guess my own weight, or end up a sideshow curiosity. I travel from place to place, thanks to my MacBook; admission to the blank page is free. I’m my own entertainment. There isn’t any calliope music but I do crank out a few tunes on my piano, making up lyrics as I go. Food and beverages? Yep, got those. Deep-fried candy bars and fried dough? I keep hopin’. I’ve got all my original parts and, by and large, I operate trouble-free. And like the Ferris wheel on the Midway, the writing is just plain fun. It’s been a thrilling ride since the day I invaded, er, was invited into The Writing Group of Two. Patty and Ronnie said ‘Oh come on, join us on Friday afternoons’. What? My TGIF-and-Absolut Afternoons? I whined, kvetched, groused, grumbled and gave in. We had ‘our table’ at Hannah’s, drank coffee and ate cookies the size of dinner plates. We sipped Prosecco to celebrate the good times and left when Hannah turned off the lights. But mostly, we read our writing to each other. The stories drew us together; the writing until wee hours on Thursday nights did not disappoint. And, then, there was the unexpected development. Who knew the balance of power was about to change? Italians, 2. Pilgrims, 1. (Then Mary joined us, so now Lithuanians have a presence.). As teachers, we have the language skill and literary foundation. The wheel and engine, in Ferris-wheel-speak. But what we were able to construct, just like that bridge maker George Ferris, is larger than anything we imagined. We are the beams, struts and supports for each other.
And all of it inspired the confidence that led to The Audacity of Submission. Rejections? I’ve got a folder. A big one. But I’ve also got a list of published work that will live here as a reminder that this traveling amusement show ain’t over yet.
“If I shoot at the sun, I may hit a star.” P.T. Barnum
Newspapers: The Christian Science Monitor, Hartford Courant, Waterbury Republican, Senior Voice, Happy Times, Northern Light, Auto News
Magazines: Weston Magazine, New Hampshire To Do, Heart of New Hampshire, Family Fun, New Hampshire Magazine, Good Old Days, Reminisce, Teaching Tolerance
Journals/Publications: Writers on the Rise, Women on Writing Newsletter, Writer’s Digest, Passager, Binnacle, Still Crazy, Italian Americana Cultural and Historical Review, Greenprints, Boomergirl, Aethlon, Euphoria, Yesterday’s Magazette, Square Table, Boomer Women Speak, UK Travel, Ditchwitch, Smokin’ Keyboards, Trail Runner, Homeschooling Horizons, Viatech, Stonyfield Farms, Hither and Yarn, Good Old Days
Awards: Erma Bombeck Global Human Interest, S. Portia Steele, Henry David Thoreau Society, Binnacle
Miscellaneous: NPR Colin McEnroe Show, Bushnell Theater, JCC Annual Book Festival
Anthologies: Poetry of Marriage, Poetry of Relationships, Silver Boomer Anthology, Birth Anthology
Thirteen Random Things About Me
- My given name is Anthonia. Not anybody’s first choice. That would be Anthony. That last critical syllable got changed in the birthing room, much to the dismay of my grandfather.
- I’m an only child of parents who were past mid-life when I was born. They didn’t adjust their lives much so I got to shuffle through antique stores and scuff around gravel pits a lot. Disneyworld? The Atlantic Ocean? You’re kidding, right?
- My Aunt Phil was a bookie and my cousin Lenny was the head of the steelworker’s union in That State that’s famous for political hijinks. (Hmm, doesn’t narrow it down much, does it?) Aunt Phil made a mean marinara. And Lenny, he didn’t have to walk on steel beams or stand atop high-rises during construction – ever.
- I never went to camp. I didn’t learn to swim. Which was never an issue anyway. (see #2)
- If it couldn’t be made in a Dutch oven, Mom didn’t make it. And no one else could either. Our kitchen was a closed shop. I love kitchen gadgets and gizmos and all things culinary. I went to France to cook with Michelin chefs but still can’t eat foie gras.
- I recognize chocolate as a food group. You’ll find it in the trapezoid at the bottom of my pyramid.
- Regrets, I have a few. But that’s the Unbearable Lightness of Being Me. I’ve had sixty-one Januarys of joy and luck. How good is that.
- About that luck – In high school, there was a bomb scare during midterms. The test period was shortened, so I didn’t have to translate the last section on the Latin IV exam into English. Thank you, caller, you saved my a**.
- I like to pass cherry-red Ferraris on the Amalfi Drive, Bugattis on the Lake Como road, and RV caravans on the interstate.
- I am a devotee of http://www.freecycle.org, enriched by the opportunities to reuse and recycle stuff with like-minded folks.
- The sound of glass clinking on marble is music to me. There’s going to be fine wine at dinner tonight. Not Black Box.
- Give me anything bobbing in garlicky butter. Julia does know best.
- Hold onto your escargot….more random thoughts ahead.
I’m only a half hour away from leaving for Sweden, bags not fully packed but shower done, so this seems like the perfect time to start an “about me” piece for the blog, right??!! This is a hard piece to write, given my fondness for focusing on the negatives when talking about myself. Here are some random tidbits to get me going:
***I cannot live without laughter, so I don’t!
***I was born a Leo, so I’m a wild woman inside. My shell is more inhibited, and I’m awkward in the spotlight. I could control an auditorium full of hormonal eighth graders but shied away from adventure. In my next life, that will change!!
***I’m a graduate of Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York (English major–was there any other in the 60′s???!!), but it was really MANHUNTINGville for me, a newbie to a social life. I could whip up a research paper in hours so that weekends were free to head to Holy Cross or West Point. I majored in my minor, so to speak.
***In January, I will have shared a friendship with Siv in Sweden for FIFTY years, yet we only met for the first time in 2001! We have written to each other, with some gaps, since January of 1961. It is a real love story–we have felt like sisters all these years, so I will write about it when I return. For now, I must zip up luggage and head for my flight to Stockholm. Annie and Maggie are going, too, and I can’t wait for them to meet Siv.
***I’m the first-born of two daughters raised by Peg and Will, products of the Great Depression and World War II. They were nervous new parents who tried at least 130 nipples on my baby bottles in order to get me to eat. I wish they hadn’t tried so hard–weight has been an issue much of my life! Dad called us “his two little miracles,” and that feeling of being loved continues even though he has been gone for over 20 years.
***As a college grad and unemployed in 1968, a miracle happened. There was a teacher shortage, and superintendents were calling recent grads trying to recruit new staff. God bless the TEP (temporary emergency permit) program. I said “yes” to the first offer, reading and literature in grade 7, and found the perfect career for me. Seventh grade was great training for the eighth graders I really loved.
***I’m rich. Not yachts and limo rich–friend rich. Not that I wouldn’t want to win the lottery, mind you, but there is such joy in a life filled with friends.
***I was named after my maternal grandmother–Mary Margaret Daly Cleary–and adored her. She could eat 10 fireballs in ten minutes (our favorite contest), even stuck in a wheel chair and nearing eighty. It was bliss to spend time with her. She bobbed her hair when it was rebellious, read the banned ULYSSES, and could replicate the clothes she saw in New York without a pattern!
***The other half of me is Lithuanian, which explains my mouse-brown thin hair–the bane of my existence!! My paternal Nana spoke almost no English but was kind and sweet as she welcomed us into her kitchen, her face dewy from the delicious ethnic foods she was always cooking on her old wood stove. From her I learned the value of welcoming people into my home and making them feel loved.
***I’m a Master of Procrastination (“lazy” sounds so negative, doesn’t it??). I probably could accomplish so much more (like pieces on this blog??!) if I didn’t pause to indulge in the fun of life: books, movies, jigsaw and crossword puzzles, crafts, socializing, snuggling my Chihuahua, and finding excuses to avoid my to-do list. Life is short (the painful lesson I’ve finally learned from Larry’s death), and I plan to enjoy it. The to-do list is never done anyway, so I’ve shrugged off the guilt and embraced my wanton ways!
***I guess even a self-effacing person can create an endless list of personal info, so enough already. I’ve created an outline for some great memoir pieces……and some day soon I will write them! Ha!
June 30, 2010 About Me: Patty
Oi vey! Another restaurant—gallery, antique shop, charter school, car model, hybrid rose—named Pentimento. This word means something positive, right? I mean, why name your new business or recently discovered beetle something that was bad? How to explain, then, that Pentimento comes from the Italian word pentirsi meaning to repent. Now, not being Italian or Catholic I have a certain distaste for official repenting, not that I don’t repent, but I call it REGRET or ANGUISH or SHAMED or SHEEPISH.
So now I’ve got that delicious cognitive dissonance, the kind that signals that I’m about to make a tiny, fragile connection. I’m about to find a link in what seemed before to be a gap.
I think, Pentimento? It’s a negative? That can’t be.
The pentimento I’ve always known about is an art thing. Over time, the top layer of paint in an oil painting becomes more transparent. When this happens, the artist’s original or earlier idea begins to show through. With those 17th Century Dutch paintings—think Rembrandt, Bruegel the Younger, Rubens—these guys were always using thin layers of paint to get rid of unwanted kids in a room or to shorten a too-long hat brim. Then—surprise, surprise—a few hundred years later out pops one of the kids behind some lady’s dress or a piece of furniture.
I think they did it on purpose. Those artists. I think they painted to see what came up, and then as their concept for the painting evolved, they painted over. They changed their minds.
Just like I do. But I’m not an oil painter. I’m a writer.
It’s the word CHANGE that’s putting muscle in this connection. I would hope that artists—presidents, dogs, hurricanes, spouses, umpires—can change their minds and be the better for it. Minds—and as I think on it, diapers—need changing fairly frequently or they begin to molder. So imagine that I’m an ancient canvas—not such a stretch—another pun, sorry; it’s the early hour and the fact that this is being written in the early morning before writing group meets. So I’m a canvas, one with many layers. My top layers are thinning and what’s gone on before is more easily available. And existing Right Along With My Present. And these past lives are a present to me. (See above apology re puns.) I remember stuff from way back in an unexpected way and then it pushes up against more stuff from further back or nearer to the present. It’s the juxtaposition of memories from different stages in my life that generate more stories. Just like that carousel in Portland, Oregon.
In 1912 the carousel’s center column had paintings of little blond girls and rag dolls, cinch-waisted ladies with parasols, politically incorrect images of Arabs and Native Peoples. About 40 years later two brothers painted over all Edwardian fluff. Afterwards, kids on the carousel whizzed by Mount Hood, the Oregon Coast, the Columbia River Highway. And what does this have to do with me being a canvas and juxtaposing unearthed memories? Hold on.
After a few decades, the magic began. The earlier and later paintings began to meld. As Mount Hood flaked and faded, the original pictures emerged. The result was all very unusual and unexpected. The new image tells a surreal but gripping story. So riveting is this story that Jim Lommasson has produced an absolutely lovely book with photographs and essays. It’s called Oak Park Pentimento. (oaksparkpentimento.blogspot.com/, http://www.newamericanartunion.com/Artists)
That’s how it is for me: my earlier selves emerge and blend with my more recent selves. I don’t know as I’d go so far as to say what the reviewers said about the carousel’s art: They picture decay as its own vibrant form of life, but I like the part about its own vibrant form of life.
Stanley Kunitz said we’ve got to learn to love that litter of our past lives. I KNOW that one way I get to the love part is to figure out the stories. It’s all about the narrative that starts up once you glimpse what’s behind and now next to the flaking paint.
Here’s another neat iteration of pentimento. Did you know that people tour cities and hunt for buildings with painted ads on them? The red brick sides of apartment buildings and businesses serve as billboard advertising canvases, and often they are painted over with newer ads. Then the paint wears away to reveal the older layers, but not all of either ad is totally revealed or obliterated. (http://www.fadingad.com and http://www.frankjump.com)
On Bleeker Street in NYC there’s an ancient Mecca Smokes advertising that’s emerged from underneath a Coca-Cola ad–battered and worn signage hinting at earlier times and habits. There’s even a new art form that combines these old ad images with graffiti. It’s called ediglyph by this guy Frank Jump who says it’s an intersection of fading ads and graffiti. He’s taken pictures of these ads and calls it fadingad. His websites have the pictures; each seems to be a tale waiting for the telling. (fadingad.wikispaces.com/Fading+Ad+Vocabulary, pentiment.blogspot.com.)
Okay. Since this piece is in our About Me page, I’ll start a list of my emerging selves:
Sister to Ruthie, Barbara, Bobby, Linda, Jimmy, and Susie. Doug, Jane, Dana, Joyce, Beth, James, Bo, Lori.
Daughter to Miriam and Sumner.
Grandaughter to Chaim and Esther, Frank and Louisa.
Aunt to Laurie, Lisa, Scottie and the Kapnis Kids, Andrew, Tina, Matthew, Lianne, David, Sojee, Katie, and Christopher, Duncan, Anne, Sarah Beth, Eleni, Jenny, Merri, Marjie, Anna.
Student at Horace Mann Training School, Salem Classical and High School, Bates College, Central Ct, UHart, Hampton Institute, Wesleyan.
Enduring Partner to Jack, lawyer and judge but not of me.
Teacher of little kids and teachers at Vogel-Wetmore and bigger kids and teachers at Saint Joseph College.
Mother to Sarah, John, Rob, Doug, Craig, Ryan, and Catherine.
Nani to Lydia, Chloe, Luke, and an-under-construction-new-baby.
Cellist with Harmon (esteemed teacher), MaryBeth, Bev, Barbara, Audrey,Robert, and Jeff.
Birder with Ronnie, fellow neophyte, and Ray, esteemed guru.
Vegetable and Flower Gardener with wild and rambling raised beds.
Novice cook and food blogger with Cousin Margaret (esteemed Master Cook).
Writing Group Member with Mary, Toni, and Ronnie.
Children’s book author.
(Author Note: This is revised first draft chat—otherwise known as Vomit Draft (Marion) and Shitty Draft (Anne Lamott). I’m wanting to write an About Me—see Toni’s evocative piece with the gently controlling metaphor of the ferris wheel. Initially I thought it would be fairly straightforward, not in a born or hatched autobiography-like, book flap manner, but short anyway. I thought I’d just list what makes me a writer. And then I stepped into this wild meadow that bent into deep woods laced with clear, cold springs alive with sounds and smells: Pentimento.)