I have no idea what to say
or who might be listening
or might want to listen.
If they knew I had something to say.
If I had something to day.
The Great Dismal Swamp has nothing on you.
A long time ago (sometime in the 1980s), I gave a paper at a regional Costume Society of America meeting. I can't remember the topic, and it isn't even listed on my CV. Only one thing stands out in my memory: I was introduced by Richard Martin, at that time one of the brightest stars in the fashion studies firmament. Only one year my senior, Richard was an established curator and scholar, producing several blockbuster exhibits a year at the Fashion Institute of Technology. He had graduated from college the same year I graduated from high school, and earned two master's degrees while I was still waiting tables. In short, he was brilliant. He was also gracious and generous; there are many "stars" in academic fields who are willing to lower themselves to occasional brief appearances at conferences, where they hang out with the other stars and ignore everyone else. Richard was not that person.
So it was that Richard Martin (THE Richard Martin) was at a regional meeting presiding over a session of papers by junior scholars and graduate students. I was probably the most senior presenter, but still an assistant professor; my very first article about boys' clothing and gender had just been published in Dress. And he introduced me not just with a list of my degrees and positions, but a description of my work. WHICH HE CLEARLY HAD READ. And he called me an iconoclast. On my secret, imaginary business cards ever since, is the line "Richard Martin called me an iconoclast".
Yesterday I got this message via Linkedin from Rob Smith, founder of The Phluid Project, a gender-free store in New York.
So: iconoclast icon? Iconic iconoclast? I think what it means is "don't stop". So I won't!
As I explained in an earlier post, part of my retirement plan is "more writing, fewer citations". Participating in the Story A Day in May challenge was part of that plan. Despite the bad timing -- spanning the last weeks of my last semester before retiring -- I somehow managed to post something every day for thirty-one days. (To see the entire collection, click here.) What am I taking away from the experience?
What will June bring? July and beyond? More writing, and also editing. Lots of editing. (Yes, I saw all the typos.)
He'd planned to write all morning, but had ended up in the emergency room instead. As he watched the pain meds drip through the IV, he reflected on the wisdom of reaching for the page the wind blew off his desk. It wasn't that great, anyway.
Were you my anchor,
Or were you the ship?
Discernment is needed
For this farewell.
Our home was the harbor,
And you the graceful ship,
Sails straining with the wind.
Take up the anchor of our love,
Carry it with you to new adventures.
And back, someday, to me.
Every day, a story. The month was almost over and it couldn't end too soon. At first, it had been fun; she'd wake up and check her email for the prompt, then think about it while she took a long shower. Day six was promising; a choice bit of flash fiction with a twist she was particularly proud of. But that was followed by several days of progressively weaker and more disappointing efforts. At the two week mark, the muse woke up again and graced her with an inspired plot. She rushed through her shower and threw on a pair of jeans and an old t-shirt, fired up the computer and -- vanished. The words wouldn't come, and the brilliant plot transformed into a moldy skeleton.
For the next week and a half, ideas came hard and words came harder. Stiff. Trite. Repetitive. Really, really repetitive.
On the last day, the morning routine came up empty. She showered until she was wrinkly. A long walk did nothing. The skies closed in and soon she was staring out the window at a gray, drizzly afternoon. Time for a nap.
And in that nap, she found the most amazing story.
It turned out to be a meditation, not a story.
What right have we to love
While weddings turn to funerals?
What right have we to live
While babies drown at sea?
What right have we to eat
While others starve in darkness?
What right have we to peace
While millions flee from war?
What right have we to live
If not to help our neighbors?
Sing it. Say it. Do it.
I am cheating, for now. Later on today I may post one of the stories whirling in my head, but for now, here is a placeholder from last year's writing.
I started off with today's prompt, which was to tell a story as a series of letters, or tweets, or similar installments, all in the first person. But I ended up using my tarot deck again. I drew three cards for the beginning, middle and end of the story.
And here it is.
I almost did it the summer I turned twenty-one.
It started off as a routine Friday night at the buffet-style restaurant where I worked. The food was nothing special, but it would fill you up without emptying your wallet. The big attraction was the improv show, featuring a manic group of theater majors from area colleges. I remember a few of them by name, the ones I thought might make it big someday. But It's a sure thing none of them remember me -- the waitress uniform and hairnets probably made a bigger impression than I did.
But there was that one moment when I almost came out from behind the dessert table and became -- a star. The adorable blonde guy had asked the audience for prompts for the next sketch, and someone yelled "a waitress"! His eyes scanned the room and caught me -- "You!! Come on!"
In a flash, I imagined myself whipping off my hairnet and letting my long hair cascade down my back, unbuttoning the top two or three buttons of my polyester uniform, and wowing them with my version of "Let me entertain you" (The one I had been practicing in the shower since I was ten.)
But then the old me took over. I shook my head, stepped back, and stammered, "I-I-I can't".
But I almost did.