Monday, April 10, 2006

Sunday Scribblings-Real Life

After I read the prompt for this week’s "Sunday Scribblings", I pondered what I could say about real life that wasn’t totally morose and sleep deprived. So I figured I needed some inspiration and took myself out to a café for a coffee and raspberry tart. I noticed a man sitting by the window, tapping a rhythm on the table with one hand and flipping pages furiously with his other. He dunked his head to lap up his coffee like a shaggy dog.

I’m not the type to stare at men, considering I’m happily married and all. But how often do you see a man old enough to be your father engrossed in "Little Women"? And dressed in a Blink 182 tour t-shirt, tuxedo pants, and love beads straight out of Hair?

He looked up and smiled, blue eyes crinkling under a shock of red hair. I pointed to his book and admitted, "That’s one of my favorites. Although I always wanted to be Amy instead of Jo."

Something about him invited such confidences.

"So what are you writing about?" He glanced down at my notebook and saw the lone words "real life" written in the center of the page, circled repeatedly. What follows is his spontaneous soliloquy on the subject. Any inaccuracies are my fault. My hand could barely keep up with him, once he got going.

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Real life is the new fantasy, man.

Don’t believe me? Look around at all the shows people watch nowadays. "Reality" this and "honest-to-God-true" that. Books that tattoo "this is a true story" all over themselves sell a lot better than most novels, even if the "true story" is written by a guy with the vocabulary of a five year old kid. I guess we think we’re all too cool and mature to bother with a little fantasy these days, so we sneak it in and pretend it’s just the facts, ma’am. I mean, look at the "truth" we’re seeing! It’s never some guy watching television and ordering takeout for the sixth straight day...no, it’s always people eating some poor bull’s testicles on a deserted island for a million dollars. We all think that only we’re boring...and so we try to escape into other people’s realities. But we’re all wrong, man! Look at my old lady, just an example...she’s one of those White Russians...you know, her great great great grandparents had to run for their lives after the revolution because they were royalty. And that’s her true life, man. She’s taking Russian classes now so that she can go there and start a band about how she’s down with the masses. And she’s 48! And I’ll bet if you asked her, she’d tell you that she’s totally ordinary.

And look at me...I followed the Dead for 10 years, met lots of people who I’ll remember forever, and met lots of others who kind of blur together, but it was beautiful. Now I own a coffeehouse, Cosmic Charlie’s, and we celebrate Jerry Garcia’s birthday every month! And it’s not like anyone told me that life could ever be that way—I grew up on a farm in Kansas. But that music...oh, that music was the way I wanted life to be, so I made it that way. And, uh, I’m still making it that way.

I’ll bet if people stopped trying to fit themselves into somebody else’s version of normal, they’d see how big their true life could really be—all that stuff you hate that embarrasses you, I’ll bet that’s where your soul lives. You know...like how you remember that Aunt Alice told you that you were double jointed and so you practice handsprings on your day off? Or you can’t start your day without reading your horoscope and turning it into haiku? Or you drive two towns over where nobody knows you to sing karaoke in Spanish? Or how you started calling yourself "Daisy" after you read the Great Gatsby? It’s all beautiful, and it’s all true.

Lots of people still move to Paris to live in a garret and write poetry. Or join the Peace Corps. Or go back to school to get their PhDs at 50. Or chuck it all and garden. No matter how normal you think you are, somebody’s out there who thinks your life is just the weirdest thing ever. I mean, an Indian bride becomes the incarnation of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, on her wedding day, but that’s just totally normal to her, you know? That’s just true.

Like my guru Joseph Campbell says, "The latest incarnation of Oedipus, the continued romance of Beauty and the Beast, stand this afternoon on the corner of Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue, waiting for the traffic light to change." These reality shows are all just showing you somebody else’s myth, but you gotta find your own myth, and you gotta live by it. I mean...something’s gotta be a dream before it’s true life, right? Who would’ve guessed 50 years ago that we’d all be talking to strangers on computers? That was somebody’s dream, or a whole lotta somebodies, and they made it happen. And it’s all beautiful.

Anyway, looks like my old lady’s done with her study group. That’s her over there, in the black mini dress. Gotta go...but remember....stop letting the people on TV live your real life for you. Be weird to be real, man! Follow your bliss! Let your freak flag fly!

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This is totally, absolutely true. Except when it’s not.

(Ed. note: Just wanted to make sure to say that this is ALL fiction. I'd love to meet someone like him, too, though! Sorry to mislead. :( )

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17 Comments:

Anonymous beansprout said...

Amazing! I think this is great...true or not true...real or not real...great writing and lots to consider. Be well.

6:16 AM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger Cate said...

Well, you've done it again. I don't have words. I can think of nothing to convey how much I absolutely loved this creative, insightful, heartfelt piece of writing.

Nope, words fail!

This line was my favorite: "all that stuff you hate that embarrasses you, I’ll bet that’s where your soul lives." Until I got to this one: "but you gotta find your own myth, and you gotta live by it." And then this: "Let your freak flag fly!"

I'll tell ya, chick, my Freak Flag is at full mast each day and you've made me feel a bit proud of that (and I needed that today!). Thank you for this post (and the last two which I've read and loved but didn't comment on because again, you're one of the few people--you and Laini--who render me just wordless and I HATE that :). xo

P.S. On many occasions, I've adopted the name "Daisy!"

7:33 AM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger Jessie said...

This is worth remembering:
"I’ll bet if people stopped trying to fit themselves into somebody else’s version of normal, they’d see how big their true life could really be—all that stuff you hate that embarrasses you, I’ll bet that’s where your soul lives."

How perfect that you stumbled across this guy. ha! He made for some INCREDIBLE writing. I can imagine him perfectly, just as I can imagine you sitting there with your journal--real life circled at the top.

I tried to get my husband to give me a definition of real life--but when he couldn't do it (at least not the way I wanted him to--haha), I had to come up with something myself. I thought about it for 3 days before just forcing myself to sit down and write.

But I think you're on to something here--not just what that man said, but what you noticed yourself: that all we need to do is LOOK AROUND.

Thank you for sharing this piece--I enjoyed it immensely.

8:34 AM, April 10, 2006  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

As a fellow writer, I am so blown away by the material you gained by taking yourself out and having a conversation with someone. Whatever is true, whatever isn't, whatever whatever - this is like candy, or theory, or...yeah, what I've read of Joseph Campbell. That's just the material/content. The writing is fantastic. Have you considered submitting anything or are you concentrating on writing? I have some ideas, if you are or will consider submitting.

8:46 AM, April 10, 2006  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

I can't stop smiling. I...LOVE...THIS!!! So much wisdom here (intentional or not). :) I've read a bunch of the Real Life scribblings--this is my favorite!

9:04 AM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger Living Part Deux said...

To be aware enough to even see the guy, notice what he was reading and stop to hear him - now that's "real." Where have all the old hippies gone? There's one. I'm SO heartened. They didn't all sell out their pure souls.

I'm loving the Sunday Scribblings - and have met SO many new people through this exercise. But, I would have done it all to just read this. I'm overwhelmed and will be visiting a lot. See if I don't!

9:51 AM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger GreenishLady said...

Tell us where you found him, and we'll be flocking to sit at his feet! Wise and deep. I loved this. It's totally and absolutely wonderful! Thank you.

2:09 PM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger megg said...

i'm speechless - and that doesn't happen very often. I absolutely LOVED this. thank you!

3:40 PM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger pinkcoyote said...

LOVE laura love reference! i sing that song with my moonroof open and my j lo sunglasses on...

your writing is colorful and wonderful and real. thank you!

4:10 PM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

!!!! i'd call that a divine encounter. he had a lot of wisdom to pass on and offered some interesting thoughts to ponder. i'm so glad you shared it all. 'all that stuff you hate that embarrasses you, I’ll bet that’s where your soul lives.'--that's my favorite line. i love this idea!!! great job!!!

4:43 PM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger Bohemian Girl said...

i absolutely adore everything about this.

you circling "real life' on your page; meeting "mr. cool, man" and sharing a moment you'll never forget with him; me walking away from this realizing how crazy "reality tv" has become and that we truly don't realize how thrilling our own real lives are...not someone elses myth.

very cool
very cool...

just like a film well done, i will ponder this one for a while.

5:06 PM, April 10, 2006  
Anonymous Diana said...

I can't add anything that hasn't already been said, but I just wanted to say that I loved this!

6:32 PM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger Laini said...

Wow, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this! It's not often I have a meaningful conversation with a stranger, but I like to look at people and wonder, what would it take, conversationally, to break through somebody's small talk and get at the real, interesting stories of their lives? When I was selling my art at a craft fair, I'd end up with a booth next to some wacky old man I'd never have talked to in my "real life" and because we'd be there together all day, we'd talk. And I realized, the more this happened, that everyone has far wilder, more interesting stories, than you could ever guess just by looking. One old guy, turned out he'd survived the worst naval disaster in US history, a typhoon in the Pacific that took out a whole destroyer fleet in WWII. And his stories... Wow! And that is his "real life." I love that you talked to this guy, and that he talked back. What a find!

8:06 PM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger Letha Sandison said...

I love how he said, "find your own myth". Wow, that is so great, and exactly what i am trying to do!! I just wish I knew how the hell to do it!

Thank you for sharing this with us!

8:22 PM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger andrea said...

I am speechless. What do I say to such an amazing, well written, had me on the edge of my seat post...Awesome, thank you!

Really a fun, exciting, thoughtful read. I enjoyed it.
a.

9:41 PM, April 10, 2006  
Anonymous Diana said...

You know, I wondered if he was fictional or not and to be honest, I'm more impressed that he wasn't!

11:16 PM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Great piece of fiction, which at first seemed like fact. Very imaginative!

6:50 AM, April 11, 2006  

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