Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Fool

Some of you might know Dr. Fuller. She was my English and Creative Writing professor at Catawba College. She was a great inspiration to me, in my writing, as well as in my life. This poem is about her. After I saw her play the fool in "King Lear", I wrote it, and I have recently rewritten it. A new friend of mine, Kat, gave me some helpful suggestions. I'm happy with it.

What do you think?



The Clown, The fool, it's true
you shouldn't have been old
until you were wise.

A Clown? A Fool?
It isn't true.

It's true that she imparts wisdom,
and truth, and life, and love
for all.

The woman who symbolizes what makes
Menna, Elvyn, and Nigel so great,
couldn't help but see the light.

The woman who removes the podium,
to be seen while she reads,
hands shaking, voice steady.

The woman who sits Indian style on the floor,
and cries after the memory of Ginsberg,
and the loss of a Jewish mother.

The woman who keeps poetry
to remind her all will be okay, and
to share this peace with others.

The woman who always supports us
on the other side of the street, and
hugs us, and tells us we're great!

A clown? A fool?
Not at all.



"This is the best work you've ever done."
"Really? You mean it?"
"Yeah Squirt, keep it up, and you might just be a famous artist some day.

This is one of the conversations I remember having with Zoey, the best baby sitter in the world, or at least my favorite growing up. She was my hero, the only person in my life who ever took me seriously. My mom got mad at me for finger painting on the wall, but Zoey, she loved it. She got a kick out of all my antics. She just got me.

Her parents were hippies. She was not, though her real name was Moonbeam. She wanted to change her name to Zooey, a character from a book she read. She wore all black, died her hair jet black, and wore lots of make-up. Her mom really hated it, she had bright red, wavy hair that hung all the way down her back. She wore long billowy flower print dresses, and always told Moonbeam she needed more color in her life. Zoey would say, "Squirt adds all the color I need."

Yesterday, the sun was shining, the wind was blowing, the air was full of a sense of expectation. The sense of well being that comes with the beginning of fall. Yeah, I was always really in to school growing up. But, I'm also bi-polar. Usually my depression ends when fall weather begins. That is also when the mania begins, and what a welcome relief after 6-8 months of sleeping constantly, not bathing, and wishing for death.

Yesterday I was on my way to the gallery. That's when I saw them. They reminded me so much of me and Zoey. She was a goth chick, complete with a multi-colored Mohawk. He was a tow head, decked out in preppy clothing, probably about eleven. The image would force many to wonder, what kind of upper east side socialite would leave her son with someone like that? Some might even suspect kidnapping.

They were singing a song together, loudly, and he was dragging a piece of chalk along the buildings as they passed. She was carrying a bucket of chalk. They seemed absolutely blissed out. I wanted to talk to them, but I didn't dare interrupt their reverie.

So, I went on into the gallery, soon I was talking to a perspective buyer about a piece. She wanted to know what inspired me. I was trying to tell her, but I was also trying to be diplomatic. An artist can't give away all his secrets, and I was sure she didn't want to know the gruesome truth. The truth of my mania, the fact that I had done that piece, along with nine others in the show, on a four day binge. Four days with no sleep at all. The longest I have ever gone. The hallucinations were horrible. Nevertheless, it is some of my favorite work. I look at it, and can't even believe I did it. I look at it, and I feel very little recognition.

Anyway, I was rocking back and forth on my toes, with my hands in my pockets, wishing for an escape hatch, ala "beam me up Scottie," when they came into the gallery. They being, the young tow head with his goth chick. They were making quite a commotion. Apparently this girl was trying to convince the owner that her little charge was "the next big thing," and that it would behoove her to check out his work out on the street corner.

I thought it was hilarious. She was just as much an encourager and agent as Zoey. I decided to go with them and have a look. Her name was Grey, his was Aiden. I followed them to the corner. Aiden was jumping up and down with excitement. Grey said, quite nonchalantly, "So what do you think?"

Aiden had drawn a portrait of Grey. It was gorgeous, way beyond what you would expect from an eleven year old. His sense of color, space, and personality were phenomenal. So, I said to Grey, sotto voce, "Honestly, I'm jealous. This kid is better than me." I knew he could probably hear me. That was kind of the point.

After studying it a little longer, I asked Aiden, "What are you going to do if the rain washes it away?" You should have heard his response. He cocked his head, looked at me real hard, and then said, "But, I'll always know it was there. Besides, I see her everyday. I can always do another one. She's my muse."

Well, that's the part that killed me, an eleven year old calling his baby sitter his muse. Kids, where do they get this stuff? So, I asked him if he'd like to collaborate on a piece with me, and that's how it all began; my career in sidewalk art and collaborative pieces. It's been the best work of my life. It's also how I met my Lady, Grey, the love of my adult life. Aiden was right, she is an incredible muse.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

We Are All Connected


Gina sat on her bed. Scrunched up. Studying. There were creases in her forehead from extreme concentration. She was stressed out. She had an exam next week in Dr. Mead's class; "Jungian Theory and the Collective Unconscious."

Gina really liked Dr. Mead, she really wanted to impress her. But, she just wasn't getting it. She had been over her notes a dozen times, to the point where she could hear Dr. Mead's Yankee accent droning on in her sleep. She had read the chapters involved over and over. It wasn't for a lack of studious effort. She just wasn't getting it.

Gina had been so excited about this course. It was her first 400 level class for her major. She had bought the text books during the summer to get ahead: "Introduction to Jung's Psychology" by Frieda Fordham and "The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious" (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol 9 Part 1). Gina was really into this stuff. It thrilled her, like some people were thrilled by music or video games. Not today not this month, Gina just wasn't getting it.
There were reasons of course. There always were.

Gina was in her third year at NYU, and felt blessed to be living in one of The City's "Ant Farms". That is what Gina called these high rise apartments in down town Manhattan. Coming from NC she was used to living in a house. There her closest neighbor was at least a hundred steps away, well out of hearing range. At first she thought that it was strange that New Yorkers never made eye contact. Now she knew. With someone right up in your space like that, it was easier to dwell within your own bubble of safety and precaution. Denying the reality that a stranger could probably hear you snore at night, knew what you were having for dinner, what you watched on TV, what kind of music you liked; and without a doubt, knew if you had guests.
In NC, or the small town of Salisbury to be exact, Gina had known her neighbors. It wasn't even just about borrowing a cup of was about sharing a meal together, picking up each others mail while one or the other vacationed, sharing books...sharing LIFE! Here in this ant farm, Gina did not know anybody. Her friends were from school or work. She had a life, it just did not bleed into her neighbors' lives. There were plenty of people in this fine city who understood and appreciated Gina's passion for books and knowledge, but they didn't live in this building.

Tonight, like most Tuesday evenings, Gina was studying. Studying Jungian theory. Trying to make the finer rudiments sink into her brain. Dr. Mead was, after all, a stickler for the finer points, the small things.

The neighbors were at it again. Hollering and screaming to beat the band. Gina heard a loud crash, furniture or something breaking. She felt the lump in her throat and the pit in her stomach that she had grown accustomed to, growing. She wanted to scream and cry herself. Instead she just turned up her music. She was listening to Norah Jones' first album. She considered getting out Tracy Chapman's "Behind the Wall" and let art imitate life a little. But she didn't.

Never being one to listen to music while studying, she preferred Norah's soothing voice. Gina tried to pay attention to Jung as he droned on in "Psychological Aspects of the Mother Archetype." She scrunched further under the covers.

She hated to hear this. She was almost inclined to go over there and break it up herself. Maybe the Tae Bo classes would pay off after all. But, Gina was frozen in place and in her thoughts. She had spent sixteen years watching her father beat her mother black and blue. There had been at least three occasions when Gina and her little brother Greg were sure there mother was going to die. But she didn't. She always justified the abuse by saying, "He's never hurt my children. If he did I would leave. They are my first concern."

Finally, she did leave; after spending two weeks in the hospital during Gina's sophomore year. Greg was in the eighth grade then. They all agreed that that was the scariest fourteen months of all. The months that they were hiding and running. Always afraid he would catch up with them. Until finally they could breath deep again. Gina's Mom's best friend, Renee, sent his obituary to them in East Tawas, Michigan. Bill had finally drunk himself to death. Not one of them shed a tear.

Gina, in her final semester of her Senior year, was more than happy to pack up one more time and go home. They moved back to Salisbury, back to North Rowan High School. They didn't cry. Bill was not mourned.

Renee was the trustworthy type. She was the only one that knew where the three of them were each time they moved. Ran. Gina was sure that Bill had pestered her for information, but Renee had a big burly husband, a gun, and was more than capable of fighting her own battles. Most of the time Bill was probably more afraid of her.

The screaming next door continued, louder and louder. Then a chilling silence. Gina began to cry. She put her books away, turned her music off and sobbed. She pressed her ear against the wall, searching for any signs of life. Gina knew she wouldn't sleep. She didn't even try. She brewed herself some tea and sat staring at the wall for hours.

Her mom never seemed to understand the lasting effects that Bill had on Gina and Greg. Gina barely ever dated. She was afraid, skittish, bitter. She wasn't even sure if she believed in love at all. Greg was different. He dated anyone with legs. He drank too much. He met a new girl each week. Broke hearts like it was his job. Greg was angry. Gina worried for him. But honestly, she worried more for the girls that fell for his charms. His curly hair, long lashes and dimple. His uproarious laugh.

The sun finally rose. A little bit of hopeful light poking through Gina's window. She got up and got ready for class. As she headed out her door and down the hall, her eyes downcast, something caught her attention. Her neighbor was sitting in a chair in her doorway as if she was waiting for Gina. As if she knew that Gina left early for class each morning. Gina looked at her, as if for the first time. She was beautiful; long dark full hair, brown eyes, creamy pale skin. She looked sort of Irish. She was black and blue. Beaten senseless. In truth she looked awful. She could barely open her eyes.

She looked at Gina pleadingly. She tried to stand. Gina tried to wave, give a small smile and keep moving. But, she couldn't. This lady wasn't much older than Gina. Desperate. Gina stepped closer and whispered, "Do you need some help?" The pretty lady, beaten senseless, nodded slightly. Gina looked behind her. There was a man passed out on the floor.

Gina whispered, "Do you want to go somewhere?" Again the lady seemed to nod yes. She was barely able to move at all. "Do you need to get anything?" The lady reached over and picked up two small grocery bags. Gina helped her to her feet, and helped her down the hall to the elevator. They left the door standing open, and the chair sitting there.

Gina had no idea where to take her. She thought food might be good, so she took her to a diner a few blocks away and bought her breakfast. They talked. Gina asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital. She started to cry. "I can't. I don't have any money. He'll find me."

Gina pulled out her laptop and found a shelter for women. She took the woman there in a cab. Gina never went to class that day, and she never asked the lady her name. She figured that without a name it would be easier for her to lie to the man if he asked where "his girl" was.
The loud voices behind the wall stopped. It was easier for Gina to concentrate. Her studies made sense to her again. They thrilled her, like some people are thrilled by music or video games.

Saturday, September 22, 2007



I am a traveler. I like to say, I do it for a living. When I was a child, I wanted to be a truck driver when I grew up, so that I could sleep in the cab. I thought those cabs were so cool. I'm not a truck driver. I'm an actress, a gypsy. In all my travels, I have never really gotten that "check the oil" thing. I mean I do check the oil...occasionally.

When I think of road trip horror stories, many eventful trips come to mind. However, there is one particular road trip that stands out above all the others. Let's call it: "The Day I Had To Sell My Traveling Home."

I was alone, traveling from Center Barnstead, NH to Silver Spring, MD. I was in my mini-van, which I inherited from my mom, upon graduation from college. For the sake of full disclosure, I must tell you, before this trying moment, I had already blown the engine in this van once. I also have to tell you, I have a fetish for driving I-95 South, straight through New York City. I love the skyline.

So, we begin.

I arrive in the good old Bronx, USA. It's hot as all get out, and I have no air conditioning. However, I'm listening to some pretty jamming music, so I'm okay. I sit in stop and go traffic for well over an hour. My car overheats, starts to smoke, and promptly dies. Somehow, I manage to pull over, crying my eyes out. I call home, crying my eyes out. I must get some sort of thrill out of stressing my mother out. What can she do for me? She's in NC, and I'm in NYC.
Well, she is the voice of reason. She calmly reminds me to call AAA.

The tow-truck finally comes, and takes me from the Bronx, USA to Jersey. I have the tow truck guy drop me off at a hotel, being that it is too late to find a mechanic. I'm still okay, I find a strange sense of serenity in hotel rooms, my home for many years.

The next day, the car of my travels, actually starts. So, I find a mechanic, only to discover that my only recourse is to sell my home on wheels to this man for one hundred measly bucks.

After I have accepted this tragedy,the mechanic gets me a cab to the airport. My goal is to obtain a rental car. No go. No one is going to lease a car to a woman under 25. This is when my true colors really begin to shine through. I'm a bit of a Drama Queen. I yell at the sales clerk. She yells back. Can she not see that I am crying? I am desperate. Whatever happened to the customer is always right? I'm crying, so I call my mom. It's, apparently, good for her stress levels, for me to call her every time I'm freaking out.

I do finally get a rental, somewhere else. I go back to the mechanic, to clean out my car, and am quickly back on the road to Silver Spring, MD. Drama over. Right? Wrong. I have not collected payment yet on my home on wheels. I have to retrieve the title and pass it on to the mechanic, before payment can be remitted. I'm a starving artist. I mail the Title the day I get home, and two months later, after a long wait and a frustrated phone call, I finally receive my check.

Could I have done anything to avoid this disaster? Of course. I could have checked the oil. I could have even sprung for an oil change. And, I could have bought a map, studied it, and circumvented the inevitable stop and go traffic that is the Bronx, USA.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bear With Me

We will just call this an experiment...for all involved. Especially me! I hope you like it....


I'm very new at this. I love it so far. It is a great outlet for me. However, I may be getting a bit tied up in the 'numbers.'

This is a new article of mine. A short story. It is very important to me, as I originally wrote it as a gift for my father. He's an artist, and I wanted to write a children's book so he could illustrate it. He chose to illustrate it with a wooden puzzle, so the project sort of ended there.

I recently pulled it out again. It's not doing too well in the ratings. Actually, it hasn't moved at all sense I posted it!

I was hoping you could give me some constructive criticism. So, what do you think? here it is:




I am George Osmond Tiswell III, and I know better. Better than any other 8 year old boy in my class what it means to be the third Tiswell. It means that I must hold up a certain standard of excellence. I am excellent. I can read, converse, and ponder well beyond my years. But, more important than that, I am a world class sourpuss, a top of the line grouch. I can frown bigger and longer than my father. I know I've timed it.

Of course, he knows absolutely nothing about this little competition. He would be absolutely put out if he knew that I had looked at him for that huge of an amount of time all at once. Three minutes and forty-five seconds to be exact. He was reading the paper grouching over the stock market, and I was sitting on the stairs refusing to put on my shoes. He only lasted for three minutes with his frowning before he guffawed over something wonderful some other suit had to say about the state of our blasted economy. I, meanwhile, went on frowning for forty-five more seconds before Martha came in and put the blasted shoes on for me.

Yes, he would be put out if he knew I was watching him. You see, we have rules, guidelines to follow in this household. I see my father for exactly two minutes and ten seconds a day. The ten seconds I sort of steel as he's walking out to the car in the morning. One minute I get as he asks me at 7 pm everyday if I'm being good, minding Martha, and studying hard. And, the other minute I get at 7 am everyday as he, my mother and I commune in the vestibule for our daily goodbyes. I'm convinced he's hoping for a publicity shot again. Boy that looked good for him! The loving family man, and top London corporate banker.

Anyhow, he knows nothing about it; the frowning contest. It is my little secret, and I'll never tell. Anyhow, no fears from you, I'm not raising myself. Martha does that, and I despise her the most. She has dubbed me Lord Sourpuss and Grouchy George. She makes me do many dreadful things, such as; homework, eat my beats, brush my teeth, wash behind my ears, and get up out from under the covers and into my blasted cold room every morning at 6 o'clock. She wakes me by marching in, turning on a light and saying, "Up Sourpuss, the sun has risen and so must you." She then snaps open my window shades as if to prove that the sun indeed continues to raise itself each morning. She truly is quite low minded. As if!

One Thursday morning I lay scrunched into my bed when one eye happened to pop open, and much to my dismay I noticed some light shining underneath my window shades. I was very put out. I was not at all ready to brave the cold of the world, nor another one of Martha's brilliant scientific experiments. So I scrunched my eyes up and tried to wish the light away. But of course, I know better. I'm brighter than that, I knew it was hopeless. So, I braced myself for the inevitable. I scrunched myself into a tight warm ball, and filled my whole self up with the anger of impending doom. The Sourpuss' day would begin. But, nothing happened.

Finally out of sheer curiosity I climbed out of bed to peep out the window. But of course, there were no clues for me out there. So, I hopped back in bed, expecting the worst. But, still nothing happened. I began to think that maybe the sun chose to rise at the wrong time, but of course, I know better. And then, low and behold, my father came into the room, and he wasn't frowning. I was really put out, and I wanted to throw a tantrum, but of course I didn't. I was too curious. If it had been Martha, instead of my father, I would have thrown the biggest tantrum of my life. But, it wasn't. So, I just stared at him in wonder. He said, "Good morning George, would you like to go out on an excursion with me today?" Well now I was dumbfounded and thoroughly confused, so I silently arose. Popped open the window shades myself. Dressed myself and went downstairs.

The house was strangely still, there were no servants anywhere. My father was waiting in the vestibule, so we just went on outside. He said he'd already packed the car. When I got outside, I noticed that there was no driver. I figured we'd have to wait for Reginald, and I was extremely put out. But, my father got in the driver's seat, and said I could get in beside him. Well, I had never ridden in the passenger seat before, so that was kind of cool. But, I didn't know if my father knew how to drive or not. I was a little concerned. But, he did. And, before I knew it, we were on the road heading towards the country. Yuck!

Finally we arrived at a sort of park, and my father got out of the car and unloaded a picnic lunch, a baseball and two gloves. We Tiswell's are really not very sporty. We attempted throwing the ball for awhile, but it really didn't work out. So, we sat down to eat. I wasn't very hungry, so I just picked at my food and practiced my frowning. It was cold chicken anyway, I hate cold meats.

And then, my father decided to talk. He said, "Son, I guess I need to tell you the story." I thought to myself, "What story?" But, I didn't object out loud. I just sat there scrunching up my face, but only on the left side. It's an exercise I do when I'm bored.

So, my father began, "Well, George, son, yesterday Byron came into the office after his lunch break smiling like a Cheshire cat as usual." Byron is my father's younger brother. My father employs him, even though they don't get along very well. Byron and his family are a bunch of sunny do-gooders. I despise them the most.

My father continued, "So, being Wednesday, Byron asked me if I wanted to go to the church service at 7 pm with him, Sharon and the children. And, well, I said, 'No, like everyday I intend to spend my time earning a living instead of wasting it over silly games like church services.' Well, Byron said, 'Okay big brother, I just have to ask. I'm hoping that one day you'll join me.' I just grunted and went back to work."

"Byron turned and headed out the door, but then he turned back and said, 'George, I was reading my Bible this morning, and I thought of you.' I grunted, and said, 'Of course you did, now scram.' But he continued, 'There was a verse in Revelation, it said, 'But I have somewhat against thee, because you have forgotten your first true love.' I retorted, 'No I haven't, Bridget is at home. Now, scram Byron. I have to work, to support her and George III.'"
"So he left. But, the verse was stuck in my head. I couldn't push aside the thought of my fist love. Try as I might, I just couldn't do it. I finally gave up hope on working for the day and headed home, with my first love still in my head. Not your mom, but Jesus."
"You see, I grew up very much like Byron. Our family loved God very much, and counted on Him for everything, even support for my father's business; the bank. When Father died, I was angry, and then, when Mother followed suit, I was furious. I quit believing in God. I was convinced that He didn't love me, because if He did, He wouldn't have taken my mother and father away from me."

"I began to work feverishly to keep the bank up and running, and it thrived on my own steam. I was convinced that I didn't need God's help. I was convinced that I could succeed, and even get richer by simply working hard. So, that's what I did. I worked day and night, and I quickly lost sight of the person I had been before. I forgot about the thing that is most important in the world; love."

"So, when I got home last night, I searched out my old Bible. When I finally found it, it seemed to open itself to a page in Jeremiah. There was a verse that I had underlined years ago, in my old life. I read it. It was Jeremiah 31:13. It said, 'The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.'"

"Well son, when I read that verse, I started crying. I remembered that love, and I wanted it back. The good news was that I knew I could get it back, but some things would have to change. Starting with you, well you and me. That's why I brought you here. I wanted to tell you about love, and to tell you that I love you son."

Well this whole time I was picking at the grass and staring at my father's face, and I really just didn't recognize him. I was very put out by this, and the fact that the sun was in my eyes forcing me to squint. I just sat there ripping up blades of grass. I thought of Martha, and how she would tell me to "quit terrorizing the blessed grass." As if the grass had feelings of its own. Martha and her scientific ideas!

Then I remembered she had not woken me up on time this morning and I was very put out. I despise her the most. My father interrupted my internal tirade with, "What are you thinking about son?" And well, I couldn't really tell him, so I just sat there. He said, "Well, would you like to play catch some more?" So, I did, even though I'm really no good at catching and am even worse at throwing. Some might say that I throw like a girl.

All of a sudden I dropped the ball and said, "Father, did you tell Mother about your story? She really should probably know that things are going to change." He said he had told her last night. I was kind of disappointed that he had told her first, so I didn't say anything.

After awhile of attempting to throw the ball around, he said, "Well son, would you like to go home now? We're all going to cook supper together tonight." We never do that. That's what the cooks are for. I was really confused, but I agreed to go home. The trip was still too long, but I was glad to be back in the city.

We did cook that night, but it took forever! We didn't know where to find the pots and pans nor the food. I really knew the most. If it wasn't for me, we all would have probably starved. Anyhow, by the time we sat down to eat I was exhausted, sweaty, and covered with flour and such. The food wasn't half bad. And well, Father kept laughing and telling jokes, and Mother could have lit up all of London with her beaming face. So, I just went with the flow.

Now, Mother wakes me up every morning. She comes into my room, sits on my bed, pats my head and says, "Good morning sunshine! Are you ready for a new day?" I smile and say, "Perhaps." After I'm dressed I go downstairs for breakfast. We did get the cooks back. My parents were hopeless at it themselves. Now, my father always says, "Good morning son, what's on the agenda for today?"

And well, things are just different around the Tiswell household. Completely different. We still do most of the same things, we just do them better. However, I must admit I don't know much about frowning anymore. My muscle memory has forgotten that lovely little novelty. I don't even throw tantrums anymore. Well, Martha's not around to grump to, but even if she was, I don't think I would do it. Sometimes I find myself missing this very special talent, and when I do, I laugh while squinting up at the sun. Then, I give myself a firm but gentle talking to.