Creative Life

The Zen of Mad Men

on May 23, 2015 in Creative Life, Latest News, Life in America with no comments by

download

 

 

 

 

The finale of Mad Men was not what I expected. The day before the finale aired I was hoping Don Draper would change his name to Dick Whitman and turn his back on the advertising world. I hoped he would buy a ranch in Wyoming and fall in love with the perfect woman (a woman he would never even consider being unfaithful to). Then Don would become the perfect father and teach his children how to ride horses and appreciate life. Most of all, I hoped that Don Draper would find inner peace and happiness. But wait a minute, maybe he did. And maybe he did it in typical Don Draper fashion.

 

In the final scene, while meditating on retreat, Don seems to have an epiphany. What I love most about his enigmatic smile is that it leaves so much up to the imagination. What is Don thinking? Is he experiencing true inner peace and happiness for the first time in his life? Or did he just have the idea for the iconic Coke ad, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke?” Does he rush back to Manhattan, and take the advertising world by storm? Or does he phone the idea to Peggy, letting her take the credit for it? Or is it possible for him to have it all? Somehow I think that is exactly what Don Draper would do.

 

In 1971, I was just a little girl. Every night while we ate dinner, we listened to the news. My father kept the television around a corner so that he was the only one who could see the screen. We could still hear the newscast and somehow this made it worse. Our nightly dinner was filled with the sounds of machine gun fire from the Vietnam War, reports of race riots, assassinations and the mass murders of Charles Mansion.

 

Then the Coke, hilltop ad came out. Every time it was on television, I ran to the screen and watched that ad intently. I wanted to forget about the machine gun fire and the mass murders. Instead I wanted the world to be just like that ad. I wanted to live in a multicultural place where diverse people were accepted and everyone got along. I wanted there to be peace and cooperation and happiness. I wanted the world to be a loving home where everyone belonged.

 

It might sound corny to some, but it didn’t sound corny in 1971 when the civil rights movement still had much to accomplish and the Vietnam War was not yet over. It had been only three years since Dianne Carroll stared in the first TV series to feature a non-stereotypical, African American woman, a role for which she received death threats. In contrast, the Coke, hilltop ad had so much hope in it and it may have featured the first authentic, multicultural group every to be broadcast on national television.

 

But what about Don Draper? If he created that iconic ad, then no doubt he became even richer, but since when has Don Draper really cared about that?

 

So what does Don Draper really care about? In his confession to Peggy, he’s ashamed that he “Took another man’s name and made nothing of it.” If Don Draper were to make something of his name, what would it be?

 

No doubt Don Draper is a cheat, a liar, a philanderer and a deserter, yet he’s also generous, kind and caring. He sometimes forgets to help his wives and children. Yet somehow he always manages to help perfect strangers.   He’s painfully aware of his faults but what makes him easy to root for is that Don Draper wants desperately to be a better person.

 

 

He seemed to identify most with Leonard, the man whom nobody notices. Leonard says, “I’ve never been interesting. I work in an office. People walk right by me. I know they don’t see me. And nobody chooses me.” Then this man named Leonard sobs and Don hugs him and sobs too.

 

Handsome, successful Don Draper is the man whom nobody sees, just like Leonard. And at that moment he is the man whom nobody chooses. But Don wants to be better. And we want the same things that Don wants.

 

 

We want Don to be a better person.

We want the world to be a better place.

We want to be better people too.

 

Advertisers know this and they convince us to buy products by promising that the products will make us richer, prettier, more popular, smarter, thinner, and happier. Advertising works because it convinces us that we will become better people, if we buy their products. They promise the transformation that everyone longs for. The products they sell by and large don’t provide any transformation, but just the mere promise of transformation will make us happy to spend our money.

 

So in the finale of Mad Men, I see the potential for Don Draper to finally become a better person, to finally make something meaningful of the name he stole.

 

Maybe Don continued to practice meditation. In 1971 some of the first meditation centers opened in Manhattan. Maybe Don didn’t just create the iconic ad that gave people hope for a better world. Maybe he continued to help people like Leonard. Maybe he encouraged other businessmen to practice meditation or to find some other way to achieve transformation.

 

With the inevitable death of Betty Draper, I hope Don found a way to be a better father to his children.   I can even imagine him as a faithful husband with a happy home. Whatever we imagine happening for Don Draper, we should remember that advertising is just the promise of a better life. Actual transformation is the real thing, and I like to think that Don Draper found the real thing after all.

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Gave John the Baptist a Wife

on July 31, 2014 in Creative Life, Writing the Wave with no comments by

girl_face_portrait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A woman, in those days, did not count. So even after we were married, people continued to say that John lived alone in the wilderness…” – The Wife of John the Baptist

 

When I began my research for a novel about John the Baptist, I expected to find a wild man dressed in camel hair robes, eating locusts and honey in the desert. The enigmatic and mysterious man I found was quite different. The man I found was charismatic, passionate, popular and brave.

 

Although John spent part of his eventful life alone in the rough wilderness, he was often surrounded by thirty to seventy disciples, some of whom wanted him to lead them in an all out war against Rome. Roman-occupied Judea was a crossroads filled with colorful people from far-flung corners of the world and many traveled great distances just to hear John speak. The Judea of John the Baptist was the kind of rich, turbulent environment where innovative thought and cultural movements are often born.

 

“In the marketplaces there were Phoenician traders from the sea coast, jewelers from Jerusalem, fine pottery merchants from Greece, and even magicians from Egypt. The crowds moved through the market like a noisy, flowing, human mosaic and they created a rich, spawning ground, the cultural river that was Judea.” – The Wife of John the Baptist

 

John’s ideas were groundbreaking. But preaching a new way of thought to the downtrodden poor in Roman-occupied Judea was a treasonous act of rebellion and he was in constant danger for his life. It was a time of great cruelty and bloodshed where the Romans massacred groups of people they found along the Jordan, branding them cults and zealot revolutionaries. Through his courage, John the Baptist altered human history and changed our way of thinking forever.

 

“The real heartbeat of our community was John when he emerged alone from the wilderness, and stood on a rise by the banks of the Jordan. He faced Jerusalem and delivered a simple message. His powerful, sonorous voice carried through the dry air of the valley up to the very gates of the City of Salt. ‘Even war with Rome will not give us the freedom we seek. Purify your own souls by right action, and where the soul has gone the body will follow. All good souls are free.’” – The Wife of John the Baptist

 

The more I learned about John, the more intrigued I became. Because John the Baptist was a charismatic, passionate man, I became convinced that he must have had love in his life. So my research took a unique turn, I began to search for his wife.

 

I spent the next few months begging librarians in far away cities to loan me books that no one had checked out since the last century, and that arrived smelling of mildew and neglect. I spoke with history professors, experts on religion, rabbis and Christian ministers. What I found was that there was a strong likelihood that John was married, though there was no definitive proof either way.

 

One elderly theologian put it best, “John the Baptist was probably married. A thirty-year-old man of the rabbi class would have been expected to marry so that a wife could keep him out of trouble! The cultural expectation placed on him to marry would have been very great. Besides the practice of celibacy in the priesthood didn’t come about until long after John was dead.”

 

So I began sorting through the bare historical facts and limited details of John’s life and filling in the blanks with ‘the imagination of the possible’. In the end, the real reason I gave John the Baptist a wife was out of love and respect for the man he was. It was also out of the belief that he deserved a helpmate to stand with him through his short, dangerous and tumultuous life. From the standpoint of a fiction writer, his wife became a character to bear witness and tell his tragic tale. Who better to describe John than the wife who loved and understood him.

 

“The first time I saw John, I noticed that he was taller than most men, like a king with unruly black hair and a beard. He had the dark, sculpted body of a slave and a poor man’s gray robe, but he wasn’t at work in the marketplace. He was watching goods being unloaded for the market, just as we were. He was a stranger yet he spoke with people easily, as if he had met them before and was getting reacquainted. He had large hands, yet he never gestured when he spoke like other men did. What surprised us most was that he had the beautiful, dark eyes of a wild girl. He never noticed us, even though we stared at him for a long time. I knew I should not be looking at him, but he was very handsome so I covered my face with my veil and continued to stare. When he moved away from the crowds, he picked up a bundle and a staff, both common symbols of an itinerant philosopher, a follower of the Greek tradition. And on that first day I mistook him for a poor philosopher.”

 

The novel I intended to write turned out very differently. Instead The Wife of John the Baptist became an intimate portrayal of a marriage. The Wife of John the Baptist is a tribute to the timeless and unshakable love that triumphs when all else is lost.

Creativity, the Fireworks of the Mind

on July 12, 2014 in Creative Life, Writing the Wave with no comments by

street_painter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few years ago, a local teacher asked me if I would give her students a lesson on how to be more creative. Teaching creativity is something of a daunting task and all the how-to blogs and articles full of bullet points only give us a pinhole’s insight into what creativity is and how to achieve more of it. Even though I had no idea what the lesson was going to be, I decided to accept her challenge.

I showed up for class, which took place at picnic tables under a Banyan tree. I began by telling my borrowed students that we were going to experience ‘the fireworks of the mind’. Their faces lit up in excitement. It was clear that most of them knew exactly what I meant. Next I defined creativity as the juxtaposition of things that don’t usually belong together. I gave the students pairs of word such as, ‘tigers and tennis shoes’, ‘books and battering rams’, or ‘tulips and terrorists’. We created stories around all these pairs, adding more unusual images as we went along, ‘delightful politics’, ‘heavy flowers’, ‘underground sky’, and ‘dry water’. By the end of the lesson, they had written many wonderful stories. They even continued to make creative connections in their other classes for the rest of the day. I walked away happy with the lesson but I don’t think I taught those students how to be creative. All I did was give them a place and a means and most importantly, I gave them permission to be creative.

When I sat down to write this post, I tried to define creativity but the more I wrote, the harder it got to pin down. Creativity is more than ‘fireworks of the mind’. It’s more than making innovative connections between unrelated things. And as far as the how-to of being more creative, the possibilities that presented themselves to me were endless.

Maybe Creativity is Survival.

Is creativity what happens when an innovative caveman united a spark and a pile of twigs creating the first fire, the first warm winter and the first cooked dinner? Is it when a Medieval doctor paired a horrible disease with a dreaded poison and invented an unlikely cure? And faced with our own possible extinction, will our longing to survive bring about a wealth of creativity, a Renaissance-like race for survival?

Maybe Creativity is Human Nature.

Maybe the urge to create is as much human nature as the urge to eat, drink and sleep. After all, even our cells create new cells. It’s our sexual nature to create oneness out of two people. It’s our nature to create children. Is creativity so deeply embedded in our DNA that it defines us? Does the creative impulse find its way into every single human experience simply because we can’t help ourselves, simply because it’s who we are? Maybe this is the reason we are thirsty for explosions of innovation and the tantalizing sizzle of new ideas. And maybe this is why creativity is food for the brain, helping the mind to grow beyond itself.

Maybe Creativity is Adventure.

Is creativity another way to experience the path of the ancient explorer? Maybe we long to travel and experience the exotic in order to create something groundbreaking from the pairing of our old knowledge and new experience? Maybe creativity is the adventure of following the mysterious muse no matter where it takes us.

Maybe creativity is believing in the possibility of everything without judgment or criticism. If a culture that is new to you, asks you to believe in fairies living in bushes, ghosts cooking in the kitchen or the musical talent of plants in the garden, embrace it all. Fodor for the imagination is the creative gold we all seek.

We can find creativity in the melodic rhythm of a new language, the rawness of a ceremonial dance or the monotonous nothingness of a city train ride when the mind begins to soar. Creativity is in everything. It’s in nothing. Maybe creativity is just God.

Maybe Creativity is Insanity.

Is creativity the logic of lunatics, a logic that makes no sense except to the creative ear? Just in case it is, be grateful for the insane people in your life. You are especially lucky if they are in your own family because then you receive the full benefit of their zany stories and unique outlook. Be thankful if you have a community of unusual people around you because then creativity can be like light, bouncing ideas off of others like atoms at play.

Maybe Creativity is the Lack of a Box.

Someone once asked me the question, “What is your creative writing process?” I found this difficult to answer since I don’t think of myself as a writer. The way I see it, I’m a dusty sculptor shaping and chiseling away at a story, a mad painter splashing a colorful scene or larger than life character on the page, a serious pianist beating out the rhythm of the story using words as a keyboard, and a playful chef melding flavors, colors, textures and aromas together on the page. Creativity is a dramatic, messy, glorious business. Perhaps we come closest to understanding creativity when we realize it’s not, ‘thinking outside the box’. It’s the realization that there is no box.

Maybe creativity is all of these things I’ve listed or maybe I’ve missed the point entirely. Whatever creativity is, give yourself permission to find it, explore it, imagine it and get lost in it. Above all, give yourself permission to recreate the world.

Endless Days of Summer: The Importance of Doing Nothing

on June 17, 2014 in Creative Life, Life in America with no comments by

 

 

217_3500x2325_300dpi_all-free-download.com

 

 

Summer vacation when I was a child meant three months with nothing to do. My family always retreated to our old home in the mountains where there were no TVs, no computers, no cell phones and few people. At first it was boring and the slower pace of life was as difficult to adjust to as jet lag. But it was also a relief to have no looming deadlines, no to-do lists and no expectations other than the ones I placed on myself.

Soon I filled my time with hiking, swimming, reading, writing, art, music and the most inspiring thing of all, just doing nothing. When older relatives visited, we sat around the campfire. They told stories while I asked questions. We played scrabble and cards and so many simple games that I can’t even remember. Sometimes we tried to outdo each other by making up off-the-cuff stories and poems. There was only one downside to my leisurely summers. When I returned to school in the fall, I hadn’t spent my days watching movies and drinking soda, so I was seriously behind on my movie watching and sugar intake.

Sometimes when my daughter and I are overwhelmed with commitments, endless to-do lists, the internet, phones and gadgets, I find myself wishing that the electricity would go out. Then we would have an excuse to do nothing but tell stories, play games and shape animals out of softened candle wax.

I do try to create times when we have nothing to do, but it’s not always easy. Sometimes we go camping or hiking or we just sit in the backyard and look at the stars. Sometimes we talk. Other times we are silent. At least for a little while, we have nothing to do and in that moment, we have everything.

Publisher’s Weekly Review for The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award!

on June 1, 2014 in Creative Life, Latest News, Writing the Wave with 1 comment by

hand_fingers_hands

Publisher’s Weekly Review for ‘The Wife of John the Baptist’, quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s always a pleasure and a relief to receive a positive review, especially from a source such as The Publisher’s Weekly.  Only a few more weeks to go before they announce the next round of finalists.  Wish me luck!

ABNA Publishers Weekly Reviewer

This is not the John of the Gospels. Instead, he is sensual, sociable, humorous, easy-going, flirtatious, and sexually active. And, yes, he is married. And a father. This previously unexplored angle is deftly traced by the woman of the title, Hessa, daughter of a Greek trader in the Roman province of Judea, who is possessed of the unique ability of knowing the history of an object and the character of a person simply by touch. Fleeing her father’s wrath after their marriage, the two wander the desert, moving from one encampment of outsiders to the next. All the while, John vehemently rejects the title of prophet pressed on him by those drawn by his magnetism, yet gradually, despite all his protestations, he grows into his Biblical role and the fate that goes with it. The route of the narrative from man to martyr is richly told and well crafted, introducing Zealots, Essenes, other cults gathered along the River Jordan and, most chillingly, the cruel torments of the Roman occupation of Judea. And finally, in a refreshing surprise that demonstrates the manuscript is strong enough to stand on its own, Jesus only has a walk-on role.

What Do Writers Have in Common?

on May 25, 2014 in Creative Life, The Traveling Story Teller, Writing the Wave with no comments by

s-180698452-small

I attended my first writer’s conference in 2001. I didn’t really know what to expect but I was excited to meet other writers and I assumed that we would have a lot in common. After all, we shared an obsession with writing and we were all trying to get published for the first time. One thing I was sure of was that I would find new friends with lots of shared interests.

That first morning, I put on a new dress and stuffed my manuscript in a shoulder bag which I quickly decided was far too heavy to carry around all day. I took it with me anyway and stood in line to purchase tickets for one-on-one consultations with agents and publishers. The tickets were expensive and the consultations were to last only ten minutes, but we shelled out the money anyway. As I surveyed the crowd, I was sure I would find kindred spirits here.

We entered the hotel ballroom that had been converted into a large waiting area and I was hit with a wall of desperation, the barely controlled energy of a thousand people frantically hoping to be discovered. Some prayed silently for a chance to be in print. One woman fingered a rosary. Others talked nervously to anyone who happened to be nearby. I took it all in, wondering how long I could tolerate this frenzied energy before I passed out.

To keep myself conscious, I asked people standing around me about their writing projects. One nervous man confided that he was writing about a love affair with goats.

“Do you think that’s too much?” he asked me.

I wracked my brain to think of something positive to say. “It all depends on the writing,” I said finally.

He was satisfied with that and left me to find someone else with a different opinion.

An elderly woman with a soft voice tapped my arm, “And what are you writing about, dear?” she asked me.

“My twelve years living in Tokyo.” I answered. “How about you?”

She looked at me with sudden disapproval. “I don’t like foreign books. I’m only interested in my family history. I can’t imagine wasting time on anything else. But I can’t talk about the details of my manuscript,” she whispered. “Someone might steal my ideas.”

“Well, I’m sure no one knows your family history as well as you do,” I said.

She nodded curtly and narrowed her eyes in suspicion before drifting away to speak to someone else.

I can’t remember the topic the next person was writing about, but I do remember thinking to myself that it was the last subject in the world I would ever write about.

That’s when I noticed that the woman in front of me had a small cockroach crawling in and out of her dreadlocks. I contemplated how to handle this situation without making a scene.

Finally I touched her on the shoulder and said, “There’s a little bug in your hair, let me remove it for you.” I brushed the cockroach onto the floor, certain that no one had seen it.

Suddenly the woman’s companion, a pale, nearly hysterical man began screaming, “That’s a cockroach. Oh my God. There was a cockroach in your hair!”

The woman shook out her dreadlocks and thanked me. “Well, now I feel right at home,” she joked.

I laughed and nodded. No one else laughed.

I wanted to talk to her further but it was time for her to enter the consultation room where bells sounded every ten minutes, reminding the writers inside that their consultations were over. She hurried inside, abandoning me beside her anxious companion who was suddenly embarrassed and refused to speak to me.

Later that day, I met a large, muscular man who resembled a drill sergeant. He was writing about his experiences as a recovering psychotic. By recovering, he meant that he still heard voices and saw visions but he managed to cope with them. I was leery at first, but soon discovered that he was the sanest person I had ever met. “I know exactly where my insanity lies,” he told me. “Not many people can say that.”

Next I met a gray-haired man who flirted with me and tried to steal the credit card out of my purse while pumping me for writing ideas. He laughed apologetically when I confronted him. “Writer’s conferences are the best places to steal ideas,” he told me, as if I should have figured that out already.

That’s when I took refuge with the poets. We sat in one corner of the lobby, segregating ourselves from the crowd of writers who were talking loudly on dozens of different topics. A few historical fiction writers sat down with us, basking in the calm of our relatively quiet group.

Since then I’ve managed to find several good friends who are writers and I’ve come to the realization that what writers share doesn’t have much to do with writing at all. What we have in common is the fact that we are all storytellers at heart. We all have an important story to tell. We have an intense desire to be heard. And each one of us has the right to our own unique, creative voice, no matter what topic we write about.

I take my hat off to all published and aspiring writers. We share a unique journey in which we create, inform, entertain and inspire. Like the storytellers of old who traveled from village to village delighting people with their words, we are an extremely valuable segment of society and just maybe, we have more in common than we think we do.

Change on a Butterfly’s Wing

on April 25, 2014 in Creative Life with no comments by

 

blue_butterfly_191764

Every day the girl sat in the garden and visualized her tremendous dreams for the future.

 

‘If only I could change and become the type of person who does all the things in my dreams,’ she thought.

‘I want to change,’ she thought.

(‘But I couldn’t do that.’)

‘I want to change.’

(‘But if I did that, everyone would be mad at me.’)

‘I want to change.’

(‘But it’s too hard.’)

‘I still want to change,’ she thought.

Day after day she sat in the garden, hoping for and resisting her dreams in equal measure.  The flowers bloomed and the butterflies came and went.

Eventually she forgot about her desire for change.  She forgot the dreaming, the hoping and the resistance to her own dreams.     Instead she sat in the garden, loving the beauty of it.

Then one day, she grew up.  She changed and became the type of person who did all the things in her dreams.  It wasn’t difficult.  All the days of dreaming and resisting the dreams had been difficult.  When change finally happened, it was as easy as the smallest flutter of a butterfly’s wing.

“If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.”  ~Author Unknown

 

 

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

on April 25, 2014 in Creative Life, Latest News, Writing the Wave with no comments by

trophies

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.amazon.com/Wife-John-Baptist-2014-Entry-ebook/dp/B00JOU2YXS

 

Soon after The Wife of John the Baptist was published, I decided to enter it in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Competition.  I wasn’t sure if I would win anything.  After all, it seemed like a long-shot.  Thousands of novels were entered and my novel was just one out of the many.  It took the judges a long time to read through all the novels and  I almost forgot about the contest entirely.  Then one day, I received an email telling me that I had been selected as a semi-finalist.  I was thrilled.  Now my novel was one out of the few.

I’ll have to wait until July to find out if I won or not, but until then I’ll just be happy I made it this far.  If you want to read the first few pages of the novel and submit a review, follow the link above and see my entry.  I’ll look forward to hearing what you have to say.

A Tribute to Gabriel Garcia Marquez: How Magical Realism Changed My Life

on April 18, 2014 in Creative Life, Latest News, The Traveling Story Teller, Writing the Wave with 1 comment by

cinque terre

I didn’t expect my life to change when I entered the sparsely-furnished, literature classroom at the Universidad de Veracruz in Xalapa, Mexico.  The long-haired, political-activist professor who arrived late was a bit of a surprise, but that would pale in comparison to the stories and novels he was about to introduce us to.

We didn’t have any books.  Instead the professor handed out faint, mimeographed pages containing the stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, master of magical realism and literary journalism.  We read them aloud while our professor became increasingly animated in his enthusiasm, pausing only to push the hair from his eyes.  As the stories came alive, we realized that this level of learning could not be contained to a bare and dusty classroom.  Some of us accompanied the professor to a series of cafes around town, drinking beer until we were tipsy, talking for hours and filling our hungry souls with the delicious adventures of shipwrecked sailors, old Caribbean soldiers, ethereal beauties and the ghosts who coexist with the living only because they are too stubborn to succumb to death.

The world of magical realism was an epiphany and I suddenly realized that life was not the black and white, cut and dried reality I had learned in hometown America.  A whole new world opened up in which the supernatural, the spiritual and the physical all coexisted in an exotic mélange that changed my view of life forever.

This epiphany was to set me on a lifelong pursuit for adventure, travel and opportunities to experience different cultures; a continual thirst to see the world through different eyes and to write about it.  For the first time I had been given license to be the person I really wanted to be.  The magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez had given me the freedom to soar.

When I ran home after class and told the senora in the house where I lived about my discovery, she handed me a succulent plateful of carne de res, arroz and the bright red flower petals known as colorin.   I told her how wonderful it was to read about a world that was turned upside down but that made so much sense at the same time.  She looked at me with a dry expression, “Es normal,” she said.  “That’s how we all see the world.”

Her comments made me smile.  I borrowed an antique typewriter and with senora’s blessing, I started writing my first, full-length novel on her kitchen table.  The family’s elderly, maiden aunt, Tia Pilar showed up even before I was finished with page one.  “I will keep you company while you finish your task,” she explained. “We will be like sisters every afternoon.”  True to her word, she showed up each day to sit nearby fingering her rosary, while my own fingers tapped on the typewriter keys.  She only stopped coming when I had finished the last page.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez opened my young mind to the unlimited possibilities of imagination, creativity and diverse cultural experience.  It was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received and in a very real way it changed the course of my adult life forever.  So today, as I pay homage to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I dust off my tattered copies of his books, open One Hundred Years of Solitude and begin to read.  Here once again is the band of ragged gypsies who arrived in the mythical, Caribbean town of Macondo, bringing with them the learned alchemist, Melquiades.  In turn, Melquiades brought the first magnets that anyone had ever seen in Macondo.

The gypsy dragged the enormous magnets behind him through the streets of the town while “pots, pans, tongs and braziers tumbled down from their places,” and followed him down the street.

“‘Things have a life of their own,’ the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent.  ‘It’s simply a matter of waking up their souls.’”

 

 

The Fifth Book

on April 16, 2014 in Creative Life, Writing the Wave with no comments by

fragonard_art_artistic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friend Carlos grew up in Mexico City but now he lives on Maui.  He works as a window washer.  I see him at some of my jobs, brandishing his squeegee and an assortment of multicolored rags.  We’re always glad to see each other as it gives us a chance to speak in Spanish which really means that we get to tell funny stories and jokes that just don’t sound the same in English.

But this time Carlos was more serious.  “Why do you do this hard work all day long?  You could teach Spanish. You learned Spanish in Vera Cruz where people tell risqué jokes and colorful stories all day long.  You could teach Spanish a la Veracruzana.  And if you teach all the bad words, you must charge much more money.”

I had to agree.  “I used to teach school but I can make more money taking care of houses for people.  That way I can keep my daughter in school.”

“Then you are an angel.”

“Either an angel or an idiot, I’m not sure which one,” I said.

Carlos shook his head.  He was much too polite to use the word idiot, even in English.

“I’ve written four novels, too,” I said.  “But none of them are published yet.”

Carlos continued washing the windows.  “So how do you become successful?   How do you become as famous as the writers we see in the bookstores?

I shrugged.  “Some of those writers had to write five books before they got the first one published.”

“That’s it!”  Carlos was polishing the window with a linen rag and he pointed the rag towards me as if he was going to polish me too.  “You write the fifth book.  You must go home and do it today!”

“I’m working on the fifth book.”

Carlos shook his head.  “You must work harder.  Go home and finish the fifth book.  I feel certain that this is the answer.”

He stepped back to admire his windows which I had to admit shone like diamonds and then he turned to me, obviously pleased that he had managed to mend my shattered life as part of his days work.

“Go home and write,” he said.

“I guess it’s either that or teach dirty jokes in Spanish,” I said.

My gentle friend laughed as he packed up his rags to leave.  “Some angel!” he joked.

As I watched him leave, I smiled for the first time all day.  And just as he suggested, I went home to write the fifth book.

Page 1 of 212»