Day 201: Click! The Kodak Moment That Changed Everything

Kodak Retinette Type 022

Kodak Retinette Type 022 (Photo credit: Arty Smokes (deaf mute))

I was almost sixteen in the spring of 2001 though looking back onn it almost seems impossible that I was only two years short of being a legal adult. I guess tragedy has a way of making us feel younger than we actually are. In March my choir class spent three days in New York City. I saw Beauty and the Beast on Broadway, stood in Central Park in the middle of Strawberry Field (the John Lennon memorial which is still covered in flowers left by visitors years after his death) and looked down on tiny ant cars from the observation deck of the Empire State Building. During the trip we took a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and my aunt took a picture of the skyline. Fast forward to September. Like everyone else in school that day I spent most of the day in a state of numb shock. I worried about the man who worked at the Metropolitan Opera House, who had gone out of his way so that I didn’t have to listen to the orchestra play from the hallway just because the elevator didn’t reach the viewing area set up for visitors. Instead of listening from the hallway I sat behind a small group of musicians playing the echo effects from a mostly hidden balcony.

I hoped that the lady who worked in the theater where our play was staged, the one who had to change my tickets to floor seats five minutes before the show didn’t have family or friends in those buildings today. I even said a prayer for the city guide who had strongly suggested I stay on the bus when we visited Central Park so I didn’t slow everyone else down.

It didn’t occur to me until after school that day that I was now set apart forever. In years to come my children and friends’ children and the children of all the generations after me would know of the World Trade Center only through pictures and text written in books and memories of people older than them. Suddenly the picture that was taken by a Kodak disposable camera from the deck of that ferry became important to history and took me, a clueless teenage tourist from the South with it. Nothing has ever been the same since

Day 195: Echoes of My Family

 

I can’t help thinking that the children in the photograph have been newly orphaned and the adult a distant relative with very little idea of how to take care of children who has suddenly found himself their guardian. I can’t be sure what year the photo was taken in having the general look of the building and the style of their clothing to go by,obviously the man has a housekeeper or at the very least a motherly neighbor to make sure the children are clean and well dressed. Perhaps it is Easter Sunday but if it is the photo has got to be one of the most somber Easter pictures I have ever seen.

I almost wondered of the man in the picture was my grandfather standing with my father but my dad grew up with older brothers, the only girl born to my Kestner grandparents was stillborn, I’m not even sure she had a name, the last version of our family tree I saw she was called only Baby Girl Kestner. I didn’t realize that I might have had an Aunt if fate hadn’t seen fit to intervene until a few years ago. Since finding that out however I have mourned her absence from my life. Maybe it was for the best though, I think my grandfather would have been at loss over how to raise a girl in a houseful of boys without my grandmother who died when my dad was ten years old. I have some my uncles stories about my grandma Eileen and a few from my dad, but would have nice to have a girl who remembered her at least a little bit.

Rachel

Day 186: I wish I were a zombie

English: Zombies at the zombie walk world reco...

English: Zombies at the zombie walk world record attempt on 31 October 2008 in Old Market Square, Nottingham, UK. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every year on a weekend prior to Halloween Nashville is invaded by zombies and has been for at least the last two years that I know of. Nashville’s annual Zombie Walk is a Halloween event which is free to the public although a donation of nonperishable food items for our branch Of the Second Harvest Food Bank is greatly appreciated. I first heard of the zombie walk last year over breakfast with family friends, their teenage daughters had participated and loved it . The premise is that there are several waves of people, some made up as zombies and others not, the “normal”people are given two strips of cloth to carry, the idea is to try to make it to the end still human. If you lose both cloth pieces to a zombie you must then go to the zombie makeup area where you become a zombie and prey on the remaining humans.

We did not get to participate this year because of car issues but one day I will even if I have to cross state lines to do it. It sounds like a lot of fun even to me who has a reputation for being a big chicken when it comes to haunted houses and scary movies but I also have another reason. Two weeks later Kurby died completely without warning. Dressing up like a zombie is not what most people would do in remembrance of someone but I have no doubt that he will appreciate it.

Day 183: Culture for Kids: Children in Typically Adult Spaces

Rabbit of Seville

Rabbit of Seville (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Children in adult spaces, most people have an opinion on the subject if you ask them,, even if they’ve never voiced it before and people on both sides of the question can be VERY adamant in defense of their position. Here is my take on it, based solely on my opinions and my experience when growing up. Should you take a child to a nice restaurant? In this case the definition of “nice restaurant”would be one with cloth table coverings, cloth napkins and the option of ordering from a selection of wine to be served with the meal. The answer in my opinion depends on the age and maturity level of the child. I would not take most toddlers to a play unless it was specifically a children’s theater production,. If I was going to introduce a grade school child to the symphony or ballet it would probably be through Mozart’s Magic flute or the Nutcracker Suite. Relatively recently some orchestras have played the music for The Rabbit of Seville and other Bugs Bunny cartoons where classical pieces are used I would definitely take a child to those if they were interested in going.

Before anybody cringes in horror let me assure you that the child would be made well aware of the standards of behavior expected of him or her and the consequences of misbehavior. Most importantly in my opinion a trip to a nice restaurant, the symphony, or ballet would have to be something they had expressed interest in themselves before I would even consider taking them. I believe that a significant percentage of misbehavior by children in adult oriented settings stems from not wanting to be there in the first place..

I would also like to address those people who show at Walmart after midnight with their screaming infant and/or preschool-aged child. What are you thinking? Of course they are cranky and crying, it is way past their bedtime and any nightmare I have within the next week will probably include echoes of your child.

This opinion piece has been brought to you by The Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge. That’s my two cents on the subject what’s yours?

Day 178: Gay Elf Knights Should Have Their Prince Too, a Dungeons and Dragons Coming Out

Rainbow flag (LGBT movement) LGBT (lesbian, ga...

Rainbow flag (LGBT movement) LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) Pride flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, I realize National Coming Out was a few days ago, bear with me.

When I was 14 and the internet still consisted mostly of AOL, I met DamianKane* , gay elf knight. His profile could, and probably did double as his D&D character sheet, which is why we started talking in the first place. That one conversation spawned an almost 3 year long friendship during which he taught me a basic rule of writing that has always proven true, for me at least.  A manuscript is never done. A writer does reach a point where there are satisfied enough to publish it but even years down the line will probably find something they could have done better.  Damian was the first person who asked to play in his D&D runs back when online gaming consisted  cf typed descriptions in a private  chat room and zero graphics.  He was also my first openly gay friend. I say  he was openly gay because he was with me, however he was in the closet to most of his family who would have ceased helping him pay for college and tossed him out on his ear if they knew. We lost touch years ago but I still think of him often because he gave me my first really lasting piece of writing advice. I hope wherever you are you feel free enough to be yourself and find the  you   deserve.

* Not his real name

Day 176: Drabble fiction exercise

BUNSEN BURNER

BUNSEN BURNER (Photo credit: jasonwoodhead23)

The last day of class is always the longest. Most of the students tremble visibly with the effort to stay on task for that last hour. The tension is palpable because now after a whole semester they are almost basking in the light at the end of what has been for some of them, the dark and gloomy tunnel of a chemistry lab. There are no careless spills, all workspaces are neat, tidy and dry, a definite change in the first few weeks when two of the tables had to be removed because of permanent acid damage. Fortunately no one was hurt and the offending students were removed from the class.The day after the incident would probably stay forever etched in the remaining students minds. The teacher, someone usually known for their eloquent explanation, kindness and laughter was brusque and gravely serious. The fact that a chemistry lab was never to be used as a playground was drilled into their heads even more thoroughly than it had been on the first day of class and that was possible The worst part was that there was never a raised voice, only an extreme sense of disappointment. Classes continued fairly normally after that but everyone showed new levels of concentration and attentiveness to detail so that on the last day of class there was not even a speck of dust to be found out of place. When the bell rang everyone  gathered their backpacks and shook the professor’s hand as they left. Not a single one of them was the same person who had walked through that door at the beginning of the semester and maybe that is the whole point of school.

 

Even though this is a writer’s blog fiction rarely finds its way here despite the fact that I would characterize myself as a fiction writer mostly because I find it difficult to write in a short story format which is what blogs lend themselves to. I have never  taken a chemistry class and my entire life largely because  I might be the one who spilled acid on the table because of my disability. The basic setting of the story and a few of the keywords were provided by StorySpinner.com I would recommend that as an excellent tool to fight off the dreaded writer’s block.

Day 173: George C. Scott, Charles Dickens and me, or how Ebenezer Scrooge taught me a lesson in grammar

English: Cartoon of George C. Scott as 'Scroog...

English: Cartoon of George C. Scott as ‘Scrooge’, starring in the 1984 television film ‘A Christmas Carol’. Nederlands: Een cartoon van George C. Scott als ‘Scrooge’ in de televisiefilm ‘A Christmas Carol’ uit 1984. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like writing, I am abysmal when it comes to grammar. To be more accurate I can’t give you the technical terms involved in proper grammar usage. Most of the time I know by looking if something is incorrect but if the reason goes beyond simple subject verb agreement I can’t sell you why it is wrong.I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I saw George C Scott‘s portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol but I do remember quite clearly finally understanding the meaning of the word simile. Remember when Ebenezer is watching his nephew and guests played the game in the parlor and when Fred gave the clue “as tight as”  his wife answered “your uncle Scrooge’s purse strings”? That game explained the concept which I failed to remember the name for no matter how often it was reiterated. There are other things I remember about that movie, the children under the ghost of Christmas Present robes still majorly creep me out to this day but the lightbulb of comprehension was by far the most unexpected thing I gained from that movie. Now my memory of that concept is ” tight as a drum”, which also happens to be the correct answer to Fred’s riddle.

Day 172: Occupy Wall Street….What Was That About Again?

Leroy Jethro Gibbs

Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today apparently marks the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street and to be quite honest I am still confused about why it got started in the first place. What was being protested exactly? If the idea of economic inequality was what was being protested I hate to burst their bubble but that has existed for millennia and is not likely to cease to exist because of formal protests. I am in no way saying that people who flaunt their continued good luck in the faces of those who are less fortunate don’t deserve a slap to the back of the head à la Jethro Gibbs from NCIS, they definitely have it coming. When I was in grade school and had a terrible aide who seemed to take enjoyment from telling me several times a week and sometimes daily what a burden and inconvenience I was to her I took solace in the thought that someday she would probably need as much help as I did and regret the awful things she had said to me. Someday the people who believed they would never find themselves standing in unemployment office will be there and they will find themselves having to eat humble pie and not liking it one bit.

Day 168: the dying phenomenon of the handwritten letter, and laments of an e-mail user.

handwriting

handwriting (Photo credit: eef-ink) not mine at all

I use e-mail and other forms of electronic communication a lot. Writing much beyond my first and last name with a pen or pencil doesn’t happen very often at all because of the specifics of my disability. In spite of this I love getting snail mail. We have a family friend who has never once missed sending a birthday or holiday card. The unique thing about all of the cards is that each is hand-drawn and no two cards are ever alike from year-to-year. This particular friend is old enough that he probably took penmanship classes in elementary school and it definitely shows.I am dismayed to learn that in some schools they have done away with teaching cursors handwriting entirely in favor of using the time to focus on computer skills instead. I am the first person to acknowledge that computers are becoming increasingly important but I don’t think penmanship is any less significant. In my opinion when possible a handwritten letter is preferable to an e-mail or typed letter.  I often times tinker  with the fonts and styles in my wordprocessing program in an effort to make it look more personal since handwriting stuff is very difficult for me. In this age of electronic device I can only hope that the simple pen and paper do not eventually become archaic relics of the past  by the time I have grandchildren.

Day 166: Barbara Cartland and Sean Connery changed me forever

 

Cover of "Finding Forrester"

Cover of Finding Forrester

I was allowed to start reading romance novels at the age of 13 and the first author I was allowed to read was Barbara Cartland because the romantic scenes never went beyond a PG-13 level.  I should clarify that she was a historical romance novelist. From the first day I picked up one of her books I knew I wanted to write. Her books were filled with historical details that really  enhanced the romantic story itself. I wanted to write like that, to create a world rich in texture. She is dead now and any books that are published in her name within the last 10 or 15 years are completely different from her earlier books due to being entirely written by ghost writers most of whom are terrible.

A few years later the movie Finding Forrester came to theaters and I was freshly inspired. The movie plot centers around the relationship between a young writer and his mentor, a widely famous Hemingway like author who inexplicably wrote one great classic and then seemed to disappear off the face of the earth, so much so in fact there was rumored that he passed away. I’m not going to give away the ending but I truthfully believe that it is a movie that all writers should be required to see at least once especially when you start to wonder if this writing stuff is worth it because the movie will remind you that it is worthwhile and can be accomplished . I suggest watching it when you have writers block you actually might find a way out of that wet paper bag your creativity seems to be stuck in.