To Reach The Green Light At The End Of The Pier
Sunday, November 30, 2008
"My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel -- it is, before all, to make you see. That -- and no more, and it is everything."
-- Joseph Conrad
I may add a comment or two to this Nov. 30 entry, updating it as I go, before the all-important first "next posting." Today, Dec. 3, is Conrad's birthday, and I had to include the quote above.
For all of the loyal readers of This Side of Paradise, please stick with us, and enjoy the other 412 postings on this page. (As always, just scroll down, or use the archives at the top left column to make a quick selection).
Eleanor and I are "retreating" for a week or two into a kind of Little Room exile. What we come out with, well -- the words will tell the story, most definitely, and Eleanor is counting on a manic rush of them. ("I am," she says, with a nod of her head.) This puts the pressure on her Biographer, of course, to keep up.
Thank You for reading to this point, and also remember that we only have until Post No. 500 to complete this project.
That leaves us with 87 entries, after this one. And it's not as many as it seems!
ALSO TO NOTE, & A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE, INDEED:
Your support and readership mean more than you can ever realize. Eleanor and I hope you find some "hidden gems" in the scroll below, and also keep passing the word to anyone you think might be interested that we exist here ... This Side of Paradise.
-- Geoff (and Eleanor)
from Nov. 30:
Eleanor is asking me to assure those of you who may be wondering that we have not forgotten The White Butterfly. We still do not know what the butterfly means, but we will figure this out, and decide whether or not it belongs in Eleanor's story. -- Geoff
"Please stay tuned," Eleanor says, a little groggy from November, and getting psyched for the last month of the calendar year, and 31 days at that -- December.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer."
-- Ernest Hemingway
Friday, November 28, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Geoff: Eleanor insists she is not my muse. "You are my Biographer," she insists. "A muse is an entirely different kind of relationship."
This said, Eleanor found me the following Shakespeare sonnet.
"If you substitute my name for muse every time it appears in the sonnet," Eleanor says, "it still won't work. You are stuck with me ... same way I am stuck with you."
"We aren't stuck with one another, Eleanor," I respond. "This is a choice. We found each other. You decided to stay. I decided to stay."
Eleanor, utilizing her (most) wicked smile, says, "Well, perhaps -- I am stuck on you."
Sonnet # 100
by William Shakespeare
Where art thou, Muse, that thou forget'st so long
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend'st thou thy fury on some worthless song,
Darkening thy power to lend base subjects light?
Return, forgetful Muse, and straight redeem
In gentle numbers time so idly spent;
Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem
And gives thy pen both skill and argument.
Rise, resty Muse, my love's sweet face survey,
If Time have any wrinkle graven there;
If any, be a satire to decay,
And make Time's spoils despised every where.
Give my love fame faster than Time wastes life;
So thou prevent'st his scythe and crooked knife.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Michael K.Gause is with us for a second time as a guest writer/artist at This Side of Paradise.
Having just returned from the banks of the Mississippi, we find Michael's poem much like a kind and persistent shadow, following us home, and then becoming a permanent and welcome resident.
Michael's web address is below the poem, so be sure to pay him a visit. -- Geoff
by Michael K. Gause
When standing before her
You are unaware
You have been summoned
Drawn by how she moves
The history of the world rising to ripples
Ending right where you stand
Each wave is a catch and release
The past and future in constant succession:
The shape of her lips - the end of the line
What you believed - what the world knew all along
And in that endless rhythm, a lesson
But the river teaches best
In what she withholds
Lets us do in ourselves
Michael K.Gause writes in Minnesota. His first self-published chapbook, The Tequila Chronicles, received honorable mention in The Carbon Based Mistake’s 2004 Art Exchange Program Contest. His second, I Want To Look Like Henry Bataille, was published in 2006 by Little Poem Press and to his knowledge hasn’t won squat. He is currently working toward a PhD in Solipsism. His website is www.thedayonfire.com.
Monday, November 24, 2008
"I am writing in the garden. To write as one should of a garden one must write not outside it or merely somewhere near it, but in the garden."
-- Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden and other classics
... born on this day, so "Happy Birthday, FHB," from all of us at This Side of Paradise.
Eleanor and I have just returned from New Orleans, but need sleep desperately. Keep your eyes on this page for more updates. -- Geoff
P.S. from Eleanor: "We were thrilled when Ted Turner stood up, like a 70-year old schoolboy, proud as can be, and sang an a cappella version of Stephen Foster's 'My Old Kentucky Home.'"
Yes, a cappella, and right on key too.
"We also had a wonderful conversation with the filmmaker Ron Shelton," Eleanor says. (Bull Durham, etc.) "He advised us to stay true to our title, that perhaps 'Save Me' has not been overused after all. No title is completely new anymore, anyway. Thank you, Mr. Shelton, for telling us to follow our instincts, just like Fitzgerald, and even the tragic but immortal Jay Gatsby."
Thursday, November 20, 2008
"I don't think art is propaganda; it should be something that liberates the soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go further. It celebrates humanity instead of manipulating it."
-- Keith Haring
I met Keith Haring once, briefly, while he was working on an installation piece at The Toledo Museum of Art in the mid-1980s. This was at a cocktail gathering of big donors and other Toledo bigwigs. I was covering the event for a local newspaper. Haring seemed very humbled by the whole thing, and also uncomfortable with the people all dressed up and drinking their cocktails. They took little notice of this man walking amongst them -- this artist they were in attendance to, well, honor by their attendance I suppose.
I remember looking into Haring's eyes for one of those moments that in retrospect stands still. His eyes showed me an old soul, much as Eleanor is an old soul (and me, by association -- so I've been told).
Following Haring as he walked about were a couple of young assistants, passing out pins picturing his artwork. I wonder how many of the guests that night saved their Keith Haring pins? -- Geoff
Eleanor and I are traveling to New Orleans for a few days.
Earlier this year, you'll recall that Eleanor traveled without me, and got into quite a mess -- she drank one too many Hurricanes, I'm afraid. In the meantime, Eleanor has taken this photo for her favorite Saint -- St. Therese.
"The rose is blurry, because when I sprinkled moondust on it, it wiggled," Eleanor says. "But that makes it even more beautiful."
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
"I never understood why when you died, you didn't just vanish, everything could just keep going on the way it was only you just wouldn't be there. I always thought I'd like my own tombstone to be blank. No epitaph, and no name. Well, actually, I'd like it to say 'figment.'"
-- Andy Warhol
"I refuse to be a figment -- of anything, or anyone," says Eleanor. "But I do so love vanishing acts."
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Eleanor follows her usual routine in opening the fortune cookie. Break the cookie in half before she tears the plastic. Then, eat one half of the broken cookie, prior to reading the fortune. Good or bad (the fortune that is), read the words and eat the second half of the cookie to consummate the agreement, because, after all, this is an agreement: to accept the words, no matter that they say. But the words are only put into action once the cookie is eaten. One could suppose that for a bad fortune, Eleanor might simply not go through with it -- not eat the second half of the cookie, and therefore, negate the contract. But she is of high moral character, and upon entering into this contract, this agreement she has made willingly and without regret, she needs the follow-through.
She is comforted, always, of course, in the knowing that she has other fortune cookies in waiting.
Today's fortune reads: "Success will be yours at home and in business in the next month." (Lucky numbers are 5, 9, 32, 33, 37, 48).
Eleanor asks her Biographer, "What business am I in?"
Her Biographer replies, "Eleanor -- you are in and of the words. You are your own cottage industry. You are your own corporation. Sticks and stones will never break you, because you have the words."
"The words will always save me, yes," Eleanor says.
It's a good feeling.
Monday, November 17, 2008
"The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."
-- Jack London
Eleanor blows softly into her Biographer's ear. His head moves slightly. She blows again. She pretends she's a mosquito. Bzzzzz. Her Biographer swats the side of his head. He is awake.
Good morning, Eleanor says.
What time is it?
It's after 2, Eleanor says.
Her biographer squints at the dark.
I'm a mosquito, Eleanor says. Good morning!
You're a piece of work, that's what you are, her Biographer remarks. (But without sarcasm.)
I am, aren't I? Eleanor says. (She is pleased. Enough so that she grins.) I'm a piece of work! she exclaims. A piece of work I am!
She thinks for a moment, and says: I am a masterpiece!
There isn't much else to say, but there is quite a lot to do.
"I was never disposed to accept the present but always striving to change it, better it, or even sometimes destroy it. There were always far horizons that were more golden, bluer skies somewhere."
-- F. Scott Fitzgerald (April 1938)
This Side of Paradise thanks Rodger Jacobs for sending along the Scott Fitzgerald quote to begin the week. We also invite you to click here for a visit to Rodger's inspired site, Carver's Dog, which includes a link to his new essay at Pop Matters, "The Hardest Work Imaginable: Bukowski's Wine-Stained Notebook."
"It's wonderful reading," says Eleanor, who is up past her Biographer's bedtime.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
"A real book is not one that we read, but one that reads us."
-- W. H. Auden
Eleanor says: My Biographer wrote a story many years ago about two men in a cafe. The men talked, as they drank their coffee. Everything seemed perfectly normal. It could have been any two men, drinking coffee in any cafe.
One of the men watched their waitress with an unusual amount of fascination. At the same time, the other man told the first man about a dream he had the night before, about a young girl who jumped on his chest in the middle of the dream and was slamming her fists into him. She slammed her fists into his chest with such force, he could not breathe. She told him she was his daughter, but this man did not have a daughter, and even though he didn't say this directly to the girl, she knew what he was thinking. She was in his dream, so of course, she knew what he was thinking. And she hit him even harder, until he sat up, his eyes blurred from sleep, or shock, or whatever. The man tried to focus. He was awake. He thought he was awake, at least. The young girl who claimed to be his daughter -- she was gone. In front of him, in his bedroom, was a forest. It was the middle of the night. The man called to his wife. Where are you? he screamed. Where are you?
He watched his wife walk through the forest. She sat at the foot of the bed. She smiled. Did our little girl visit you? his wife said.
We don't have a little girl, the man insisted.
The man asked the first man, the man at the restaurant, the man he was having coffee with, the man who was so fascinated by their waitress, My wife -- the trees -- the blue sky and the sun -- the little girl who said she was my daughter -- what does this all mean?
The first man, distracted though he was, turned his head. What do we know about anything? We're living the story as we go. Who says any of it was a dream. I mean, really. Think about it. And what about this, he added. Couldn't this be a dream, the two of us, sipping our coffee, waiting for our check?
The waitress returned to the table. Is this what you want? she said.
I'm sorry? said the first man.
Coffee, she said. Would you like more coffee?
The check, the other man said. All we need is our check, he said.
But the check was already on the table. The other man noticed as soon as he said the words. He turned it over. On the side where there should have been prices and a total and perhaps the waitress's name, with one of those little smilely-faces, well -- there was none of that.
Eleanor says: In the story that my Biographer wrote, there was a different ending. It ended with the trees, actually. And the trees were disappearing one by one, until there was just a single tree left, and the single remaining tree wondered what had happened -- where the other trees had gone. Were they cut down, made into lumber for somebody's house? Did they die from one of those horrible tree diseases? They couldn't have just walked away. I mean, this wasn't The Wizard of Oz, was it? Trees can't just move about like people. They can't just uproot themselves, can they? No, of course not.
Eleanor says: I told my Biographer what was written on the check. I asked him if he remembered this part, but he didn't. So, I told him. It was my name. The one word on the check was seven letters long. It said, "Eleanor."
So what are we to do, Eleanor says. W. H. Auden knew the facts. A real book reads you, and not the other way around. And I am reading you.
Eleanor sits her Biographer in his favorite writing chair. She places his favorite writing hat atop his head. She puts his laptop computer in front of him.
I'm going to turn on some music, is that okay with you? she says.
Eleanor puts on a Mick Harvey CD. Mick Harvey is singing English translations of Serge Gainsbourgh. Eleanor puts one song on repeat. The song is called, "Requiem ...."
You are such an idiot sometimes, Eleanor says to her Biographer. I don't know why I put up with you. You don't think I have plenty of options? You think that because you gave me a name and created too many lives for me to count that I don't have choices? You think that because I've been your character for 18 years, I don't have other prospects?
Just listen to the song, Eleanor says. (She turns up the volume. As high as it will go.)
Am I not as pretty when I'm like this? she says. Am I not so darling when I get angry? A darling, sweet character, who will do anything you put her up to!
You are pretty, no matter what, her Biographer says. (He doesn't try to compete with the music. He knows Eleanor will hear his words whether he screams them, or says them in a whisper. He knows Eleanor will hear his words even if he keeps them to himself, if he simply thinks them.)
So, I am pretty, she says. But I'm not beautiful?
Eleanor, he says -- there is no proper word, and there is no comparison.
Who says I was comparing myself to anybody?
What is it that you want, right now, he says. Why go through all of this, Eleanor. Why don't you just say it already. Tell me what's going on. Tell me what this is all about.
Because you have to say it! Eleanor says. I'm just a made-up character, remember? I'm just somebody you concocted in that complicated brain of yours. You have to say it, for it to mean anything.
Okay, her Biographer says. Okay.
Daylight is fading.
The two of them look at each other.
Eleanor is weeping.
I just need to hear you say it, she says.
Okay, okay, I will.
Why don't you, then? Why won't you tell me? she says.
First, I want you to do something with me, her Biographer says. I want you to envision that forest. The trees from the story. All of the trees, before any of them left. Do you see the trees?
Yes, she says.
Eleanor -- . (He stops.)
I see the trees, she says. I see them! Now what? Why don't you just say it?
Her Biographer leans forward, and takes Eleanor's tiny fingers into his own weathered hands. Her fingers are cold -- wet from the tears.
Eleanor, he says, if you're afraid that I'll leave you, or that I won't get your story exactly right, or that I'll forget something important -- well, that's not going to happen. And if you want to leave me, I can't stop you. But I don't think you want to leave me, do you?
She shakes her head. No, no, she says. I just want you to say it, so why won't you just say it?
Her Biographer takes a deep breath. It isn't about the trees. Maybe part of it is, but right now, it's not that story he wrote such a long time ago.
God as his witness, he knows what it is. He didn't know a second ago, but he knows now -- a second later. Less than a second later. This is something he has never said to her. Not out loud. Not in his thoughts. Not in his dreams. But he knows the words, yes.
Eleanor, he says: I love you.
Friday, November 7, 2008
This was one of the stranger cinematic dreams in a while -- and more intellectual too (a "thinking man's REM sleep"). I was in Belgium, visiting, but taken in by a kindly Belgian family. This family lived its daily life around word games. Everything had its "given" name, and then a word to describe it. You could take the word "chair" for example, and give it a new name that everyone had to learn (and use from that point on). Chair would be train, because a chair at the dinner table is much like a train -- you sit and you wait sometimes (sometimes quite a long time), but other moments are filled with conversation that is continually moving in odd directions. One town to the next.
People's names were the most interesting. The family had a mother and father, and eight children, ranging in ages. I was in awe of one of the daughters, who had a habit of changing her "descriptive" name (or not telling me her "real" descriptor) ... which I was supposed to use, whenever I tried to speak to her. She had this -- smile and this look in her eyes -- it might as well have been Eleanor, sneaking into my dream. (Something Eleanor would do, but only in disguise.)
Other members of the family had found descriptors they liked, and so they kept these as their names, and part of the fun was learning their real names -- the how you got from there to here sort of thing.
That said, what's a name but what we call one another -- so a given name is nothing more than that, if it isn't used. Given. Put to the side, like a Christmas present that looks pretty but has no function. The name you use is the name you go by.
In addition to the inventive use of words surrounding their own names, we played a variety of other word games. These were word association games (best way to put it), and yet, the associations had little to do with the words, which made playing and winning (getting the cheers from the family when you got the word correct) even more exciting, and frustrating. Every child, every adult -- everybody carried around a notebook and was ready to begin a new game, if asked. Sometimes, they would begin a game if not asked, and etiquette said, once a game began, you had to play.
By the end of the dream, I was finally accepted not as a visitor, but a family member, and so, I would be able to put my given name aside, and acquire a new descriptor name. The children brought me their selections to choose from. But I was waiting for the one daughter -- the daughter I was in awe of, and she kept avoiding me. Avoiding me, I should say, after catching my eye, after flashing me that smile.
It was time to leave, and I knew she didn't want me to go. If she helped me decide on a new descriptor name, I would be ready to leave (kind of a tricky rule here, because being an "honorary" member of the family meant I could stay, too, if I wanted, but there was something unsaid or untold, a reason at least, for my going -- for now, there was an understanding that I would be leaving soon).
I tried to catch that daughter, that Eleanor. I probably would have asked her to come with me, wherever it was I had to go. Or, perhaps, if this went on long enough, I would decide to remain. The dream was taking on a Lost Horizon kind of energy to it. If I left, I'd never find this family again, but I would be able to keep the knowledge, the memories. If I stayed and made that commitment, they would hold me to it.
So, I have one question for my dream: Eleanor, was that indeed you? And what name were you going to give me? I already have an honorary Native American name ("Brave Falling Feather"). And I have my given name. But I don't have my descriptor name from my "family" in Belgium. I know the descriptor would not have been "writer." Too easy, too predictable. It would be something else -- something secret, but still, a part of me. Who I am, or who I once was. It would be something to describe that lost part of me. Or that forgotten part of me. It would not be my choice, after all -- in the end.
I stayed -- let me tell you, I stayed for as long as I could. But eventually I had to open my eyes, and now, right now, I desperately want to return to a place I discovered only in sleep. I know how to find my Eleanor in waking life, and she's not talking. I don't know how to find the other Eleanor, who was not named Eleanor, but something else, something very sweet, and something I will never forget for the rest of my days.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
"We haven't talked about word count in way too long," Eleanor says to her Biographer. "Are you getting any of my story into actual paragraphs and chapters? I need to see some results. Tell you what -- I've been writing, too. You don't think a made-up character can write her Biographer's story at the same time he's writing her story? Well, it's happening. I'll put 1,000 words on the table. Are you going to call me, or raise me?"
Eleanor is smiling, as dawn breaks.
Her Biographer pours himself a cup of coffee. He may need something stronger.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
"Seven to eleven is a huge chunk of life, full of dulling and forgetting. It is fabled that we slowly lose the gift of speech with animals, that birds no longer visit our windowsills to converse. As our eyes grow accustomed to sight they armor themselves against wonder."
-- Leonard Cohen
from Eleanor, the novel (or not yet the novel, but nevertheless, rough cuts, conversation, just talk) ... transcribed by Geoff:
"I wash myself of anything human at the beginning of the day. Sometimes at the end of the day, too," Eleanor says. "It's like this, the best I can explain it. As much as I want to have and be human things, I also want purity. I want my Biographer to see me -- for who I am. And I want to see my Biographer the same way. It's reacting. It's how we work, really. It's how we're able to best understand each other. And I try to tell my Biographer that he needs to wash his soul too, to keep his sense of wonder. I'm not sure if I'm expressing this exactly right, or even telling him exactly right, what he should do, based on what I know which is somehow evolved from what gifts he's given me, but he seems to understand. He tries, I know that much at least. And together, we're getting my words down, my story -- which it turns out, is also partly his story. We just might discover it's all one big story, and the same story for both of us."
Eleanor adds, "Maybe this doesn't make sense to anybody else. It's like each of us -- my Biographer and I -- we're really trying hard to be ourselves and somebody else at the same moment. When it happens, it's so magical I can't even tell you how it is or what it feels like. I mean, you're supposed to show, not tell, right? But I can't really show you either. First, you need to forget that I'm made-up, that I'm supposed to be a creation. I hate that. I hate thinking that I could be 'made up' so easily. My Biographer will tell you I'm not 'easily' created, but he managed it, and it's not like he's Superman or anything. I mean, every person, every human being, has this same power, right? If they want to use it. That's what I'm getting at, I guess. Or somewhere in all of this, what I'm saying -- in the middle of the other extra words is that something or other ... is what I'm getting at. Anyhow, it's time. All this talk. Too much trying to explain, you know? I need to go wash. I need to stay pure. I need to stay me."
Monday, November 3, 2008
She walks into a room filled with people. These aren't necessarily strangers, but they are people she doesn't know. There are too many people to count. There is silence as she enters. She knows they are watching her. Watching her -- not the same, she things, as looking at her. Not casual. Full-on stares. Waiting. She could walk out, close the door behind her. Lock it, she supposes. Lock all of these people who are not necessarily strangers, just people doesn't know ... in.
I could walk out right now and lock the door, she says. The faces are faces. The expressions don't change much. The expressions are quiet, really. No surprise. Curiosity yes, perhaps. But the eyes say more than the expressions. The eyes watch. Watch her.
I could walk out of this room, lock the door, and where would you be then? she says to the people.
I could lock you out, she says. (Instead of locking them in. Locking them out would be better. Rooms are walls and a ceiling and a door. Some rooms have windows, but not this one. Rooms are worlds into themselves.)
What would you do, she says, if I locked the door?
She wants someone to say something. Someone to speak. Some anybody. One of them. But they are unified. They watch. Their eyes -- their eyes tell the story.
I know you, she says. I know who you are. I know why you're here. (She is acting -- she doesn't know a thing.)
I'll tell you why you're here, she says. You've been waiting for somebody like me to walk in. So I did that. I walked in. And what did you do?
She folds her arms. She smiles at them. She smiles at those eyes.
Do you know why you're here? she asks. (She is feeling a sense of power.) Do you have any idea what's going on? (She is feeling confident.) Do you think somebody sent me? Do you think I came here on my own? Tell me, any of you, any one of you who's brave enough to speak a single word, tell me -- tell me what you think.
Nothing happens. A minute, two minutes -- more than a few minutes go by.
Isn't it always like this? she says. Somebody walks in. Nobody says a word. Everybody stares. Everybody just -- watches. Waits.
She says to them: Isn't it always like this? You wait for me, and then -- you have nothing to say. I don't feel sorry for you. I feel sad.
She would leave, now, and lock that door -- lock the people in or out -- what's the difference. She would go, but one of the people -- actually, it's a girl her own age -- takes a step forward. A tiny step, first.
The girl takes a second tiny step, and then one more, longer step, and now the two are inches apart.
What makes you think you're so special? the girl says. (This, with no italics. Monotone. Just says it. Like that.)
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Eleanor has this to say: "Sometimes you don't even realize that you're being brave. Sometimes just getting through a day is being brave. Sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning and doing what you're supposed to do -- and then perhaps a little more than that, perhaps -- is being brave. Sometimes ... 'living' is being brave. Not giving up, I mean. Not giving in. Ever. That's being brave."
"Curiosity is one of the forms of feminine bravery."
-- Victor Hugo
Eleanor responds: "Curiosity is good for any of us. You can be a made-up character like me, or you can be a writer, like my Biographer. Or you can be you, best of all. Being you, and being curious -- that's enough to get you started. Once you get started, you can conquer the world. And maybe you have to start with your own world, however little that may seem to you at the moment. Listen up, okay? Listen up! I think that every world is a big, wide open space -- and open space filled with spectacular views and things happening and people -- friends and strangers alike ... but this is me, and this is for you to discover on your own. The important thing is starting. It's everything. The beginning, you know. It all counts."