"Our most ancient metaphor says life is a journey. Memoir is travel writing, then, notes taken along the way, telling how things looked and what thoughts occurred. . . .This is the traveler who goes on foot, living the journey, taking on mountains, enduring deserts, marveling at the lush green places...as a pilgrim, seeking, wondering." -Patricia Hampl

February 11, 2005

A Valentine for the Perpetually Perplexed & Cynical


green leafy hearts



I've loathed Valentine's Day since elementary school, when my classmates used to tally how many Kermit/Ms. Piggy and Star Trek little, paper valentines they each received from one another, like trading cards. My tally was usually low. Sure, I could count on getting the oh-so-cliche "Have a Great Day, Friend!" valentine from the kids whose moms made them sign their testament to enduring friendship to *every* kid in the class, but my heart-red flag always went up when they were signed "From," instead of "Love."

Later, in the dog-eat-dog worlds of middle and high school, among the candygram and secret carnation recipients, V-Day became a slightly more desperate occassion. Popular girls, beguiling as ever with heart-shaped stickers on their nails and cheeks, boasted of their secret admirers through the hallways, advertising their chocoloate/flowers/cards against their chests like demure Victorians. Ah, and then the ultimate turn-key of fate: should I or shouldn't I send Bradley Jacobs, only the cutest guy in school, a secret Valentine? Will he, at once, catch my furtive I-sent-you-that-carnation glance in the hallway, only to discover that we were meant to be TLF and bear lots of beautiful children together? (That is, when he's not busy staring into my eyes and burping up his orange juice?)

The formative years thankfully behind me, I can proudly announce that until this year, I bravely endured a near-decade of dateless Valentine's nights (gal pals excluded, of course--and may I add, you & our strong cosmopolitans made for fine company on those chilly February nights). I was less disgusted by the lack of single, attractive, and viable dates than the commercialization of the holiday. Down with Hallmark! Down with florists, everywhere! How dare "they" (I'm not sure who exactly I was trying to identify here) market to a target audience of significant others and people who make their kids feel guilty if they don't get a big red card in the mail! V-D Day, a friend called it, connoting a disease you could really only get if you were lucky enough to *have* an admirer.

This year, I am forced to reconsider my long-ingrained negativity towards Valentine's Day. Please note, friends, that I am not writing this with my head in the clouds--though I am definitely in love. I am writing soberly here, and seriously, post-coffee, with the intent of helping those, who like I once did, dislike Valentine's Day.

First, I'd like you to picture Annie Leibovitz's snapshot of John Lennon & Yoko Ono. Stop whining and do it. Recall how John's naked, wiry and fetal-shaped body cozies up to Yoko, who lays there on their bed, hair amiss, in bliss. Got it? Keep it in mind.
John once said that he had no idea who Yoko was when he went to her art exhibit prior to their meeting. Yoko had an installment with a ladder; John climbed the ladder to discover that on the ceiling above him, Yoko had placed the word "Yes." It was her affirmation of. . .well, as I see it, everything. Taking risks, being proactive, accepting the unexpected, yada yada. Now stay with me.

Now I'd like you to note that it is on Valentine's Day when your coworkers bring in all sorts of treats, as they do on the days prior to Christmas. No, they're not trying to make you fat. They're affirming that you're sweet, so you ought to have sweets. It's a very simple tradition purported everywhere with millions of heart-shaped, chocolate-filled boxes. Get over it. Eat a damn hershey's kiss. And say thank-you.

Consider that in the commercial world of Hershey's Kisses and Hallmark cards that we often overlook the popular definition of "love" as total acceptance--it's the biggest "Yes," the unconditional affirming of something. Thus, what we want--and lack--in our romantic lives gets 'shotgun' seat in our automobile of need, and all the other relationships take a backseat. You can love your backyard, you can love Entenman's Coffeecake, you can love it when your nextdoor neighbor's kid jumps up and down when she waves at you. You can love all the things they don't make cards for (and for which you couldn't send any, anyway). Start making your list. Stop whining. Do it. What do you love?

A good friend of mine is recuperating after a devastating break-up that could leave her permanently cynical. I wouldn't blame her. Her cynicism has permeated her recent emails, and some of our phone conversations. Luckily--and maybe you have to be born this way--she's found a way, despite her sadness, to live with abandon. Noting her vacation time, she's gone and signed herself up for a trek through the Pacific Northwest that will undoubtedly reacquaint her with the magnificence of our country's landscape--and she'll meet a few new folks while doing it. I can't help but dedicate this blog to her, because in her signing up for a western adventure, she's renewing her love for travel, people, nature, and learning. You can't send a Hallmark Card to the San Juan Islands, but you sure can love the opportunity to see them.

Cynics, I speak directly to you when I ask that you renounce your association of V-Day with overcommercialized nonsense. Instead, make it yet another holiday to take stock of the things you love, of the people who love you, of your luck in getting to experience a myriad of emotions. And in my homage to cheesy Valentine's everywhere, I leave you with this: Just Say "Yes."

February 01, 2005

Lorraine Asks, I Tell

Dear Readers,

Lorraine from Atlanta, GA asks,

"How are you? Checked your blog--and nothing new!"

Good questions! I know--I've been shirking my blogging duties. First and foremost, I am still subbing, and so when duty doesn't (sadly) call at 5:30 a.m., leaving me alone in the house with little else to do than look for a REAL JOB, that is precisely what I do. I am nose-to-the-grindstone, foot-to-the-pavement looking for exciting, life-affirming, world-changing, full-time work. With benefits.

At present, I am only a part-time worker bee. So far my favorite of these gigs--well, since it's the only one that's really started--is my playwriting workshop (go on, click the link, you know you want to). I have an 82-year-old student!! And she rocks! The two-hour, Thursday night class goes way too fast, and we laugh our butts off. If you do visit my workshop website, I double dog dare you to try the weekly challenges--and send me your writing! (C'mon, you don't have to pay me to read them!)

Lined up on the part-time teaching horizon will be workshops for the Rochester Association for the Performing Arts (RAPA), a Jewish day school, and the local community college. Sure, I'll have to carry around one of those wheely-suitcases to keep all my stuff straight, but at least I'll be organized.

As far as artistic challenges go, I'm nudging myself into creating a photography portfolio (from my collective travels abroad--see my Mexican mangoes pic below), writing sestinas, learning how to knit (ala "mom's way"), getting immersed in community volunteer projects around the Rochester Jewish Film Festival and ArtWalk (a really cool Rochester public art organization). mangoes & tangerines, Tlacolula market
Can you see this photo hanging on the wall of your favorite local coffee shop?

If you haven't heard that I'm dating an amazing young man yet, you live in a cave, and I can't believe you have internet service in there.

So thanks, Lorraine F. from down Georgia way, for initiating this update. Hope you're thawing out from your nasty bout with snow (poor dears, you're not used to the arctic!), and y'all write soon now, y'hear?