Waiting For a Bus

Film-reel

Waiting For the Bus

He drew his coat collar in closer. He blew a moment’s worth of warmth into his scarf before the cold wind whipped through him again. He hurried as he knew the bus stop with the protective plastic enclosure was in the next block. It was cold, with light flurries floating in the night air adding just enough magic to make it feel he was in a movie.

As he walked the quiet street, passing only a few people and seeing only a few taxis and cars, he imagined himself as a character in a movie. Maybe an action movie. Yeah, he’d take a cab and end up embroiled in an exciting car chase. Nah. A crime drama suited his mood better, starting with breaking up a robbery in progress at the local bodega. Hmmm. Nope. He didn’t feel up to any car chase excitement or possible violence to his person.

He could see the dim lights and garish signage of the bus stop just ahead. As he approached, he noticed someone sitting on the bench bundled in a puffy coat huddled over an ereader. He noticed the rugged but small boots. A woman, with dark hair curling out from underneath her knit hat. She glanced up as he neared and he was met with the clearest blue eyes he had ever seen. They reminded him of his favorite Crayola crayon, “Robin’s Egg Blue.” Then she smiled. A slightly crooked, bright, beautiful smile. He reflexively smiled back, hoping for less of a Goofy grin and more of a Cary Grant cool smirk. In the movie reel in his head, he was fresh off a crime caper and was heading into the requisite romantic scene.

Except he didn’t know his lines. This was his big break. The meet-cute. The part where they would exchange witty banter and saunter off in the fog together from here to eternity. He tried to rummage through his brain for a good opener, but could only think of B-movie cheesy pick-up lines. What would Bogart have said? He hoped his silence would come off as a stoic Gary Cooper but feared his sneering smirk and staring gaze was more of a creepy Peter Lorre.

OK. He needed to get a grip. This was not the Golden Age of cinema. This was real life with all its grit and glory and discomfort and exhilaration. He was just a guy waiting for a bus. And she was just a girl waiting for a bus. No big deal. She was a beauty though, he thought as he surreptitiously glanced her way again. Could he be happy with himself if he passed up this chance at real magic?

He took his hands out of his pockets to check his watch and as he did, a little notepad fell out. He didn’t realize until he saw her reaching that it had fallen open, face-up. Before he could move, she had picked it up and had glanced at the page in front of her.

“Poetry?” she asked with a musical, husky voice that felt like warm caramel to his ears and she looked up at him with those eyes. “Yours?”
“Uh, yeah,” he replied, pleased to force some sound from his throat.
“Are you a writer?” she asked.
“Sort of. A hobby. I’m a computer programmer,” he answered. “Mostly web stuff. And some games.”
“I write too. Well, I’m in advertising in my real life but I write songs,” she said. And smiled up at him.
“Do you sing?” he asked as he moved to sit on the bench near her.
“Not really, but a friend of mine sometimes throws my songs in her sets at a bar near here.”
“Has anyone recorded your stuff?” he asked.
“Nah. I really just do it for fun. Not too serious at this point.” She handed him his notebook. “Do you have stuff published?”
“Well, uh, yeah, actually,” he stumbled, wondering why he was suddenly nervous. Would she think it pansy of him to have published books of poetry? And if so, why did he care? She was cute and he wanted to feel macho, that’s why, he reasoned.
He cleared his throat and opted for truth and optimism. “I’ve had two books of poems published and I’m working on my first full-length novel.”

He waited to hear disapproval or at least detect disinterest just like when he talked about writing with his family or his coworkers. He was pleasantly surprised to find neither. She seemed to almost bubble with excitement. Like Carole Lombard or Claudette Colbert.

Except she was better. She was real. In Technicolor. He realized how cold he was after he saw her shivering. Checking his watch, he noticed the bus was late. He asked if maybe she’d like to join him for a drink at her friend’s bar. She said sure. It made him feel like a matinee idol, walking a quiet city street on a snowy night with a beautiful woman. The night was full of promise.

They could not stop finding things to talk about, laugh about. With each moment, he felt warmer. In his head, the movie would end as they left the cold behind, walked into the smoky bar together with the musical score a cool jazz.

Plaid Thoughts

dagboek_voorkant

Plaid Thoughts

She opened her little plaid journal and positioned her pen carefully. This had fast become one of the favorite parts of her day. A brand new page lay blank in wait for her imagination. She could do and be anything in just a few words! Drawing, writing, doodling. Collecting clippings that she found interesting. The journal had become her friend, a repository for her most private thoughts. It was of course to mean so much more later.

She felt a whole world of her own making could be conveyed if she could just figure out what her inner voice had to say. It spoke to her all the time; would it speak to others as well?

She sighed, shifted in her chair, leaned her elbows on the desk and began to write.

She wrote about what she saw, how she felt. She wrote things she hoped to see, hoped to someday feel. Since she was so young, she knew people might not take her seriously. After all, who would want to read the musings of a teenage girl?

Big thoughts about life and love and little thoughts about clothes and hairstyles all found their way into the book. She grew. And grew. Her body, her mind, her imagination. She felt she would outgrow the confines of her small space if not for her journal. Somehow some paper and ink kept her grounded; reminding her of what she felt mattered. Her writing touched on a newfound interest in boys as well as more philosophical matters like the good and evil she saw in the world. She had dreams of her stories being published. She wrote about things and people she knew; cleverly changing names so as not to risk anyone thinking her work too personal. From the real in all its grit came some beauty in fantasy.

After filling up many pages, she began to look them over, making subtle changes in case someone someday did indeed decide her thoughts were indeed fit for public consumption. She crinkled her nose in disgust at some sections, laughed aloud at others, felt embarrassed at some passages, elated that her imagination had shown through it all.

The tenor of her writing changed over time. The darkness that had remained a distant threat for so long was edging closer to her world. She could find solace in her plaid notebook for a short while but could only hold evil at bay for so long. Before the end, she wrote as any teen would, of making friends, loving boys, arguing with mothers, finding no wrong with fathers. She wrote of the good that she saw every day even as things were falling apart all around her. She wrote as though she was pressed for time to get out all her dreams and thoughts quickly before she forgot them or before she was forgotten.

She was not forgotten. Her journal was discovered, shared. As with any plaid pattern, such as the one of her notebook, the lines of several people’s lives and experiences intersected and meshed and coordinated to form a patterned story of hope amidst horror. Her story has been shared with the world so broadly that children hearing of her think of her as a character, not a real person. But look closely at some of the photographs. She was awkward but beautiful. Read carefully. She was young but intuitively adroit at expression and description.

I was recently given a small plaid notebook from someone who doesn’t know how Anne Frank touched me as a child. Reading thoughts so similar to my own from someone who existed thirty years before I was born was a revelation. Maybe I felt a connection because I was an awkward youth. Maybe it was the odd fact that stuck with me that she and I share a birthday. Whatever sparked my interest in her and her writing, I learned as a youngster that storytelling was important. I use my notebook to take notes for future stories and to jot down quotes I like. We can all find some means of expression no matter what the swirling activity of the world exists around us. Like Anne, I want to be hopeful and share my thoughts and dreams instead of being brought down by darkness.

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Holding

Holding

Cold turning warmer
Hands clasping, grasping
Thoughts turning faster
From despair to feather-light hope

Time has no matter
Feelings, memories abide no schedule
In quiet, calm cuts through mire
A soul in trouble looks to words, colors

Feelings replace thought
Giving form to hope
Time moves forward to face anew
Or aside to make way for old

Hands holding tightly
Bind now to here
Easing fear
Together.

Bar None

soap

Bar None

Bar soap is an endangered household item. It may yet go the way of washboards and Sears catalogues. What were the catalogues for? If you don’t know, then you’re from a luckier generation.

An exhaustive foray into researching the topic (exactly five trips to four stores) led me to conclude that we may be seeing the last of bar soap in our lifetime. As I had noticed my family had only two bars of our favorite soap left on the shelf, I knew I had at least three weeks before we were plumb out (two adults and two preteens, the latter of which don’t actually use soap except to coat their palms to get the soap wet to prove their cleanliness as they then let copious amount of water sluice down their little grimy bodies, letting gravity do most of the actual work).

I went to a drug store, a dollar store, a grocery store, and a Target, however that’s classified. All had bar soap, yes, but what I found when I really perused the soap aisle was interesting. (Yes, I need to get out more.) For one thing, the simple soap my family prefers was not even stocked at two of the stores any longer. The other two stores had a few packs which I scooped up like a doomsday hoarder. For another thing, the selection of soaps has really changed just in the past year or so (or at least since I’ve been paying attention). There are bars soaps, hand pump soaps, and shower gels to choose from. That has been the case for awhile now, true, but there has been a subtle shift in the numbers and types of these products on the shelves. Shower gel selection used to be very minimal, generally a couple of brands putting forth a gel version of their original scent. The large numbers of gels that are used by Americans have always been purchased at Bath & Body Works or the Body Shop or other such places found in malls. Now, however, this has changed.

There are dozens of gels from all the bar soap players, in all sorts of trendy scents now targeting not just women but men and teens too. We are forever trying to fight nature and get our kids clean. Women have botanical, yummy fragrances like lavender and cucumber melon. Men have strong, manly choices like alpine fresh and power sport. Teens have weird choices like diva and phoenix. It just reflects what’s already a confusing time for them, I think.

What I find odd about the influx of shower gels and body washes flooding the market is that is reflects another trend in our society: the removal of the personal in our lives. We don’t like to actually see or touch people much anymore so we use the internet to shop and socialize. We don’t even want to look at or touch ourselves either apparently so we use gels along with loofas and washcloths and shower puffs. That’s what losing bar soap means to me. A lack of the personal touch.

Ironically I think there is a grass roots movement trying to bring forth a comeback for the simple bar of soap. At a recent local craft show I attended, there were several crafters selling homemade bars of soap. There used to be just one lady selling her candles and soap and she was a modern-day hippie with odd jewelry and an even odder smell about her. But now there seemed to be a soap dealer at every turn, hawking rough globs of “natural” soap with handmade labels. Just like the hippies of old, there may a valid point in there somewhere about getting back to basics, but it may be lost in a haze of fragrance and hygiene.

Lighting Up the Dark

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Lighting Up the Dark

 

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”   Leonard Cohen

 

We are a species obsessed with light. The Bible starts with God letting in the stuff, highlighting His wondrous creations. Early civilizations appealed to their gods of sun and light, hoping for better crops and fertility. There is the literal light from the sun and there is the figurative light from what is recognized as goodness inside of us. You light up my life. Let the sunshine in. All sorts of sucky music to celebrate light. Ansel Adams. Pierre Auguste-Renoir. Max Planck. All sorts of ways of viewing, appreciating, and understanding light.

 

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”    Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

 

There are songs, poems, and tomes of photographs dealing with the subject. Even if the subject is dark (absence of light) or colorful (manipulating light), it’s something we cannot do without nor manage on our own. We can create life and but we can only record light. We call the connection with a lover a spark. We say a woman carrying a child has a glow.

 

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”             Plato

 

Innocence is praised as light while darkness is deemed deranged. Why should this be? While in the womb we are in darkness with our basic needs met, a blank canvas waiting to be imprinted with all the information we’ll need for life. The dark can be scary when it’s unknown and we let fear lead us. The dark can also be comforting when we give up worry and be confident like children.

 

“From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.”      Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

At the risk of losing sight of our other senses, what we see really is generally what we accept as truth. Or to put it in a cliché, seeing is believing. Yes, smells can evoke powerful memories. Taste allows more translation to what we are beholding. Touch is the most personal sense with our bodies paving the way for what input gets sent to the brain. Hearing is helpful to add contour to what we see, but sight is the overwhelming leader of our senses. Obviously for those who are blind, in one way or another, other senses come to the forefront. 

 

“In order for the light to shine brightly, the darkness must be present.”           Francis Bacon

 

It’s why diamonds are displayed on black velvet. Probably why velvet art took off in the 1970s. Why x-rays are so helpful. The dark highlights what we need to see.

 

“You can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in.”  Arlo Guthrie

 

To be honest, the notion of light and dark was thrust into my spotlight this week as I forgot my sunglasses and drove while squinting against the glare of the sun on the snow. I wished for the comfort of a dark pair of glasses. The light was too much. This thought stuck in my craw for a couple of days. Can we be overwhelmed by too much goodness and light? Is that what drives our prurient interests in popular culture? Is it what makes us related more readily to villains rather than heroes, as we don’t have to reach too far to find familiar ground with a villain but hero status is almost always just out of reach?

 

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”           Albert Schweitzer

 

I myself am thankful for forgetting my sunglasses the other day. Through a roundabout stream of thought, it made me appreciate the literary and artistic lights in my life that have stoked my creative spark. Some have passed on, some are with us still. Most will never know how they have touched me. But I am grateful all the same. What I have seen and read will stick with me and affect me and continue to light my way.