“You can’t paint a picture of something you ain’t seen”
The most perfectly pleasant time dilation just occurred… I awoke with a start and muddled off to buy my “fun-size” cigarettes. I casually mention to the manager why I’m wound up – the next level bullshit with my former boss. I’m suddenly Susan – a conversation persists.
Sandy, whom I’m meeting for the first time, is behind the register… She is engaged by my thoughts – she responds in kind. She coherently explains to me why things went wrong at my last job – that most people are not like us, mental illness and the like. I expound on my views – she expands my views in kind. We’re suddenly talking about institutional racism and white privilege, the economics of panhandling, the minutia of daily life, corporate greed… How do I keep finding people, to whom – on the surface – I have nothing in common with? We are not of the same race – I am far more plastic than her. I won’t leave the house without lipstick, she is a tomboy. She is unaware that she speaks with an imperative I can digest. She is clarifying the nature of man (she is too funny for 3 a.m.! My brain has been far too primordial to construct these thoughts myself. It’s’ all too much that I found this delicious person!) We are giggling at our “Dilbert” stories from toxic jobs. It is so much fun!
I tell her about his blog, that I want everyone to know a different story. Not my story, but their story. That she is so insightful (people need to hear this). It’s a third shift job. She has nothing but time on her hands. She knows how to plan ahead, unlike me. She has a stadium cushion for her comfort, a book for her brain. (Can she teach me how to be organized? Yes, she most definitely can!) She spells out her love of reading. I’m learning about her favorite authors and genres, each detail more beautifully delineated than the next. She knows what she likes, she has a knack for spotting talent. (Yep – we have that in common too!) We’re talking about science fiction now (future conversations are percolating in my brain…)
Now we are talking about the nature of storytelling. It’s a lonely world, in the middle of the night, whether you’re an insomniac (like me) or forced to work “for the man” at a job that should be too useless to function (like her). She says to me, as we were talking about books, that “you can’t paint a picture of something you ain’t never seen“. This is a bold statement. It is true, but it appears eye-gougingly bold to me. I explain to her that “early man created stories about constellations to keep track of time, to know when to plant and when to harvest“. I explain to her that I created the term “fun-size cigarettes” to control a situation that I had no control over. The disturbing reference to fun size, when talking about cigarettes, will ensure she finds them next time, fast enough for my patience. She explains to me: “Too many things to enumerate“.
I decide I want to share my stories with her. Next up – we hear her favorite stories. Classics are classics for a reason; science fiction is fascinating for a reason; cultural fiction is alluring for a reason… Here are my best picks and they are out of date – for a reason:
“The Glass Castle” – a disturbingly haunting memoir of redemption and love. Woody Harrelson plays the alcoholic father in the movie I haven’t yet seen. Horatio Alger would be proud! The disfunction is disturbing, the success – memorizing. Laughter and pain!
“Namesake” – a look at a life you don’t know. It’s why I coined the term cultural fiction – reading a non-fiction novel that educates you on a different mindset, religion, political system, continents… It is quietly profound. It is quietly haunting. It’s clarity is refreshing!
“The Poisonwood Bible” – Barbara Kingsolver does an excellent job finding multiple voices (I’m only now finding my voice – how did she find three, no – four… no, I can’t remember and that is not even the point?!) You accidentally receive an education on suppressing communist aggression and greed and cyanide.. You discover misperceptions (you know the devil is in the details!)
“The Girl with a Pearl Earring” – narrative transportation ensues. So many things you can’t imagine – wet nurses and obsessions with paint. It is a beautifully woven imagined tale behind a picture. It is inspiring (maybe I can do that one day?!)
“In the Garden of Beasts” – a disturbing tale of “Telephone Dodd.” How World War I lead to World War II, how reparations created Hitler, how a preoccupation with money lead to genocide. How it is really all just one war (why are we letting time define that? We have to learn from history so we don’t repeat it. I can’t put a finer a point on this – you will enjoy this book – you will be as silent as the dark of the moon absorbing this).
“The Girl on a Train” – you may think this as a beach book and you’re entitled to that opinion. But, it is a tale of how narcissistic abuse leads to alcoholism; how mismanaged time creates panic; how, at the end of the day, even when you are practicing gratitude and patience, the primal nature of man wants to beat you down for shit too small for you to consider. The husband’s greatest crime was indifference. Plus, it’s the best underdog story since “Gran Torino“. I forgot about painful deception and infidelity!
“Fahrenheit 451” – A disturbingly prophetic look at government overreach and a technologically obsessed society, at toxic relationships even. Book burnings, of skypeing (even through the word didn’t exist at that time). Controlling language has waged wars, creating communism and democracy alike. It’s a history lesson we can’t repeat.
“The Sound of Thunder“, “All Summer in a Day“, “Harry’s All Night Hamburgers“… This is my anthology of short stories, whether we are examining the butterfly effect, bullying or mindfulness, the bucket of adjectives and vicarious experiences result in more narrative transportation. Just trust me on this one!
“Linking Rings” – Magic is alluring. (Your senses shouldn’t trick you, right? But they do!) The deviation into the daredevil spirit is spectacular: the rise and fall of Niagara Falls – the entire economy of Niagara Falls was linked to pushing the limits (reconstruction destroyed it) – one man unwittingly rebuilt it on his path to madness over money. (It is a journey I want you to share with me.)
Swing but the Learned Owl to pick a book up! I have had conversations like this with their staff, funny conversations about technology and the demise of Germany. They have a knack finding talent. For every grim detail I outlined, there is joy that has been cultivated. Laughter is around the corner. (Enjoy the insomnia – get a cup of coffee with me. Can you hear me now? I can hear you.) I’m enthralled by your existence and stories. The world just needs to wake up and hear about it.