Why Would You Leave When It Was So Good?

Just over broke, working long hours into the late night on the line, you banged out Steak and Fries, Confit de Canard, and Gratine des Halles, surrounded by swearing, sweating bodies slamming sauté pans over the fire. Plates crowded the pass with impatient Pick Up shouts from whomever was expediting that night. Your after-after hours spent at the only open bar down the street, meeting up with kitchen comrades from other restaurants. Your wife already accustomed to sleeping alone.

But you loved the life, hard life. An outlaw with a ten inch french knife and a microplane, part of a brotherhood in aprons. At mid-life you owned no home, had no savings, and could barely make rent. Barely enough for drugs.

When you penned that exposé to the New Yorker that pulled the sheet off the reality in the nations restaurant kitchens you shot like a cork into another dimension. A trajectory that sent you around the world, with us, your prime time entourage, following every step of that windfall that erased all your past hardships and filled your coffers. And you found true love, and had a baby girl. For her you got clean. 

And because we knew your hardships we celebrated your good fortune, because you were the real deal human being. No pretence shadowed motives. Obvious to everyone that you held the world by the tail.

You had once said, of your new life, that you felt like you had stolen an expensive car and kept looking in the rear view mirror for the flashing lights. But you came through the mire, and you made something real and soulful and honest. So maybe we could do that too.

You have the network finally heeled to your creative vision, you love what life unfolded for you. You said so. You look so happy. You hold to your own terms, never succumbing to the lurid lure of a sell out. 

You are embraced and folded into a hundred million hearts as kin, and are held there. We never faltered or showed concern you would one day not come. There was so much life yet. Of course you’d come. But one summer day you didn’t. Instead you decided to shed your body in a lovely room at the Hotel Chambard. Leaving us all behind to question, leaving your daughter to question, when the living is easy when is not living easier?

~  ~  ~

When Anthony Bourdain left the room, he took the air with him. I still struggle with his suicide. I still find it difficult to watch any of his series, distracted by questions like; what was the last discussion he had and had he already decided to carry out his final act during that discussion; had he already planned to do it when he arrived at the Hotel Chambard; did anyone one in his entourage notice a difference in him? More disturbing and painful are thoughts of picturing him standing alone in his hotel room, preparing what he would need to carry it out. Thinking. And now, when I see him on T.V. I see him as he might have been found that morning.

I feel cheated somehow. Blind sighted, because he was the good guy. The solid one who made it. And while I make attempts to accept it was his decision, that we all have that right to leave this life on our own choosing, I grapple with the selfish thought that he had no right to leave that amazing life he created. That he had no right to be depressed. And I will never come to understand or accept him leaving his teenage daughter broken by this.

Old Prodigy?

A three year old sits at a Steinway and bangs out a little something by Bach, an eleven year old knocks out huge abstract paintings with as much depth and experience as Picasso at the height of his career, an eight year old belts out an operatic piece with a richness that should have only been achievable after years of training and practice, a six year old rips up some blues riffs on a Stratocaster twice her size that would blast Clapton off the stage.

And then there’s technology. The nine-year old Microsoft certified technology specialist, the fourteen year old college student with sites on graduating at seventeen with a master’s degree. There’s more where they came from.

So where are the proverbial ‘Dues’ that we associate with this kind of skill and talent that were supposed to be paid in a million seedy night clubs, in years of mentoring under a master, and years of investment in universities- straining through calculus and higher maths?

What causes this kind of fully developed expression to be realized by these fresh, unsullied, half-pints? Where is the hard-won grinding life experiences to validate their being allowed to fathom and harness a sense of a confusing, beautiful, complex, tragic, heartbreaking, spectacular world?

But we love them don’t we? We marvel, we parade them across the stage without questioning their ‘credentials.’ The talent they present is accepted at face value, applauded and encouraged. Dues paid are never addressed.

I don’t want to go into in-depth speculations about how and why prodigy behaviour may manifest in some individuals, you know, the musings of incarnation or spirits of old masters vying for a posthumous come back. I’ll save that for another post.

I’m curious that the phenomenon of Prodigy apply only to prepubescent individuals, and found this article.

Dr. Joanne Ruthsatz, https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/11/what-makes-a-child-an-art-prodigy/382389/

…”Prodigies have a nature component that all the nurturing in the world can’t compensate for. There is a biological difference that kicks in with these kids and they become obsessed with their work and want to engage in their art or play the piano all the time, even though they are ordinary kids in the sandbox.”

That excerpt, and especially the phrase “a biological difference that kicks in” made me think that there might be something to that curiosity I had been mulling over for a few years. Which is if older individuals can be prodigy’s?

I had assumed it doesn’t occur because we never hear stories about an octogenarian who suddenly taps into a full-fledged talent which caused them to flourish in unbridled creative pursuits.

But if being a prodigy means something “kicked in” then why could it not be possible that this something can kick in or awaken at any time in one’s life?

Maybe the only advantage a child prodigy could have over an adult or senior “prodigy” could lie in the fact a child is not sullied and bogged down with woe and heartbreak. And debt. Their mind isn’t cluttered with the ways of the world.

Their mind is more like an open conduit to the creative spark, not yet conditioned and manipulated by societal constricts, leaving room for creative ingenuity to fill in societal conformity has yet a chance to dominate.

So why not us? The middle-aged, the seniors. Are we so calcified and brittle and rutted?

A whisper in the back of my mind is saying –mmmm probably.

I googled “Cases where a senior citizen suddenly exhibits prodigal behaviour.” The list read like a roster of symptoms one would see in a mental institution: Brain damage, Delirium or Sudden Confusion, Unusual or Strange, then ending with Savantism and Autism.

It appears this ‘Biological Difference’ kicking in is a sweet thing if you’re five, just not so much if you’re seventy-five.

If anyone has some stories of “mature” individuals they would like to share I’m all ears!

 

 

Whatever, I’m easy.

Do you want to go to such and such place or do you want to go to the other? Do you feel like eating Greek or Thai or at home? Would you like to schedule a time for now or then?

When I’m with someone and I ask any of these questions I really do want some feedback, an opinion, a suggestion, some help in deciding. Because two or more individuals are obviously involved in the scenario, this is diplomatic behaviour, to ask the question, to want to involve the other person in a final decision. It is open for discussion, so discuss! That’s democracy.

So then it’s no surprise it exasperates me when I ask those questions of someone I’m with and instead of some constructive input a volley of ‘I don’t know, whatever, I’m easy, where, what, when do you want to…?’ is trolled out.

C’mon, I offered some choices for crying out loud – help narrow things down!

I’ve come to the conclusion that those responses of ‘I don’t care, whatever, I’m easy’  are tactics in handing over control, sending the message of not wanting to commit. It could even be an act of passive aggression. It means evading any responsibility to the outcome of the decision.

Not wanting to risk making a “bad” decision and take the blame, especially if it doesn’t pan out as hoped. Like if a restaurant I may have suggested turned out to serve horrid tasting dog mash on a plate. Could be countered with, “Why did you pick that restaurant?”

Worse yet is the ‘Whatever, I’m easy’ person who complains and blames if all didn’t go according to your decision ( because remember, they didn’t give any input), proving many times that they aren’t as ‘Whatever, I’m easy’ as they propose to be, truth be told.

 

 

#Mom

My mom just celebrated her ninety-second birthday on December thirteenth. Much of my blog content has included experiences of facing the realities of an aging parent, something I never gave a second thought about when I was in my thirty’s. Taking for granted that my parents had each other and they would always as they grew old. Together, in their own home. But of course, it doesn’t play out like that. After fifty-eight years together they became separated with dad passing away at age seventy-seven.

And although mom remarried at seventy-nine, four years later she was widowed again.

When she was eighty-six we took a road trip to Cardston to visit family; this is when I felt the magnitude of understanding that my mom is now all alone. I witnessed how unsteady she was in the morning, that her memory wasn’t  as sharp. That no longer is there anyone to wake up to, or say goodnight to at the end of the day. She was living alone in Parksville, an hours drive from me, and it gave me concern. I’ve already written about how I managed with this in other blog posts, so I’ll just say it has been a journey.

The last nine years in spending so much time with her has enriched me more in ways that I couldn’t have expected,  leading to an even deeper bond. Our mother-daughter relationship became a friendship. We talked about everything, laughed a lot, went on drives, and she shared many thoughts and experiences from her life that now as an adult I can appreciate. That I can be privy to. I was discovering her as a woman, as an individual.

And all of it comes with heartbreak. Watching someone you love slowly lose ground not only in advanced aging but coupled with dementia; knowing all the things you know about them that they no longer know about themselves, and nothing can prepare you. It is the stage in which the child becomes the parent and the parent becomes the child. But instead of watching your child growing vigorous and branching out, you’re watching the opposite.

Dementia is a thief. Shrinking an entire life into only immediate confusing moments, each forgotten as quickly as they come. But thankfully, over the last seven years it has robbed slowly. If one can be thankful for such a thing. I’m thankful too in having had the time to spend so closely with her before the disease progresses further. As it always does, as it’s doing now. Thankful again that she is imbued with grace and humour, and optimism. This at least hasn’t waned.

Three months ago my sister and I have finally managed to move our mom down from the care facility in Parksville to one in our city of Nanaimo. A move we attempted over two years before when she moved out of her townhouse, but complications arose that had sent her back up to Parksville. In the years since she’s been widowed we’ve done our best in keeping our mom integrated in our lives, and I think we’ve succeeded, short of having her live with one of us. Which, if one of us could have done, we would have. And  so are left with doing the next best thing.

 

 

 

Imma Wrimo

I have been immersed this past month having jumped in, although nine days late, into the NaNoWriMo challenge. I had a particular story I had begun, oh, 1993 or so and felt taking the challenge would give a push to if not finish a first draft, at least be further ahead. The story had stayed with me all this time and I had over the years returned to it periodically adding on to it, then just ran out of motivation combined with just the ongoing daily life that needs to be tended to.

I will not finish with a 50,000 word count, and I’m ok with that, obviously because I’m blogging right now instead of upstairs at my desk getting in my 1500 words for the day. More accurately I need to get 30,000 words in two days to finish. Or maybe I’m blogging right now because I’m stalling.

Writing is a solitary occupation, and it is a juggle to be available to ones family, not neglecting friends, cooking meals, cleaning house, buying groceries; all the bits that living entails. The pleasant distractions that keep me from eschewing it all and closing myself away into my story world. It’s a work in progress.

The challenge has given me the incentive I needed though to continue on with daily writing until I reach my 50,000 WC none-the-less. I want this first draft completed! I was able to break through some fuzzy areas of the story and clarify many of the scenes. And doing this thing in a virtual group setting, knowing there are other writers out there grinding it out at the same time, supporting and cheering each other on to finish over the group FB page and sharing in their victories has been enriching.

All in all it has been a great experience. Can’t wait till next November.

 

 

A Bird in Hand

A small bird slammed hard into my big kitchen window yesterday, landing on its back in the flowerpot below, wings splayed, dazed. I went to it and scooped it gently into my hands and sat on the porch steps. Its eyes were open but the left one was squinting. Must’ve hit on that side. Cradling it in my cupped hand I let it rest, feeling the ball of so much heat radiating from its little body into my palm. I felt a kindred. It closed its eyes and began to doze off.

Then I thought of concussions and that sleep can be fatal, so I began to gently move the bird to roust it, opening its eyes again. We sat on the porch for twenty minutes or so then I thought this may take a while, and decided to place the bird in a basket on my patio table. It would be safe, and would have to take the chance  that though it may sleep, it will be all right.

I watched it through the window as I worked inside. It stayed on the cushion I had put in the basket for another hour. I’d go out to check and it would open its eyes, but not move. Another hour passed and I looked, it had moved to perch on the edge of the cushion, but I noticed it was a little wobbly. Not wanting to disturb it I watched closer through a pair of compact binoculars from the kitchen window. Although it was standing, it was still dozing off, dipping its head down.

Eventually I went out and quietly sat in the chair beside the patio table and observed the little bird, still perched, for several minutes. Its eyes were open now but made no attempt to move. I began to think maybe this little bird will never fully recover, that there may be brain damage. Forget how to fly, how to find food.

I went back in to get my sketch book, thought it’s not often one has a live bird this close and still, and sat by the bird again. It was looking more alert now. I began to draw, just getting its initial shape down before it suddenly flickered away off and up into the nearby bushes.

Leaving me fascinated by that little creatures resiliency after a hard blow. A human would not have fared so well I think.  Leaving me wishing the bird well.

I smiled. I should have brought my sketchbook out sooner.

 

Moments with Monet

Claude Monet in his Giverny Garden. Photo at the Vancouver Art gallery 2017

I had made the trip to Vancouver last week to the Vancouver Art Gallery to be in the company of one of the greats of the Impressionists movement, Claude Monet. In fact, he was the father of that movement.

I was on my own, and could take all the luscious time I desired.

I went to each piece moving up close to exam brush strokes, the opacity and movement, almost like touching Monet’s hand that held the brush. Then moved way back to view it from a distance, to watch as  the painting gained clarity, becoming clear and whole as the human eye takes over to fill in and blend the brush strokes to create the atmosphere, the movement and play of light, its structure and form and rich depth.

His early work is more realist, and traditional, and he was an astonishingly prolific painter, painting several series of the same subject in different light or seasons.

In his later stages in life Monet’s paintings became clearly abstract. And this could’ve been either a natural progression from repetitive study of the same subject matter (how far can the artist push and play with a particular subject) or the fact Monet suffered with cataracts all through his adult life may have affected his work may be a moot point, but development towards abstraction in his later work was the catalyst that heralded in the next big movement- Modern Expressionism.

The Rose Bush, Claude Monet 1925, Vancouver Art Gallery

So I approached the exhibition with anticipation and openness, I mean The Water Lilies! Monet! I am going to see them live!

I arrive in the room of the Nymphéas and there they are.  Yes! I stand at the entrance way as I take them in before focusing on each painting individually, and what slowly seeps to the forefront of my thoughts is “Hmmph.” I stand several minutes. I then approach closely one painting. I fall back across the room and look again. I can’t believe that I feel underwhelmed. Is it me? Yeah, of course. It’s got to be, because this is a master’s work. And although I studied fine art and consider myself an artist, I wasn’t getting it. Which is the most benighted thing to say about any artists’ work.

But I stayed with them, wanting to see what I thought I was going to see. And to be clear, I was still humbled and in awe of seeing these masterpieces, I am certainly not arrogant enough to dismiss these incredible works. But I only saw muddy and flat, without atmosphere. Ok, no matter, they are Monet’s and I love that I was in the same room with them regardless of my inept sensitivity. I turn and study his Japanese Bridge, and the Rose Arbors, and the Weeping Willow all painted from within his beautiful huge Giverny garden. I stand back and raise my iPhone to a painting of his Rose Arbor because of course I have to take photographs.- It’s Monet!

Claude Monet, Vancouver Art Gallery 2017. Rose Arbor From his garden in Giverny
Claude Monet, Vancouver Art Gallery, 2017 Rose Arbor

 

Claude Monet, Vancouver Art Gallery, 2017 Weeping Willow

And as I bring the iPhone ( camera) up to my eyes a surprising thing happened. As I’m looking at the image of the painting  in my iPhone that painting suddenly becomes alive. That rich depth-ness and colour, it appears. My eye goes back and forth between painting on the wall and the painting image in my iPhone and they are completely different. From flat and muddy to rich depth and color. I am amazed and confused, and after taking the photo I proceed through all the paintings looking at them through my iPhone seeing them all transformed. It was weird.

I think to myself  Oh, this is how they are supposed to look. I am pulled in to the paintings like I was expecting. I did notice the lighting in my iPhone was different too as soon as I lifted it in front of the paintings, opposed to the gallery lighting. I did nothing to change anything as far as settings or flash, but it was definitely different. So there’s me walking around with my bloody iPhone in front of my face like a tech addict tourist looking at a master’s work.

Yet later when I viewed the taken photographs on my phone and then downloaded them onto my computer they reverted back to what I saw with my naked eye. Flat and kinda muddy.

No matter that my inept sensibilities failed me to some degree, I was absolutely enthralled and enraptured to be in the  same room with these masterpieces. So appreciative that there is this amazing world class gallery bringing great works to my doorstep.

 

An aside to this moment with Monet is this painting below that was in the Vancouver show, one of Monet’s later pieces of his pond within his Giverny home garden, and which illustrates how abstract his work had become.

Claude Monet, Vancouver Art Gallery 2017

While researching his work online later at home I came across what I thought was a similar painting to the one painting I took a photo of at the gallery- too similar in fact but they didn’t quite match up. Same brushstrokes,  colours, but couldn’t place it. Until I turned my photograph of the painting (above) upside down.

As you will notice the gallery painting I saw in Vancouver displays the little gold “Title tag” on the lower bottom middle edge of the frame, so of course this is the correct hanging. Yet every image I found online, from what I could assume were legit sites (Online/Legit Info oxymoron alert) showed the work turned the other way. As I show in the image below, by turning my photo image upside down. Both positions actually work, so I can understand the confusion.

Claude Monet, inverted as seen on all online sites

So I called the Gallery. They said I wasn’t the first person to point this out, but that the curator has said the paintings came direct from the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris which happens to have the largest collection of Monet in the world. Alrighty then. The consensus is whomever had initially put up the online image put it upside down and all other online sites merely copied it as is. Ah abstracts.