Pain

Photo Credit: Raúl Hernández González
Photo Credit: Raúl Hernández González

First it is bad gas and ear aches; the crack of the skull on a coffee table. At 6, 7, 8, it is skinned knees, imperfect spelling tests, being picked last for kickball teams.

At fifteen, there is acne and shame and unrequited love. At 18, the moment when you part ways with everything familiar and enter the unknown, alone.

Personal failure and public failure and betrayal follow.

Then, the moment when childhood dreams become not only improbable, but impossible; the times when faith is diminished.

There is grief and a bad back, insomnia and bitter disappointment.

But there is always a salve. Almost.

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Just Desserts

Photo Credit: Amy
Photo Credit: Amy

Marianne stumbled on a root protruding from the sweltering sidewalk, nearly losing a scoop of orange sherbet in the process. Relieved, she paused to lick creamy rivulets from the sides of her softening cone. It tasted like summer, like granny wasn’t sick, like no one would call her names on Monday.

She imagined Maxwell Detweiler looming and poking at her–as he had three days in a row–and how it would feel to shove her sticky treat into his stupid face. But no, that wasn’t right. She’d spent two dollars and seventy-nine cents, which was more than he deserved.

How To Live With a Thirteen-Year-Old Girl

©2016 Beret Olsen
©2016 Beret Olsen–Our well-worn copy of Twilight must be at school, so book 2 will have to do.
  1. Be ready for anything. Best case scenario: you are well-rested and patient, have a sense of humor and a full tank of gas, plenty of cash and Kleenex on hand, complete flexibility with your time, musical preferences, and volume tolerance, endless appetite for YouTube videos and Instagram feeds, a copy of Twilight, a portable charger, tasty, plentiful snacks, a working knowledge of 8th grade common core math concepts, endless sympathy and advice for tricky social and academic situations, and you don’t mind being completely ignored if none of the above is needed. Worst case scenario: you have a flask.

One guy I’ll remember

From www.cdn.phys.org
From www.cdn.phys.org

At the last of a long string of unpaid internships, I was sent on an errand with the gallery owner. He asked repeatedly for my name, then shrugged. “No. I’m not going to remember you. Interns come and go.” He may have seen me bristle, because he added, somewhat apologetically: “Maybe if you tell me something about yourself.”

Then conversation unfolded in the most surprising fashion, until suddenly he was pulling over to the curb through three lanes of traffic to tell me, “There is no truth but the human heart; nothing greater than tenderness in the face of adversity.”

***

Note: Today’s post is the fourth in a series of 100-word pieces I’ve been writing in solidarity with NaNoWriMo. Couldn’t commit to the 50,000 words, but I could do a lot more than I have been…and at 100 words a day, I’ll finish on March 22, 2017.

Strange bedfellows: Renaissance painting and indie music

A few months ago, I wrote a post responding to a video which I failed to embed properly. Apologies. I suppose it was inevitable that Zero to Hero would challenge me to figure out that mess. I went back and fixed the problem–I think.

For my month of blog fine-tuning–c.f.,  Zero to Hero–I’m supposed to write something which includes embedded media. In honor of this occasion, I have decided to share something that has snagged in the corner of my brain. It is not the usual Bad Parenting fare.

I’m being haunted by a music video.

I find the song mesmerizing. The lyrics are just inscrutable enough to tantalize my imagination. The melody is intoxicating, and the mix is perfect–complicated, well-balanced. What is bugging me is the video itself. I’m still trying to figure out what they were thinking.
The set and arrangement of characters were modeled after what is perhaps Raphael’s best-known painting, a fresco he did at the Vatican called The School of Athens.

School of Athens, from wikipedia.
School of Athens, from wikipedia.

This painting supposedly includes “every great Greek philosopher,” which means everyone from Socrates and Plato to Euclid and Pythagoras. I don’t know any contemporary Greek philosophers, but it doesn’t matter:  the painting was done in the 16th century, so I’m off the hook.

School of Athens was part of a series that was supposed to illustrate a progression from reason (Western philosophy) to revelation (Christianity), and to show how they worked  together–an idea that has been lost in these days of intelligent design vs. evolution.

But what characters has alt-J put in their video? These are not meant to be philosophers. And why did alt-J choose to put this particular cast in dialogue with art history and religion? After a very un-scientific search, the best I could find was an off-hand comment about wanting to set contemporary figures from a “lower socio-economic status” into Raphael’s famous work. Fine. But these are not “poor people,” per se; these are stereotypes from gangster culture:  the liquor in a paper bag, throwing dice, ferocious dogs, big earrings, wife beater t-shirts, heavy chains, spandex dresses. I look at pictures of members of the band and wonder:  what are these pasty white guys trying to say? Are they trying to offer commentary on class and culture? Or simply show off their liberal arts degrees from Leeds?

The lyrics have not helped illuminate this conundrum:

“Three guns and one goes off
One’s empty, one’s not quick enough
One burn, one red, one grin
Search the graves while the camera spins

Chunks of you will sink down to seals
Blubber rich in mourning, they’ll nosh you up
Yes, they’ll nosh the love away but it’s fair to say
You will still haunt me”

The video makes no sense to me, and borders on offensive. If this is what they think poverty looks like, I find it terribly condescending. Kind of like when Miley pops in a grill and acts out her impression of African Americans. Awkward, at best, but likely much, much worse.

At the same time, I can’t stop listening to the song or watching the video in question, so who am I to judge?

****

p.s. I did find out where they got the band name. Press alt-J on your keyboard and you’ll get ∆:  the triangle that appears in their video and as their logo. Triangles are their favorite shape.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

 

©Beret Olsen
©Beret Olsen

 

I love, love, love shooting film. One has to slow down and contemplate the light, meter here and there, think in two dimensions, adjust the tripod. It is slow and meditative for me, in part because the equipment is so unwieldy, in part because the film so expensive. Each frame matters.

But this image was not shot on film. In fact, I’m lucky it exists at all.

Here’s the deal.

When I am with the spouse and kids, there is never a good time to take a photograph. I’ve missed many, many shots in the interest of “making good time,” catering to emergency bathroom and snack needs, or these days, trying to avoid the tween’s biting impatience.

My family will probably disagree–and for good reason. In truth, they have stopped and waited innumerable times for me to dig out my phone or a point-and-shoot. I take a ridiculous number of crappy snapshots on a daily basis, but the resulting images feel more like visual markers than like “real photographs.” Some are interesting, or serve to jog the memory, but most of them are jpeg trash. I save them anyway.

On the morning pictured, we were supposed to have hit the road an hour earlier. It had taken longer than expected to pack and leave our lodging, which was probably my fault. Two minutes into the drive, we had to stop and return Red Box movies. Five minutes later, we had to stop again to get gas and dig snacks out of a bag buried in the back. Finally, we were rolling. Everyone was a bit cross–and more than ready to get a few miles under the belt–when I saw the most amazing light coming over the lake and snow. I turned to my beleaguered family and smiled weakly. “So. I…uh…need to pull over for a sec.”

Sadly, I didn’t have my real camera along, but I grabbed the point and shoot and got out of the car. I slowed down for two minutes and really looked. I futzed a little with the framing and exposure. I walked closer, forgetting for a moment that there were three grumpy people back in the car.

It may not be the best possible photo, but it makes me very, very happy. In the midst of the manic, chaotic snarl of everyday finagling, it is possible to breathe and see and be in the present. And even if it’s just for two short minutes, it can be grand.

What am I doing here?

From www.images.sodahead.com
From http://www.images.sodahead.com

I don’t remember why I started a blog.

I don’t even really know why I need to write. I just know that when I don’t, I get cranky.

When I do write, I feel fabulous–whether I end up posting or not. So why don’t I simply dump my thoughts in a journal and stick it on the shelf? Continue reading What am I doing here?