Wednesday, June 28, 2006
The Lady Or The Tiger
A dear friend of mine (name withheld given the next bit of information) admitted to me that he'd been reading Dr. Phil (I could not have been more appalled if he'd said that he'd started engaging in ritual animal sacrifice), and while he knew Dr. Phil was a total boob, he did have one good point on his "Ten Truths About Relationships" list. One of the truths was that ninety percent of relationship problems are unsolvable. Dr. Phil, Satan spawn of Oprah and Texas, has driven me nuts enough (I went to the same college he did and have, when drinking heavily, the same accent) that I have learned to do an imitation of him that makes my students laugh, ie, "How's that not using a comma in the right place working for ya?" You get the picture. It is my great fortune not to bear a physical resemblance to Dr. Phil so the joke can only go so far.
One of my first fiction teachers used to give us these great worksheets about fiction and "The Lady Or The Tiger" dilemma featured prominently as a plot device. The story can be summed up like this -- a princess in a faraway land takes a lover well below her station. Her father is a little upset so he puts to the old lady or the tiger routine. The lover has to pick a door and behind one is a beautiful woman that he will marry and the other is the tiger, who will tear him to bits. He looks into the crowd to the princess for a sign as to which door to pick, and her dilemma is obvious. If she tells him the right (meaning not getting eaten alive door), she will have to live her entire life seeing him live with another woman. I suppose what the evil Dr. Phil meant with his truth is not that relationship problems are unsolvable, but that the solutions won't be ones anyone wants. Writing and love are not so different. We all want the same things as writers that are totally incompatible -- to be an original voice and not to offend anyone we know, to write a tremendous deal and to keep doing everything we did before we started writing, to deal with things honestly, painfully, and not be affected by it in any adverse way. We look to teachers or God or the universe or our friends and lovers to give us signs about which door to pick. Hey, what's the worst that can happen? Being ripped to bits has its uses which is to say that if you can survive it, you can write about it. Alas, that's the writer's consolation prize for everything, but it's better than going home empty-handed.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"To a writer, nothing is sacred." The Anniversary Party
The Lady or The Tiger
1 part godiva chocolate liquor
1 part Starbucks liquor
Serve as a layered shot and top with whipped cream.
Benedictions and Maledictions
There’s Room For Everyone
Under the mall’s fluorescent lights,
a man in a black trench coat struggles
with his oxygen while ordering the special,
the same thing I have in front of me,
bits of greasy chicken in bourbon sauce.
You look awful, my sister tells me. What
are you thinking? But I’m not, I just watch
the guy get his food and make his way
to sit down and eat. Almost every table is open.