Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Shotgun Approach

One of my aquaintances in graduate school said that she'd rather strip naked in the town square than write something creative. I'd been writing fiction and poetry and couldn't quite square it with the rigors demanded in the art of stripping, but I saw her point. It's a tough business and usually met with all sorts of reactions ranging from indifference to outright scorn. This woman was also having an affair with one of the younger married professors, who I'd heard her call Bri-Bri on the basement telephone, a communal area since we didn't have individual office phones. My then-boyfriend had also seen them making out in the parking lot on his morning jog, and he, as the saying goes, was not one to talk or make things up. I wanted to use her situation in a story, but I could never make it fly -- there wasn't anything fresh in my rendition since I stuck close to reality -- the professor was a bit of an arrogant dolt, the girl a scrappy ambitious little piece of work, and the wife was clueless. I found myself hard-pressed to make any of them seem less than wooden. Needless to say, the professor never became Bri-Bri to me in the course of putting words down on the page.

In retrospect, I see the situation that would have been far more interesting. I used to clean houses every now and them to supplement my great (NOT) salary as a teaching assistant and one such house belonged to one of the most hideous-looking women I had ever met, a fellow graduate student with two kids and an extremely wealthy husband. I assure you this description is not gratitously cruel -- it will play in later. She had a body like a character off H and R Puffenstuff, a distribution of enormous weight (she was little over five feet tall and weighed about 300 pounds, most of it near the middle of her body). Her husband, by any standards, was handsome, and she slept with nearly everyone. How? Shotgun approach, as my friend Hank used to say. Ask a 100 people to sleep with you, someone will. The woman in this story did something fatal to her lifestyle -- she fell in love with one of her conquests, a snaggle-toothed man named Dave who wore a ratty beret in all seasons. She and Dave became tight, although it was clear that he had the power in their relationship. She could often be seen at parties, sobbing, bottle of Smirnoff in hand, asking what to do. Did she have to give up all her money for this man? Did she go slowly mad with longing? I consider of the possibilities inherent in the story and think that real life is far weirder than anything else. She moved her lover in her house, kept the husband, and the kids called her lover Uncle Dave. Man, I'd think, scrubbing her toilets, only someone who looks like Isabella Rosellini is supposed to get away with that! Head in someone else's toilet, that is where my story begins.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"Something came along/ and I grabbed ahold of it/ it felt like a ball and chain." Janis Joplin

Cocktail Hour

Drinking music suggestion: 18 Essential Songs Janis Joplin

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Taproot

Eat Before It Gets Cold

I'm not going to ask you where you've been.
I know, I don't know. We do what we can
to make things bearable. So much is out of our
control! Take your time. We can hang on this
cross for as long as we want as the waiter has
forgotten about us. I scan the menu, only see what
I don't want. Needless to say, I've been here before.


Huge Hefner said...

Hi Michelle,
I would like to kudo you once again for that wow layout in yesterday's blog. Fabulous.

Special said...

I agree with Huge. Today's post is kind of an after climax, like after an earthquake.

AP said...

Sorry I missed you yesterday, Michelle, but that crocheted top and bikini bottom is quite a combination. As Paul would say: Shaazzzzzzzzzam!!

Laura said...

I have a great deal of admiration for people who can write stories. A very difficult thing to do. To be able to put a sequence of words together that makes the general public eager to read those words. I don't know if I could ever do that. As for the woman in your story, Strange. Someone who seems to have it all, good husband, kids, wealth, and still not satisfied. Yes, strange.

Pythia3 said...

Hey Michelle,

Unlike the cowards who use pseudo names, don't have a way of being found out, and obviously don't or can't read, I will actually comment on your WRITING! WTF, eh? (Of course, you know I think you are a beautiful woman on the outside, but I have the honor of knowing you personally, and I also know that you are not a paper doll, but a multi-dimensional, breathing, bleeding, giving, talented, lovely, deep, funny, intelligent, educated, wise woman! You have been called a "fox" but you and I both know . . . foxes eat little men! Oh, such fools.

First, I loved the quote by Janis . . . I know THAT feeling all too well! If it walks like a . . . well, damn it - it fucking is!

I am ( I must admit!) a bit envious of how loyal you are to your writing. A once mutual friend of ours gave you constant kudos for keeping up with your craft, sharpening your skills, sharing your gifts . . . writing, writing, writing!

That all said, I thought this posting was brilliant. Yes, writing about these strange, little, every day realities is difficult to do - as you put it so well: you were "hard-pressed to make any of them seem less then wooden." I find it easier to take a seemingly "nothing" experience and give it mouth-to-mouth - freeing it to be what it actually is when not under the guise of innocence, normalcy, nothingness.

But, to take a big action, a strange happening and write about it in its actuality without killing the underlying subtleties, and without defacing the characters . . . well, that is a hard one!

You always seem to do it, Michelle!

And, that ending! Bravo!

Todd Runningrin said...

What's wrong with pen names, Pythia3? I think they go great with pen pals. Are you married?

Ozzie Olsen said...

It's a "swirly" ending.

Allen Woody said...

I've dedicated a large part of my life to being eaten by foxes.

Pythia3 said...

Nothing is wrong with pen names. I just can't tolerate cowards. Three of Michelle's first comments are posted by anonymous bloggers who did not even bother to read her blog and therefore could not/would not/ did not comment on its contents.
This has become the new high tech version of "Do you have Prince Albert in a can - well let him out!"

Rodney Dangerfield said...

Now I can't ask you if you're reading the paper in your briefs.

Pythia3 said...

Like I have been saying - I'll show you mine if you show me yours. It's as simple as that. LOL

Ron Jeremy said...

I don't want to blind you.

Anonymous said...

H and R Puffenstuff! What an imagine that brought up in my head! ;)

You write beautifully.

I noticed you are wearing a CBGB t-shirt! Awesome. That club rocked. Were you ever there? I have a t-shirt too. The club closed within the last couple of months. It was a Village institution.

Zen Wizard said...

Sometimes, fiction doesn't work when you try to use "real people."

(From what little I know about it.)

You often have to use exaggerations of real people, like, "This is going to be Person X to the Nth degree" or, "This is going to be Bob, on steroids" or "This is what would happen if Bob and Dave got in that telepod chamber in The Fly."

Real people usually just aren't as committed, obsessed, out-there, interesting, etc. as fictional people are.

The Walking Man said...

I'd rather write something creative than strip in public especially since you my friend have seen me when I was sixty pounds heavier and always wite better than i look.

My mom went through 13 rounds of chemo before she seperated in mMay of this year and I was at times relegated to take her to the hospital for her treatments. and like my grandmother who lived to a hundred five i pumped her for information about family history, things she would never really talk about and setting the record straight on some of my fore fathers. Like I always thought my father enlisted in the navy in '36 because his step father was a mean bastard and that's why as soon as he graduated HS he enlisted, truth was that was why i enlisted but he went because the depression was on stil and did the entire war in the pacific on aircraft carriers, which tells me why he never talked about his 11 years in the navy. Kamikaze etc.

But the funny thing was his step father was a nice guy according to my mom and inhis younger days played piano in a whorehouse (don't ask how he got paid because I don't know) but his biological father was the man in the beret, he moved in with a couple and whenever there was a vacation taken it was my grandfather who took the wife on vacation.

Yes i agree life is stranger than fiction but the best thing about fiction even ifbased on life with a name change you can tell whatever big fat whopping lie about whatever situation you want. I wrote a tory about my mothers father , who was a kind and gentle man who spent a few days making bathtub gin. He never drank, not even beer so the whole of the story was ficton but it was funny. because all of the people were based in the reality pf their times but they were doing things they would never do in life. i would write about the grandfather who played piano as a preacher in a whorehouse but not getting any just paying for drink or two and trying to convert the women from thier promiscuity. The other biological grandfather for him I would just have to change his name and let it run with the things about him i know nothing about except his living situation, I am not sure how that would be told but be told it would.

Michelle you have the great talent for pulling strangeness from reality and reality from strangeness. And it was you more than any writer except maybe Bukowski who opened my eye to there is a story to be told in everything, even the story you told today without telling the story.



and no I am not going to proof read this i just had to fix poetry in motion and it pissed me off so everyone will have to live with the tipo's

paul said...

Cajun Queen RockOn
R2 C2!

JR's Thumbprints said...

Ironically, the stranger something is in real life, the more secure I feel in using it in my fiction. Why is that? Is it because I lack the imagination to come up with something as bizarre, or is it the intrigue? Perhaps I need to examine what motivates me.

Another well written post Michelle. As always, you've got me thinking on this one.

John Ricci said...

Dear Michelle, another lovely post and view as always. That Puffenstuff woman seems ghastly and not someone I would want to meet up close. I visited CBGB once and my head pounded for days afterwards. Well done poem and for this and ever so much more, always Bravo!

Macomb Enquirer said...

Hey Michelle,
Sounds like your friend Pythia3 knows Mr. Pinka. I'll bet she's even been on his motorbike. The one you wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole(to use a phrase from the South). Talk about weird couples, I remember when D. and Larry P. were the talk of the town in certain English circles, but that's telling tales out of school.

Photoplay said...

Kid Rock and Pam splitsville already. Losers.

Anonymous said...

I think you look so cute in this picture!!!