Archive for November, 2011

First Snow

I remember the magic and wonder associated with the first snow of the season in Chicago.  As a kid, it was a time to build snowmen and make snow angels.  There’s a saying from the bible which, roughly quoted, says, “When I was a child I thought as a child, but when I grew up, I put away childish things.”  My question:  why?  Why not dream big, wish big, live big!

The author of The Last Lecture recommended that we excavate our childhood dreams, and pursue them again with all our heart and soul.  Upon first reading this, I thought, “Yeah, right.”  I had wanted to be a dancer, an actor, a policemen, and a priest (Not necessarily in that order).  In reality, I wanted to be famous in some sort of way.  That impetus has since died away a bit, but I still thirst to leave my mark on the world, showing that, yes indeed, I’ve been here, and my short time here has mattered. 

I’m now a writer who’s been accepted into Northwestern University’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing.  My dreams have morphed, but are still there.  I define myself as a writer in a Tony Robbins way of imagining your way into what you will become.  The power of positive thinking, or something like that.  It also helps to live in a small town, almost a village, where everybody knows your name, wishes the best for you, and keeps cheering you on.  It’s an adage that it takes a village to raise a child, and though I’m no longer a child, I find inspiration in everyone around me telling me that wanting to be a writer is a good goal to pursue, and not some silly whim.  One drawback, however, is that as people encourage you, they often volunteer to read your writing which, according to Stephen King, is a bad idea.  I worry about tailoring my writing to what I suspect other people want rather than pursuing the story itself and letting it lead the way.  At the very least, I realize I need to keep from showing family my embryonic efforts at putting pen to paper.

One other problem about living in a small town is that there is also prejudice against people who don’t fit in the mold, and, as a gay man, I’m a bit isolated.  The librarians and other people cheering me on are very sophisticated, but not everyone shares their belief system that everyone has a place and purpose under the sun.  I did attend one library board meeting, and one woman stood up to protest the appointment of an interim director, and mentioned that the temporary director is a lesbian, as a way of dismissing and discounting the director.  I sat right behind the lady in the audience in shock.  Others were quick to reassure me that not everyone feels the same way as the woman, and that she had spoken out of turn.  Still, once the words are circulated through the universe, they are impossible to take back.  The same principle applies to what you say to your family and friends.

Our longterm library director was abruptly let go after 20 years of service for no particular reason.  The board said they wanted to go in a different direction, but even though Bev had overseen the library’s transition from very small town to a much more progressive space, that had apparently not counted for much.  She had been named “Citizen of the Year,” but that didn’t help much either.  Remind me not to be nominated as “Citizen of the Year.”  I’d hate to suffer the same fallout, even with a book under my belt.  I hope Bev is still able to find magic in the season, and is able to excavate her childhood dreams to lead her in a new direction.

I guess my point about living out your dreams is that imagination is important and a good guide.  Let’s all look on this season with fresh eyes, and experience everything as new, just like a child playing in the snow, excited for Santa Claus and the whole Christmas season.


Wigged Out

In fifth grade I decided I wanted to be a famous actor (emphasis on famous, not talented).  Our class was presenting a play for the rest of the grades as well as for the local public library.  The play was called “The Miss Witch Contest.”  The best parts were the witches, and the roles for boys were rather limited.  If I had wanted I could have played Mr. Skeleton, but I was more ambitious than that.  I decided to try out for the much coveted role of the Queen Witch.  I asked my teacher if anyone could try for the lead role.  She thought a minute, then checked with her best friend, the fourth grade teacher who said, “Sure, why not.”  I think my teacher Mrs. Clark might have been placating me at first, but with my cackle and scary presentation, I landed the much sought after role of the Queen Witch, much to the chagrin of Mindy and Heather.  I must say, I think I made a particularly scary witch.  I had long wanted to be a witch for Halloween, but my mom had worried about what people might say.  How often in life do we limit ourselves because of what others might think or say? 

In the end, I lived out my dream after all.  Mrs. Clark saw some talent in me and she encouraged me to try out for the musical “Oliver,” produced by our local community theater.  I sang Happy Birthday and apparently sang on tune because I landed a role as an orphan and one of Fagin’s street gang boys.  At least the roles for men in that show were as compelling as the women’s roles.  Interestingly, in a bit of role reversal, a girl was cast as the Artful Dodger (I certainly don’t mind women who stretch the boundaries as much as men).

On the show Glee, one of the main actors, Chris Colfer, an openly gay actor, has said that in his hometown show choir he had hoped to sing the song, “Defying Gravity,” the main song by the Wicked Witch of the West.  His school turned him down, but Glee gave him the forum to live out his dream, letting him sing the song.

I’ve never gravitated toward female impersonation, but I have just sought out the most interesting roles.  I was watching the movie “Burlesque” last night, and noticed that Christina Aguilera had numerous wig changes and I wondered why it is that she and Rihanna (with her red wig), and even Cher are allowed to enhance and switch up their appearance by wearing wigs as well as hair extensions.  Any woman willing to hand over some cash can reinvent themselves.  Men are not allowed to play with their looks in this way.  Despite the short-lived metrosexual phenomenon,  men are judged for enhancing their looks in a way women are not.  Often, even something as simple as wearing a baseball cap can be interpreted to mean that the man wearing the hat may, in fact, be losing his hair, and is ashamed of his appearance.

Donald Trump already defies the rules of fashion by creating his own rather peculiar look, but I’m looking for a great look, not a fashion faux pas.  If Burt Reynolds and Ted Danson can fool the public why shouldn’t the average man?

I say wigs for everyone.

Loon Magic

Loon Magic

Connecting to the Greater World

I recently reread one of my all-time favorite books, A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving.  At one point I even read the entire book out loud to someone I was dating, a chapter a night for all 543 pages. 

In the book the diminutive main character, Owen, feels he as a special calling, that he is destined for greatness.  His best friend even comments, “How could I have known that Owen was a hero?”  I believe that we can all be the main character, and the hero, of our own story, just as Owen believes he has a special purpose.  Would that all of us shared that belief that we matter, that our actions are not in vain.  Prophets, in my mind, are individuals who embrace their destiny, and actively seek connections to the greater world.

E M Forster said it best with his mantra, “Only connect.”  Our world has gotten away from organized religion, and now, people who connect through good works as well as faith often pursue a spiritual path not designated by any particular religion. 

The main thing to remember is that judgment kills, and is the source of much misunderstanding and prejudice.  I like to think that good people think, how are we alike?, not how are we different?  What tracks will you leave behind after you’re gone?