Friday, November 07, 2003

Riverbend has announced a recipe blog and invites comments. I have been thinking since yesterday morning that I would retaliate with my own recipe blog. I'll be sure to let y'all know if I follow through.

Riverbend also gave us a new link for Malcolm Lagauche, for Lagauche is Right. The link works from her site, does not from mine. Frankly, I can't be bothered to figure out why a URL works from one site and not from another, so I have removed Lagauche is Right from my links. This does not reflect how I feel about Lagauche is Right, only how I feel about the frustration of always getting an error message. So there.

When I was about 13 years old, I had my life figured out. I was going to go to university and major in English.

Then, my first job would be as a junior reporter somewhere, the kind that goes all over the world, works long hours in the hopes of some scoop. I figured you had to do this sort of thing when you had good health, good teeth, plenty of stamina, boundless energy, no ties, and few needs, because you were not going to earn very much and it was pretty much grunt work.

I would do this for a number of years, during which I would also go to night school and get myself a law degree.

With the law degree in my pocket, I would practice as a lawyer, preferably criminal law for the human interest, and during that time I would go to night school and obtain a degree in architecture.

With the architecture degree in hand, I would work as an architect, and during that time I would go to night school and study for a degree in archaeology.

With a degree in archaeology, I would travel to the various "cradles of humanity" and patiently dig, dust, dig, dust, dig, dust, catalogue. During my leisure hours, I would take up painting.

After a while of this gadding about the world on various digs, I figured I would be ready to retire, and I would, to a small country cottage, somewhere in a temperate clime, where I would potter around a small kitchen garden, growing my own vegetables, and raising chickens for eggs, while painting to my heart's content, my easel set up beside a vast herbaceous border with an expansive view over the hills, and writing my memoirs at night and during the winter, the record of a well-filled life.

I knew from the start that I wanted to end up writing, I just thought you should live first and make sure you had something to say.

I had not yet heard of Henri Murger, the young French bohemian who wrote "Scenes de la Vie de Boheme", his autobiography, at age 24, and who might have died of poverty, or something equally easily preventible, except that his writing made him rich and famous and he died quite well off, albeit before he ever reached his 40th birthday.

I did none of the things I wanted to do when I was thirteen. I took a sudden, terrible turn down a different path. It had truly been a dream, a wishlist. If I had been really smart, I would have analyzed it, I would have realized my problem was that I had no idea what I wanted to do, in terms of a vocation. All I could see is that I wanted to keep on learning, and exploring a variety of experiences, and above all I wanted to contribute from some of my talents to the wellbeing of others. I had no sort of inner drive that declared: "If I cannot become a [such-and-such], I shall just DIE."

I am not like a bright bonfire on the hill: I am more like the smoking slow burn of a peat bog.

My Aunt Marie in Texas always wanted to paint. Her father was of the opinion that artists are just good for nothing. She married an American Colonel, she thought she would be free. They had two boys, and the Colonel said: "Artists are just good for nothing. Your job is to raise those two boys." So she did. When the boys left home to get married, Aunt Marie saw her window of opportunity. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way because by then the Colonel had developed cancer, and the next fifteen years were spent at his bedside, nursing him and doing petit point because he didn't want her to talk, until finally he died.

Most of all these years were spent in Texas, after the early years in Florida (not much better), a place my Aunt Marie heartily detested.

After the Colonel's death, Aunt Marie, now age 69, went to California to visit Aunt Marthe, the maiden sister/aunt who cooked for a parish priest somewhere. Aunt Marie fell in love with California, she went back to Texas just long enough to pack up all her belongings and she moved to Chula Vista.

There was nobody left to tell her artists were good for nothing, and so Aunt Marie signed up for "adult education classes" and started painting. She sold every single painting she ever painted, even her own son, John, couldn't buy one, her entire production was "bespoke".

I look at my Aunt Marie as a success story, but only over the long haul. For many years, it must have been a frustrating ordeal, close to quiet desperation. I met her for the first time when she was already 87 years old, and I must say I have never met a more balanced, joyful, gentle person, ever.

Aunt Marie was a famously great cook: she first came to America to check it out for Henri-Paul Pellaprat, her mentor and would-be partner, with a view to starting a Cordon Bleu school over here for him. She married the Colonel instead, leaving Pellaprat high and dry. There was a petit point framed declaration on her kitchen wall: "The kitchen is closed because the cook is tired of cooking."

I mention all this because today at Starbucks, I found out that one of the young men who works there recently graduated with a Bachelors in Fine Arts, summa cum laude. He probably has outstanding students loans, he needs to find a real good job and be able to repay them, I wish I was in a position to help. All I could do was encourage him: "Stick to your guns!"

Funny how most of our expressions are becoming "conflict oriented". That's what happens when the President of your country starts talking about "freedom deficits".
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