When darkly lit films first came into being, it was because the people shooting horror or crime stories were underfinanced. Not enough lights were available. The lighting designer cleverly used the few instruments s/he had to light only one side of the face, leaving the other half in mysterious shadow. Kudos to creativity. They not only scared the viewers (their intent), but made it look intentional.
Skip several decades ahead. Now cameras are technically capable of shooting in low light settings, so night scenes begin to be a staple of TV and movies. I'm as in love with them as the next person. The scary walk through the forest at midnight, the perp lurching around the backyard - fun stuff.
But now I'm beginning to wonder if this darkness has become Standard Operating Procedure for TV, especially. I realize some dramatic license is allowed and even encouraged, but since when do business offices have no lights? From the old Law and Order franchise to Blacklist, apparently these CEO's, FBI operatives, etc., operate with only 25 watt desk fixtures--never with the standard overhead flourescents that we've all come to know (and hate, granted) in real life. People sit at their desks, talk on the phone, and receive visitors in light levels comparable to reading in bed under a sheet with a flashlight.
And who had any ideas that our courtrooms can no longer afford lights? Again, from L&O to the Sprint Kevin Durant commercial, why are they in darkness? Isn't a murder trial dramatic enough without turning out the lights? These people are harming their eyes trying to read legal files at this level, and they're hurting mine trying to see what's happening. In The Judge, you had to squint to make out Robert Downey's face. Is verisimilitude an artifact of the past? Even the judges look sinister.
At the bottom of this beef, of course, is the irritation that it will likely take several replays to see what is actually going on in many shows. In Game of Thrones, their dark dungeons and cave settings sometimes offer only moving slits of white/gray against blackness. When it takes a full minute to be sure whether it's Cersei or Tyrion we're looking at . . . come on, guys.
There's nothing wrong with my eyes, by the way. But sometimes my heart does a little flutter from one scene to the next as I ask myself: Have I grown full blown cataracts in the last 60 seconds?
Booze hound stars selling liquor on t.v. commercials. Really, guys? How many DUI’s do you have among yourselves? And yet there you are, young girls on your arm, or sitting at the bar exchanging conspiratorial nods with the bartender, as if there’s only a few in this world who understand the deep secret meaning of chilled vodka. (Here’s the real secret: Vomit on your shirt.)
I liked it much better when movie stars and athletes didn’t hop on the bandwagon to add to their fortunes from commercials. Jennifer Garner pours on the same charm and acting chops she used in Alias to sell me frequent flyer miles. Diane Keaton, fashion rebel and offbeat actor, now hawks cosmetics like a cheerleader on ecstasy.
Perhaps that’s where the real rub comes in. We realize, even though of course we know this full well, that it is all an act. Robert deNiro can turn on the same passion for a commercial product as he did for The Godfather. McConaughey looks just as slick in his car ad as he did playing the Lincoln Lawyer.
And I’m not even going to name all of the “mature” actors who are assuring us that we, too, can get a reverse mortgage that will solve our retirement problems, a magical drug for osteoporosis that will send us onstage dancing, the best yogurt on the planet. And my personal favorite, all our gorgeous stars who apparently use boxed, home hair color rather than a personal hairdresser. Who knew?
Somehow I want to cling to the notion that helping companies make more money is not as inspiring to an actor as a great script. That the millions that athletes earn each year might be enough without selling insurance and sodas and three hundred dollar shoes.
But we live in the Land of Never Enough . . . and also, luckily, Home of the Free - to record programs and fast forward commercials, to hit mute when the electronic salesmen barge into our living rooms, to discover that amped up volumes of frantic car commercials do not have to be part of our psyche. What a gentler America at our fingertips. Oops, did I just do a commercial?
Within the category of “You-Can’t-Make-This-Stuff-Up” lies a classic scholarly debate. Does art imitate life or Does life imitate art? It’s sort of the “chicken or egg” of people who like to talk about where book (and other creative) ideas come from. My recent experiences make it wonkier than ever for me to know on which side of this argument I land.
Since my debut novel, Crimes of Redemption, came out at the end of 2012, a couple of fascinating things have come to life that have prompted comments from readers and friends. First, there was the question of whether or not it was believable that a character like Albert Raeder, a popular patriarch of his small city, would or could hold Gayla Early captive in his basement for two years. I had certainly done my homework, watched a number of documentary shows on places like the Discovery Channel, and knew it had been done (and that it was suspected to be under-reported).
The original seed that started the novel, in fact, had been a man calling into a t.v. show saying he had been tortured for two weeks by a man he had killed to make his escape. Since, as most writers, I really wanted to get this right, you can imagine how confirming the national news stories since I finished that manuscript (2 ½ years ago) have been. Gone beyond that, really. The girl who was kept over 15 years in a backyard shed, having her captor’s children, even working an online business for him? And more recently, in Cleveland, the three women locked inside a man’s house for over 10 years before finally being heard by a neighbor who initiated their rescue? You can’t make this stuff up, right?
Another eerie coincidence connected with the book happened right in my own Oklahoma western plains backyard. Two cars that had been buried in Foss Lake with the remains of five different people were salvaged. One had been there since the 1950's, the other since the 1970's. I won’t go into more details for fear of creating something of a spoiler, but those of you who read Crimes of Redemption know that more than confirms the possibility that a car could lie buried underwater and unnoticed for a matter of years.
I will continue to use my life experiences and research as a basis for everything I write. But I’m also thinking that if you do your homework, then “make something up” in good faith, the universe just may eventually pop up and tell you--hey, you got that right!
Dennis Maley did this interview spring of this year. What a smart ass I sound like. . .
DM: OK so you have a publisher now, and a snazzy headshot, and a new book out, Crimes of Redemption that's available at Amazon. Is this a guy book? A girl book? That probably doesn't exhaust all the possibilities... take it from there.
LM: Crimes of Redemption boasts no gender bias. Even dogs are in this story. A drifter, Gayla Early, is accused of beating to death Albert Raeder, the town’s most important citizen, although she claims he held her captive for two years, and she killed him only during a desperate attempt to escape. But Raeder’s good ole boy buddies aren’t about to buy that and are ready to railroad her right into prison.
Only a town curmudgeon with her own ghosts, Willie Morris, believes her. Then, even as evidence mounts against her, the local sheriff, Tommy Maynard, begins to suspect she may be more victim than murderer. The three of them eventually form an unlikely alliance that changes their lives forever.
DM: Contemporary, right? Genre?
LM: The sheriff is a Vietnam vet, around 50, so it’s a few years earlier than now. It’s a psychological suspense novel.
DM: I'm imagining Tommy Lee Jones starring, set in Alpine, Texas. What rating is the movie going to get?
LM: The settings are all Oklahoma, except a bit in Texas. It’s probably an “R”. Jones is one of my favorite guys to watch, but he’s a little grizzled for the sheriff now. Ten years ago . . .
DM: What catastrophe was averted in your life that prodded you into writing?
LM: Are you secretly a lawyer?
DM: Your reviews at Amazon are embarrassingly good. What's going on there?
LM: See me later.
DM: Your publisher did the cover art? The cover says "Innocence Came Calling." What do you know of innocence?
LM: Not nearly as much as I used to. (I do like the cover, though!)
DM: Do you think your acting experience informs your writing? Seems like it ought to make your characterizations and motivations sharp. Am I all wet?
LM: It helps in stepping inside their heads, I think. Also I can hear the rhythms a little better in my mind, perhaps, than someone who hasn’t spoken a lot of dialogue out loud. And I have never thought of you as all wet, Dennis.
DM: What books would you buy kids that are marooned on a desert island?
LM: Scouting Manuals? Self Help books? Pick-up Sticks?
DM: Influences? Any new or used authors that have grabbed your oeuvre and turned it on its head?
LM: No one is grabbing it that I know of, but I have been reading Pete Dexter, Arnaldur Indridason, and Mark Twain.
DM: Current projects? Anything in the works? Literature? Film? Stage?
LM: I’m starting to work on a sequel for COR, but it’s only in the embryonic stages. Just finished a thriller set in SW Texas. Getting ready to act in Mrs. Mannerly at Carpenter Square Theatre in OKC starting in late February through March.
DM: Do you have any advice for other writers? Anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
LM: I make it a rule to write a minimum of 10 minutes a day, which usually turns into at least a half hour, or three. John Grisham said if you aren’t willing to commit to a page a day, you probably won’t finish your book. You would have 365 pages in a year. I kinda like that, and it’s worked out that way for me.
I love the feedback from my readers so far. It’s been positive and supportive and I haven’t even paid them any money yet.
Thanks to Denis. His website is http://www.maleybooks.com
As I arrived that November morning, the chill that went through me wasn’t just the wintry blast that’d blown in around midnight. As I surveyed my destination, I realized there are few creepier sites than a school building at dawn. A lone yellow light illuminated one end, where a handful of parked motorcycles gleamed in the moonlight.
My steps echoed down the dim hall which led to the designated room. A tripod with a posterboard read: Motorcycle Safety Instruction Class. Inside, round tables had been arranged for the participants. Ten guys were already there. All wearing do-rags. Some to cover their gray hair, some to cover their baldness, with designs from shooting flames to the Confederate flag on them. I could hear snippets of conversation, “Deadwood” and “Sturgis” echoing in the air.
The first thing I smelled and heard was leather. The tight scrunch as conversation ground to a halt while Aunt Bea entered the room. They looked at me like I was surely the donut delivery gal, but the instructor, looked up and called me by name--my first clue that I might be the only estrogen in the room.
Let me say, in my defense, that I nearly ran right then and there. I had an intuitive flash, probably similar to those felt by people right before they’re run over by a tank. A few more guys came in and it became official. Aunt Bea had just crashed a meeting of the Sons of Anarchy.
The conversation quickly built back to a witty repartee. Get acquainted sorts of questions, like “When do you lay down your bike?” My answer--Never. I don’t want it scratched even worse--was not offered up by a single soul. Then I got it. They were talking about avoiding decapitation by sliding your bike under careening trucks during thunderstorms. When somebody began to expound on the joys of hydroplaning on the interstate, I felt my stomach clutch.
I wasn’t even on a real motorcycle, but a Genuine Buddy 125 Scooter, very similar to a Vespa, and had been riding illegally for a year--long overdue to get a motorcycle endorsement on my drivers license. I quickly discovered my only uniqueness (other than gender) in this class of unlicensed compadres: I could read aloud without pausing between words. We took turns reading the basics I had already memorized from my Buddy Handbook and the official State Motorcycle Safety Manual. Interestingly, some of the guys who’d sojourned to South Dakota through rain and sleet didn’t know the five steps in checking your bike before you got on, things I had committed to memory. But I suspected this was no time to brag.
Before the break between the writing and driving tests, the Viking God arrived, like a walking redwood tree. His brown sheep’s-wool-lined jacket and pants added even more bulk to his 6'4" presence. Under his black-slitted eyes was the pock-marked scowl of an ancient warrior about to pillage a village. His arms were abnormally long. I imagined him riding his hog, knuckles dragging the highway. And dirty blond hair braided down the back to his waist. If he’d been wearing one of those operatic bronze helmets with horns, he would have looked perfectly at home at the bow of a Viking ship, setting sail to slaughter new worlds.
Driving to the driving strip in back of the building was my first participation in a motorcycle parade. Our bikes sparked to life with the force of an exploding hydrogen bomb and we drove to an asphalt track which immediately made me think of a desolate Mexican airstrip. If two rows of orange cones hadn’t dotted the surface, I would have sworn it was a runway for drug traffic. But I quickly discovered the traffic cones marked our first maneuver. Apparently, we were to weave in and out of the cones. Looking down one row of bright markers, I thought, “It’ll be tight, but you’ll do fine.”
We all listened to the Viking’s foghorn instructions, which were impossible to hear over the snarling motors revving up again. Observing the first rider, however, I became dreadfully enlightened. Weaving back and forth down the single row of cones was barely half the fun. Actually, we were to weave back and forth between Row 1 and Row 2, making a figure eight, an extremely tight one. Quickly counting the cones, I determined that I would have to execute a total of--wait for it–20 hairpin curlicue turns. Something acidic exploded in my stomach. And way down there just beyond the last cones, Viking King stood, hands on hips, his breath assaulting the cold morning air like steam blasting off a train.
So long doomsday story short, let’s put it this way. If we’d been bowling, I would have won. No cone was left in its original place, and many had been taken out completely. By the time I got to Viking King, I was just grateful I still had the bike under me, and not dragging one of the hateful orange doo-hickeys alongside.
Speechless, mouth hanging open, he motioned me close, so I could smell his sausage breath. “You’ve never ridden before at all, have you?”
A squeaky voice I didn’t recognize surfaced. “Yes I have.”
He snarled. “Oh come on. You don’t have any experience, do you?” He made it sound like I’d sneaked into a cock fight without paying.
“As much as the online ad said I needed. I’ve got 500 miles.”
He smirked, folded his arms and pointedly looked behind me. I turned to observe the wrecked obstacle course.“Well,” I pointed out, deciding to defend myself with a touch of humor, “I didn’t realize we were in training for the Shriner Circus.”
Now maybe he was a Shriner, I don’t know. But I can say he did not like the reference, nor any challenge whatsoever to his authority. “I can see already, you’re going to make it a long day.” His eyes promised pain. “I don’t like long days.”
I sucked my pride up off the asphalt and humbly asked, “Can I give it another go, Sir?”
He actually grinned. Apparently, this was closer to the lowly sucking-up he liked. “Sure,” he said, expansively spreading his arms. “Go to the back of the line and try again.” Luckily for me, I was not the only disaster. Several of the guys who hadn’t ridden for years knocked over cones, and one went over on his bike. They were also shamed and given their comeuppance.
Then, a moment of sheer magic. I actually made it through the maneuver the second time without crashing a single cone. I drove up to him, barely suppressing a victory cry. “Was that okay?” I asked with a proud grin.
He shook his head at me, as though I’d not only fallen off the watermelon truck, but it had also run over me. “Sure, if your foot was allowed to touch the ground when you turn.”
“Oh. I can’t do that?”
He put his hands on his hips. “It’s just going to get harder and faster. You get me?”
“But I paid my money already. . ..” It was lame, but true. I was getting the idea loud and clear that I was out of my league, but figured I should at least be able to try to do what they were expecting. Maybe there would be a low grading curve. “I want to at least try.”
He dropped his head sadly, as if I had just volunteered for a lobotomy.
“Alrighty. Moving on to the next maneuver.”
Actually, this part looked like fun. It was a “go slow, then go fast” kind of test around large curving lanes on the runway. What, I quickly discovered, they failed to allow for, or give a crap about, is that scooters can’t be downshifted. You simply accelerate or brake. This exercise illustrated that motorcycles can be controlled by shifting from high gear to low. On a scooter, there is zero finesse in this area. You can stop on a dime, but under 10 mph you’re in danger of tipping over. So there goes the foot on the ground. Again.
Red-faced, he motioned me back over. He looked like a man who needed his midday allotment of raw meat. “Harder and faster. Did you not hear that? Even harder and even faster after this.” I decided it might not be the best time to bring up the gearshift differences between motorcycle to scooter. Then he delivered the coup de grace. “You know, I’ve had to call ambulances out here. People have been hurt that bad.”
Since it wasn’t clear if he meant bike accidents, or if he had actually lifted students over his head and thrown them onto the tarmac, I resisted comment. Then I remembered something creepy from grade school history. Vikings beheaded their enemies. My mental red danger flag popped up before my eyes and started shouting. From that point on, I was paralyzed by panic. My quick descent into unobliterated shame would only be funny to sadists who like to listen to actual recorded tapes of 911 calls.
Sent home in disgrace, with frozen fingers, I could only stare at my beautiful honey-colored scooter for the next few months and tear up remembering my utter, complete, ignominious failure. I was doomed. So, several months later, just as I was pondering whether to ride illegally or sell my beloved Buddy, I was stunned when the universe took charge of my situation. A friend introduced me to the educational programs of the Rider Down Foundation and enrolled me in their motorcycle safety class. I was grateful but told myself to be prepared for another round of humiliation.
Imagine my shock on arrival to discover two of their instructors were women. More than half the class were female, too. A lot of them had ridden behind their partners forever and were apparently ready for those hogs to rumble between their own legs. Had I stepped into an alternate universe? The teachers actually encouraged you, coached you, gently guided you through the dreaded curlicues. Shouts of “You can do it!” filled the air.
Yes, you guessed it. I now ride legally. Got that big “M” on my license. I can stop and go, do figure eights, and turn circles in a box. By day’s end, I felt like Cleopatra riding her barge down the Nile. All of us couldn’t have been more proud than if we’d been crowned Miss Harley Hogs of America.
Most of my fellow students had their guys watching the entire event from the sidelines, mingling around their own bikes. It was, and surely will remain, the only time I have been cheered and whistled at by an audience of bikers in black leather jackets as I rode triumphantly off the training tarmac. I wanted to cry. Vengeance and joy were mine. Who needs the Viking beheader when you’ve got dozens of clapping Marlon Brando’s out of The Wild One?
Now I must admit, I’m starting to feel the urge for change. Now that I’m all legal, I’m considering a different look from my drab driving gear. Something a little more uptown perhaps. Anybody know where to locate a candy-apple-red leather riding jacket in a plus size?
Note: The Downed Rider Foundation is an outstanding nonprofit organization which supports injured riders and their families through money and personal support. I feel eternally grateful to them for their upbeat style of instruction and making this one of the greatest experiences I ever had.
You don’t need me to tell you what makes a great romance. The plot will contain obstacles to keep the lovers apart, right? Then, against incredible odds, they find their way back together, even if they have to battle across continents. And in the end, it’s sex happily ever after.
Wars in faraway lands, a family’s vehement disapproval, illnesses/injuries to a lover--are just a few devices that work beautifully to keep people apart. The harder the universe conspires against our lovers, the more we root for them to find each others arms (and sex happily ever after).
Of course, it’s not only about the sex (although, what's not to like?). But good love stories have emotional growth, too. Usually, for example, each lover has a trait that the other is lacking. A successful, buttoned-up man is entranced by the free spirit of a fun but irresponsible woman. He needs some of her looseness so he can learn to enjoy life. And she is attracted to his solid grasp of the world, as it helps to ground her, because it’s hard to always be flying around. Then they have love and sex happily ever after.
Okay, so that's how the stories go. What if, however, a romantic story doesn’t end with sex happily ever after? What if sex were, for whatever reason, totally off the table?
After almost a century of the mind as the new frontier, people now view intimacy and love in new lights. We are having conversations about our softness, our willingness to be vulnerable with one another, our need to empathize with others, and how that is satisfying, wholehearted love--no matter the age, gender or sexual preference.
What if a man falls for a woman who, he discovers, is midway through having a sex change? (See television series, Hit or Miss.) A smitten Irishman faces belittlement if his mates discover their secret. Yet, even though he’s uncertain if or how sex could happen, he’s still crazy for her.
What happens when someone falls in love with a person with the AIDS virus? Or the full blown disease? What if the object of love were partially paralyzed with no sexual function?
In my debut novel, Crimes of Redemption, two characters who have survived sexual abuse love one another, but are so scarred they struggle with letting anybody into their lives again.
Yet, whether there is physical consummation or not, all lovers have to traverse emotional deserts and mountains to find each other. Walk on the razor’s edge of vulnerability and openness with one another. It takes real courage to travel those lands, too.
In those moments when we truly open up our heart to another, are there many braver acts than that? How about ending up with wholehearted love? That truly could be forever after.
You Can Lead a Horse to Water. . .Or Can You?
Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah sits on a cliff 2000 feet above the powerful Colorado River. Its name comes from the dozens of wild mustangs who, in the 1800's, died of thirst within sight of life-saving water below.
There are two versions of this story.
A military installation at the top of the cliff had to be abandoned at some point during the 1800's. During the U.S. occupation of this land, the wild mustangs who ran the canyons at will had been contained in a corral at the top of a cliff (the point of view from which the picture was snapped).
Here the story diverges.
Version I: The corral gate was left open as the military departed, but the mustangs had grown so used to being contained there, that they did not know enough to leave. They starved of thirst there, only a couple of thousand feet from water, which they must have smelled as it drifted up the arid cliffs.
Version II: Someone forgot to leave the gate open as the military departed and the mustangs were accidentally left to die.
I find myself haunted and still slightly obsessed by their hideous deaths. All those long, slender bones found in the corral years later. Their dying howls echoing in the canyons below. The more I think on it, the more difficult it is to see clearly which is the darker cruelty here: the imprisonment of the horses’ bodies or the brainwashing of their minds.
Don’t we all face similar dilemmas in life? When and why do we accept the locked gate instead of knocking down the corral fence? And how damaging is it to allow ourselves to accept, without investigation, a limited view of what we can do and be?
My mother passed away during the weekend of Tiananmen Square. For those too young to remember, I'm talking about the first weekend in June, 1989. Chinese rebels were staging a protest that shocked the world. Numb from her death, I sat, watching the story unfold for 24 hours. I was drawn to the t.v. for reasons I couldn't grasp. But I watched, mesmerized. The iconic photo of the time (at right) shows a lone young man who walked into the path of the tanks that had been assembled to force out the protesters. Millions of us watched breathlessly as the tanks, at what seemed the last possible moment, crawled to a stop.
I cried. Actually, bawled is a better word. Something about that simple act of bravery halfway around the world set me free. Something cracked open inside. Whether it just let loose the tears I'd been stuffing, or my emotions were jump started, I don't know. But it was healing. And it was about both Tiananmen and my mother, who had just braved over eight morphine-laced weeks in the hospital before dying.
Those memories came up after a friend recently told me she could not possibly go to a play that was about grief and loss. Her husband had died less than a year earlier, and she felt she could not endure the experience. I am respectful of her wishes. But I couldn't help asking myself, Why would she pass up an evening in the theater which explored and illuminated the very experience she was going through? We go to support groups and pay bookoo money for grief counselors, so it's not like we don't want to talk about it. We look at letters, pictures, videos of our loved ones, play those special songs over and over, so it's not like we don't yearn to relive our feelings again and again.
So why do we assume that seeing a story that deals with loss will be a bad experience? Why can't drama help us along as well? Is it because we're afraid we'll leave depressed? Or fear the feelings that might get churned up? Afraid others will not accept our tears or whatever else comes up?
When people we love die, there's no quick fix. No feel-better-fast mainline to administer, no amount of mind-altering drugs to keep our sadness at bay. Even if we mourn without chemicals, we can use denial to keep all those awkward, unfamiliar feelings tamped down. But at some point, we must do something, else our heads become so ensconced in quicksand, we forget how we got there. We can't remember we were supposed to pull out at some point. Then we hurl everything out inappropriately. Don't we use the counseling/support group thing for this very purpose? To start the healing.
The theater for thousands of years has helped us to see that we aren't alone in whatever we're going through. Greed, joy, love, ambition, guilt, treachery, courage, daring, and yeah, grief. As audience members, we see some character in mourning make an ass of herself. Or another character's anger jumps out of their grief inappropriately. My God, how reassuring that others have felt that way, acted that badly. Isn't it confirming to see others "live" through it with the same awkwardness as we feel? Depressing? I would say more enlightening. Even reassuring.
Another friend of mine recently said that over the years, she had never found drama to be depressing. She couldn't remember ever leaving the theater feeling downtrodden or hopeless. I feel the same. Playwrights have always left me something curious to chew on, something that has helped me discover more about who I am and why I feel the way I do.
In fact, most dramas illustrate how we rise to the level of whatever is thrust upon us. Along the way, the seed is planted that we not only make it through, but our lives are deepened and enriched by the experience. From the Greeks to Shakespeare to Edward Albee we glimpse who we are through the characters and stories onstage. Theater is not didactic. It implies. It suggests. It nudges.
When my mother died, a true event on television helped me feel my feelings. Later, plays and movies helped me understand the loss (still do, in fact). A play, however, may be as true a picture as you will ever find of how emotions work. Because no one tries harder than writers to get it right. They endlessly observe how real people act and react. Scenes are rewritten dozens of times to include every true nuance possible. What richer venue is there to glimpse ourselves in the mirror with compassion and understanding?
There may be no textbooks on how to raise children, but history bulges with rules, how-to's and warnings on everything else in women's lives. Apparently we gals have been unruly, or at the very least, unpredictable since Lot's wife, against strict orders, turned around to check out what the rumble of falling buildings behind her was all about. (This strikes me as rather a common sensical response on her part--wouldn't it be like not staring with jaw dropped as the Murrah Building fell to the ground?)
Anyway, I'm sure everybody remembers where her curiosity got her that day. For ignoring the order from on high Lot's wife was unceremoniously turned into a pillar of salt. Biblical vengeance with a flourish. Even in Sunday School, this story struck me as just plain mean, but the lady who taught us apparently didn't question goosestep obedience.
Which brings me to a Mormon tidbit I read recently in a column from my hometown newspaper, The Cordell Beacon. It's a 19th century edict from Brigham Young to the women of the Latter Day Saints religion.
"If you see a dog run past your door with your husband's head in his mouth, do nothing until you have consulted with the prophet."
Wow, now that's taking the load off our shoulders. How cavalier. It's like, "Relax, ladies. We got this." I would, no doubt, be one of those meddlesome wives who would want more specifics, such as, "Do I chase the dog and try to retrieve the head so the prophet can reattach it?"
"What if the dog comes inside the house with my husband's head in his mouth? Should I grab the shotgun if the dog looks like he wants my head as well?"
"What if the dog only has my husband's finger or foot in his mouth and not the entire head?"
"If the dog is rabid, shouldn't I shoot him so he won't run by my door with my children's heads in his mouth?" Cujo does Salt Lake City .
"What if the prophet is out of town? Or out of the country??" (Back then, no phone, much less e-mail. Yikes! How long should the wife wait for the prophet's return?)
"When should I ready the kitchen for the incoming commiseration casseroles?"
Now I'm not here to bash the Mormons. God bless 'em. They strike me as gentle, loving people. And they send their children all over the world on missions of service, an act that grows tolerance of those who are not just like us. We could sure use some more of that.
This just happens to be the latest laughable example I've read of women being commanded over the ages to tamp down their instincts, stuff their feelings, and do as they're told. So I'm thinking, "If it's not okay to respond to the murder of a loved one, what should she do about picking out kitchen curtains? Should the prophet design her quilts? Can she wipe the nose of her little girl?" Is this any more extreme than the edict? I think not.
And why do men ask for all this decision making? Imagine all that high blood pressure from attending to, in this case, multiple wives who are waiting, toes tapping with impatience, for further instructions? Isn't this a recipe for early heart attack? Or stroke? Guys, you might want to think this through again. It's women, in this new millenium, who are seeing an upsurge in cardiac events. With power, apparently, comes clogged arteries.
But what I really want to know is, what happened to those ladies who disobeyed the prophet's edict? Maybe I am brutally mixing up my metaphors here, but what if they were turned into pillars of salt? Wait a minute, wait a minute. Is that what formed Salt Lake?
I definitely plan to write on my novel today, but the unruly committee in my head, which clanks through the halls of my cerebral cortex drooling like the walking dead, has other plans. And they've got the portable medieval rack and scythe to back it up. They're B-movie horror cliches in black hoods who've got Spielberg as producer and Wes Craven directing, so the screen's gonna be blood-sopped before the opening credits stop rolling. Oh yeah, it's serious now. I'm gonna need my warrior woman armor today, and an AK-47 with silver hollow points to stop their scorched-brain policy.
Yesterday, I cleaned my house (which happens with the regularity of a balanced budget) because--LIE #1--if everything's just so, without a dust-bunny film draped over the furniture, I can then begin to write funnier-longer-better. . .add hyphenate of your choice. I'm not alone in this tactic. You know who you are. I know people who have stopped writing in order to clean their bathrooms with toothbrushes, like speed freaks mainlining steroids.
Here's a fun one. I have scoured Oklahoma City, like a serial killer searching for prey, so that--LIE #2--I can have the exact purple-inked pen I need for inspiration. (Ink may also be green, or brown, or a new color that is unavailable from any pen company anywhere.)
LIE #3--I need to do more research first. The rational part of my brain fights to break through, saying "Why don't you use all the stuff you've already got?" This is a particularly effective argument because what couldn't use more research, for god's sake? ANSWER: The sequence you've spent 30 hours Googling and 15 minutes writing on. Try getting off your fat ass and string a few words together. Your mother would be so proud.
LIE #4--I can't write because I don't know what I want to write about. LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE!! We don't write because we already know what we want to write about. We write so we can discover what we want to write about. Gotcha on that one, huh?
So if you're still with me here, I'd like to know which of your own lies you believe. Maybe I can add them to my own list. Please leave a comment. What are the lies you tell yourself to keep you from doing the one thing that you love with a passion, the one thing that makes you feel truly alive, the thing that sets your free? I await your replies, which will, ironically, keep you from writing your own stuff.
Linda Lee McDonald
I live comfortably poor in Oklahoma City, have a backyard garden in constant need of a weedeater manicure, am visited by birds every day when they bathe in my mixing bowl birdbath, and am blessed with my two rescue dogs, Jake and Roxie, who save me every day of my life.