Friday, March 19, 2010

Fiction Friday: Bob Rivers, Part 2

Click here to read Bob Rivers, Part 1

So now when he saw an individual visitor, he would steer clear almost immediately, as if the person’s grave was a danger zone to be avoided. Too many danger zones at one time and Bob would find himself back at the garden shed, drinking another root beer.

And Mr. Reynolds, the owner of the cemetery, didn’t like the sight of Bob Rivers drinking root beer. He wasn’t paying him to drink root beers. He was paying him to create beauty that he could sell to grieving customers. This was his business, after all.

At the end of each day, after the day’s work had been completed and the garden shed was locked, Bob Rivers did his least favorite part of the job. He walked the grounds to collect and discard the dead flowers by the graves. Bob sometimes found it strange that in a cemetery filled with hundreds of tombstones, it was the flowers that reminded him of death.

He would walk down the side aisles, looking left and right, looking for the splashes of color. For each one he saw, he would approach and check the condition of the bouquet. He removed dying blooms and dried leaves, always leaving the best looking flowers for one more day.

Most people left bouquets still wrapped in plastic. Bob would leave those for the most part. The wrapping helped make the flowers last longer. Once a bouquet was near half-wilted, he would take away the wrapping and arrange the remaining flowers in front of the grave. He always took great care when doing this, should the person who left them return the next day and find his bouquet tampered with.

Bob couldn’t let dead flowers lie on a grave. It didn’t seem right.

So he spent the last hour of every day tending to the floral offerings of love that sat on the green grass in front of each grave. He would pocket the little packets of flower food attached to the plastic-wrapped bouquets, discard the excess wrappings, toss the dead or dying flowers into his compost bin, and drive home.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Art Schmart

Upon a friend’s recommendation, I visit the Getty Museum on a Saturday night when parking is free after 5 pm. Strolling up the stairs amid couples and families, I try not to feel out of place, but rather focus on my intended task. Find a cozy room filled with paintings, settle in on a bench, and write, surrounded only by the light murmur of patrons discussing art.

Where I end up is a sedate hall filled with 16th Century Italian paintings. Nothing cozy about this art. The images are stiff, posed. Solemn faces holding crosses or babies in pious reverence. Dignified portraits and divine ah-ha moments, captured for posterity. Paintings that reflect generations of religious influence. Just looking at them makes me stand up straighter.

I see couples holding hands, walking slowly through the room, and I wonder, “Are they really feeling romantic right now looking at all these paintings of Jesus?” But as they cycle through and I remain staring at Lorenzo Lotto’s “Madonna and Child with Two Donors,” I start to wonder if I was one of the people in these paintings in a past life. Rigid and disconnected. A pleasant citizen concerned with appearing noble and important, devoted to the church, but with no real sense of what life is all about.

Because I can see elements of these subjects in my personality. The desire to be good, searching for a higher meaning, putting on a stoic face to conceal my inner life. Looking at these paintings reminds me of the elements I’m attempting to release as I grow into a more fluid and open person. And my posture begins to relax.

I leave the Getty a few hours later, conceding that while I don’t find them aesthetically attractive, these staid Italian paintings have affected me. And that’s the beauty of art. Artistic expression meant for a subjective audience to interpret and consume. There’s always more than one way to connect to anything. And I found mine.

Meanwhile, someone is buying a print of this freaky picture right now, thinking to themselves it will look perfect in their spare bedroom.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fiction Friday: Missy, Part 2

Click here to read Missy, Part 1

Missy closed her eyes. As the truck bumped along the road, the summer sun invaded her eyelids, painting her thoughts with flashes of orange red heat.

She was standing at the base of a long, wide staircase that stretched up into the sky. Plush carpeted steps that welcomed her feet as she began to climb. Surely this staircase was taking her somewhere important. Why else was it there? She walked and walked until she had almost reached the top. For a moment, she hesitated, feeling it was only right that she look behind her, to see how far she’d come. So she turned.

Through heavy, dry eyelids, a grey-washed hospital room came into focus. She became immediately aware of a tube stretched across her face that stuck into her nose. The air was cold and smelled other worldly. Her mouth was dry. What was its purpose again? Oh, yes. Speaking. She attempted to move her lips but found she barely had enough energy to form the thought in her foggy brain. She focused on seeing. That was the easiest.

Forcing her eyes open after several labored attempts, Missy looked around the room. The curtains were closed, blocking out the bright orange red sun, cloaking the room in a melancholy dinge. Through the grey, she could make out the standard pink-grey plastic cup on a tray next to her bed and a brown-grey chair across the room.
There was a young man in the chair. The plaid-grey person who had stopped to talk to Missy on the side of the road. How did he get from there to here? A question for which she had no answer.

He seemed to be sleeping, leaning against his arm, face shut down in a dream. His plaid shirt looked rumpled and crooked. His other hand loosely clutched what looked like a red-grey baseball cap. He was asleep.

But he was there.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My Taiwanese-American Anthem

I am Taiwanese. And no, that doesn’t mean I’m from Thailand. I am Taiwanese. I don’t buy things made in China because I don’t want inferior quality products that support China’s push to become a world superpower. I am Taiwanese. When my census form comes in the mail, I will not be checking the box that says “Chinese,” but rather checking “Other Asian” and writing in “Taiwanese.” I am Taiwanese. I don’t know how to speak Mandarin or Cantonese, only Taiwanese. I am Taiwanese. A friend at MIT once told me that Taiwanese women are the most beautiful of all Asian women. I tend to agree.

I am Taiwanese. I am not Chinese. If you don’t understand the difference, go see Formosa Betrayed when it opens in your city. A powerful film that will challenge everything you think you know about the China/Taiwan conflict. See this movie and you’ll understand how this blog post you’re reading would put me in great danger if I lived there.

But gratefully, I am also American. I was born in New York, which means I can run for President someday. I am American. I am pursuing my dream in the global creative center for film and television. I am American. We gave the world baseball, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Facebook. I am American. I don’t like Sarah Palin, but I respect her right to exist. I am American. I live in a country where everyone has the right to an education, no matter what economic situation they’re born into. I am American.

I am Taiwanese-American. And I’m proud as hell.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fiction Friday: Bob Rivers

It wasn’t a bad job, really. They paid for his equipment and he got to be outdoors. Thank goodness he didn’t have allergies like some groundskeepers did. He would have a tough time dealing with that many acres. But as luck would have it, Bob Rivers was uniquely suited to taking care of the cemetery.

And he took great care. The lawn was mowed once a week. Bushes clipped, vines trimmed, and pots watered weekly too. He checked the sprinklers every night before going home. If the edges of the walkways were wet when he arrived in the morning, he knew they had worked. It was delightfully predictable work.

Mowing the lawn was sometimes tricky. He had a riding lawnmower now that his back had taken to weakness, so that wasn’t the problem. It was the people. Every Tuesday, his mowing day, he’d check the funeral schedule to see what was going on, both outdoors and in the building. He respected the ritual and knew the last thing anyone wanted to hear during their time of mourning was the grinding of his John Deere power-steering lawnmower.

During services, he would sit outside the garden shed and drink a cold root beer from his cooler. His own way of honoring the dead. Most services didn’t last more than two hours, so he would schedule around them.

The tough situations came with individual visitors. People coming alone or in pairs, standing in front of their passed loved ones, talking, crying, or staring silently. These people didn’t arrive on a schedule, and when Bob happened upon them on his riding lawnmower, he’d have to rearrange his route and come back later. Three or four visitors spread around the cemetery would seriously stall his route. Early on, he would attempt to continue his work, but people would throw dirty looks over their shoulders or looks of disbelief. Their loved ones are dead and this guy’s mowing the lawn?

No one saw his work as important, taking for granted the lush, green grass and the manicured row of hedges by the parking lot. They expected the beauty. It was what was owed them for burying their family and friends there. No one considered that Bob Rivers was the man who gave them that beauty.

Click here to read Bob Rivers, Part 2

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Requiem for a Heavyweight Thinker

The Block is stubbornly large and grows exponentially under the weight of my stare. I’ve been instructed by others to avoid its time-consuming allure. The Block is showing me that I’m on the wrong road. Heed its message. Best to find a new direction entirely.

But I am equally stubborn in my journey. A Taurus through and through. There must be a way around. Perhaps I can go over it. Or through it. I fight and fight, drawing on all of the problem-solving powers of my engineering school days. I always believe a solution exists. I just need to be smart enough and determined enough to find it.

Because fighting is something I know how to do. I’ve fought my entire life. For leadership offices, for job promotions, for every single A+ I’ve ever gotten. Fighting has always worked for me. It’s reliable, dependable, and comfortable.

But fighting has no place in the creative world. The actions of this world are relaxation, allowance, permission, and freedom. Living here means letting go. My boxing gloves are completely ineffective when I swing. Instead of beating a solution into view, my blows merely land on my own face, a helpless exercise of futility.

So I must retire the fight. Surrender. Let the Block win and find a different way to travel. The unknown is scary, but maybe it holds the solution I’m seeking.