I am falling apart. My health is poor and continuing to fail. My memory is suffering from an inability to remember the names of things. I find myself in the kitchen having gone in for a specific purpose, and not being able to remember what that purpose was. That is not to say I am not coping. I have quite a lot of adaptability and significant problem-solving skills. But that will eventually become a losing battle. Especially if I get the virus… any virus. So, what am I going to talk about with a dissolving brain and an hourglass of lifeforce swiftly running out? Fascination. I am fascinated by the details of the process. Like Mr. Spock, I find practically everything, “Fascinating!”
Birds and butterflies
My childhood fascinations turned into obsession first around natural things. When my mother would go to Vey Osier’s Beauty Salon, Vey had this fascinating parrot that was probably a hundred years old and knew how to swear really, really foully. I remember that being the only reason I was willing to go there and wait for Mom to get her hair fussed up (What my Grandpa Aldrich, her father, used to call it.)
I remember waiting for hours to hear that bird say the magic F-word or the horrible S-word. Or even the zillion other bad words I didn’t know anything about when I was seven. And, of course, I never did. The bird was mute the whole time during who-knows-how-many visits. But I did get to look endlessly at that green parrot’s amazing nutcracker bill that Vey always assured us would snap our fingers off like biting a salted pretzel if we got them anywhere close to the bill.
And when I was nine I was given as a present a plastic model kit of a Golden-Crowned Kinglet (the bird in that first picture). My relatives knew I was a burgeoning artist since my teachers constantly complained about all the skeletons, crocodiles, and monsters I drew in the margins of my school workbooks. So, I had a plastic bird to paint with all the necessary paints, but no idea what the bird looked like. We had to go all the way to Mason City to Grandma Beyer’s house because we called up there and checked, and, sure enough, there was a colored picture in the K volume of her Collier’s Encyclopedia. I painted it so accurately, the danged thing looked almost alive.
And if you have ever seen any of my butterfly posts, you know I became a butterfly hunter before ever entering junior high school, where Miss Rubelmacher, the rabid seventh-grade science teacher, made that obsession a hundred times worse. (She didn’t actually have rabies, just a reputation of requiring excessively hard-to-find life-science specimens like a nasturtium that bloomed in October in Iowa, or a Mourning Cloak butterfly.
I was able to find for her numerous Red-Spotted Purples like the one in the picture. I got them off the grill of Dad’s Ford, as well as in Grandpa Aldrich’s grove. And I eventually caught a pair of Mourning Cloaks as well on Grandpa Aldrich’s apple trees, though not until summer after seventh grade was over for me. I could tell you about my quest to catch a Tiger Swallowtail, too. But that’s an entirely different essay, written for an entirely different thematic reason.
Needless to say, my bird fascination led me to become an amateur bird-watcher with a great deal of useless naturalist information crammed into my juvenile bird-brain about birds. Especially Cardinals. And my fascination with butterflies opened my eyes to a previously invisible world of fascinating and ornately-decorated bugs. (Of course, I should’ve said “insects” instead of “bugs” since I absolutely did learn the difference.) And I still to this day know what a Hairstreak Butterfly looks like, what a Luna Moth is (Think Lunesta Commercials,) and how you have to look at the underside of the lower wings to correctly identify a Moonglow Fritillary Butterfly.
During my lifetime, my fascinations have become legion. I became obsessed with the comic books done by artist Wally Wood, especially Daredevil. I became obsessed with Disney movies, especially the animated ones like The Rescuers, The Jungle Book, Pinocchio, and Fantasia. I rode the bucking bronco of a fascination with the Roswell Crash (and the actual alien space ships I am almost certain the U.S. Army recovered there.) And so many other things that it would make this essay too long, and would probably bore you into a death-like coma. So, here’s what I have learned by being fascinated with my own fascinations;
You do not want to play me in a game of Trivial Pursuit for money, even now that my memory is like swiss cheese.
I have a real ability to problem-solve because I know so many useless details that can be combined in novel ways to come up with solutions to problems.
I can write interesting essays and engaging novels because I have such a plethora of concrete details and facts to supplement my sentences and paragraphs with.
It can be really, really boring to talk to me about any of my fascinations unless I happen to light the same color of fire in your imagination too. Or unless you arrived at that same fascination before I brought it up.
Yes, she was a real car. My dad bought her in the 60’s as a used car. But she was a hardtop, not a convertible. She was the car he drove to work every day in Belmond. We called it the “Pink and White Pumpkin”, my sisters and I, referring to the pumpkin in Cinderella which the fairy godmother changes into a coach. But it would only later become the car of my dreams.
You see, she was killed in the Belmond Tornado of 1966. Her windows were all broken out and her frame was twisted. So the pictures of her, though they look exactly like my memories of her, minus the rust spots, are not actual pictures of the car in question. Our next door neighbor, Stan the Truck Man, was a mechanic always on the lookout for salvage parts. He took her apart piece by piece while she sat in our driveway. We continued to sit in her and play in her until all that was left was the bare frame. My friend Werner told me for the first time about the facts of life and where babies really came from in the back seat while she was being gradually dismantled. Of course, I was nine at the time and didn’t really believe him. How could that grossness actually be true?
But she still lives, that old dream car… She is the reason that I objectify my imagination as a ship with pink sails. My daydreams, my creative fantasies, and those long, lingering plays in the theater of my imagination as I am drifting off to sleep all start in the three-masted sailing ship with pink sails. And that dream image was born from the Pink and White Pumpkin. I have sailed in her to many an exotic place… even other planets. And when I die, she will take me home again.
There are voices in my stupid old head. But don’t worry. They are not dog voices telling me brunettes need to be shot with a .44. They are echoing voices. Voices of loved ones, voices of students, voices of random amusing people I have known and how they talk, the many voices of Robin Williams, and, of course, the singing voice of Roy Rogers.
I really don’t know how many times I traveled down dark and dangerous pathways with, “Happy trails to you…” echoing in my stupid head. It helped me through surgery. It helped me through hospitalization for a “That EKG could mean you are having a heart attack right now.” It wasn’t a heart attack. It helped me with the meeting with a judge for my Chapter 13 bankruptcy… which was caused by the coulda-been heart attack.
I hear the voices of departed relatives too. My sweet old Reagan-Republican Grandma Beyer comes back to me talking about magazine ads in “Look” magazine in the early seventies.
“Now, those children are positively up to no good. Look at the expressions on their evil little faces. Do you really believe they are merely going to eat that food? Or are they going to make someone wear it, scare it, or underwear it?
“And look at the neon-blue eyes those youngsters have! Do you suppose that orange juice is radioactive or something? It certainly doesn’t look like its doing them any good health-wise to be drinking that much. They look wired!”
Or when she saw TV Guide’s picture from the mini-series “V” in the 80’s.
“Land Sakes! That’s one pretty awful skin condition that poor man has. I certainly wouldn’t want to get infected with that!”
And there’s always the voice of Mark Twain lurking in the back of my brain watching for a chance to remark on something and make me laugh.
“I don’t like to commit myself about Heaven and Hell… You see, I have friends in both places.”
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to any vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”
“No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot.”
“Okay, you can shut up now, Mark, before I laugh myself to death,” I replied.
And then there’s all those imaginary people that my own demented psyche gave birth to and now live in my fiction. They follow me around everywhere too, making comments, encouraging me, sometimes discouraging me, and always making me forget that I am actually talking to myself. I write down a lot of what they say. It becomes the basis for another book or two, or possibly twenty.
So, you see, I am rarely lonely. My mind is never quiet. And there’s always a conversation going on, no matter that I am completely alone and no one is saying anything at all out loud.
Every writer, whether he or she writes fiction or non-fiction, is really writing about themselves. The product originates within the self. So, that self has to gaze into the mirror from time to time.
So, the question for today is, who, or possibly what, is Mickey?
I have been posting stuff every day for a few years now, and in that time, I have been much-visited on WordPress. Maybe not much-read, but then, you cannot actually tell if somebody read it or not. Most probably look only at the pictures. And, since I am also an artist of sorts, that can also be a good thing. Though, just like most artists, my nude studies are more popular than the pieces I value the most. But unless the looker makes a comment or leaves a “like”, you really have no idea if they read or understood any of the words I wrote. And you have no idea what they feel about the art. Maybe they just happened to click on one of ;my nudes while surfing for porn.
I rarely get below 50 views of something in my blog every day. The last three days were 86 views, 124 views yesterday, and 88 views already today. My blog has definitely picked up pace over the length of the coronavirus quarantine. But no definable reason seems obvious. Some of my posts are polished work, but Robin is right when he says today’s post is merely fishing with the process, which is true almost every day.
As a person I am quirky and filled with flaws, pearls of wisdom that result from clam-like dealing with flaws, strange metaphors that shine the pearls, and obsessions like the one I have with nudism that leaves me properly dressed for diving for pearls.
I have demonstrated throughout my life that I have an interest in and experience with nudism, though not the boldness to parade my naked self before the world outside of the writing that I do. I also spent most of my bachelorhood dating reading teachers and teachers’ aides, finally settling down and marrying another English teacher. I completed a thirty-one year career as an English teacher, which means I spent a lot of time teaching writing and reading to kids who were ages 12 to 18. Twenty-four of those years were spent in the middle school monkey house. And all of that led to being so mentally damaged after all that I wasn’t good for much beyond becoming a writer of YA novels or possibly subbing for other mentally-damaged teachers in middle schools around our house.
A real telling feature of what I have become is the fact that most of the characters I write about in my fiction are somehow a reflection of me. Milt Morgan, seen to the left, is illustrated here with a picture of me as a ten-year-old wearing a purple derby. Yes, I was that kind of geeky nerd.
And most of the plots are based around things that happened to me as a child, a youth, or a young teacher. Many of the events in the stories actually happened to me, though the telling and retelling of them are largely twisted around and reshaped. And I am aware of all the fairies, aliens, werewolves, and clowns that inhabit my stories. Though I would argue that they were real too in an imaginative and metaphorical way.
So, here now is a finished post of Mickey staring into the metaphorical mirror and trying in vain to define the real Michael, an impossible, but not unworthy task.
I believe one of the primary reasons that art exists at all is because we are thinking creatures with a need to spend serious time in deep minding of the consequences of existence. We need to question everything. And art helps us do that by depicting the thoughts that existed first in the mind of the artist, and then must be translated through experiencing into the mind of the viewer.
One thing that I, as an artist of limited ability, appreciate about the digital age, is that I can get lots of mileage out of old works of art, and even new works of art, by cutting and pasting, photo-shopping, and re-using elements of the drawings done once… but turned into many by digital means.
And the process can take you home again, no matter how far away and how long ago home has become.
No, I am not calling you an idiot, dear reader. I am the one providing the guidance material.
So, if I were to try to explain art day in an Idiot’s Guide aimed at explaining the essence of it to Doofy Fuddbugg, one idiot trying to educate another, I would explain that I am lazy on Saturdays. All I want to do is post pictures and not have to write a lot of heavily-thought-out words and ideas in the usual droning idiot’s essay of 500 words or more. So, I go through my WordPress picture file and find interesting pictures to post without having to draw or paint anything new.
I confess that I do not merely select pictures at random. I try to get pictures I haven’t used in a good while. This double portrait of Gretel Graymalkin, and what she looks like naked in the moonlight, hasn’t been used in a post since last year. And there is a bit of rhyme and reason to it too. Gretel is an idiot.
And this is a picture that any idiot can tell is a real picture of fairies in the park discussing the building of a new fairy circle after it finally started raining heavily again in Texas after almost a decade of drought. Of course, it has to be an idiot to tell that. Most people would recognize this as a pen-and-colored-pencil drawing photo-shopped over a photograph. Even the mushrooms are not real. I have it on good authority from fairy-kind that they are actually pixies in disguise.
And then there is this rare bird I drew a couple of years back. He is a surrealistic peacock who thought of auditioning for NBC before he learned they don’t still do those “Now in Living Color…” ads anymore. He’s surrealistic in that he could not possibly be real, unless he were really just a bowling pin and lady’s fan put together by a deranged painter with a mental disorder that makes him do decoratively dippy drawings on things you really shouldn’t be drawing upon in the middle of a bowling tournament.
And who can forget this idiot, an avatar of me as a purple Mickey in the style of the late great Don Martin of Mad Magazine fame? He’s the whole reason you get foolish lazy-Saturday posts like this at all, There has got to be a cure for that somewhere in the multiverse.