Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Dreams of Hammond Schuster

They lived in the shadows and fed on dreams of light seekers. From behind concrete boxes they watched and whittled, watched and whittled, until they had crafted a manuscript out of the cumulous dreams that billowed into thunderheads from humid brain clouds. And people bought and read the pilfered dreams, never realizing they were stolen from their very thoughts.

An entire society of shadow creatures formed, thrived even, and laughed raucously together over late night martinis while wallowing in tidbits from their swipings. They began to believe in the dreams they had stolen, as if they were original thoughts rather than lifted from the collective virga. With each martini, they anchored the belief that they were above the spidery truth of their existences.

All except one.

60269 rolled out of the bar at 1pm and covered his face with his hands while his eyes adjusted to the mid-day shine. The fog in his head was thick pea soup. All the dreams he had ever taken were swirling in a vortex and he was certain a vicious tornado was going to blow the top right off his head.

At the corner a few yards down a man with a giant bottle of helium was blowing up balloons. 60269 walked over to the man and gave him a buck for a balloon. A swirling vortex moved with the force of a hurricane as every dream he had ever stolen blew right out of his head, through the rubber and directly into the balloon. He felt something he had never, ever known in all the years of thievery — absolute emptiness. 60269 took a pen from his pocket and scribbled some words onto the balloon, released it, then stepped off the curb directly into the path of the 41 Union Express.

 Hammond Schuster knew something was off. He sensed the lack of memory. How do you put your finger on something missing when you can’t remember that something is missing? He couldn’t, and yet it bugged him — it ached, the not there/there thing. He began to search the rooms of his home for some kind of clue, something that would point him to beyond the empty cloud that had meaning with no meaning. All he found within his house were blank walls and minimal furniture. There was nothing that could give a clue to anything beyond the mundane and grey that was his life.

 As he walked through the empty halls, an orange object outside the glass wall that enclosed his living room caught his attention. Given that Hammond lived some 100 miles from civilization or neighbors, it was odd to see a foreign object in the yard. He stepped outside onto the cool grass and picked up what appeared to be a deflated balloon with the words “I can’t deal with it. 4Realz” written on the rubber. As he picked it up by the attached string he began to feel a flood of memories returning. Pianos, music, voices, poetry, dreams — so many dreams — he dropped the string in a shock of knowing.

Emptiness… he couldn’t remember what he had just remembered, he just felt so horrendously empty.

Again he picked up the string, again the memories began, but they were formless, clues without a strand. He needed a map to the there place in the stratus fractus of his mind. He brought the balloon into the house and set it down on the table.

Again, empty, and wondering how a balloon got onto the table, and why it said what it said.

He shrugged and went to lie down on the sofa, deciding that he would read rather than deal with this mystery that he had no hope of solving. Besides, his brain was thickening to a greenish fog, he couldn’t even remember his name.

The book on the coffee table had no title. Hammond picked it up and rifled through the empty pages, then resting the book on his chest, he fell asleep and began to dream — a canvas appeared in front of him...he picked up a brush and began painting... from out of a fog of strokes the piano he played as a boy began to play itself and he saw himself sitting on the bench struggling through the years of lessons, choirs of voices grew to a crescendo of glory then melted away and a poet appeared with a pen and poetry began to flow and the words were sumptuous and full of passion, metaphors which faded into fractured sense as garden after garden filled the canvas — so much color — the entire world was in front of him, so many strokes...each stroke was a lifetime of dreams... a wife, or was it two... children, friends, explorations, passions and desire... oh... and the women, and the choices, he could do anything he wanted to on the canvas of his dreams — and so Hammond Schuster never woke up.

The cops found him in a sea of flies with an open book on his chest. The bright orange words on the cover read The Dreams of Hammond Schuster by 60269.
Note: The balloon really did appear on my lawn the other day so it seemed appropriate to give a story to its possible circumstance.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Finding a Focus — A Creative Midlife Crisis

 (Ed note: I reposted this because somehow it got tweaked in Google and was not possible to click to.)

The Glass Vortex — one of my favorite curiosities.
Something I’ve been thinking about a whole lot lately is the idea of narrowing down my creative pursuits and really mastering just one thing. I apologize in advance if this post feels like a selfish digression into my confused state of mind, please feel free to stop reading here if that bugs you, I don't mind.
I’ve been accused of being somewhat of a dilettante — burdened with some kind of creative A.D.D. is more like it. I am at the point where the many things I like to do are all demanding that I give more to them if I’m ever going to improve and master them. I’ve already retreated greatly from my creative writing, and part of the reason for that is that my job at the paper requires my efforts in editorial feature writing. Since that writing is my main source of income and often the place where I feel the frustrated pressure of meeting deadlines and being a slave to my computer, I don’t seem to have any desire left for creative writing. Obviously my blog here suffers from this neglect.
I feel a bit of a heartache that the writers and writing circle that were fostered from blogging efforts of a couple of years ago (as a friend said recently, during the “…glory days of blogging”) have continued pursuing their finally focused efforts to improve and build upon their writing skills and I am not a part of it. I don’t know how to explain this heartache, it is most certainly my choice not to be focusing there…but it brings to light part of a point that I feel whenever I fall back from a craft. I feel like I’m missing out on something important. My friendships with fellow bloggers have also fallen into a kind of limbo and I miss those relationships. So there’s heartache there.
And yet that time of glory days of blogging was also a very lonely time for me. At the time of posting daily and spending hours a day reading and commenting on everyone else’s blogs, in the offline world I was a stranger in a strange land. I knew very few people in the community outside my front door. Now the opposite is true — partially due to my work at the paper, I socialize with a large number of people right here in the hood of my small town. It’s a trade though…and a harsh reality, but I can’t be online and offline at the same time and do friendship well. I don’t believe anyone can.
A complete digression — I think it will be interesting to watch what happens to society with this online computer addiction thing. Will society completely fall apart as everyone becomes so engaged with their computers, tricking them into believing they have a social life, tricking them into believing they are making a difference politically, tricking them into believing they are getting their work out there?
Who knows? I often wonder if computers are numbing people horribly and causing them to be useless as citizens and participants in the greater culture. Whatever the greater culture is, the computer is surely harming it, despite its very obvious good points.
But back to the track here. I have to align myself with Parsifal wandering through the mists seeking the Chalice. Sometimes I think about what it must look like online, my claims to be a photographer, painter, musician, writer, bla bla bla. And I feel like it must seem like a real ego trip. That’s not it at all, believe me. I do all those things but not necessarily all of them very well. Creative A.D.D. — I seem to travel in circles, not taking any one thing all the way to the top. I know this is a part of my personality — somewhat butterflyish, seeking the various nectars that each craft has to offer — yet truthfully, perhaps delineating a deep lack of self-esteem. I know and willingly admit that I’m left in these mists with a real lack of satisfaction and a general feeling of depression for what seems like no reason.
So here I am trying to brush away the mist for a minute, realizing that I need to find the stick-to-it-tude to take a thing from hobby to an income.
Here in my offline life, I used to focus on music as a source of income. My degree is in music, I was once a real life Diva and made a nice supplemental income singing for churches, events and California Wineries. Since moving here to North Carolina, music has become my outlet. I’m playing old-timey and bluegrass music with a bunch of other music hobbyists and with no expectation of an income, I really enjoy the fun of it. Although I might teach it at some point, just for the cash — and it is so satisfying to be a part of someone else's learning, to see them get a thing.
I no longer have of the luxury of just playing around, I truly have to make whatever I choose to focus on make money for my existence. That certainly does lift the mist a little bit and give the kick in the ass a girl needs to get in gear.
So… I’ve been dabbling in painting over the last couple of years, and I’ve invented a technique for texturing and colorizing that is unique. I’m accepted at a couple of juried art shows and one of those two has expressed a keen interest in what I’m doing. These shows are my last hurrah in painting, either they will be successful and I’ll sell stuff and I’ll continue or they won’t and I’ll quit. Or at least it will be relegated to hobby status and I’ll make them for my friends since my walls have no more room. And I like to paint, it’s relaxing…Although will I be happy painting the same kind of thing all the time simply because they are popular? We’ll see… It scares me that if I do make it sell, the painting will go the route of the writing, it will be what I do for money but not for expression anymore.
Can I digress again for a minute? Expression is part of why I started painting (and creative writing, and music). For me, art was therapy. I painted really weird stuff and it made me feel so good to paint, a true release. But that kind of painting doesn’t sell so well. Who wants to look at dark twisted art hanging above their sofa?
And yet dark and twisted art makes me jump for joy to paint. It’s hard to explain. Yet I do enjoy the peace of painting these textured paintings, and I love to play with light. So if it does make money, I can see doing it repeatedly and that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
And all my life I’ve dabbled in photography and I do mean dabbled. I have not learned much about this craft, and as I look online into the window of possibility, I see that in order to really get good at this lifetime passion of mine, I’m going to have to go to school. I do have a good eye, of this I’m sure, and I have a lot of fun experimenting with options, but I’m lacking the basic understanding that I need to take it to the top…
The other day a friend of mine challenged me with a choice, that if he could wave a magic wand and give me glory, fame, income all of that with just one of my hobbies, which one would it be — at the moment of asking I had to choose photography. And I certainly have been investing in this option lately, getting set up to be able to offer portrait taking.
But will it be the Chalice? I tire of Creative A.D.D. Yet the rebel in me cringes at the thought of choosing any one thing.
On another note, a more positive note, another highly creative friend, Stephen Parrish — who knows his focus well — wrote this book which has just reached number one in mystery sales at Amazon.com. He’s a major inspiration and a fabulous writer so go buy his book and read it because it’s awesome. (And Steve, thanks for the introspectiscope. ;-)