Monday, December 23, 2013

Mobiles and Stabiles and Books, Oh My

The other night, I had the pleasure of seeing the Calder exhibit at LACMA with a friend. It is a beautifully curated show. We enjoyed reading about his process and seeing the final products - the mobiles dancing in the air and the stabiles proudly standing their ground. At first glance, the mobiles look like simplistic childlike designs, but upon closer inspection the artistry really stands out. Geometric, colorful shapes are attached with delicate wire structures, allowing for balance and movement. The pieces are thoughtful, vibrant and even funny


The exhibit made me think of my own writing, or rather, writing in general. There is an illusion of simplicity and ease when reading a page-turner, when really the author most likely struggled with the same sense of balance, only with words instead of shapes.

I teach a class called "In Their Own Words: Artists Speak About Living a Creative Life" and in that class we talk a lot about process - the part of art that isn't really shown in museums, isn't necessarily talked about. To me, the process is the art - the art of discipline, of showing up every day to navigate some mysterious inner-compass, the art of failing, or missing your target, your vision not in line with what's coming out on the page or the canvas.
As I aim to complete the upteenth draft of my novel, years in the making, scenes written and then scrapped, characters born and then killed off, plot points determined and then eradicated, I'm counting on that ineffable feeling to let me know when it's 'done'. The final product - the mobile, the stabile, the book - well, that's just icing on the cake.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Chips: A Cautionary Tale

When you go to celebrate your friend's birthday at Red O, make sure you don't nibble on chips before the main meal comes, because if you do, you might inadvertently and unknowingly puncture the soft tissue between your two front teeth known as the papilla and 48 hours after the incident you might wonder, hmmm, did I burn my mouth on something? And then you will uncomfortably live with the pain for the next few days and wonder when it will heal. Then one night you will feel a heartbeat in your mouth and you will search for the dental mirror you bought yourself on a whim years ago at the 99 cent store and you will adjust your mouth in front of the mirror and gasp in horror at the deep red rash that has formed behind the two front teeth and spread to the roof of your mouth, dark and sinister. You will leave a controlled message on the voicemail of your dentist even though you are feeling frantic, because between the appearance of the rash and the phone call, you have checked the internet and everything on the internet leads to death. The dentist will squeeze you in the next day and you will sit in his waiting room as other emergency patients take up his time and you will think I'm going to die from a tortilla chip? And finally it will be your turn and he will stick his professional mirror into your mouth and stay silent as his headlamp burns your eyes and he will eventually sit back and speak about the periodontist that he wants you to see downstairs, and while phone calls are made you picture yourself in surgery, your mouth formed into a weak smile as friends and family ponder the incident. You meet the periodontist who agrees to see you even though she has surgery on another patient in a few minutes and she pokes around in your mouth and insists you take an Xray even though you haven't let your dentist take an X-ray in years because of that book you read by the neurosurgeon who said he absolutely believes in the connection between dental X-rays and brain tumors, but you allow her to take it because she starts spewing information that you already read on the internet the night before about infections and bones and now you're really scared, not just mildly irritated about how your day has gone awry. You hold your breath when she takes the picture as if that's going to stave off your brain tumor, and soon she shows you an image of your teeth, your gums, and the small infection that has already begun, distinguishable by the darker color in the gum area, and she gives you some pain ointment to swab on the area and suggests Vicodin because she says she knows what kind of pain you're in, but you stupidly refuse for no good reason, and then she hands you an antibiotic mouth rinse, and together you try to deduce how this all happened in the first place and she asks if you eat Capt'n Crunch cereal because she's seen this before in kids and you say no but you do eat a lot of Kind bars, nuts and seeds all smashed together to make a long rectangle, and you talk about other things you've been eating lately to which she oohs and ahhhs at your healthy diet and she asks if you've eaten popcorn lately and you think back to the other day when you saw FROZEN 3-D with your nephews but you didn't order popcorn, nor did you pillage theirs and then she asks about tortilla chips and you start to shake your head no but suddenly remember the other night at Red O, celebrating your friend's birthday and you ate them by the handful, dipping them into tantalizing salsas and shoveling them into your mouth, one after the other after the other and you say yes, yes, yes, and you both do the math and it fits - the chips, 48 hours later the pain and she puts you on a soft diet and tells you to take it easy, relax your jaw, try not to talk and the swelling should subside in the next few days and the pain will mellow and you will be back to normal over the weekend. On the insurance paper she writes "Chip injury" and you're sure the insurance adjuster is going to laugh and deny charges, but for now you are just so happy you are not dying from a bone infection or a brain tumor and you drive to the market, bypass the chip aisle and head straight to yogurt and ice cream, hungry for the cold to numb the crazy chip pain.