Saturday, February 2, 2008

The importance of creating

Creativity was the essence of Marcie' uniqueness. Marcie surrounded herself with creativity and engaged in it.

Marcie not only created things of beauty but also appreciated the creations of others. Books, meals, movies and architecture, singers, composers, and artists of all stripes gained her appreciation and patronage.

As Marcie worked towards her English degree, she leaned most of her class selections towards the study of not just literature, but the arts as a whole. She reveled in visits to the various museums, libraries, movie houses, bookstores and music venues San Diego has to offer.

One notes that dwindling numbers of people appreciate, much less engage in, the process of artistic creation. One also notes the tendency people have to push children and teens away from the arts and humanities and into professional degrees. If they are not pushing degrees, it is tradesmanship in place of craft.

The demand that we specialize, homogenize and even self-marginalize eats at the capacity we have to appreciate or even tolerate those who do not. Often, this pressure to pursue practical functionality ends the artistry or the common person. The world wants everyone to fit in a certain niche and function there.

We are called, as we go through life, to focus like a laser on one field of endeavor at a time. That is wrong. People are multifaceted.

The brutal nature of our society's outlook on our fellow human being is an outgrowth of this conformity-thirsty, aesthetics-rejecting mandate. The greed in our economy for orderly and predictable inputs from pliant and contributive laborers demands that all who avail themselves of less hard-nosed pursuits than wealth or advantage, and those that presume to pursue happiness in a manner another can profit from, be somehow "corrected."

At the same time, those who deem themselves and those they will hire worthy of art's rigors tend to preclude the mass. Snobbishness, competitive, money-focused nastiness, an exploitive studio culture and collaboratives that serve more as cliques than schools do not merely drive off the common creators. They also have fallen into the mindset that the paucity of colleagues is due to some special elite status, as opposed to what it is, the slow alienation of creation from appreciation. The same can be said for literature, film and music. This all must end.

Just as we do not always know when an idea will become a usable technology, we do not know when a piece of art will become relevant in a way the mass can appreciate. But if the mass is engaged in the creative process, perhaps that lag time between a permutation of art as a novelty and as an institution will shrink. Perhaps the idea that art is "before its time" should be examined more closely, to assure that saying, "before its time," does not actually mean, "we are not ready for the world to go there."

Sometimes the brutality is that of the cold-hearted allocation of few resources to the creative, the different or the conventionally unemployable. Consider the beauty of someone whose every word is written in a deeply poetic inner voice, silenced for years by society's brutal dismissal of her. How many Peyton Goddards wrestle with their own "ires-epic" today, undetected? Every one is a great loss.

The drive to create must be inspired and supported in every person who ever wished to express themselves, as much for their pleasure as for their profit. Every person who paints needs not be a master. Photographers should display their shots. Actors and performers should find a stage. Those who sang should continue to. But this does not happen. Instead, criticism, pseudo-sympathetic entreaties to "more productive" pursuits and the difficulty of paying the price of creativity winnow the ranks of the artist, the singer, the bard and the chef.

Once a person has been pushed away from the creative well by the pressures of post-industrial and the snotty gauntlet of their discipline's "scenedustry," I have noted that it sours them on the field itself. The artist cannot reject their own participation without rejecting some part of the form they were ousted from. This means that art loses twice when creators cease to pursue their craft.

Marcie constantly prodded and cajoled her creative friends to pursue their gifts and their urges. I will try to as well. I am officially starting a little movement I will promote personally.

I call on all of you who created in the past to stay in touch with that, to revive it if if has faded, to follow it closely if you have let it go and to start creating in the manner you choose. Return to museums and dancing and movie houses. Sing, strum a guitar, draw something, take photos, cook a meal with your own special ideas in it or just tie grass into little woven bracelets.

Even if such a movement were only to increase the number of grass bracelets in the world, to invite any one person back to any creative process successfully is something to be celebrated. All should push for the common creative to be reborn and the neglected talent to be recognized and renewed.


Friday, February 1, 2008

Some Reminders...

Sunday, February 3 will be the last day to cut and paste the sauce and dinner recipes, including the nutty rice. Please save them now.

You should send me an email when you want to speak privately. Sometimes, I do not have your email address and you don't necessarily share it with me when you post. Keep it in mind, folks.

I will get around to listing Marcie and my stuff on Ebay, Amazon, etc. I will replace the Amazon store to the left with her and my items when I do.

If there is something personal you want of Marcie's and have not told me, please do. This also goes for long-lost friends, old coworkers and relatives who have been recalcitrant. No, you won't haul away bags of loot, but I would like for our loved ones to have keepsakes of some personal value, and I am trying to also lighten my load before I start my work.

One last reminder: you all have stories and dreams to share. Especially for you who woke early in the morning Oct. 29th, I extend the invitation to share with everyone here. Everything we celebrate about Marcie's life extends her reach not only in our own lives and hearts but in those of the people you sharing will touch.

This weekend I plan to take some pictures of our old house, intersperse them with pictures of Seamus in it, and maybe take some shots of the old Suncrest Place and Casa Arleda. We'll see.

Much love,

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Marcie and baking

Many of Marcie's friend knew her as a skilled and creative baker. Certainly her family did. Her brother, mother, father and various friends all received cakes for their birthdays, as did I. It's another element of her that I miss.

Marcie had her own way of baking, but was taught her skills by her friend Terri Dambrose's mother. Mrs. Dambrose watched Marcie and her brother Bobby after school for years while Barbara and Bob worked at a bank and General Atomic, respectively.

Marcie was an apt student for Mrs. Dambrose and Terri once complained to me that she was jealous that Marcie was more interested in cooking and baking with her mother than playing with her.

Marcie never received a recipe book from Mrs. Dambrose, but chose to take a few recipes here and there, add her own touches to them, and make them her own. Things ended up richer, more chocolate, fluffier, denser, or any variety of states of improvement or modification Marcie thought to try out.

None of it ever failed to please.

If one thing was certain in Marcie's cakes, it was that there would be buttercream frosting. Butter, sugar, and any of a wide variety of flavors and spices, from vanilla to cinnamon and cocoa to coconut, all eventually turned into a dense, sweet spread that could only be applied after the cake had cooled.

Her chocolate cake was the most sought-after. Deep, almost black cake with a dark brown chocolate icing that was not only a thick coating but also a filler for crevices. There was never a piece with too little frosting on Marcie's cakes.

I had my first cake from Marcie long before my first birthday with her. She made a cake for herself for her own, as much to share with her parents as it was to please her. She made and extra one, a little minicake for me to have while she stayed the night with them.

It was a revelation. I had had good cake before, when my relatives baked. But this was decadence in miniature. She truly could have sold her cake to coffee shops and fine dining establishments, but she never would consider it. Baking was for love, not money.

Baking was also a social connector for Marcie, and luckily I had just the person for her to connect to.

Grandma Pruett made me cakes for my birthday after my mother left. Grandmommie Girvin, my great grandmother on the maternal-maternal line, who Marcie never met, also did. Both were bakers of cakes in the "from scratch" tradition, just as Marcie was. But Marcie never met Grandmommie Girvin, who died when I was still young.

She did meet Grandma Pruett. Grandma had to cook for 17 kids, but that did not mean she watered down the quality. She wove flavors of Hawaiian and Portuguese cooking into her meals, something I recognize now in the flavors of my youth.

Marcie loved her for a lot of reasons, and they conspired and shared at our family functions for hours. She was crushed when Grandma died. She could not attend the funeral as she had just found out about her own cancer. It was a tough time.

But in their heyday, Grandma and Marcie regularly traded baking secrets and cooking tips after they finally met, not to mention plenty of stuff about me, I soon learned.

Marcie learned to substitute some of the pineapple juice from a can of it for some of the liquid in an pineapple upside-down cake, and to use it with brown sugar to make a good topping, too. She also learned that I was a sleepwalking Houdini-child who liked to escape from dead bolted homes and curl up with the neighbors' dogs.

Grandma loved to share, and we have a lot in common that way.

The one realm in which I never stepped with Marcie was baking. I could never quite get into it, true, but she would chase me out of the kitchen if I tried. However, I did make her candies, using a recipe I will share when more time has passed.

I do not miss all of the extra pounds her baking put on me, but I do miss that joy she had in making her cookies, her cakes and even her pies, which she hated but indulged me on from time to time. And of course, I miss sharing sweets with her.

I miss, most of all, her giving me surprise plates of cookies or little treats she had baked up. Sometimes, it was just because she had been harsh in a fight, or just because I had done something I did not know she had observed which pleased her. Often, it was just because

But it was always a treat, and a loving gesture. I miss those most.

Her recipes are safe for now. I plan to share them with friends and one friend has the big collection for a project. But for now, with all this talk of cooking and Marcie and my time in the kitchen, I just wanted to share the part that was simply hers.

I was no assistant beyond an errand boy when Marcie baked, and no expert beyond a taster for her batters and creams and frostings. But I was her biggest fan, and i could watch her for hours, that is, until she chased me off.

Or until she gave me a blender beater full of dough and chocolate chips.

G'night folks,

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Wok

It is often the case that I say too much. This can be to the embarrassment of others or myself, and I am one who needs to work on such habits. But it is also the case that at times I say too little and deprive the people I love of what they deserve to know.

Such a thing came up when Christina and Jane visited. To be forward, I was hiding nothing, I just thought better of sharing what first came to mind. But I realized afterward that I should have been more forthcoming.

It started with an innocuous enough comment.

Christina wandered in as I prepared the rice and started the stir-fry. She saw the wok before I loaded it with food and began to cook,

"Look at that wok," she said. "That is a well-seasoned wok."

Instead of responding directly, I took a second and asked, "Hmm?"

"That's a well-seasoned wok," she reiterated.

I nodded to buy myself more time, and then chose a simple, "We've had it a long time." I looked into her eyes and smiled, then began to cook.

There was a reason I had to pause. It's how I buy myself time to not blurt out whatever is on my mind and sometimes save myself embarrassment or pain. I have a tendency to do that, In this case, I should have just shared.

Food was central to Marcie and my life. The taste of food was important, but the ritual of it, preparing, serving and pleasing each other from creation to ingestion was ritual akin to the high mass of our own little uniquely culinary religion.

Our tools and spice rack and utensils and pots and pans all have innumerable meals under their belts. But the wok is the oldest of them that is also unique to us. No other cooks used it, just the two of us. And until recently, only we had eaten from it.

I should have sit Christina down on the kitchen step with me and told her that I bought the wok with her and cooked her a stir-fry meal in it as the second thing I had ever made, the first being chicken fettuccine Alfredo. She loved it, and we fell in love a little deeper.

I should have told her that, for 14 years, Marcie and I cooked for each other, sometimes together, with the wok the central focus more often than not. Countless dim sum, sauces, vegetables, meats, spices and oils have burned in it and burnished it. All of them have left a mark.

It is a deeply layered wok. Every mistake, every experiment and every success in our relationship is preserved between layers of flavors and heat and colors that themselves are changed by those that came later.

Here is our Szechuan fascination from our early dating days. Here is our first dim sum night, where the blackening is as much from an oil fire as the cooking, because we forgot to turn off the stove as we pigged out while watching the X-files. Here is the big brown ring that never came out after I left her sweet and sour, pineapple and pork stir-fry in it overnight. Other interests left dishes for the morning.

So many others, and some I can still discern in the ringed metal of our wok.

The food we cooked each other was intended to nourish our bodies, hearts and love, and it did. The wok is the record of all that, and a reward for our love, our gentle creativity, and our very joyous collaboration. Every tryst is marked by a taste in its darkened metal.

I could have shared it at the table. I could have told Christina and Jane that they were eating a meal fourteen years in the making, then explained the wok, and the bamboo spatula and the day I bought them, and all of what I have written.

I didn't, even though I was thinking about it as I arranged the Thai tomato ladybug sculptures I had first carved for Marcie and served them both.

But that pang of guilt and moment of hesitation when Christina mentioned the wok, which passed and left me with regret, was replaced by the warm glow of their company, and the explanation slipped my mind again as we lay later, languishing on the couch.

I was too content.

I should have made it a conversation then. However, I have no regrets. I am opening that conversation now, for everyone to share.

To my two San Francisco angels specifically, though, I must say that I was honored to have you eat with me, to taste a little of what fourteen years of my wife and lover forged in iron.

It was wonderful to share that with you two, Jane and Christina, and to add a little layer to the wok with a flavor all our own. I look forward to many layers with your flavor in them. And I hope our wok fed your soul as well as your company fed my heart.

As for the rest of you, let me know when you would like a taste, too.

Good night, folks.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Marcie's Wisdom

I never fully woke from Marcie's passion. But I remember a distinct transition from the lingering touch of her lips on mine to a warmth all around me as I came close to waking but fought to sleep.

I woke suddenly to her voice.

"So, honey, what are you going to do?" she asked, taking my hand. her own was warm and her fingers were strong, supple my hand.

"I don't know," I said, and felt hot tears with it. "I guess I'll go see you in Europe and Africa when I can, and you can come see me."

She whispered hoarsely, "Okay, Frank, you do what you think is right."

It was a stock answer, or so I had thought over all those years. Her hand squeezed a little, and I looked at her.

She was of an age I had never known her in. She looked to be 19 or so, and she was dressed in a familiar outfit I knew I had never seen her wear, a long black lace gown that went down to her ankles.

She stood and I did as well, and looked down and saw the suit I had never worn before her memorial. She smiled and we danced.

"If you do what you think is right, you'll be fine, honey," she said.

I nodded and she went on. "I hope you do everything you want to, honey," she said. "You need to get out there and do your thing. I really meant what i said."

And I gulped. It was all old words, words she had said before. The idea that I was in a dream, asleep began to intrude on our little, fantastic reality, and then it fled.

Marcie was glaring at me.

"You need to listen to me," she said. "You need to do all these things you say you want to do. Because from now on, I am not there to blame for what you don't do with your life."

I nodded and took a deep breath. The heat of tears again on my face, and this time I imagined my vision blurred with them. She stopped dancing a moment and wiped my face, kissing me lightly.

"I love you," she said. "I told you what I wanted from you."

I nodded and she recounted her wishes for my life. She gave me oddly specific instructions about myriad events I don't clearly recall but apparently should expect.

I do recall that she told me to avoid the home in Big Sur, it was going to slide into the Pacific after an earthquake. But then she reminded me of our situation with a single sentence.

"I want you back for myself," she said.

I felt a great pain in my heart as she said it, and felt as if I could not breathe from the pain. But it soon passed and I closed my eyes in the dream, though her voice continued.

"I said I will love you forever, and you said you would love me forever, too," she said. "I'll come get you when it's time."

She looked up so sadly at me. "When you have to go, remember I am here waiting and that this all only does us part in body, sweetie."

I nodded. "I'll see you soon?"

"You come find me," she said.

And I woke to the alarm, which I let run for a while in the bedroom. After I turned it off, I slipped under the covers and slept dreamlessly. More importantly, I slept in our bed for the first time in almost two months.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Backed out of the selling...

So, I thought that it would be easy to get rid of some of Marcie's old clothes. I'd make a few bucks, bank them, and have a friend come over and spend time with Marcie's things as we sorted through them... but I couldn't.

Yesterday, as I sorted through Marcie's clothes and shoes and personal things, I could not find one piece that was without meaning or a memory. The first fifteen minutes or so of sorting were wistful, the next nostalgic, the quarter hour following that was progressively heavier and sadder until, finally, I could not continue.

I'll try again eventually. Someday before I leave, I hope. I am glad that the Frock You folks, when called, had remembered other plans themselves and were very understanding. Thanks, Kirsten.

Just in case

I know you don't need all these clothes.
They protected you from a cold
which no more will chill you.
You shopped for them all with such care
they cannot fulfill you.
You've no need for dresses like those.

I know you don't need these old shoes.
Your feet won't walk, on rue or avenue,
or in a green spring field.
They cannot lift your lips to mine
no matter how high-heeled.
The memory of steps now a muse.

Your luggage isn't needed now.
You took no suitcase or roller,
no handbag to depart.
Your carry-on was our life here,
inside, you packed my heart.
No baggage our well heeded vow.

Lingerie still lies in the dresser.
Your wore it all for a lover,
who now cannot thrill you.
The lace, satin, silk, skimpy cover,
the shape in them still you.
Couture for ardor's confessor.

I should not hold on to all this.
Your clothes might well warm someone cold,
you luggage bear them home.
The shoes may replace soles grown old,
to help travelers roam.
Dispersed to the world, none remiss.

You don't need these things but I do.
A shoe is a walk or a dance,
I see you in each dress.
Every bag and suitcase a chance,
bits of you to possess,
A boudoir of your soul, built by you.

You don't need the clothes to appear.
For now, though, I keep them in place.
You may not expect them to be here,
but for now they are here, just in case.

Good night, folks