A writer friend of mine recently posted an interesting photograph on Instagram. (Who said social media can't have a positive impact on your brain?) She called it, "Blackout Poetry."
And by that, she quite literally, took a black marker to the page of a classic novel -- in this case, one of my favorites, 'The Great Gatsby.' Yes, she defamed the page of a book, in the name of creative writing. I thought it was pretty genius.
F. Scott Fitzgerald might have been fascinated. Or offended. Or both. Didn't know him personally, but I cannot imagine that any writer would not be flattered on some level, as another attempted to breathe new life into their cherished work.
As a journalist, who dabbles in creative non-fiction writing, I was hooked by her unconventional approach. I wanted to try it myself.
So, here is my first attempt at Blackout Poetry, torn from the pages of Truman Capote's, "In Cold Blood." Why I've chosen this book is completely random. Just grabbed the first paperback I saw sticking out of the overflowing shelf, and flipped to an arbitrary page, forty-five.
The poem has nothing to do with the novel, but everything to do with how the words called to me, from the page itself.
My poem is titled: Odyssey of the Lost Man.
to exist without responsibility
in the solitary, comfortless course of his recent driftings,
He did give a damn.
No one else
had ever recognized his worth.
He saw himself-- exceptional, rare, artistic
He knew what he must do.
The journey's aftermath was up to fate.
Special Thanks to writer Jen Maidenberg for inspiring this post.
There exists a group of local Astorians, who are self-proclaimed, 'Pachang-ites.' Named after a local restaurant, where they like to gather.
They're the modern equivalent of the "Cheers" crew, circa 1980-something.
When someone walks into, this home away from home -- a warm greeting is always at the ready. Even newcomers, like myself, found instant acceptance and comraderie.
The group gets together to chat about life, love, lack-of-love, and yes, lack of sleep. They've been known to play a round or ten, of Cards Against Humanity on a Sunday afternoon.
Oh, and they like to eat - good food. And drink, the delicious adult beverages, carefully crafted by their favorite bartenders.
But sometimes things bother them. Afterall, Pachang-ites are only human.
Instead of expressing exasperation by spewing vulgarities, they like to keep it clean and classy. You'll never hear them drop and *f* bomb.
You will, however, hear them come up with some of the most clever one-lines.
Including a phrase, these creative compadres concocted, and like to use in the most perplexing situations: "What the Pachanga?"
Here's how it works:
For example, maybe a drunk woman places her handbag down on a chair, walks a foot away to talk to someone, then turns around and asks another woman where her handbag is, because she's too intoxicated to remember where she's placed it.
That's when you throw out: "What the Pachanga?"
If you stub your toe in the shower, I am sure a good loud, "What the Pachanga?" would certainly work. Your neighbors might think you're a little nutty, but do you really care?
Perhaps, you are driving and someone cuts you off. You could try a "What the Pachanga?" instead of flipping-the-bird. (Which also might indicate you have road rage issues).
As a hat-tip to our newly formed, and mostly unconventional pack, I had the phrase written on my birthday cake. We all got a good chuckle. And I am sure some of them were thinking, "What the Pachanga?'"
Well, yeah, "What the Pachanga?"was I thinking getting it written in blue icing, with pink flowers?
Oh, that's not what they meant.
On my way home from work, under the snow covered scaffolding, stood an older man balancing his weight with a wooden cane.
He wasn't too steady, and not so warmly dressed. His head covered with a cap, not a warm winter hat, and he had fingerless gloves, exposing the visibly chapped skin on his hands. He was begging for change. Said he wanted to buy something to eat.
Smart old man, if you ask me. His perch, the entrance to the uptown subway on Park Avenue. Also, today was his lucky day.
Over the past few months, my life has been a series of performing random-acts-of- kindness for complete strangers. Recently, I've just felt compelled.
Some may call me a random-acts sniper, catching folks in need in the cross-hairs of my humanistic aim. Today, it was just too damn cold, and this man clearly needed help.
I was on my way into Starbucks, anyway.
Seven inches of snow had already fallen, covering the ground in New York City.
Followed by freezing rain, whipping winds, and unbearable black slush everywhere. Regular folks needed to pack an extra pair of socks to keep the wet away from their feet. Did I mention that it was just too damn cold?
Once inside the way-over-priced coffee shop where I like to get my caffeine fix, I purchased two cups of hot, fresh coffee. Plus, I picked up a warm croissant, usually a splurge. Except, there were no pastries in my future. Today, this one wasn't for me.
After paying, I bundled up in my down jacket, which doubles for a sleeping bag, my flappy eared fleece lined hat, and gloves.
I walked back out to the man, who had been begging for money and said, "Here's something warm to drink and some food to eat." He put the just warmed croissant into his jacket pocket.
He looked at me strangely, as I held out the coffee cup to him. At first reluctant to take it, saying, "I'm just cold and hungry."
I said, "Take the coffee it's warm, it's for you."
He reached out his shaking free hand and grabbed the cup, as he balanced the other on his cane.
He told me he wanted a warm place to sit. I told him to go inside the Starbucks, just about 30 feet away. He seemed baffled.
I thought, maybe they've turned him away in the past? So, I said, "Go inside, you are a paying customer now, it's warm and you'll be able to find a seat."
Then, I descended the subway stairs and headed home.
Please try to pay it forward, folks. It is cold outside, and not everyone is lucky or lucid enough to have, or seek shelter.
But we can all do our part, in making the world a kinder place to live -
One cup of coffee at a time.
"Ladies, set your crap-o-meters," said my friend LKP, during a recent conversation.
Her tongue-in-cheek humor -- the cherry-on-top of one of the most crap-tastic days I'd had in a while. Still, she knew exactly what to say to me, in order to make me laugh, and fully seize the Crappy Diem.
That's right, when you're having a crappy day - you've gotta embrace it. Even if it means rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty. Facing the crap head on, is pretty much the only way you'll ever make it through a true S*** storm. Please note: this is far worse than being caught in a 'Shark-Nado.'
So, you may be wondering exactly how one measures the true level of crap?
Alas, I shall introduce you to the "crap-o-meter." It's totally unscientific, but completely sound.
Here's how it works:
(1) Did someone tell a little white lie? --> You're having a CRAPPY DIEM
(2) Did someone you trust, believe you actually bought that lie? --> It's a CRAPPIER DIEM
(3) Did someone think they were fooling you with their lies, and adhere to their own stories as the truth, and not have any clue that you knew the full truth? --> Congratulations, you're having a CRAPTASTIC DIEM (oh, and your friend is a total LIAR).
The best thing, is when someone makes up a story, and presents it as the truth. Don't you agree? (Read that with as much sarcasm as you can muster). Let's just say, when you vividly see a person's true colors, after observing a complete mismatch between their words and actions, it's pretty crappy. People can be really crappy to one another. Oh, and hurtful, too.
But in the end, the truth is... it's a no-win situation. You have someone who had a crappy day, because someone did or said a crappy thing. Basically, it all comes down to poo.
So, here's some advice:
You can avoid the CRAPPY DIEM, just by telling the truth. It's so simple.
Then, all you'll have to do is CARPE DIEM - Seize the Day. After that, who knows, it might even turn out to be a CARNAL DIEM... oh, you get the picture.
I have always been drawn to mirrors of all kinds; shiny reflective surfaces, which can show you everything, or nothing at all. Reflecting back the image we see of ourselves, and where left is right, and right is left.
Mirrors can have at times, what can only be explained as having a strange 'window' effect. For example, if you stare at yourself in the mirror for too long, you may not recognize who you are. The feeling of seeing yourself, and not recognizing who you are. Let's just call it, 'enhanced self actualization to the point of non-recognition.'
Have no idea what I am talking about? Try it at home. Stand in front of your favorite mirror, then just stare into your own eyes, stare at your face, look at yourself, really relax and stare.
You will experience a strange separation of mind and body, maybe only for a moment. I have no idea how to explain it scientifically, but I am sure plenty of psychology studies have been done looking at this effect.
All around my apartment, there are mirrors - strategically placed. Some might call me mirror-obsessed. Okay, I am. But I love how they open up a room, making it feel bigger and brighter than it really is. How they allow light to reflect off the walls, and other surfaces. How they allow us to see beyond our own dimension, in what we perceive as a 3D world.
The science of light, angles, refraction and mirrors are inextricably tied together for me. Remember, when you were a child, and placed two mirrors facing one another, and could see to infinity in both directions? The reflection of the reflection, of the reflection, of the reflection, ad infinitum. No beginning, and no end. Visualizing infinity, and getting lost in the image which you are a part of. It always made me wonder, and question why I could not see the end, or if there were other 'dimensions' in our own world, which we cannot see. I wanted an answer to my very own mirror conundrum.
And, to television I turned.
Back in the 1980s, on the television channel, Nickelodeon, there was a show, "Mr. Wizard."
He was the Bill Nye "The Science Guy" before Bill Nye had a show. For one of the host, Mr. Wizard's tricks, he showed a young child, whose head was seemingly floating in mid-air, like a disembodied head. Then, he showed the audience how the optical illusion was performed. You guessed it, with mirrors. That 'trick' not only make me realize that I loved science, and particularly science on TV, but it fed my fascination with mirrors.
And I am not alone. For the book and reading obsessed, I have put together a list of famous authors who have written about mirrors:
"A Hand-Mirror" by Walt Whitman (poem)
"Mirror" by Sylvia Plath (poem)
"The Silver Mirror" by Charles Bukowski (poem)
"Through the Looking-Glass" by Lewis Caroll (book) - entire book free online here
Award-winning broadcast TV/radio news producer for more than 15 years, with a real passion for print.
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