Friday, April 16, 2010

Dudes, Food, Words

(Another post that did not make the cut. This one was in January at the height of my inability to put finger to keyboard. Once written, I could not bear to read one word of this and almost deleted the whole thing in disgust until, to be perfectly honest, I just forgot about it and never got around to destroying it. Since this writing the Dude Harpy and my 15 devoted readers have succeeded in making me more positve about the writing experience.)

I've got a friend breathing down my neck for me to get back into the regular writing routine. We have long conversations about this. Maybe 'monologue' or 'harangue' are better word choices than 'conversation' which implies that I say something. There are beers and potato dishes involved in these interactions which keep me at the table. He may be a Harpy but he's still a Dude.

The Dude Harpy has very compelling arguments. He says I am squandering my potential. He says I have a story to tell. He points out that I wrote page after page every week for five years in my most recent ministry, but have not shown him a written word in five months. He says he will needle me endlessly until I bend to his writer will. In other words, he is the perfect friend in many ways.

I know dozens of people who would love to have a friend like this and I have given him all of their numbers.

But I am of the school that one should write only when one can't not write. I am of the Wake Up in the Middle of the Night with an Idea and Write Til Dawn school. I am also currently a card carrying member of the I Don't Feel the Writing Mojo and would rather work on my shrimp and grits recipe. The Dude Harpy has his work cut out for him.

I am also isolated these days which works for Billy Collins, Anne Tyler, and pastoral poets, but only makes me sour. I like people; lots of people. I love listening to people. I have found that most people have something fascinating to say but they have poor judgment as to which story of theirs is fascinating. Much of my joy in human interaction comes from uncovering that secret fascination within a person.

For example, I met a neighbor yesterday and talk turned to supper. I had made the shrimp and grits. We talked awhile about the heart of shrimp and grits as a cuisine. There were many single syllable utterances like, "Mmmmmm" and "Yeeeeeeeeeah" (being Southern, that second one can get stretched out to three syllables.) On principle he was not pleased with my use of shallots, but we agreed to disagree because we came to an accord more essential than shallots to shrimp and grits: butter is the tree of life. Once that accord was reached, nothing could tear us asunder.

As the conversation began to drift along elsewhere he put this out there: My wife and I had TWO shrimp and grits stations at our wedding.

Now that's a story. That's a fascination. Two shrimp and grits stations told me volumes about him, and his superb taste in women.

Since we do not live in South Carolina, to have the stations at all is beyond a culinary choice - it is a character move. That's a couple who say with pride, "We know good cooking. We love food with compelling textures and don't give a rat's ass if you got grits running down your seersucker suit. This is our party and we are going to enjoy it to the hilt. Oh yeah, and we don't like lines, so double the grits stations!"

I like these people, shallots or no.

But maybe that's just me in my isolation. In my limited non-family human interaction, I am finding the little details of every exchange fascinating. Here's another one...

Two weeks ago I reunited with one of my favorite Virginians whom I had not seen in five years. He's a trial lawyer. Other than my In House Counsel, and my lawyer/knitting buddy (I don't knit- she knits and gives me stuff: what a buddy!) I am not regularly putting Virginia lawyers above Virginia artists, musicians, poets, teachers, funeral directors, and children on my Favorite Virginian list. I'm not a lawyer basher. It's just that lawyers tend to like the Law and I like other things like, well, most anything more than the Law. The Law to me is like sauerkraut to a kid - I don't know much about it but I don't think it is my thing.

The Favored Virginian and I caught up, talked about lasagna recipes, and he told me about some of his cases. With a lawyer in the house, I hear case stories frequently. In House Counsel keeps the stories short because, frankly, I don't get the thrill of the courtroom because it seems to be all about the sauerkraut known as the Law.

What is all the law and order excitement? There is no band, no poetry, and they don't let you eat in courtrooms.

"Lives in the balance"? Yeah, okay. But they could at least let you bring a little homemade fried chicken in. That said, I greatly appreciate the stories of In House Counsel because he tailors them to my interests and he is often scratching my back when he tells them.

The Favored Virginian does not keep the stories short. He plays all the parts. Funny voices, mannerisms, odd colloquialisms, foul language... he includes it all, except for back scratching. This should disqualify the Favored Virginian from any further contact with me. That and his over-dependence upon cheese in his lasagna recipe. Instead, he makes it to favored status?

Here's my thinking on this: it does not matter what the Favored Virginian tells or that he LOVES the sauerkraut/Law. Watching a grown ass, articulate, professional man work his way through a five character, three act, courtroom theatre of the absurd by himself is a damn good time. I don't remember the cases - I remember the characters he brought to life for me. I would be a total sucker for him as a juror. As long as he kept telling the story, I'd want to hear more until I was completely overwhelmed by hunger and the need to hear a guitar. The Favored Virginian understands that sometimes the story can just run away with you. I love that.

Oh, damn. That's what the Dude Harpy has been saying to me for months. His whole premise is that the story's the thing. You keep telling the story and at some point you are able to capture more than what happened - you capture the fascination we are all brewing up inside of us. He thinks that shrimp, grits, lasagna, lawyers, beer... it all counts. It's all worth telling.

Maybe he will accept this as a forged hall pass on all of the not-writing demerits I have racked up. I sat down to whine and I ended up telling a story or two. I feel like the kid who accidentally ate and enjoyed the dreaded sauerkraut.


Chalicechick said...

IMHO, Dude Harpy needs medication or something. He's right about some aspects of what he's saying, but people don't do their best creative work when they are harassed into it.


Christine said...

Now, see. This is good. Sometimes paragraphs need to sit and marinate for a while before you put them out.

And I remember how I found your blog -- it had to do with food. I was going to meet friends for lunch at the Hermitage Grill, and so I googled it. You still show up as the 6th hit....

Anonymous said...

like this one . . . made me laugh and think . . . always my favorite combo

Death Becomes Her said...

Chalicechick, Dude Harpy would definitely agree that he needs medication and he has some very specific suggestions on what might do the trick.

As for me, I don't do any creative work without a swift kick in the pants. He and I are a good match, although I have yet to see what he gets out of the deal.