I - am an unfinished woman.
But - nevertheless
Will not be knuckled
Into this badge
The skunked-up oppression
The zippered-up pride
And, Oh yes, that novel!
Socked and shoed dreams
Bellowing to come out of the closet
Of secret thoughts
Afraid to be told.
frames khaki-green cottage;
white lattice moldings
contrast brown gosling droppings;
whoosh sings the breeze
down the jade colored highway;
soft feathery pine needles
kiss cheekbones that pass them;
forest darkness tempts
yellow-black songbirds waft
under emerand scented zephyrs.
When I consider love as a theme in two of the most recent movies In the Bedroom and A Beautiful Mind, I consider the power of the media and the real danger that it poses to Americans today. Somehow in my mind, I unite the concept of art with the concept of truth. Real life and love can be beautiful, but if it is portrayed in an art form, I expect that it will not be a fraud on the reader or observer.
In A Beautiful Mind, the theme centers on the concept of commitment and the willingness to risk everything for one's partner. The movie revolves around a young married couple; the husband, John Nash, is a brilliant mathematician, who suffers from schizophrenia. His wife was one of his students. John Nash is employed by Princeton University, and the Rand Corporation. Shortly after they marry, the husband becomes delusional and suffers from severe paranoia. Professor Nash has visions in which he sees and talks to people who are not there. Generally speaking, people who suffer from schizophrenia are no more dangerous to others than the general population. This is true with one exception - paranoid schizophrenics can be dangerous.
One of the more memorable scenes in the movie is when Professor Nash threatens his wife physically. The young beautiful wife inquires of him, do you think you are going to hurt me? The husband states honestly, I don't know. The disease progresses and he loses his research fellowship. The wife stands by her husband through many grueling years of no medication or therapy. Finally at age 68, he is awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for his research in game theory. Again, the cameras zoom in and focus on their love - love conquers all - and, incidentally, a woman should sacrifice everything, even her safety.
The problem with this portrayal is that the movie appears to present a biography, but it does not present the story factually. In real life, when Nash became dangerous, the wife did not continue to live with him. Instead, Alicia Nash divorced him, but later let him live with her and their son, John, when Nash became homeless. She referred to him as a "boarder." Professor Nash was involved in numerous homosexual affairs, which escalated to the point that he solicited police officers. He was convicted of indecent exposure and fired from the Rand Corporation. Thus the reality of their lives was hardly romantic and the lack of romance can be attributed to more than just his illness.
Alicia Nash was a sensible, bright, woman who followed the advice of Nash's doctors - your husband is dangerous, don't stay there. What if she had followed the Hollywood script and had continued to live with him? Then, you may have had a scenario more similar to that of In the Bedroom.
In the Bedroom is a film that does not glorify domestic violence. It is an honest portrayal of this social problem but highlights a different aspect: how does this violence affect others beyond the couple itself? I have never seen this issue tackled before, and found it most thought provoking. According to the movie, domestic violence not only affects the couple, but also the couple's parents, their friends, and the community in which the crime occurs.
As a new wrinkle on the domestic violence puzzle, the movie investigates the love affair of the parents of the victim and what happens to relationships when there is great tragedy. It also examines most poignantly, the heart wrenching questions of second guessing - how does one prevent tragedy? The movie explores the question of how involved we should be in our children's lives when they are young adults. How do you parent young adults anyway? The movie was somewhat disturbing and quite dramatic; it encouraged discussion with friends. I wanted to ask them - do you realize the perpetrator of the domestic violence would be punished under our legal system more leniently than the parents? Is that right? Why? Now how will the parents live their lives? Do two wrongs make a right? Of course I don't think so, but the art form and drama of the movie leads you down this slippery slope of reasoning.
The question arises, should artistic license be protected, or should Hollywood be required to present a public figure or a historical event accurately? For me, the answer to both questions is yes. When watching Camelot I enjoy the quality of myth and fantasy that the movie evokes, yet there is truth. In A Beautiful Mind, knowing the real story, the concept of inspiring love does not ring true. And worse, it could cause misguided idealists to fail to protect themselves when they are in real danger, for the ideal of romantic love. Hollywood, America is smarter than this.
Sometimes the momentum of our hurried duties - running from task to task - visit to visit - even fun activity to fun activity, fills us with an emptiness that interferes with our creative side. In the year 2002, I recognize the different faces of creativity and what it has come to mean to be a part of this group - and my reluctance to let go of it. This year we accomplished many tasks as a group that we should be proud of as writers as well as having a wonderful time.
The web site is something that does go beyond our small group. I don't know how many hits it has but I do know that many of my friends and acquaintances have enjoyed it and used it to further their own curiosity and writing skills. Yes, these same friends who will not darken our door to share their work have made a beginning and have looked at the web site - and yes, congratulations to you writers - the feedback has been tremendous. And, finally, one more word about the web site - Ohio Writer references the site in its latest issue. So many thanks to our contributing writers, financial supporters and all that do the work to maintain the site.
Another accomplishment is our public readings, especially the Enclave coffee house reading. In quite a few ways, our work did not differ too greatly from the Cleveland Poet and Writer's Reading which again many of us attended together this summer. Other memories are Inga's beautiful imagery, Luly's poems in Spanish and English and Ideyle's first date or was it her first kiss and all of that mascara running down her young face. And Michelle - winning honorable mention or maybe more - for her poem about snow flakes - I hope I remember that right.
Another memory is Ashley's leading of the meeting on characterization. Ashley had researched the topic, bringing in various reference books, but most of all generating a great deal of thought. We discussed Stephen King's On Writing and I remember thinking I could take an entire 10 weeks to study the topic of characterization and even more important, practice it.
The group also had its first guest speaker and they went on a field trip to the library to help each other find places to publish their work.
And then, the memory of Gary's voice, his insightful essays and what I want from him a story or two.
Yes it has been a very busy year for us writers with new tasks and challenges and especially the pleasure of going to all of each other's homes - sharing our writing and fellowship - that has been our gift to each other. So - keep writing!
The midnight blue waves rushed over the deck of Usilias. We just finished reading Ullyses at St. Paul's School in Latin class and the boat's name reminded me of Greek mythology, but my thoughts were just having fun with me. Just the Irish making a joke, Usilias, pronounced, you silly ass, a documented boat - no less. A boat with papers - a kind of birth certificate, my father's drive for status and recognition.
My insides are rocking and rolling from the movement of the lake. My legs clench tightly as I brace myself for balance. The sky is beginning to open and the rain is beginning to fall gently. I walk along the bow, check the lines, and listen to the voices at the helm. We are traveling six knots to see the fireworks this fourth of July. A beamy, navy-blue, striped, sailboat gliding along the most dangerous of the great lakes. And, all the boaters from our club are heading west, from the Chagrin River, to anchor near Edgewater Park. I cannot wait to witness the beautiful display of lights magnified like a silvery mirror against the lake.
Six knots is a good speed for a 32 foot sail boot. We were what you call "heeled over," that's how you make your time. But, strangers to navigation think you're going to capsize at that angle. She thought so. Kathy - my dad's date for the evening. I really like her. She looks a little like a skunk with thick black hair and wide gray streaks around her part, an interesting frame for her face. And, Kathy smelled wonderful, like she just jumped out of the tub, smelling like something green, or citrus, completely fresh. My father told me that Kathy used to be a nun. "Don't admire her too much, Jackie. She let the order pay for her law school education, and then bailed out on the sisters after only five years." But, I do admire her, Dad, Jack thought.
"Coming about" Dad said.
If boats were able to sail only before the wind and off the wind, it would be impossible to reach a destination point. We were changing direction to capture another opportunity with the wind.
"Full sail" Dad called. I liked our team-work, dad and me.
Like I said, I liked her too, Kathy. She was Sicilian, and she hugged me shortly after we were introduced. This could have been phony from someone else. But, she pushed my check right up across the softness of her breasts and I remember thinking, she means it.
Kathy wanted to be up for this occasion, so she dressed a little younger than ladies her age, in navy blue slacks, a navy-striped shirt and loafers without socks.Dad had to give her a pair of tennis shoes, because Kathy did not know about wearing boat shoes to protect the deck and not slip over the side.
Kathy told me stories about defending the Indians who committed crimes in Oklahoma. Only Kathy and a man called Jim cared enough about the Indians to try and defend them from a lot of crimes they did not understand. The Indians gave her a special name, meaning Special Counselor. She told me about the Indian myths, costumes and dances which made me wish I had been there with her.
At about 8:00 p.m. we spotted the Terminal Tower, and then a few minutes later, the mouth of the Cuiyahoga River, with great stacks of smoke streaming into the air - all bridges, barges, and industry. The red sun was just meeting the horizon as I was given the order to lower the anchor.
Dad broke out the scotch and Kathy had some too, much to my surprise. She began passing around the most amazing food. Yes, my mouth waters remembering the polenta, salami, salad and wedding soup she had prepared for us that evening. Polenta, it may sound disgusting, but, cornmeal mush with Italian red sauce, The sauce smelled of a good red wine and plenty of garlic. The polenta melted like butter in your mouth. I was going to pass, but she made me try it. After dinner, we all enjoyed cherry cheesecake and coffee, and I took a hit or two off Dad's cigar, my legs propped up over the side. Kathy sat next to me during the fireworks, her arm draped loosely around my shoulders. I would be turning thirteen in August, but I was quite sure she thought me a much younger boy.
Dad was handsome, in an Irish way, at forty eight, he still had thick black curly hair, a sailor's tan, and dark eyes covered by inky eyelashes. He loved to tell you a story or a joke. And he would look you in the eyes, and close his thoughtfully, and you would think that you could tell him anything. He joined the Navy when he was seventeen, and finished school by obtaining a GED. A contractor, by trade, he liked to put on a good show. Despite too much drinking and a paunch to go with it, women came on to him often enough. I sometimes wondered why, but his habit of showing off his money clip, a crisp one hundred dollar bill wrapped around the smaller ones, generally attracted the wrong kind, not like Kathy.
After the finale, we began to sail back to Chagrin Lagoons. The lake seemed to be turning silver and the rain began to fall more heavily as we began our fifteen mile trek back home. I always remember the lake being temperamental during July. As a matter of fact, most Fourth of Julys turned into something more like a storm, a fact I am sure Dad did not tell Kathy. As we passed the 55th Street pier, we began to hear the crack of thunder. Dad yelled to me. "Get the jumper cables!" I ran to the bow and after fastening them carefully, threw them out to bounce at the back of the boat, hoping that lighting would strike the cables, not us. The rain was falling hard, but vertically, and then it did a trick I have only seen on Erie, it began to fall horizontally.
It is times like this, that I think - this is it! Many, many times I have thought we were going to die out here, and I prepared myself for the inevitability. It was then that I overheard Kathy ask Dad, "Is the boat grounded?" They were up on the deck checking the lighting.
Dad's eyes changed expression as he responded "Quite a question for a first time boater." And then quickly, "or isn't it the first time like you said!"
"Have you been seeing other men on their boats, Kathy?" I could not see his face, but I knew what it looked like. I had heard this type of accusation before. My dad just did not like women much and trusted them less, my mother included.
I saw you talking to the maitre d when you left the table Saturday," Dad continued. "Do you really need all that attention from men?"
Kathy smiled openly into his eyes not knowing what was coming.
"I asked him where the bathroom was, Pat."
"Then, weren't you embarrassed to ask a man, something like that? I see you looking at men all the time. I wondered about asking out someone as old as you. At forty-five, you sure have a lot of miles on you."
By this time Dad was yelling for me, not from rage, but because of the sound of the wind and the rain. Then, the wind changed directions suddenly, and the boom struck my father on the cheek, knocking him off balance slightly.
"Son of a bitch!" He said.
The transition from the comfortable dinner to the ugly argument just a few minutes later was hair-raising. I began to grope my way holding on to the halyards and other riggings. Moving towards my father, but holding tightly to the lines so as not to go overboard.
"Dad," I said. "What's my next job?"
"Go back to the helm and monitor the autopilot. We need to stay near shore," said my father.
"Why don't we send Kathy down below, she can't help us anyway."
"Jackie my boy, leave us."
"I want to go into the cabin, I'm really scared," said Kathy.
"The fierce trial lawyer scared - well what do you know."
My father's tone softened. "Listen, Kathy, we'll be spending the night together here on the lake, it's too rough to return to the club."
"Please, Patrick, I have to work in my office tomorrow. I need to get back home, no matter how late." Kathy was pulling on my father's jacket. She was acting desperate.
Well be my guest, jump ship if you like, It won't be the first mutiny on my boat, just ask Jackie. But, where do you think you'll be going," said Dad.
"I don't know you well enough to spend the night with you, it's unseemly with your son," Kathy said quietly, but I heard her.
"Look if you're afraid to sleep out here with me - you can sleep in the cabin with Jackie. Be forewarned, he kicks like a goat."
Dad was back to himself again. He was soothing her fear and the lake was actually calming down. But, I was on Kathy's side. We really could make it back home. I had been worse conditions before - actually on Lake St. Clair. The shallowest lakes present the gravest danger.
So, I challenged my father saying, "Hey Dad, we can make it back to Chagrin Lagoons, no problem. Why scare Kathy any further?" It seemed like innocent advice. After all, my father had always told me I was his best man, his first mate. I had only offered my opinion. But, you know the feeling when you've gone too far with someone. You feel that adrenaline, that electricity - that dread.
I could smell my father's rancor just as sure as I felt his grip around my throat. "Why you ungrateful little creep, I ought to throw you overboard," said my father. We struggled against one another, I wriggling against his grasp, trying to free myself, when he lost his footing. His head struck the mast, killing him instantly.
I ran to Kathy for help, crying, screaming - not knowing the worst had happened. But, Kathy somehow knew. She pulled me to her hugging me, telling me it would be all right.
"Can you dock the boat yourself at the pier, Jackie?" she asked me quickly. "I'll try and revive your father, you get us in." As I nodded, I began the work of steering the boat in order to tie up at the 55th Street pier. Kathy was busy calling the Coast Guard informing them of the accident.
The authorities met us at the pier, along with an ambulance, two fire engines and several police cars. I was still hopeful that my dad would somehow be revived and come back to us; maybe be would make it and we could start all over.
But he did not come back. And they did not believe Kathy's story. I heard them reading her rights, while they took her away. I wondered if Kathy would give me away. And as for the police, they had arrested the wrong person as they often do.
Copyright © 2002 by Davida Dodson
Davida Dodson likes to write, and has been doing so since she learned how a long long time ago. She will also read and eat things occasionally, though never at the same time.