Thursday, July 15, 2010
I never could play Landslide all the way through without making a mess of it. But I tried.
Believe it or not, but once upon a time, I had a couch. I also had some "art" that I composed myself. It was truly horrific and amateur and would most likely get me banished from most art-loving societies, but it was my own bad art so I hung it with reckless and nonsensical abandon. I owned a rickety piano that I rescued from a friend. Ancient and fiercely upright, it fought me when I played it like a petulant child-- stubbornly refusing to stay in tune. After months of pounding and fuming, I eventually learned to play it as it wanted to be, and one day we simply stopped fighting.
And one day, I simply started writing music again.
I used to own an apartment full of painstakingly refinished furniture that I trekked all over Los Angeles to find...at yard sales, and estate sales, and thrift shops. I became the proud owner of a monstrous pink, antique desk that I purchased from a manic furniture artist named Claudia who lived in Venice beach and wore nothing but paint-smeared caftans that billowed and ballooned like psychedelic clouds around her enormous and frenetic frame.
Thanks to Claudia's sheer force of will and an inherent inability to comprehend failure, that desk made its way into my second story bedroom window via a series of precarious pulleys and gnarled ropes that creaked and moaned as they heaved the gargantuan thing up into the light of a dying Los Angeles afternoon.
I still remember the day I bought it, and how excited I was that I would finally have something substantial to sit behind as I wrote. How the desk made me feel like I had finally made it, as a writer. "This will make you famous one day!" Claudia beamed at me, her blue eyes twinkling behind reigns of smeared mascara as she stood triumphant and bold beside the hulking monstrosity now holding court in my bedroom.
That night, as I sat there at my new desk, I hoped she was right.
Of course when I moved to my next apartment, I left the desk in that second story bedroom. There was no place for demonstrative furniture it in my new home. Some things are meant to be left behind I guess.
But then I bought a chair. A white chair so enormous and cloud-like and magical that I never wanted to leave it. I'd melt into that seat for hours, writing blogs with my laptop perched upon my knees, smoking cigarettes and drinking wine into the forgotten hours of early morning.
I called it my writing chair.
When I left Los Angeles, I sold my magical writing chair to a woman up the street, who also purchased most of the furniture in my apartment. Her name was also Tara. "It's like you were in my head and knew exactly what I was looking for!" she shrieked the day she drove up to my yard sale and hopped out of her SUV.
"This is exactly everything I need and want! You have my everything!"
Sad as I was to see my everything go, I was comforted by the knowledge that my things would at least get to stay together, if not with me, with some other Tara who loved them.
Every once in a while I wonder about the magical chair. And the big pink elephant desk. And the ornery piano.
Today I remembered how, every once in a while, I'd turn off all of the lights and ignite every candle in my apartment and sit with the things I had accumulated and worked for during my life. I'd glance around at my stuff and remember how we all got there, and at what cost. In the dim and flickering shadows, somehow it all came together. The bad art, and the writer, and the piano and the dreams.
Sitting here in North Carolina with only the clothes I showed up with and not much else, I don't really miss the things that much.
Except the chair.
I do miss the writing chair. I wish I could buy it back and I am sorry that I sold it.
Some things are just meant to keep. Even if it means dragging them across the country. Even if they're a big pain in the ass to haul. They're worth the expense, and the pain and the irritation.
Not because they mean anything on their own, or have any intrinsic value just sitting there...but because they remind you of what you can be.
And somehow, they inspire you to be it.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Today, while getting ready for my job as a hostess at a chain restaurant that entails me pulling on a uniform that makes me look like I should be scanning your Tampax at Target, I got sucked into a favorite movie from my youth: An Officer and a Gentleman.
For those of you too young to know, (and I can’t believe I have friends too young to share this knowledge with me)…but the actor Richard Gere used to exist without gray hair. He used to be kind of gritty and dirty and vulerable in a real enough way that made him believable in this life-changing part as a guy from the wrong side of the tracks who does right and becomes a charming Naval Officer.
But I’m not here to talk about how good Gere was in this film and how he went from being an Officer to a Gentleman, even though he did a great job at being both.
I’m here to say that as I stood in my bedroom in my own uniform, flat-ironing my now-graying hair, I heard the young Debra Winger character say something to Richard Gere ‘s soon-to-be Officer character that stopped me in my tracks.
She was talking about the factory in which she currently worked with her best friend. A factory just outside of town. I don’t even think the screenwriters ever tell you what it was the factory manufactured. Just that it was a factory where people worked their lives out, and where they presumably toiled until they died.
The line that stopped me was a line I’d never heard before, even though I’ve seen this movie approximately 15 times in my life. The line was:
“My mom is almost thirty-nine years old and has been working in this factory for her whole life.”
I know writers are always yammering on about how someone’s heart stopped. How her heart stopped, or his did, or the cat’s did or the whole world’s did.
And I know it is cliché.
But mine did too. As I stood there, almost thirty-nine years old, stepping into black, hideous, non-skid shoes, a pair of tan pants, and a threadbare red t-shirt, on my way my own factory… mine did too.
I hadn’t heard that line before, or cared much about it, because it wasn’t relevant to me, and now, suddenly, it was. And it made me view that film in a whole new light. Not as a hopeful, young and naïve girl, waiting for her hero to come to the factory to sweep her away from the hopelessness, but as a 38-year-old woman who knows better.
This woman who knows better finally understands that no officer or gentleman, or soul mate, or pr-job, or overseas adventure, or 401-k plan, or god for that matter, can ever truly change the rules of the game. A woman who knows better knows that no matter what happens, the compromised life she climbs into is hers, and hers alone, as long as she continues to choose to climb into it.
The Officer and a Gentleman movie now made me mad and irritated and snarly, for all of the right reasons---which is how most truths tend to come at you. Truth tends to rise from the shit festering way out in left field, where the seepage and roughage of life tends to settle.
And from there it beckons and taunts and dares you to wear it, like an armor.
And if you are courageously dumb enough to do so...that shit might one day, when you are not even looking for it, when you are not even caring about it,...when you are not even remembering why it even existed in the first place... but that truth, cloaked in the most foul-tasting shit, may set you free.
Tara Elizabeth Callahan
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Saturday, December 19, 2009
And b=You are screwed
And c= Now you’re stuck and moving backwards in time and next year instead of living in your parent’s home you will be living as a single undifferentiated cell in your mother’s left ovary.
And I have thumbs.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The petulant visitor worried the deadbolts on the front door as she sat in the close and airless room---a tinny Glenn Miller track trilling.
"Don't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me.
Anyone else but me.
With anyone else but me..."
She stood up and checked the locks. Then she checked them again. And one more time. Just to be sure.
He was sneaky, this snake-oil-slinging swashbuckler poised outside her door. He was also unexpectedly patient. More patient than she could ever hope to be.
The trembling tip of her cigarette leapt to life with each reckless inhalation as she contemplated his infuriating endurance.
Hiding inside the inky darkness she remembered the time he knocked on her window in Denver, and how, by the light of a waning moon, he somehow convinced her to move to Los Angeles, California where she didn't have a job. Or friends. Any home. Or a plan.
It would not be the first time she'd crumbled.
"Just pack your stuff. Just go!" he'd harangued her as the moonbeams puddled at her bare and frigid feet that stood in an apartment she could no longer afford, when he convinced her to move from New Jersey to North Carolina.
"Just one thought, can change your life."
And so, she left. She always left eventually. Even after "sitting on her hands" like her friend Debbie Devito had taught her to do whenever she contemplated saying or doing anything incredibly stupid or juvenile.
She sat on her hands a lot.
She also did a lot of leaving, because her gentleman caller was charming and alive and he smelled like the beaches in San Felipe and the hotel rooms in Europe, and cross-country Greyhounds, and vast open spaces and how you'd think think freedom would smell, if it had a scent.
The grandfather clock ticked off the fading moments of indecision as she wondered if she had finally outgrown him. If the fanfare and the new had somehow lost its lustre, or allure.
"Be fair to me and I'll guarantee...
I won't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but you, till you come marching home."
She placed one hand, upon the door.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Skin Deep Beauty
As I stood at a gas station eking out its squalid existence on a stark stretch of road just south of nowhere, I glanced up to see a billboard sign emblazoned with a six-foot-tall elk head. Under the unfortunate head the sign read:
The ancient gas-pump coughed and whirred, its dingy mechanical digits heaving skyward as I propped myself on the hood of the car to ponder this macabre omen.
It was all very The Hills Have Eyes meets Night of the Living Dead and as I watched a discarded Diet Coke can rattle across the parking lot, I was fully prepared for a team of lurching zombies to burst out of the men's bathroom armed with a rapidly mutating virus and gargantuan elk heads.
I'm always fully prepared for something plausible to happen.
As the hairs leapt to attention at the base of my skull and the goosebumps on my arms sprang to life, I got to thinking that right about now would be as good a time as any, to own a gun.
Thankfully the gas tank filled and I hopped into my ride and sped away before I was forced to fend off any infected undead or homicidal maniacs. But my manic brain couldn't leave the taxidermy sign alone and while fishing around on the internet a few hours ago, I stumbled upon a website that was in some ways, creepier than the shiftless little zombie-infested service station.
"Learning Taxidermy the Fun and Easy Way---on DVD! 40% off the perfect beginner course!! Four-DVDs including Deer, Fish, Duck and Squirrel!"
Grotesquely intrigued, I clicked onto the informational link where an audio clip of a waxen and lifeless looking gentleman (pictured here)
informed me that whether I was simply looking to save hundreds by doing my own taxidermy---or looking to make thousands of dollars by starting my own taxidermy business, this was the course for me.
That audio must have been recorded right before his business partner turned him into a bipedal mount.
Now, far be it for me to find fault with someone else's hobbies. I mean, I have some whoppers of my own so I try not to be too judgemental. Or mental.
But taxidermy? I don't know. I think that might be a deal-breaker. Like, say I was asked on a date by a super good-looking guy who shared many of my dreams and aspirations, who didn't have any ridiculous emotional baggage and happened to be the head surgeon at Duke with a summer house in Vermont that he flew his biplane to every other weekend.
Say that same guy asked me out on a date and we got along like peas and carrots and laughed until our sides ached.
If that same guy brought me to his home and shared this little hobby with me?
I'd shut it down. Post haste.
It just seems that the next logical step after skinning an animal and stretching its chemically- treated flesh over a stuffed semblance of that same animal---- is skinning a date, and stretching her chemically treated flesh into some sort of suit jacket.
Call me crazy.