Today my law partner and I went to Tortilleria Ranchera, where the gordita plate comes with corn masa tortillas fresh enough to savor. Behind the cash register, photos of someone are pasted to a wall--perhaps the owner's daughter, a young woman perhaps a bit older than high school age. I look at these pictures, of a smiling, attractive young woman among her friends, and I mentally supply an entire plot for the life of someone I have not met and will never meet.
We go out to eat at the Thai restaurant a few blocks away, where the talking heads on television obviously discuss the conviction of a fellow named Scott Peterson for the California murder of his wife and unborn child; thankfully, someone has turned the volume down.
I watch the last snippets of the situation drama on television about the teen who talks directly to God, and the show uses the coolest effects to have the teen simulate juggling lighted balls in mid-air, complete with a charming moral about how in life you juggle things a lot. I watch on a science fiction show called Stargate:Atlantis, in which everyone realizes that they awakened from a dream, and that everything around them is not real. At dawn on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy tells the flawed murderer Andrew that life is not all story.
I sometimes think that life is all story. I don't mean the false kind of story, or the kind of story you can write experimental fiction about. I mean that so much of the living of life lies in the narrative of tale upon tale. The key is to try to find the true story, but it is a truth based on truths within as well as mundane searches for facts.
In my story, the crisp, chill weather outside is a harbinger of happiness, of delight in a master bedroom which remains warm in winter, of delight that our lhasa apso, though groomed with short hair,
luxuriates in the cold air on her fur. Her instinctual story may involve self-talk of her forebears in Tibet. I wonder, sometimes, at the narratives which animals tell themselves.
They say that people are the story-telling animals, but I suspect that all living reality has its story.
The discovery of unexpected occult methane on Mars causes television reporters to tell me a story of
life elsewhere. Bowie's old song "Life on Mars" enchants me, the refrain and melodramatic piano flourish one of those haunting little moments, just like the "Paris or maybe Hell" section of "Aladdin Sane". I love the way that jazz tells so many stories without words, just cool and emotion and sensation and wrapping one's mind around the sound, but rock tells its stories in words and thrill, which also has its virtues.
I remember those childhood stories--the doorknob in the hallway looks like a demon when the nightime light shines on it. I had a reflecting telescope from the J.C. Penney catalog, through which I'd look up not only at the moon, but also at M 42 and the Saturn. The tiny, pinprick light, with a barely detectible ring protuberance, was part of the story in which during my life, planets would be discovered and space explored. I was nearly 10 when Armstong strolled on the moon, and I remember that sense of seeing someone on distant dark stillness, so far away. The story has a bit of solitude in it, for everyone, I think.
I think that sometimes the stories get out of control, and people become so wedded to one way of looking at things that they miss all the other ways to experience and change things. I prefer watching stories that work out in interesting and constructive new ways.
I got in the mail the alumni magazine for my law school, which was very impressively done. I loved seeing what had become to a few schoolmates. A woman a year ahead of me is the local bankruptcy judge in her neck of the woods. But 3Ls soon to graduate are also featured, with their pictures, just as they were featured in a little booklet when I was in law school. One is from Gurdon, where I grew up, and is a dead ringer for a man with whom I went to high school--the only question in my mind is whether I grew up with this father or with his uncle. Another is, I believe, the grand-daughter of my father's long-ago medical office staffperson. All the kids, young and old, have such promise as they stand where I stood 20 years ago.
I love how most of them are from tiny universities in Arkansas, and that most of them will stay in Arkansas. Only a very few people did as I did, and left to go elsewhere. If you had asked me when I was 21, I would have said that leaving Little Rock was the last thing I wanted to do. But so often, my story has little plot twists, take it all around, which is curious because my novel lacks much unconventionality.
Next week I must go the part of New Jersey which is really Philadelphia, more or less, and then out to Los Angeles. The week after next is Thanksgiving. This weekened I have work errands and personal errands and a world of things I wish to accomplish. But at the end, I just want to advance the story to its next step, and face the next set of days.