Friday, July 29, 2016

Mary Shelley Comes to Visit

This is an excerpt from my autobiography:

Often, I’d have dreams, vivid dreams, usually in color. I’d write those down too. I could tell when the dreams meant something and when they were just regular dreams. One warm summer night I had this dream:

I awoke to find Mary Shelley in my bedroom.  When I got up to put on a housecoat, I found Ernest Hemingway standing by the corner of the room.
Mary was trying to explain to Ernest how she came up with the idea for Frankenstein.
Surprisingly, she said that she drew his character and the idea for him from her husband, a neighbor and a friend … Frankenstein was actually a composite of people she knew.
Just then, Shakespeare appeared. He began to go on and on about how much the live theater had changed.  He seemed very upset about the changes. “She ain’t what she used to be,” he claimed, quoting an old song lyric. 
I remember thinking that he shouldn’t know the lyrics to “The Old Gray Mare”. It was written in 1843 and Shakespeare died in 1616.
I watched Mary, Ernest and William for a few more moments, listening as they discussed the theater. Finally, I told myself that I must be dreaming. So I left the bedroom and walked out onto the front porch. The moon was full and the night breeze was warm and smelled of herbal grasses.
Much to my dismay, I glanced around to see that the trio had followed me. Also, they had been joined by Edgar Allen Poe. He was always one of my favorites and influenced my writing quite considerably, so I was eager to speak to him.
Edgar turned out to be a glum fellow who suffered with depression. He didn’t say very much at all. He seemed apprehensive about something.
We stood on the porch for a while, just relaxing and talking about our favorite characters and stories. “Why don’t we go make coffee?” I finally offered. “If we’re going to stay up all night talking, we need some coffee.”
“Splendid idea!” remarked William, and he headed for the door.
“I’d rather have whiskey,” Ernest said, “but oh well!” And he too headed for the door.
Edgar pushed in front of Ernest and Mary, making his way back into the house. He went straight to the kitchen as if he’d lived there all his life, opened the refrigerator door and found a pitcher of orange juice. “Mmm, I’ll have this,” he said, going to search for a glass.
When everyone had their drink of choice, we headed back out onto the front porch to enjoy the cool night air.
“Get the door will you, William?” said Mary with a cup of coffee in one hand and a bagel in the other.
“Sure enough, Mary. And please … just call me ‘Bill’. William sounds too formal.”
Each of us found a chair and pulled them into a circle of sorts and there we sat in the dark drinking our beverages and discussing art, music and literature. Ernest kept wanting to talk about how much life had changed for “gay” people since his time, while William … or Bill shared his latest idea for a new play.
The next morning when I awoke, I lay in bed for an hour, going over the whole dream in my mind. It had seemed so real and I honestly felt like I knew those writers from then on. They were my muses now. They would come to assist me whenever I was struggling with a story. They helped me craft my stories from then on.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hurricane Wilma Bay St. Louis 2005

This is an excerpt from my autobiography:

The state of Florida had been hammered over and over in 2004 and 2005 by hurricanes Dennis, Jeanne, Frances, Ivan and even Katrina had crossed the southern tip of the state killing seven people. It seemed unthinkable that another hurricane was headed for south Florida. This one was called Wilma and it was huge and very dangerous. It formed in the Caribbean on October 15th and began its assault on Jamaica, moving on towards Cuba, causing destruction in Central America and Mexico. It was the 12th hurricane of the season and made landfall on October 24th in Palm Beach County.

As soon as I learned that it would definitely make a U.S. landfall, I started asking around about being transferred out of New Orleans and finally got my transfer around November 1st.  I was never so excited and happy to leave a place in my entire life.

I called James as soon as I got my transfer. “James, my prayers have been answered! I’m getting the hell out of New Orleans.”

“I can’t believe you’re leaving. There’s still months of work there,” he responded, clearly baffled by my decision.

“I just can’t eat any more chicken spread from the can or sleep on any more army cots. No matter where they send me, it has to be better than this.”

“Well, when do you leave?”

“I gotta finish the work in my pad, then I’m outta here.”

James was still working around the Bay St. Louis area in Mississippi. “Stop by and eat lunch with me the day you leave. There’s a Red Cross truck that comes every day at lunch. They usually serve your favorite: canned ravioli.”

I laughed. “Definitely. I’ll call you the day I leave and we’ll get lunch.”

“It’ll be good to see you again, girl!”

I could tell James was tired and lonely. He was homesick like all the rest of us. Most disaster workers were tired to the bone and had forgotten what a good home-cooked meal tasted like, but the money trumped the hunger and weariness. I had found my own way of escaping it to some extent: move to another disaster.

I finished up my applications and signed out of the New Orleans field office, saying good-bye to friends and co-workers who were there that day, then packed everything into my car one morning real early.

Our hurricane Wilma field office was located in Miami and according to the mapping software, Miami was about a 14-hour drive from New Orleans. As soon I hit the highway, I called James. It was already about 10:30 in the morning.

“Hey, I’m heading your way. Tell me how to get to where you are.”

“Just take highway 607 off of I-10 and head east.”

“Okay, see you around lunch time.”

I’d heard that the long I-10 bridge that spanned Lake Ponchartrain and went out to Slidell was intact and safe to use, so that seemed the best way to go. I hadn’t really been out that way before and was astonished that there was still so much damage. Seemingly, every structure lay in a heap of rotting ruin. The roads were fairly clear, but there was nothing at all but emergency workers in the area. Big trucks could be found traveling down most roadways, trying to repair electricity, cell phone towers and remove the millions of tons of debris.

I drove to the 607 exit and got off heading east toward Bay St. Louis. Sure enough, as I drew near, I could see the devastation. James hadn’t exaggerated at all. The whole town was nothing but concrete foundations that had been wiped clean. A lot of the debris had been carried off by the big trucks that roamed the streets each day, but a lot of it still lay in rotting heaps along the roadsides. I easily found the convenience store that James had described.

Before Katrina, it had been a big bustling place with lots of gas pumps where you could get hot dogs and pizza. All that was left was two partial walls and some huge chunks of concrete. A large piece of a red and white metal sign lay on its side at the far end of the lot.

James was already there. I pulled up next to his white convertible and jumped out. “Oh my gosh, James! You’re a sight for sore eyes!”

I ran over and hugged him and he held me for a long time before saying, “Hey girl, you need to spend a few days here with me.” He winked at me and grinned.

“Oh my gosh! What an attractive offer! I’d love to do that … you know I would … but I gotta check into the Miami field office by tomorrow.”

He stomped his right foot. “Damn! I knew you was gonna say that!”

I laughed. “When this hurricane season is over, you’ll come to Texas and spend a few weeks with me before you go home to Michigan.”

He promised he would and then started telling me how things had been going. James was one of those guys who never seemed to mind if he had to sleep on a concrete foundation or in his car as long as there was plenty of money to be made. He rarely complained and had his own system for getting the work done each day.

Finally, he paused and glanced toward the road. “Hey look, our lunch just arrived.”

Sure enough the Red Cross truck pulled into the parking lot and began setting up to serve the workers who would come each day.

“I prayed about this, James,” I said grinning. “They will not have ravioli today. Instead it will be something nice and delicious.”

James cocked his head and laughed. “You must be dreaming, girl!”

We strolled over to truck and said hello to the Red Cross workers. They were always really nice people, interesting to talk to. We asked them where they were from and how long they’d been away from their families and they asked us the same things. This is a type of regular greeting with people who work disasters.

We got our dinners placed carefully in white Styrofoam containers, then went to eat standing at the back of James’s car. His flat trunk lid made a good dinner table. It was a windy day but the skies were a pale blue and the temperatures stayed in the 80’s and 90’s.

“We had so much fun last year working in south Florida, James. I’m surprised you don’t want to go with me.”

He shook his head. “Just not sure it’s enough work. How many weeks you figure?”

I sighed. “Wilma was a big storm. She did damage all the way from the Keys to Jensen Beach. It could be several months of work.”

“Bet it’s not. Bet it’s only a month or so.”

I shrugged. “So? I’ll ask to get transferred back to Louisiana or Mississippi. At least I’ll get a break from that Hell in New Orleans!”

“How far is Miami from here?” he asked chewing a mouthful of beans.

I glanced up. “It’s 900 miles … about a 14 hour drive. I’m going to drive to Tallassee today and spend the night there. That’s only 400 miles. Surely they’ve got rooms to rent in Tallahassee.”

James nodded, gulping down the last of his food. “Things should be fine in Tallahassee. I don’t think they were affected at all.”

“No, not by this storm, but by hurricane Dennis … I’m pretty sure they got slammed by Dennis.”

“Yep, I remember that one. We worked along the Pensacola Beach area.”

“Oh yeah, what was that little town you worked?”

“Dustin … it was Dustin, Florida. Cute little town.”

I nodded. “We were lucky to get rooms right at Pensacola Beach. Those were fun times.”

He reached over and stroked my cheek. “That’s what I love about you, girl. You think a Cat 3 hurricane is fun. I can’t even believe you used that word. There’s absolutely nothing fun about dragging all our equipment around day in and day out for 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. There’s never any place to sleep, eat or pee. How do you get fun out of that?”

I grabbed him by the waist and pulled him close. “You know you love this life. We both do. It’s perfectly suited for our personalities.  You and I would stay out on the road and live in hotels and our cars for the rest of our lives if we could. Ain’t that right?”

He laughed then reached down and kissed me on the mouth. “Yes, as long we can meet for sex occasionally … I’d be good with it.”

We finished our lunch and drank our tea, then stood around at the back of his car talking for a few more minutes. Finally, I said, “Well, I hate to leave good company but it’s almost 1 p.m. and I gotta get to Tallahassee before the sun goes down.”

James grabbed me again, pulling me close and kissed me, nuzzling my neck and whispering about how nice I smelled. He made me wish I did have time to stay with him at least one night before moving on.  After ten minutes or so, he paused. “Well, have I changed your mind any?”

I raised my eyebrows, wrinkling my nose. “You know the work comes first, James. Come to Miami with me.”

He shook his head. “Just can’t do it. Making too much money here in Bay St. Louis.”

I leaned in to kiss him. “I will miss you so much, James.”

We took a few minutes to say our final good-byes then I got in my car and headed back toward I-10. All the way, I was dreaming of finding a real restaurant where you could sit down and be served decent food. And a hotel … a nice hotel with a big, soft bed. And clean sheets. A shower of my own. A coffee shop with delicious coffee. The trip to Tallahassee seemed to fly past, as I daydreamed of all these wonderful sights and sounds.

Leaving New Orleans was the best day of 2005.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How to Celebrate National Tequila Day

If I have a weakness, it’s hot guys with tight butts and Tequila…oh wait…that’s two weaknesses. Oh well, when we’re talking about good-looking guys and Tequila, we should start by throwing the rule book out the window anyway. Right?

Today is National Tequila Day, which we feel obligated to celebrate here in Texas because Mexico is on our southern border and the best Tequila comes from Jalisco. Nothing goes better with a plate of Tex-Mex food than an ice cold Margarita.

So today, we’re celebrating the blue agave plant, which grows best in Mexico, along with genuine tamales made by those sweet Mexican ladies. (Btw, please don’t tell us what’s in those tamales…hahaha!)

All I know is that spending National Tequila Day with a handsome guy, a bottle of Patron and some delicious Mexican food is Heaven on Earth! That’s what the wisest man to ever live, King Solomon said. He claims to have traveled the world looking for the meaning of life and at the end of his life, all he could say was:

“A man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, drink, and be merry, since this will stay with him throughout his struggle all the days of his life, which God grants him on earth.

Ecclesiastes 8:15

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The World Ended Today and You Were There

The world ended today and you were there
Wearing a gown of empathy,
A vacant gaze, costly jewels.

The moon turned an odd shade of orange
And found itself astray
Orbiting an absent planet,

The people searched lurid, angry skies,
Incensed their voices
Could not be heard above the din.
The din of solitude—
An isolation from thought
From reason, from logic.

They mourned the lack of caring
And gave away their citizenship.
And threw themselves
Headlong into the Pit of Despair
Swallowed, enveloped,
Forever extinct.

The above is my own poetic translation of Rev 6:12-17-

Rev. 6:12-17 And I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
15Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide usf from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17For the great day of theirg wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”

Copyright © May 2005 - Carolyn L. Sorrell – All Rights Reserved