Reunion

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On belonging to the cult of popular culture.

Published July 18, 2012 by mandileighbean

I really delved into my popular culture universe today. I started watching “Hearts in Atlantis,” which is a film based on the novel of the same name by my idol Stephen King, and it also stars Anthony Hopkins, David Morse and my new celebrity crush, Anton Yelchin. I got distracted by the pool and the incredibly – albeit dangerously – warm weather, so I’ll have to finish watching it sometime tomorrow. I read A LOT of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; it has to be the hundredth time that I am reading that glorious masterpiece of a novel. I watched “Weekend at Bernie’s,” solely because I will always love Andrew McCarthy, caught part of “The Fan” because Robert DeNiro is an absolute genius and debated who was the better actor with my sister: Leonardo DiCaprio or Edward Norton? It’s a total “Sophie’s Choice” because it’s nearly possible to claim one over the other. Also, I engaged in reality television with my mom and sister – some of it trashy, but mostly dealing with Gordon Ramsay and cooking. I also found out that the actor Christopher Meloni may return to “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” as Detective Eliot Stabler, and the Backstreet Boys have reunited with all five members and are recording a new album (this is especially exciting because Kevin Richardson has returned and he has always been my favorite. He was a Backstreet MAN).

Why am I bothering to immortalize all of this in print on the internet? Am I not just really wasting space with trivial matters?

Maybe.

 

But I believe that popular culture can be an incredibly effective and easily manipulated tool. It is a great way for humans to relate to one another. To offer a specific example, in the classroom, I try to make the literature being studied and analyzed applicable to the popular culture of the students. If the material is made relevant to their culture, it not only offers a solid opportunity for emotional investment, but also highlights inter-media connections which employ higher-level thinking skills. I also believe that if a celebrity – be it an actor, an artist, a writer, a dancer, what have you – expresses interest in popular culture and remains a fan, it endears him or her to his or her own fans, and creates a more intimate relationship which can prove extremely valuable in a number of different ways. It could be a great public relations move, in my humble opinion.

Whenever my mind wanders – and it does so quite often – and I daydream, I think about being on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show and being teased about my many, many celebrity crushes and dream that Ellen would bring out … let’s say Robert Pattinson, and I would be awkward yet charming and thereby endearing not only to Robert Pattinson, but to the audience. I’d be acting like a “normal” person meeting a celebrity rather than a celebrity meeting a celebrity; the population able to relate to the latter is frankly miniscule. I understand there is most certainly a flipside to such behavior (it could be misconstrued as unprofessional and immature and even embarrassing), but we’ve already discussed how life is a series of navigating fine lines.

This is why I can’t do math. My brain is filled with stuff like this – so much so, that there is simply no room for numbers or computations.

PROMPT: A man is given the ability to go back in time and change one event in his life.

PIECE:

“When you open your eyes,” a female voice, which was surprisingly stern, began, “you will be transported back in time to a moment of your choice.  Mr. Wallace, you are being given the ability to go back in time and change one moment in your life.  Choose wisely and do your best to anticipate all ramifications – some could be disastrous.  God speed, Mr. Wallace,” the voice concluded.

Lucas opened his eyes slowly, still totally bewildered by the wealth of just utterly bizarre information he was being forced to swallow.  If Lucas were to be absolutely honest, he would also have to confess that he was not even sure he could physically, emotionally, and/or intellectually accomplish such a daunting feat; he doubted doing so was even possible.  One moment, Lucas was stepping out of the shower and the next, everything went black and now, here he was ….

Where was that, exactly?  Heartbeat quickening, Lucas frantically turned his head from side to side as he was desperate for some context clues.  His eyes were taking in familiar surroundings, but they were surroundings that had not been familiar in about a decade.  He was in Maine, just outside of Ellsworth.  Lucas was surprised he even remembered the place because he had only been there for a week on vacation during college.  The place was significant not because it was a beautiful getaway location, but because it was where he had first met his wife.  He had been leaving the adorable, charmingly tiny motel and crossing the street to the roadside lobster stand that had the water at its back, and boasted an entire lobster dinner for only $15.00.  As he jogged across the primarily dormant two-lane highway, his future wife was just leaving, climbing into the back of a generic station wagon.  So impressed by her beauty and grace, Lucas made a slight correction in his navigation and arrived at her side just in time, just before she shut the door and drove back home with her parents.

What could he possibly want to change about that moment?

Lucas realized that technically, he was inside the cramped front lobby of the motel.  He had been signing something at the desk, making small conversation with the matronly owner and her young daughter.  They had just wandered off to tend to some business and he was getting ready to head out the door.  Lucas believed everything was right on schedule.  Why this moment?  He looked down at the desk and found his answer.  Upon the wooden laminate desktop was his grandfather’s fountain pen, given to Lucas just a month before he passed.  He had left it on the desk in the motel in Maine, and he had never seen it again.  Here was his chance to get it back!  Beaming, Lucas grabbed the pen and headed outside into the radiant sunshine.  It seemed like such a silly thing, but Lucas had always kicked himself in the ass for leaving the pen there.  The gravel of the parking lot crunched under his feet as he hurried towards the lobster stand across the highway, but his pace slowed considerably when he did not see a station wagon.

Had the moment of hesitation in grabbing the pen slammed shut the window of opportunity for meeting his wife?  Lucas felt very, very sick.

 

On not knowing.

Published July 17, 2012 by mandileighbean

In retrospect, today seems totally indescribable.  It wasn’t exactly busy, it wasn’t exactly boring, I cried really hard, I laughed really loud and I ate some good food.  Today just … was, I guess.  As a writer, one of the hazards of the job is that you look for deeper meaning and symbolism in EVERYTHING, absolutely everything.  When the meaning and/or symbolism is not easily found or discerned, I go into panic mode.  I feel restless, unsure about life, and suddenly quite overwhelmed by the enormity of the universe and existence.  I so desperately want for every single, solitary moment of my life to be filled with meaning – with excitement, drama, romance, mystery, intrigue, etc. that when it’s not, I feel empty and wasted.  Sometimes, I worry about whether or not I have bipolar disorder because my changes in mood and manic fits seem to fit the description.  Or is it just that I’m passionate, and should that be viewed as a negative thing?  I believe the stronger one reacts to a situation, the more that person is emotionally invested in the situation and has therefore developed a deep connection.  I want deep connections with others more than anything else, more than stable employment, riches and all material possessions.

Does that make me crazy?

To be honest, I had some difficulty composing tonight’s piece.  Maybe it’s because I’m not ready to look back on college with a sense of nostalgia because I’m anxious about moving forward.  Maybe it’s because I’m lazy.  Maybe it’s because I’m unmotivated, uninspired and selfish.

Maybe I just think too much.

 

PROMPT: “Four college bandmates who haven’t seen each other in years travel back to their former campus for a reunion.”

PIECE: Eric stood outside the ornate-looking double doors that served as the entrance to the so-called “ballroom” on campus.  He was rocking back and forth on his heels, in expensive shoes that pinched his toes and that had been purchased for this very occasion.  He had been so excited to see Tom, Ted and Joe; as he was driving up the coast of the Garden State, he had been reminiscing about old times and glory days.  He remembered the way his thin chest had swelled with pride when the four of them, cleverly named Quatrain of Pain, had played at Homecoming and the student body had embraced them and really liked their sound.  That night, beneath the lights in the Student Center that hung over the stage, Eric believed for the first time that his dream was attainable.  He could be rich and famous and followed by adoring fans.  Hell, after all, he had the girl.  He remembered looking down and into the crowd for that wide smile, and remembered wanting to vomit right then and there in front of everyone when he realized that smile was not meant for him.  In reality, Kelly had been smiling at Tom.  To make matters worse, Tom had been smiling right back; smiling and winking and shamelessly flirting with the one woman Eric had ever really and truly connected with.  The last time Eric and Tom had a conversation had been that night, and it had been brutal, just short of flying fists.  It had been the end of a friendship, the end of the band and the end of a dream.  Eric had watched Tom leave with Kelly, scowling even as he slipped an arm around her tiny waist.  He had been animatedly saying something and when Kelly looked back over her shoulder at Eric, Eric had wanted to die.  Taking a deep breath, Eric returned to the present and eyed the double doors with a real sense of trepidation.

On the other side of the door stood Tom and he was looking out at the crowd.  People with beaming, genuine smiles moved from table to table, mingling and catching up.  Tom shoved his hands in the front pockets of his khakis and remained where he was.  He had wanted to join in the frivolity, but something was holding him back, nastily whispering in his ear that he had no right to show up, not after what he had done to Eric and Ted and Joe.  He had ruined the band, ruined a shared dream and then systematically and swiftly cut them from his life.  When he walked in and had spotted Ted and Joe across the room, serving as the center of attention for a small crowd who were all laughing with their heads thrown back, he had started to walk over, smiling in spite of himself.  He had halted suddenly when he saw Kelly walking over.  The break-up had been apocalyptic; Kelly had undergone a procedure which ended a life Tom had helped her create, but never said anything to Tom about it until it was over.  Tom had shoved her hard, bruised her and said some harsh things he could never take back.  He stayed where he was, lonely and self-pitying.

Ted and Joe had made it out of college unscathed.  Sure, they had been upset when the band disbanded, but they had each other and so they survived.  After college, they had moved in together.  Ted worked at an engineering firm in the city and had just started dating a coworker.  Joe was playing music in local bars with different bands at night after doing custodial work at the local baseball stadium during the day.  He was planning to move out with his longtime girlfriend, but was waiting for the right moment to tell Ted.  For now, they would reminisce and have a good time and save all the complicated, messy bullshit for the morning.

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