This past weekend, I cleaned out the garage. I clean it out every single year, except for last summer (can’t remember why not) and the cargo of life just stacked up even more. I’m tired of prefacing everything I share about my personal life with “I’m lucky to have a garage” (I am) and “I’m lucky to have stuff” (also true), but those obstacles of guilt get in the way of any point I am trying to forge. If you want to know how I feel about Western stuff, first world problems if you will, you can go to this link.
Okay. Back to this post, and my extended metaphor.
My coffee maker of many years broke. Big whoop. I bought it when I worked at Starbucks, and it got me through my Masters and other Real Life Adventures. Having worked at Starbucks, I did become somewhat addicted to lattes, and was quite a skilled barista. I could foam up even the most watery of dairy and soy products, and mitre the foam-to-espresso ratio with the precision of a Swiss watch maker. Corporation representatives, who pose as customers to check quality control, anonymously of course, would judge my lattes and Americanos as “to company’s expectations.” Yes, even Starbucks, or should I say especially Starbucks, has hidden QC. In any case: coffee maker –broken. On payday, went to Target, and grabbed what I thought would be a great solution, a Mr. Coffee espresso/latte maker. It wasn’t cheap, and in my impulsivity to get a problem solved (this is a recurring theme in my life) it went home with me.
This partcular contraption can’t do either thing well at all. Its doomed dichotomy of trying to be all things to all coffee drinkers is a big, fat fail. The cream/soy steamer is in the POT itself, and not a tube on the side of the machine. The coffee basket on the inside barely makes even one decent cup of coffee, and the water line is so low, that on a dark and sleepy morning, the water spills out the hole in the back unless one is very careful, and makes a huge mess. Having the steamer on the inside means I would have to pour out the coffee into a cup, pour milk/cream into the pot, restart the inside whisk device, and hope the impatient coffee doesn’t grow too cold while the milk froths. And then, because there was dairy inside the pot, I have to make sure I clean it out every use. I’ve taken to making the coffee in a French press while I steam the milk, and the final product, while delicious, is so far from practical it’s living in ridiculous. It fancies itself perfection, yet its disappointing design has become my new focal point of doom.
Now, you may ask, “Matty, when you saw that there was this issue, why didn’t you package it up and take it back to the store?” Well, the packaging got trashed, and I know the receipt is around here somewhere, and I may try. But it is embarrassing to bring a scalded coffee pot back, but perhaps I should. I don’t want to necessarily punish the good people at Target with this bad news, but perhaps Mr. Coffee should be made accountable for my poor judgment of his inadequate coffee delivery devices.
Now, back to the garage. Garages represent lives. They hold the layers of lives, of time, of past, present, and current needs. They should just house garage and tools, but for many households, this is not the case. My parents moved so much that their garages and basements always got a good cleaning out, but that has not been the case for me. I have to manufacture a mental “move” to motivate me to get stuff purged. And in our storage spaces, photo albums, and cardboard boxes we keep a fourth-dimension of memories, a paradox of who we are and who we are not.
(Stay with me here, please.)
Somewhere in between the bad coffee maker purchase and the garage project ’12, a friend from my professional musings/life and I were talking about what we’ve been doing this summer, and I mentioned that while I was not writing on my professional blog, but having a great time writing these little fan-fiction and fairy tales. He asked to read them (heaven help him) and so, with a caution about “my other life” I sent him this link. (I told him first I would need to “rally the avatars.”) Now I am in a position to explain, or feel I must, that again, I, “I”, am not the stories. They are just stories. But the blending of two worlds, awkardly, and shyly, did evoke some strong emotions in me.
But, when do I ‘come clean,’ and just write, with my own name, not a nom de plume, not a character in Azeroth, not as my job, or my other roles? Am I being a coward, or judiciously cautious? Or is the only person I am fooling myself?
While cleaning out the garage, I came across a portrait a friend and fellow art student sketched of me in college. I decided not to share his name here, for his own privacy, but here is a little snippet of it. I look at that image, and like a baby picture, I still see so much of who I am now, and so much of who I am not. I was a beautiful young woman, and like all of us who were once young, maybe we are not ever allowed to fully enjoy it because, well, we’re young.
One of the fine folks who was helping me with the garage stated, “We will do this once, and never do it again. It will stay clean.” Oh my gosh no. No! It does NOT work that way!! Even shrines need dusting and cleaning once in awhile. Things change, they layer, they shift, and our microcosms of our own environments and geographical landmarks reflect the movements and shifts of the planet, of the universe. Yes, the cosmos is in a box of weedkiller and Legos, and don’t you doubt it for a second.
So, I am the young woman in the portrait. And part of me is the avatar of Matty. True, another part of me is the crippled coffee pot, (because every object has a story), and part of me is the email from an old friend, or a great book I’ve read. We are greater than the sum of our parts. I just wonder if it’s time for me to stop trying to make this particular venue tap-dance and make ice cream, and just carve a different path. (Yes, start a new blog. It may take a machete and matches, but…)
I just want to remind myself, perhaps, that I do still exist in that portrait, and as I am today. I do exist as a character in a story, and in a real world. Perhaps my annoyance or questioning comes in play when I, or others, believe their own hype. Seriously: if anyone ever actually saw a Blood Elf female or Draenei male walking around their neighborhood complete and total bedlam would be the minimum response. No one looks like that, and to think for one second you are your avatar is complete nonsense. You are, and you’re not. Just like I am the woman in the charcoal, and I’m not. It is a fantasy game.
A fantasy game.
Just finished The Night Circus.
Stories have changed, my dear boy,” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. “There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The quests lack clarity of goal or path. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there is no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with its prey.”
(location 7060/7272 Kindle, copyright Erin Morgenstern)
Morgenstern, Erin (2011-09-13). The Night Circus (Kindle Locations 7061-7069). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
is important,” the man in the grey suit interrupts. “Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that.” He takes another sip of his wine. “There are many kinds of magic, after all.”
Morgenstern, Erin (2011-09-13). The Night Circus (Kindle Locations 7152-7158). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
The generations of spiders have a very different perspective of my garage purges. Black widows and hobo spiders see my clodding sweeps as devastation, the bits and bones of insects and small mammals are swept away with the multitude of objects who demand an answer to “why was I keeping this?’ and never receive a reply. As far the coffee maker, I am starting to enjoy an alternative ritual in the mornings.
In the real grit and grinds, there is magic, perhaps, after all.
Postscript: My artist friend? I am sure he is doing very well, and yes, making a living with art. My other friend? Like I said, what must he think of me now, and my stupid scribblings?!