Jugaad

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From the Oxford English dictionary: jugaad, n.                                                    [‘A makeshift automobile constructed from inexpensive materials.’]

Because of my mother’s need to lighten her burden after my dad left, Melanie and I rented a house alone.  I was just out of high school and Mel was fifteen.  I drove a Honda scooter that could barely carry two up a slight incline.  Still too young for a driver’s license, Mel bought a ’51 Dodge for two hundred fifty dollars. 

Its humped contour, combined with the brush-painted lilac exterior looked like a lurid Easter egg rolling down the streets.  The driver’s door handle and latch were broken, and exiting meant Melanie had to coax her window open and undo a brass slide bolt screwed to the outside of the car.  

Every night that summer, we cruised Kansas City in her car with an unspoken permit for good girls gone awry.  On one of them, we attracted five boys in a three-tone rumbling jacked-up jugaad.   While they followed us down Main Street, our friend hung her torso out the front passenger window.  Before long, a dark green sedan with two women materialized beside us.

“Pull over, you little whores,” the Medusa haired passenger yelled.  

Melanie and I looked at her and sang our go-to for disapproving adults: ‘What a drag it is getting old.’

“If you know what’s good for you, stop your car.”  Mel sped up.  The Dodge sputtered.  The driver forced her to jump the curb onto the empty sidewalk.  The only thing The Dodge’s tires had in common was baldness, and within seconds, two were flat.

She hit the brakes and I said, “Keep going, Mel.”

“I can’t drive on the rims!”  We learned that from our mother.

“Who cares about the rims if we’re dead!  Go.  Go!”

By then, Medusa was outside our window.  “Get out of that heap.”

Nearly petrified, I managed to lean toward the window and say,  “What could you possibly want.”

“I want you to get out of that car.”  In an unfamiliar work type uniform, she stood taller than our mom who was six feet, one inch.  “Where is your mother?”

“None of your beeswax,” Melanie said.

To no avail, the woman grabbed the dead door handle.  Her rage prevented her from noticing the slide bolt right next to it.  I reached across and opened the passenger door, shoved our friend out, and as we scooted across the seat to follow, our tormentor captured a handful of Melanie’s luxurious tresses.  

“Steph, she’s got me!”  Turning back, I gave the woman’s wrist a quick karate chop, she let go, we stumbled onto the sidewalk and into the arms of the boys from the jalopy.  In all the commotion, we’d forgotten about them.

As motley as their car, all five circled us, including a Vietnam vet on crutches, one leg missing.  The oldest, tall, dark, and Buddha soft, grabbed the swinging passenger from behind.  She thrashed and screamed, “Little whores, they don’t know what they’re doing.”  

“They’ve got the message,” he said, barely above a whisper, “You need to stop.”  As if hypnotized, Medusa collapsed and the episode came to a close.  The boys drove us home and Melanie quickly replaced the Dodge with a red Volkswagen Beetle.

Back then, I believed our independence and luck were beyond cool: they were epic.  It took many years to recognize our nocturnal forays for what they were: a need to be seen.  Otherwise, we never would have collided with the viperous Medusa and her particular desperation to exercise adult supervision.   

Photo by Marissa Bridge

 

#6: Phrontistery

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Definition of Phrontistery: noun, a place to think or study

My niece, Hayley, jumped into bed in the middle of the day and covered her head.  We were on vacation near Sarasota, trying to balance homework with a good time.  Through a muffled voice, she kept saying, “Leave Me Alone.”

A junior-high paper on the pros and cons of gun control was due in three days.  Her parents stood on each side of her, and opposing ends of the issue of weapons and permits.  They were gently unified in their goal that she just start writing and all would be solved.  But a contest of wills ensued, and Hayley popped her head out from the blankets.  She said, “I’m thinking!”

I butt in with, “In her mind she’s working on it.”

What looks like stalling to others can be vital to the process of getting in the chair with a firm concept from which to build.  My strategies include whispering to my orchids, talking to myself, or arranging new vignettes from my vintage French pottery collection.  The gym is good for finding the rhythm of a dialogue, but running errands kills the day.  So does a lot of talking with others during peak writing hours.  Hiding under the covers wouldn’t be my choice, but when Hayley came out, she was ready to write.

Creative concepts naturally happen in all kinds of situations.  But to grasp from the ethers the perfect phrase, a well thought out essay, a finished book, or to write as a spiritual practice, a phrontistery is required.  I need proper ergonomics in an aesthetic environment, and silence.  Otherwise, Good Ideas Gone By is the only story there is.

Photo of orchid by Marissa Bridge

P.S:  For the rest of August, Marissa and I are suspending this column.  We need to sink into our individual phrontisteries and work on bigger projects.  Bearing much gratitude for you, our followers, we’ll resume soon.

 

 

Resurrection Two

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When I began the first of 36 weekly posts last Sunday, I did not think of saving the title of Resurrection for Easter.  It was the first day of Spring, with signs popping up everywhere, and until then, my blog lay dormant for two years.  Hence, for this Easter installment, Resurrection Two.  

The last two years I have been tied to the writing of three different columns.  With all of them now over, ideas are gestating until the next one comes along.  The discipline of deadlines is good for all the writing I do.  In the meantime, I’m working on a book of essays about hard learned lessons, and collaborating with Marissa Bridge on an art book called Blossoms Journey.  

Using the metaphors of flowers and Easter, may I remind you that we have many chances to renew, to come alive in another form.  Whatever you do, avoid missing out on them.  Every stage of life brings another possibility of resurrection. Find each one, live it to the fullest, and today, have a Happy Easter.

 

For Remembrance, For Gratitude

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 When I spend time with Marissa Bridge and Joe Lamport on Long Island, the sounds of the birds and the breeze rustling the leaves, the grasses, the sleepy pace, strolls to the water’s edge, the big kitchen of their beautiful house, they all remind me of an ideal of childhood that never happened.

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 Many Eastern philosophies state that yearning of any kind: for the past, for an imagined and specific future, for a lover’s arms, they all cause suffering and are disguised but thwarted impulses to merge with the divine.  The pain of yearning can be solved by merely stepping from the needs of the individual personality  into gratitude for the majesty of this universe, for the fleeting time on earth.

I resist nostalgia because it’s unproductive, but nostalgia is exactly what I feel when I am out there with Joe and Marissa, like stepping into a loving home where the most important thing in the world is found in a single moment on a summer day without a care in the world.

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Remembering innocence and all who were here and now gone.  For my mother, Jacqueline Urdang, whose favorite flower was the Iris.

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  Marissa’s is the orchid.  She’s seen from the upstairs guest bedroom window, carrying one to her painting studio.  Click here for a previous post on her works: A Life In Flowers   Gratitude to Marissa and Joe for making their home a welcomed place for my heart.

A Life In Flowers

In the recent past, life has been very hard on the old men I know, including my father and those of close friends.  It’s such a dramatic cycle, I keep calling it No Country for Old Men.  As sad a time this is for so many,  it’s as natural as the different stages of a blooming orchid stalk.

#11 Orchid Series 2012-13

A little over a month ago, my dear friend, Marissa Bridge, visited her father for the last time.  Right after that, at ninety eight and a half years old, he left this world.  He lived so long, Marissa never thought he would actually be gone.

#6 Orchid Series 2012 folio

She’s a painter and actively engaged in an ongoing series she calls The Journey: all different stages of one orchid plant.  It symbolizes transitions in life, the passing of time: growth, maturity, and last but equally dynamic, decline.

#14 Orchid Series 2012-13 folio

With eyes on these paintings, and face to face with her, my pink heart blossomed.  Honoring cycles of life with the orchid as a metaphor, it is her hope that future viewers will understand something about life just by looking at them.

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 Whether painting orchids or lilies, Marissa is painting herself, her beautiful life in flowers.

For more loveliness go to: www.marissabridgestudio.com