Liar! I am a liar!* I really have no explanation for my two year plus (?) hiatus from writing, other than I did not feel the pull towards the computer. It was not that I was living in Ohio instead of an exotic location because, man, sometimes Ohio feels exotic enough, let me tell you. There too is always the excuse of the domestic front: looking after family, cleaning, chores, putting away and eliminating years’ worth of accumulated crap. (Or not.) I will say, however, that it has been two years of transition, two years of reading, two more years of bible study, and last year, training for the last stage of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain, which I completed with Maria the Dentist in September. We also sent another kid off to college. Life marches on and mine does not proceed in a linear fashion.
In an attempt to restart my writing, in December I looked for my well-worn copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, preparing for a year of resolve. I couldn’t find it so had to order another one; I know absolutely I have not given it away. Access to a library has been one of my American thrills but Bird by Bird is a book in which you have to underline, so – plop! click! – into my Amazon shopping cart it went. One of Ms. Lamott’s exercises is to write from the perspective of a policeman. This I found rather prophetic, as the protests in Ferguson, Missouri were occurring nightly. Another is to write a scene in which you are stuck in an elevator with someone you loathe. As I had just finished reading her newest book, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, I thought it would be entertaining (for me anyway) to write a scene in which she, George W. Bush, and I are stuck in an elevator. As I read Small Victories I kept hoping that, with 43 out of the Oval Office lo’ these past 6 years, Annie might have backed off her references to the former President. She did not. Oh well. Having said that, mightn’t it be time for Ms. Lamott’s axe vis a vis Dubbyah to grind to a halt? Since she is a Christian? Just wonderin’.
Now, before we actually get to the 13th floor, where the elevator is stuck and I really need to go to the bathroom, I have gotten most of the chitchat out of the way (the other two are pretty much open books so no need to rehash): that before my 17 years as an Expat Princess (14 of them in 3rd World Countries), I was born and raised right up the road from her in Humboldt County, that bastion of die-hard hippies, where the signature scents at the local theater were migraine inducing patchouli oil, layered over weeks of unwashed bodies, the top note of the melange being the acrid smoke of Humboldt Bud. My parents, publicly educated by the University of California’s finest schools, were a few of the county’s few registered Republicans. The majority of their friends, however, were of the other political persuasion. Spirited dinners were the hallmark of my childhood. It is also important to note that my parents are still married. Likewise, I am still married. I am also a Jesus freak, of the Episcopalian variety, and I embrace my inner-hippie – probably not as much as my inner-prep, but more so as I age. This is my world view.
Before we get started, I would like to issue a huge DISCLAIMER. THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION. I HAVE NOT MET EITHER ANNE LAMOTT OR GEORGE W. BUSH. ALSO: I AM A RUSTY WRITER.
EEPP: In the same two week period I read your newest book, Ms. Lamott, and listened to President Bush’s book 41, about his father, former President George H. W. Bush. I enjoyed them both immensely and was actually surprised that I enjoyed the audio version so much.
AL: The same two week period? That is really muddying the waters! Didn’t that goon’s voice grate on you? [She points to the former president, sitting in the opposite corner, his cowboy boots stretched out across the floor].
EEPP: No! Unbelievable, right?! And then I read Unbroken, which was a bad move during Christmas. I wanted to read it before I saw the movie. I clenched my jaw so hard in my sleep I could barely eat the next day. Having just listened to how 41 was rescued and how Louie Zamperini was not, it made for some interesting conversations with God …. anyway, as you and Mr. Bush are both Jesus Freaks, what do you think Jesus would want us to take with us out of this elevator?
GWB: Understanding. Ms. Lamott, I know we are not going to win each other over to each other’s point of view, but it would mean a lot to me if we could just agree to disagree. History is going to be the judge, not either one of us – we don’t have perspective. I want you to take comfort from Abraham Lincoln’s words etched on his monument, “With malice towards none; charity towards all.”
AL: I am not sure I can get there. Maybe I will read your book. Really, though, I think Jesus would want me to get GWB to relax his views on a plethora of subjects.
GWB: Okey dokey, then. I will read your book, Ms. Lamott. Laura sure likes your writing. And with Jeb considering a run at the White House, it is safe to say that my views are already in jeopardy.
EEPP: Mr. President, you recently came to my town and raised money for the local community foundation. Tickets were $2500 a pop. I did not attend. Admittedly, I am way out of the loop so truth be told, even if I had had the money, I didn’t know about it until my friend mentioned her daughter was helping with the book signing. In any event, we are currently paying for two college tuitions, among other things, so that was a little out of my price range. How about doing a similar event for the masses at a much reduced price?
GWB: Well, I would love to do that. I know Condi has been to one of the other events in your town and everyone really enjoyed that.
EEPP: Super! I will hold your cowboy boots to the fire then. Now, switching gears, Ms. Lamott, perhaps my favorite essay of yours in your new book is Matches, about your year of dating on Match.com. Hilarious! Very, very courageous of you. I was going to tell you that perhaps you should consider dating someone outside of your political tent but then I read Retirees Share Secrets to a Happy Marriage in USA Today and changed my mind. Having said that, do you think you could ever change your mind, about anything?
AL: Yes. I am constantly changing my mind about what I think about you. You’ve gone from chatty to obnoxiously intrusive.
EEPP: My back teeth are floating, frankly, so this is helping me keep my mind off my dire situation. So what or who do you think Jesus would want you to be praying for these days?
AL: Poverty, prisoners, improved healthcare. No wars.
GWB: World peace.
EEPP: I am currently praying for Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American-Iranian pastor, jailed in Iran, the girls abducted by Boko Haram, and the Jordanian pilot who had to eject and was captured by ISIS. Basically hostages. I am praying the headlines. The French nation is foremost on my mind today. Je suis Charlie.
AL: Good ones, I’ll admit.
As the voices of the elevator technicians float down from half a floor above, the conversation is winding down. The participants can hear the clank of tools as the workers struggle to lift the lift.
EEPP: So, Ms. Lamott, now that you are confronted with your nemesis, does he really seem so bad? I know you are going to go off and write about this yourself in a wonderful snarky fashion, but really, is he so awful?
AL: No, he is not so terrible …. You, on the other hand, are too much.
EEPP: Ms. Lamott, let me make the situation ever so slightly worse for you. Would you say that getting to know George W. Bush while stuck in an elevator could be considered a small victory, perhaps an improbable moment of grace?
AL: Maybe. Let me think about it.
GWB: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! [the former President fist pumps the air in jubilation].
EEPP: Now, how about a selfie? Mr. President, give my dad your love! I hope his lungs are healing and he and your mom had a wonderful 70th anniversary!
The doors open and we go our separate ways, me hard charging for the bathroom, Anne Lamott for the nearest exit, and 43 stopping to sign autographs. Afterwards, I headed for the library – Small Victories was overdue.
* This post is dated 9 months since my last one ….