The Gypsy Coat Tale

I gave my writing circle the prompt “the coat was shabby.” And I gave them a challenge to use strong verbs and specific nouns. As I began to write my response to that prompt, I decided to put it someplace in history and do a little research for details. This is my result, my first ever try at historical fiction:

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The Gypsy Coat Tale

The coat was shabby, but its aspect still spoke of nights thrown over a naked shoulder at a smokey Montparnasse cafe, or tossed onto the back of a scarlet sofa at a late night Paris salon. Its stained fabric revealed a careless pattern of absinthe, bathtub gin, and the mascaraed tears of its most passionate devotees.

They say it once belonged to Nina Hamnett, self-proclaimed and notorious “Queen of Bohemia,” who wore its gold satin lining next to her skin while she danced shimmering lights into the weave of the rich silk brocade. On those nights, the coat created its own melody, a mesmerizing harmony of color, texture, and pattern, the timeless echo of a Siren’s song.

Legend has it that the coat was created by the two Japanese weavers and the Gypsy woman whom Hamnett befriended during her brief stay in Paris before the war started, before everyone folded themselves into enclaves of creative ferment or else fled to the safer shores of England and America.

And that, they say is how the coat finally wound up in the window of the Fifth Avenue Parisian boutique on the afternoon that Zelda Fitzgerald walked out of New York City’s Palais Royale Hotel in search of the perfect evening dress.

She did find the perfect dress: a long black beaded silk with a sheer back that dipped down to her tailbone. But is was the coat that took her breath away – the coat and the legend and the fantasy.

The multicolored floral brocade boasted gleaming gold threads that reflected the bright city sunlight. Elaborate scrolls etched its lush black velvet cuffs and ankle-skimming border. A face-framing swath of black fox, added as an afterthought, brought the coat to the level of a work of art.

By the time I rescued the coat from the empty corner of my spinster aunt’s nursing home closet, its shabbiness was well-earned, having been Zelda’s constant companion through her bi-polar adventures played out over two continents and two decades, until both she and the coat began to unravel.

My aunt had been a nurse at the Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, where Zelda spent her final years capturing on canvas the remaining bright colors of her memories and telling my aunt the elaborate coat-tales that fed her lonely dreams of prodigal nights ablaze in the heart of a drowning Jazz Age.

Just days before the hospital fire that took her life, Zelda gave my aunt the coat to wear to a costume party.

And so the Gypsy Coat was retired to the back of my aunt’s closet, although she always took it with her whenever she moved, unable to dispose of its vibrant history. The Gypsy Coat is mine, now, to ponder on the relic that it is – a remnant of legendary lives lived with creative abandon, dazzling artistry, and deadly excess.

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The day after I wrote this, as I was watching a “Friends” rerun with the family, Phoebe appeared wearing the coat I had described the day before.

gypsy coatbI love it when stuff like that happens.

Old Poems

My son-in-law found the box of my poetry that I packed up to move here five years ago. I have enough for a book. They are mostly very dark. I would call the book “Dark Matters.”

In the bottom of the box is a journal where I wrote poems about some of the lovers that moved through my life back in those disco dancing days. I take the journal to bed and read their names, remember their faces, how they danced. I remember them all except one. Brad. My poem remembers him even though I no longer do. Why is he the one I can’t remember?

I think of who I was back then. It was when I discovered Lilith in an article by Lilly Rivlin’s in the first issue of Ms Magazine. That was in 1972. That’s when it all started.

my delightful writing circle

I finally got off my lazy butt and organized a “writing circle” at the public library. It’s held every other Wednesday afternoon and is loosely based on the Amherst Writing Method. I say “loosely” because, while I have participated in the program in the past, I have not been officially trained to lead a group. But we follow the suggested “prompt, write, respond” method, and it is working very well for us, I think.

So, today the folks each brought in an object for someone else to use as a prompt. I chose a pair of very worn women’s shoes from the turn of 19th century. I had posted it here but removed it because I am submitting it to a poetry journal.

Mag #231

Magpie Tales is a blog “dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.” Each week, it offers an image as a writing prompt.

Go here to read what others have written.

wild women

Wild Women

Wild Women wear
tight jeans, western boots,
dance in bars
’til bras melt to skin
and wolves howl the hillsides.
Wild Women step hard
enough to warp the wood,
set the blues on fire —
all the better to
eye the eyes,
rope one or not,
sing full-moon songs
until dawn.

when I was 20

I am looking through my pages of poetry, some written when I was in grade school, but I’ll spare you those. I wrote this when I had just turned twenty and was home from college during a part of the summer. It’s not great poetry, but it’s a great thought, I think.

on the boatbwhen I am old
I will not care for
rock ‘n roll
slopping
and jazz
bongos drums
beat poetry and
Kafka
Kerouac
Jake Trussell and
lifeguards with
sea-burnished hair
and convertibles.
but now I am young
and I know that all of these
will one day be
the cushions
on the couch of memories
on which I will repose
when I am old.

The Slop was a dance from the fifties. I had to google Jake Trussell and I still don’t remember why he was important to me back then. But I still like rock ‘n roll. And convertibles. And I’m still known to ogle lifeguards.

addictions

I’ve never smoked. I don’t drink because it bothers my GERD.

But I’m addicted to sneakers.
moresneakers

Left to right:
Top row: light weight Rockport walking sneakers; old worn out Easy Spirit slip-ons that I use for gardening; dance sneakers with suede soles that I hope I will use again for NIA

Middle row: cheap Champion slip-ons; my favorite old Rocket Dog slip ons with velcro that are almost worn out; new plaid Sorel sneakers that irritate the back of my heel but I love the plaid

Bottom row: Keds; Keds stretch; second favorite, Dr. School’s slip-ons

I’m also addicted to denim jeans, gray and blue and black; cotton, blend, and stretch; knit and woven; boot cut and straight.

I live in jeans and sneakers. I just need more places to go to wear them.

footloose (or not)

swing0001Almost twenty years ago, I was a pretty decent intermediate ballroom dancer. When the New York State Museum, where I worked in administration, was holding a fund raiser centered around a 1940’s exhibit, they asked if Dan Molloy (a museum scientist and ballroom dancer) and I would do a swing dance performance. This is a rehearsal shot; somewhere, I have videos of our performance and of a television promo that we did for the event. That’s “videos” as in “you need a VCR to play them”. Who has a VCR any more?? Not me.

I put a lot of miles on my feet in those days. By the time this photo was taken, the heels on my dance shoes had gotten considerably lower than they had been during my disco days, when I danced in heels so high that I now marvel at how I ever managed those intricate Latin Hustle steps. (No, I’m not in that video.)

That was then. This is now.

chairMy brand new La-Z-boy glider recliner arrived yesterday. I’m in love. And so are my feet — especially my left knee, which hurts all of the time. I do have an appointment at an orthopedist, but I couldn’t get in for another couple of weeks.

I really haven’t had a comfortable chair in which to relax since I moved here several years ago. It’s a small space, and I had to do some saving and thinking and shopping. I couldn’t have found a more comfortable relaxing place.shoes

Crazy as it is, I still have one brand new pair of ballroom dance shoes that I can’t bear to give up, even though I’ll never wear them again. They have these really sexy ankle straps and a medium high heel. I’m thinking I’ll wear them to my some-day cremation. It seems like a good way to dance my way along to Star Stuff.

minding the mortal

Thinking about it. Annoyed by it. Just not yet destroyed by it.

There were times during that icy week without heat that I could imagine just slipping into a frozen sleep and not waking up.

There were times during the week or so after, floundering in a mix of aches and fever and stuffed sinuses and peppery throat, unable to rest or eat or think, that I could imagine dosing myself into a cloudy sleep and not waking up.

Discomforts for the young can become depressing struggles for elders.

And, if it’s more than just discomfort, if it is, indeed, mortality beleaguering your cells — as it is for my first hospice patient with whom I sat for several hours today — how do you wrap your mind around that?

When I got home from that visit, I found an email letting me know that I have three poems accepted for an online poetry site, the new version of which will be up sometime over the winter. Two of the poems I submitted were based on my experiences with my mother during the last stages of her dementia.

Mortality. It’s just the way it is. We are all terminal.

In the meanwhile, I have to come up with a recent photo to go along with my bio that will go along with my poems on Cyclamens and Swords. The photo that they have — and the one that was on this blog for a while — is almost a couple of years old.

So I take a new photo.

Yeah. More reminders of mortality.

But I do my best to look my best — a little blush, a little hair teasing. Only there’s no denying the passage of time, fine-lining it toward the final loosing of that mortal coil.

Like Mehitabel, I used to brag that “there’s a dance in the ol’ dame yet!”

Well, today, I’m not so sure about a dance. But a song, for sure.

….my youth i shall never forget
but there s nothing i really regret
wotthehell wotthehell
there s a dance in the old dame yet
toujours gai toujours gai

the things that i had not ought to
i do because i ve gotto
wotthehell wotthehell
and i end with my favorite motto
toujours gai toujours gai.

Wotthehell.

Do I wanna dance?

I’m singing with the Ramone’s:

Do you wanna dance and hold my hand? Tell me baby I’m your lover man Oh baby, do you wanna dance?

Well do you wanna dance under the moonlight? Squeeze and kiss me all through the night
Oh baby, do you wanna dance?

Do you do you do you do you wanna dance Do you do you do you do you wanna dance?
Do you do you do you do you, do you wanna dance

Well do you wanna dance under the moonlight? Squeeze me baby all through the night
Oh baby, do you wanna dance?

Do you do you do you do you wanna dance Do you do you do you do you wanna dance?
Do you do you do you do you wanna dance

A dozen years ago, I was dancing three or more nights a week — Latin, ballroom, in studios, in nightclubs — and keeping my cholesterol down and stamina up.

Now I have an “assist rail” on the side on my bed because I tend to roll off at night while tossing and turning trying to get comfortable despite sciatica.

I miss dancing, so I did a little google search for ballroom dancing in my area. And I found a couple of places about a 20 minute drive away. I miss dancing, but I don’t miss the “competition” for dance partners. And I’m realy out of shape in terms of stamina. My knees aren’t what they used to be either.

So I’m asking myself, do I really, really wanna dance or would I rather do some other kind of exercise that doesn’t require driving at night and being reminded that I’m not the person I was a dozen years ago.

I think I wanna dance, but what I really want is to have the life I had all those years ago. And that’s not going to happen.

What I need is to keep taking the gentle yoga class once a week and try ramping up to some kind of low-impact aerobics. What I need is to keep finding ways to meet new people, find some new friends.

What I want is to be the person I was 15 years ago who could do a jive performance and not limp away after.

But it ain’t gonna happen.

there’s a woodchuck in my chakra

My woodchuck totem is a metaphor, a symbol, a visual representation some part of me that is “woodchuck-like.” (See earlier post.) She arrived as my totem animal for my third chakra, offering to be my metaphorical guide along my current meandering path. Whether the woodchuck chose me or I chose the woodchuck is irrelevant to how the metaphor might empower my thinking and feeling. That’s how these things work.

The third chakra

is located in the region of the navel, and is represented by the element of fire . The form is ….. triangular, the seed syllable is ram. It is a ten-petaled lotus. This is the chakra of digestion[emphasis mine], manifestation and power. The ego can manifest itself for good or harm through the power of the navel chakra. It is the one that gives us the sense of generosity, complete satisfaction and contentment.

Whether such a chakra physiologically exists or not is irrelevant, although….

Regardless of whether you believe in chakras, and whether you’re convinced by the ideas in the pages that follow, the journey offers its own reward, introducing a perspective sometimes lacking in our collective conversation.

Since the dawn of the 20th century, science has expanded in startling and important new directions. Chaos theory, quantum mechanics, genetics, cosmology, emergence, consciousness studies… All these disciplines have moved science forward, but they also hearken back to concepts and principles from the earliest days of recorded history.

The i-Ching’s 64 hexagrams correspond to the 64 informational sequences encoded into human DNA.iii The significance of this correspondence is subjective, but its existence is not. Spiral structures are embedded in the universe of physics, but they are also omnipresent in spiritual art and sacred geometry.iv Chaos theory provides a scientific framework for how everything is interconnected, a recurring theme in Eastern spiritual systems. The Eternal Tao is now considered relevant to everything from physics to corporate management… even Winnie the Pooh.v

You can vigorously debate the importance of these correspondences. You can endlessly argue about how specific principles play out in the real world, or how they don’t. But regardless of your world view, these parallel structures are important because they demonstrate that both sides of the divide are concerned with the same mysteries.

The article from which the above quote was taken is part of an unfinished book but is worth reading to get some idea of the connections between science and old spiritualities, between what we know as fact and how various spiritual traditions echo these facts in myth and metaphor.

For purposes of my current journey to get off generic Nexium and stabilize my digestive system, the third chakra becomes the mythic landscape though which I will metaphorically travel toward physical health, with my metaphorical woodchuck as my guide.

Thus is the mind/body connection. At least for someone like me for whom poetry and symbolism and metaphor and meditations have been known to work psychological magic.

An interesting aside I found out about charkras (on the site linked above) is about “The Void.”

Surrounding the second and the third chakra is the Void which stands for the principle of mastery (guru principle) within us. In many spiritual traditions, this area is the “ocean of illusions” that needs to be crossed with the help of a spiritual guide. When the Kundalini is awakened and passes through the Void, this principle of mastery is established within us. Thus, you become your own guru, your own spiritual guide since you can feel on your fingertips all your subtle problems and have the power to cure them using your own Kundalini. Moreover, establishing this center helps us get rid of all our habits, laziness, gross attachments, and everything that enslaves us in a way or another: we become our own master. Following false “gurus” who are more interested in power tricks or your purse can damage very much the Void area.

Finally, as I was searching aroundthe interwebs for information on woodchucks, googling for “woodchuck dance,” I found this post that is just delightful! (Makes me wonder what meaning that woodchuck metaphor might have had for that guy.)