Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Attend Your Inner Salon


When thoughts or conversations turn toward the salon as a gathering place for creative sorts, you become of a conflicted state, recalling on one hand the frequent written accounts of them with envy, and contrasting your own real-time experiences with them.

At an early juncture in your friendship, one of your great pals set a salon in motion, causing a cascade of events that would, you both realized later, make a recipe for a text on how to write a comic skit.  Surely the venue had something to do with the calamitous results, Beverly Hills being in many ways the incarnation of the Emerald city of Oz.

The first indication that anything had gone amiss was when, at about ten o’clock, a screenwriter threw a drink at a novelist.  In those days, Democrats and Republicans seemed to blend socially, at least to the point where, if alcohol were being served, politics would not be discussed.  Not half an hour after the first drink being cast, a cup of punch went from the right hand of a Democrat onto the shirtfront and face of a Republican.

By eleven, an actress demanded to be taken home, her dudgeon having exploded into a string of epithets directed at an assistant director.  But the question of who should take the actress home raised added stress, bordering on the areas of sexual tension, resulting in cross words between a film editor, a television story editor, and a first husband.

You have, in more recent years, experienced salons where the sexual tensions were less pronounced and, in one notable case, the most significant argument came amongst proponents of Romano cheese and advocates for Parmesan.  Much more civilized. And perhaps, not unlike the maturation process relative to cheese and wine, your own maturation process had inched forward a notch or two.

On your way home from your most recent salon, still comfortable with the after effects of rascally red wines, a splendid salad Nicoise, and some cheese puffs topped with caramelized onions, you couldn’t help indulging the conceit of the university teacher’s old standby, the compare-and-contrast essay, which also happens to be a sturdy companion of the writer.  Thinking back to the more memorable of your salon experiences, you pulled the outstanding characters forth.

There, on your kitchen shelf, was a well-corked quarter-bottle of zinfandel.  The refrigerator yielded some Camembert, and the care package thrust upon you by the hostess included a goodly slab of cibiatta.  Your kitchen table held forth a ripe Anjou pear.  Back to the fridge again for some pitted Greek olives.

In the dim light of the kitchen, you sat peering into the extensive garden next door.  A sip of zinfandel here, an olive there, a tug of bread, a slice of pear, and you were comfortably conflating your salons into one literally and figuratively of your own making.

Surprise is an important element to you.  On numerous occasions within these blog notes as well as in class notes devoted to the investigation of narrative technique, you’ve made the point that revision for you includes going over and recasting a work in progress until it leads you to a surprise, some discovery that will ratify previously held beliefs or prejudices or, perhaps, show you a new way to hold a tool you’d thought you already knew how to hold.

At about two thirty, after checking to make sure Sally had enough water, then leaving a smear of Camembert on her snack dish, you moved off to bed, comfortable with the surprise that had come from your own, inner salon.

You have not nor do not enjoy or wish for friends some of the individuals you have met at salons.  Some are boring or at least of neutral chemistry in your estimation.  Others appear too filled with self and the resulting self-congratulation, to the point of self-parody.  Yet others are polar to you in ways you have no interest in exploring.  These, and others like them, are of a piece with the demographic you discover in the warp and weft of your daily life.

The disagreeable characters you meet in your inner salon are, to a man and woman and child, quite remarkable.  One in particular had politics that brought you to the point of wanting to douse her with zinfandel.  Some of these do not return the favor of finding you remarkable, even though you are, in realistic terms, their creator.  They keep you honest, reminding you that even in your imagination, you are a witness.

They do not have to like you, nor you them, but you do need not to stack the deck against them, either with your choice of words in which you depict them or your failure to listen to them.


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