It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
No, that's silly, I'll never pass that off as mine. It's not
that kind of story, anyway.
It was a dark and stormy night.
Well, see, that's just a lie, and frankly, hard to pull off if
you're not a cartoon dog.
Call me Ishmael!
It's the pressure. The pressure of that crucial opening
line, the first impression I'm trying to make with you -
wanting it to be good, it's my Achilles heel. Look, I'll just
tell you this: it's important to me, telling you this story. It's
important to my heart, and when things are important to
me, sometimes I choke and sputter and stumble all over
myself without a word in my head. I can't come up with
anything that articulates what is bursting inside to get out.
How about this…
All of this happened, more or less.
Would Kurt Vonnegut really mind if I used his opening
line? It's an homage. Everyone likes that, right?
Or even better, Billy Pilgrim (aka Johnny Von) has
become unstuck in time.
That could work. I could just change the name. Besides,
you always have to change the names…so lawyers and agents
and movie stars don't get upset.
Oh, hells-bells. I'm going to come up with something,
because I want you to see what I see. I want you to know
what I know now, how the universe dances and converges
and brings events that answer the call of your heart. How
the mystical behind the mundane came to change me. And
how Johnny Von fits into all of it.
Tall, beautiful, Johnny Von.
I'd like to tell this story so that by the end, we'd
understand what the poet William Blake is talking about in
all his lovely writings. We would know that a story, even
just the ones you tell yourself, can help move you forward and give you courage - that a story has tangible power to
change who you are. And while poetry may no longer have
the power to spark a revolution, or attract the attention of
the masses, in a world that has YouTube and TMZ, I know
it can spark a revolution inside a person. Even a person
who didn't do well in 10th grade English, a woman who
still doesn't know what iambic pentameter is.
I'd like to tell you this story so that by the end we'd
understand that outside of the 10th grade, poetry is trying
to say what is pushing from inside you, bursting to get out.
And like William Blake, with the close of this story we'd
all understand the power of desire and imagination, the
birthplace of love and art. We'd seek it out; knowing its
value to a life well lived. Rank it up there with good food,
great sex and big money. That's my hope, outside of just
having a good time.
Don't get me wrong, I think just plain having a good
time is also very important. I don't want to mislead you
already with all this grandiose talk of poetry and the power
of desire; words like "birthplace." I'm not a dramatic
person. I'm not full of big words. I'm not like that at all. I
should tell you now before we start, I'm more "comfort fit,"
more t-shirts, worn jeans and bare feet. Quite possibly, my
toenails are painted red. But that's about as fancy as I go
on a regular basis. So look, I'll just stop now and make it
easy. I'll start where it all started.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
And then some time after that, God made me.
About 33 years after that, God made Moochie, my
brown Labrador, and we were walking up Valley Glen
Drive in the Hollywood Hills to get the other dogs when the
first thing happened.
EDITH M. CORTESE is a freelance writer, a sometime novelist and a mom. She was once, a lifetime ago, a dog walker. She lives in Los Angeles with her family and an old, good dog named Moochie.
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