virtualDavis

Posts Tagged ‘memoir’

Remembering and Recounting

In Artifacts, Daily Munge, Memoir on November 18, 2011 at 7:41 pm

“Life is not what one lives, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.”

~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Living to Tell the Tale

As I organize multiple pieces of Rosslyn’s renovation, our littoral Adirondack existence, and my still-young marriage into some sort of coherent storyline I wrestle consciously with occasional incongruities between my story and my life.

The narrative landscape is vast. Too vast, it often seems, to fit into a tidy memoir beginning with the crisp crack of a book spine opening for the first time, and the contented-sigh closure compelling stories demand.

Day after day, week after week I reread and rewrite, sort and distill and sort again, hunting for the essential story lurking amidst a mosaic of daily munge entries; four year’s worth of to-do lists; over fifteen thousand photographs; boxes of technical drawings and hasty sketches; hours of dictation; recorded meetings; and emails. Properly assembled, these miscellaneous artifacts form a multidimensional map of what took place between the spring of 2006 and the summer of 2012, but they fail to tell the story, they fail to recount the adventure lived.

19/03/2009 La Ministra de Cultuta de Colombia ...

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Image via Wikipedia)

In fact, I am startled to discover that these precise, unambiguous reference points frequently contradict my recollection. Dramatic events indelibly etched into my brain at the time have already blurred despite the brief lapse of time.

I curse my mischievous mind and then accept that 100% accuracy will inevitably elude me. My mind’s imperfect cataloging at once humbles and liberates me. Though an imperfect historian, I am a chronicler and curator of stories, not facts.

Even when my data is unequivocal, I inevitably distort history, omitting and abbreviating and emphasizing, distilling the vast landscape of data into vignettes. These accrete gradually, revealing the narrative design of my story.

I am unlike my father and my brother who posses iron vaulted minds where information is deposited, preserved and safeguarded for later use. When the time comes to retrieve the information, they withdraw it from their vaults unaltered, uncontaminated, reliable, accurate.

I believe that there are different kinds of accuracy. I am a storyteller, not an historian, and though I strive for verisimilitude, some truths are more effectively preserved and conveyed through stories than history or vaults.

Some days I toil like an archeologist amidst a midden heap of artifacts, rewinding time’s mysteries, deciphering the prior summer’s garden vegetables from this season’s rich, dark compost.

Other days I seduce and charm and coerce the artifacts to share longer forgotten truths. I plant French radishes and bush beans in the compost-enriched garden and several unlikely seedlings emerge among the radish and bean sprouts. I skip them while weeding, and soon enough I am rewarded with yellow cherry tomatoes, wart covered gourds and a curly garlic scape! Although I’ve grown yellow cherry tomatoes in the past, I’ve never grown gourds or garlic.

I remember that we were given several multicolored gourds to decorate my bride’s annual Halloween birthday party last year. But they were smooth skinned. Perhaps they were discarded in the compost, and a recessive wart gene found its way into the germination process resulting in the exotic adaptation growing amidst the fattening radishes.

And the garlic? We eat plenty from Full and By Farm, our local CSA, but to date I have never planted garlic. I vaguely remember several bulbs that we left out while traveling last winter. When we returned home, the kitchen was ripe with the pungent odor of rotten garlic. The bulbs were discolored, sitting in a pool of their own brown fluid. Several garlic cloves had begun to germinate, pale green shoots emerging from the cloves and arching upward.

I imagine planting them in a terra-cotta pot and placing it on a windowsill in my study. Each morning I inspect their progress. One shoot yellows and grows limp, then wrinkles across the moist soil. The other three grow taller quickly, changing from pale to dark green. Soon they will twist into elegant scapes which I can cut just above the soil level. I will chop them up and sauté them with olive oil, salt and pepper. I will serve them to my bride as a dinner side with mashed potatoes and swordfish, and she’ll smile ear-to-ear, marveling that something so succulent could have grown by accident.

According to Garcia Marquez life is not only the experiences, the moments lived. Life is also the rendering of those experiences into stories, the recollecting, the filtering, the imagining, the sharing. To fully live we must share our stories. That’s an interesting notion in a world that more often favors accuracy, facts, history.

Perhaps even with history we become overconfident that the facts are irrefutable. Only in recent decades have scholars we begun to look critically at history’s biases, often tainted by ideology, objectives or favoring the victors to the vanquished.

Absent an omnipresent video camera that documents my life as I bump along, capturing every minute detail precisely, permanently, Garcia Marquez’s perspective offers reassuring guidance. Though I frequently daydream about a collaborative memoir comprised of the recollections of everyone who participated in the rebirth of Rosslyn, my story is an eclectic nexus of personal experiences, filtered, aggregated and cobbled into narrative cohesion by me.

I write these affirmative lines now, and yet I struggle with it each time my bride asks if she can participate more actively in the revising and editing. Yes, I tell her; when I am done. Which is not to say that I have neglected her input. I have sought it again and again. But her story is different from my own, as are the still unwritten memoirs of many creative and hardworking people who invested their time and energy into renovating our home. I hope to showcase many of their impressions and memories on the Rosslyn Redux blog. And I am optimistic that my memoir will serve as an invitation to dig into their memories and to recount their own versions of Rosslyn Redux.

Thank you, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for your guidance.

Redacting Rosslyn Redux

In Monologues, Renovation & Rehabilitation, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story? on July 27, 2011 at 2:08 pm
Rosslyn Boathouse in Essex, New York, May 1, 2011

Rosslyn Boathouse in Essex, New York, May 1, 2011

What: Reducting Rosslyn
When: 8:00pm, Wednesday, August 3
Where: The Depot Theatre, Westport, NY

What happens when a storyteller writes a book? When a talker becomes a typer? When the audience’s laughter, sighs, snoring, heckling and applause vanish? When margins and page count provide only the most porous parameters?

I’ll tell you what. Story glut. Plot inflation. Unchecked character sprawl…

For the past year I’ve been writing and revising a memoir about the four years that Susan and I spent renovating the W.D. Ross property in Essex. I’ve discovered that building a book is a bit like rebuilding an old house. No matter how great the bones, how stunning the view, how well preserved the architecture and design, and no matter how clear and enticing the goal, you can’t do it by yourself.

In the case of our home it took the world’s most intelligent, beautiful and stubborn wife plus a vast community of contractors, carpenters, advisors, family and friends to rebuild Rosslyn. In the case of my book it will take your laughter, your sighs, your heckling (and even your prodding and booing and advising) to build Rosslyn Redux.

Please join me at 8:00pm on Wednesday, August 3 at The Depot Theatre in Westport for a solo performance of Redacting Rosslyn, an evening of readings, storytelling and vignettes ranging from a wader-wearing Amazon named Rosslyn to a perennially pickled bathtub yachtsman. I’ll poke fun at the idiosyncrasies (and absurdities) of renovation, marriage and North Country life while plunging you into the creative process. Are you ready to help build a book?

You are invited to a reception in the lobby following the performance. All participants will be entered into a drawing for Essex gift certificates and Rosslyn Redux swag. All proceeds from this performance will be donated to The Depot Theatre. Here’s how to get tickets:

Depot Box Office:
Call: 518-962-4449
Monday, Thursday, and Friday from 10am-10pm
Saturday and Sunday from 12pm-10pm
Tuesday and Wednesday from 10am-5pm

Depot Online Ticket Sales:
http://depottheatre.org/tickets

Thank you. I hope to see you!

Vintage Adirondack

In Adirondacks, Daily Munge, History & Heritage, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on May 24, 2011 at 11:11 am

My bride and I credit the Adirondack lifestyle for luring us away from Manhattan in 2006 to become North Country full-timers. But what exactly is the Adirondack lifestyle?

Actually it’s not so easily defined, perhaps because there are so many different perspectives on what makes living (or even vacationing) in the Adirondacks desirable. High Peaks, Great Camps, cozy little lodges, Champlain Valley, agriculture, hunting, fly fishing, ice fishing, back country adventures, extreme sports, and the list goes on. Although a portrait of our Adirondack experience will evolve out of these blog posts, I won’t attempt to define the Adirondack lifestyle. Though often attempted, any single face of of the Adirondacks is an abstraction. The real Adirondack experience is vast, rich and dynamic. It is precisely this richness and diversity which appeals to us. It is precisely this evolving character which inspires us to get involved with the people and organizations that have welcomed us.

Griffin by Lake Champlain

Image by virtualDavis via Flickr

The video above, the first in a series of three, is called Land of My Dreams and it was apparently created by Joseph J. Harley in the late 1940’s. It captures a nostalgic (if extremely dated) caricature of Adirondack rustic “camp” lifestyle during the mid 1900s.

The story takes place on Bluff Island in the Adirondacks, Saranac Lake, New York. My great grandparents had a house that Joe built himself from scratch. The DEC took the house down after a law was made that people could only camp on certified islands in the lake. Joseph J. Harley was an amateur film maker who made many other movies and won awards for them. (YouTube.com)

Douglas Yu (@tourpro) over at Adirondack Base Camp put me onto this quirky vintage short, but he wasn’t able to share much more about the film or Harley.

I couldn’t find much information about the filmographer, but at one point he was President of the American Cinema League.

Many of the artifacts that I’ve collected since purchasing Rosslyn fall into this hazy no-man’s land of vintage collectibles (postcards, magazine advertisements, newspaper articles, brochures, videos, etc.) It’s challenging or impossible to determine the background for many of the artifacts, and they occasionally include dated or peculiar elements such as the “black face” character in the the second video. And yet, taken together they provide a context for the quirky tale I have to tell. I’ve decided that this blog is the perfect way to preserve and share these artifacts, characters and stories which don’t find their way into my Rosslyn Redux memoir or the Redacting Rosslyn monologues.

By collecting these artifacts into a “digital museum” I hope to showcase some of the esoteric ingredients of the Adirondack lifestyle which seduced us, aggravates us, intrigues us, perplexes us and inspires us in this new chapter of our lives.

%d bloggers like this: