The Catalyst

A Writing Teacher Writes (plus some writing prompts and recipes)

Sisters June 29, 2012

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher DeLorenzo @ 12:48 pm

These were the prompts this time around:        

Days without mail

Embracing endings

Every night, someone thinks of you before falling asleep

I chose the last one.

Here’s what I wrote.

_____________________________________________________

Here’s to color-coded flower gardens and bright yellow dining rooms. Golden Retrievers and six-year-old friends who use water bottles as dumbbells. Evenings in Irish pubs I’d never go into if it wasn’t for you, although they’re right here in my own neighborhood.

Here’s to turkey bacon and fried egg sandwiches on English muffins, Russell Stover coconut nests holding bright jellybean eggs, and Tavares singing, “Heaven must have sent you, Baby/To love only me”—the album whirling around on your green stereo in your room with the flowered drapes.

How did we find each other in this lifetime, and how did we sink down into that adolescent chaos together without losing our sense of humor? What parts of her did we both get enough of to survive losing her, yet still allow ourselves to love over and over again, even with the knowledge that loss is the risk you take with love.

We both know how these little bodies we live in are fragile.

I do not have your energy, your sense of abandon, your milk chocolate-brown eyes, but when I answer your phone, everyone who loves you mistakes me for you, even our brothers. “It’s me,” I have to say, standing at the granite counter where I have prepared so many meals. “It’s me,” with a little bit of you, and her, and him too.

Are we more prepared to be old together now? Now that we’ve become well versed in collapsible wheelchairs and catheters, now that we understand cataracts and hearing aids and soft foods? We’re two kids who already understand what it means to be old.

Show me again how you already know what I’m thinking, how we communicate without words. Tell me again what happened that day I almost drowned, and I’ll tell you my version. How I sunk below the surface of the lake, how I struggled to get to the top but just kept sinking. My breath floating in bubbles toward the sunlit surface, green and yellow; my six-year-old heart pounding in my chest. I began to panic, then inhaled a big gulp of cloudy water and simply let go.

Drowning is peaceful. Everyone says so. You just drift away in one breath. But you wouldn’t have it—only twelve-years-old and gangly as an adolescent boy—you dove in wearing only one flipper, and scooped me back into the air. Was it you or I who said, “Don’t tell Mom,” fearing the wrath of who was more irresponsible: me for going into the water alone, or you for allowing me to go.

Maybe we should have told her. Maybe she would have been able to see the miracle of how we always are together: unwilling to leave this earth without one another. Connected like Van Gogh and his brother, even across a continent. Keeping each other close by, just in case.

 

Dancing with Ghosts June 22, 2012

Filed under: Grief,Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher DeLorenzo @ 10:51 am

The prompt this time was based on Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.” I ask everyone to write down this phrase: “Fifty ways to_______________________,” and in five or six minutes, to generate as many words or phrases that could complete that sentence. Then we read some of them around, and choose one as a starting place.

 Mine was, “Fifty ways to bury the dead.”    

 Here’s what I wrote:

____________________________________________________

Catherine arrives that night with a tube of frosty lilac lip balm, on the third floor walk up of an old building, holding a ticket to a Kylie Minogue concert. She promises that you’ll dance, smoke pot, and that you will feel beautiful, all for $50. All you have to do is order a cocktail and bat your false eyelashes.

Catherine is dead; she can’t physically go to the concert with you, so she clears the path and brings you the ticket, via a phone call from the friend who lives in the apartment, and the memory of her own tube of frosty orange lipstick on your ten-year-old lips, and the way you stared at yourself in her magnifying makeup mirror when no one else was around. Beautiful.

Catherine likes to dance—a lot—so she sends you and your friend off to the Bill Graham Auditorium, where at one point, Kylie sings you this question, “What’s the point of living if you don’t want to dance?” You ponder that question, your feet sliding over the music hall floor, the boys next to you in silver eye shadow, the men on stage with her wearing hot pants and peacock feather tails in burgundy.

Catherine likes to sing—old Ella Fitzgerald tunes—“It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing”—and Kylie jokes around with her band and hits her high C, a cappella. Later, she hollers at you: “Sing with me!” and the entire place erupts into her lyrics: “It was love at first sight!” and “You’re too hot! Get me into the shade!”  You find yourself singing too, with Catherine, of course, as you marvel at Kylie’s four-inch gold thigh-high strappy sandal-boots. You laugh out loud when she uses two of the males dancers’ buns as bongo drums, and accidentally drops the microphone while vigorously spanking their firm bottoms.

Catherine knows you’re flying at the end of the concert, like the shirtless men on stage with Kylie who were wearing wings, suspended over the audience on invisible cables. You’re floating down the street, mercifully free of any past trauma or recent anxiety. All that exists is this very moment: the beautiful young men in the audience surrounding you, the friend who brought you here, the back-up dancers in their white bodysuits with the tiny holes carefully placed along every seam. The large screen and Kylies’ pretty face.

Catherine, of course, insists you go out dancing afterward, so you follow the conga line of men to Rebel Disco, just down the street from the music hall, and you push your way through the throng of sweaty, shirtless bodies to the dance floor, and stay there for hours, not stopping until your feet ache. Only then do you go home, and you sleep soundly, Diva dance music floating through your head. Weeks later, you still feel transported by the experience.

Catherine likes that. It’s just what she wanted.

 

Still Proud to Have Known You June 15, 2012

Filed under: Grief,Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher DeLorenzo @ 6:30 pm

In honor of National Pride month (thanks, President Obama!), I am posting this piece inspired by a dear friend and the color pink. The prompt for this piece came from a recent retreat in Forestville. The theme was Japan, and I gave everyone a Japanese Cherry blossom and a copy of this:

Sakura

 Cherry blossoms are the flowers most beloved by the Japanese.

Flower viewing was a phenomenon that the Japanese adopted from China. Poets, singers, aristocrats and members of ordinary households would come together to gather around cherry blossom trees and appreciate their beauty. 

 The Japanese observed the life cycle of the cherry blossom tree and drew connections between the nature of the blossoming tree and human life in general.

 The cherry blossom tree is known for its short yet brilliant blooming season, which ends with an inevitable fall to the ground.

 Fallen blossoms, not to be ignored, are likened to snow and as a metaphor for a warrior killed early in life.

 Because cherry blossoms have a short blooming season and are fragile, they have been used to symbolize the transience of life. Also, since cherry trees bloom en masse, they have been used as metaphors for clouds.

What I wrote follows.

_________________________________________________________________________

Contrary to popular belief, pink is not my favorite color—it’s yellow—but I feel the need to surround myself with pink. Color therapists might suggest that the level at which pink vibrates somehow heals or nurtures me; psychoanalysts might theorize that my gravitation towards pink is about my desire to return to my youth and a younger body; psychotherapists might suggest I’m trying to soften the edge of aging and connect with my innocence and optimism (what’s left of it), and sociologists might suggest that I’m identifying with my queer comrades. But the truth is, I feel happy when I see pink because it reminds me of Dean.

Dearly departed Dean, my gay best friend, my brother and companion through the narrow passage that was on the other side of my mother’s madness. Dean who was the first person I knew who was also gay, and was there to witness my emergence from shame to acceptance, and eventually, to pride. Dean. Whose favorite color was also yellow, but who loved pink the way people love new electronics, or certain movie stars, or fast, convertible sports cars. Dean. Who never let me forget that I was loved on Valentine’s Day, who sent me pink and red and silver Valentines in the mail, hand cut, constructions paper hearts. Who flew me down to LA so we could have dinner together. Who told me he could not imagine living in this world without me.

Dean. Who I think of in late April, when 19th Street between Collingwood and Hartford is lined with the pink clouds of Japanese Cherry trees in full bloom. I love to walk down that street on a warm day and bask in the pale, rosy glow. The wind occasionally picks up and blows the fallen petals into zigzagging strips of pink along the curb. I don’t know why, but it always reminds me of weeping.

 

Almost Summer June 12, 2012

Filed under: Recipes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher DeLorenzo @ 12:59 am

The title of this post is the prompt. It’s amazing what people write in response to that, especially on a cool (some would say cold) San Francisco evening. Almost summer, indeed. I’m searching for a nice segue here, but the truth is, in a very unorthodox moment, I decided to post a recipe here for a simple fresh fruit galette. They’re quite easy to make and really delicious: you will impress your friends. I always tweet a link to a recipe on Tuesdays, but after searching the internet for a simple recipe, I gave up. I couldn’t find one anywhere as good as the one I have, so here we go: Strawberry & Blueberry Galette            

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 pint fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix together the berries with the flour and the sugar in a bowl. Pour over pie crust* leaving a 1-inch border. Fold up the uncovered border over the edge of the fruit and pinch into pleats. Sprinkle the crust and fruit filling with 3 teaspoons of turbinado (or raw) sugar.
  3. Bake in preheated oven until crust is lightly browned, about 30 minutes, depending on your oven. A good rule of thumb is to check the galette at 20 minutes to see how well it’s coming along.. Serve warm or at room temperature. Top each piece with whipped cream, or a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt.

*For my pie crust recipe, click here. Making a pie crust yourself isn’t that hard, especially if you have a food processor. If you already make your own pie crust, I swear by my recipe using half butter and half Spectrum shortening (vegetarian and non-hydrogenated: skip the butter flavored one and go for the plain one in the blue and white container).