Guest Post, Dixie Salazar: Dippity Don’t

Dixie Salazar picture

        “Imagination is More Important than Knowledge”   Albert Einstein

Growing up, I always felt different. Of course I struggled with this, trying desperately to fit in, reading in the dark, trying to strain my eyes so I might need glasses because one of the “popular girls” wore them and I thought they would give me access to her status. When the surfer girl look came along, I was again, out of sync, with a mass of kinky/curly hair that only went straight when I set it on huge orange juice cans slathered with Dippity Do, even attempting to sleep on this torture contraption, so I’d be acceptably straightened for school the next day, only to have my smooth cap of hair spring back into a froth of frizz as soon as the morning fog hit. Next came ironing—my hair, that is. I wanted that parted in the middle, straight down the sides Cher look, with a long, silky rope of hair that swung down to my waist. But I gave this up after singeing the side of my face, not the in look I was going for.

I’ve now made peace with my hair; in fact, I celebrate my hair, along with all the other differences that plagued me growing up. It turns out they are all the best things about me and they help me to appreciate and participate in the arts. So here’s my rant against uniformity, and I don’t think it’s overstating the fact to say that uniformity is a danger facing our entire country. Just look at the current state of national politics.

 

Rant #1 Uniforms: Parents and teachers love them, but aren’t they the first step toward cookie cutter soldiers, mass-produced to join the ranks of the corporate/military assembly line? I don’t know how I would have made it through school or my first mind-numbing job without the crutch of daydreaming my next day’s wardrobe. I loved putting together unique colors and styles and being creative with fashion. I still do. And unlike teenagers and gang bangers, I don’t want to look like everyone else.

Rant #2 Paint Nights: Where everyone pays a fee to put on a smock and follow a stroke by stroke demo from a so called artist, to supposedly unlock their hidden talents. And they each go home with an almost exact replica of the leader’s painting, and they are all the same and they are all happy and brag the next day about discovering the artist lying dormant within them for so long. Please! All they unlocked was the hidden copyist lurking inside. This is just wrong…on so many levels it would take several more blog posts and a lot more ranting to deconstruct.

Rant #3 MFA poetry products: O.K. This one may make me unpopular, but I can’t be the only one who feels this way. I’m talking about MFA produced/work-shopped poetry.  I swear that it has a smell (not fragrant). Three lines into reading one of these poems, my nose is twitching and my eyes begin to glaze over. It’s obvious the writer has mastered quite well the template for pleasing his/her professors. Granted, there may be imagination at work at times and even adept writing, but it remains static within the normalizing template. They were very smart, industrious students and they’ll become smart, industrious teachers and editors who’ll direct the next generation down the same rutted path of boring mediocrity. And we now have a tautology, a closed self-perpetuating system as well as a love fest. The students give their professors glowing evaluations so they can keep their jobs and the professors in return give the students glowing recommendations so they too can get jobs and …and they publish each other and read to and applaud each other. And most people who don’t understand (read) poetry accept it and go away reinforced in the fear that they just don’t get it.

 

Granted, the hot mess that is current politics won’t be easily solved by eliminating uniforms, paint nights, and MFA poetry, but unless we change our intrinsic value system and promote creative individualism and critical thinking over the mass consumption of acceptable, locked in place ideas, we are doomed to be ruled by those who would have us all look, think, talk, dress, act and vote alike.

One of the side effects of creativity is empathy. It’s impossible to relate to someone who is different from you if you can’t begin to imagine their situation or their plight as one you might experience yourself. Nurturing imagination in children is a crucial step toward creating a world where we value differentness and otherness. Walt Whitman said, “I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I become the wounded person.”

And finally, in the words of Alice Walker, “This is a wonderful planet and it is being destroyed by people who have too much money and power and no empathy.” I would just add that it’s being destroyed by people who have no imagination.

Guest Post, Elijah Tubbs: A Curse Stole My Voice

Stuttering

The Curse of the Bambino plagued the Boston Red Sox to not win the World Series for eighty-six years after a poor decision where managers sold their star-player, Babe Ruth, to rival team New York Yankees in 1918.

Oh, Babe! they cried.

In an ethereal moment, a lunar eclipse and thick mist, the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals.

Will it take a lifetime for my curse to lift too?

My curse: misfire in my brain, disconnect from thought to mouth to sound then out into others ears. I choke on inanimate objects, words or phrases, sound lodged deep in my throat begging to be free, to be heard the way it’s meant to be heard.

Stuttering left me naked with raw and tender skin, ready to be picked apart by crows since age eight. My stutter defined me throughout school. It doesn’t help that my face contorts like sour candy has gotten stuck in the right side of my mouth either, looking as if there actually is something terribly wrong happening.

No one even knows what causes this, or how to fix it.

Read aloud; talk to your gerbil, Zippo; practice sound like a four year old scribbling on their zoo phonics worksheets. Exercise your voice! work on speaking normal—just a few suggestions from parents, friends, teachers and speech therapists over the years.

Many great minds have been stutterers – look at Winston Churchill, someone said to me somewhere. Fuck Churchill, I want to order a carne asada burrito from Filiberto’s like everyone else without being asked, sorry can you say that again? twice when I pull through the drive thru.

Oftentimes I cannot introduce myself without someone asking if I have forgotten my own name.

A lot of great people are a lot of things and stuttering has almost nothing to do with it, except for the fact that stuttering lead me to empathy, and assumedly those other great men too.

My stutter has allowed me to place myself in another’s position regardless of if I have had that same experience because in the end the person who has Tourette’s, or a lazy eye you just can’t miss has been looked at the same way. And for that I am indebted to my curse because today no one can seem to identify with anyone different from themselves and that’s dividing us as a single people.

Does that make me great or are those great people great because of their status, or talent, and happen to stutter too?

Did years of ridicule also lead to empathy for them? Is empathy the key to their wide spread success?

I don’t know, I’d like to think so.

You don’t know what you’re taking for granted, something as natural as speech. Just as I take for granted the fact that I can pull up my own pants, watch an ocean’s wave crash on the shore and notice salt on my skin, or pick a spoon up and feed myself without dribbling whatever soup I’m eating all over myself staining my shirt.

Fortunately though, like all things subject to time and its corrosive nature, my stutter is fading away.

Time is the only solution that has proven itself, for me. Great, long, lengths of time of constantly being giggled at or questioned or treated like a poor sap whose head isn’t screwed on the right way then persevering through it all, similarly to those unfortunate Red Sox fans.

Still I stutter daily though, hourly even, but now I can at least get a sentence out every now and again, have a real conversation with someone.

My voice is being heard and taken seriously.

Did anyone laugh at Churchill standing high above, pious and profound like, preaching hope to his country? If so, did it tank his self-esteem like mine?

I picture him giving a speech like a truck motor having trouble turning over and his people all gathered there shrugging their shoulders at each other wondering why.

I am not eleven anymore and neither are you, we are not in a classroom or at recess, but there are people who still comment disrespectfully, actually ask if I have forgotten my name and just chuckle and snicker when clearly I am different. Maybe it’s a way to fix the awkwardness for them, a nervous reaction; maybe they’re just an asshole.

Regardless of intention, it still hurts. Treat me like Winston Churchill or Julia Roberts or Bill Withers or Jorge Luis Borges or any other class act that stutters because I’m positive you wouldn’t laugh in their faces, at those “great minds”.

How often is a voice heard? Hello, goodbye, may I take your order? yes I would like…, my name is…, how’re you?, nice to meet you… et cetera. My voice is heard every single day and the simplest words and phrases are lost, jumbled up in the cavernous void of my synaptic trenches tumbling backwards up my throat and out my mouth to you.

Be patient please, with me, and everyone else different from you.

We are all great men and women here, you and I.