Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Midnight in the Garden of Medford-Marcia

Who needs to write fiction when life is so outrageously rich? Why, the last two weeks here in Medford have provided a veritable explosion of color.

Mr. Thom, Stylist to the Stars, (although there are no stars in Medford, unless you count Johnny Depp’s mother nestled in at the Manor) just suffered a tremendous loss. A few years back Mr. Thom “caused a stir” when he moved a bunch of old Victorians out to his property on South Stage Road and cobbled them all together into mansion cum salon cum B&B ad hoc infinitum. Word has it he was just about to start work on a wine bar and that’s why he took out the $4 million insurance policy.

There is so much good juice around this story, including the fact that he already had a house fire in 1999 and was about to be sued for $100,000 in unpaid contractor’s fees. Previously, he had been famous in Medford for marrying very rich and very old and wearing mink coats, long hair, and cowboy hats. Oh yeah, and there was his stint on Judge Judy for doing some bad hair extensions while intoxicated.

Some people thought it a might odd that Mr. Thom ran around his front lawn wailing over his deep-fried shoe collection (600 pair!) and sizzled celebrity autographs. But when your house burns down there’s no accounting for the first thing you think about. I was upset about a bunch of hangers I’d just purchased at the Dollar Store. I was finally trying to get organized.

This week Senator Atkinson who lives the next town over was fixing bicycles in his garage. His buddy, a councilman from Jacksonville, dropped his own bike off for a little tinkering. He forgot to tell the Senator that there was a loaded Derringer in the little pouch hanging off the bike seat. When the Senator plopped the pouch on the garage floor, the gun went off and blew a hole in his thigh. The Senator’s quick-thinking wife tied him off with a bike tube and called an ambulance.

Why does a 53 year old councilman cycle the bike paths of our burg with a loaded Derringer with no “safety”? How do you forget you have a snub-nosed gun loaded and dangling off the back of your bike? He was carrying concealed without a permit. Just like all of Janet Evanovich's Jersey characters. There will be no legal action because it happened on private property.

Hmmm. What really happened in that garage? Just the word Derringer is so Wild West. Does every town have its own version of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil?

I already know that Crazy Dan will be in one of my books, probably “Doc,” and maybe the Glove Woman, now passed. Crazy Dan has earned his moniker as a matter of distinction from all the other Dans. There is already Judge Dan, Dan T, Dan the bread man, Dan the Deli Man, Daniel-san, Big Dan and then Crazy Dan. Sometimes all the Dans will wind up together in a freak moment of convergence (Except Big Dan, because he’s gone too).

Crazy Dan walks from White City to Medford every day. All day. He knows and recognizes so many people it is uncanny. But then again, he has bummed nickels, cigarettes, lattes, pancakes, and pastrami sandwiches from an entire community. He is harmless but smells like the bottom of a Hawthorne Park garbage can and likes to flirt with attractive thirty-somethings. We all have favorite Crazy Dan stories. I’ll save them for later. They’re only good once.

Last weekend while camping at Lake of the Woods, I was introduced to my friend Greta’s niece Allie. Just like her aunt, she is edgy, straight talking, dead pan, smart, and analytical. She reads and likes to write. She is off to a Catholic college next year, and has a bit of reading to do before she goes. While washing the dishes one night, we talked about what kind of books she likes.

“I don’t really like books about people,” she said. “I like books about ideas.”

“Hmmm. What do you mean books about ideas? You mean like a book on the death penalty or saving the Ginseng Root?”

“Noooo. Like, well. . . I like books on Existentialism . . . like Victor Hugo’s, The Last Day of a Condemned Man and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.”


I remember this stage myself. I remember being so full of ideas I thought my brain would explode. Unfortunately, I can’t hold an idea in my head for more than three and a half minutes anymore and am far more interested in the Chicken Lady next door than man’s search for meaning in a meaningless world.

My writing is all about people. How they connect or don’t, how they provide answers or create more problems, how we relieve each other’s angst, and provide each other relief, recognition, a good laugh, and love. Are these ideas? I doubt it.

I am pleased to have found my subject. I am relieved to have discovered that my characters might also have a sense of place. I do like to create a scene and Medford, the longer I let it soak, can be pretty funny. I have my own little colorful garden to pick from, and it is right outside my window, down my block and around the corner . . .


Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, this is JUST what I needed after a particularly trying apres pool incident this afternoon. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

My family had to come into my office to see why I was laughing so hard!!!

So funny.

Anonymous said...

Love this Marcia! Fantastic title and characters ripe for your own Medford version of Midnight in the garden....