Posts Tagged ‘Introductory Blog Posts’

In my childhood home, the bedroom closets were so small, the one in my parents’ room was too diminutive for my mother and father to share. It held only my mother’s clothes and shoes. My father claimed for himself a closet downstairs in a room that had been converted from a garage by the previous owners. My father’s closet with its sliding door became one of my favorite hiding places. In my mind, I am back there now, standing under the clothes rack, half hidden by corduroy and gaberdine, eyeing the pale sneakers nestled among the other shoes. Those sneakers on the floor of my father’s closet were my first glimpse of Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars and my introduction to a part of my father’s life that ended, for the most part, before mine began.

The white, low-cut All-Stars in my father’s closet were ones that he’d worn playing rec-league basketball. Though I hold one brief memory of him on the court in his Piggly Wiggly jersey, those days of his mostly predated me and my older sister. Our father played basketball only rarely after he became a father and left his job as a junior-high biology teacher to operate a marina on a lake near our hometown.

That former life of his that I could never truly see remained a source of fascination for me. The man I saw most often wearing a uniform that resembled a gas station attendant’s, complete with an oval chest patch with Dave stitched in script, had once been a multi-sport athlete. He was a first-generation college student whose baseball skills had won him a scholarship to High Point, an opportunity that my grandparents approved of only because it was a Methodist school. Though he never wore his Chuck Taylors on the baseball diamond, those shoes were an emblem of his years as a student-athlete. 

In 1921, ten years before my father was born, Charles “Chuck” Taylor, a travelling salesman who’d played farm-league basketball, was hired by Converse. Wanting a basketball shoe for himself that wouldn’t hurt his feet after a game, he recommended design changes that Converse adopted in 1922. In 1923, to honor his contributions, Converse added Chuck Taylor’s signature to the ankle patch (Dalesio par. 8, AP par. 3).

I bought my first pair of Chuck Taylors at the Salvation Army when I was in high school. My then-boyfriend had introduced me to thrift-store shopping, much to my parents chagrin. They didn’t mind when my boyfriend and I combed the local flea market and thrift stores for vinyl records, but buying clothes there was a different matter. We’ve worked hard so you don’t have to wear clothes from thrift stores, they said. My parents continued to repeat those words until I was in graduate school. That’s when they began to remark on the quality of my consignment-shop and thrift-store finds. For me, in those years as a graduate teaching assistant, used clothes were my creative solution to a problem: how to assemble a professional wardrobe on a meager grad-school stipend. But I digress.

The first Chucks that I bought–navy high-tops from the Salvation Army–weren’t just a retro fashion statement, they also proved ideal for my summer jobs in factories. With their thick rubber soles and ankle support, those navy Converse saw me through eight-hour days of standing on cement floors, two summers in a furniture factory and one in a glass plant.

In 1972, a few years after I first glimpsed my father’s All-Stars on the floor of his closet, Converse leased an old rubber factory in Lumberton, North Carolina. From 1972 until the factory closed in March 2001, all Converse were finished or made entirely at that factory (Dalesio par. 12), including the navy high-tops that I wore for three summers. Back then, when I was a student, I had no idea that All-Stars were made in North Carolina, just 136 miles from my hometown. I still didn’t know it in 2001, two months after the Converse plant closed, when my husband’s newspaper job found us relocating to Virginia.

In a thrift store in Richmond, I happened upon my second pair of Chuck Taylors. When I spotted them on the shelf, my mind traveled back to the navy ones that I’d worn years earlier. I’d forgotten how comfortable they were and have since acquired several more pairs, none of which I bought new. As a woman with small feet, I can wear the size six Converse that teenage boys have grown out of.

My older nephew, now beyond his teenage years, wears Converse, too.

How many more generations will rediscover them?

Works Cited

Associated Press. “Who the Heck was Chuck Taylor Anyway?” Kentucky New Era. 28 March

  1. A7. Google News. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Fv4rAAAAIBAJ&sjid=

         M20FAAAAIBAJ&pg=1717%2C8232748. Accessed 21 Jan. 2019.

Dalesio, Emery P. “Converse Closes Chuck Taylor Plant.” Kentucky New Era. 28 March

  1. A7. Google News.https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Fv4rAAAAIBAJ&sjid=

        M20FAAAAIBAJ&pg=1717%2C8232748. Accessed 21 Jan. 2019.

As a young child, I was mystified by my parents’ interest in estate auctions. Though the auctioneer’s chant intrigued me, I could no more understand his rapid-fire bid-calling than I could my parents’–and all of the other adults’–inclination to stand stock-still in the blazing sun, raising their hands only occasionally to signal a bid.

Once when I had endured standing for as long as I could, I wandered away from my parents and climbed atop one of the tables. For me, it simply offered a respite from standing; I didn’t think of it as a sale table. But when my mother appeared before me a few minutes later, she said, “The auctioneer’s going to sell everything on this table. If you don’t climb down, he will sell you, too.”

As I remember those words of my mother’s now, I can almost feel the splinters burrowing in my palm as I pushed myself away from the point of purchase. Though I had contemplated life with other parents, the ones that I had were tolerable, and I had no desire to be sold to the highest bidder.

I never became an auction-goer, but I share my parents’ fascination with objects from the past. And I can trace the allure of artifacts back to those outings with them. Rather than standing and listening to an auction chant, I prefer the quiet pastime of browsing the shelves of antique shops and thrift stores. What appeals to me about such excursions is the possibility of the unexpected find: most recently a set of wooden letter blocks at Picket Fence Antiques, and earlier a chair from The Crow’s Nest and a student desk from Diversity Thrift (all of which are pictured here).

For me, the serendipity that comes with thrifting and antiquing is akin to the discoveries of the writing process. Though the journey doesn’t always lead to unexpected treasures, when I persist–whether as a browser or a writer–I eventually find something of value that I did not seek.

 

TGR’s “Boeing Boeing” (2017) / Ken Burns

A year ago, as a model for my students’ introductory assignment, I composed a post about my work as a writer. Now as I revisit that assignment, rather than turning again to my writing, I have chosen to write about acting.

Though I began performing in community theatre as a teenager in the 1980s, I was away from it—focusing on my teaching and writing—for more than twenty-five years. Becoming an acting student in my forties—enrolling in classes in Richmond, Virginia, in 2011 and 2012—rekindled my passion for the craft. I fell in love with acting all over again, and I found myself wondering how I’d ever left it. Since moving back to North Carolina in 2013, I have performed in plays at Foothills Performing Arts, Hickory Community Theatre, the Green Room Community Theatre, and most recently at the Hickory Playground’s second annual festival of new one-act plays.

HCT’s “Incorruptible” (2016) / Ken Burns

HCT’s “Superior Donuts” (2016) / Ken Burns

For me as a writer, acting is another way of working with words, a process of transporting them from the page to the stage and transforming the language into the utterances of a living, breathing character—someone who isn’t me but in whom I can “live truthfully,” as Sanford Meisner would say, “under the given imaginary circumstances.”

Early illustrated writing c. 1974

Early illustrated writing c. 1974

Three pictures, one-hundred words, minimum: That’s what I asked of my students, and of myself, for the introductory blog assignment for the semester. “Rather than trying to tell your whole life story,” I wrote in the assignment,  “focus on one aspect of your life or one interest of yours.” It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But when I sat down to complete the assignment, words initially failed me. As I tried to compose a draft in my mind, what came to me instead were these lines from Patricia Hampl’s essay “Red Sky in the Morning”:

How much reality can subject-verb-object bear on the frail shoulders of the sentence? The sigh within the sentence is more like this: I could tell you stories–if only stories could tell what I have in me to tell. (178)

Choosing to include those lines of Hampl’s reflects my passion for writing, while the words themselves illustrate the struggle of writing–even for those of us who identify ourselves as writers.

Heat ms

1989 manuscript with notes from my teacher. The story, which she titled “Heat,” was published in 1991.

At the beginning of last semester, when I projected my own blog on the screen for the first time, one of the students remarked on the tagline: “Writer, Teacher.”

Have you written any books? she asked.

Written, not published, I started to say (“I could tell you stories . . .”), but instead I said, “I am not an author of any books, but I identify myself as a writer because I am someone for whom writing has always been a way of making sense of the world.

Review of "Go Set a Watchman" (2015)

Review of “Go Set a Watchman” (2015)

 

 

 

 

Work Cited

Hampl, Patricia. “Red Sky in the Morning.” Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft. Ed. Janet Burroway. 3rd ed. Longman, 2011.