I spoke at TEDx Greenville on March 22. I am a through and through introvert. TEDx? I only have Ideas Worth Keeping to Myself.
to large groups...isn't really my jam. I like workshops. A classroom
setting. A table discussion or meeting where everyone is sitting.
with bright lights in my eyes. Unable to see how the audience is
reacting. It freaks me out. Though I think I am getting better. I have
to thank the amazing Deb Sofield
and my husband Chris
in all, I'm pleased with my TEDx Experience. I got through it...and I
got the chance to talk about something that concerns me deeply.
Like all Mel Brooks movies, LIFE STINKS
is a farce. A riches to rags story about Goddard Bolt, a wealthy
financier who loses everything in a bet and goes to live on the streets
of Los Angeles. The whole movie is hilarious — but there’s this one
scene that cracks Chris and me up every time.
Goddard is walking with his newfound homeless friend, Sailor, when “Pops” walks by.
Sailor: Pops ain’t gonna be around long; his ‘elevens’ are up.
Goddard Bolt: What?
Sailor: His elevens! Look at the back of his neck. You
see them two cords, stickin’ out? They make, like, an ‘eleven’. Once
they’re up that’s it. He’s a goner.
It’s a brief moment with a fantastic visual punchline.
The expression “his elevens are up” was first used in a biography of Typhoid Mary in 1902. John McNulty,
a writer and humorist famous for his depictions of New York saloon
life, used the expression frequently. It is an expression always
associated with and reserved for the seedier side of life. Those two
parallel tendons on the back of the neck pop out and look like the
number eleven (11) when someone is very old…or an alcoholic…or
starving…or consumed with a wasting disease. That eleven is a sign for
everything that we do to ourselves and everything that happens to us. A
sign of unimaginable frailty and unimaginable endurance.
Sometimes, because I also study writing, I feel encumbered by the
need for explanations. The need to explain how my writing works. To
justify what I’m doing. Why all this talk about deathbeds or lack of deathbeds and trees falling?
This need for explanation is not a real need — one of the perks of creative writing is that you never have to explain yourself.
Still. Permit me just this one explanation.
I have said that this isn’t my story and I have said that I’m trying to say more than my story. More than. But maybe this isn’t clear.
What I mean is…that I am trying to illustrate a way that things could happen more than I’m trying to tell you what happened.
I’m trying to say: This is how people start to feel isolated. No — this
is one way people could feel isolated. This is one way people could
fall through the cracks. These are some of the cracks. Here they are.