Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah
April 23, 2012
The forces of spring have marched up Pack Creek Valley and on into the shoulders of the high country. What was grey up there a week ago is faintly aspen-green as their leaves join the parade called out by the sun. Sitting still in the warm stupor of the afternoon and thinking of nothing, one notices everything. Ravens and hawks at work. Several sizes of lizards charging around chasing several kinds of insects. Zap!
The claret cup cactus splash the somber landscape with touches of vibrant red. Last night the bats were out and about patrolling for insects in the air. The bats nested last night up under the eaves at one corner of my house. That they choose to live peacefully alongside me is a blessing.
Just in time, before the elegant spring weather slows me down to a minimal crawl and general laziness, the first full draft of the Memoir is finished, and off to editors tomorrow.
I’ll put down the memoir for a while to let it rest.
(Read or re-read the previous posting for a background explanation to what’s coming next . . ..)
It may well be that the three essays I’ve written about writing a memoir do not belong in the memoir itself. My main mentor thinks so.
They may be cut from the final book.
But it seemed important to think through what I was doing before I did it. And since most people go through episodes of self-contemplation, I thought I’d put my thinking alongside yours.
So . . .
FIRST MEMOIR THINKING
How do you think of yourself?
I don’t mean to ask what your opinion of yourself is.
I mean, as you go through your daily life, what process do you use to
accommodate the multiple and often contradictory views you have of the person you are?
Do you talk to yourself. I do. Many other people also.
A long-time friend talks to herself all the time.
I’ve heard her do it, and wondered Who is the I talking, and who is the I listening or responding? And what’s the purpose of the conversation?
Walt Whitman’s comment applies in this realm:
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, I am large. I contain multitudes.”
Me, too. I contain multitudes. Sometimes an audience as united as the supporters of a sports team. Sometimes an unruly, quarrelsome mob, and sometimes a serious-minded Executive Committee.
Whatever the metaphor, I hear many voices in my head.
And all of them mine.
A mental health professional knows that at one end of the spectrum this can mean a personality so divided that is deserves the diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder. That’s when you really do think you are more than one persons – and don’t know it.
There are other less-intimidating terms for the sense of distinct aspects of one’s being: alter-ego, avatar, for example; actors have stage names; writers employ a nom de plume or a pseudonym – all for good reasons.
This line of thinking leads to an essay I wrote – mostly to myself :
AN EXPLANATORY ASIDE
Why is this memoir entitled “The Argentine Chronicles of Senor don Roberto Juan Carlos y Suipacha.”
That’s the first question I’m asked when I describe the book.
Though perhaps not readily understood, my reply is not trivial.
It’s grounded in deep personal history – mine.
And it addresses that even more basic question -
"How do you think of yourself?”
In early childhood I, an only child, lived a long way out in the country and had no playmates except those I could create in my imagination. At this distance from those times I don’t recall the names of the friends I invented, though they seemed very real and ever-present at the time.
In games and adventures I, too, became something of a figment of my own imagination. I gave myself names to account for the various roles I played – as a way of being involved while still being in charge.
In other words, I was the writer, director, actor, and audience of a one-child-theater-of-the-mind. The whole movie.
It was a way of using solitude as self entertainment.
As a result, I don’t recall ever being truly lonely as a child.
Years later, as a teenager, when I had a morning paper route, I remember walking in the quiet dawn hours alone every morning, keeping myself company by reviving the theater of childhood, adding sequels as the cast of characters grew up with me.
Even now, in my mature years, I carry on that theatrical tradition, seeing myself playing different roles in scenarios both real and imagined.
This faculty of creative imagination is a horse I must keep under tight reign when writing essays, but the horse can be turned loose to run free when it comes to writing fiction in the form of novels.
When I’m asked which characters in my fiction are me, I smile and answer what any writer of fiction knows: All of them.
As for writing a personal memoir . . . a struggle all the way.
Keep in mind that this capacity for creating alter-egos does not arise out of a desire to deceive other people or to change my name and identity for public purpose, as entertainers, writers, poets, actors and secret agents sometimes do. Not at all.
My purpose is to entertain myself, to allow free reign to my creative imagination, and to see myself objectively with an eye to retaining a sense of humor about me and my life.
I also know that this activity is an antidote to my tendency to take life far too seriously, to focus on too much of the dark side outside and on too much of the dark side inside.
Much of this alter-ego activity is private – never shared – theater on a stage with one member of the audience. Sometimes, for fun, I share the pseudonyms with close friends and family.
But never in public, until now.
In the form of Senor Fuljumero.
When I committed to making a deep investment of my time and energy to the world of tango, I had an image of myself becoming what the Argentine’s call a jubilado milonguero – a senior citizen worthy of respect for his dignity, style, and great dancing talent.
It was a laughable goal. I would never, ever become a mature, handsome, swarthy Latin with sleek black hair, elegant clothes, smooth style - an absolute master of tango from having lived and danced tango all my life.
I could only become a parody of that figure.
A caricature - a comedic persona at best.
To keep my perspective, to be able to consider myself from the outside in, and to keep my sense of humor about the reality of my endeavor,
an alter-ego came to mind – named in the Spanish tradition. Hence:
Senor – Mr.
don – an honorific – the honorable
Roberto – the Spanish form of my first name
Juan Carlos – two of the names of the current King of Spain
Fuljumero – a Spanish twist for Fulghum
Suipacha – the name of the street in Buenos Aires where the tango emporium, Confiteria Ideal and the best tango shoe stores are located. The street gets its name from the first battle of the Argentine war of Independence from Spain – at a town called Suipacha.
(And, besides, Senor Fuljumero likes the way the word sounds when he says it aloud - Soo-ee-pah-cha.)
Now you know.
Want to know even more?
It’s hard to go this far and not tell you the other alter-egos I’ve used in the past in other circumstances and other places.
The list is long – but the stories of the names are too long to tell here.
You must imagine . . .
The Grand Duke Fuljumakis
Epitripos of the Cave of St. Makarios
Blind Bobby Bucksbam
Goodtime Bobby Lee Foojum
Le Grande Blanc Lapine Lunatique, Captain of the Bunny Brigade
Ali Baba Bobby
Bombasto Exsulate Jubilate Fulfum
Wonko the Sane or Wonko the Weird
Blaarch, the Oldest Living Neanderthal
The King of Karpoozi
All are relatives, friends, and boon companions of Senor don Roberto Juan Carlos Fuljumero y Suipacha.
Am I crazy?
No – it’s what I do to keep from going crazy.
Now you know.