Last Duck March of 2011

I spent New Year’s Eve alone in downtown Memphis watching five ducks parade down a red carpet. Before you feel sorry for me, let me reassure you I had other options. I could have gone with the guys and watched Vandy take on Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl.

Me and football? Nah. I don’t like football.

I didn’t want to ruin the game for them. Plus, I like alone time. I like thinking my own thoughts, and Memphis possesses just the right ambience for writing.

I had no transportation, a little money, and a notebook. I was set. I found a safe spot at the foot of W.C. Handy’s statue in the park and let my stream of consciousness form words on the page. I would have made William Faulkner mighty proud.

I made the trip to Memphis to rediscover myself. Amidst my recent tragedy, I misplaced my goals, my dreams, my desires. But in Memphis they began to trinkle back, one by one as I listened to music drift in and out of one doorway then another.

The blues has a way of cutting to the core and making people move. You have to do something when you hear the blues. You just can’t be. You have to be something. I searched for what I was.

The first word that came to mind was crazy. My friends warned me not to go alone. They said I’d end up getting mugged or worse.

Nonsense. But a quick scan of a vendor’s wares reminded me how naïve I can be. For five bucks I could buy  a rhinestone Glock belt buckle. If I were in the wrong place at the wrong time, say just a couple streets over behind the Fed Ex, I could buy the farm.

I wasn’t afraid, but I wasn’t stupid either. I set my radar on high alert.

The wind picked up and rustled my pages. It was too chilly to stay outside much longer. I figured I might as well do a little shopping (loosely translated looking), so I headed to the Peabody Hotel to check out the boutiques, terribly expensive but free to browse.

Somehow I found myself in the lobby, awaiting the grand event of the day—The Last Duck March of 2011.

I had heard of the Peabody Ducks, but I never took time to watch them. As the story goes, after sipping a little too much Jack Daniels, General Manager Frank Schutt let loose three live decoys in the hotel fountain. The guests fell in love with the ducks. A former Ringling Bros. animal trainer took the official position of Duckmaster and trained the ducks to walk the red carpet from their pent house abode to the marble fountain and back each day. Thus, a tradition was born.

I am a writer who searches for metaphor, another level of meaning, both in literature and in life. For some reason, The Last Duck March of 2011 stuck with me. It had to mean “something” more than just a one-time event. Where’s the serendipity in that?

So I did a little research to unearth any symbolism associated with ducks. Because ducks can run, swim, or fly to elude their enemies, they are considered resourceful. Celtic legends also depict ducks as symbols of simplicity, honesty, and sensitivity. J.D. Salinger’s Catch in the Rye relies on ducks to convey a message of the motion of life.

But what about me?

Why did I spend an hour at the Peabody Hotel, notebook in hand, waiting, waiting, waiting to watch five ducks waddle down a red carpet to an elevator door?

Oh, it was a grand to-do, mind you. I snagged optimum seating, a red chair in front of the entourage. Children and adults lined the red carpet. Everyone toyed with their cameras, checking the flashes, waiting for the special moment.

The truth is I really didn’t care about the ducks. It was something to do. I watched. They waddled. I left.

It was getting late, so I made my way to Starbucks to finish my writing with the help of a grande three-pump, nonfat, half-caf, no whip mocha. Not that I’m picky or anything.

As I waited for my drink, I cast my eyes on a small table for two. But before I could sit down, some guy staked it out by setting his backpack in one of the chairs. I took a bar seat by the window. It was just as well. I could watch the carriages roll by. I looked over my shoulder. It figured the guy would be a writer. He gripped a pen and scribbled words in his notebook.

Inspired, I took out my notebook and wrote my own words in a frenzy, page after page. Then three street kids walked in. If I had to guess they lived behind the Fed Ex Forum, which is directly across from Starbucks. If I traveled a few streets over in that direction, I bet I could find a real Glock, not like the one with Rhinestone bling on the vendor’s table.

The funny thing was I knew these kids.

These were the kids I had written about in my first manuscript and the incomplete sequel. I watched them out of the corner of my eye. Unbelievable. The characters I created were so real to me I recognized them when I saw them on the street.

That’s when it hit me, and I almost said it aloud. “I have got to get my ducks in a row.”

My metaphor.

The year 2011 was very difficult for me, but 2012 doesn’t have to be, despite what people have predicted. I can choose to make the best of my situation, and if 2012 does turn bad, at least I will have spent my days living instead of hiding.

So if I have one resolution for 2012, it’s to get my “ducks in a row.”

I will polish my manuscript and send it to the agents and editors who have requested it. I will finish my sequel and plan out my other two story ideas that await being written. I will work on my lyrics and take a chance on a few dreams.

I have to get my ducks in a row.

What’s your metaphor for 2012?

Bibliotheca

This picture has very little to do with this post, but I couldn't resist. It's my favorite scene from one of my all-time favorite movies.

Everybody possesses a library, some extensive, some selective, but each one a treasure trove of history, comedy, and wisdom. I am discriminating with my collection. You see, a library is like your life, and the books within are the friends you make.

Take a look at what lines your shelves.

Laughter is one of the greatest gifts God has given us, and we need to laugh. Henry Ward Beecher once said, “Mirth is God’s medicine. Everyone ought to bathe in it.” But I think Alan Alda pretty much said it best when he offered this advice: “When people are laughing, they’re generally not killing each other.”

We need volumes of laughter.

When we’re in need of good company, we don’t just walk into our library and pull just anything from the shelf. Only the right title will do. Some choices offer wise counsel. Some offer comfort. Some take on us wild adventures. Some help us find our inner child, cajole our hopeless romantic, or nurture precious memories.

The most special volumes cut through our exteriors and find their way to our core. They help us open up, give us courage, and inspire us to make our dreams come true.

So many books, so little time. But it’s quite the injustice to choose a book only to leave it sitting on the shelf. Books and friendships must be interactive. I like what James Bryce has to say about books–“The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.”

As you build your library, build carefully, build wisely. Every book comes with a price. You get what you pay for, and exteriors can be deceiving.

The greatest let down of all is to be enticed by the blurb on the back cover and then later discover the book itself is nothing like what it promises. The old axiom is true. You can’t always judge a book by its cover.

I’ll leave you with a metaphorical challenge. Read the quotes I’ve listed below, and every time you see the word book, think about your friends and friendships. You may walk away with a new lesson about life.

“If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ~  Toni Morrison

“Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own.”  ~  William Hazlitt

“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. “ ~  Anna Quindlen

A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.  ~  Franz Kafka

“Books can be dangerous.  The best ones should be labeled “This could change your life.”  ~Helen Exley

“Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.”  ~ Henry Ward Beecher

[Books are] “medicine for the soul.”  ~  Inscription over the door of the Library at Thebes

“Good as it is to inherit a library, it is better to collect one.”  ~  Augustine Birrell

“A house without books is like a room without windows.”  ~ Heinrich Mann

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”  ~  Richard Steele

And what true friendship is to the heart.

What do you think? Lend a part of yourself to my library. Please leave a comment. I always enjoy hearing from you.