Preface: Stephen King says to kill your darlings. I just finished reading his memoir cum book on writing. Loved it. But I'm not sure about killing my darlings. Does this mean kill the characters in the books you write or does it mean to ixnay the parts of your book(s) that you're attached to that don't propel the plot forward? I'm going with the latter.
So I'm writing this book and it was 120k words before I started killing off my darlings. It's painful but beneficial, kinda like having a wart burned off. Yesterday I had a brain blast. I can resurrect my darlings on my blog! It'll be like a "Pet Cemetary" for my (written) darlings.
This will be the first darling to get exhumed out of my manuscript and resurrected here on the blog. It's a little "flash memoir" (love that term--thanks Karin for introducing me to it) that I'll call "All Because of Baden Baden."
I’d love to have a pierced belly button but alas, the subcutaneous fat is a deterrent. Besides that, I’d look like every other girl in town. Belly button piercing is huge right now. So are tattoos. I’m not going to go out and get one of those either and I’ll tell you why. Got five minutes?
After I graduated college I moved to Washington, D.C.. I worked at the Times Journal, a publishing company in Springfield, Virginia. I met a girl there and we ended up traveling to Europe with her best friend from high school. This was not the best decision I ever made. For starters, there’s the third wheel syndrome. In addition to that, due to one of my classic open mouth switch feet statements which I’ll not go into at this time, our friendship fell apart shortly before our departure. I foolishly chose to go along anyway and was basically, shunned.
So there I was, sitting alone on my bed in a youth hostel in Brugges, Belgium in 1988. I was intently studying my travel resource, “Let’s Go Europe” and contemplating breaking away from Thing One and Thing Two. However, I was pretty intimidated by the idea.
Suddenly a tiny young girl bounced into the room. Not long after her arrival we struck up a conversation. She was from Charlottesville, Virginia and she was traveling Europe alone. Really? Really. She’d seen this. She’d been here. She’d eaten that. Her passport was stolen in Spain but she was having the adventure of a lifetime.
“Wow,” I said. “You're way younger than me and half my size. If you can travel Europe alone, I suppose I can too.” "Sure you can!" she said. “And the bonus is, you meet a lot more people when you travel solo.”
The next day at breakfast I said, “See you,wouldn’t want to be you,” to my original traveling partners. I walked out of the youth hostel and to the train station, huge back pack and all. I really didn’t want to be them because let’s face it, the life of the party was leaving. The look on their faces as I announced my detachment from them was priceless as the credit card commercial says.
Okay, where was I? Ah yes, alone in Europe. I headed south, planning my itinerary with the help of “Let’s Go Europe.” Pretty soon I found myself traveling with a girl named Kim. She was from California. She was running away from a guy who never got around to proposing to her after six years of dating.
Kim told me on more than one occasion, “Diane, if a guy doesn’t ask you to marry him in three years, he isn’t going to.” I can’t remember if I told her I was engaged or not. I’d left my engagement ring at home, afraid it might get stolen.
Kim and I eventually wound up in the little German town of Baden Baden, on the edge of the Black Forest. I wasn’t impressed with the food in Germany. It was meat, meat and more meat. It was scary meat with lots of fat nodules. Kim was a big time carnivore. She loved German food. One night she talked me into sharing a wild game platter. Thank the Lord there was German beer, lots of it, to wash down the wild game, lots of it.
Kim had planned our next day’s activity with the help of, you guessed it, “Let’s Go Europe.” “There’s a spa here,” she said in between bites of bear and boar, “that only costs fifteen American dollars on Tuesdays.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I said. She proceeded to read the list of spa services included in the surprisingly affordable price. I was excited. I'd never been to a spa before.
The next day it became quite clear why it was only fifteen American dollars on Tuesdays. Tuesday was co-ed day at the Baden Baden Day Spa. Every other day of the week, only one gender at a time was admitted. As a result, on Tuesdays all the old men in Baden Baden came to the spa to see all the young tourist girls in the buff.
I wasn’t too freaked out by the situation. I knew I’d never see any of these people again, including Kim. And, there weren’t any cute guys there either, just really old German men. I wanted to ask them, “Do your wives know you’re here?” but I don’t speak German.
Our fifteen American dollars bought an extensive array of spa services. We spent time in a steam room. We hung out in a sauna. We got scotch sprayed which entails getting drenched with a fire hose by a burly fraulein. Next we were supposed to dip briefly into a vat of ice water for its energizing effect. I opted out of that activity. Then, we were directed to a giant swimming pool of mineral water. You could float and/or swim as long as you wanted. It was here that I saw what would make me never want to get a tattoo.
Have you ever seen the buttocks of a seventy year old man? I have. Once I went to Baden Baden I knew what the front and back of a naked old man looks like. Gravity is not kind. I won’t talk about the fronts of those men but I will talk about the backs.
I’ve worked for an interior designer. I know what swagged drapery treatments look like. Every time I think of the buttocks of the old men in the Baden Baden spa, I think of swagged drapery treatments. The skin on each buttock does a swoopy thing. It starts high on the left hip and swoops down and then comes back up again to attach to the tailbone. It does the same thing on the right side. In essence it looks like the golden arches of McDonald’s if they were a) pink and b) upside down. Or, if you’re familiar with the art of Salvador Dali, imagine if he’d painted old men’s naked heinies instead of clocks. I’m melting . . . .
Given this experience, I can only imagine what a tattoo would do as the body ages. The once taut and firm skin canvas would soften and succumb to gravity. The mermaid, the anchor, the first wife’s name . . . I doubt they’d be recognizable a few decades after their creation. It'd be like the song says, "Slip, slidin' away . . ."