1. Introduction and general remarks (5 minutes)
I would like to thank Drew and Richard, as well as Richard and Drew, since they both come first, for inviting me back to conduct this symposium on the connection between fiction in its raw drafted state and life in its raw drafted state in the parking lot of the shopping center. (Pause for Japanese motorcycle screaming through the intersection at the entrance to the shopping center) The thing was I didnít even know how much that title was really about as clever and foresightful as I couldnít know. (Pause. Add caveat that foresightful is a word herewith and forever more in this column.) Because the mink was indeed hollow. It was as hollow as a tube, as hollow as a chocolate rabbit, and just as easy to melt in the hot sun when finally the dome over the sky cracked and collapsed and there was nothing to stop the relentless hot clarity of those pure rays and so a whole life there just gave way so easily, like meat off a long stewed bone.
[Suggestion to self: Comparison of meat off a long stewed bone should be changed to long-stewed meat off a bone. Please do not reverse this correction even though it changes the rhythm of the line. Because it is more correct. You canít really stew a bone and then pull off meat on it. The meat must be stewed as well. The meat is stewed as well. If the bone cooked, the meat cooked. There are laws.]
3. Lose my cool and free associate (3 minutes)
Because I know myself, honestly, and I was trained to allow freedom to kidnap a train of thought and send it careening (not careering, I am suspicious of that as a word) off the edge of a cliff ó I could say rays of truth instead of pure rays. But more than likely I would say Rayís truth. Ray as in the original Ray who long ago invented the pizza I ate too much of back in high school, at least one fragrant autumn when food was basically a way to stop the munchies. Rayís truth was that he knew those kids with the long scraggly hair and the pimples and the sweatshirts and carpenterís pants, those white kids with the knapsacks. He had their number. They were stoned out of their upper middle class afterschool minds most afternoons, and so he would direct the giant standing fans to blow the scent of his hot pizza out into the street. And while waiting for the crosstown bus the passle of girls, the ones who had tied bandanas to the hammer loops in their carpenterís pants, which just added to the general floppy-sloppy of their look but made them feel more loose and carefree and closer to James Taylor, would suddenly turn and shuff over to the big open window of Rays, and order a slice apiece. Amazing how those girls could put it away, thought Ray.
Notice how I say those girls. Iím very good at third-personing myself. At those-ing myself. Always have been. Which is how I think I was able to stay trapped in Mink Hollow for so long.
4. Remember point of address (as long as possible)
Mink Hollow is a road in the hamlet of Lake Hill in Woodstock. Lake Hill is called that because there is a lake in that area and there is also a hill. Lake. Hill. But that is like having a person with two first names. Like John Jack. Like Michael Jacob. In fact there is a Michael Jacob and in fact Lake Hill and Michael Jacob were and may still be very much the same. In fact while there is no longer a Lake Hill there is in fact still a Michael Jacob, battling for the scraps after I tipped the dumpster. So hello Michael Jacob, Esquire in the third row: Did you bring some papers for me to not read but sign anyway, or are they still sitting in their brown envelope on the kitchen table in the kitchen that I once sat in óone particular night when all hell had already broken loose, and when the dumpster had smashed into the road and spilled its contents all over the place and we were in the middle of entertaining a potential superstar and her much older manager/boyfriend ?
[Suggestion to self: Try to make sure noone mistakenly thinks that the papers were on the table that one night when the potential superstar etcetera were all sitting in the kitchen together. The papers came later. Not weeks later. Not months later. More later than that.]
5. Re-remember point of address (5 minutes, maybe 4)
Mink Hollow, not to mention the entire hamlet of Lake Hill, is no longer a location where I can be located. Lo and behold as they used to say in the olden days, which was one of the main attractions I felt to the area ó which once had been a vital ox trail ó lo and behold I went loco there. I went loco first on a low level and then one day I looked up and saw the house looming over me and then something shook loose, that one singular bolt that kept the whole thing in place, and my suddenly clearly loco state nearly dislocated my whole entire life, from baby to toddler in a sailor dress to solemn eight year old to pizza-eating teenager to woman wondering whether or not she was indeed at her dead end. So for that reason you could not drag me there. You could not trick me to going down that long, dead-end road even if you blew the scent of pizza out of your oven. Because yes is the answer to the title, and the road is the best and the worst kind of dead end, in that it really is one. And what is the first thing you think of when you think of minks? Coat. Trap. Trapped to make a coat. And by the way, coatwise, it was either freezing there or it was boiling hot. Have you ever smelled the tannic, metallic, ashy smell of a cast iron pan, burning so hot itís turning orange on top of a wood stove, long after any water it once held has been boiled away?