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Tuesday
May112010

The Others

Man, I just haaaaaaaaaate it when the paparazzi won't leave me alone. Last week I had one whole reporter from The Mountain Mail interview me over a cup of tea, and it was brutal. She kept asking me stuff, like "Where did you grow up?" and "Do you like Salida?" Just non-stop grilling. I was like, LEAVE MARY BETH ELLIS ALONE... RIGHT NOW... I MEAN IT! YOU ARE LUCKY SHE EVEN WRITES FOR YOU!!!!

The piece came out a day later than expected, because some late-breaking news demanded immediate coverage. I am blessed indeed that the wood-chip spreading crime wave died down long enough for my profile to appear at all; as it was, I was bumped off the front page by a geese crisis.

Once the story did run, the reporter hinted that I was concerned about living in a community with other artists. I have no idea where this came from; I only said "I hate people" maybe ten or twelve times. My housemates are lovely, but it is quite the adjustment to suddenly find myself not the baby of the residency, as I usually am. There are three attendees younger than I am, which makes me all old and broke-down and stuff. And they are honest ladies, as most creatives are; one of the women in my house is in her fifties but looks nowhere near it, so we told her so. After we were done exclaiming over her non-crackin' skin ("You're KIDDING!!" "No way are you over fifty!" "Wow, what kind of moisturizer do you use?"), the group turned to me.

FELLOW ARTIST: How old are you, Mary Beth?

ME: Thirty-three.

EVERYBODY: ...oh.

ME: And a half.

This is also the first time I've attended a residency at which I'm the sole writer. Everybody else is primarily a visual artist; the Colorado Art Ranch has rented an enormous retail space to serve as their studio, and every time I walk past they are fashioning balls from bicycle tires or dying volcanic ash in a bowl or some non-word intensive thing, and while I largely don't understand it, I do enjoy the front window on how art can rise from... well... crap. My experience with art was largely garnered through staring at something on a wall and going, "That's some mighty fine shiznit, right there." I was a downright joy on the company trip to the Louvre.

Now I'm in the thick of a colony of modern artists, which has largely been an exercise in shutting up. It makes home life a study in process. In the first week of the residency, I came upon one of my housemates standing next to an ironing board and wrinkled mass of paper sheets, letting the universe know in know uncertain terms that it was oppressing her.

"What's the matter?" I said.

"My paper," she said. "I made it in the studio today, and I'm trying to iron out the wrinkles. And it's not working."

Well, of course not.  We looked in vain for a PULVERIZED WOOD PULP setting on the Sunbeam, and then the Proctor & Gamble stockholder in me came alive. "Try this," I said.

"Oh!" she said rapturously, running the iron down a smooth sheet of paper. "Look at that! I don't even care if this stuff is full of chemicals!" Which, given the predilections of the surrounding area (the pressure is on to re-use Ziplock bags, and dentures) is an endorsement indeed.

Another housemate is wading through heaps and heaps of dry cleaning tags in what is shaping up as a vibrantly cool project to honor her Korean parents. But the tags require a bath.

"Do you have a lingerie bag?" she asked me. (They always ask me. For everything. Because I have it. The Bridemobile was loaded to critical mass in Virginia, added to in Oklahoma City, and thinned out only marginally as I crossed the Continental Divide. I am perhaps the first visiting artist in the history of the Colorado Art Ranch to arrive armed with my mother's silver set, figure skates, a quesadilla maker, and a butane torch.)

"You know," said the residency director, as he paid a social call to my lair, which fully resembled the just-vomited contents of a Bed Bath and Beyond, "not enough of our artists bring their wedding china. I feel like we encourage it for nothing."

So yeah, I had a lingerie bag. She happily stuffed it with PRESS ONLY tags, added Tide, and took herself off to mix... something into... something... and shape it into... something.

Life with visual artists forces an entirely new perspective; I am accustomed, as a writer, to viewing the world through this chronic, anti-depressant lens of How Can I Turn This Into an Essay The Atlantic Would Like to Pay Large Amounts of Money For? This is why I'm always late for everything-- while the rest of the world is properly heating curling irons and pre-packing lunches, I'm hunched over a notebook, weeping: "But... don't you see? How the assembly directions for this futon are all about parallels of the Federal Reserve System and the rise of Crocs?"

But these modern art folks-- it's a world beyond, I tell you what. Last week we went on a hike, and this is what I saw, and shot at:



When I turned around to co-spaz over the view with my fellow artists, this is what they were taking pictures of:



There was a great deal of  "Oh, look at the texture!" and "Isn't this great? I wonder how long it's been here!" and "Can you believe Mary Beth is thirty-three? I would have guessed forty-eight, easy." So that made me take a second look at the... rusty thing. What did it mean? What might I write about it?

I might write that it symbolized how even creatives diverge in their worldviews, and that we can influence not only the general public, but one another, and that I don't care if I'm up to my lady parts in raw sewage, I am not recycling my dentures.

rental cars and Westbound Corollas at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com

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Reader Comments (11)

[...] Beth is no longer the baby, nor does she even look like she is. Share and [...]

[...] click here for the latest:  The Others [...]

Dad noticed right away that the Mountain Mail writer did not mention YOUR BOOK "Drink To The Lasses" in the list of published items.

May 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHunter House Mom

Indeed. The lawsuit is pending.

May 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMB

"and while I largely don’t understand it, I do enjoy the front window on how art can rise from… well… crap."

But don't you see THAT is exactly what you do with this blog, too? You turn the crappy things that happen in your life, and turn it into something we —the readers— enjoy.

May 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie

Never thought of it that way, RPJ. Taking the dry cleaning tags and rusty... things of life, and then suspending them in a jar of verbal urine, that's me.

May 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMB

In my eyes, all true artists have the Midas touch: turning sh*t into gold ; )

May 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie

Ahem! Never mind what the rusty... thing means, O right-brained ones. What IS IT?

BTW, you rock!

May 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim Hunter

I think it's some kinda retaining wall. But that's not the most important part, of course!

May 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMB

You’re in The Forbidden Zone.

"Logic – you, OUT!"

And this tale has triggered the memory of the Yale undergraduates who went for some sort of Power Nature Walk in the boonies.

Where Boon was, don’t know (probably Connecticut, an 8-Ball-In-The-Side-Pocket socket of a state, mate).

A farmer ran across this post-luncheon mob that had brought their own vittles - and uncomfortably witnessed a vehement argument unfolding about whether or not corn cobs were biodegradable.

Would the planet crash if they were just tossed into the bushes?!?!?!?!

Of course, that meant that miscreants actually were lobbying to acquire enough political power to force the cob-tossing wanna-bees to carry the damned things back to Civilization.

Imagine what these spark plugs will be like when they’re arguing about recycling their dentures, in the Old Stone Age Home, in 2065.

After their spin around the block as U.S. Supreme Court justices.

May 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDon Reed

[...] literally, unlike 99.99% of the population, because I mean… I watched this on a tape.  The Colorado Art Ranch believes in communing with Tetanus Magic walls, but not DVR’s.  We were, however, equipped with a middle-of-the-line VCR.  I imagine if I [...]

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