Here’s another essay just finished and hot off the presses…comments?
MY RICH PEOPLE’S EYE
The surest method I’ve found for beginning a new nonfiction work is to start writing fiction again. When I speak about writing, albeit infrequently these days, on panels or in workshops or in my friend’s writing classes at the University of South Carolina, someone always asks me why don’t you write fiction, with the less than subtle implication that fiction must surely be every writer’s dream and the most compelling of all literary art forms. You know who you are, short story writers and novelists-to-be and fiction reading enthusiasts everywhere. I applaud you. I salute you for your loyalty to the genre. Unfortunately, I find it impossible to join your ranks – yet. I’ve tried. God knows I’ve tried. This week I dusted off my trusty Cowgirls at the Roundup short story a/k/a historical romance a/k/a blistering lesbian passion novella a/k/a my version of Beethoven’s Unfinished Symphony. When I woke this morning, eager to resume my writing about lesbian cowgirls in Texas in the early 1900s, I lay in bed a few minutes too long.
I have a game I sometimes play by myself in bed. Aha – see? I could maybe turn this into a sexual story about women’s libido in their sixties and all the women who read this will be immediately captivated by the topic and wait with panting breath because they want to know if there is sex after sixty. And possibly a few of the men, too, although the men are fairly confident there is. Good news, or bad news, depending on your sexual appetite, I can assure you the sexual self lives on. However, that game isn’t what I’m playing by myself in bed today. No, the game I’m talking about is the difference in how we view our world. I call the game My Rich People’s Eye.
My game started simply and it’s been such fun I play it over and over again. But first, the back story that led to the creation of the game. I feel like Milton Bradley must have felt when he developed The Checkered Game of Life and other equally entertaining board games. Exhilarated with the creative process. Practically giddy. You see, earlier this year I had scheduled cataract surgeries in both my eyes. Yes, yes, I know. This is what old people talk about all the time. Their health… blah, blah, blah. I can remember when I used to say why do old people always talk about their health? This was when I was under fifty. Now that I’m sixty-five, I totally get it. But, I digress.
When I made my initial visit to the ophthalmologist who was to perform the typically routine surgeries, he mentioned I had a choice for my new lens. The Medicare lens which I qualified for would cost me approximately $200 per eye and would correct my nearsightedness roughly 80 – 90% within a few weeks following the surgery and he could almost guarantee I wouldn’t need to wear eyeglasses except for reading and close work like computer work, which by the way in case you’re wondering, was my only form of work. So far, so good. There was, however, a super deluxe eye treatment available which Medicare didn’t cover and the cost of that eye lens was approximately $2,000 per eye but it offered all sorts of advantages with top-notch reading vision as well as distance correction. In other words, it was The Bomb. I quickly told my doctor I would take the Medicare eye since my current budget wouldn’t allow the additional expense. No problem, he said, and made the notation in my chart. My first surgery was scheduled for June 23rd on my right eye and July 5th. on my left one.
At some point not long after my initial visit with the Eye Doctor with two kinds of eyes for the choosing, I was discussing this interesting dynamic of my perception of the Medicare Eye versus the Rich People’s Eye with a close friend of mine and out of the blue my friend told me she wanted to give me the Rich People’s Eye for my birthday. I was astonished, touched, and, frankly, overwhelmed by her generosity but told her I couldn’t accept her largesse. She countered with the irrefutable argument that it was her gift to offer and she would be disappointed if I rejected it. So there you are. In one of those quirks of fate and vicissitudes of life, as my daddy used to say, I called the Eye Doctor’s office and signed up for the Rich People’s Eye.
Everyone who knew I was having the cataract surgery had a story to share about how uneventful it would be. Nothing to it. Outpatient surgery in the morning and return the next day for the doctor to do the follow-up review of his work. What could be easier? Indeed, the procedure went just like that for me. I went in to the eye center on a Tuesday morning and came home with my Rich People’s Eye by noon. The first thing I noticed was the difference in color and that’s when my game began. The game goes like this: I close my left eye and open my right Rich People’s Eye. I went upstairs to my office when my friend brought me home and the room looked so bright and the gray walls seemed to be a different color if I closed my left eye. Magic!! My right eye now sees life in vivid bright colors and my vision is nearly the same in that eye as it is for people who don’t have to wear glasses.
So I can still play the game four months later because I never got even the Medicare left eye. The evil gods of herpes zoster, or shingles as they are more commonly known, struck a mighty blow against my Rich People’s Eye two days following the routine cataract surgery and the battle was on. Since I was familiar with these enemies from previous wars in the same eye, I wasn’t too surprised at their appearance but I was most assuredly unprepared for their ferocity. It has taken four months, three doctors, two French hens and a partridge in a pear tree to send these evil gods away. I can only now begin to contemplate a new Medicare left eye.
In the interim, I play my game with no winners or losers because I have no actual opponents. It’s simply me and my view of the world. This morning while I played the game and lay in bed with my dog snoring quietly beside me, my mind drifted to how people see the world and then you know how the mind takes these strange curves like a good baseball pitcher throws? Well, I thought of the activists who are engaged in a political movement known as Occupy Wall Street. Hundreds of people are protesting their frustration with the disparity in assets and liabilities in the population of the United States by moving into and settling in the Wall Street financial district in New York City in a peaceful statement of dissatisfaction with the status quo. It is a movement spreading to other cities in other states, and my mind made a connection to my Rich People’s Eye proposal versus my Medicare Eye option. Wasn’t this really the heart of the problems in our world in a microcosmic view? Game on.
We in the United States are now beginning to experience the financial hardships not seen in our country since The Great Depression. Our financial institutions that manipulate the markets which move world economies have a Rich People’s Eye and tunnel vision marked by greed and self-centeredness. Hedge funds, smedge funds – they’re like casinos. The House always wins. Gone are the days when workers are valued for the quality of their work and not their abilities to take short cuts. The amazing prosperity and wealth generated by some of the Baby Boomers in the Post-World War II Era of technological advances and innovations in communications have been the gold standard by which all nations measure their own achievements. Are we as good as the Americans? Are we better than the Americans? Why aren’t we rich like the Americans? And even if we have as much money as the Americans, why are they so cool and hip? Thank God we still rank first in one category according to a survey published on AOL this week. We are very cool.
Now we see China and India and the Middle Eastern countries controlling much of the wealth Americans have created because we have sold our collective souls to the company stores as Tennessee Ernie Ford so aptly sang in the classic country lyrics for Sixteen Tons. “You load sixteen tons and what do you get/ Another day older and deeper in debt/ St.Peter don’t you call me ‘cause I can’t go/ I owe my soul to the company store.” Or in our case to Bank of America or Citigroup or Chase or Goldman Sachs or Beijing or Saudi Arabia or Kabul, et.al. We are adrift in a sea of debt and the waves crash relentlessly against our shores without relief.
Whew. I need to play a different game. My Rich People’s Eye has put me in a world of hurt and led to pondering and mulling over and ruminating to beat the band. Truth seems to be stranger than fiction and much more stressful. Let’s see. Where did I put that Cowgirls at the Roundup manuscript?