I was annoyed, though. That was also around the time that Coach stopped making good purses and I needed one. 2008 was the year I started searching for a new purse and couldn't find one.
In the 90's, like many people, I fell in love with the book A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley. There were a few lines that I have never forgotten.
So all I have is the knowledge that I saw! That I saw without being afraid and without turning away, and that I didn't forgive the unforgivable. Forgiveness is a reflex for when you can't stand what you know. I resisted that reflex. That's my sole, solitary, lonely accomplishment.
It's not even that I never forgot them, they are just sort of always in my mind. I love those words.
One year, Karen and I were doing a book signing at The LA Times Festival Of Books and Jane Smiley was also there! Oh my Buddha! The woman who wrote the words that I kept in my mind any time I felt like I couldn't do something is in the same place we are! I'm going to die! So of course I got all shy, didn't really say anything, and got a book signed by her. I am a moron. How is it that I could sign a book I wrote for someone then ten minutes later be so afraid to meet the person who inspired me to write that book? I AM LAME.
The students who started the MFA program in 2008 were graduating this year and since then, many new students have joined the program. Coach still hasn't made a good bag since then, so I packed my stupid purse and went back to Palm Springs to get photos of the students being students. I'd also be there there for the graduation ceremony so I could hear all those YOU CAN DO IT speeches nobody listens to. The campus moved to a new location and we arrived to a flutter of freak show excitement as Bombshell McGee was laying out by the pool.
I dropped my bags off in my room and immediately got to work photographing the new students and the new surroundings.
Oh, how things had changed.
While the tattooed home-wrecker by the pool didn't seem the least bit bothered by tourists taking her photo while she soaked up the rays, the students learning to write the next best-seller had no problem yelling at me not to point that thing at them. I was welcomed with sneers, glares, and raised voices. Lovely! That makes my job so much easier!
On the night of the graduation ceremony, the line-up was a speech by the head of the MFA department, a speech by a graduating student, a speech by A PULITZER -PRIZE WINNING AUTHOR, then a sweet video for the graduating class created with many of the photos I took during their first year. There was bar serving beer and wine as well as a dessert bar (the peanut butter cookies were really good!) in the ballroom and most students and family members were already celebrating before the ceremony got started. I saw the Pulitzer- Prize Winner reading the notes for her speech the second I walked into the ball room. She was at a table with a few other people whose backs were to me. I snapped a few photos, without flash and from a distance so I would not disturb anyone (as always, I rarely ever use flash). And then it seemed like a bolt of lightening went off in the room. The student who glared at my camera the most the last 2 days, appeared next to me with a bigger camera, a bigger lens, and the biggest most brightest flash attachment EVER (I am resisting the urge to say and the smallest penis) was taking photos. Where ever I went during the evening, he was there, flashing away- casting shadows everywhere.
The speeches started and the audience was happily drinking and laughing at all the appropriate times. And they drank more. And they laughed more. I took photos and Flashy took photos and I positioned myself in the best spot I could so I could get the best photo of the Pulitizer- Prize Winning Novelist who was about to speak to the graduating students. The one who wrote the words I have never forgotten. The one who signed my book but I was too shy to talk to.
Jane Smiley went on stage and as soon as I held my camera to my eye, Flashy's flash started going off like 4th of July fireworks making a glare bounce off Jane's glasses. I was so glad it wasn't me who did that. As Jane talked about Charles Dickens, I walked around the room and tried for a few more photos. The students were drinking and still in a laughy mood from listening to the previous student speaker they all seemed to love so much. Jane may have been losing the popularity contest with the students. She was winning with this photographer! I sat in an empty seat in the back of the room, listening, with my camera at my eye, just in case. Jane Smiley composed a list of things that would help the students after graduation and it was about being fearless. Wait, WHAT? Jane Smiley was talking about being fearless and suddenly I was listening so hard that I could not move my camera from my face because I was afraid it would make a sound and I would miss something. Don't be afraid to eavesdrop, don't be afraid to be curious, don't be afraid to spy, don't be afraid to ask if that is from Macy's or Mervyn's or Target.... don't be afraid to cry into your camera. Ok, she didn't say that last part about crying but she did really say that shopping thing. But, she may have listed different stores. I can't remember because I was wiping my tears off the back of my camera.
As the video with the images I took in the year before played, the students oohed and ahhed over the photos and the memories while I convinced myself that when the night was done I'd finally go speak to Jane Smiley and thank her for inspiring me. I would not be afraid to talk! I could do it! The lights came on and just as I saw everyone from Jane Smiley's table get up start to walk away, a bunch of students who were rude and dismissive and who told me NOT TO TAKE PHOTOS OF THEM days before picked that moment to come over and tell me they hoped I got good photos of them for their graduation video and they didn't realize I had books, too. So, you were snooty bitches because you thought I was a peon, nothing photographer then you put google to use and now you feel dumb? Go fuck yourselves. I am on a mission to be fearless. So I told them yes, I got good photos of them as I saw the Jane Smiley group getting further and further out of the room. The closer I got to Jane, the more people stopped to talk to me or ask me to take their photo. Oh, come on!
I finally made my way to the other side of the room and Jane was gone, but her table mates were still there. The table mates who were at all times during the night seated with their backs to me, were now facing me and one of them was holding a purse. Not just any purse, the lovely Kassia Krozser was holding my dream purse, the one I've been searching for but have never found or seen or knew existed.
I did not get to talk to Jane Smiley that night, so I did the next best thing. I took her advice and was not afraid to be curious.
I asked where the purse came from.
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