ricky martin / a critter update

I’ve not written anything about the Key West critters for some time–fortunately, it’s been a thin critter year (unless you consider worms to be critters which I don’t). There was a smaller rodent and reptile population after Irma, not so many rats, iguanas. And right now the temperatures are too cold for the few, fool iguanas hanging around and they are either unconscious or dying or trying to sun-survive on white, cemetery slabs.

However, my latest, mostly definitely unwanted, critt visitor is a possum, opossum, whatever you want to call them, I’m not at all interested in finding out if there’s a difference or what variety of possum he may be. He’s big and ugly and comes out from under the house at night when I’m sitting on the porch and scares the crap outta me. I curse and yell at him and he runs back under the house. Fortunately, he doesn’t seem aggressive and I’m not about to provoke (and I call him “he” because he is just too unattractive to be a woman–hairy face, thin lips, no make-up). So now what?

As I’m asking my neighbors what to do about this bastard under my house, one lovely lady that I like very much says, “Oh my, you can’t touch him. That’s Ricky Martin (I guess he is a “he”). He came to this neighborhood as a baby and I named him and watched him grow.” Really? This woman isn’t old and senile–for whatever reason, she’s a frickin’ possum-hugger with a love for Latin pop stars and a sense of irony (I once saw a FL facebook post that rallied for the misunderstood possum). Oh, for cryin’ out loud. I can’t harm him now–it’s Ricky Martin. Jesus, no man-slamming here, he’s gorgeous, I love Ricky Martin. Sigh … I promised my neighbor that I would leave the critter alone but that it would be hard for me to embrace the Ricky association. I also promised to leave a trail of trash to her porch till he moved down the lane and scared the crap outta her.

key west literary seminar 2019

I’ve lived in Key West for 2 and a half years but this weekend attended my third Key West Literary Seminar. I somehow managed to secure the coveted position of volunteer immediately upon landing here, a stroke of luck, for sure, as this position gives me free entry into the event. (The Seminar is ridiculously expensive with registration selling out in minutes, yes, minutes—a problem having to do with patronage that has no clear or immediate solution). I was not completely onboard with this year’s theme, Under the Influence: Archetype and Adaptation, primarily because I know little regarding the classics, the Greeks, Shakespeare, the Bible, nor have I paid particular attention to their influence. My literary knowledge is sub-par. But within the marvelous broad stroke of author/panelists (diverse but heavily female), assembled with extreme expertise and consideration by the KW literary team, was a treasure trove of imagination that went far beyond adaptation, that reshaped archetypes as far as genius and respect for original works allowed. It was awesome—even though I sadly missed chunks of this awesomeness. The elite tourists that come to the seminar are the customers at my place of work and it’s all hands on deck. Although my volunteer status could get me into just about any event, my financial status prohibits total immersion.

I can’t touch on every panelist nor every topic (visit kwls.org), but visiting royalty included Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Geraldine Brooks, Emily Wilson, Michael Mewshaw, Victor LaValle. Atwood possessed an unexpected and snarky humor, Emily Wilson possessed the voice and presence of a rock star, Oates’ reading was gruesome, Mewshaw on Pat Conroy was revealing and tender. Unknown to me (although I’m now a big fan of both) was cartoonist, novelist and Marvel Comic writer, Eric Shanower and Key West resident, Meg Cabot, author of Princess Diaries (and slutty novels under a pen name that she did not immediately reveal—who knew?). Topics or works touched on included The Odyssey, The Wizard of Oz, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Aquaman (Atwood’s spin on Aquaman was fabulous), Cinderella, slavery, women as minor characters, as major characters, along with influential references from the New Testament to Jane Eyre to DC Comics and fan fiction. My take away from this breadth of talent—there are new stories to be told, stories that burn within the stories we already know or think we know, there are a thousand voices yet to be heard—all for the writer to grab and wring out every single word that he or she can imagine.

But beyond the spoken word, beyond the brilliance, is the combined influence of these contemporary, master authors and the theater effect—the act of sitting and listening to purposeful voices in a dark and quiet space that is mesmerizing, an actual high, a journey that one was not prepared for. It’s like going to the movies on a summer afternoon and you step outside after the show and get smacked by the sun. You’re disoriented, confused perhaps about what you just witnessed, heard or felt. That disorientation times 10 is the Literary Seminar—it’s holding your breath, it’s an enormous ah-ha, crying, laughter, it’s an event that makes you think about things you have never thought about, an event that leads you to ask, “What was that? What just happened in there?” Genius at work.

While the Key West Literary Seminar is cost prohibitive for many, they offer a variety of scholarship and program opportunities for students, teachers and young writers, workshops that follow the Seminar for advanced and beginning writers, and lectures that are free and open to the public.

from margaret atwood

“Why is it that we want so badly to memorialize ourselves? Even while we’re still alive. We wish to assert our existence, like dogs peeing on fire hydrants. We put on display our framed photographs, our parchment diplomas, our silver-plated cups; we monogram our linen, we carve our names on trees, we scrawl them on washroom walls. It’s all the same impulse. What do we hope from it? Applause, envy, respect? Or simply attention, of any kind we can get?

At the very least we want a witness. We can’t stand the idea of our own voices falling silent finally, like a radio running down.”

The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood