I first saw the painting Nighthawks when I was a kid. It was a featured poster in the new shop in the mall, where you could purchase an image of Spuds McKenzie driving a Porsche, or Monet’s ‘Waterlilies’ framed in black plastic while you wandered down to Orange Julius for a smoothie.
I fell in love with Nighthawks immediately, and later, with Edward Hopper in general. Hopper’s use of light and architecture speaks to me in every painting and sketch he’s ever done. Nighthawks, with it’s counter full of strangers, sipping coffee, caught for a moment in a light that was both indicative of the Retro Era, and also ancient and timeless, became a touchstone for me. Who were these people? Why were they sitting in this diner, in the dark, dressed to the nines?
In my writing series Nighthawks, I imagine the stories of people as we see them, and as they see themselves, in one brief glance through a window. These character sketches are vignettes, post cards, poems, and the creation of people.
The wind cried “Mary.” It cried “Joseph” and wailed “Samuel” and “Sloan.” It whimpered about a King and bemoaned the one true lost love that was a pirate, or maybe a privateer, the wind couldn’t remember and probably never knew the difference, but the wind had loved him, more than anyone.
The land rolled its metaphoric eyes, and thought the wind might be a bit of a drama queen, especially when the wind had been hanging out in the Islands. It was always this way, with the wind, this time of year. A spinning cyclone of howling regrets and a flood of memories and she’d be gone again, leaving the locals to clean up the mess.
Some people, on realizing they have still got squirrels in their walls, despite genteel removal efforts, turn to poison..
Instead, Tris and I are writing a one act play about Connie and Vinnie, who just moved into a formerly rent controlled apartment and are dealing with the local enforcers.
“Vinnie? why you gotta bury your nuts? You gotta map? you know you ain’t gonna find em without no map,”
“Geez, Connie, why you gotta be like that? I’m like, saving for our future you stupid cow.”
Saving for our future? Is that what you were.doing with Donna in the back of that of that old caddy? “saving for our future ”
Holy Harvest God. Connie, how many times I gotta tell ya? that was about acorns! Nothing but acorns!!
He was the sort of person who collected the feathers of hummingbirds each night when he filled the feeders with sweet syrup.. They didn’t seem to mind him, buzzing around his head in the dusk, ignoring the long tweezers that plucked daintily only the loosest down, ready to shed anyway, no harm done, and thank you. He liked to think it was his aura that instilled the trust of these wild, quicksilver birds, but when asked he’d admit the winged beasts were most likely drawn frenzied to the syrup, not him, as he’d perfected the color to a true, hibiscus red.
By the end of each summer, the antique salt cellar on the window sill was full of fluff, tiny things that could have built another bird, one that would fly off to warmer places with it’s companions. Feathers so small they could hardly be seen one at a time, but that had propelled their wearer thousands of miles, at a dozen beats of the wing each second.
When the first frost came, he took the salt cellar full of treasure to the garden, and shook it. A thousand tiny feathers flew in to the wind. Three or four would stick, though, each year. Those he brought back inside.
Just after Halloween he’d start the season’s boat. Rigging would be unspooled, and tied with the same tweezers, under a magnifier, in to perfect knots. Sails would be hung, and laquer would be applied in careful layers, evermindful of the beauty of the wood grain.
In the spring, the boat would sail on the pond. And because he liked a joke as much as anyone, each year there would be a crows nest, no matter if the ship, historic in all other respects, would have had one or not. A proper crows nest, properly scaled and woven and sized.. and lined with just a few, soft, tiny feathers.