You know the great thing about life I feel...is that if your really consciously choose to...you can do or create pretty much anything you want. Life is basically one big blank chalkboard. But the problem as I see it...is that not enough people are picking up a piece of chalk and creating their story in their own words. They are letting others do it for them.
G. Brian Benson
If I go into a sandwich shop or anywhere that features 'Today's specials' on a chalkboard more than 10 feet away, I have to ask for a printed menu. I smile at people I don't know on the street and ignore those I do. When at home, I often find myself grabbing my 'back-up' glasses to search for the better-loved pair I have left on top of my dresser.
I used to think that nails-down-a-chalkboard was the worst sound in the world. Then I moved on to people-eating-cereal-on-the-phone. But only this week did I stumble across the rightful winner: it's the sound of a baggage carousel coming to a grinding halt, having reunited every passenger on your flight with their luggage, except for you.
Whenever I get distracted or bored, my eyes wander over to that chalkboard and I read the words. Some of them grow on me, and others annoy me. I attack the latter with eraser and chalk, and keep nudging at them until I like the way they look and sound. Others never make the cut at all and simply get erased. Perhaps one day I will sell these on eBay to RPG players who need names for characters or alien races.
My loneliness...still comes over me sometimes...It's a liminal, lost sensation of having wandered wide, endless boulevards, among rows of orange trees, winter butterflies, seasons reversed and out of order, dogs barking from behind fences meant to keep out intruders. It's not the place that impoverishes me but I who bring my own sense of poverty, of loss, to the place. It's a sense of near nothingness, as though I were not so much a blank slate as an erased chalkboard, still bearing illegible smudges of smoothed-over writing.
Alice leaned first one way and then the other, down the line of children. She said, Is everybody understanding this?" One child said, "The misuse of power is the root of all evil?" Alice said, "Well... " Another child said, "There is no justice on the earth?" Alice said, "Well... " Another child said, "We are all alone in the world?" Alice said, "Well... " Another child said, "The greatest depth of our loss is the beginning of true freedom?" Alice said, "Well... " Another child said, "The disposal of human waste is the responsibility of the brokenhearted?" These were all phrases Alice had put on the chalkboard after other field trips. It occurred to Alice, hearing these phrases now, that she might have attempted to do too much with a class of fourth graders. She was willing to admit to some excesses. Alice said, "Just listen.
If ever I create a website, I'll call it Two-Face Book, and I'll invite everyone to it, it will be a game board, of a whitewash chalkboard. A social network, with reserved intentions, where we can fall into our cliques and circle of friends. We can dis who we want and accept who appeals to our discretion. Where the users will keep abusing, and abusers keep using, where the computer bullies will keep swinging and the J-birds that fly by will die; where the lonely will keep seeking and the needy still go desperate, where the envious will keep hating, and the lustful will keep flashing. Where those that think ignoring, will keep one down and the wannabes will foolishly think themselves greater by the number of "likes" that pours caffeine into their coffee. We can jump on the bandwagon of likes, or reserve not to show we care. Where the scorners, scammers and stalkers lay wait to take hold of the innocent and fragile, and my pockets will get fatter as more and more will join up, where being fake is accepted. As a mirror that stares at a different face. It will be my two-face epilogue, in a 3-world dimension, of a twofold war. I will build an empire of contagious hooks, and still we will live, happily-ever disastrous.
As I became older, I was given many masks to wear. I could be a laborer laying railroad tracks across the continent, with long hair in a queue to be pulled by pranksters; a gardener trimming the shrubs while secretly planting a bomb; a saboteur before the day of infamy at Pearl Harbor, signaling the Imperial Fleet; a kamikaze pilot donning his headband somberly, screaming 'Banzai' on my way to my death; a peasant with a broad-brimmed straw hat in a rice paddy on the other side of the world, stooped over to toil in the water; an obedient servant in the parlor, a houseboy too dignified for my own good; a washerman in the basement laundry, removing stains using an ancient secret; a tyrant intent on imposing my despotism on the democratic world, opposed by the free and the brave; a party cadre alongside many others, all of us clad in coordinated Mao jackets; a sniper camouflaged in the trees of the jungle, training my gunsights on G.I. Joe; a child running with a body burning from napalm, captured in an unforgettable photo; an enemy shot in the head or slaughtered by the villageful; one of the grooms in a mass wedding of couples, having met my mate the day before through our cult leader; an orphan in the last airlift out of a collapsed capital, ready to be adopted into the good life; a black belt martial artist breaking cinderblocks with his head, in an advertisement for Ginsu brand knives with the slogan 'but wait-there's more' as the commercial segued to show another free gift; a chef serving up dog stew, a trick on the unsuspecting diner; a bad driver swerving into the next lane, exactly as could be expected; a horny exchange student here for a year, eager to date the blonde cheerleader; a tourist visiting, clicking away with his camera, posing my family in front of the monuments and statues; a ping pong champion, wearing white tube socks pulled up too high and batting the ball with a wicked spin; a violin prodigy impressing the audience at Carnegie Hall, before taking a polite bow; a teen computer scientist, ready to make millions on an initial public offering before the company stock crashes; a gangster in sunglasses and a tight suit, embroiled in a turf war with the Sicilian mob; an urban greengrocer selling lunch by the pound, rudely returning change over the counter to the black patrons; a businessman with a briefcase of cash bribing a congressman, a corrupting influence on the electoral process; a salaryman on my way to work, crammed into the commuter train and loyal to the company; a shady doctor, trained in a foreign tradition with anatomical diagrams of the human body mapping the flow of life energy through a multitude of colored points; a calculus graduate student with thick glasses and a bad haircut, serving as a teaching assistant with an incomprehensible accent, scribbling on the chalkboard; an automobile enthusiast who customizes an imported car with a supercharged engine and Japanese decals in the rear window, cruising the boulevard looking for a drag race; a illegal alien crowded into the cargo hold of a smuggler's ship, defying death only to crowd into a New York City tenement and work as a slave in a sweatshop. My mother and my girl cousins were Madame Butterfly from the mail order bride catalog, dying in their service to the masculinity of the West, and the dragon lady in a kimono, taking vengeance for her sisters. They became the television newscaster, look-alikes with their flawlessly permed hair. Through these indelible images, I grew up. But when I looked in the mirror, I could not believe my own reflection because it was not like what I saw around me. Over the years, the world opened up. It has become a dizzying kaleidoscope of cultural fragments, arranged and rearranged without plan or order.
Frank H. Wu