Magic Mike's Pelvis and Literature
Last month I went to watch Magic Mike with two female friends and their girlfriends.
When Mathew McConaughey graced us with those impish dimples of his, a set of chiseled abs, oozing jazzy erotic energy, the whole theater exploded in mmm-mmm-mmms of approval. And when he joked that by law no woman is allowed to touch a male stripper neither up here nor down there, but that he presumed that his audience was full of lawbreakers; many hell yeahs and damn rights were heard in the theater...read the whole story.
Thank you for entering The Writer 2012 Travel Essay Writing Contest, co-sponsored by Gotham Writers' Workshop.
More than 600 writers met the challenge of crafting an original travel essay to enter the contest. Overall, the entries were well-written and enjoyable to read, making it difficult to narrow the field down to 15 finalist submissions. After careful consideration, finalist judge Larry Habegger, executive editor of Travelers’ Tales Publishing, chose three prize winners and an honorable mention:
Nina Boutsikaris (Astoria, NY) – "The Art Cafe"
Andrew Davison (Gibbstown, NJ) – “The Footbridge”
Adriana Paramo (Lakeland, FL) – "Mon Ami, Muhammed"
Sabriga Turgon (Globe, AZ) – "The Parque Jipiro Bridge"
Please join us in congratulating these writers! You can read the winning entries and the finalist judge's comments by clicking on the title links above.
Because it's old and even the most inconspicuous alley carries within its cobbles 1,100 years of history.
Because even modern doors devoid of pomp or notoriety seem to have been knocked on by the whole of humankind.
Because it is Romanesque and Gothic and Romantic and touched by Renaissance and Modernism and nobody cares which period was the best or the worst.
Because Prague's story is terribly violent and deeply religious and fiercely secular and outrageously literate and devastatingly beautiful....it could also be defined in any variation of the above. That's why.
Because these men sat on a park bench at the Old Town Square to swig an unidentifiable drink out of a paper bag, chain-smoke, and share a loaf of dry bread while peacefully soaking in the wintry Praguian sun.
Because these winos, we tourists call Praguers, Praguians, Czechs, have Celtic blood running through their veins and can very well be descendants of their ancestral Roman Emperors.
Because I found these two men with wrinkled faces, yellow finger nails, cheap cigarettes and bagged brew chitchatting right where the Protestant Reformation was conceived; probably right on the same spot where a few centuries ago eleven political leaders were sentenced to death by defenestration; that so Praguian habit of throwing nasty politicians out of the window.
Because in Prague I was reminded of the universal commonality of friendship. Like the old men I photographed in Sicily, in Timbuktu, in Costa Rica, they represent what getting old and having a pal is all about.
Soak in the sun. Pass the booze. Shut up and breathe
I stared at an old woman
took note of her nasolabial folds, the creases forming an accordion on her upper lip, the stab marks of her frown and remembered something that happened to me sometime ago.
I’m not supposed to call it a wrinkle.
My girlfriend, a Botox/derma-fillers/fat-transfer/implant veteran tells me it’s called the nasolabial fold.
“You have a fold not a wrinkle,” she tells me as she stretches the right side of my face. When she does, the wrinkle disappears and I’m young again.
“See? Folds are reversible. Two shots of Juvederm and you’ll be like new.”
This particular day, we are afflicted by a sort of Latin melancholy and decide to hit a salsa club nearby. I have second thoughts as I look at myself in her bathroom mirror. The skin in my face wasn’t sagging yesterday, I'm sure; it started sagging five minutes ago as I watched her struggle to tuck her brand new breasts into a tiny bustier. Her skin is flawless and the Botox has paralyzed some muscles just enough to keep her face looking natural. Her body is taut from cosmetic surgery and long hours in the gym. She’s older than I’m and wrinkle-free.
"You don't have to look like crap just because you are old," she says and I wonder if she means that I look like crap. She hands me a business card.
Botox Parties When you Want Them, Where you Need them.
“Repeat after me,” she says. “I don’t have a wrinkle. I have a fold.”
Tonight, all the beautiful women in the world show up at the club, a dizzying parade of rock solid bodies, cheeks bursting with collagen, curves and dimples. No nasolabial folds in sight. I tap on my newly found wrinkle after the first mojito, follow its crease all the way from the tip of my nose to the corner of my mouth. It’s not so bad, I think and I treat myself to a second drink. By the third mojito I’m definitely digging the wrinkle. It separates my cheek from my upper lip. It’s got purpose. I need this wrinkle, I say to myself. Then I order another mojito. -------- -------------
I hope this beautiful old woman doesn't use euphemisms to describe the evolution of her skin. I hope she looks at her nasolabial folds and says, I've earned you wrinkles; I hope she doesn't freeze the deep stabs of her frown with botox. I hope she goes to some Amsterdam centrum bar and has many mojitos, not to forget how old she is, but to celebrate it.
People say that money can't buy friends. That's not true. I bought one for US$ 45. She was supposed to be Tom's friend, not mine or my daughter's, but his. She was our present to him; a man in need of a friend. We named her Fiera, the ferocious one, a deliberately-chosen misnomer for a dog who, from the day we took her out of the SPCA, had a permanent expression of bewilderment, as if the world was a never-ending pinata bursting open just for her. She was the nervous type, she peed if she was excited, if she was nervous, if she was happy, if she was upset. She used her bladder as a means of communicating with the world. And she communicated often.
Fiera and Tom developed a strange friendship. As a puppy, he would take her flying in his helicopter and she would stay put in the copilot's seat, looking straight into the control panel, mesmerized by either his ability to whisk her up in the air, fly her over Disney World, Gatorland and Old Town, all those out-of-reach places for a dog that was supposed to have been euthanized the day we adopted her, or by the whirring of the engine which seemed to have a hypnotic effect on her. Whatever the reason, she, like Tom, felt at home in the helicopter's cockpit. I'll never know if the way she wagged her tail (in circles, like the blades of a helicopter, rather than side ways) had anything to do with Tom, but I have never seen a dog wag her tail in circular motions.
She was part German Shepherd, part Rhodesian Ridgeback, part scaredy cat, and partially human. She was for all intents and purposes, Tom's baby and in the process of having a baby in the house, she also became our unruly friend. A friend that never got used to be out without a leash, a friend that couldn't do a single trick, a friend that never quite understood that a squirrel is faster than a dog, a friend that barked for no reason, and trapped live bugs that she couldn't get out of her mouth. She protected us, amused us, annoyed us and was a part of our lives for eight years.
But yesterday, I took her to the vet and asked him to euthanize her. She had rectal cancer and the external tumor had connected with the one in her stomach. We didn't even know dogs could get cancer. We thought cancer was something that happens only to humans. But it happened to The Ferocious One. She was confused, had stopped eating, and was in visible discomfort. We don't let friends suffer, if we can help it. So we did, what we had to do. We decided her fate.
After talking to the veterinarian, Fiera and I had a few minutes alone and I thanked her for being such a good dog, for having been a good friend to Tom when he desperately needed one, for guarding us, for being just about the silliest dog on earth and for never failing to get a smile out of me even in my darkest hour. Then the vet walked in and I knew it was time to let Fiera's body rest. He told me to hold her face close to mine, to look into her eyes and to whisper things to her, to make sure she felt loved, which I did. He put the needle in, and she gave me one of those puppy looks that she always did and in seconds she exhaled in my arms. It was quick and painless. They wrapped her in a biodegradable bag, then in a blanket and they put her in the back of my car.I drove home with my dead friend, grabbed a shovel and dug a hole in our back yard. I went to Home Depot and bought fresh soil, mulch and a little plant that gives blue orchids. And just as I was about to walk back in the house, I wondered if there was a way to know whether or not animals have souls, whether she was the reincarnation of a different being or if she will ever make it back to this transient world as a different living being. And since I didn't have an answer, I thought it smart to cover all of my bases and assume that Fiera did have a soul which, presumably like a human soul, lingers for a while. I buried her surrounded by wine bottles, so she doesn't forget that the people who loved her so much, also loved wine.