and you cannot see the shadows. Helen Keller
I collect unexpected sightings. That's what I call those unusual people or happenings I stumble across accidentally. They add spice to your day and can flavor a story
I remember hearing author and film-maker John Waters on NPR some years ago, He was talking about the role that over-heard dialogue plays for him. For example a few words heard as strangers pass by on the street or over-hearing an argument at the next table in a restaurant.
Like collage artists gather scraps of paper and detritus when they see them or artists sketch quickly, writers and storytellers collect impressions for their work. If they don't they are missing a valuable resource.
John Waters made an impression on me. Since hearing him I listen and watch life around me much more carefully. As a storyteller I store Unexpected sightings as images that can enrich a story or sometimes even prompt new stories.
For instance I saw these last week-end:
1. At the beauty shop on Saturday: The woman sat up right in the leather chair in front of the mirror, watching the hair stylist brushing her Rapunzel-like blond hair. I watched as Elvira trimmed the ends and sprinkled the thick locks with water as she ironed them straight. She was not young - probably too old for her Princess hair.
2. Driving up Connecticut Avenue on Sunday: A man standing outside the Scientology mansion off Connecticut Avenue was wearing a chartreuse hard formed plastic mask and he was holding a protest sign. I could not read the sign as we drove past him but I saw business men frown at him as they walked down the steps and walked away.
3. At the Phillips Collection on Sunday: Jim and I had just entered the The Giorgio Morandi painting exhibition at the Phillips Gallery when I was overcome by a noxious odor. Startled I looked for it. A man and his wife stood near-by. The attractive well-dressed woman was seated in a wheel-chair. They chatted in Italian as he slowly pushed her from from painting to painting. I realized it was her - she reeked of a perfume that turned sour when I breathed it in. I walked ahead. They moved behind me. I doubled back in the next room and so did they. We played this cat and mouse game for several rooms until finally I went back to the beginning and started over - without her perfume.
Whether I use these images or not - they make the days more memorable.
Wonderful exhibition of beautiful paintings - a feast for those who enjoy real painting well done.