I’ve written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting my day job, I spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.
For more information about my novels, please visit www.davidgittlin.com
I first heard “Cornflower Blue” as the opening song on Kate Wolf’s 1983 double album “Give Yourself to Love.” As I listened to the album many times over, “Cornflower Blue” grew on me (no pun intended). I began to appreciate the exquisite beauty in the lyrics and in Kate’s lovely singing voice.
Oftentimes, songs like this one will find their way into my heart and I feel compelled to play them myself. With this song, I had my doubts. The chances were good that I might not pull it off. Learning how to play “Cornflower Blue” like Kate does was like learning how to walk again. The style is completely counterintuitive to what I’m used to, but I’m glad I made the effort. I hope my cover of the song conveys some of the mystery and beauty of the original.
At the risk of sounding sexist, I’ll say that only a woman could write this song. And, it’s probably appropriate that only a woman should sing it. At least in public.
So, why am I sitting here singing it for you?
Because it’s just so damn beautiful. I can’t freaking help it. Here’s my cover of the song.
As life is interrelated, the effort to cut oneself off from the other has the impact of cutting oneself off from oneself and life itself. We deny part of ourselves when we deny the other, as the other is indeed a part of us.
I carried an expensive mahogany bar chair from Jeffrey’s den into the garage. My friend, Jeffrey, has a trust fund that allows him to pursue a career as a freelance photojournalist and writer. I have to admit the man has talent and good taste. And, despite all of our trash talk, Jeffrey has proven he’s a loyal friend with a generous heart. He shares his good fortune with close friends. That’s how this whole thing got started. Jeffrey lent me his posh beach house while he was away in Paris on assignment. One night, while walking on the beach among fingers of salt water waves, and lost in thoughts about endings for my latest mystery novel, I literally stumbled over Arcon.
As I walked back to the house to retrieve Arcon, I came to the conclusion that fate had placed me in this situation. Jeffrey might be writing this story as easily as me. It actually makes more sense for Jeffrey to be writing the story since he writes non-fiction articles instead of fiction novels like me. And, he lives year-round in his stunning, ultra-modern house fronting a lone stretch of Daytona Beach. (Except when he’s not off somewhere on an adventurous assignment).
I planned to take advantage of my good fortune, if I can call it that. I’d write a screenplay and a novel along with a factual account of my experiences with Arcon. With any luck, I’d be able to crawl back into the good graces of my agent and my publisher. Assuming, of course, Arcon and me and the rest of the world survived the next sixty hours.
I noticed Arcon had remained unusually quiet since the conclusion of our latest mind-boggling discussion in the kitchen. I sensed that my friend from the other side of the Milky Way was gathering his energy to restore my old car for our impending trip to One World Trade Center in New York City. I had read it was the tallest building in the United States, and we were headed to the very top of it. I figured if my interstellar friend had it in him to pull this off, it would be nothing short of a miracle, even for a super-intelligent fellow like Arcon.
After carefully carrying Arcon from the house to the garage, I placed him comfortably on the bar chair. A few feet away, my decrepit red Mazda Miata waited for whatever might happen next.
From what I casually refer to as an eye in the center of his sleek silver body, Arcon began scanning the car with a beam of pale blue light. Suddenly, the blue light bloomed into a cloud. It engulfed the entire car. Then, frenetic energy forms emerged from the cloud. For a few seconds, I was looking at an abstract light sculpture suspended above the car, until the forms shot off to do their jobs. Each glob of energy serviced a different part inside and outside of the car. Then, the blue energy globs congealed to create a throbbing blue blob surrounding the car.
I expected to see my ancient sports car begin to morph into a new version of itself like a movie I had once seen. That’s not what happened. Arcon’s only predictable feature is that he’s always unpredictable. I kept my mouth shut. I knew instinctively that I’d be excoriated if I interrupted.
I heard grinding noises coming from underneath the sheath of blue energy. Then came screeching sounds of metal moving against metal, almost like the car was screaming in agony because Arcon had forgotten to administer an anesthetic before the operation. After several minutes of nerve-jangling scaping and crunching, the sounds became more subtle and less excruciating. I heard faint crackling noises. It sounded like Arcon was whipping up a huge batch of popcorn in an oven. Finally, I began to detect the pungent odor of paint thinner.
“I think you should leave now,” Arcon said to me telepathically in my native language of Serbian. “The fumes might make you sick.”
I wasn’t used to this kind of concern from Arcon. Maybe he’s starting to warm up to me, I thought.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” Arcon shot back. “We don’t have time for you to recover from a poisoning episode.”
“Right. I almost forgot. I’m just a means to an end.”
“Not quite. Now, what color would you like the car to be? Keep it conservative. We don’t want to attract attention.”
I settled on something called atomic silver, a glossy dark gray.
“Done. Now, be a good boy and wait in the kitchen. I’ll call you when it’s safe to come back.”
Following Arcon’s instructions, I returned to the kitchen and cracked another beer. I closed my eyes and thought about the ending of my novel again. The elusive ending finally dawned on me. The detective and the beautiful FBI agent realize they are both too strong-willed to commit to a long-term romantic relationship. To make matters worse, their next cases required them to work undercover in distant locations. ultimately, they come to a decision: to stay friends and perhaps occasional lovers if their paths cross again.
The thought of unhappy endings generated images of something much worse. I saw the deadly pulsar emerge from a wormhole and slam into Mother Earth. A few hours after the Earth exploded into a blinding fireball, there was nothing left but stardust. All the hopes, all the dreams, all the achievements, all the moments of joy and sorrow, all the beauty and all the ugliness—all gone in a heart-beat. It was not science fiction. It was a reality hurtling towards us–getting closer every second.
“Come, Joseph,” I heard Arcon say inside my head.
A few minutes later, I stood before a glossy new 2012 MX-5 Mazda Miata. I noticed Arcon had made it a convertible.
“Looks even sportier with the hood added.”
“I thought you might like it,” Arcon replied proudly.
“Is there any chance we can take turns driving to New York?”
“Get real, Joseph. Hurry and pack your things. We’ll only have time for a few cat naps and bathroom breaks on the way. Our window of opportunity is shrinking as we speak.”
Apparently, Arcon was picking up our vernacular with each conversation we had. I did not relish the thought of the journey to New York. I’m sure Arcon didn’t have to read my mind to know this. My expression had to be a dead give-away.
I thought I heard Arcon heave a sigh.
“Don’t just stand there, my boy. It’s time to rock and roll !!!”
“With a voice that has all the sweetness of a California morning and the loneliness of the sea beating against its rocky shores, it’s a mystery why Kate Wolf went unnoticed for so long. Listening to her songs, you never feel like you’re hearing studio recordings made many years ago. Instead, it feels like the singer’s sitting next to you, picking a guitar and telling stories near to her heart. With just a few words, Kate Wolf creates a great sense of intimacy.”*
Certain songs speak to me. Kate Wolf’s “The Trumpet Vine” is one of them. It typifies the aching beauty of her music. Here’s my cover of the song.
Six years ago, I attended a seminar presented by Saniel Bonder titled “The Sun in Your Heart is Rising–Activating Your Embodied Awakening, Wholeness, and Unique Purpose.” Nine people attended the five-day event at Kripalu Yoga Center in western Massachusetts. One of the exercises in the seminar is called “Heart Seat Share.” Each person in the group speaks for seven minutes about what is going on in their lives with time allotted for feedback from the teacher and group members. I’ve decided to revisit this post, polish it up, and hope it brings you some inspiration.
Here I am. It’s my time to share. I imagine myself walking down a circular staircase in my throat. I arrive on the first floor of my chest cavity.
Leaving the staircase on the bottom floor, I encounter a winding corridor with no doors or branches. At least I don’t have to decide which way to go, because I basically have no idea. I just need to put one foot in front of the other and have faith that my feet are taking me where I want to go.
Finally, I see a doorway in the distance. The overhead lighting becomes increasingly bright as I reach my destination. It’s a wooden door painted gold with an intricate star pattern splashed on the surface. What does it mean? Maybe it’s just a goddamned ornament put there to look mysterious. Who knows? I decide it looks inviting.
I grab the brass handle, turn it, and nothing happens. The door is firmly locked. I knock a few times and wait. Seconds go by and then a full minute. No response.
“Anybody home?” I call out.
Total silence. Not even the sound of air-conditioning.
“You know, I’ve come a long way to get here. The least you can do is answer your fancy door.”
I’ve traveled this way many times before, but I always get lost. Not this time. I’m convinced this is the real deal.
I’ve been told by numerous teachers that someone or something dwells deep within the recesses of the heart. I’ve always believed this to be true. I never doubted it. Yet here I am, standing around like an idiot. I’ve heard some vague rumblings from time to time from the other side of the door. I’ve had a few inklings, maybe even heard a faint burbling sound, but that’s about it.
“This is getting embarrassing,” I say to the elaborate, mysterious door. “I’m here in front of the class, and I need to sound halfway intelligent. Can you please give me some material to work with?”
“Like what?” a voice says from the other side in a slightly irritated tone.
I almost fall down. These two words are more than I’ve heard in thirty years. It’s a clear, unmistakable, somewhat irritated voice. I quickly regroup before the voice loses interest. I must take advantage of this opportunity. I have to get right to the point. I imagine whoever is speaking to me is quite busy. I’m not even going to imagine if it has a shape. I can’t risk wasting its time.
“Okay,” I begin. “Can you tell me why we haven’t met yet?”
“It’s a very long story all having to do with you that we can’t get into right now because it would exceed your share time.”
“Okay, okay. Well, then, can you tell me when it might be possible for us to meet.”
“I really can’t believe you haven’t figured this out yet,” the voice answers wearily. “I suppose I’ll have to spell it out for you.”
There is a long pause before the voice speaks again.
“You aren’t ready to meet me. And PUHLEASE, don’t ask me when you’ll be ready.
“You’ll be ready when you’re ready.”
“I feel like I’m getting ready,” I say like a little boy holding out a shiny apple for the teacher.
“Good. Keep it up. Let me give you one word of advice: Patience. Everything is timing. Have you heard that one?”
“Then practice it.
I wait for more words of wisdom. There are none forthcoming.
I’m suddenly impelled to ask, “Is that it?”
I wait anxiously for a response. When none comes, I turn to leave. Then, from behind me, I hear:
“If it makes you feel any better, you’re right on schedule. THE SUN IS ACTUALLY RISING IN YOUR HEART. As a matter of fact, it’s rising in everyone’s heart, some faster than others. Pray that you are one of the faster ones. Remember these words, David:
“WISDOM IS EASIER TO ATTAIN IF YOU TRY VERY HARD NOT TO BE OBTUSE.”
“Now, If you’ll excuse me, I have work to do. Hopefully, we’ll meet again in less than a few hundred years.”
“How do you expect to get us to New York quickly?” I asked Arcon, and then immediately regretted it. I expected another irritated rebuke for wasting his time. There is no way a super-intelligent AI being from the other side of the galaxy would not have a solid plan for the journey. I braced myself for Arcon’s withering response.
Arcon made humming and clicking noises, as if my question amused him. “Well, since I can’t fly or beam, I suppose we’ll have go the old fashioned way. We’ll take your car.
“Let me get this straight. You want me to drive you over a thousand miles to New York City in my ancient Mazda Miata with 120,000 miles already under its belt?
Arcon made crackling sounds. I imagined the noise was his latest way of communicating his impatience with me. “It beats taking the bus, don’t you think?”
“The odds are less than fifty-fifty my car can make the trip without having a coronary thrombosis.”
“Give me an hour alone with it in the garage, and I’ll have her as good as new.”
Shades of the movie “Christine” flickered inside my head. I saw my car reconstituting itself like the 1958 Plymouth Fury did after it was destroyed by a gang of bullies. I remembered the movie’s tagline: “Body by Plymouth–Soul by Satan.” I strongly suspected I was in some kind of elaborate nightmare. Perhaps this was my subconscious proving it.
We were sitting at a chrome and glass table in an alcove of my friend Jeffrey’s ultra modern kitchen. Being a silver sphere about the size of a bizzarely sculpted basketball, Arcon fit right right in with the decor.
I rose abruptly from the table. “Excuse me, I need a beer.” I was beginning to crack under the pressure of the situation. If what Arcon told me a few minutes earlier was true, the Earth had less than seventy-two hours before a giant pulsar from a distant supernova fried the planet into a crispy ember. Unless, of course, Arcon and me managed to do something about it.
After removing an Amstel Light from Jeffrey’s built-in stainless steel refrigerator, I rejoined Arcon at the kitchen table. I was grateful that Arcon had sagely decided to reveal his plan and my role in it one step at a time. I was having enough trouble wrapping my head around step one.
“So, we drive to New York in my resurrected Miata, and then I somehow smuggle you to the top of the One world Trade Center building. Does that about sum it up?”
“You won’t have to smuggle me. I know how we can get past security.”
“Somehow I don’t feel relieved.”
“You shouldn’t be,” Arcon reminded me with his typical lack of diplomacy. “The guards are the easy part. I’ll disguise myself as a gorgeous 19th century Art-Deco vase. You’ll carry me into the building in a case. When you open the case, the guards will be astonished by my beauty and originality and ask silly questions. You’ll say you are delivering me to a collector at an investment firm on the top floor of the building. You’ll show ID and go through the scanners with a polite smile, and we’ll be on our way.”
“You make it sound simple.’
“It will be. Even for you.”
Another question presented itself. Risking another reprisal, I asked: “If you made it from the other side of the galaxy to a beach in Florida, why can’t you project yourself from here to the top of the World Trade Center?”
Arcon answered telepathically, as he always did, in my native language: Serbian. All of our conversations were held in my native dialect to reduce the odds of eavesdroppers comprehending my end of our top secret discussions.
Arcon must have concluded that I needed to hear a nonabusive answer to my query to gain my trust and commitment. To my surprise, he replied to my question calmly.
“The mother-ship dropped me five thousand feet above the ocean. I’m able to navigate and land safely in free-fall, but I can’t propel myself, as I’ve mentioned. It’s a trade-off, Joseph. I don’t have room onboard for brains and propulsion.”
“So how will you get back to your ship?”
“I won’t. I’ll remain here on Earth, if there is an Earth left.”
I wondered briefly if that meant Arcon had more adventures in store for me, if we survived. Then, I remembered my latest novel and its sad status as distressingly past due. I imagined my editor calling to announce that she had finally lost patience with me and the book was cancelled.
Arcon seemed to sense my utter despair. “Why don’t you join me in the garage and watch me bring your old car back to life. Does she have a name?”
“Mathilde. She reminds me of a French woman I once knew with sunrise golden hair and intense blue eyes. I still have one of her paintings.”
“Then come along, Joseph. Let’s breathe new life into your lost love. I’m confident it will make you feel better.
In a ten-year career tragically cut short by Leukemia, Kate Wolf wrote and performed over 200 songs. Her music is poignant, simple, honest, and transparently beautiful. She performed at venues throughout her native state of California. Since her passing in 1986 at the age of 44, Kate’s audience has grown steadily as people like me discover her music. “September Song” (recorded on Kate’s 1979 album “Safe at Anchor”) is one of my favorites.
“Starry, starry night/ Paint your palette blue and grey/ Look out on a summer’s day/ With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.”
Those words came to Don McLean as he looked at Vincent Van Gogh’s 1889 painting “The Starry Night.” Soon, he had a masterpiece of his own: “Vincent,” a 1972 hit that he released right on the heels of his defining epic “American Pie.”
Like Van Gogh’s painting, Mclean’s “Vincent” has touched a wide range of creative spirits over the last 50 years. The song, the painting, and the book “Dear Theo,” written by Van Gogh’s brother, have certainly touched my heart again and again. I’ve always thought that Vincent’s style was at least in part inspired by his mental illness. To me, the brush strokes reflect an altered state of perception similar to the hallucinogenic patterns seen under the influence of Mescaline or LSD.
Van Gogh labored in obscurity until his self-inflicted death at the age of thirty-seven. He sold only a few of his paintings during his lifetime. Today, Van Gogh is a household word, and his paintings each sell for fifty million dollars or more. “The Starry Night” is one of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings.
Here’s my interpretation of Mclean’s homage to the masterpiece.
Ever felt like you were in a pitch-black closet fumbling for a light switch you couldn’t find?
I’ve felt that way many times. More than ever in the last four years.
I was afraid four more years of The Trump Administration would drive this nation into chaos, uncontrollable violence, and eventual destruction. I’ve never been this concerned about an election before. I thought our country was teetering on the edge of the cone of an active volcano. Below us, bubbling lava and acrid, poisonous smoke billowing upwards. If we had taken a wrong step, we would have fallen to our collective deaths in the seething lava a mile below.
Fortunately, there are enough sane and prescient people left in this country to look beyond their limited perspectives and see the big picture. An image of a large, rudderless sailing vessel comes to mind, headed in a zig-zag direction towards a swirling whirlpool in the ocean. We just missed sailing straight into that black hole. Instead, we corrected our course. We turned the lights back on.
Whew! That was a close one.
I’m particularly encouraged by the stance the Biden Administration will take concerning the environment. I’m encouraged that General Motors recently dropped out of the lawsuit Trump initiated against California regarding motor vehicle emission standards. This is an early example that we are regaining our sanity. We are already playing catch up with the programs needed to foster and enforce clean energy development and greenhouse gas emissions. As it stands, we are losing the battle to save the environment. Radical action and a new level of commitment are required to reverse the trends.
Now, at least, we have hope, not only concerning the environment. We have hope that caring attention and fresh ideas will be applied in many areas plaguing life in these United States, starting with an intelligent, cohesive, and coordinated governmental response to the Corona crisis.
I could go on, but I’ll spare you.
If you didn’t like the way the election turned out, then fine. You are entitled to your vote and your opinion. If you wanted more lunacy, then I’m sorry. We’re not going there. If you don’t want to get with the new program, no problem. It’s a free country. JUST PLEASE: DON’T GET IN THE WAY.
And, if you liked the election results, let’s get back to civility. Let’s put aside our differences. (There’s nothing wrong with healthy, respectful debate). Let’s work together towards a brighter future. Congratulations on pulling off this nail-biter. Good work and…