Blog Number Two – Dream Sequence

I thought it would be fun to talk about the dream Richard has in Chapter Twenty-five, DEMPSEY AND FIRPO. A dream sequence is a great chance to momentarily stop the movement of a story with something too fantastical to be part of real life. It is like an intermission, or maybe a palate cleanser, in the middle of the plot. It’s also a good chance to be creative. I think a dream can be about anything at all, and doesn’t have to have anything to do with the story. After all, real life dreams are usually pretty far removed from your day to day life. Maybe someday I’ll write a book where a character’s dream takes up fifty percent of the book and is completely unrelated to the story. Why not? Maybe it will take up seventy-five percent! Anyway, in this case the dream is more like an exaggerated continuation of Richards day. He was exhausted both physically and mentally after forcing himself to stay awake during a long project. When he finally falls asleep… his subconscious takes over the story. Here is the dream –

He was in the ring with Ernest Hemingway. Punches to Hemingway’s bare chest seemed to have no effect. He would need a new tactic. Hemingway dropped his arms to his sides arrogantly, inviting Richard to try again. “Come to Papa,” he taunted. Now was his chance–Hemingway’s over confidence would be his undoing. Richard faked with a left hand and then threw a right hook aiming for his head. Hemingway turned just in time,and Richard only accomplished knocking his pipe to the side of his mouth. Why is he smoking in the ring? Hemingway straightened his pipe and began circling. If he could just make it to the bell, his partner would take over. Richard glanced at his corner and saw Georgia O’Keeffe waiting to step in. What good would she do? Wasn’t he just telling Glenn she was a hundred years old? In Hemingway’s corner stood Ushio Shinohara, waiting his turn, his gloves dripping with paint. Behind him in line were Warhol and Basquiat looking serious in their Everlast trunks and gloves. As he stood in disbelief, Hemingway took advantage of the distraction and delivered a flurry of blows that sent Richard reeling. “Where is Fitzgerald with that bell!” screamed Richard.

Richard had been boxing as a way to stay awake to produce art all night. This was a real life thing I experienced. I had an art professor in school who told us, “If you want to consider yourself a real artist, you should be drawing four hours a night.” I thought that seemed easy enough as I’ve already been doing that my whole life. But then he added, “I do not mean drawing in class, or drawing for homework–I mean drawing just for the sake of drawing.” That was a different story! My first class of the day was a three hour drawing class. Later I had a painting class which included another hour of drawing. And then homework was easily another three or four hours a night. So if you have been adding this up, I already had close to eight hours of drawing a day before my required “four hours of drawing a night.” That’s twelve hours of drawing a day on top of going to school full time and working a full time job! Anyway, this professor was my hero and so I did what he said. And he led by example doing it himself as well! One unique way he accomplished this was he had a sign up sheet in the class for volunteers to schedule times at his studio to box with him! He said boxing for fifteen minutes kept him awake and alert enough to keep drawing for another hour. He regularly had a steady stream of students throughout the night which allowed him to draw every night literally till morning! I never got to partake in this because again, I already had a full time job along with everything else. But I never forgot this teacher, and I used this experience in this book. I wish I knew his name to know what became of him. No doubt something brilliant.

So… Richard falls asleep after working and boxing all night and dreams of Hemingway. Earnest Hemingway of course is a hero of Richards, and he was known to challenge other artists to boxing matches. It is only natural in Richard’s dream world that Hemingway would be in the ring with him. When Richard asks in disbelief, “Why is he smoking in the ring?” the answer of course is to give Richard a hint that this is a dream. He knows something is wrong with the scenario but he is too busy defending himself to put it together. But that’s usually when dreams begin to unravel. Off to the side he then sees the hundred year old artist Georgia O’Keeffe, and that is basically a sight gag, but the surreal image is another sign he is dreaming. And then comes Ushio Shinohara, “…his gloves dripping with paint.” Ushio is an avant-garde artist from Japan who moved to the United States in the 1960s. One of his techniques is to wear boxing gloves, dipped in paint which he uses to punch a canvas to create his abstract paintings. There is a great documentary about him and his artist wife called Cutie And The Boxer. Look it up! Behind Ushio was Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat “…looking serious in their Everlast trunks and gloves.” In the mid 1980s, Warhol and Basquiat collaborated for a joint art exhibition. They made publicity photos with the two of them posing with Everlast boxing trunks and gloves. They took inspiration from the posters used for boxing matches. These images would be stored somewhere in Richards mind and pulled for use in his dream.

Finally, Richard is up against the ropes and his only hope is to wake up! He screams, “Where is Fitzgerald with that bell!” Like I said, Hemingway was obsessed with boxing and he loved to challenge others to fights. World champion Jack Dempsey who is depicted in a painting in Richards studio was once even challenged by Hemingway. This shows how fearless he was! Dempsey said later he turned him down because he knew Hemingway would go all out in the fight, and in order to stop him he would have to hurt him badly. The most famous bout Hemingway actually had though was in 1929 with Canadian writer Morley Callaghan. Callaghan was a serious fighter, while Hemingway was an enthusiast, but not very skilled. The rounds were to be three minutes long, and Hemingway’s writer friend F. Scott Fitzgerald was to act as the timekeeper. During the match Hemingway was taking a serious beating, and his face was bloody. He thought he might still have a chance if he could just hold on until the bell. But the bell was late and Hemingway kept getting beaten. Finally after being knocked to the ground, the bell rang. Hemingway got up furious and accused Fitzgerald of intentionally holding off ending the round to see him get hurt. Fitzgerald protested, claiming he was shocked by the blood and momentarily lost track of the time letting the round go an extra minute. Hemingway shouted,”If you wanted to see me getting the shit knocked out of me just say so. But don’t say it was a mistake!” Hemingway and Fitzgerald’s friendship was never the same after this, and Hemingway later sometimes exaggerated that the round had gone up to ten minutes too long! Callagham wrote about it also in his autobiography with his own version of things. In Richards dream, Hemingway seems to be getting revenge as Richard anxiously asks for the bell that will end the fight and wake him from the dream. Finally he awakes, not from the bell, but from his own shout. Finding himself safe in bed he recuperates with a cup of tea.

P.S. I know this was a long blog for such a short dream, but that’s the way dreams work. A lifetime can go by in that few seconds of dream time.


Blog Number One – French Onion Soup

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie and wished you were eating the food that was part of the story? Even better, do you ever prepare food specifically for a certain movie or book? I do it all the time. Nothing lets you understand people better than eating what they eat. And nothing lets you immerse yourself into the story and feel the atmosphere and mood better than eating and drinking along with the characters. Not long ago I was reading the classic Japanese novel Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa about the famous samurai. In the book, Musashi is always traveling and during rest breaks on the road he invariably unwraps a bag of rice balls. If he comes to a town and finds a store, he will order rice balls and tea, sometimes pouring the tea into the rice. When he is being extravagant, he may even add pickled cabbage to the rice. Even though he is eating this meal out of necessity because he is very poor, nothing in the world sounds better to me at that moment while reading. So, I’ve had rice and pickled cabbage, and drank tea with Musashi plenty of times, and I promise it makes the book even better. With this in mind, I thought for my first blog it would be fun to do the same with Crumpled Paper. Since a lot of the scenes in my book are in cafes, there are a lot of food references. The first one involves French onion soup.

In Chapter Three, French Onion Soup, Richard is trying to be patient waiting for Glenn to arrive at the café. The reason for his worry is he wants to order before they run out of soup! When Glenn arrives, Richard quickly orders two bowls, and by the end of the meal they proclaim it a masterpiece. There are a lot of versions of this soup. Some use white wine, some red. Some use beef broth, chicken stock, or water. This recipe is a combination of classic ones and inspired by the Julia Child’s method which she learned at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. I thought it was appropriate since Richard mentions Julia in the chapter. As far as the wine, I’m almost sure somewhere along the line I’ve heard Julia recommend drinking Beaujolais with the soup, but I can’t find that reference now. Richard remembers though so I guess that’s all that matters.

French Onion Soup from Le Petite Café
Heat a quart of homemade beef stock, beef soup, or beef consommé. Add a few bay leaves, sprigs of parsley and thyme. These can be tied in a bundle to make it easier to remove later.
Cut two large onions and the white part of two leeks into thin slices. (Various recipes use white, yellow, red onions so whatever you like. I use yellow).
Sauté onions and some garlic cloves in butter until caramelized and a beautiful brown
Add a few tablespoons of flour to onions to thicken. Stir continuously.
Add a cup of white wine and bring to a boil for a minute. Scrape pan to make sure onions do not stick.
Add beef stock. Let gently simmer for thirty minutes.
Slice baguette and toast on both sides
Remove herbs and then pour beef stock and pour into individual fireproof serving bowls
Place slices of bread in each bowl and top with Gruyere cheese
Place in broiler until cheese melts and browns.

Serve with a glass of Beaujolais and a book. Or begin a conversation debating the concept of beauty in art. Can a simple crumpled paper napkin rival Michelangelo’s David? After enough glasses of Beaujolais, you may even find yourself agreeing with Richard’s point of view!