This is the second in my series of “burying the lead” stories. The first was about a friend that I knew for years before casually finding out that she was once selected to play piano in the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow against Van Cliburn himself. Wait…whaaaat?!
This entry is about another one of my fellow writers, Darcy, a chap from Montreal. Darcy and his wife, Helga, spend their winters in South Florida and attend the same weekly writer’s group that I do. They seem to be very nice and intelligent people and I’ve known them for about three years.
I wish I could say that I was a bigger fan of their writing, but that’s okay. There is chocolate and vanilla for a reason. Helga is primarily an artist from what I’ve learned. I really wish I could see her artwork, because as a writer, well…I’d rather see her artwork. One time she read a story about a trip with her sister to Eastern Europe where they visited some of the camps where family members were kept before and during World War II. It was a great opportunity for drama and pathos, but read more like an extremely clinical travel brochure. This was compounded by the fact that this is a common theme in our group and some of the other writers have produced some of the most moving stories that I’ve ever heard.
Darcy is more of a serious writer. He is very intelligent and has a vast knowledge of history. Unfortunately, his style still eludes me. There are four distinct things that I find difficult about his writing:
- He writes a fair amount of poetry. This one is on me. I typically do not care for or even get most poetry. I do have a bizarre talent for writing rhyming song lyrics in the form of parodies, but they are typically at the Dr. Seuss level.
- Darcy has a habit of using a lot of arcane language, but more in a smug than clever way. He uses those words that only appear in the New York Times crossword, or in the writing of Shakespeare. Frequently, after reading a piece, several of the group members are reaching for their dictionaries. Sometimes, I feel as though he ate a thesaurus and subsequently took a crap on the page.
- He can be a little wordy. We meet in a library. One day, the room was so cold that we had to open an outside door to let some warm air in. Darcy was in the middle of a rather lengthy piece about some obscure event in Canadian history when a vehicle with a siren drove by the library. When I said, “Uh-oh! It’s the run-on sentence police!”, it got a pretty big laugh.
- Much of his stuff is just uninteresting. The purpose of writing is to infuse the mundane with passion and interest, not the other way around.
On this day, Darcy started off with a typical story. He and Helga were attending the funeral of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. It was quite clinical and mercifully short until he got to the point where he left her on the curb and went to retrieve his black Lincoln to pick her up. When he pulled to the curb, before she could get in, a man opened his back door and three men slid into the back seat.
Now keep in mind that in three years, this is the first time my ears pricked up expecting even the slightest of amusing anecdotes from Darcy. His previous “funny” story involved a very strange episode with an over-abundance of phlegm, and a deeply disturbing and possibly inappropriate episode involving his mother.
Darcy continued with the following:
I got out of the car and waved for Helga to get into the front seat. I got back in the car and turned to inform my unexpected passengers that they were in the wrong car. When I looked at the men, I found two rather large and frightening men on either side of Fidel Castro.
Darcy said he was so surprised that her just turned back and started driving when one of the men said “airport”. He drove them silently 40 miles to meet their plane. When they arrived at the airport the men thanked them politely. Fidel Castro shook both Darcy’s and Helga’s hand. Incidentally, no money changed hands.
The story ended well and certainly had everyone’s interest. Here’s what blew me away. I’ve known these people for three years and have heard several dozen of their stories. Some of the people in the group have known Darcy and Helga considerably longer and none of them had ever heard this story. How? Why not? I feel that I have a lot more interesting stories than Darcy, but I absolutely guarantee you this: If this were my story, sometime within the first five times we met, I damned sure would have worked in the story of the time that I met Fidel Freakin’ Castro and the time he bummed a 40 mile ride to the airport from me.