So this entry isn't as essay-ish as my others. It's kind of ramble-y...a true-blue blog post. I like to think that it's the beginning of something more eloquent but I wanna get to get this out of my system sooner than later, a timely reaction to the vacation that I recently completed...
I just got back from the other side of the pond. Ugh. That reads like a bad dad-joke. Let me try again...
I was in London. And then in Paris. The whole experience was incredible. I love traveling. I need to do more of it. Yes, I also said that when I went to Italy...six years ago. Hopefully it won't take me that long to make my next journey.
ANYWAY, going to France and the UK was a surreal experience for me. Through the little research I've done on my family, I have blood in both countries. I'm sure there's DISTANT King/Jordan/Melvin/Kelley (Those are the various lines that compile one Mr. Jeremy Jordan King) DNA roaming the streets of one or both of those cities, but I wasn't interested in meeting my doppelganger. I just thoroughly enjoy being in places with history. Yeah, yeah, NYC has a lot of years under its belt, but European cities are OLD. Like cradles of modern civilization kind of old. Standing in front of something that had its first brick plopped down in 1100 AD is kind of mind blowing. Then realizing that that brick was put there to improve on an even older structure makes me want to throw up. There's nothing more humbling, in my humble opinion, than getting some perspective on how long we've been around...how minuscule my existence is when placed in line with the bajillions of other existences that currently do and have inhabited this world. Ugh. I love it.
As I'm typing, my mind is holding fast to one example- Notre Dame. You know, this place:
Or, as most of us have grown up imagining, this animated behemoth:
Being at Notre Dame was heart wrenching (in the best possible way) for two reasons...
1) Just wow. It's gorgeous. And so old. And still standing. And it's been the center of worship for longer than my brain can comprehend. I'm NOT a religious person. I don't believe in any of that stuff. I'd rather read about stars and planets and apes learning to walk upright BUT being in a place that's been so important to so many people made me feel like I'd been shot with a bazooka. Even if there isn't a god present there...or angels in the rafters...or ghosts walking the halls, there's still energy. Residual energy of hundreds of years of peoples prayers, hopes, dreams, frustrations, damnations, and whatever else has been projected into that sanctuary. And if there's no such thing as energy, there are memories. I could look at a tile on the floor and think about the many eyes that focused on that tile while in prayer or while passing through with a camera or in between breaths of conversation with a friend. I could see the soot on the ceiling that's been created by uncountable flames of candles, each one of them a desperate prayer. If I were to scratch the grime off that spot on the ceiling and place it in a vile, I imagine I'd be the most powerful man in the world. That's the kind of feeling I got when I walked in there.
2) My first novel is about a gargoyle. In a previous post I mentioned that as a child I was obsessed with gargoyles (the TV show and the physical beings). I was introduced to them in Disney's adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The gargoyles in that film are comedic relief, offering no real depth or insight on the many legends or purposes of their presence on virtually every gothic creation. The story's protagonist, Quasimodo, offers a richer glimpse of what it's like to be a grotesque because he's the personification of those stone creatures.
To a gargoyle on the ramparts of Notre Dame as Esmeralda rides off with Gringoire Quasimodo says, "Why was I not made of stone like thee?”
― Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Book 9, Chapter 4
I remember being totally enthralled by his secret life high above the streets of Paris. I was touched by watching him swing from parapets and buttresses as he expressed a yearning to live a typical life like the people "Out There." The ten year old version of myself didn't posses his hump or horseshoe jaw, but deep down I identified with him. My gayness was becoming more and more apparent and I just wished that I could be normal, that my true self could walk in the sun like the millers and the weavers and their wives from his song. Instead, like Quasi (and so many other gay kids), I hid. Walls were built as high as his bell tower and I only showed myself when appropriate. He appeared every hour or so to ring some giant bells and then retreated to his modest bedroom to play with dolls. I showed up to school for six hours and then disappeared into fantasy worlds in my back yard. We both buried our issues under play things and convinced ourselves that the fantastic was real. And by that I mean that we had pet gargoyles.
There's a chapter in In Stone that details my affection for a little gargoyle that I'd bought at Natural Wonders (REMEMBER THAT STORE?!?!). I'd post an excerpt but it's all in the hands of my editor and I think it'd be against my publishing contract or something...ANYWAY, that little gargoyle was my best friend. No, really. I was truly convinced that my little trinket was real and that it came to life at night to protect me. I said goodnight to it every night. I also thanked him for his good work every morning. If I didn't do these thing I'd get anxiety. And when I was feeling sad I'd therepize to him. Don't even get me started on the nervous breakdown I had when I dropped him and caused his ear to break off. Jeez...
So I was standing on top of Notre Dame, in a place that captured the mind of Victor Hugo, whose work captured the minds of filmmakers, whose film captured my mind and got the ball rolling for what is now my soon to be released debut novel. Maybe my book will continue this chain reaction and do some good for someone else. I hope so. ALL of these thoughts exploded into my head as I stared at the beautiful and ugly stone creatures around me. It was the most full-circle moment I'd ever had. I half expected to get struck by lightening because I don't think that people are supposed to feel so strangely contented.
As I climbed its 386 stairs and photographed the better part of its 5,000 gargoyles, I silently thanked Notre Dame for getting me to where I am today. Like so many people before me, but for completely different reasons, I don't know where I'd be without that place.And in case you haven't checked it out, here's my author page. Keep your eyes on this space for pre-orders.Or you can "Like" In Stone on Facebook.
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