Friday, January 22, 2010

Mr. Moore's Revenge

This week Dinty W. Moore's google maps essay "Mr. Plimpton's Revenge" has gone viral. I've seen it everywhere - on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and in journals. It's concise, funny and really quite sweet and even inspiring. And the story is told using google maps which is adorable. I don't know if he meant it to be adorable, but it is and it tells the story of how, when he was a student, he got to drive Paris Review editor George Plimpton to the airport. Like his essay, Professor Moore himself is adorable.

I know this because as a student, I once drove him to the beach and I purposely took the long scenic way so I could keep him in the car a little longer. I guess you could say I kidnapped Dinty W. Moore for about fifteen minutes. I could tell he was getting a little uncomfortable because at one point he asked me, in a concerned tone, if I had remembered that I was taking him to the beach.

"Yes, of course," I said, "But I'm taking you to the good beach and it's a little further."

All of our beaches are the same degree of good. I lied.

I should also add that my friend Emma was with me and we were both stunned at our own good fortune to get to be riding in the car with Dinty Moore - A FAMOUS WRITER. We were (ok I was) so excited about this that when Professor Moore put his bag in the back of my Saturn Vue, I was so flustered that I left the back hatch wide open and drove off down the road, somewhat in the direction of the beach with a large number of my probably important papers flying out of the back of the car like a flock of doves that someone had set free at the end of a cheesy wedding ceremony.

Halfway through the long way to the "good" beach, I noticed that the car felt unusually breezy and realized that the back of the car was wide open. I had to stop the car, get out and close it at the next red light. Now of course when one needs a red light, all the lights are green, so we drove down the road for longer than I would have liked with all of my papers flying out the back of the vehicle with me trying to act as if I wasn't the least bit concerned.

"Oh, those final research papers from my Comp II class? No, I don't need them. It's no big deal that they're now plastered up and down a strip of A1A and floating in the Intracoastal canal. Really, they weren't important."

In Professor Moore's own essay about driving George Plimpton around, he writes these words "As is so often the case when one picks up a famous writer, I didn't know what to say, but I couldn't stop talking." So let's just leave it at that I hope Professor Moore can forgive me for doing the exact same thing that he did. God only knows what foolish blather came out of my mouth. It is no wonder the man asked if we were almost there yet or if I had forgotten where we were going. About four blocks from the beach I gave up all hopes of ever being published in "Brevity."

Emma and I dropped Professor Moore off at the beach. I asked him if he would like a ride back from the beach in a couple of hours and he declined, in spite of the fact that he was now a good six miles, or perhaps more because I just HAD to go the long way, from his hotel, and it was over 90 degrees outside in the late afternoon. Riding in the car with me was so frightening that the poor man opted to walk six miles in the brutal heat and humidity of Florida just to avoid having to do it again. We told him it wouldn't be a problem to come get him again later, but he insisted upon walking.

As we drove away Emma and I considered every possible disastrous scenario in which Professor Moore could come to harm and it would be our fault.

There was a well known serial killer in town at the time. We imagined the headlines that would follow.


Uggh. Then we'd have to be interviewed over and over and perhaps even be considered "Persons of Interest" in his disappearance, thus ruining both of our writing careers forever. We'd always be known as the girls who lost Dinty W. Moore.

"How good of shape do you think he's in?" Emma asked.

I'd been thinking the same thing. What if he had a heart attack or heat stroke? Then we'd be known as the girls who KILLED Dinty W. Moore, not just lost him. I imagined a scenario in which the director of our program would pull us into her office.

"What we you thinking letting him walk six miles in the sun by himself in a strange city? Now Professor Moore is dead and it's all your fault and if you think your thesis committees are going to overlook this, you are both sadly mistaken!"

Emma would never get into a PhD program having been an accessory in the death of Professor Moore. I wasn't even going to apply to one.

Emma and I went out to lunch. After lunch we became so concerned about Professor Moore's well being that we decided to drive around town and look for him to make sure he wasn't passed out in a ditch or that he hadn't been carried off by the serial killer or a group of Speedo-clad German tourists wearing socks and sandals on the beach. We couldn't find Professor Moore.

"Let's just hope for the best and see if he is in workshop tomorrow," I said.

Luckily, Professor Moore was in workshop the next day. This just happened to be the day that I, suffering from an epic case of senior-itis and PMS, in addition to being fiercely irritated by some of the other people in the workshop, had a meltdown in class. Everyone in my MFA program had suffered in-class meltdowns that semester. Everyone. Many were far worse than mine. Except, none of them had been in a workshop with a visiting famous writer. Because when I do something, well, I do it on a grand scale people. If I'm going to make an ass out of myself, it's going to be memorable. So, I'm not even going to try to write anything short ever again, because I will NEVER be published in "Brevity" now. In fact, I might start my own online literary journal to compete with "Brevity" and call it "Endless Ranting." Aspiring writers can send me their longest and most incoherent pieces. There will be a 75 page page minimum per essay.

After my meltdown, the whole class went to a Mexican restaurant. Afterward, I hung around trying to get the nerve up to get Professor Moore to sign my copy of his book, which I had read in one sitting on a plane from Philadelphia to Florida and loved. It was then that he noticed the gashes and scratches on the side of my car and inquired. Having ridden with me the day before, I bet he was thinking I regularly crashed into things and having been in class with me during my meltdown, I bet he thought some of the things I regularly crashed into were live human beings.

"My car, " I explained, "has been repeatedly attacked by wild peacocks who live in my neighborhood and try to fight their own reflections that they see in the car door."

This made him laugh. So if there was no "Brevity" in my future there could, at least, be some levity. At least I had made Dinty W. Moore laugh and making people laugh is what I'm best at. I may never win a Pushcart or a Pulitzer but I will die absolutely knowing that in my life I have made a lot of people laugh and I'm ok with that.

Professor Moore ends his essay many years after his first encounter with George Plimpton. The two run into one another again at a signing. Mr. Plimpton remembers Professor Moore and I won't ruin the ending for you because you should read it yourself. For a moment, Professor Moore is "thunderstruck" at being remembered as the kid who drove a famous writer to the airport. We all want that, we who drive famous writers around. We all want the famous writer to have remembered us as the brilliant, shining star of the week-long workshop and not some fool who left the hatch back open or cried in class. We want to know that maybe we meant something to someone who means something.

I don't know if Dinty Moore will remember me or if I will ever run into him in the future. If I do, I doubt he will point at me as he approaches and say:

"YOU! You drove me to the beach!"

And I doubt that after that he will say that my essay about my grandmother surviving the Holocaust moved him to tears and that he never forgot it. I don't expect that.

What I do hope is that if Professor Moore and I ever cross paths again, that he will look at me, maybe across a bustling room at some conference or crowded book signing, trying to figure out how he remembers me and that it will suddenly dawn on him.

"That's it. You are the girl whose car was attacked by peacocks!"


DiaryofWhy said...

I love the synchronicity (is that the word I'm looking for? It's suddenly obvious that I never attended any writing workshops) of these two posts. I like to think that someday someone will be writing one of these about you, and so on, and so on... I love the spiraling motion and the potential continuity of it. Lovely.

Emma said...

I had forgotten all about that!! That was the best writer-in-residence workshop ever, for sheer entertainment value. Dinty got snippy with me before class even started because I was texting. I really did think we were going to go down as the girls who lost Dinty Moore.

Diane Laney Fitzpatrick said...

This is really cute. Excellent post.

Rebecca said...

"In fact, I might start my own online literary journal to compete with "Brevity" and call it "Endless Ranting." Aspiring writers can send me their longest and most incoherent pieces. There will be a 75 page page minimum per essay."

Fan-fucking-tastic! As always...

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