I attract storytellers to me like magnets. There is an unexplainable, almost nature defying pull that connects me with other writers (and dream travelers, artists, etc), almost as though my body is laced with an invisible magnetic field. Spider Man can shoot webs out of his wrist, Superman has an inhumane ability to lift heavy objects, and I, writer supreme, attract artists to me from all ends of the universe. It is a gift that I cherish, and today, I realized just how blessed I am to be a storyteller.
I work at The Chabad Hebrew School of Port Washington on Sunday mornings. While I generally dedicate my late afternoons (usually sleep deprived from the night before) to editing my manuscript, I sometimes take “off” a day for a bit of cultural nourishment. Today was one of those days. My culture tank needed a serious fill up, and so after a very successful morning of teaching, I made my way to Museum Mile and visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Art and literature are interchangeable in my eyes. You cannot have one without the other, and in my world, inspiration is drawn from both. I spent a fabulous afternoon in the museum, losing myself among the various hallways and secret hide outs that the building has to offer. I’ve been in there a dozen times, and yet every time, there is something new to discover.
After a successful “recharge” at the museum, I made my over to Starbucks on Lexington and E. 87th for a quick writing session. I was lucky enough to snatch a table near the window (people watching makes for great inspiration), and so with a latte by my side, I began to scribble down my thoughts. About five minutes after I sat down, an older man, probably in his late seventies, approached me and asked if I wouldn’t mind if he shared the table with me, as there were no other empty chairs anywhere in the cafe. I nodded and motioned for him to sit down. Within moments after he placed himself before me, I knew that I had a storyteller in my midst.
I keep very extensive diaries. Those who know me well know that my diary is in a sense an extension of myself. They are large and many times unmanageable, but I carry them with my everywhere and write about everything and anything. I happened to be recording my notes from my “museum notebook” into my diary when the man sat down. After several minutes of silence, he looked up at me and asked me if I was keeping notes about the artwork for an Art History class. I replied in the negative, and told him that it was something I was doing simply for my own enjoyment. This intrigued him. He laid down his newspaper on the table and asked me very simply “Why?”
Yet, there could not truly be a way for me to answer this question in a “simple” manner. How can I explain why I do what I do? How can I explain something that is so ingrained in me? How can I simply answer about something that makes me who I am?
My answer opened the door to a story which widened my eyes to the beauty of the world. I told him, quite “simply” that I am a writer, and that on top of the “professional” aspect of my passion, I write for my own enjoyment. His main amusement came from the fact that I told him that I have not yet reached a level of higher education. He chuckled and with dreamy eyes recalled that at my age, he had already graduated college and had moved on to the greatest passion of his life: travel. He recalled, over the course of the following two hours, stories of his explorations of the world. Here was a man who had traveled the world and left no stone unturned. Our conversation streamed on various topics from travel and the arts to religion and politics. It was very easy to tell that he was Jewish, his expressions and mannerisms gave that away. We spoke very lightly of religion, and he very bluntly told me that his wife, a Filipino woman, knew more about the Jewish religion than he did. On most topics we agreed, on some, we did not. Here was a man who less than an hour before had been a stranger, but with whom I found myself connected to somehow. I recalled the story of how my family became religious, and he told me of his one connection to Judaism was his Hebrew name, Reuven. I captivated by his stories and blown away by his insight. It was the true meeting of the minds. It was incredibly refreshing to speak to someone about the world, it’s beauty and it’s difficulty without the worry of judgement or pity, something I have found too often among those who know me well, at least in the recent months.
Before ending our lengthy conversation, I requested a photograph of him. He was timid about it at first, but I explained to him that as a writer, it was just as important for me to remember the face of the storyteller as it was for me to remember the story itself. He smiled shyly and agreed. Meet Paul:
In his closing remarks before I parted from the table, the story teller wished me luck with the release of the novel, and bestowed a final word or two of wisdom. He said “You know exactly who you are and what you want out of life. Do not, even for a small moment, allow anyone to tell you otherwise, and you’re on the right track.” I thanked him for sharing his story with me, wished him the best and went on my way. I left the cafe feeling an incredible sense of will power. It was through a conversation with a fellow story teller that I realized what a true blessing it is to have such a passion and zest for life. I am always aware of my passion, but sometimes, it’s nice to be reminded.
I must revert to the original question Paul asked me at the beginning of our conversation: “Why? Why do you write?’ Why do I write? It’s like asking me why I a breathe. Being a writer is about so much more than a love of words; it’s about having a driven, ardent, passionate love for life.