(Self-Improvement, Part 1: http://bit.ly/17XX7Te)
I have traveled the self-improvement route on a few occasions. A few years back, I found myself not only talking to a fishbowl of turtles, I started to quarrel and disagree with them.
As I told the registrar who was conducting some informal evening classes in the high school, "I want to acquire some skills and the self-confidence to go with them. I don't want to leave this world without some important contribution that will show I've been here. Is the '500 Ways with Hamburger' class filled yet?" It was.
She suggested a class called "Let's Paint." I explained to her I was a beginner. She assured me that "Let's Paint" was a class for amateur artists who had never before held a paintbrush in their hands.
My first table partner was a slim blonde who sprung open her fishing-tackle box and ninety dollars worth of oil paints fell out. She hoisted her canvas on a board like a mast on a sailboat and in twenty minutes had sketched and shaded an impressionistic view of the Grand Canyon in eight shades of purple.
"What are you working on?" she asked, not taking her eyes from her work.
"It's nothing really," I said. "Just a little something I felt like doing today."
She grabbed my sketchbook. "You're tracing a snowman from a Christmas card?"
My next table partner was an elderly woman who confessed she hadn't had a canvas in front of her for years. I'm no fool. She had her own dirty smock and, I suspect, her own scaffold from which she retouched the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel on weekends.
"What have we here?" she bubbled, grabbing my sketch pad. "It's a kitchen window, isn't it? You don't have to label things, my dear. It detracts from the work. Of course, if you don't mind a suggestion, your curtains are a little still and stilted. Curtains billow softly."
"Well, ordinarily mine would too," I said, "but I put too much starch in them the last time. You can crack your shins on them."
My next table partner was a young wife awaiting the arrival of her first child. "Did you have any trouble with your still life of the fruit and the pitcher?" she asked shyly.
"Not really," I said, pulling out a sheet of sketch paper with only a few scattered dots on it.
"But the grapes, bananas, and apples?"
"My kids ate them."
"And the pitcher?"
"Dog knocked it off the table."
"And the little dots?"
I like having a table to myself. Talking distracts me from my serious work.
- Erma Bombeck, At Wit's End, Nelson Doubleday, Inc., 1965