Counting Down the Best Posts of the Year on Open Salon 2009
The treasure chest of talent that is Open Salon makes challenging any request to compile a list of bests, especially when limiting it to five or ten.
Stephen McGuire's homespun wisdom was too good to miss this year, as was his Tales from the Mines: The Carnival Ride from Hell. bbd's Lonely Dawn Shots demonstrated the brilliance of his vision. Gary Justis broke the Devil's hold and brought us images of Saint Nick and Victoriana blue. LuluandPhoebe's Saint Agnes of MIT enlightened and entertained. Rutilus Extraho crystallized the healthcare debate climbing Throwdown Mountain. Saturn Smith riffed on politics and brought us The Greatest Hat in the History of Mankind. Alan Nothnagle educated us from Berlin. Sally Swift gave us an unforgettable memory of 9/11. Lea Lane took us around the world. john blumenthal held court with stories of Hollywood, Groucho Marx and Ernest Hemingway. iamsurly hand delivered treasured family recipes and views from a witty perch. BuffyW gripped us with her double loss. JK Brady took us to the other side of a revealing separation. Bob Eckstein brought us Snowman 101. Steven Axelrod transported us to the front lines of caretaking in The Homecare Diaries. tequillaanddonuts let us tag along on weekly Mom's Days with her colorful mother, Betty, including meeting New Rad Friends and Shopping for God.
There was poignant personal narrative, biting social commentary, insightful news and reviews, entertaining forays into food and cutting-edge cartoons, everything from politics to popular culture in poetry and prose.
Here are ten of the best of the best of Open Salon from 2009.
Homer Langley is a combat war veteran dealing with a life where post-traumatic stress disorder is a focal reality. He does so with stunning, cutting prose, a life sharper in contrasts. The Harvest took us to Lewiston, Idaho, pea pods in a hopper, reflections on a VA center, and the brilliant Soaring Glimpses of a Boy in Love to the intimate interiors of a relationship. In this piece, Homer brings us to the Manhattan Bridge, thirty years in a foxhole.
"The Manhattan Bridge comes and the N line goes above ground over the East River.I feel the warmth on my eyelids. I’m flying. I let the sunshine fall on me. I am here, I think. I let the city carry me, these people, this car, these rails, this river."
(Note: After this 'Best Posts' article was written, Homer Langley published an equally powerful piece, Home Fires, a dance of burning marriage manuals and a Valencian bullfight, exceptional writing, highly recommended.)
"I wake with the word home on my lips and the sound of the phone ringing. I open my eyes and the tears that were stealthily collecting there slowly retreat to their home, which is - and has always been - the place where he lives."
Dr. Steve Blevins teaches medicine at the University of Oklahoma. A keen observer and interpreter of life with a highly evolved sense of humor, he blogs on everything from freaquifatalities to French culture. One of the best personal narratives of the year was his A World No Less Sublime, a remarkable perspective on doctor as patient. In this piece, he pulls out all the stops.
"I'm a sophisticated writer, so I avoid clichés like the plague. For all intents and purposes, clichés go hand-in-hand with a lazy mind. Fortunately, most are as plain as the nose on your face and therefore easy to avoid."
the squirrel is a North Chicago restaurateur and new dad who monologues with great humor about both, a hip Ralph Kramden with Wife-asaurus and their recent addition, Pokey. Were we looking for his joint? Clues marked the spot. Did he want to chuck it all and go elsewhere? I Could Leave Here, You Know explored that possibility. Taking a dramatic turn from his Honeymooner humor in this piece, he poignantly illustrates how the economy hits where it hurts when he has to unemploy an employee at the restaurant.
HER. That’s a pity half-hour if ever there was one."
Writer to the Stars is a Dallas freelance writer married to a photographer who aptly describes how their roof fell in when he was struck down by stroke. Here she takes readers floating down the Ganges, making uneasy peace with fate.
"Then she hangs up, thinking how everyone operates from movies they run in their heads, some of them over and over like a 7 minute porno loop. Maybe her friend thinks that it would be irredeemably horrible if her husband had a monstrous, disabling stroke. And maybe it would be, but maybe it wouldn't be horrible every minute of every day. This isn't some personal chirpy belief, like trusting there were good days even at Dachau--there weren't--but the girl's situation is a long way from that."
One could easily take Indianapolis writer Frank Indiana's So It Was Cancer series (now up to Part 25) as a whole as one of the best things written on Open Salon this year, but it was this late poetic offering which brought it all home.
"I want to hear
of books and cadavers."
liza Donnelly, a celebrated New Yorker cartoonist married to another celebrated New Yorker cartoonist, Michael Maslin, offers up regular drawings which are timely, witty and certain to delight. She hit many of the high and low notes of 2009, including the economic crisis and Twitter, but it's this one I've nicknamed "The Little Prince" that I find most charming, a shadow of North Korean ascension.
The artist formerly known as Duaneart, now D Art, is a Jersey genius with digital means. In this piece, he sweeps the canvas to paint a short story about Viktor, a reluctant prodigy.
"She bent down and picked up the slim metal case. She flipped it open to reveal a simple 8-color watercolor set and a sable brush. Each color pan was almost empty and dried up. “Eight colors. He uses eight colors, now.”
Monsieur Chariot is a monocled gentleman of distinction in the City of Angels who lushly drapes a cosmopolitan world with his ink-dipped quill. This tale is one of sequined sirens, Limoges, and an unforgettable pink leopard print chiffon scarf.
"The California dawn's first blush razored through heavy velvet draperies into the cloistral bedchamber. Surgical light glinted across Victorian soda lime glass vases and walnut appointments, pricking my slumber like a physician's cannula. Where was I? Ah yes: in that very bower of romantic dissipitude, my tiny, state-of-the-art bachelor apartments in Old Hollywood!"
My vote for Best Post of the Year on Open Salon 2009:
Homer Langley - Home Fires
This was a late entry into the field, posted December 27, 2009, but has absolutely everything--fiery prose, economy of words, appeal to all the senses, fire, death, marriage, war, and a bullfight. It is personal narrative, politics, news, current events, social issues, travel, entertainment and even food in one post. It is poetry, it is prose; it is non-fiction, it is short story. It is a recipe. The only thing it is not is photo essay, and it might as well be.
Note the contrast in Homer's word choices as the sections of narrative progress. In the first section, he uses several monosyllabic words: catch, stick, match, fire, cold, burn , go, ash, sky, pot, light, spread.
In the second, he uses polysyllabic words that are forward-charging: information, aggression, matadors, picadores,
By the end of the piece, they are dancing. It is pure poetry, color, light, sound, pain, heat, life and death.
This is personal narrative masterpiece.
Please see also:
Steven Axelrod - OS Best of 09
Jodi Kasten - Jodi's Top 10 Favorite Blog Posts of 2009
LuluandPhoebe - L&P's Picks: A Few of Our Favorite Things
Stellaa - Reading Open Salon, 2009
tequilaanddonuts - Survey says: Mom's picks
Sally Swift - Top 10 ' Personal' Posts of 2009, "Sally's Choice"
Sandra Stephens - My Year End Best Of
marytkelly - Mary T. Kelly's Top 10 List for 2009
madtypist - Favorite OS Posts of 2009