by Sharon Stevens

I tried to write graffiti today…No, not the kind tagged with gang signs that mar the landscape of public buildings or the bubble letters written on the side of rail cars. I am not even referring to the colors spray painted on the fins of Stanley Marsh’s cars at Cadillac Ranch.

What I attempted to scribble could never be seen, never be shared, never see the glow of my computer screen. I would never let it get that far.

Let me explain. When you think of graffiti you imagine a punk using illegal paint, defacing to their hearts content until they hear the sound of someone approaching. They immediately ditch the evidence and run as fast as their pants dragging legs will carry them. What they leave behind is bits and pieces of what they consider a masterpiece of their soul soon to be destroyed by people employed for just that purpose.

I tried to paint my masterpiece this week, tried to create with simple graphics my homey’s world. (It’s disturbing my computer spell check didn’t highlight homey.) No go. Every thought I attempted would bring the word police and I would run away with fear pounding in my heart. Or even worse, just when I thought my etchings were beautiful, and focused, and strong enough to remain, others would come along and whitewash every thought and every dream, deeming it ugly, stupid, and representative of a culture they wouldn’t tolerate in their fair city.

There were so many joys I wanted to write this week. WTAMU as part of their Distinguished Lecture series hosted former president Bill Clinton as well as Robert Ballard who found the Titanic, The Wounded Warriors would ride with George W. Bush in Palo Duro Canyon and the Palace Coffee House in Canyon would host Shawn Smucker and Jason Boyett on writing and blogging. The list goes on and on.

I even wanted to write about going to the funeral of kinfolk and hearing the memories of the “Hershey burger”, then afterwards visiting the Muleshoe Heritage Center, and being given a personal tour of the John N. Janes Home. To top it all off, at the end of the day I wanted to write about the visitors at the Buffalo Bookstore from England who shared their memories of home, as well as the kindness they had found in the panhandle of Texas. They were the ones who asked me what I thought about graffiti.

Each time I set down at the computer to write that perfect phrase, that glowing intro, I got distracted by another thought, another story, another reminder I couldn’t wait to share, and instantly I would run away and hide.

I think the worst of my fears was that I imagined who would be reading this blog. I wasn’t so afraid that they would critique my writing, as I was petrified they would deem it as a story that shouldn’t be told, thus destroying the essence of my memories and therefore my joys.

And this is my dilemma. Every story I write I feel is a message to future generations. I know that once it is written, and goes into cyberspace it can be retrieved forever. Would the writing police a hundred years from now judge my memories as silly and irrelevant? Would they determine when they read the words of my fellow Wordsmith Six bloggers that mine was the misfit graffiti defacing the beauty of THEIR efforts.

I guess what I am trying to say is that is that I want to write the words and paint the picture that will endure for eternity of all that is good and wonderful in our community. Even though there are others who feel I shouldn’t write such trivia. I envisioned that I was the one who believed, and could see how artistry was on every surface as well as every nook and cranny as far as the heart could see. Joseph A. Hill wrote on coming to the panhandle in, The Panhandle Plains Historical Society and its Museum, “Never before had I seen such cloudless skies, such blue Heavens, nor so many stars. Nor had I witnessed such displays of Heavenly beauty as when, ever and anon, the Master Artist dipped His brush in Nature’s richest colors and gave us a canvas of sun and cloud on the western horizon.”

Graffiti artists will never have a venue without the fear of exposure, and their artwork can never stand. They know it will be destroyed as soon as someone comes along and recognizes it as unacceptable in their minds. This is a given. And no doubt about it, there is nothing glamorous about punks who will deface property that doesn’t belong to them. This is a crime and should be dealt with swiftly and forcefully. The millions of dollars spent each year to wash away gang signs and profanity could be spent in thousands of different ways to help their fellow man.

There is absolutely NO EXCUSE!

But then again, they could go out and paint the cars at Stanley Marsh’s Cadillac Ranch or have a photo shoot like Vogue Magazine. Marsh welcomes that kind of exposure for the world to see and this is why he created his masterpiece in the first place. He would never wash it away!

So maybe this is what I need to do, imagine it is people like Marsh or O’Keefe or Joseph Hill OR the Master Artist that are giving me a canvas that encompasses every avenue in the universe. I can write or paint to my heart’s content and celebrate receiving “postcards from the inner muse.”

And as far as the couple from England asking me what I thought about graffiti…? In their small town she is a secretary at the tiny church and he is the caretaker of the graves. He told us that there are 1,500 inhabitants in the city and 26,000 buried in the churchyard. On the stonework of their church someone had carved a sailing ship as proof they were once there. He shared that it was the Vikings that had left the mark of their “gang” about 800 A.D., still visible to this day. I can only imagine who the “homeys” chose as their artist for this effort. And not only that, how fast did they have to run ahead of the villagers to make it to their ship to sail away to the next destination to find another means of expression.

Next week I promise to not run away after I paint the picture of the “Hershey Burger.” I hope and pray it won’t be graffiti that you want to wash away.

Sharon Stevens



by Sharon Stevens

I just love trivia! Don’t you?

Trivia is fact as well as fallacy. With a simple twist an idea can either stampede, or whisper, fly, or flush, all according to the context in which your story begs to be written. Like Scrabble, trivia can draw controversy with each phrase and welcome all who want to dispute or argue, creating drama where none existed before. I think these bits of flotsam and jetsam are akin to Pavlov’s Theory that cause you to react from your point of reference. This is what makes your words worthy to be written.

Take Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. I came across a filler in the Canyon News listing “Totally Random Trivia”. This specific article related to tidbits about toilets, and I came across several facts I didn’t know, like the statement that people use about fifty seven sheets of toilet paper every day, or that the life expectancy of a toilet is fifty years. But the most interesting fact was that Hitchcock’s movie was the first to include a scene showing a toilet being flushed. In fact this scene received many complaints at the time about being indecent.

Up until that moment I didn’t know this earth shattering bit of trivia. To everyone else this was probably a passing thought that didn’t amount to a hill of beans. In my books it was a call to action meaning I had to pull out my dictionary to look up the definition of trivia and had to fire up my computer to research “Psycho.”

Voila, there it was, and there it wasn’t. My 1890’s Webster’s Dictionary only referenced trivium, Medieval Latin for grammar, logic and rhetoric meaning a place where three ways meet. Much as I wanted to follow that thread I would have to wait for another day and another story. Trivia as a newer word had more relevant expressions such as the ones expressed by Ed Goodgold and Dan Carlinsky who felt “trivia is concerned with tugging at the heartstrings”. They produced a book, More Trivial Trivia, and criticized practitioners who were “indiscriminate enough to confuse the flower of Trivia with the weed of minutiae”.

But back to the flushing of the toilet; in reading between the lines I found also the  motivations hidden within the shower scene.

Marion had decided to go back to Phoenix, come clean, and take the consequence. So when she stepped into the bathtub it was as if she were stepping into baptismal waters. The spray beating down on her was purifying the corruption from her mind, purging the evil from her soul. She was like a virgin again, tranquil at peace.

Ah trivia! This meant water played a part in flushing the toilet AND flowing down the drain.

As writers we are at our best when we can take a common bit of filler, research a thought, find a little background, give it a little life, and weave it into a story. This is all we need. We can take any and all words and follow where they lead. Either for murder or mayhem or love and lust, we are the only ones who can zig or zag, or remain on the beaten path.

And on a final note, did you know that the stabbing effect in the shower scene, a score that will live with the movie going public forever, was accomplished by Bernard Hermann who conducted screeching violins, violas and cellos. Hitchcock like James Cameron in “Titanic” didn’t want music invading the drama of the scene. But after much persuading, Hermann just like James Horner was able to convince their respective directors that THEIR contributions could carry the theme. And, as they say, the rest if history.

Last but not least I leave you with this little bit of trivia, what you do with this knowledge is up to you. Did you know most toilets flush in the key of E flat?

Sharon Stevens