During a recent visit, my sister brought down some magazines for me to go through. I am a poor freelance writer, and I was looking to do some content research for free. It’s St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah. I didn’t go to the parade. My child is in day care. My husband is at work. I am working from home. I feel the urge to join the masses, be a little bad. I pour some Bota Box Malbec into a glass tumbler that once belonged to my grandmother, grab the February issue of Atlanta Magazine and head to the concrete steps leading off our screen porch. It’s sunny, and I enjoy the mild bake.
There had been an article I wanted to read, “The Bean Stalker” by Bill Addison. If I were more well read, I’d know who he was. As it stands, I’m jealous of his subject, Kristen Hard. She’s standing in a jungle holding a cocao pod. I want to hold a cocao pod in a jungle. Kristin owns Cocao Atlanta Chocolate Company, and reading her story makes me feel like I did on my trip to Vegas celebrating my 30th birthday–almost six years ago?! We were staying at the MGM, and I was mesmerized by the glass enclosure containing as many as three lions at a time. Their caretakers stood in there with them. I was newly married, working at a plant nursery, and struggling with the fact that I hadn’t pursued exotic animal care. I had studied photography at the University of Delaware and subsequently spent hours cursing some color processor that our professor had nick-named Babbette. The lions mostly slept. My husband and I walked through a glass tunnel where we could look up at the big cats resting above. Huge paws and, when the males were about, giant scrotums were pressed flat for all to admire. Nobody was admitting it, but it was pretty obvious by which people were more impressed.
I enjoy that Addison compares cocoa pods to Nerf footballs. Nerf isn’t used enough in magazine writing today. I feel the same way when, later, he compares them to Skittles. It’s like we could have sat by each other on the school bus–his (insert sports team here)backpack and He-Man lunch box awkwardly jostling about as we hit pot holes and curbs. I don’t know this guy, but reading his article makes me feel like Joan Wilder, Kathlene Turner’s character in Romancing the Stone. (If I have to explain who Joan Wilder is to you…sigh.) I’m in a skirt and shoes with the heals hacked off, sliding down a muddy flume with the smell of chocolate in the air. Maybe Michael Douglas is going to be in a plane wreck, at the bottom, smoking something-something (Yes, I know that, in the movie, Joan gets to the bottom first.).
I am equally impressed by Hard. The courage she has is foreign to me. I won’t even learn to drive a stick shift, let alone purchase $100,000 of anything–if I had it. The lengths to which she goes to pursue excellence shames the lazy and stubs the toes of those muttering about a creative block. It takes the will of a British boarding school mistress to work with chocolate successfully. I saw someone make chocolate bowls by dipping a balloon in chocolate, allowing it to dry, and then deflating it. It was in my very first apartment, in Atlanta no less, and more than my bubble burst. I missed some critical step, like allowing the chocolate to cool. I had torn rubber and chocolate adhered to my kitchen cabinets for weeks. Every so often I’d find a violent brown line of it. “Damn it,” I’d fizz and reach for the Windex.
Articles like Addison’s inspire me. I have a child. I won’t be off to the jungle any time soon, but I’m a writer. I am a writer. Maybe–like the cocao bean–I have to dry on a window sill for a while before achieving greatness.