Travel notesIssue 08 | February 2010

Channeling Ferlinghetti’s ‘Autobiography’

by Natalie Parker-Lawrence

I am leading a quiet life at the Hacienda de las Flores every day watching the waiters in the hotel restaurant ignore the time and the ways that Americans want their eggs. I am leading a quiet life in room seventeen. I am an American. I was an American girl. I read Nancy Drew and became a girl scout in the suburbs of Memphis. I thought I was one of the children in Mary Poppins, speaking with a British accent for months and imagining the Thames. I had a baseball glove and a pink Schwinn bike. I got the glove because it came free in a Westinghouse washing machine that my father sold. I won the bike because I entered a raffle at the service station on the corner and the manager put the fix in but I didn’t know until twenty years later. I can still remember going to the cemetery every Sunday and playing on the tombstones so I wouldn’t have to watch my grandmother cry. I had a happy childhood. I saw Italian women cook every day. I looked for Odell, my grandmother’s black maid, under the dining room table where she went to hide when storms and my grandmother’s anger came down with their lightening and thunder. I did not get caught stealing a red wooden skateboard because I hid it and rode it on the next street over, not until it split, but until it got stolen from me. I chopped the limbs off of twenty-six Christmas trees that I dragged home, or I told my daddy I would, because we had a new fireplace. I landed on my feet when I climbed trees and fences. I have seen a black girl reach to touch my hair at the same time I reached to touch hers. I have seen my grandfather smoke a cigarette through a hole in his throat. I am rereading The Road, the resulting journey of what happens when many people make the wrong decisions at the same time. I have seen garbage men and Elvis when I was riding my tricycle. I have not been to the Tuilleries since last summer, but I still keep thinking of going to Mexican beaches and Canadian strawberry farms. I have seen garbage men on TV walk down the streets of Memphis behind a minister whom we killed even though we did not pull the trigger. I have eaten the best Chinese food in London. I have heard fireworks in Mexico for Lucy for many nights in a row. I do not want to like it here in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, and I will go back where I came from to see less oppressive poverty. I too have ridden trains trains trains. I have travelled among women, not knowing or caring if they liked only women. I have been in California with my American grandmother, Mickey and Goofy and Fresca. I was in England after John Lennon was killed, accused of his murder by passengers on the tube who loathed me because of my American gun laws. I have been in awe when my students stole baby Jesuses out of the mangers and grew up to be decent human beings. I have seen the spirit of the holy in my child’s face singing and the laughing women at Mexican restaurants and outside in the square still laughing in the middle of begging with their mouths empty of teeth and of nourishment. I have heard the sound of my yelling at night. I have wandered lonely as a crowded mob on New Year’s Eve in London. I am leading a quiet life in San Miguel de Allende every day watching the world walk by in its mismatched sandals.

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About the author

Natalie Parker-Lawrence’s is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans.  She lives in midtown Memphis in a 100-year-old house. Natalie’s new full-length play is a collection of non-fiction monologues about insomnia, Cover Me at Dawn.  Her essays have been published in The Commercial Appeal, The Pinch ,Tata Nacho Press, and World History Bulletin.

Read our current issue:

Poetry

Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok