Sunday, October 19, 2008

Loretta's Kitchen

Loretta’s Kitchen

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, SD – Sometimes, because of the capability of wifi access at 1705 S. Maple St., I work from Loretta’s kitchen table. There will be an Omaha Daily Herald lying there, a jug of orange juice, coffee cups, a platter of eggs and bacon, a stack of toast, and usually four or five people moving around.

It’s an extremely difficult work environment, with regard to focused pre-frontal cortical activity. The TV set is usually on in the adjoining open living room, the phone rings about once every five minutes, Loretta is in with a bag of groceries and back out, someone is fixing coffee, a niece and her baby are over on the couch, a Lakota artist is at the door looking for Loretta, someone is pulling into the driveway, two-year old Ravi Frankel is here, there, everywhere, a lawyer suddenly emerges from the basement, a sun dance brother emerges from the upstairs bathroom, Tom comes up from his basement office with the handset phone, asking for Loretta, someone is at the sink, two people are working from laptops at the kitchen table, the UPS guy is at the door, the phone rings again, Silver, the cat, wants to go out.

In this environment, Manuel and Tom came upstairs and handed me one long half-page paragraph of copy, a personal statement from Manuel for his scholarship application for continuation of his vocational rehab jobs training program. “Here,” said Tom. “Take a look at this, would you?”

It was a horribly composed, disorganized mishmash of disconnected statements. I suggested a paragraph break, a comma insertion, and, handing it back as they stood there, said, “Looks good.”

Yeah, sure. Manuel’s was an honest Indian statement by an Indian to another Indian. Let ‘er fly. If it gets rejected, we’ll work on it again. I asked Manual what he thought his chances were, and he appeared surprisingly confident. He was making good grades, he said.

I suggested for any piece of important communication, to let it lay overnight and come back to it the next day. You will always improve it by taking it through two, three, four, five, six drafts.

“That was a horrible piece of writing,” I told him. “All yesterday you never said a word about it, and today, you’re saying it needs to be post-marked by 5 p.m. today. What’s up with that, Man? When did you write it?”

“On the bench at Wal-Mart while I was waiting for you,” he replied with a laugh.