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  • For more than a decade I've wondered what came before and what followed.

    A chance discovery of a pair of handwritten diaries sitting side by side in a neighborhood thrift store combined with great floating chunks of serendipity and obsession over the ensuing summer inspired me to create a show-and-tell life-story-travelogue monologue that ignited like obsessions in those who came to see what I had wrought.

    Dolores would write daily and nearly every day would assess a moment, a day, a person, a thing, as 'lousy.' It was her mantra, kept secret for decades between the covers of her diaries written in 1960 and 1961.

    January 8, 1961
    Got up feeling lousy again today. I don't know what the heck is the matter with me but I sure feel awful and this has been going on for three weeks. I barely started cleaning my bedroom which took hours when I had to stop and lay down for an hour and then I got up and finally finished it but it took all day. I didn't iron or wash clothes either. Went to bed late and when I did I had a splitting headache and felt miserable.

    I fell in love with her.

    I untangled the untold and unexplained. In the Web 1.0 era I searched surnames and place names. Every so often I hit pay dirt. One thing led to another until one day I had an opening date scheduled.

    The summer grew hot. I overturned logs and discovered what lay beneath. I talked about her, showed off bits of her, shared this tidbit, that unknown. I knew, just knew, that if only I could find that 1959 diary, that 1962 diary, that 1971 ... ...

    A return visit to the neighborhood thrift store provided a key to a door for which I'd been searching and led to a late summer drive to the south side of the city, just below the Eisenhower if you look at a map. As the heat broke in a thunderous downpour, much of what was once unknown was revealed. What was believed to be true was refuted. What was believed to be true was confirmed. Fresh mystery. New unknown.

    Two women. Her friends. Characters from her diaries made flesh.

    There was coffee. There were cigarettes. Time peeled back. They spoke mostly of what once was and I led them with my line of questioning. The prairies were described and I could see the men they talked about sitting on crates in the tall grass, poking at potatoes roasting in the ashes at the edges of the fire pits. I could see the general store in which they were forced to work. Something they'd hated then but now looked upon fondly. The rain fell in sheets, visible from the open door off the kitchen. A man came though the house and offered up what he knew to be true. He sat in the dimness of the living room recalling who had lived where when. The three of them fell into a reverie I could never be part of.

    After my visit they would come to see what I had wrought and said I'd gotten it right- though, they were surprised to discover the cranky sadness Dolores had within her.

    I fell in love with her even more.
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