When my daughter was young, she made associations effortlessly and automatically. At six, she explained to me from her car seat one day, matter-of-factly:
Red and blue are boyfriend/girlfriend.
Red and yellow are BFFs.
Yellow has crush on blue.
Orange wants to be in with red and yellow but they’re bullies so they don’t let him.
Brown is a boy, and friends with black, who is a little grumpy.
And purple is really nice to people and she’s a girl.
Seven and eight are girlfriend and boyfriend.
Nine is a bully. (And a girl.)
Ten is nine’s dad.
Six has a crush on five.
(Six is a girl and five is a boy.)
One and two are toddlers.
Four is five (years old), and has a crush on three.
But those associations were original, and the definition of creativity.
I find that the older I get, the only real creativity that bubbles up is words, unbidden and unattached to any meaning at all. When I’m shambling through the kitchen the words just pop in, and can be clearly heard over the theme to the fucking Ozempic commercial:
Kukla, Fran and Ollie
John Buccigross (pronounced butch-a-gras)
And as far as creative associations, my mind makes them for me, attaching things I’ve known with other things I’ve known. People, mostly. As if they’re easier to hold onto in twos and threes, with ropes lashed around them.
In my mind somehow the actor Brian Cranston is the comic Stephen Colbert and also the writer George Saunders. They don’t look like one another. They just kind of are one another.
The basketball player Steph Curry is the football player Patrick Mahomes is (now) the amazing college cager Caitlin Clark.
John McEnroe is Bob Dylan is my wife’s Uncle Randall.
In appearance, CNN’s Caitlin Collins …
… is Lady Mary from Downton Abbey:
And as we all know, the director Quentin Tarantino …
… is Lady Elaine, from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
What’s happening to me?
It seems I’ve seen everything once.
And now I’m seeing everything once again.
As Bukowski said, “As you live many years, things take on a repeat. You keep seeing the same thing over and over again. The same substance, the same action, the same reaction.”
And of course you know who Bukowski reminds me of …