At a recent CCW meeting I read a mini-memoir portraying my PG life experiences by rewriting a synopsis of the comic farce, “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” I challenged members to reciprocate and submit their story for inclusion in our “Life in Pacific Grove” book. Writer Suzanne Stormon accepted the challenge. She entertains us as she exposes herself—then adds her own plot twist: While Walter escapes “from,” Suzanne escapes “to.”
Secret Life of Walter Mitty
In Walter Mitty, the author James Thurber has created an Everyman. Henpecked by his wife and beaten down by life, Mitty is a middle-aged man trying to navigate the challenges of ordinary life, with little success. Nagged constantly by his wife and mocked by others he encounters in the course of his mundane existence, Mitty retreats into a fantasy world of extraordinary events.
“In his imagination, Mitty becomes a daring combat pilot, a uniquely skilled surgeon called in to consult on a puzzling medical case, and a brilliant lawyer whose eloquence saves the day in a tense courtroom drama. In all of these fantasies, Mitty is the hero, a sharp contrast to the little failures of his real life. Indeed, it is exactly that contrast that gives Mitty relief from the humiliation of his day-to-day existence.
Secret Life of Ms. Mitty
Suzanne moved to the central coast in 2012 with a small pension and big dreams. As the car pulled into Monterey County, her mind started to range the possibilities. Now was the time to become a famous writer, maybe the next John Steinbeck, with stories and poems about all the ocean’s creatures and the quirky people on the shore.
As she settled in, her dream grew bigger and she met another woman with an even bigger personality who led her to the Central Coast Writers Club near the golf course in Pacific Grove, the little town on the peninsula that seemed to be stuck in the mid-twentieth century.
On her way to her first meeting, she drove down the rocky coast road and stopped to watch the pounding surf at Lover’s Point. Maybe, just maybe, she could qualify for a sixty and over surf team. She was sure they had one. She saw herself standing on the beach, ready to accept her medal for first in her class. Even though she hadn’t surfed for fifty years, all her old surfing friends would gather around to watch the ceremony, then lift her onto their shoulders to take her to a beach bonfire celebration in her honor. The party would go on late into the night, the fire lighting up the night sky, but she would slip away into the shadows of the rocks with a marvelous young lover.
A car door slammed behind her and she turned to face the noise. But the sound and the smell of the ocean drew her attention back to the shore, where a fisherman cast his line into the surf. Maybe, just maybe, Suzanne would buy one of those heavy-duty surf rods and begin catching the biggest halibut on the coast. People would watch her as she hauled her catch onto the shore. Soon they would want to learn her tricks and she would set up a surf fishing school that Hollywood celebrities would flock to like the seagulls on the beach. She’d have to fend them off just to have a few minutes of fishing to herself. Life is so busy when you’re the best, she thought.
Awakens in Paradise
Just then the phone in Suzanne’s pocket rang. “Hey Suzanne, where are you?” her friend asked.
“On my way.” Suzanne said and jumped back into her car. She turned up from the coast onto Asilomar Blvd, passing a doe and her fawns grazing on the tender grass of the Pacific Grove Golf Links, then turned in to the parking lot of the Point Pinos Grill, the home of the CCW monthly meeting.
As Suzanne met her fellow Central Coast Writers for the first time, her mind floated back to her dream of being the next John Steinbeck. That is if she wasn’t too busy surfing or fishing to write the novel of the century.
Suzanne Stormon finds many commonalities between aspects of her life and the “Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, although she is actually much more humble. She is a writer/writer’s helper who moved to the Central Coast in 2011. She is the founder of Nevada Narratives (www.NevadaNarratives.com), an online magazine featuring stories, poems, and pictures that explore that state.
Patricia Hamilton is the owner of Park Place Publications in Pacific Grove, since 1990.