Lemonade stand on Gilligan’s Island
by Janice Nigro
I always thought my obsession with tropical places and underwater developed in response to the beautiful underwater films made by Jacques Cousteau. It used to be the best winter TV in the Midwest. But there was another TV show that made the tropics feel like a glamorous or adventurous place to be: Gilligan’s Island. I hear laughter. The premise was a group of oddly assembled characters from all walks of society who become stranded on an island. It was a comedy though, sure enough about survival, but it was more about the drama and of course social commentary. You would expect the obvious drama-the survival bit-but beyond that you think exactly how much trouble can seven people get themselves into on an island which is nowhere. Enough, apparently, for the show to last several seasons and to survive in syndication to this day in various languages around the world.
Gilligan’s Island-think about it, although it is a comedy about a place that seems where only the ridiculous can happen-such as never being able to leave an island despite the ability to innovate-it is a concept applicable to life. At least mine. I see Gilligan’s Islands everywhere. Not just the island part, but the cast of characters that are somehow bound together by chance under a certain set of circumstances. My life has for sure been full of “professors,” literally and figuratively, Captains, and the Gingers who manage to foil your love life. And at times I am probably both a MaryAnn and a Gilligan…
I only thought about this recently because I moved from Norway back to the USA to southern California where I have never lived before. I was definitely on a Gilligan’s Island in Norway. When I think about it, the experience was more than I thought like a Gilligan’s Island, because I really made something from nothing (not from coconuts though) in a place where the odds were considerably against success for my particular research project let alone anywhere else.
One day I did get off that island only to land in a new one-a beach community in the USA. I have changed characters so to speak, becoming an artist/technical editor/writer as opposed to the rest of my life as a so-called scientist. Remarkably, being a scientist actually requires some of each of those skills. The artist part of me, probably began back in Norway (or somewhere in Indonesia underwater), and when I made the jump to this island in the USA, I took an opportunity to participate in the local farmer’s market as a craftsperson. I have even written an artist’s statement. The goal is partly to sell my so-called art, but it is more about meeting people in a new community and perhaps generating new work for myself as the artist/technical editor/writer.
The interesting thing is that this too is a Gilligan’s Island with administrative issues and a whole new cast of characters who are in some respects nothing like any of my previous co-actors. My neighbors are intimidating artists. One makes beautiful wooden signs that are hanging all over in local businesses, and the other makes jewelry, while the man across from me photographs classical California beach community scenes. Some come from other countries, and when they leave this Gilligan’s Island at the end of the day, they become something else-a musician, yoga instructor, caterer, and even a volleyball professional.
The overwhelming feeling that I have on this Gilligan’s Island though is that I am setting up a lemonade stand every week. I suppose as I scientist I might want to use the terminology “science project” because for all intensive purposes, it is a big experiment. My tent from REI is an unofficial crafts fair canopy. My many expert camping friends would be happy to know that it is something I carry on my back and can set up single handedly in less than 10 minutes despite so many parts.
The first thing I think about when I am sitting there watching people pass by, is my ancestors in Sicilia, screaming “fragole, fragole!” (strawberries, strawberries!) or some other Italian food word in the local market in order to survive. Or more about all of the times (a lot of times per minute) I say “no thank-you” to the people on the beaches in Southeast Asia trying to sell you what they can (manicures, massages, fake tattoos), just to eat for the day.
It is pretty much fun when someone comes along to my lemonade stand and appreciates my work. Or perhaps even finds my own story interesting. It is especially entertaining to discover which photographs people are most attracted to. I love them all for different reasons (mostly because they mean I went somewhere), but they are underwater photographs, most likely of creatures many have never seen before. So I find it curious that people often like my shrimp in a bubble coral, for example. I finally asked. It looks cozy, someone said. I am also surprised when people want to know what the real size is of some of the creatures. This question comes up especially regarding the nudibranchs. Because if they were as big as they appear to be in the photographs, they would not want to get into the ocean.
This lemonade stand somehow made me begin to think about how I am always setting up a lemonade stand somewhere. This one on the surface appears to be not quite as sophisticated as the one before (a model for human brain tumors). But I had the same feeling there, though, that it was pretty much fun when someone came along and appreciated my work or the story.
There are many elements that are necessary to make a successful lemonade stand. I am learning…The number one thing is that display is probably everything. I am currently struggling to come up with a display for my photos that will pack into a suitcase (entertaining all ideas for this; excluding anything electronic as pictures are not the same on an electronic device).
But probably the one aspect that I think about most often is that sometimes your lemonade stand is simply not on the right Gilligan’s Island.
So much for my glib review of life and work anywhere…
But seriously if you have any ideas about a display that packs up in a suitcase, let me know!
©2014 Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com