Tag Archives: Books & Writing

Progress on Anne’s writing projects

A Funny Thing Happened Today at Cartier

Or at least it will be funny when the new watch I ordered comes in and is fitted to my left wrist and highly satisfying to take a hammer to the one I’m currently wearing because god help me if I’m ever that mortified again.

And in the same vein,

I love that I’m independent.  I love that I have the ability and fortitude to rectify this and any other situation.  That no matter what I can take care of myself – and do so without pretense or fabrication.  I love that I can spend Saturday running errands, then indulging in a little bit of retail therapy without buying things as a salve for a deeper emotional issue.  I love that I can come home late Saturday afternoon, strip to my skin, and throw myself a mini-spa hour (and a half) – and I love that I can then order a pizza with pepperoni, sausage, canadian bacon, meatballs, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, sun dried tomatoes and spinach — with extra garlic.  I love that it’s Saturday and I can stay home, curl up with a book – or I can go out and have a glass of wine alone – or I can wander the aisles at Whole Foods and come home with a odd mish-mash of really good food.  That I live by myself in an apartment I really love (even if I don’t love the management company) and that I can provide fully for myself and my family and those I love unconditionally.

Maybe it’s just been awhile since I’ve been in a good mood.

Maybe it’s just that I’m settling into a good groove and I’m optimistic about what’s coming next.

Maybe I’ve let go of the hidden worry and fear that I won’t be loved again – because I will.

And I’ll even tell you why: because there was a moment yesterday afternoon when I (finally) saw how important it is to love myself, if only because I’ve made others suffer because I haven’t.  I’m not the enemy of myself, though I’ve sure as hell waged a damn good twenty-something year battle of self v. self.

Cliff’s Notes version: I’m the problem.

And because I’m the problem, I’m the only person who can change it or fix it or do something about it, whether it’s straight up abatement or temporary injunction or imperfect compromise.

Which brings me to a related issue:

I’m a creative person who likes – no, needs – to be immersed in collaborative work.  Simply, I need to work with smart, creative people.  Who are not like me — who are more than me.  More visionary.  More creative.  Smarter.  Faster.  More more more to combat the collective weaknesses (my own included) and enhance the collective strengths (my own included) and achieve the common goal.  This isn’t a lofty abstract desire; this is a need.

The problem with collaboration is that it requires true commitment.  Discipline.  Passion.  Attention.  Even habit.  And the emotional, personal connection with collaboration is crucial – you gotta be a believer or it all falls apart.  You take make anyone play on a team, but if a single member’s heart isn’t in it, the whole collaborative process is a sham, a ruse, a shell of false idolatry.  Add in an inability to effectively communicate (ahem, honestly and openly), add in a layer of politics, and add in a disaffected attitude, and welcome to disaster.

Also known as my personal hell.  The wide-eyed promise of collaboration for an amazingly awesome goal torn apart because the discipline, attention, and passion of one single team member rings hollow.  To see the house this team has built is a case study for the gods – yet this house will be bulldozed because we didn’t choose the perfect wallpaper in the living room and there’s a leaky faucet in the bathroom, that…it destroys me.  It disrupts the collaborative process – that discipline, that habit, that passion – and for what?  Something trivial.

Maybe it should be seen from another perspective – that I allow the destruction of this one house to distract me from the neighborhood of houses previously constructed.  That I’m the disruption on the team rather than the guy sitting in the ‘dozer.

Problem is, the guy sitting in the ‘dozer doesn’t know how to operate heavy equipment…and probably doesn’t realize what’s going on or what he’s about to do.  Yet another sign something is in rotten in Denmark, another indication of poor communication and inadequate leadership.

And here we come to another rampant weakness of mine: reason and precision.  Always tell me why.  If only because it’s the only thing that will convince me that at minimum you understand what it is you’re doing and see the scope of things as something slightly larger (at minimum) than yourself.  Or you don’t, but are still okay with things not being larger than yourself.

And another weakness: trust.  I’ll trust you until you give me reason not to.  You can earn trust back after that point, but not without a considerable amount of effort and energy, at least to partially compensate for the time, effort, energy I expended in cleaning up the mess I trusted you not to make.  (An honest “I’m sorry” typically does the trick.)

Despite the weaknesses, I don’t know what to do about the breakdown of collaboration.  Smear a layer of frustration and disappointment on as well; it brings out the troubling flavor from the overmasticated texture.  Some say go to the mattresses; others say mercy; still others wonder if there’s a trusted resource able to do anything.  I fear the die has been cast and only now are the implications of betting everything peaking through the veil of a hasty, backed-in-a-corner decision.

A Question Answered

On a fairly regular basis, I’m asked about the nature of ideas.  More specifically: where do your ideas come from?

Typically I laugh and make a snide-to-snarky comment and lop-sided grin about the birth of ideas akin to the birth of babies – one more titillating, one more compelling than the other.

But seriously.  Like babies and boyfriends, they come when you least expect them.

I’ve killed weeks and months at a time in a reverie and daydream, just drifting out in the doldrums.

And I’ve murdered weeks and months at a time drowning in anxious-yet-mundane tasks guaranteed to kill the spirit and livelihood of creativity.

I’ve slaughtered time reading, observing, hearing, watching others’ great (and not-so-great) works, studying their miscues and brilliance.

Time was never really the difference to my great surprise.  No matter how I spend my time, the rate or quality of creativity doesn’t change.

And then, while talking, I launch into a monologue proudly proclaiming that it’s different for everyone.  That everyone has their ‘ah-ha’ moment no matter what they’re in the middle or beginning or ending or purgatory of.

And then I pause,

And say,

But for me,

it’s the welling up of an emotion deep inside me, to the point that if I don’t stop myself, I’ll scream or cry or demons will burst from my abdomen or angels sing from my head and I think I don’t/can’t take another breath – it’s that moment right there I look for because

then,

right then,

if I step out of the catharsis, lean back in my chair, close my eyes for a long, slow blink,

that’s when it happens.

It’s simply that ability to purely reflect on what you know and what’s going on around you- all together instantly and without any self-interest other than to get to just one more breath — and shazam, there it is.

it’s then I approach a theory, perhaps as selfish validation:

Nabokov described inspiration as two parts (though he didn’t assign ratios) – the first half as rapture:

“a combined sensation of having the whole universe entering you and of yourself wholly dissolving in the universe surrounding you.  It is the prison wall of ego suddenly melting away and the non-eogo rushing in from the outside to save the prisoner – who is already dancing in the open.”

The moment where time ceases to exist.  Where there’s no conscious purpose in existence.  The idea.  The moment lightening strikes shock through the air.

The second half he describes as the recapture – the conscious work of construction.  The idea in practice.  The thunder following the lightening.  As you blurt it aloud and start to reflect on what it is you’re saying and continue in a babbling way trying your damnest to position the idea, put boundaries – it’s always with sparkling eyes and increased tempo (in a gentlemanly fashion – others I’ve known fancy more toward crazy eyes and irregular tremor through the body).

The issue, I pointedly say, is finding your ratio – balancing the lightening and the thunder to fit you.  I’ve seen too many taken down by rush for one direction or another, whether by drugs or alcohol, by gluttony or avarice, by talent or lack thereof.  All in the hopes of finding something they thought they needed, even though it was there all the time.

In all, I believe, the storm will come.  No matter the singing or dancing, the lollygagging or grind.  Just be open to more than rain.

Blinking Eyes

Anne Hollander & broken
Broken

A very wise man said to me a few weeks ago “slow down, take your time – or you’ll burn out.”

I admit I’ve heard this many times before; my version of patience allows for a fully streamlined perfect execution gliding gracefully into a deadline – no screwing around or wasting time once the decision(s) have been made.

Had he (or anyone else) admonished “slow down, don’t do everything – or you’ll break something,” it may have caught me off-guard just enough to take a couple eyeblinks in consideration.

‘Cause in the blink of an eye Saturday morning, I lost functionality of my right arm.  A freak accident on the soccer fields, my five year olds laughing through my starry-eyed daze.  Hours later, it was declared I’d broken my arm in two places, smashed my elbow to smithereens, and disrupted the delicate musculature of my shoulder.  And so I was immobilized and provided sleep courtesy of a narcotic bouquet.

Today the appointment with the orthopedic specialist was serious.  My career with the piano may be officially over and in two weeks, I will return to have more photos taken (x-ray and MRI) along with a determination as to whether surgical intervention is necessary to reset the bones from my hand to my shoulder.  In the interim, a soft splint from my knuckles to armpit, a lightweight design to allow the shoulder to heal, but with the determination of molded fiberglass locking my hand, wrist, and elbow into stationary place.

Then it was home to sleep through the trauma and its slow tedious repair.

A particular sadness has swept through me to the tune of “this is what it takes – still?”  Bodily trauma has been my wake-up call again and again – and again and again.  Now that I look at up to twelve weeks (!) of healing followed by therapy, now that each and every action I take has attention and purpose, I have an overriding need to determine whether purpose and action align elsewhere in life.  Frieda Kalho evaded depression by painting.  I avoid the same with writing.  Now that it takes me longer to physically write or type the words, what will happen to my frenetic style as I now have several blinks of consideration before the word fully forms or appears?  Add the strengthened desire to write despite the exceptional pain, however modulated, and suddenly I’ve developed a new (improved?) voice and style.  With that, can we expect new (and improved?) action and purpose?

Time will tell.

I Think This is ‘Writing Face’

The ‘Blog Face’ – I’m gonna need some voodoo-style wrinkle cream in the next five years.

For a day that’s been fairly productive, I’m now wading through the muck with ‘Travels with Molly.’  Trying to write the beginning – and going back to the original music I listened to during the development of the original idea back in 2005-2006.

[Yes, I can chronicle my music autobiographically.  Yes, you can call me Rob Gordon (though I also make obsessive lists, I have little need or desire to revisit past relationships – once was probably more than enough for me).]

The time period was full of genre jumping – but what I remember most was the commute to work in the mornings.  I was a cool kid: I had a first generation iPod (god, how did I live life before an iPod…oh wait – with a MiniDisc player), and I’d listen to it all. the. time.  I rediscovered music, wallowed in favorites, branched out and found new and different tracks, provided gratis from my fine musician and audiophile friends.  Vinyl was still a cherished medium, don’t get me wrong – but now I could stand outside in sub-freezing temperatures, waiting for the train, dancing along to Jet and the Black Eyed Peas and the Caesars…you get the point.  It was a big deal, you whippersnappers.  It brought color and vitality to an otherwise frigid grey day met with dark icy night.  It brought reprieve to the lab job I worked (read: slaved); brought sanctuary to the cubicle job I held (read: became disillusioned with); brought joy and gratitude with each play of Ok Go’s “Invincible” and “Don’t Ask Me” and “It’s a Disaster” – among several hundred other favorites.

That iPod met its untimely death when I dropped a 20lb weight on it at the gym.  It was pitiful.  I cried at Boston’s only Apple Store (and couldn’t show my face there again…until I bought a Nano in January 2006 – which still accompanies me to the gym).

But I digress.

It was January 2006 I remember best: standing on the platform, waiting for the train at Davis Square, stressing as both the train and I were to be late yet again, sick with anxiety, wondering how many other people waiting there on the platform were in devoured in their own personal hells as I was.  I’d known for three months I couldn’t continue as I was; I’d applied to a full-time law program; I’d applied to a variety of new jobs, new hopes, new titles, new responsibilities: and I waited, the clock ticking. slowly. in. my. head.  There was one particular day I got to work early, stimulated by an idea of Langston Hughes – I’d woken before my alarm, thinking of dreams deferred – and without a glance or word to anyone, sat down in my cubicle, opened my laptop, and searched.  These were the days before absolutely everything was on the internet, and I couldn’t find it.  These were the days before coffee (my birthday, September 2006).  This was a day that I gophered above my cubicle, looked over at a co-worker’s empty chair, and made an executive decision: I’d be right back.

And to the Boston Public Library I went.  To the expertise of a librarian, through the stacks, to just the collection: and there it was.  A dream deferred.  And then I wanted to see Allen Ginsberg.  And then Kerouac.  And whisked away through the byzantine library, surprisingly populated for a Tuesday morning.  I absorbed and analyzed and lingered and with sycophantic pleasure, I pursued, now on the hunt for just the right written words.  The clock in my head stopped ticking, the clock on the wall finally flying after months of dreary monotony.

I returned to work the next day without explanation, I think.  I’m sure there was some laconic excuse – there usually was.  It wasn’t worth sharing the truth, that finally I’d pieced together together the puzzles of my despair.   It wasn’t appreciable, not in such a raw, pornographic form.  All I shared was a singular idea, just before leaving in May.  I thought I’d never feel as free as I did that departing day – turns out the albatross evaporates with every good decision, every good move, every personal stand and victory.

And I love it.

Next anticipated date of freedom: maybe July 30.  Maybe August 8.  Maybe sometime in September.  Consider me in full state of preparation, just like the old days, from here on out.

Scratching a Spine

I’ve got an idea coming together at warp speed and I’m electrified by it.

Though I’m not sure I can fully explain.  I’ve been reading (sneaking, much like candy) Twyla Tharp’s treatise on creativity and suddenly I’m exploding with new thought patterns, processes and more.  In the book, Tharp speaks passionately on the need for scratching together a whole and the need for spine in an idea.  I’ve got the itch and the spine and the boxes of notes and information and reminders and lightening impulses – now I just need time.

Ignore the man behind the curtain for a moment – the story I’m writing is a cross between the myth of Narcissus, the Wizard of Oz, and the death of David Foster Wallace.  Throw in a little bit of ‘you only see what you want to see – and little more’ and a dash of exploding obsession and a hint of revolution along with a few spoonfuls of generational angst dedicated to Carl Solomon – and we have a book.  A book built on the construction, destruction, and renovation of a dream in the present grasp of the fetishized generation.  Falling in love with a vision of yourself can only lead to an obsessively brilliant death.  Simply, from Dostoevsky:

“She looks at herself instead of looking at you, and so doesn’t know you. During the two or three little outbursts of passion she has allowed herself in your favor, she has, by a great effort of imagination, seen in you the hero of her dreams, and not yourself as you really are.”

It’s time to write.

What I’m Reading Now

I get questions all the time about what I’m reading, what a person should be reading, the books I couldn’t put down, the books I couldn’t live without – and the books I avoid like the plague [I’m looking at you, Victorian literature!]

And so a quick sampling of what I’m reading these days:
Conversational Capital: How to Create Stuff People Love to Talk About

“In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell presents an important idea without any ‘how to.’ Bertrand Cesvet provides the ‘how to’ you need to create ‘Tipping Points’ for your business and success. This book is a compelling presentation of a powerful idea. This is how the new world will do business.  Like all great ideas, Conversational Capital is at its core simple: word-of-mouth momentum can be created, harnessed, and used to build consumer passion for a brand better and more cost-effectively than almost any other marketing medium.  This book provides the complete prescription for getting consumers excited about your ideas.  For all the books that speak of the value of consumer advocacy, few indicate how to create it to begin with. Armed with a compelling set of examples from their own work in fostering leading brands, the authors reveal the triggers of word-of-mouth and a process to embedding them in your own products, helping you create stuff people love to talk about.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays & Arguments

David Foster Wallace made quite a splash in 1996 with his massive novel, Infinite Jest. Now he’s back with a collection of essays entitled A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. In addition to a razor-sharp writing style, Wallace has a mercurial mind that lights on many subjects. His seven essays travel from a state fair in Illinois to a cruise ship in the Caribbean, explore how television affects literature and what makes film auteur David Lynch tick, and deconstruct deconstructionism and find the intersection between tornadoes and tennis. These eclectic interests are enhanced by an eye (and nose) for detail: “I have seen sucrose beaches and water a very bright blue. I have seen an all-red leisure suit with flared lapels. I have smelled what suntan lotion smells like spread over 21,000 pounds of hot flesh . . .” It’s evident that Wallace revels in both the life of the mind and the peculiarities of his fellows; in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again he celebrates both.

The Paris Review Book: of Heartbreak, Madness, Sex, Love, Betrayal, Outsiders, Intoxication, War, Whimsy, Horrors, God, Death, Dinner, Baseball, Travel…and Everything Else in the World Since 1953

The Paris Review, that mighty “little” literary magazine, is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary with an anthology every bit as mammoth and marvelous as its endless title suggests. Founded by Peter Matthiessen, Harold L. Humes, Donald Hall, William Pene du Bois, and George Plimpton, who remains at the helm, the Paris Review has published an extraordinary group of seminal fiction writers, poets, and essayists and some of the best writer interviews extant, irresistible conversations (Truman Capote responds to a simple question thusly: “Good Lord! I’m afraid you’ve let yourself in for quite a saga. The answer is a snake’s nest of no’s and a few yesses”) excerpted throughout this dynamic compendium showcasing more than 100 writers past and present. A shattering short story by Lorrie Moore kicks off the “Heartbreak” section, while Zelda Fitzgerald is first up in the “Madness” category. Rick Moody offers a painfully graphic variation on “Sex,” and Jonathan Lethem writes of a Tourette’s sufferer in “Outsiders.” Elsewhere the entranced reader will find Faulkner, Auden, Elkin, Cheever, Komunyakaa, Boyle, Erdrich, Munro, and Clifton.

Nine Stories

The war hangs over these wry stories of loss and occasionally unsuppressed rage. Salinger’s children are fragile, odd, hypersmart, whereas his grownups (even the materially content) seem beaten down by circumstances–some neurasthenic, others (often female) deeply unsympathetic. The greatest piece in this disturbing book may be “The Laughing Man,” which starts out as a man’s recollection of the pleasures of storytelling and ends with the intersection between adult need and childish innocence. The narrator remembers how, at nine, he and his fellow Comanches would be picked up each afternoon by the Chief–a Staten Island law student paid to keep them busy. At the end of each day, the Chief winds them down with the saga of a hideously deformed, gentle, world-class criminal. With his stalwart companions, which include “a glib timber wolf” and “a lovable dwarf,” the Laughing Man regularly crosses the Paris-China border in order to avoid capture by “the internationally famous detective” Marcel Dufarge and his daughter, “an exquisite girl, though something of a transvestite.” The masked hero’s luck comes to an end on the same day that things go awry between the Chief and his girlfriend, hardly a coincidence. “A few minutes later, when I stepped out of the Chief’s bus, the first thing I chanced to see was a piece of red tissue paper flapping in the wind against the base of a lamppost. It looked like someone’s poppy-petal mask. I arrived home with my teeth chattering uncontrollably and was told to go straight to bed.”

As for what I want to be reading…check out my Amazon wish list for books (and more) in my near future.

Bar Scene, Travels with Molly

“A nickel for your thoughts.”

“That valuable?”

“Inflation.”

She looked through the wall, slightly upward, in a moment of personal reverence. The windows across the room had clouded due to the incoming humidity and body heat in the small cafe. “Opportunity.”

“Opportunity?”

“Yep.”

He gave her his lop-sided grin. “See, that’s why I love you. You can condense the last two hours of thought into a single concept. An amazing ability, and now I’m even more interested in whatever it is going through your mind. Mostly ’cause it goes straight across your face too.”

She protested. “We’ve been sitting here listening to jazz – three incredible musicians – which is why I can say, in a single idea, what I’m thinking. It’ll cloud up, it’ll get messy, but I can bring it all back to a single theme regardless of whether I have other people along for the ride. A full knowledge of the rules with the impetuousness to break them. So,” she said authoritatively, “conclusion first: opportunity.”

“Break it down for me.”

She almost sighed. “Okay. Opportunity asks two things: that you listen, for one, and for two, that you then accept or reject it. I’m good at the listening part – maybe too good. The accept/reject part I really need to get straighten out. Look at us – we’re both drowning in potential. It drips from our pores constantly. But we need to either accept or reject the opportunity that comes from this potential as it shows itself. The mealy-mouthed, half-assed, one foot out the door isn’t gonna cut it anymore, or we’re never gonna get anything accomplished. We just need a little courage.”

Her voice gained smokiness. “And lately I’ve been in a ‘chase the dream’ mentality, maybe because everyone around me are all so unhappy with their present condition. Dreams deferred in the face of opportunity? I can’t do that anymore. Opportunity should be second fiddle to the dream. Not the other way ’round.”

He sat there in the black leatherette booth, his arm across the back, eyes narrowed, looking upward to the tin ceiling, thinking through the thought.

“Or maybe I just need to grow up. Somehow though, I’ve lived my life with opportunity coming first and I don’t think I can live like that anymore. I envy those who can, don’t get me wrong. I get that I’ve slapped in the face with the silver spoon. But I can’t force myself through this life anymore.” She looked through him, her eyes fiery. “I just can’t.”

More on Molly

(Meanderings mostly)

She opened her eyes, a gradual process. The morning light was shaded by shabby blue cotton curtains, but provided enough to look around the room. A ceiling fan hummed above her; the white walls appeared grey; tumbled stacks of clothes lined the walls; books were piled at the baseboards; hats hung in a row above the closet; jazz records framed on the wall; a saxophone and an ironing board leaned against a door. Two stained wine glasses on the table, clothes strewn all over the floor, and Molly’s cold nose suddenly pressed into her foot, nuzzling it. She blinked several times, trying to piece everything together. Then something next to her moved, groaning. Conrad. It all came rushing back.

They’d closed the cafe together, the two of them talking about their dreams. Over a few glasses of wine, they’d sat on the wood patio, introspectively staring out across the dunes and into the waves. Molly behaved herself, lying next to her chair, watching the two of them interact. It had been comforting smiles, not laughter. After hours had passed, Conrad took her hand, led her back to his bungalow, wine glasses in hand, neither of them speaking. Silently they’d walked, and on arrival, didn’t bother to turn on lights. They stepped through the house, out to the deck, he still leading her, Molly joining. The wind had picked up and clouds hid the moon, and he spoke only a single word: sit. The wine glasses and bottle were placed just so between two vinyl camp chairs, and he returned inside. And she sat, listening to the wind blow around the corner of the house, like a woman humming softly. The ocean appeared navy against the smoky colored clouds, churning. And then the serenade of a saxophone from inside the house. She listened, absorbing the music of the sand, of the water, of the wind, and now of the melancholy sax. It had been his dream to play.

And he played for hours and hours, speaking to her as a friend, a lover, a confidante, through the open windows of the bungalow. And she understood, still looking into the swirling abyss of water, sand and wind. And finally – she smiled, slowly breaking into a grin. The saxophone faded and collectively the world sighed. Several minutes passed before his shadow hung in the doorframe, his fingers outreached to her. Molly was first to enter, prancing and wagging her tail. Elly rose from her chair, taking the glasses and bottle into her hands. He immediately took them from her, setting them on a nearby table. Then took her by the waist, his arm resolute, his hand splayed against her lower back. The wind gusted, enveloping the two of them in their embrace, drawing their bodies closer to the other. This time, though, only the two of them sighed.

Do or Die.

“Now you’ll never see what you’ve done to me
You can take back your memories – they’re no good to me
And here’s all your lies,
You can look me in the eyes
With that sad sad look you wear so well”

And I hope it gives you hell.

It’s said the pen is mightier than the sword. Physicality may have intimidated me over the past couple weeks, if not several months, but no longer. The spell is broken, the magic gone, and the trust no longer there. When it came to blows, it confused me – how could there exist such hatred for me, for my work.

Turns out the nighthawks fear the sunshine, the best disinfectant.

And so I sit here on this conference call, listening to options, interjecting an opinion every now and again. I’ve held off on signing all the contracts, unsure if it was really what I wanted to do. I’ve had the luxury of time, and last night I laid down and read it through word by word, page by page. Made a few changes to characters, mostly to accentuate particular personality traits. Changed the ending yet again. Added an eviscerating afterword. Where I had feared digging too deep, now I cut straight to the bone without a second thought.

And the best change: it’s now mine, not theirs.

Now to decide if sharp-edged exposure or languished obscurity is a better choice.

I just told them I’d know by Monday. Monday, Monday, Monday.

Welcome to the Revolution

Another excerpt from one of my trademark ‘what the hell is wrong with you’ moments:

“Best of times, worst of times – between the two, we’ll really get to see what humanity is.”

“How can you call this mess a ‘best of times’?”

“Because it’s never felt so good to be young, vibrant, smart, full of ideas. This is one of those mish-mash times dreams are realized and accomplished – simply because everything else has drained away. Think about it: prices are at generational lows; interest rates are very low; ideas have to be really good to get any funding right now; there are no shortage of problems that need solutions; the world is quite literally at everyone’s fingertips; and well-laced social networks are abundant. It’s the recipe for success.”

“Or disaster.”

“Yeah, could be disaster if you don’t know how to harness the opportunities right here in front of you. And when people don’t have anything left for themselves, there’s no telling what they’ll do to make it better. Just gotta be vigilant, try to catch those about to jump off the cliff to take the rest of us with ’em.”

“Huh.”

“Yep. Welcome to the revolution.”

Daybreak

This little heart of mine – I’m gonna let it shine.

Last night was a fascinating display of courage and cowardice. I don’t intend to be scientific about it, nor dramatic, nor anything more than a simple statement: it’s surprising who ended up where.

I woke up this morning on my balcony, wine glass empty, and a brief moment of sunshine and a humid dew on my face. I’d seen daybreak, writing furiously following an evening of forced conviviality. It was cowardly of me not to stand up, tell him off – cowardly of me to instead shrink away, display a muted fear, and quite literally hold my breath in my passive monitoring of the situation.

Where my courage shined through was with strangers in a local breakfast shop, all of us brought together for so many different reasons. I love the coffee, was in need of a waffle, and most importantly, to talk with people so different from myself. It rights me, puts it all back into perspective. I’d missed my opportunities for participation all evening long if only because I didn’t want him part of it.

Except that I did. A little, but not in front of the circus. Just an opportunity to talk like we used to, alone in the night, just until daybreak when we part ways.

I don’t know what I expected, but I’m let down for the last time. There is no apology; I won’t put myself through the fear, the hurt, the betrayal – not again. And in a stunning display of callousness, I told him so with a harsh tone deserved only from a father. Then poured myself a glass of wine, turned my headphones to Mahler, and sat outside on my balcony to watch the world awake to Saturday morning, furiously frustrated.

I’m looking over everything now, and it’s all stained with mascara, blurred with salty tears, and somehow it’s the best capture of a moment I’ve ever done.

I don’t know what to do with it. Except chalk it up to daybreak.

Prologue or Epilogue?

“Yeah, but what was so special about the place?” He asked genuinely, honestly, looking plainly at me, awaiting response.

It was a Tuesday, no, Wednesday morning now, cooking dinner together. I, as usual, offered nothing but the best emotional support in the affairs of the stomach.

“I’m sorry, did you miss the part where I wrote a book about the place?”

He turned away from the stove, his blue eyes smiling at me. “Sweet girl, I didn’t ask the effect – just the cause.”

This caught me off-guard.

“Well, I guess,” as I stumbled through my words and thoughts, “its something about the people who inhabit the place, frequent the place. Though it’s the walls too. I spent two hundred pages trying to figure out just what, exactly, made it special. Remarkable really.”

He continued to saute with one hand as I fumbled the question. I knew the answer, but didn’t want to give up the punch line. Not yet.

It was his long look, blue-eyed bullets into the cerebellum that told him better. Silence choked the kitchen as I sat squirming on a bar stool, toes tapping the underside of the bar. I took a short swig of beer straight from the bottle, disregarding his insistent gaze.

“It’s…they saved me,” as my throat cleared through the beer, static and sultry air between us.

“Saved you.”

“Yeah, they saved me. Just let me be me. Didn’t have to figure me out, didn’t ask about my story, just let me be. Me.”

“So its a love story with heroes.”

“Maybe. No. Not really. I mean, they didn’t know they were heroes nor would anyone ever consider them as such. It was the first place I got to be a writer. First place to accept – though not agree with – my radical ideas about life.”

He stepped toward me fully his time, his frame lumbering over mine, the saute pan abandoned, and pulled my beer away from me, setting it well out of reach. “How old are you?”

“Old enough to drink beer. Give it back.”

“No, not with the way you’re talking.” With a half step he was back at the stove, my beer warming in the heat of the summer stove, far away from the comfort of my hands.

“What.” My voice raised a bit, wavered, but never hit questionable status.

“It’s a bar. There are bars everywhere. They serve the same things – ”

“But not the same people – ”

“And you could have gone anywhere for the same result. Created whatever you wanted to create.”

“Darling,” rolling my eyes in high fashion, “that’s simply false. Lemme have my beer.”

“No. Why are you emotionally attached to this place.”

“You’re bordering on cruelty to both of us.”

He laughed loudly, booming pressing through the thin apartment walls. “Answer the question.”

I was running out of defensive maneuvers. “Why are you emotionally attached to me?”

“Because you have an amazing ass and a great vocabulary. And,” said pointedly, “you know who Helen Thomas is,” his lips twitching against one another. “Don’t avoid the question.”

“State secret. Matters of national security. Fifth Amendment.”

“A criminal affair then.”

“Some might say.”

“Bullshit.”

Again, my eyes rolled, this time nearly emptying the sockets. “What restaurant or bar do you know of to keep things fully on the up and up? Mister “I have twenty-five years experience” and you want to tell me there was nothing criminal going on under your ever-growing nose?”

“Objection: relevance. And you’re avoiding the question, counselor.”

He had pushed the final button in the nuclear sequence.

I took a deep breath, annoyance across my face, both elbows on the counter as I leaned over the sink. “Look. When I came back, I didn’t think I could love or be loved.” I continued quickly, feeling the laser scope of his eyes on my forehead. “I’ve lost everyone I’d loved, whether by accident, purpose, genetics, god’s will – whatever reason people come up with to comfort themselves. Really, I’ve heard it all. I thought I was completely tapped out, unable to open my heart ever again. In a figurative sense,” I added as an afterthought.

“And so when I came back, I slept for nearly two weeks, came to the realization that maybe I just didn’t know what it was. So I surrounded myself with it. In times of loss, some go through self-destructive streaks, and I had several moments of brilliance there. Some isolate themselves, and I had plenty of quiet time to reflect in the face of sterile hospital rooms. Still others wither away with whatever grief they have to overcome. There was some of that as well. But instead of burying everything inside of me, I wanted to find my reflection in everyone else’s love, hate, pain, hope, fear – whatever it was they were carrying deep inside, just like me. That isn’t found everywhere – how many blithering idiots have walked into your restaurants, unable to see beyond the shell of their own ignorance? Now give me my damn beer back.”

He wanted to smirk, his dimples desiring to dance. Silently, he handed back the bottle. Stepping back in front of the stove, his voice dripping with sarcasm, he remarked “the Robert Frost of love. I’m dating ‘the road less traveled by’.”

“And that makes all the difference – ’cause I found lots of things. Love, hate, jealousy, lust, gluttony, some of it in me, some directed to me, some in my presence, some just in the old stories.” The beer had warmed considerably, moreso now that it was locked in my palm, fingers wrapped completely around.

He wasn’t convinced. “Heroes because of it?”

“Ordinary people doing extraordinary things?”

“Here we are again: what was so extraordinary.”

Finally, a flash of light in the dark night. I stood up, leaving skin from the back of my legs on the seat of the stool, walking over to the little red backpack I always carried with me, rifling through it. “Find out for yourself,” tossing the manuscript across the counter. “It’s an easy read, you’ll be done by daybreak. Then I’ll take you there, you can see it for yourself, see if I’ve got it right.” I kept my voice even and airy, almost prancing, willing him to take the bait.

He snorted, feigning disinterest. But he couldn’t let the opportunity go to waste. A unique chance to find the way to my young sutured heart and into my reticent mind wouldn’t be passed up. He switched off the gas, transferring the pan to a cool burner. “Serve yourself then. We’ll eat on the balcony, I’ll read until I get bored.” I simply nodded, my turn to hide a smile.

We didn’t go to bed that night. Nor did we speak a word once he was reading.

At daybreak I went for coffee, and on my return, a wry smile and bright eyes met me. “Amazing, my love. When are we going?”

Wanderlust: It’s Time

So I got the fellowship.

And I got the time.

Now to sit down and write.

I’ve been thinking lately about wanderlust, mulling over the intricacies and necessary elements to satiate the desire to travel, comparing my own experience with several “historical” (classical?) travelogues. (Yes, I’m speaking of Steinbeck and Kerouac and Bryson and Frost and many others.)

And I’ve been considering a conversation years and years ago (May 2005), saved for this exact occasion:

Anne: do you ever have moments where you just want to run away?

Katherine: run run run run run run
yes

Anne: only i want a really fast car.

Katherine: having a rough day over there?

Anne: see, if this were a movie of my life, i’d head outside and find a classic car sitting outside, keys in the ignition, doors unlocked, essentially waiting for me.

i dunno – it was a very sudden realization.

and i’d drive out to the pike and to seattle

start a new life in a coffee shop out there.

Katherine: ok, but could there be an adorable puppy in the back seat of the car to whom you can make witty and sardonic comments

Anne: and my entire music collection would already be in the car, loaded into an mp3 player (or i’d have a 60GB ipod i could just plug in)

i’d get in the car, find an adorable black lab puppy in the back seat, call the dog molly and tell her we’re going on a trip.

then, “born to be wild” on the stereo as i leave tire tracks across the quad,

and that’d be all my co-workers would ever know of me ever again. i’d be urban legend here.
(and there would occasionally be flashbacks of my job here to slowly explain why i left)

Katherine: I love anne fantasy land

Anne: oh yeah?

Katherine: it’s very plot-driven

Anne: now i’m thinking anne fantasy land needs to be a book. a smart, witty, cut to the bone book with plenty of socio-political commentary and critique and perhaps a quick stop back to my roots in northampton.

Katherine: a la Citizen Girl?

Anne: ’cause when i hit the two hour mark i may be thinking it’s time to turn around – instead, i’ll stop in northampton, come face to face with the ghosts of wanders’ past and realize i need to do this not just for myself, but for all man/women-kind

(and that if worse comes to worse, i can always turn it into funny cocktail party banter when i get back to boston – the “oh, you remember the time when…” type of situation)

the book will be called “travels with molly”

Katherine: I’m liking this

Anne: yeah, i am too.

hmmmmm…. looks like i have a new project


And so I say now, more than four years later: it’s time.

Here’s the vehicle to success as well:

This car needs a name: ideas?

This car needs a name: ideas?

How to Be a Writer – Or Anything Else

Discover who you are before you find the person you need to be

(Originally written 1/24/2004)
From an early age, I’d learned that the best option in those pinching situations (like piano lessons, recitals, competitions, and worst, playing casually for friends) it was best to fake it. There was no getting out of the situation nor much choice in the matter, and to lack confidence in abilities wold be ultimately embarrassing (as friends tend to be insistent about Christmas carols).

Everyone has moments when they fake it – those crucial moments when it’s unclear whether to shoot, pass, or dribble (a ‘triple threat’ in more optimistic terms), so instead instinct kicks in and one fakes it for the cause of the team. Prefer the solo sports? Dating is certainly about faking it – every girl wants a confident, daring guy (at least at first), and every guy wants the pretty, witty girl (at least at first) so both fake it, the girl with makeup (skillfully applied), the guy with good cologne (sparingly, please). Would the world be better if neither faked it at the outset? Maybe – but it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

Faking it, it seems, is universal. Inconceivable to think of artists’ deep, broad knowledge of subject matter, conversations, settings, and mechanization of a scenario. Where would creativity reside? A happy little thought changing the wallpaper from bright purple to a muted yellow? Even television programs, the most formulaic of the bunch, do that. Faking it doesn’t mean lack of skill; rather, the skills are readily available on request though knowledge may be in short supply. No one can know everything, save the fourth grade smart-aleck. Whether it be a fantastically-skilled suburban teenager, gifted with the ability to write convincingly despite an upbringing in comfort, warmth, love, and money, so long as she can string words into phrases, phrases to sentences, to paragraphs, then sections and essays to accomplish a singular idea, it’s valid.

Is it good writing though?

Probably time to find out.