Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dipping My Toe Back Into the Water

Well, whaddaya know! Me!

OK, there’s a shot that won’t even be heard around the house, let alone around the world. The fact is, in this world where a ‘friend’ is a few keystrokes and, maybe, a small photo of him or her mugging for the camera (or even possibly a photo of someone other than him- or herself who is hotter, younger or better groomed, being palmed off on the unwary), that the presence or absence of one’s BFF in the blogging or Twitter or Facebook or web world is a moment of transitory consequence. In the virtual world where every man has a full head of hair and a larger than average dick and every woman has a D-cup bra and a 19-inch waist, BFF means ‘Best Friend Forever’, but in the real world where there is more sagging and wrinkling than that found in the average herd of elephants, the full acronym should be BFFTM, which – wait for it! – would be Best Friend For The Moment. I think most people believe what they say when they are saying it (or writing it), but I am pretty sure that most people can look back on a conversation or essay or what have you, twenty four hours after it has been completed and realize that, well, maybe I said a little bit more than what I actually believe or feel or know. There are, I think, two types of people: those who realize that they have overstated the case when they look back on a conversation and those who are psychopaths. So long as one is talking or writing or communicating, one can remain in that happy (or angry) place in which one began the interaction, but given a few hours’ rest or a night’s sleep after the event, most folks can honestly say that they might have travelled a bridge too far.

A year ago in March, as perhaps one or less of you may recall, I joined a gym and worked out almost without a miss, three times a week. Then last August, I woke up and I just didn’t want to go any more. So it goes with me in so many areas. It is a matter of some astonishment to me, that, until about two months ago, I actually kept up blogging, usually one a week, or once every two weeks – sometimes oftener, sometimes less often, but with some degree of regularity, either here or on SpacesLive, since 2005. Wow! Yay, Me! I started out with a vague personal goal to tell as honestly as possible, the stories of my life. There is no earthly reason why anyone should care about any of these, particularly the facts – who cares where or when I was born or what my parents were like, or my school or my jobs or my loves or my hates or my travels? Who cares about those facts about anyone? The truth is that what happened to anyone, unless it was extraordinarily dire and involved ghastly death, dismemberment or intimacy with a farm animal (preferably all three of these), is of interest only to him or her to whom said facts of life happened. No blog that I have ever read (or book or article or TV interview or conversation) has been interesting because it happened to the writer or speaker. Events are interesting because of the way the story is told. If someone actually thinks of readers as readers rather than as fans or friends, one realizes this. I try writing with this in mind, but it is so easy to slip into thinking that one knows the people whose writing one reads or who read and comment on what one has written oneself. It is easy to think that one’s own opinions or travails, or the weather in one’s hometown this day is of intrinsic interest. This is a deadly error for anyone except, perhaps, a child or grandchild who is speaking to his parents or (gasp!) grandparents.

An adolescent, or a member of a family, or a member of one tightly-knit group or other, is often wont to tell a newcomer what a wild and crazy bunch his crew is. Um, no. Never, NEVER claim anything that is an awesome compliment when said by another about you, but which is sure to provoke, in a neutral listener, the desire to prove the contrary when one says it about oneself. Do not claim to be "crazy" – in either the fun or clinical sense. Do not claim that you are not racist or not sexist or any of those –ists, because the first thought a listener will have (spoken or not) will begin with the phrase, “Well, what about that time you…”. When you say you are speaking frankly, you aren’t. Don’t say you are a good parent. Let the facts – and, hopefully,  your admirers – do the talking. Remember someone famous saying, “I am not a crook!”?  How’d that play out?

(Note: Word, the text editor which I use in writing, has placed a green squiggly line indicating bad grammar, under the sentence beginning with “Never, NEVER…”.  And, as you see, that IS a proper (though hortatory in form) sentence. I have had occasion to purse my lips and raise my brow about Word’s idea of grammar before and I find myself doing so again. How I can know grammar better than an entire software corporation with multi-thousands of degreed employees is a mystery to me – or would be if I hadn’t read once that Bill Gates was upset the day that he found that the average age of his employees had risen to 31. My under-30 cousin Warren, a sometimes writer, told me a year ago while we were in Bali that no one cared about that stuff (meaning grammar, spelling, and quite possibly coherence) anymore. Reading my local newspaper and the national newsmagazines as well as most of the fiction on the NY Times best-seller list inclines me to believe he is on to something. Folks can tell a story, but they can’t write well.)

Holy shit, I am doing just what I set out NOT to do. What I am trying to say is that I have a hard time sticking to one particular overriding vision for my writing. Originally, I wanted only to record things that happened to me in the past which I recall with fondness or some other emotion, in a way that I hoped would be interesting to some. But then I kept slipping into reacting to news items – not so much political crap, but stuff like seeing something in the news that provoked nostalgia or outrage or a strong desire to mock or soundly slap the subject of the article. I originally hoped to say what I thought, not today, or about a single event, but as a result of a longish arc of my personal experience; less my thought than the conclusions to which I had come. Alas, one thing I know for sure: if I say I will never do something it won’t be a month before I do it. Most of my life, the last step I took before any act was to say that I would never, under any circumstances, perform that act. I HOPE I will never have sex with an elephant. But I am not terribly optimistic. Indeed, the fact (which I only noticed on rereading) that elephants have come up twice in these few paragraphs is sadly troubling.

I know one writes best when one isn’t still angry or shocked or in the first throes of reaction. But sadly, that is also when one is motivated most strongly to write (or blabber to anyone who cannot flee quickly enough). And one, when one is me, is a sadly weak vessel. One is, as well, lazy and unmotivated in the normal course of the average day or week, or as you have seen this past Spring, season.

As you see, I got nothin’. And yet, just at this moment in time, I felt like doing a little writing. Thus proving my point; just because one wants to say something doesn’t give that something value. And I see I am ending with a green squiggly line under the last two words of the previous sentence. Really, Microsoft??? I need an elephant.