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.


  1. To really draw someone in to your story, you have to write well. Disjointed sentences and such only make people want to give up on the whole reading thing. Or maybe we're really just getting back to our human roots as oral story tellers, passing information along to others. Or maybe I thought I had something to say.

  2. I am glad to see a post from you David.

  3. I am horribly disappointed at the state of grammar and spelling knowledge in the media today. It really distracts so much from the story, for me, that I can't even focus on the article! GW may have something there, in getting back to our roots as oral storytellers. Then, again, maybe we're just "dumbing down"...which I think is probably the case.
    I certainly have no fingers to point about not writing enough, although I have written since you have. I don't hold that up as a particular accomplishment, as my record over the last year is dismal. I just ran out of juice, as I contend most of us from Spaces did when our little "networks" shriveled up from all the changes and moves. Just seemed like it wasn't worth the effort, and I forget what I've already told, like a dementia patient that tells the same stories over and over again to the same audience til they shut their ears, or quit coming around. I do so enjoy your writing, and your stories, that I hope you'll continue to grace us with them for a long time, and with much greater frequency. Maybe you should do the "challenge" with the Gaelic Wife! It's a meme to force daily writing that I think would be very well suited to making you dredge up heretofore unwritten stories. Look at her page and see!
    I only use BFF about one person. She has been my best friend for 35 years. I think that qualifies as BFF, especially as we are both Christians, and I believe I will see her in the afterlife. If not, I've still enjoyed her and been tremendously blessed by having her as a friend. I frequently try to be a better friend to her, as I KNOW I am getting the best end of this deal. *smile* I do have several friends I have had for at least 40-50 years, but they are slightly more casual in nature than my friendship with her, or they are just family that I particularly like.
    So, I hope you continue to get the "urge" to write and share your stories. I think the more we share, the longer the lives of those stories and those people.

  4. Hey, David. Having taken off years as opposed to a season, I am wandering through your yard again. As always, I enjoyed reading your words! Glad to be, if not your BFF or even your BFFTM, then your ATAF- adoring though absent fan.

  5. Gaelic - You have put together two points I made (or tried to). My inital point is that nothing is interesting to anyone who comes upon one's writing just because it happened. While something like my mother getting a speeding ticket might be funny to ME or her sisters, I have to paint a picture of this woman or of the circumstances to SHOW the humor and make a reader come back hoping to hear more. Otherwise, at best, I get general reactions of a generic variety (which is more than I deserve) like, "I't's sad when a mother does such and such," or "The laws are too strict these days...". If one is a good storyteller, a lack of grammatic skill is distracting but I'll still probably like the writing - at least in small doses. The worst offense to me is to read of a baby who is "cute", her father "proud" and the mother "recovering nicely". Originality trumps writing skill every day. That said, my second point is that a person who writes professionally has no excuse for triteness, poor grammar, and so forth. Why would I waste my time reading a novel that did not give me one original idea or which didn't come alive at least once because the writer's smooth skills transported me into someone else's life?

    Beth - I am glad to see one, too. And just as surprised.

    Jeankfl - I am not unaware of your truancy, which began well before mine. I was stuck with that wedding entry for months whenever I'd drop by hoping! You are speaking of BFF's in the REAL world - I was talking of BFF's in the on-line world where people dearly "love" people they've never met, not ever hope to. I, too, hope I get the urge again soon. I have been going thru a spell of "So what?" as well as Spring demanding my attention.
    As to writing exercises, I am still trying to decide if I want to do the 50,000-word novel-in-a-month challenge that shows up every November. I think I am mulling my entry for 2001.

    Gayle - You old curmudgeon, I have dropped by to no avail for quite some time - altho when I stopped writing entries in march, i simultaneously kind of stopped signing in at all. I always like hearing from you. I guess I have to write another entry on Africans to get your juices flowing - I recall way back when on SpacesLive how I heard from you as you read about my memories of living with African roommates and your readiness to dive into my thoughts with a musket, sabre and dynamite vest. What have you been doing with your years off? How's the daughter?

  6. My gosh, I thought Blogger was broke! Or that because I hadn't written for so long, it had quit refreshing. I was about to post an entry that said nothing but "testing," just to see if that would help. So glad to see an entry from you. I am cogitating on stuff to write but I think my writing ability has gone away. Things suck but I can't seem to find the energy to describe it any better than that. Finding myself eyeing a small bottle of blackberry wine given to me as a gift, home-made by the giver who I didn't know well enough to tell her I can't and don't drink alcohol. I should pour it down the sink and give her the bottle back, but then I'd have to smell it. And she might give me another one. Welcome back!

  7. Flooz - Hey - Nice to hear from one of my favorite people. Seems like everyone goes away at the same time, doesn't it? My fridge is full of beer left by my brothers and that is a lot more tempting than any wine - I never liked wine. Try putting the unopened bottle into one of those 'food for the poor' collection boxes. Why shouldn't poor folks be happy, too? Sorry your life sucks - mine seems more like a blank. Too much TV and too little everything else.

  8. Glad you're back for a bit, David--toe and all.

    I'm afraid that my philosophical rambling days are pretty much over for now; an overload of political and social conscientiousness (awkward sentence...oh, well...)has left me a tad burnt-out and not inclined to write much lately.

    Personally, I enjoy the stories of people's lives. The tales human beings tell of their struggles and triumphs, loves and losses fill our libraries, and I could spend the rest of my life in such a book-filled environment. Better still is learning about the unfolding of people's lives as I get to know them through blogging and Facebook. Flawed though they be, both venues hold infinite possibilities for human beings to interact with each other (when not distracted by mind-numbing applications and games, of course).

    Yes. I do frequent Facebook, although I've recently pared down my list of friends, eliminating those who apparently aren't interested in visiting back and forth. In realtime, I've also backed away from one-sided relationships; a relationship involves the participation of BOTH people, and I've been around my share of emotional vampires.

    It's not likely that you and I will ever chat over tea and muffins in some friendly little bistro somewhere, yet it's a wish of mine. I feel that way about a number of people whose writings have captured my heart and imagination. My extended family has grown in recent years, thanks to the internet, and I've learned a great deal about others and myself in the process. What a long strange trip it's been.

    The long and short of it is, I have come to care a great deal about people for the content of their written words, which has spoken volumes to me of the content of characters. That's good enough for me; my bullshit filters are set pretty high, so I've been able to discern when bloggers and Facebookers are offering the straight skinny or not. Most have been great; a few, not so.

    It occurred to me recently that my generation, once dead and gone, will take with it the last vestiges of correct usage of language as we know it, and a part of me is peaceful knowing I won't be around to witness the continued dumbing-down of the world's people. It occurred to me awhile back that as long as people are fed "reality programs" on tv and distracted from one another by portable electronic devices, they're happy and oblivious to the world around them. Had a couple such folks nearly plough into the side of my car when they were more interested in texting on their cell phones than their safety or mine...

    Sorry. Mini-rant. I digress...

    David, my dearest hope is that you will find your way back to your blog as you feel inclined--the more often the better; a visit here is like compost tea on the wilting tomato vines of my imagination.

    Or something like that.

    Good to "see" you again; if I could, I'd hug you soundly in parting.

  9. Well, Marge - I am always delighted to be the shit thrown on your tomato vine - or the tea made therefrom. I guess I have also been going through a period of re-appraisal. I am astonished at how much of my life has been planned or, more often, built unplanned around the man I have in my imagination rather than the man I actually am. I seem to be saving things for others who don't want them and wishing to go to parties where I don't really like the other guests. I just think I do, or will, or should like them.

    I guess whichever of us dies first will stick the other with a grammar-free America. I am currently suffering thru a vist that has run longer than promised from my brother Jack and his logorrheal (a word?) signif other - the Lovely Eglantine. Honestly, this woman's need to fill every shining moment with the gift of her chatter is pathological, and I have been eying several sharp kitchen utensils with an almost uncontrollable impulse to use them to stem the flow. I think I could bear it better if so many sentences didn't have "Me and him" as the subject... "Me and him told them to give it to her and I." Really? I am expected to suffer this in silence???

    There: a mini-rant right back atcha.

    I love the story of folks lives, but I do require some skill in the telling. If I just want a catalogue of sins, I'd have been a priest.

    Glad to hear from you. I am hoping to write more - I have just found myself staring at the keyboard without the oomph to use it, lately.

  10. I hope you find some more oomph soon, David; it's mighty lonesome here...

    I miss your friendly presence here.

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