Saturday, February 4, 2012


This is one of those nights when I smoke too many cigarettes and drink a six-pack of cheap beer and entertain my expensive dreams.

Why expensive, you ask? There are a handful of reasons. I've spent a lot of time in the last few years scrupulously not working at anything that would pay me money so that I could work at something that might, if I get lucky, pay me a little bit of money. Believe me, there are countless good books out in the world that never get published, or if they do, they barely get read. The risks far outweigh the likely rewards. That's good though, right? Writing is something you should do because you love it, because you're compelled by something inside you to do it. Writing for a paycheck seems little different from doing anything else for a paycheck: you punch the clock, put your head down, make it to Friday. Don't get me wrong, I want to get paid. I just know there are no guarantees.

It's also expensive in that it can be a polarizing endeavor. It requires a lot of solitary time, a lot of what amounts to selfishness. It can cost you friends, it'll ruin marriages, alienate children and other loved ones. I'd call that expensive.

But tonight it's what I'm doing, fourth-tier style. There are four projects I'm involved in on an ongoing basis. One is a memoir I'm editing for a buddy of mine. That's a very high priority, in part because he's paying me to do the work, but mostly because he's one of my oldest friends and I want his book, which is an excellent story, to be an outstanding read, and it's my job to make that happen. Tiers two and three are a version of the same thing: writing about the last few years, some fiction and some memoir for TNB (and perhaps a book down the road). The fourth tier -- and I know this sounds like I'm demeaning it, but I'm not -- is this here blog.

I think I started my first blog in 2009, but it doesn't exist anymore, which is sort of sad because there were some good pieces in there. If I'm not mistaken, it was called the Rubber Room, which was a nod to my dear friend Jodi. Years ago she and I worked together in a big accounting firm, and we'd spend hours every day emailing each other. I had an office on the top floor (yeah, that's right), she was in a cubicle a floor below, and we'd send each other emails that frequently made us LAUGH OUT LOUD. It was part of how we made the best of sometimes dark, often mediocre times. I was newly on my own, she was newly married to a monumental douchebag, and we both worked too much when all we really wanted to do was drink beer and hang out. One afternoon in an email exchange, we hatched the powerful dream that one fine day we would find ourselves in adjoining rubber rooms, and we'd communicate by banging our heads against the shared wall. Thus was the Rubber Room blog born.

One of the hallmarks of the Rubber Room was the music -- I would usually start out by telling the reader what I was listening to just then. I wrote one entire blog about mix tapes, because I happened to have on my desk a stack of mixes I'd made starting in the late 90s. Music is an excellent entree, I think. It strengthens the bonds with people who like the same music, and it inspires people who admire and trust you to give it a listen. Music has slipped from my radar screen somewhat. I'm still a little susceptible to the damage done by connecting with a girl over so much of the music I love. Putting my iTunes on shuffle these days is a bit like trying to find someplace to rest your gaze on a pretty well-packed nude beach (that's packed with people you don't want to see naked, like your family or the cast of The Golden Girls).

And speaking of nude pictures of Bea Arthur, I also used to include a photo with just about every blog post. I'm not sure how I feel about either doing or not doing that. I still have the directory containing all the photos I used in those blogs, but I barely remember anything I wrote in them. Should that tell me something? I dunno. Give me some feedback, people. Would you like to see the occasional photo, something that pleases the eye and the mind? No promises, but i might be able to scare up some enthusiasm for the visual thing.

I digress. I liked writing that blog, liked hearing from people who read it regularly. I'm pretty sure that blog ended because I stopped paying Apple for my .mac account, but it might have been because I woke up one day besotted with a girl named . . . something. Toast. I called her Toast. I made a lot of dumb choices after I encountered Toast. That may have been one of them. Nonetheless, I did get shut down by Apple for non-payment (take a number and get in line, heirs of Steve Jobs), but then I started another blog, this time for free on this here blogspot, something called Memoirs of a Garebear (which in my head sounded like a fantastic play on Memoirs of a Geisha, but you tell me), and that one you can still access, although I think there are fewer than half a dozen posts, and I was so wrapped up in trying to impress a girl who possessed an allegedly magic touch that none of it was particularly worthwhile.

Then one day out of the blue my remarkably prescient daughter suggested I rekindle the blog thing. She doesn't read it, of course, because she's sixteen and her life is full of important things. But it was her idea, and so she can take the blame. Which means this evening, more than half a month after my last post, whatever I write, that's on her. You're welcome.

I've been listening to Pandora all night. Right now Elliott Smith's "Rose Parade" just came on. This is a song I dearly love but which is tainted by that girl Toast, who eventually decided that this song and not "Waltz #2" (also a fantastic song) was her favorite. The night I went to the hospital, this song came up on a mix I was listening to, and I bellowed the lyrics with tears in my eyes. Which is why the music report is fraught with a small amount of peril.

And this is a picture of the girl in question, with a butterfly she'd raised from a pupa sitting on her shoulder:

Which is why photos carry some risk as well.

I kid, of course. The thing is, no single song and no picture you could show me make me think of why I loved her then, why I missed her when she turned away, or why I don't think highly of her anymore. And that's the problem, because I'm trying to make the case for why she ever mattered in the first place. Here's what we know: she responded well to good music. Check. She is obviously pretty. Check. She's smart and she's curious, she has a decent sense of humor (but a laugh like a canker sore). She possesses some wisdom, though most of it is poached from people she admires. So in a lot of ways she's quite something. But guess what? So's your mom. So's her mom (seriously).

All things considered, though, I did technically lose my shit over this girl. Which means I need to find my way to doing justice to whatever it was that happened between us. Which a lot of days feels like wiping my own ass with fifty-grit sandpaper.

And this is why I beat myself up with songs that call her to mind, why I look at pictures and re-read the hundreds of emails that went back and forth between us. You have to be willing to rip your own guts out if that's what it takes to tell a story that means something.

I don't believe in writer's block -- I think that was a bullshit invention that came about because some dude didn't feel like working one day, and the next day he realized not working felt pretty good, so he took a hiatus, and he called it "writer's block."

I understand the impulse. Some days ripping your own guts out is more than anyone should have to bear. But make no mistake: if it's going to get done, the pound of flesh will be exacted. In the end, you pick your day, you slowly, excruciatingly eviscerate yourself, and the second your finger taps the "send" button, for better or worse, the healing begins.

To health. Cheers.

No comments:

Post a Comment