Transitioning

27 04 2009

More posts soon, as more time frees up in the “everyday” category.  While this will never be a politix free zone, it is unlikely to delve into local stuff as much as it may have before January.





Prop. 8

8 11 2008

Somehow the irony of the Mormon church negatively influencing marriage rights in states other than Utah is, um, thick.





Why Joe Posnanski Rules the World

1 08 2008

Joe Posnanski is a sports columnist for the Kansas City Star.  He’s a bit younger than I am, but his cultural references are about the same and he really likes Bruce Springsteen.  I came upon his blog sometime late last year.  His link is on my RSS feed, so I get to check in with his writing every day.

Joe rules the world because of posts like this:

Pixifood (PIKZ-ee-food), noun: Any food substance that is highly pleasant to the taste as a child and tastes shockingly unpleasant once you become an adult.

Baseball Card Gum
As a child it tastes like: Bubble blowing magic.
As an adult it tastes like: Sugared sandpaper.
Tidbits: A few years ago, Topps released a retro set of baseball cards — I believe it was based on the 1952 set. Anyway, it included the gum. I was SO excited. I immediately went to eBay and spent WAY too much on a box of those cards. I got it, and I chewed the gum and … I expect to get the feeling in my jaw back no later than September 2013. More to the point, the inside of my mouth got so raw, you could strike a match against it. What do they put in that stuff? Roofing shingles? I think part of the problem is that they started putting the gum in little plastic packets, presumably so they would not get stale and ruin the back of baseball cards like the old days. But maybe that’s how they lost the magic. As a kid it was great because, really, as far as taste went, you never know where the gum ended and the baseball cards began.

You never know where the gum ended and the baseball cards began.  Indeed. There is more, of course, all of it dead on.

Joe also works with the Pozterisk, which is a floating footnote that usually is a tangent that is as entertaining as the post.  I have used and will use it because it is, for me and my writing, natural.  Joe just showed me how it can be done.

The thing about Joe, though, is that he is a working columnist, former journalist, is researching a book about the Damned Big Red Machine of 1975 and STILL writes thousand word posts five times a week.  The man just has to write.  I’m in awe.  To be so prolific and so good.  Just like Stephen King, except I read this.





Wet Match

16 06 2008

There are days when getting going is like lighting a wet match.  The gloom certainly added to that.

Not entirely useless day.

Politics, local and national, inflaming the lobes today…not even a rant could make it better…I think this week is about being the last week of school!





The Burn

10 06 2008

Bonfire from Tim and Mary\'sThe attic above the barn is full of the detritus of a few lives, and it is long past time to start weeding out mine, which is the only one I can really control. I have a box or two of papers from my grandmother’s house, photos of people without names, places without markers, and the attending cool stuff — a lock of hair from my great uncle Kenneth the Communist on the Run! My grandfather’s wool thermals, still itchy! Someone else’s relatives! This stuff is savable. Maybe when the lobotomy takes, I’ll sit over a scanner and send all this material to the hard drive and . . . do something with it.

In another corner are the school papers from the kids. Growing year by year. That will get sorted. . . later. But there, haunting me, in another corner, is my stuff, the trails of my life: Old resumes and photos (hmm, save those), letters from the expat friends during high school and college and beyond. Old check books, phone bills, and, more powerfully, the box of notebooks that represented the proof that I fancied myself a working writer. Books full of diary notes that begin, “well, that was a long time,” or “why can’t I just sit and do this?” or “Save this: it’s a great idea without a story.” Yeah. I really got right on all those ideas. At one time, when I tried harder than usual, it was all very handy to fill a legal pad and put it in the stack (Stowe #11). But where was the work? The connection of dots? True, I put enough together, once upon a time, to apply to, get accepted and attend Bread Loaf. And that is an achievement and something to look back on with rose-colored lenses, because it put me once more on the periphery of a world I had high hopes for myself to join, or to partake. It was high falutin’, no doubt.

It was at Bread Loaf where I first planted the seed, first really forced my creative hand and made myself make a decision about what I was going to call myself. Writer? Hmmm. I remember it took me a few days to soak in the bottom line, to try to take away the core of why I was even there. There was plenty of “bed loaf” action around us (watch out for those poets!) and plenty of coy student-teacher dialogue and plenty of the caste system and plenty of the nightly celebrations (Robert Pack’s last year). I even met an excellent friend. But I kept watching and listening and talking and listening — some of the best listening I have probably done — and in the weeks and months that followed, after reading the books I bought from the writers who came, after totaling the sum of all the information I collected, I took from it the simplest and best advice ever: You’ll write when you really want to write.

Being someone who cannot readily define what I want (as opposed to what I don’t want), it has always been easy to take this kind of advice and file it away, because it is easy to say that I don’t really want to do anything, be it write, the laundry, the dishes, my work, what have you. Wanting to be a writer* connotes that I will be carving out a schedule every day to write, to practice, to think and to put out on paper my thoughts, be it in diary form or as part of a draft of a story. But it is work, and it is a commitment to work. Over time, that clearly wasn’t the way I was going to be.

*As if I needed more a sign, I almost always mistype “writer” as “writher”.

I found that remaining a “writer” would require some output, some product, some art that would qualify me, at least on my Schedule C. The drag, psychologically, is that the failure to produce was attached to me, like a thread on a sweater that is unravelling. I saw the thread, but never cut it. Never cutting it somehow in a twisted way honored it, even if I wasn’t honoring it by doing it. Very alcoholic behavior which I did not exacerbate by drinking the pain away. Which makes me not a writer. Or a drinker with a writing problem. It just metastasized differently.

To cut it away, I decided two years ago, or whenever we last brought a dumpster in, to either chuck or burn my notebooks. Without them RIGHT UP THERE AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS, IN THAT WOODEN BOX I FOUND ON A STREET CORNER IN BROOKLYN IN 1989, I will release the onus of being a writer, and simply be one, if that is what I want. Clearly no story idea I had over the last 20 years ever came to fruition, and rather than considering the burn as the death of little embryos, perhaps I will consider them the frozen in vitro blastocysts that have to be disposed after their expiration date. If they were worth anything, they’ll be reincarnated.

Until then, and until the burn, I continue to try to empty out my cluttered attic of a mind as it is represented by these kinds of objects. The notion of a museum is only compelling if it is not my stuff, and in the end, at the end, my children will have to decide what all to keep. But I get to decide what makes it to the end, and it will be much healthier if I can rid myself of it on my own.

The burn, then, represents a cleansing, of course. Like sterilizing a needle before using it to pierce an ear. Or a release, cutting one of the many tethers from a dirigible. It can simply be the symbol of choosing to look forward without being haunted by what could have or should have been, if only in the fiction of my own mind.





Finish the Sentence

5 06 2008

This quote has been sitting in my email box for a few months now, a sort of “this week’s quote of the day”. It is from Anne Bogart’s “And Then, You Act”, published in 2007.

One of the most radical things you can do in this culture of the inexact is to finish a sentence. Notice what a vibrant act in the world this can be. Feel the power of finishing a sentence. And yet, it is difficult to finish a sentence. Worlds conspire against it. Listen to people speaking around you. Inarticulate people are not dangerous to any political or societal systems. Political agenda has conspired against a citizen’s ability to speak. Words are dangerous and they can be powerful. It takes effort and stubbornness to finish a sentence.
[snip]
Learn to be articulate, discover your own words, and describe what you believe in. Stand up and articulate what you are rather than what you are not. These activities will give greater force to the way your art meets the world; it alters the way you frame the world and it will help to define and describe what could be. The performance of articulation is a positive action in the world. It will cause change.

On the one hand, this fits into the same category as deleting “like” and “you know” and “uhhh” from the vocabulary. Doing so will increase our vocal maturity by ten years. But more importantly, it simply speaks to having the strength to stand up and express yourself. It is taking acting, which takes a manufactured script that has been edited, honed and perfected (sometimes), and applying it to your real life. Public speaking is difficult for most, but this kind of speaking is even more effective in conversation. A thought, fully formed and expressed? How nice. How powerful.

Bogart calls it radical. Unfortunately this is probably true.





The Home Run

28 05 2008

On Sunday I hit my first old man home run. An over the fence out of the park home run, not the hit the ball as far as you can and run like the wind tar on a summer day. While my cup felt a little smaller as I rounded the bases, it was actually pretty humbling.

Airport Park in Colchester has a fence around its outfield and the poles are set, supposedly, at 290 feet (just 15 or 20 feet shy of Fenway). On Opening Day, the wind was blowing out to left and center — no surprise given the proximity to Mallets Bay — and the opposing team tattooed a couple of balls over the fence. Even on Sunday, without the big wind, Bayside hit two homers as well.

But no North Star had knockedahoma in about five years, certainly none since I’ve been playing. I haven’t hit the ball well for a full year now, so to say it was a surprise is not shocking. I’m in much better physical shape this year, stronger in the core, but I have not been great at the plate yet this year. No sweet spot shots of any kind. So on Sunday, with two guys on in the fourth or fifth, at my third at bat, I had no premonition. Augie did, on the way to the park, but I didn’t hear that.

I’d had a couple of hits already, as well as a couple of RBI, so I had already had a good day. Facing a lefty with an inconsistent ump behind the plate. He’d started me off with straight fast balls the previous two times and I just guessed he’d throw another. I’d choked up a bit (which may be the key to hitting more on the sweet spot in weeks to come) and just hit it. Nothing else. I’d been working on my stance and my swing over the last couple of weeks, and for one swing it came together. It didn’t even feel as if I’d hit it, which is the mark of the well hit ball. Over the scoreboard it went, a double at any other park without a fence and my legs, and around I went.

Not earthshattering, but what a nice thing to do. Ended up five for six with six RBI. Nice day.

On Monday, Matt cut off his big toe mowing the lawn.