Attempt writing in a state… part II

When I read the prompt for my previous entry, I was conflicted. Sure, I can be in a bad mood sometimes and be exactly the least congenial possible, but how could I write in that way when I’m in a good mood?

So what I ended up writing and posting was something short and filled with quips- not bad for a half-hour of work. Kind of cute, actually, after I uploaded the old photo from Florida.

However, if I’m going to be less-than-congenial about a topic, it’s of my future.

Fact: I’m 28.

Some might guess that I’m 25 (may fortune and luck find you, sirs and ma’ams!) but it’s true that I’m pushing 30.

What does this mean exactly?

Diddily shit.

I believe that age is as old or young as you want it to be… YOU!

I heard a really inspiring quote/fact the other day:

Stan Lee is 90 years-old. Which means he created ‘Spiderman’ when he was 40. Which means you haven’t even started to live your life yet!

Family, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues continually ask me about my goals and dreams. But when my dear baby sister gave birth to her first child, a new string of questions entered the conversation. Being a very proud aunt can sometimes be misconstrued as longing for a child- believe me, they are not the same. A couple of questions have only been asked on a few occasions, but I imagine that the frequency at which these questions are asked will only increase as I get older.

When are you getting married?

When are you going to have children?

When my sister and I were girls, we would stage pretend weddings in our basement. We would adorn our heads with veils made out of pillowcases and marry our Ken dolls (Barbie had been barred from these ceremonies, that jealous bitch). Playing pretend at that age was fun, but the fantasy of becoming a wife would soon wear off. I watched my parents’ marriage dissolve during my teenage years. My exterior hardened in opposition of the idea of marriage because I decided that I never wanted to go through divorce. I guess that my parents had been happy together at one point, but if it was possible for something to become so rotten so quickly, I didn’t want any part of it. My parents’ constant back-and-forth arguing left no room for explanation. At that age, I couldn’t ask a question to either of them without receiving a caustic answer in return. I did my best to remove myself from the situation at home, but I know that it was too late: I had already consumed the Kool-Aid. I became cynical and without a real, clear idea of the person whom I wanted to be: I can’t think of a worse time in life to begin fostering cynicism.

During the years of my parent’s troubled marriage and their ensuing divorce, I was still able to daydream from time to time. I imagined looking through my old yearbooks and boxes of mementos with my future son or daughter just as I had with my mother. Telling them stories about growing up in the nineties and explaining the legitimacy of my fashion sense and hairstyles. Being just like my father when he would swat my little hand away when I tried to change the radio station in his car, except Nirvana would be The Rolling Stones in my version. But as I grew older, these images became less and less tangible. As I’m sure every parent struggles/ed with the idea of who they would become as a parent, I knew deep down that I was not the right person for the job at all.

I’ve thought about having children very thoroughly and frequently; I know how I feel and I can’t change that. I’ve been interested in men who have envisioned children in their lives- those relationships did not last long. In all of my ponderings and utterances, I haven’t come up with the most eloquent way to answer this question. The first two words of my answer would be “I’m not,” but people expect an explanation even though they’re not owed one. Honestly, I loathe that I even have to give this much thought to answering the question, but I do believe that those who are near and dear to me have good intentions and care about my quality of life. And for shit’s sake, I need to come off as serious when I speak about this subject because no matter what, I will not change my mind.

Over the last several years, I’ve opened up to the idea of marriage. I may not want to start a family, but I love the idea of committing to someone and sharing a rich, satisfying life. To be able to take off and travel with only a moment’s notice. Pack a bag that doesn’t include pacifiers and diapers. Enjoy the calm and quiet of a well-kept home on a summer night. Decide to go out to a restaurant instead of cooking at home. My decision to get married and not have children is not a selfish one. I consider my reluctance to have children a completely unselfish decision because I can’t see myself as the maternal type that I would have to be to raise the child that I would want to bring into this world. In many ways, I don’t feel as if I’m cut from the same cloth.

I will make myself available to babysit for my friends and family who are parents, so that they may experience what I get to and I can put myself in their shoes for a brief moment… and then I can hand their children back to them when the moment is over.

*Attempt writing in a state of mind that seems least congenial

I think that you and I both know it; it’s been a while.

I’m not remorseful at all. I’m a busy person. Each week greets me with chores and responsibilities; that never changes. If there is any change at all, it’s that a new item gets added to the never-ending parade of bullshit that is adulthood.

I recently saw a photo of myself, at around age four. I was covering my mouth with my hand, as if I’d been caught doing something that I wasn’t supposed to be doing. My long, wild blonde hair was pushed away from my face by an enormous pair of red swimming goggles. I was at a beach in Florida with my family and I remember sharing a grape-flavored Popsicle with my younger sister. The only way the day could have been better is if someone had given me a small pony to ride up and down the shore; me and Sparkles riding into the sunset.

Image

I could go to the beach now. I could get in my car, which I pay an exorbitant payment each month to own, and take off. I wouldn’t go too far at $3.99 a gallon, but I would find sand somewhere. I could bring a swimsuit, which I would begrudgingly fit over my aging, fleshy body. Take a bottle of SPF 50 to slather over myself, but what does it matter? I’ll probably die from some mysterious ailment that seemed to come out of nowhere.

                “She always made sure that the trash was taken out to the curb,” someone would say.

                 “She never left a dirty dish in the sink,” another would recall.

                This would be my legacy.

When I was younger, I always wanted to be older. If I was 12, I wanted to be 16. At 16, I wanted to be 21. Now that there’s nothing to look forward to, no more rites of passage, what’s the point? I used to be able to party and stay up all night. Now one beer gets me intoxicated because my diet only allows me 1,500 calories each day. I would consider it a cheap way to relax if I still didn’t have a headache in the morning.

Everyone wants something from you and when you need something, no one can be bothered.

Whatever happened to “Do unto others as they do unto you?”

Now it’s “Every man for himself.”

And why is it HIM?? I’m sick of the misogyny.

MailPERSON. FirePERSON. OttoPERSON.

Let’s start evening out the playing field. It’s the 21st century, goddamnit.

In all honesty, I couldn’t enjoy a day at the beach. I’d be too preoccupied with what I had to do when I got home or arrived to work the next day. Days of leisure would be squandered on me.

*Write what cannot be written

… for example, compose an index.

It was Friday before Memorial Day weekend. As I looked around my desk at work and tried to decide if I should bring any work home with me (I didn’t), I saw the jar on my wall shelf. The jar that I speak of holds all of the Bernadette Mayer prompts and exercises, typed out on small pieces of paper. I hadn’t written since New Orleans and even that statement is arguable. I walked over to the jar, unscrewed the lid, and fumbled my fingers through the slips of paper. I picked one out and looked at it- hmm, a challenging one.

I was planning a float trip down the Little Miami River with my SO for the holiday weekend. We would kayak and fish for ten miles, find and set up camp, and then repeat the same thing the next day: twenty miles of kayaking and fishing in the sun. I welcomed the idea of quiet and calm: I imagined myself sitting on a sandbar overlooking a cascading stream with my notebook in my lap. But realistically, I knew that getting there would be a turbulent ride. Would I be able to find time to write? I wondered. I had received an all-weather journal for Valentine’s Day the year before and thought that it would be perfect for this trip.

I did end up writing during the trip. I found myself in a situation where I chose to sacrifice my body to get my boat and my body out of a tumultuous rapid and onto (somewhat) dry land and I had to write about it. Although I had good material for a potential short story, I still hadn’t written according to the prompt that I chose. As I was putting away my camp equipment on Memorial Day and doing laundry, I began to think about my niece and family. My decision to not have children has left me with the notion that I wouldn’t have a son or daughter to pass down my life’s discoveries to.The idea doesn’t haunt or depress me, but it’s made me realize that I have to decide how I’m going to further my legacy. I had an idea to accomplish this all the while writing for this prompt.

Since before my niece was born, I considered setting up an e-mail account with a username and password for her. I could write her e-mails to document her early life and when she was old enough, allow her access to the account so that she could read my e-mails (as well as delete a lot of spam, I’m sure). Now that she’s almost three-months-old, I’m not entirely sold on the e-mail account idea, but instead, writing and compiling a long list of little pearls of wisdom and advice. I hope to not sound too cliché, as I’m writing almost directly from my own life experiences. After some rudimentary math, I calculated that she’s been alive for 83 days (84 today).  I could write one thing for each day that she’s been alive and give it to her when I think she’s ready.

I did more math: at what appropriate age should a child receive a book of nonsensical ramblings from a crazy aunt? At age 12, she will have been alive for 4,380 days- a lot of writing for me and an exorbitant amount to read for her. But what if I just wrote for her first year, cutting the book down to 365 items? I liked this calculation more. So I began working and created 83-84 lines of wisdom and advice. I could share them here, but I consider this experience incredibly personal and should only be for my niece’s eyes. Imagine an updated version of Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen).”

Since I’m not going to share the ongoing project for my niece, I’m going to plan to conduct an experiment and present the results here, if I have my sister’s permission. In Korean tradition, they consider a baby’s time in the womb his or her first days. When the child has reached 100 days after being born, the family celebrates that time much like a first birthday because many newborns would not survive childhood diseases or Korea’s seasonal temperature differences. The most interesting aspect of the Dol (or Tol) celebration is Toljabee. I’m going to try to convince my sister to allow me to initiate this rite just to see what happens; although we’re not Korean, this tradition will be conducted in the most reverent of ways.

Eternal Failure of the Spotless Mind

Chaise

I think that I may have been high when I gave myself writing assignments to complete while vacationing in New Orleans. Well, I guess the sheer notion of writing while on vacation wasn’t too far-fetched, but I definitely set myself up for failure. What possessed me to believe that I would write, according to a prompt, for practically every day?

The first day upon arriving in New Orleans was dedicated to relaxation and sleep. My friends and I drove straight through the night Monday and arrived Tuesday afternoon, sleep-deprived and malodorous. During the daytime portion of the thirteen-hour road trip, I began rereading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I read it for the first time while in high school so it had been almost ten years since I was familiar with the story. If I’ve acquired any talent in my lifetime, it’s been the ability to read in any condition and environment.

I wrote something short and sweet after I settled into our condo, but I didn’t know what to do with it -when I returned home days later, I actually looked at the piece of paper and threw it away. I had found a headline from a newspaper that I liked and wrote about an incident that had elicited a realization that was quite personal to me. No matter how hard I tried to create a fictional narrative out of the facts, I couldn’t flesh out the story. While I’m obviously not going to publish it here, I do think that the experience was interesting: it became possible to write something so personal that it terrified me to explore it as a writer.

The next few days were spent eating decadent foods and exploring the French Quarter. If you work in an office, think about your worst day and what you wished that you could have done in that moment instead of being confined within a cubicle: I probably did it (let your imagination run wild; it’s more fun that way!) In hindsight, I realize that I didn’t get to see the historical aspects of the city like I had hoped, but I think that I ultimately got what I wanted out of the trip.

Our final day was when I did the most writing. I had finished The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald somehow made me feel guilty for being a lazy writer from beyond the grave. For days I had combed through the guestbook that previous occupants had signed to show their gratitude to the condo’s owners. Many entries included the reasons for visiting, restaurant recommendations, butchered French, and what not from bachelorette parties, Marti Gras veterans, and honeymooners.

I had to do better than that.

There was a chaise lounge in the living room where Rose would have posed on if Jack had drawn her like one of his French girls from Titanic. I sketched a poor image of the furniture on a page and wrote a poem below it. I woke up early that morning to work on it and ended up completing it minutes before we had to pack the car for the drive home.

Here it is in its entirety:

 We all had arrived Tuesday afternoon

after thirteen hours on the road.

But even when our exhaustion was high

we managed to arrive in party mode.

Beer, vodka, hurricanes, hand grenades,

a cold beverage for every boy and girl,

when hunger set in there was Lucky Dog,

which subsided the feeling to hurl.

The next morning was rough to say the least,

like a scene from a familiar movie.

We found our wallets and a few dollar bills

which had not gone in strippers’ boobies.

The following days were not as crazy

living as tourists, buying souvenirs.

Our stay on Conti in the French Quarter

was the best part of vacationing here.

*Make writing experiments over a long period of time.

For example, plan how much you will write for a particular work each day, perhaps one word or one page.

It has been incredibly hard not just to budget time for writing lately, but feeling motivated to write. I suppose that happens when you have too many things going on at once. But I think that the days have seemed exceptionally long because I have a vacation on the horizon- I’ll be on the road and driving to New Orleans in three days. I was hoping to find a prompt that could correlate with travel writing and I’m actually excited that I found it!

Depressed about the notion that my growing workload that will undoubtedly greet me when I return in a week, I decided to organize my writing schedule for the trip. I’m hoping that inspiration will abound: lively people, beautiful weather, and music everywhere. I’ve come up with six “mini experiments” for my time in New Orleans to facilitate my writing, thus allowing myself to really immerse myself in my surroundings.

Here’s the plan…

  • Day One: Write a fictional backstory about strangers you see on the street.

My friends and I have had a condo located in the French Quarter on reserve for months; it will be where we lay our heads for five nights. It has two stories and more importantly, a balcony that overlooks the street. I plan on completing this exercise on a sleepy weekday morning or at dusk, while the street is teeming with people unaware of when and where their night will end.

  • Day Two: Visit a museum or historical landmark. Try to envision how it got there and why it’s important.

Each person in the group has their own itineraries, but we’re all collaborating to get the most out of the trip. For example, if someone wants to try absinthe for the first time, the group will work together to locate the perfect bar to set the scene. For me, I’d like to visit the Historic Voodoo museum and Confederate Museum. Each place has a long history in Louisiana, so it might be difficult to choose which one to write about.

  • Day Three: Pick up a newspaper. Choose a headline from the front page and write a plot.

Once again, I’ll probably be walking along the street one morning before anyone else is awake and I’ll pick up a paper to see what’s going on in the local scene. It will be interesting to see how different or similar New Orleans is compared to other major cities.

  • Day Four: Write your obituary. It can be in present-day or years into the future.

I thought that prompt was perfect because quite a few of us want to visit a cemetery in hopes of seeing a funeral procession. Strange? Probably, but we are a morbid bunch. Our condo is within walking distance to St. Louis Cemetery. I hope that walking around a cemetery provokes me to ponder my own mortality and envision how I’m going to exit this crazy world.

  • Day Five: Rewrite a passage from a book.

I’ve had a copy of The Great Gatsby that I’ve been dying to start and I think New Orleans is the perfect backdrop for reading this story. I read it first in high school so this will be my second time reading it, first time as an adult. I’m going to pinpoint a passage that “speaks” to me at that specific moment and try to emulate it with elements of my New Orleans surroundings.

  • Day Six: Sit in a restaurant or crowded area. Write down snippets of conversation you hear. Write your version of what comes next in the conversation.

This one almost goes without saying: perfect travel writing prompt. I remember going to Chicago for the first time and holding a table for dinner at a pizza place. As I sat there, I discreetly watched a couple at a nearby table. Their lips were moving, but their eyes were drinking each other in. I wondered what things they could be saying to each other to encompass such an intense gaze. I’ll be looking for these moments.

So, that’s it. I’ve laid out my agenda and when I return home on May 6th, I should have a lot more to write about.

NOLA

*Address the poem to the reader

Yes, I know that it’s been far too long since I’ve updated with a new experiment. It’s called life, and “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

But the next experiment isn’t to quote Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, is it? It’s to revisit my creative writing roots and flash back to my Intro to Poetry class. Although writing it is painstaking for me now, I’ve always loved reading poetry. When I was thirteen, I had the prologue to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet memorized. Sure, Leonardo DiCaprio might have stoked my enthusiasm, but I voraciously read and was intrigued with Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter.

I have notebooks of poetry that I wrote as a teenager; most of it is actually pretty good. But I remember sitting in my bedroom for hours, whittling away at my words until they fit the poetic equation that I sought to answer. There are a lot of criteria and variables in poetry: couplets, tercets (or haiku), quatrains. ABAB, alliteration, slant rhyme, internal rhyme, similes, metaphors. Just the tip.

 

The first step of this exercise would be to consider my audience. I’ll be honest, whenever I write anything, I don’t really take into account who might be reading my work. I still get surprised whenever I see comments on this blog. But here it is, cranked out in an hour. Tentatively titled “Ode to my Readership.”

 

The words I think of tumble out of me,

no paper but type and font on a screen,

and you make the effort to read them all

even before knowing what they all mean.

 

Not that I speak in a secret language,

but I take time to craft the words I write

So that you can know what goes through my mind

and interpret their meanings as you’d like.

 

For the moment I write for you and I,

no unknown readers from what I can tell.

But if you are bored with my writing style

then you can go straight to another blog.

 

Three stanzas. Iambic pentameter. 

Bam.

Adolescent Guerilla Journalism

The rapidly approaching demise of print media and increasing usage of the word “paperless” has got me scuttling around, collecting my important documents. I wanted to make sure that I not only knew where my vital statistics, passport, etc. were, but had backup copies in case they were needed. When my sister gave birth to my niece, I asked my mother where she kept my original birth certificate. I knew that she had it in her possession because when I needed to get a copy of it for my ESL application for teaching in Seoul, she had it at her house. Of course, this was discovered after I waited my life away in the Butler County Clerk of Courts building and paid $25 (she found the actual document the day after I dropped the money). I gained possession of my actual certificate just this Easter.

While I have been scanning and saving documents just as important as my birth certificate to a USB, I remembered a long-lost publication that I haven’t thought about in years. In 1999, I was published in SPIN Magazine. As a teenager, I loved reading SPIN. One of my younger neighbors had been going door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions; he caught me on a day when my parents weren’t home from work yet. When I noticed that SPIN’s subscription was $8.95- cheaper than Rolling Stone’s $15.95- I quickly relinquished the cash that I’d saved babysitting that same kid who was now peddling magazines.

I was in eighth grade and loved music. My musical taste was greatly influenced by very important people in my life. Dad’s passion for classic rock introduced me early on to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, and Fleetwood Mac. My mom’s cousin Dani was constantly listening to the newest rock and alternative, which is how and why my first CDs were the Wallflowers and Ace of Base. My half-brother got me into DJ Shadow and Beastie Boys while most girls were salivating over Tiger Beat. I nurtured my interests by keeping current with SPIN. Sure, I had to explain the need for it to my parents every once in a while, especially when scantily clad, strung out musicians donned its glossy covers.

My peers at school were not as fortunate as I was. I was musically self-aware at an early age; a snarky prepubescent who judged friends’ CD collections before playing Pogs.

I was hipster before hipster was hipster.

When Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears began topping the Billboard charts, MTV stopped playing real music videos. I know, but it’s like, my opinion, man. Rage Against the Machine, Foo Fighters, and Fiona Apple were replaced with bubble gum, glitter, and TRL. I needed a soapbox- I turned to SPIN. Each issue featured a selection of smaller articles submitted by readers, something like Letters to the Editor. I typed a hormonally-fueled outcry that I believed spoke for musical non-conformists like myself. I sealed it in an envelope and sent it off to New York City. Weeks later, I had completely forgotten about it, but much like my writing process, I was relieved to have the weight of the matter off of my chest.

Months went by. My friends and I celebrated as we were about to leave middle school and enter high school. We believed that we were going to get cooler, more attractive, and definitely become better people all around. At my eighth grade graduation party, Dani and John, her future husband, surprised me with a ticket to Woodstock ’99: I would be accompanying them to the festival of the decade. I remember looking at my father and seeing a gleam in his eyes, perhaps excited to live vicariously through me. When I looked at my mom, I saw uncertainty and fear.

It wasn’t until after the Woodstock that I received a response to my letter. It was undoubtedly an intern who composed the letter asking for my permission to edit and print my submission in the next issue, but I was amped. I was going to be published! When the issue arrived in my mailbox, I had begun my freshmen year of high school. The cover was perfect for the publication of my letter: an interview with Kid Rock was featured in the magazine and his white trash potency radiated, reminding me of his energetic show at Woodstock (I wasn’t exactly a fan, but his minutes long introduction into “Bawitaba” before screaming “My name is Kiiiiiddddd, Kid ROCK!” had the crowd wired in a way that I hadn’t seen at a show before).

At the time, journalists were still speculating who or what had actually incited the riots at the festival. An older wiser me would blame dehydration- people were sick of paying $7 for bottled water. Dani, John, and I left early the third day and the only destruction seemed to be on the outside walls surrounding the grounds; I took a few photos with my disposable camera as we began our drive away from Rome, NY. I will never forget arriving back home to find my parents glued to the TV. as they watched news footage of people fighting and structures being burned down. Woodstock, man.

So, without further ado, here is the Google Books scanned copy of the October 1999 issue of SPIN Magazine. Leafing through the pages incited major nostalgia and almost made me long for a seemingly simpler time. You’ll find the letter on page 40, behind the ad featuring Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra.