*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


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.