All Roads Lead Here…

They say whatever you “play”  at being as a child is what you should be. Whether or not you become that is, of course, up to you.  There were two very significant activities I would play, so when I hear that–whatever you play at being you should be–I feel that it’s true, and if you think hard enough on your own life, you’ll find it true as well.

Getting off the school bus Friday evenings was always the same.  I would run inside the house, throw my backpack into my room, change into my tomboy clothes, and run next door to Granny Ben’s to play with Moe Moe.  Moe Moe was my first cousin, my dad’s nephew, and Granny Ben had raised him after his parents died in two separate and isolated car accidents while he was a newborn.  By all spiritual claims, Moe Moe was my brother, and every Friday evening we disappeared into our imaginations.  Granny Ben went yard-sale-ing every Saturday with my Aunt Ellen, so Friday evenings were reserved for scouting locations.  This bonding activity for them had existed since before I had, and I never questioned it or had any second thoughts when I passed them in the yard, sitting in their sea-foam green metal tulip chairs, sharpies in hand, circling tomorrow’s multiple destinations in search for junk-to-treasure.  As usual, I would wave and disappear inside the screen door in search for my own treasure: pretend.

The great thing about Granny and Aunt Ellen’s yard sale-ing was that typically they came back with some god-awful porcelain figurine to add to the collection in my room (perfectly lined from shortest to tallest, hidden behind my toy box) and a ream of paper.  I’m not exactly sure how this happened initially, but I remember the question, “Sissy, what would you like Granny to bring you from town?” Granny Ben asked every Friday evening in the small gap of time that I walked into the front gate to the screen door.  My answer was always, “Paper and a Dr. Pepper.” I had a place, hidden from everyone except Moe Moe, where I would stash my paper. There was an extra bed in the guest bedroom where no one slept,  and I would crawl underneath the quilt-covered bed, as far back as I could—which as a kid seemed to me like another kingdom underneath there—and stack my reams of paper.

Once the sound of the spring slammed the door shut, I would run into the guest bedroom and crawled under the bed into my paper kingdom. Moe Moe always knew where I was, so once I saw his feet underneath, I would emerge with a stack of blank sheets of paper. Pencils and pens in hand, he would be there waiting with a big, dumb smile. We would take our supplies into the screened-in porch, place our supplies on the extra-large boxed freezer, and pretend to write. Before either of us knew cursive, we would loop our hands like crazy, writing stories that no one but us could read. Eventually, we’d need to blow off steam from our deep writing, so we’d let the screen door slam behind us in our mad dash to my house to play Rocker Barbie.   I had the slickest stage any kid could imagine, and that sure helped when I had my own fake, plastic people to orchestrate into rock stars.

It’s no wonder I became a writer, or that I work in the music industry. Pretend is powerful.  Imagination is life’s way of guiding you into the best life has to offer. Playing is the world’s way of paving roads where there were none.

What did you play at being?

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A Disorderly Nagging of Order.

There is an incessant nagging inside that prevents me from having full closure with a space until all order is restored.  The ‘order’ of which needs to be restored might not make a whole lot of sense to you, so I’ll spin my best wizardry to give you a glimmer of understanding into this crazy head.

‘Order’ can be broken down by triggers.  If the gun is cocked and the trigger goes off, BANG, disorder.  However, if the gun has the safety mode on the trigger cannot go off, unexpectedly, so this requires a great deal of precautionary measures.

Now, relate everything I just said to OCD and reread it again…I’ll wait….

Fine, I’ll help you.

Triggers, like a bi-level closet that is organized with shirts on the top rod and jeans/pants/’anything you wear on the bottom half of your body’ on the bottom rod.  A shirt on the bottom would cause the trigger to go off.  I would notice the white hanger on the bottom among all the green hangers and trigger two would go off.  What is a wire hanger doing in this walk-in closet?  Oh god, this goes in the coat closet in the bedroom.  Open the bedroom coat closet and the coats are not in length order (longest to shortest).  Jesus, how can I relax until it is, orderly?  Great, now that the tall coats are in the back and the shorter ones in front I can see the floor.  Holy hell, why is the cord to the iron – which rests on the floor and should be on a shelf (note:  container store) – not wrapped around it?  Oh you know why?  Because my wife didn’t wrap the cord around it.

“MELINDA!”

“I hate when you yell from upstairs when I’m downstairs.”  She yells back.

“I hate when you do this,”  I yell.  “Can’t you make sure the cord is securely wrapped around the iron before putting it back.”

She mumbles something I cannot hear.

So I proceed to wrap the cord, securely, around the iron and push it back in its place against the back of the wall.  Seriously?  How does dog hair get in the closet.  I look on the sunlit floor and anxiety shoots me in the gut at the floor that is covered in dog hair.  Didn’t I just sweep and mop yesterday?  For the love of God my pets hate me.  Why do they do this to me?  Not only am I already allergic to them, but I feel like a dirty dog with hair everywhere.  Crap, I didn’t wear slippers and my socks look like cousin IT.  Hyperventilate.

Stella, my cat enters the room purring.

“Awww,” I tell her.  “Come here pretty girl.”

She comes over, rubs against me, and then bites my hand when I pet her.  Whatever, she’s a bitch.  I have to Swiffer, but first I have to take off these dirty socks.

“STELLA!”

She likes to get fake flowers from my decorative flower arrangement in the bedroom and the only way she likes to do it is by making it plummet to the ground.  Oh my god, breathe, hair might get into the fake flowers.

My wife enters and helps, she picks up the flower arrangement.  That’s so nice of her.  She tells me about her day, but I can’t focus because the flower stems are not pointed toward the bed.  She obviously asks me something, but I have no clue.  Oh no, the design of the vase isn’t facing the door of the bedroom.  I’m going to have a nervous breakdown, so I rush over to stop the white noise of my head.  Whew!

“Now what did you say?”  I ask.

She sighs, “You never listen.”

I think I’m listening TOO hard, but unfortunately it’s at gun shots all around me.  She goes downstairs to dilly-dally, and I change socks then go downstairs to get the Swiffer and I swiffer so hard it may very well crack the floor.  Whew, some semblance of order in the bedroom.  I exit the room, close the door, and add “container store: closet shelf” to my to-do list.

God this room stinks.  I think it stinks.

“MELINDA”

“I hate when you do that.”

I yell, “Do you think our bedroom stinks?”

“No.”

What does she know?   I have the super power of smell and I think it stinks.  (Note: room fragrance isn’t cutting it so do research for a constant way to keep a fragrance flowing through room).  I reopen the door, confirm, and shut it with resolve and add “Bedroom scent” to my to-do list.

Not including the walk-in closet, which I can’t discuss at the moment for fear of triggers that would cause me to literally take a half-day and go home and organize it, I have 3 rooms and a bathroom upstairs.  Not including the basement, first-level, yard, and garage (which is so clean it sparkles). You do the math on how long you think it takes for me to actually get closure in a space.

I’ve learned a trick so that I can write.  I keep my office spic-n-span and neurotically aligned with my symmetrical and often times insane expectations of positioning.  The trick is I shut my door and breathe in heaven.

I hear a loud crash and rush out.  The bedroom door is cracked so it must not have been shut very well, and there is Stella in the flower arrangement.

“STELLA!”

She snickers, “You pointless worrier, it’s easier to teach a dog new tricks.  I do this every single time and your attempts to close the door, while clever, do not prevent me from getting in, eventually.  I will fuck with you for the rest of your life or until you get rid of this arrangement.  Crazy little human, I don’t really like playing with the flowers I just like playing with you. PURRRR.”

Okay, I made the last part up but I swear that is probably what she would say.  No, I don’t think animals talk (to us).

Unrequited Love, Heavy Trunk.

I’ve typically been a non-fiction writer, but not the kind of non-fiction that results in a 500 page whopper on something super interesting like Architecture, Anne Frank, or Autism.  No, more of vanity non-fiction like a memoir.  Ten years and counting before I realized that perhaps I wasn’t that interesting to be filed in a bookshelf next to a Bill Clinton Autobiography or a book by Joseph Campbell.  Hell, I’m not even halfway as interesting as Augusten Burroughs as to have a book remotely touching the same bookshelf.  So I tuck it away in a trunk, but what you must know is to a writer this, the act of putting away a manuscript, is like putting away your winter clothes knowing that next winter it won’t fit.  So it goes, into an out-of-sight-out-of-mind place to coexist in a box with forgotten pieces of a former life. Shedding skin is hard enough, but you grow more and it’s usually more radiant. 

I’m writing fiction, now.  It’s much easier and I’ve grown twofolds from my last manuscript.  For example, I now work off tightly worked out outlines rather than freestyle.  My stream of consciousness writing could go on for an eternity, but hey Aldous Huxley did well with it.  I know the story like the back of my hand and it’s not just written there like the good ol’ days.  I know at exactly what point I need to have conflict or resolution and while I might veer ever so slightly from the well-thought out path for the sake of adding memory, I never take a chance on arriving at a dead end.

Funny, I’m much more wise but yet less intelligent than I used to be so it’s become difficult to match the unparelled wit of my twenties.  When I was a sponge, I could absorb and ring out so much more.  I’m more like a scrubber now, it comes in and out but my sole purpose is to scratch out what I can just to see the surface. 

So here I sit, only a paragraph away from killing off a character that was loosely based upon someone I knew way back when I was smarter.  The difficulty in this is that once someone is immortalized by woven text, they become harder to say that last goodbye.  It’s not the first goodbye, that was so easy because life was happening at that moment and you had to be in it.  Maybe there were more coming and going with idle goodbyes, which is not truly a separation.  Kahil Gibran said it best in The Prophet, “Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”  I’m ready, though, to see this story to its end even if it’s merely one book in a lifetime of books to come.  Many of them, perhaps, left unresolved for the characters but resolving the storyline for me.  So let this book be the death of the unrequited love, and may the symbol she brings rest in literary peace.

I hope this manuscript doesn’t end up in the trunk with the other one, but either way I’ll write more resolve until the end of my days and behind me I’ll leave a heavy trunk.

Writing is wasted on the young.

Plenty of things are going on even if I fail to update my blog.  A co-worker and I were in the elevator and our entire seven-floor ride consisted of connections through social networks.  I knew he DJ’ed through another co-worker’s blog and we poked fun at an update of his that ‘I liked’ before he mentioned reading that (and I’m paraphrasing) people have a hard time blogging in more than 140 characters nowadays.  Wow!  Truth be told, he is absolutely correct, and I fall victim to this. 

I was thinking, just this morning before I ran into him, that I’m not really sure I remember what my penmanship looked like.  Naturally, I wrote out a list and it occurred to me that saying about ‘use it or lose it’ is so true; my penmanship had somehow morphed into some sort of shorthand.  I’ve made it my New Year’s resolution to write a letter once a month so that at the end of the year (and potentially the end of a handwritten era) I could remember how I used to communicate with people.  How exciting.  It’s kind of like learning to write all over again and this time for the novelty of it and not because I have to.  I suppose it’s the same mind set, but of course on a smaller scale, of going back to college in your thirties; harder work but man it feels like you’re actually accomplishing something this time around rather than goofing off. 

That whole adage of ‘youth is wasted on the young’ really stands true except truly, writing is wasted on the young.  I no longer write without outlines and it’s becoming increasingly hard to hear myself think with popular music (yeah, strange I used to just write from stream of consciousness to Jeff Buckley and consider it genius–of course I was probably also writing stoned) playing in the background like I used to. 

You know, it’s all about going back to the basics but this time with more experience and knowledge that you got from doing it all wrong in the first place.  Radiohead – The Bends, come to me so I can write Chapter 4 in Book #2.   Don’t worry, tomorrow is Madonna’s Celebration album (Imma let myself finish but Madonna’s got 36 mo’fo hits on this thing) and that typically puts me in a conquer-the-world mood to write my query letters for book 1.

Alright, time is short and I ain’t that young.

From The Archives: Strangers On The Train

A rather large African-American woman got off the (F) train headed to Queens at 21st-Ely, and I took her seat.  This beautiful, soft-spoken, mild-mannered girl also took her seat; two seats made from one.  I was writing and perhaps the mild-mannered girl saw the passage in my notebook about my recent battle with depression or perhaps she simply wanted to reach out.  Either way, she pointed to my exposed inner wrist that displays my “Jeffrey” tattoo.

“Did it hurt?” 

Thinking of all the hurt, grieving, anger, sadness, and emotions behind everything that lead up to commemorating my deceased brother on my wrist, I replied, “Yes.”

“Oh,” She responded while looking me directly in the eyes.

I looked away from her and stared straight ahead watching the darkness pass by through the train window.

“All tattoos hurt, I suppose,” I explained with less depth.  “I guess this hurt the least because it means the most.”

It occurred to me that connecting had become uncomfortable to me.  Perhaps I had been traumatized and feared loss.  Perhaps I was insecure.  Regardless, we talked the remainder of my train ride about work, tattoos, piercings, and Queens. 

“This is my stop,” I interrupted the flow.

She smiled with such a humanitarian energy, “Take care.”

Knowing I’d probably never meet her again I looked back and replied, “Good luck.”

As I walked up the stairs at Roosevelt Avenue, I felt a warm and hopeful energy fill my soul.  Such a short-lived but genuine interest and connection between two strangers felt so good; human connection.

 

New Study: Writing causes lulled high school retrospective…

Prior to page-filler for my book, I truly believed  my high school retrospective was impactful to the overarching theme to my  life collective.  In writing the memoir, the story kicked off with an indelible hook and by far the best wordplay of the story; childhood.  Moving along chronologically, conflict and literary tightness were laid sentence-by-sentence and dialogue-by-dialogue; the brick and mortar of memoir.

Day after day, I came back to the story looking forward to adding the doors and windows to which would allow a certain amount of transparency.  There is a certain amount of fatigue that occurs in the middle of bricklaying that I didn’t account for like running out of cement mix or realizing that your windows won’t fit into the allotted space even though you wrote the measurements down correctly.  Perhaps, after you put the window up to the construction you realized it paled-in-comparison to the stature of what was being built.

For many people, high school was the bane of their existence, but for me it was merely a filler page in a memoir.

degrassi_high_ca-show

Antonyms

I thought it relevant to make my introductory blog about something remotely close to writing, hence ‘Antonyms.’  Dictionary.com gives you synonyms, which are helpful when you’re looking for another word for ‘hick’ but when you’re really wrestling with hyperbole, the antonym is the far better literary device. 

It’s also worth mentioning, synonym.com defines ‘antonym’ as:

a word that expresses a meaning opposed to the meaning of another word, in which case the two words are antonyms of each other; “to him the antonym of `gay’ was `depressed'”)

First of all, I have to agree 100% with the site that you’re either gay or depressed.  Welcome to my blog, Wrestling With Hyperbole.

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