Sunday, March 28, 2010

Splash Damage

The art-house project is back on. Proudly, I have enlisted the help of someone far more artistically talented than I to help execute what I have in mind to do. The effort necessitated me to creak open the folder on a dusty flash drive and peer inside at all of my poetry. I explained the experience to a friend as if I was reading through a stranger's work. I found the fellow talented, but most disconcerting was that I couldn't remember when I wrote the things. Like an delirious grandparent, once I stared into the faces of my progeny, touched their ears, I remembered writing them, remembered their base elements, but that was all.

And events recently have inspired me to try and track down one of those decedents. Unfortunately, a mentor of mine told me once that professional writers burn their juvenalia. Don't ask me how people separate one thing from another (In a conversation I had once with a poet friend, he revealed to me some wisdom that he had gleaned: a mark of a poet's work taking a turn for the better is when he or she stops writing about him or herself.). But this one that I was looking for pointed to a particularly difficult time in my college career when I was trying to negotiate the procedure of letting go a particular dream affixed to a young woman that had beguiled me with her smile and laugh.

I can't recreate the work, except that it featured the Hemingway's "Old Man" as its central theme. That and, as I said, letting go. But maybe it's for the best; this allows me to refer to something much more tasteful. I've often wondered at how the play came about from Langston Hughes' burning set of questions about dreams deferred. I read the poem first, when I was younger, and then upon seeing the stage play, the movie, the made-for-TV movie, and the remake, I thought that maybe the resulting ideas went a bit far afield of the man's original focus. Because, after all, we never really find out. Like the poem, we have to decide for ourselves.

This past week, I discussed with a co-worker that very thing. He was thinking out loud, about a friend of his who had found himself in a terrible situation. A career centered around a passion he thoroughly practiced had not materialized as he had hoped, and in the meantime he had gotten married, and had a daughter: not one but two pairs of eyes staring at him, demanding that he be a better provider. My co-worker made the statement that he was going to talk to this friend about progressing as a man. So I asked what that meant, what did it mean to further oneself as a man. My co-worker worked his way through my barrage of questions and eventually we came to "progressing as a person" coming down, mostly, to being able to produce money. I wanted to talk about our society and how it socializes people into conflating material wealth with the metaphysical gains, but I didn't.

Because I'm in the same game, playing by the same rules as both my co-worker and his star-cursed friend. It might be accurate to say he and I are similar; it might not. But this week, I sighed some, and hoped some. I pinned another rejection letter to my wall, and sent off a handful of query letters. I drafted. I edited. Just now, I realized that I, also, was not courageous enough to answer Hughes' questions.

I think mine might explode.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sweating, and tiny bites from island gadflies

I wonder if maybe there might be something wrong with me, shooting out of the cloudy sky like a carefully constructed rocket, and smiling down on the dreary landscape that was yesterday's Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson. At least, dreary in comparison to the bright and sunny midday, warm, with only a slight chance of clouds, that was yesterday's Puerto Rico. Maybe I was just glad to be home, to see my own bed, to be able to check my email (formerly I thought being able to check my email on my phone was a good thing, but being unable to efficiently answer any of those emails, or quickly jump to the links they pointed to made it sort of like torture).

All I know is that I don't know. Much like the wedding. I wonder: if one does a competent, even vaguely memorable job, is that enough to make the day special? The feelings are there, like a driven locomotive, all a body has to do is not get in the way. Whatever hiccups there were, or shortcomings I feel that I had, the bride and groom seemed to have liked it. I breathed a sigh of relief, staring out into the island sunset, thankful for a whole wealth of things, namely that wearing that suit wasn't as hot as I thought it would've been. But I did wring my mind some, stressing over whether or not I did an objectively good job.

I'm also not sure about the distraction I took with me (those motion sickness pills double as both described and as a temporary sleeping agent): Roger Zelazny's "Lord of Light." Both covers, of course, were littered in compliments to both the writer and his novel. It was recommended to me by another adoring fan, also, saying that 'I'd like it' and that I 'really needed to read it.' Being trained in the English discipline, I can attest to there being something gained from 'reading the classics' and if the marketing is to be believed, Zelazny's 'Light' is nothing if not that. And to be fair, I'm about 100 pages shy of finishing it, but certainly, I imagined, if there is something classically amazing about it, ought it not to have struck me by now? Am I waiting to appreciate the sum total of the book, much like people enjoy the "Usual Suspects" or was it supposed to be some electric experience from the first chapter?

Yet again, I cannot say. All in all, the trip was a good one. I enjoyed numerous, memorable experiences with good friends, laughed a great deal, and survived it with very-minimal injury and quickly-fading discomfort. I would go back if it involved something meaningful for a friend, if I was somehow needed. I'm not sure I'd go back just for the going, however. This morning I checked the weather here: 37 degrees, cloudy, with a 20% chance of precipitation. I was excited because I'd get to wear a jacket and pants. Hm. Maybe there is something amiss here.

Speaking of, I would like use this dilapidated soap box of mine to shamelessly endorse myself. Aphelion has released their latest edition, and in it is my novella.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Green, envious green

It seems a bit pessimistic to type this as if it will be my last correspondence with the living, web world. Yet planes do crash. And people do talk about giving their loved ones roses "while they're still alive to enjoy them." But no one talks about the dead person. Should not we also say the things we intend to say while we're still alive to say them? Or maybe that's why I write, to speak from the grave, demand, question, contemplate from an aether of sorts. or a prison much like death.

Leading up to this sojourn over the happy sea, I have accomplished several of my goals. That sterling prose has been mailed (burnished, more like). I still await rejection letters from a variety of places, along with confirmation of publication from a couple others (that is, evidence of their having followed through). An alum even got back to me about querying agents. I had a burger last night under a conversation with an actor friend of mine about how exactly one, in his profession, solicits and secures representation. I guess the answer, succinctly, is like every other answer about how we prove ourselves good enough to warrant attention, be it accommodation, agency, or acknowledgment. I suppose I shall wait until I have more tangible evidence of that.

And the words, which I will deliver as officiant of the wedding for which I am travelling, I say are near completion. This of course, is woefully untrue. I look at them and think how shabby and unfocused they are, how unclean. I've woken up several times this week, worried that I had written something terrible I only could have conceived of in nightmare. "I don't plan on saying that, do I?" I whispered in the darkness, in a cell of my own design. I never went so far as to turn my machine on and verify, but I'd read through them the next day and be a little be relieved and a little bit nauseated. I keep hoping I won't have a blunder or misstep, and ruin these nice my friends' happiest day.

Morpheus said to Neo once, "There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path," which is helpful in this case because we never really know if we're ready for what we're about to be burdened with. We prepare our skills, we believe in our talents, and we bolster our spirit and hope that that will be enough. I have the little understated journal with the tassel to put the words in that I'm simply going to read. I've spent weeks looking through books and talking to people smarter than me, and wiser, about how to conduct it. I've committed years to the craft of words to the end of transmitting a message. One could say that I'm ready to go back to Ireland.

To this day I have no idea why my friend asked me, of all people, to do this. I mean really why. I think if I pull this off, and we're all laughing in the afterwards of the beautifully setting sun, I think maybe I will have earned my answer. But therein lies the difference, I guess between the faith of someone who has a day named after him, and the drive to know of someone like me. Or maybe I'm walking a path of sorts, too.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Has no ears, but listens

I have a lot of ideas floating around in my head these days. Feels like around this time last year I was asked to preside over a wedding for a friend. I took a week to think about it, then I agreed. That day quickly approaches. So recently, my mind has been wrapped up on the topic of love, what it means, what it is. Me, a man who has been constantly mystified, and confused, about the inner workings of That Thing which is not a machine, yet builds, not a tool, yet assists, and cannot see, yet seeks.

What has dominated my thoughts, aside from what I should be doing, or want to be doing, or even need to be doing, is the day my father came into my room, years back, to give me the idea for a story. He had a composed tone that begged me to listen, and he outlined the idea as if he had taken great care in doing so. We didn't talk much in those days, a trend that has continued as such through the years, and that afternoon he had more words for me than he had during the entire previous month.

"This would be a good story," he told me. He was sure, like he's always sure, like he would probably say a man should be. I listened because there was little else for me to do. I couldn't tell him that the story was bad, that it wasn't "my kind of writing" or "up my alley." I didn't want to disappoint him, I guess you could say.

And to be truthful, I hadn't remembered the idea at all until this past week, when I was thinking about the stories that I had decided to write. There was a wide gap between chapters and I thought to myself "what do I put here?" I thought, and I thought, and eventually, I happened upon the dusty corner of my brain where I try to store the cobwebs. It was labeled "Dad's idea," because that what it was, start to finish he had given it to me, told me again that it was good, not unlike a prayer, and left me to write it.

I hadn't then, obviously. But I will soon. And that, being able to finally do something that he wanted me to do, sort of made my day. Not that I've spent my life trying to go left when he said go right. I just happened to have picked my own path, and just this once, the avenues are parallel. I'll say "Hey, Dad, I used that idea you told me about, years back," and he'll look at me, and frown, trying to remember. But he won't admit that he can't; he'll just say "Oh, well good," and that'll be that.

And I won't correct him, either. What is most important, in this case, is that he know that at that time, at all those times, is that I was listening.