The Aberrant Writer

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Today I purchased a hollow cement sculpture of a baby’s skull. Its eyes; empty, its surface; smooth like plaster, its smile; dead and flat.  This skull, which was so recently housed at the local antique store in my town, with a tag that noted “plant pot? candleholder?” now sits on my bookcase, staring at me with dead vacant eyes, as words spill from my fingertips and onto my computer.

I think you have to embrace your eccentric side to be creative. I embrace my idiosyncrasies and bask in the manic periods I may have, writing so fast my fingers feel as if they will fall off. I take full advantage of those periods. No subject is taboo. Writing is about exposing yourself to the world, and feeling stronger every time.

Somewhere, on the horizon, lies multiple projects that my mind is vomiting as I run, drive, breath, eat, and work. I now have to prioritize them, and work on them with a fervent zeal that would make David Koresh look like a bible salesman.

In the end I have a few hurdles to conquer, but I guess, the real question that I must ask myself is, would a clown really give me their blood?

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The Fickle Entity of the Mind

I, at times, have a flighty memory. I am unsure if my mind believes the information to be unimportant, or has to push other tidbits of my cache into the garbage heap to make room for more, but either way, my brain can feel like a grain bag with a small puncture. I try and compensate for this by writing little notes, small ones, especially on the run. A word here, a word there, a small phrase. That is all well and good, but when later comes, and I pull out the paper, without the context of the moment, I wonder, what the hell does “Albatross Latvia” mean.

This seems like my curse. I am smart–it is not conceited to say so–I graduated magna cum laude for my bachelors, and when I am finished with my masters thesis this month I will have a 3.74 GPA. So it is frustrating that I can go into a movie theater, walk out when the film is complete, and a few miles down the road not recall what I just saw…at all. Now this isn’t a medical problem. I don’t have a condition. My brain seems to be selective in what it holds. I am great at trivia and trivial pursuit, so I don’t lack in that department with knowledge, but there are things that I just don’t remember. One area is conversations.

If you know me, then you know that we may have the same conversation many times over during our friendship. It is not that the last discussion wasn’t important, or I didn’t listen, but we may talk about this over and over again. I have gotten into the habit with good friends starting conversations with, “tell me if I’ve told you this already,” and they are good about it, only occasionally goading me on with a wry smile. My poor wife though, she humors me, and doesn’t tell me I’ve told her. I have probably repeated some stories fifty times, and she just lets me go, rambling on as the words pour from my mouth. And there is purposeful repetition.

I have always been a learner through repetition. The only way I can learn something well is by beating it into my head. I have the tenacity and the patience though to learn that way. People amazed me in college, reading the academic journal article only once, and then remembering every little phrase from it. Not. Me. I would read the article, and then go back over it, and then take notes, and then reread the notes. It was always work for me, but pleasurable work. I remember when I did archaeological work in class. We poured through box upon box of pottery sherds from the Richard’s and Nevin’s site in Blue Hill, Maine. I spent hundreds of hours working on these materials with other students in my group. I learned so much about prehistoric pottery this way, I will never forget it.

So for me, memory is a fickle beast. It traps in some, and lets others flit away on the wind. Sometimes I see my mind like a dandelion puff-ball. All the little white seeds just ready for a gust to send them scattering to the wind. Other times, my mind becomes an iron trap, sealing in certain memories, that I will carry forever. And then sometimes, past times kick through the door of my mind, barging in, taking over. So as time goes on, I am sure I will keep writing down little hints to guide my mind. But like Uncle Billy who put string on his fingers, I too will forget the string is even there, or what it is there for. Because, when you have a shitty memory, you have to be elaborate in your mental notes, or you end up wondering, what the hell is “damned romance” or “thunder road”  in reference too–found recently in my notes page on my cell phone.

Dirty Water Tube Meat

There is something inherently disgusting, yet exquisitely divine about a hotdog. As a New Yorker, I feel it is hard to refuse one, as if you by some unseen force, you are attracted to every dirty-water steam cart you pass by on the sidewalk. Pretzels and hot dogs–and when I say pretzels I mean big, kosher salted, soft pretzels, warm enough to almost burn your tongue. I swear, New Yorkers could live on that diet. Don’t forget the Dr Brown’s soda, with the rat feces flecked across the top and lip of the can. It is as if everything about this operation is unsanitary, filthy, and, unhealthy. But that seems to be the draw. For some reason the cart excuses the unknown ingredients of the tube meat–the chemicals which are poured into the casing, the lips and assholes that are ground together to make nirvana in a bun–because of all this, it is ok.

Now, if you were in a restaurant, and you sat down, that would instantly change the appeal. Could you imagine if you took the cart, and expanded it to a restaurant. The same guy serving you the hotdog, out back as the cook or chef, slinging your food around the kitchen, the same fingers handling money, handling your bun and dog, you would walk out demanding a refund. But there is something inherently mystical about street food, something we just can’t live without. It is as if the pulse of an area is measured by how many food trucks, trailers, and carts can ply their cheap food to the public, without some unknown, intestinal illness, striking the population.

We all love this food, and the cart, well it forgives all this. The big yellow umbrella, it just draws us in. I think it is our inner child screaming to relive the fourth of July, or family barbecues when you didn’t have to host them, but instead ran around barefoot in the yard, chasing fireflies and shooting off illegal fireworks much to your neighbors chagrin. Our inner teen remembers the nights at 7-11, where a buck-fifty bought a big bite, with all the toppings you could get–where the hotdog was lost, awash in a sea of chili and radioactive orange cheese, the greenest, most verdant relish known to humankind floating atop this diarrhea inducing delight. So, I say, here, here, to the most dirty of our foods, handled in the most unsanitary ways, in which we all shrug our shoulders at and say, ‘just one more.’

And then, there is food at a fair……

Killing Time

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I am killing time at the bar, waiting to interview a person for my thesis, and I sit down at the high top table with my beer, and eagerly await the tube shaped meat which is abound with lips and assholes–like my father says “everything but the squeal”–that is still being prepared. The three TVs all have extremely different programs broadcasting on their flat dull screens. To my right, Jan Michael Vincent is sitting side by side with Ernest Borgnine, soaring through the sky in AirWolf, while on the tv above the bar plays an early nineties movie with racially stereotyped characters, track suits, Fila, long earnings hanging off the men’s ears, with high and tight haircuts, their denim jackets missing sleeves worn like a vest. Behind me, the television is chock full of cartoons, Garfield cartoons. Unfortunately this is not the good eighties Garfield but the new crappy computer generated cartoon, which it pains me to even call it that. So, here I am, in this bar, waiting for tube meat of circus grade quality, drinking my beer, sitting across from the sequined torso of a dress form, with a finial in place of its head.

Productive Procrastination

So here I sit, at my favorite writing spot, productively procrastinating, writing in this blog. I am entrenched in my thesis work, and articles, papers, and books are strewn across the quarter sawn oak table at which I sit. As I was engrossed in my topic, writing with a speed only reserved for the manic, I had an epiphany, I have to urinate. Washing my hands, I thought about habits, all the strange habits we have, and then my mind drifted back to my writing.

I have a totem. Yes, that is right, a totem. I would not say that I am a superstitious man, but I like to hedge my bets, and if I think something is lucky, well, I will continue that practice. So I have a totem, and when I write, that object goes with me. You ask, well what is it? It is a marble. The smoothest, most perfectly round marble. It is like a beautiful gas giant floating in the universe, the ochre glass swirling around one pole, while at the opposite end of this glass planet, a glob of olive green coats the other. The equator is like white ceramic, pure as fresh driven snow. I don’t recall where or when I found this, but I remember the day I wrote a hundred pages in one sitting, with that marble in the coin pocket of my jeans, and from then on out, it comes with me to write.

Then there are omens, portents, jinxes, and I found mine. Now, I am not sure if this dull Russian ruble is bad luck, or the fact that I had purpose planned for it so long, and have not accomplished this goal, that bad luck has now attached to it. Either way, this coin is damned. I wore it in the same change pocket for weeks on end, not realizing it was there. Weeks of no inspiration, no writing, sitting, staring at a screen, white paper, pen grasped idly in hand, to no avail of any words. Like an idol that must be returned to ward off the demons loosed, I must affix this coin to the bottom of a glass at a bar I frequent–that has been the intended goal for this coin for over a year now. Maybe my mind knows that it is sheer procrastination sitting in my pocket, or maybe it is cursed. But either way the coin will make its way to its final resting place tonight.

Na Zdorovie!

A Feathered Phobia

Katrina frantically ran in front of the car, flailing her arms overhead as if fighting off a hostile swarm of bees. It was as if some unseen force was chasing her, pursuing her with the most malicious intent. Her screams resounded through the windows of my Cherokee, while some invisible, malevolent being assaulted her. I drove toward her through the parking lot, set atop the pink granite outcropping of rocks, which jut out into the tempestuous cold green waters of the Gulf of Maine, and she just ran away from me, down the middle of that old cracked road.

The water churned that day as it roiled against the barnacle covered ledges which stretched into the ocean, like fingers from the pinkest skinned hand. The ocean seemed at odds with the stony terra as if it tried to subdue it, bend it to its will, make it submit to the cold green deep. Frothy water shot from crevices running vertically to the ocean, as the force of waves caused spume to shoot high, like geysers of briny water issuing forth from deep within the granite. A cold breeze blew off the ocean, chilling us as we basked in the early autumn sun, as if all our worries flittered away, bit by bit, in that salted bitter air.

She ran fast, faster that I would have thought. I remember seeing her run down that road. She moved quick. My mind flashed as to why she would be running away screaming, but she did, and I could do nothing but move toward her. The firs and cedars stood on each side of the road, gnarled and wind-bent, as if they tried to reach out for her and grab her, to stop this manic episode.

We clambered across the rocks that day, leaping over deep and wide fractures in the granite ledge, the deep fissure descending to jagged boulders and cobbles below. Climbing across pink granite, we made our way to a Brobdingnagian boulder that leaned across the cliff face, creating a small cave inside. We entered this darkened hole feeling like explorers, only to come out on the other side seconds later , no danger or risk presented to us. Crossing a scree field which high tide would cover, we jumped across boulders as the water rushed in, tickling our toes, trying to devour our feet with its cold lips and frothy teeth. We made it to the other side dry, and we sat by the edge of the ocean, with our feet dangling over the edge of the sheer cliff, as water exploded below us in divine spectacle.

Seagulls flew by her as she ran, and her arms flailed around in a display of seizure activity. The grand-mal spasms of her arms were chaotic and discordant as she she ran down the road, her screams drifting in the air, seagulls flying around like bits of snow in a souvenir globe, shaken heartily by a five year old on vacation, never letting the white bits settle to the fake ground. I could do nothing but move toward her, my jeep sputtering as I idled the accelerator, barely moving down the road. I was concerned, yet puzzled by this whole event, and like a curious bystander who witnesses an event, I stared at her, my mind locked, only on this moment.

Katrina and I sat all afternoon gazing out upon the heaving ocean. We felt the rays of the sun beat down on our faces, as the chill wind of autumn cut through our clothes we enjoyed this simple pleasure of quietude. Eventually we climbed back over scree field and rock, and ventured back through our cave to the parking lot. We parted ways, as she went to the restroom and I retrieved the car. Moving the jeep to the restrooms, a flock of seagulls walked in front of me, slowly moving like a mass of plankton floating in the sea, only directed by the movement of the ways. They moved en masse and just sat there as I stopped, waiting for Katrina. She walked along the path to me, and stopped abruptly. A blood curdling scream shattered the illusion of beauty, and she ran the opposite way down the road away from me. Confused, I put the car in drive, and edged my way through the hundreds of seagulls sitting there, causing them to fly in the air, a flurry of feathers released during a pillow flight, the sky inundated by them.

She continued to run down the road with a furious speed I could not have sustained myself, and eventually sped up next to her on a straight stretch, pulling up next to her. She was screaming wildly, and babbling incoherent speech. It was as if some spectre, some furious intangible demon was on her heels, but nothing was there, nothing but air and the few seagulls still lingering in the air, hoping to find out the cause of this unreal episode. Stepping out, I calmed her down, and Katrina collapsed into my arms, sobbing and occasionally thrashing at me. She heaved violent cries, while sweat poured down her cheeks and mixed with the salty tears which cascaded down, like a faucet had been turned. She flopped into the passenger seat, and with still no explanation, we made our way down the road.

“Son of a bitch,” she muttered between breaths.

“Who, me?” I said.

“John….”

“What happened?”

“Seagulls. The seagulls. Just drive. Please, just drive.”

We drove in silence for the longest time, and after we were away from that place and she had settled down, I was informed of the problem. Katrina had a phobia, a legitimate phobia of birds. So as I drove to her, I kept pushing the seagulls her way. They swarmed around her like snow around a pine tree rooted in a blizzard, and all I did was corral them toward her, as I pushed them with my jeep. I laughed so hard when she told me this, when I realized what I had inadvertently done, I could not help myself but guffaw.

Needless to say, there were no more dates after that.