Tag Archives: writing

One a day one day late

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For me, it is September, not January, that is the month of new beginnings.  Back in the my day, September was when school started up again (what’s the deal w/ kids these days going back in August?  So so so wrong).  And with the start of each school year you were born anew in a new grade, with new teachers, new classmates and in your new back-to-school wardrobe.  Sure, it was disappointing summer was over, but there was always a nervous excitement about a new school year.

So, now that September is here, I shall too try to summon up some excitement and try something new.  This morning, while on my way to work, I said to myself, “self, why don’t you do Nablopomo (National Blog Posting Month) this month?”  I mean, why the hell not?  What else do I have going on?  ‘Sides, I’ve been taking this writing class and learning all sorts of good tips about writing, and occasionally feeling quite inspired to write.  So, write, dammit, write.

While the official theme for this month’s Nablopomo is “beautiful”,  that doesn’t do much for me.  And while I certainly admire my friend Beth’s effort at doing a month of writing about her mother, I’m not going there either.  My theme may just be writing for the sake of writing.  Writing to get unstuck.  Writing to find my life.

So, I hope that amidst this month’s worth of words, you’ll find something worthwhile, and I hope not to bore you too much.

So, one day down, and only 28 to go.

Michael Jackson, the Comcast Guy & Me

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I apologize for my lack of output lately.  I’ve been taking this damn personal essay class and so far all it’s done is make me creatively constipated and constantly question whether I have any right to think I can write.  But, amidst all the self doubt, I finally finished and submitted my essay with for the class.  On Monday I’ll get my critique from the group.  Thought I’d share it with y’all and you can tell me lies, sweet lies that it isn’t a steaming pile of . . . words.

Michael Jackson, the Comcast Guy, and Me

The atmosphere in the office was electric and in sharp contrast to the monotonous management meeting I had just left. “What’s going on” I asked Anza who was always in the know.  “Michael Jackson died”  she said in her usual no nonsense way.  “What?  I, I thought it was Farrah who died” I said feeling clueless.  “Oh Farrah was soooo three hours ago” Gabe drawled campily as he buzzed by me.  Renita shouted from her office, “he ain’t dead. We don’t know that for certain yet. That’s just a rumor!“  I went back to my office to check the internet myself. For the next few minutes you could hear people shouting updates between offices. Finally, it was confirmed by reputable sources:  Michael Jackson was dead. The mood abruptly changed from excited to somber as my co-workers started gathering in twos and threes in each other’s offices to watch the streaming live news coverage.

I joined the cluster of young black women in Lashaun’s office next door. They seemed to be taking it hard, especially Lashaun who said she felt like Michael was family because her cousin once worked for LaToya.  Her Blackberry kept buzzing as her family members texted to share news and console one another.

Frankly, I didn’t really understand why my co-workers were taking it so hard.  Most of them were too young to remember Thriller when it came out.  And Michael’s days as the cute child star of the Jackson 5 was of their parent’s generation.  Well, actually my generation.  Like me, Michael Jackson was 50 years old.  Yet, these young African American women felt more of a connection to him than I ever did.  I guessed I must have looked puzzled as Lashaun said,  as she often does to me, the “token white lady”, “hey, it’s a black thing.”  But unlike her usual joking tone, this time there was an air of sadness and resignation.

Before his sudden death if someone had asked me my thoughts on Michael Jackson, my answer would have been short and cruel: freak.  I hadn’t paid attention to his musical output in the last 20 years, and he had only been on my radar as an object of puzzlement and scorn.  Yet now the airwaves were filled with the best of his music – “I Want You Back“, “Billy Jean“, “Thriller” – and my favorite, “Ben“, a love song written about a rat.  It was good music, memorable music. I started feeling the loss myself.

Back when Thriller came out in the early 80’s, I spent many an evening hanging out with my best friend David in his comfortable duplex apartment filled with his collection of 50’s glassware and other vintage kitsch.  We would watch old film noir movies and then would finish the evening with some MTV while sharing a joint. Whenever Michael came on we stopped talking, turned up the sound and marveled at his moves. Even through our clouded minds, there was a reverence paid to the man’s talent.

I hadn’t thought of David in years.  He was possibly the best friend I ever had, and Michael Jackson was an important part of the soundtrack to that friendship. When I got home, I downloaded The Essential Michael Jackson off of iTunes and I played it loud as I prepared myself dinner and wondered what had ever happened to David.

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Over the next two weeks it was All Michael Jackson All the Time.  You couldn’t escape the coverage.  While most of it was hyperbolic, the story of the man became clearly tragic to me – a talented kid who was exploited and abused and the wounds that turned into something sick and twisted. My previous hard judgments of him softened.

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The morning of Michael Jackson’s funeral I stayed home from work to wait for the Comcast guy.  Both my broadband and cable TV had gone out a few days ago, and this was the earliest appointment I could get to get my service restored.  The technician arrived on time at 10am. He was a tall African American young man, probably about half my age.  He was dressed in oversized jeans that rode low on his skinny hips, and while I found the gold embroidery on the back pockets to be a bit tacky, I later read that it was quite in style among urban youth.  The blue button-down shirt that he no doubt  worn in deference to his employer was purposely tucked in on only one side.  “So what‘s the problem?” he asked already sounding bored. “Well, I explained everything in detail on the phone” expecting that he would have come prepared.  “Yeah, well, they don’t tell me nothin’ but what time to be here.”   So I over-explained all the phone calls and steps I had taken to troubleshoot the problem.  He listened impassively.  “Where’s your cable come in?”  he asked getting to the point.  I gestured to the pole outside my front door.  “OK” he said as he started to walk out.  He paused by the pen where I keep my two rabbits, Binkles and Peabody. “You gotta watch out what you feed them ‘cuz they’re gonna get fat.”  And with that he left.

“The nerve of that guy. Calling my rabbits fat. They‘re not fat.”  I huffed as I sat down to check my email and play games on my iPhone while I waited.

A half hour later he walked back in through the front door, opened up the TV armoire and picked up the remote as if he lived here.  When the TV came on, it was on a news channel that was broadcasting the Jackson funeral.  There was a helicopter shot of a string of hearses and seemingly hundreds of police.  “Oh, I want to see the casket come in” he said with the most animation I had heard from him all morning. I went into my office to check if my broadband was also working, and when I came back to report the success he was still standing in front of the TV.

I took my place in my TV watching chair. The coverage had switched back to the studio with some commentators discussing the various molestation charges against Jackson. “Ah come on” I said with some exasperation, “give it a rest for just one day. It’s the man’s funeral”  “Exactly!” he said with some enthusiasm and volume, “have a little respect for his family.”   The coverage then cut to the procession with the casket.  “There it is!”  the Comcast guy said with  the excitement of a kid seeing the ice cream truck on a hot day.  The Jackson brothers, all wearing single sequined gloves brought in a gilded casket covered in red roses. “Damn, that thing looks expensive” he said with awe. “Kind of a waste since it’s just going into the ground” I countered.  “Exactly!” he heartily agreed.

When Smokey Robinson got up to speak, the Comcast guy said with admiration “Damn, is that Smokey?  He looks goooood.”   We speculated on his age guessing he was around 70. “Hey, black don‘t crack“ I offered.  He considered this as if he had never heard that saying before, “yeah that‘s kind of true, huh.”

It became clear we were in this together for the long run.  “Have a seat” I said pointing to the couch.  He quickly made himself comfortable.  If I had been more accustomed to having company I would have offered him something to drink or eat, but a comfy seat and a TV seemed just fine with him.

As the tasteful service unfolded occasionally one of us would make a brief comment about how good someone looked or sounded, but mostly we watched in silence.  Finally, when Reverend Al Sharpton started speaking, my guest got up abruptly and said “when the crazy preacher starts talking, it’s time for me to get back to work.”

On his way out he passed the rabbits again.  Binkles stretched up against the pen begging for attention. “He’s a friendly one, huh.  Can I pet him?”    “Sure. He likes having his nose scratched.” I advised.  As he scratched the little red rabbit’s nose he said “I used to have a pet rabbit.”  When he finished, he let himself out the door saying “have a blessed day.” “You too” I called back but he had already closed the door.

I sat back down to watch the rest of the service, but it didn’t feel right. So, I said farewell to my four-legged friends and headed out to work so I could join the crowd in a cramped fluorescent-lit office to watch the rest of the service on a 17 inch computer screen.

Some things just need to be shared.

Endless comparisons

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One of the insights I realized while at last month’s meditation retreat (they don’t call it Insight Meditation for nothin’), was that I spend a lot of mental time comparing and judging.   It’s a strong tendency for me.  For others, they may spend their time reformulating the past, or strategizing their future.  But for me, my mind falls into a well-established groove of constantly checking on how I measure up with others, or how others aren’t measuring up to my standards.

I guess that’s really the difference between comparing and judging: when I compare, there are two distinct subjects – myself and others, with the myself part of that equation being quite strong and explicit.  Whereas in judging, the I is more implicit.  The I sits in judgment of others. I assume that my I is correct and is the supreme arbiter of all that is good and right in this world.   So, for example, at my retreat, since a big part of my identity is the idea that I’m sincere spiritual practitioner (I know, I know, I’m missing the point) I found myself comparing myself to my co-retreatants in terms of their ability to sit still, stay awake during the sitting and the level of knowledge displayed during the Q&A sessions.  And while this mind could have focused itself on those whose performance and knowledge were superior to mine, my ego prefered to focus on those people to whom I felt superior.   And then there were those with whom I couldn’t compete at all, in particular, the young, nubile yoga chicks in their stretchy tight pants and impossibly firm buttocks. My I (or my butt) was not even in the competition, yet I felt completely free to judge them as being shallow or there for the wrong reasons or having an eating disorder.  My mind was not kind to the yoga chicks.

Of course, at their core, both of these minds, the comparing and judging minds, come from the same place.  From a Buddhist perspective, one would say that source is the self-grasping mind that sees the I as quite real, and therefore develops all sorts of machinations to prop up and make this I feel good (self-cherishing).   But, from a less intellectual  and more gut level perspective, you can say these minds arise from insecurity, a fear or belief that I’m simply not enough.

But, it’s one thing to recognize this, it’s quite another to reduce the volume or silence this constant chatter in my head.  Lately, though, I’m trying to challenge those voices.  For me, the comparing mind can be quite insidious and keeps me locked in what is safe and known, because it wants to be in situations where it can feel superior.  So, I’ve started taking a writing workshop, Writing from Real Life – Personal Essay Workshop.  The very idea of sharing my work and taking criticism from real flesh and blood people who are in the same room as I am is absolutely terrifying. But, as my teacher, Alison Luterman said, when we get to a certain age, we have to start doing stuff that scares us.  So, in taking this class, I’ll be challenging my comparing mind.  Or at the very least, having some amusing conversations with it.  Perhaps even challenging it to a debate.  And hopefully, one day, having realized that I am indeed enough, telling it to shut the hell up.

Midterm report

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Yesterday was the midpoint for the National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo).  I’m still not sure what inspired me to jump into this bit of nonsense, though I think I’ll lay the blame on TMC, Ms Return to Rural, who I believe said she was going to jump in.  Then I openly mulled it, and Amurin and Jules double-dog-dared me, and well . . . you know what happens when I’m double-dog-dared.

Like many who partake in this madness, I didn’t really have a story, to be speak of, that desperately needed to be told.  Eventually though, a story started to emerge.  And then some characters started developing, and fortunately they brought along with them a plot.  And then they started talking.  Oh lord, did they start talking.  I mean, I’ve been trying to hurry them along, since I would like to get to the part of the story I’m most excited about.  But no . . . And then they brought friends along with them.  I mean, come on guys! I’m trying to tell a story here, and y’all just keep yammering on.

It’s been a challenging month, as I’ve already explained.  I would think these sort of insane challenges such as NaNo are best accomplished when there is a modicum of normality in your life.  But, between the agony (boo Prop 8!) and ecstasy (yay Obama!) of the election and my own professional limbo, it’s been hard finding any kind of regular pattern to my writing times.  Mornings are probably best, but I’ve opted to avoid the writing by laying in bed dreading to go to work.  Which of course is terribly effective.

But, I am happy to report that as of last night I had 22,000 words.  Sure, I’m not quite at the 25,000 mark where I should be, but I’m still within a shot of finishing my 50,000 words by the end of November.

It’s been an interesting experience.  I’ve learned I cannot write fiction within hearing shot of any human voices.  I thought it would be fun to go the write-ins or hang out in cafes and look all writerly and shit.  Turns out I pretty much need to total silence in order to pry anything creative out of my brain and put it on the page.  I’ve learned that I’m not terribly literary – at least at this point in the game.  My prose is pretty damn pedestrian.  I would sell my soul, no my house (oh wait I don’t own that) uh . . . how about one of the rabbits.  No, you gotta take ’em both since they are finally bonded. What was I talking about?  Oh, right.  Let’s just say I would gladly take any of Amurin’s discarded prose and call it mine.

Oh my, look at the time.  I need to get into the office.  I still don’t have a start date for the new job.  Apparently my boss wants to keep me until the end of the year, which is not OK with new boss.  And frankly, I need to tell both of those bosses I need some damn time off.  So, I think I have to get old daddy and new mommy on one conference call to discuss my custody.  Oy.

To write or not to write

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Greetings.  Welcome to my pity party.  You can put your coats and stuff in the bedroom, but please close the door otherwise a rabbit will come in and try to claim your stuff by pooping on it.  There is plenty of booze and other mind altering substances to ease the pain of having to read about my pain.  Make your self comfy.  Hope you’re not allergic to cats because, well, pretty much all the furniture is irretrievable embedded with cat fur.  Mini quiche, anyone?

Due to a series of minor setbacks in my so-called “career”, I’ve been feeling a bit funky.  No doubt the melt down of the economy,  the fact that Alaska (my cat, not the state) throws up every morning when he hears me wake up, and Sarah Palin also have something to do with this malaise.  Like all things, this mood is impermanent and will pass.  But, it could go either way – I could slide into clinical depression, or I could decide to pull my head out of my ass.  Maybe I’ll wait until after the election to decide.  In the meantime, I’m opting to live in Funkytown.

Musical interlude (I mean because every party, pity or not, needs some tunes)

Hmmm.  Maybe Funkytown is not the place for me.  It seems far too smokey, and with my asthma it’s probably not a good idea.

I recently found out that National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is next month.  After reading over the rules and such, I have this weird idea in my head that I want to do this.  It’s crazy, right?  I mean it’s nuts on a number of fronts.  Fifty thousand words (or approx 175 pages) in 30 days is, uh, rather ambitious.  I’d be setting myself up for failure, and that’s the last thing I need whilst living in Downerville (it’s less smokey than Funkytown and doesn’t require dancing).  The bigger question though is who in the hell am I to think I could write a novel, even a bad one?  I don’t know how to write a freakin’ novel.  Hell, like Sarah Palin, it’s worth celebrating if I can even string a comprehensible sentence together. Oh, and I have no ideas for a novel. Minor stumbling block.

On the plus side, however, I do love a challenging deadline.  Close to two years ago I completed my Vajrayogini retreat, which included the reciting of 110,000 long mantras.   Completing the retreat,  in about four weeks, particularly on my own in my own home, gave me this bizarre confidence that is completely at odds with my actual abilities.   I also like the fact that this would take place in November which, in the past, has been the period when I start sliding into my winter blues.  It could either be a lovely diversion, or else my dark mood would make me feel all writerly and shit.

So, I don’t know.  Do I risk my rather fragile self-confidence on a big misguided venture?  Or should I set my sites lower and just do National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) instead?  Thoughts?

Leaving so soon?  I was just getting ready to complain about all my minor aches and pains.  Hey!  Where are you going?  Oh well, more chips and guacamole for me.