Writing Practice – 5/11/2018

Telling Stories, edited by Joyce Carol Oates, p 693

Around that time – because of numerous dislocations in the Valley, the abrupt abandoning of homes, for instance – it happened that packs of dogs began to roam around looking for food, particularly by night.

They moved and merged like flocks of sparrows on the wing, turning as if one, ducking down into an alley or crossing a street or huddling under a bridge, in a kind of near-union that the observers, themselves holed up in the remaining places, could never quite fully grasp. Were there ten dogs? Or a hundred? Did they travel mostly at night? Well, some did. Did they hunt or scavenge? Yes, both, and neither. Did they have a leader? A central hub or den? Did they ever pair off and mate, or was this the moment simply for survival, and procreation would be saved for more generous, fatter times?

They watched from their squatting places, huddled upon the third or fifth or eighth floors of the abandoned apartments, doors at the ground level tightly closed and double-locked against the potential for canine invasion.

They waited and watched, and they ate their scavenged foods, and they smoked their improvised cigarettes, and, unlike (or, perhaps, exactly like) the dogs, they fucked, but it was a half-hearted endeavor, one which was more for something to do than to create any new life, for, (and in that way they were exactly like the dogs) they saw in themselves nothing of worth and value to pass onto the next generation, save a fighting, surviving spirit.

Such a spirit would come in useful during lean times. Such a spirit actually was coming in useful during this lean time. And, as nobody really knew much about the outside world anymore, what with radio, television, internet communications cut off and overland travel still too dangerous, nobody bringing news of the lands beyond the city gates had arrived in more than a year. So their isolation grew.

Like a population of animals, separated by a physical boundary, like a river or a mountain, they, too, began to adapt to their unique environment and carve out specializations, niches which gave them slightly better chances of survival.

Nico, he got the cigarettes. Nobody else seemed to be able to find them, but he always had a pack on him. When asked, he would shrug his shoulders, as if they appeared by magic in his pack, but everyone else knew he was just better at that sort of thing.

Kyle excelled at scavenging food. From only partly moldy bread to relatively okay preserved meats and cheeses, they didn’t starve, and time enough had passed that they no longer complained about the steady diet, even if all of them remembered things like chocolate cake, beer, and a napkin.

Tobi and Karen provided the sex. Each one either took or gave as necessary, and it really wasn’t that bad, if your eyes were closed and you pretended it was your girlfriend from before.

And Zenney, she provided the hope. Preached it daily. Stood out on the stoop, eyes wide, arms stretched to the sun, and sang, songs of regeneration, renewal, paradise, whatever she could think to keep the despair at bay for one more sunset.

There were others, too. There were always others. But these were the most special, because they survived the longest, to tell their stories. The rest lived, and died, and were remembered, then forgotten. And that was how it should be.

What Should I Write About?

So, usually my writing practice topics are just made up on the spot. Occasionally I’ll do a series – See “Love Is…” (1) through (10).

Sometimes I’ll take a line from another piece of work and go with that. This is a good example: [from “In The Zoo” by Jean Stanford]

Other times I’ll just start with “I feel…” or “I smell…” and write about what’s immediately around me.

And then there are the lists of writing topics. Usually pretty soon after I start a new notebook I’ll have a day where my writing practice is just “write a list of writing topics”, and when I don’t have something in mind I can come to this page, close my eyes, point a finger somewhere, and see what happens. When I’m writing those lists, they might look like this: (these are all from 3/11/2018)

  • Write about a tree.
  • Write about family trees.
  • Write about family obligations.
  • Write about family reunions.
  • Write about class reunions.
  • Write about low-class reunions.
  • Write about high-class reunions.
  • Write about “putting on airs.”
  • Write about “putting on heirs.”
  • Write about “putting on hairs.”
  • Write about artificiality.
  • Write about superficiality.
  • Write about boob jobs.
  • Why haven’t penis enlargement surgeries received the same kind of market saturation as boob jobs?
  • How far would you go to achieve your happiness?
  • How much of yourself are you willing to change for someone you love?
  • etcetera etcetera …

Obviously I’m not going to write about all of these topics. I probably won’t write about more than 4 or 5 before this notebook is filled and I move to the next one. But the process helps me think of connections, helps to identify associations that might not have been readily present for most people.

So … I want to ask you, readers … What do you think I should write about? Leave a comment, and I’ll use those as prompts in the next couple of weeks. What greatness might we cultivate together?

Writing Practice – 3/14/2018 – Describe revelry

Describe revelry…

It is laughter and dancing. It is shouting with excitement. It is hand-clapping, and hand-slapping, and hand-waving, and hand-wringing. It is dancing in the streets, arms and shoulders and knees and ankles keeping a disjointed, “I-don’t-care-because-there-are-more-important-elements-to-enjoy-than-rhythm” unfocused pattern.

It is eyes sparkling with joy. It is kisses on cheeks, kisses on lips, kisses blown to the crowd, kisses caught by the crowd and returned, a hundredfold, a thousand times, an simplification far greater than any microphone and speaker set the finest money could buy.

It is a celebration with a complete stranger, hugs and camaraderie together at once, a moment, a moment which stretches for minutes, an hour, a moment which becomes an era, a moment that transforms the timeline into “Before” and “After”.

It is a transition, it is a celebration, it is a new way of seeing the world, through not only my own eyes but the compounding effect of a myriad like-minded persons, pooling our experiences together in this one instance to become something more than ourselves, something greater than ourselves, something richer and fuller than the aggregation of individualities.

It is a transsubstantiation, a making of something old out of something new. The old, being togetherness. And the new, the individuals coming together in the experiencing.

It is an overwhelm. It is a superposition. It is a phase change, a sublimation from one state to another. It is a world of difference, encompassed in the minimality of space; it is a universe of symbiosis metamorphosing into one. From the many, to the unity. Unity of purpose. Unity of experience. Unity of vision. Unity of life.

Extremely Bad Advice – Sloppy Neighbors

Dear SJ: My neighbor has been inviting us over for dinner for months. We went once and were quite disgusted. The place was a mess. Pizza boxes on the floor, dirty clothes all over, old newspapers and mail covering all the counters, and the cat’s litter box is right in the middle of the room with little pieces scattered in front. We had to move decades-old piles of food trash to sit at the dinner table, and even then I could barely see my wife on the other side. I can’t imagine that these people raised two children in a house like this. I am not interested in going again. So far we’ve been able to have convenient “plans” every Friday with my wife’s teaching schedule. However, the semester has come to an end so they know we’re no longer busy on Friday nights. How can we politely decline this invitation?

Yours, CONFLICTED IN CHICAGO

All right, here’s the deal, Conflicted. It’s clear from the situation inside the house that these people don’t give a shit about themselves or you. If they’ve let the place go half as much as I imagine it’s probably just a month away from being featured on a Hoarders: Special Edition episode. In situations like this, remember: It’s not about the stuff. It’s about the imbeciles behind the piles.

This couple is so dense they can’t see the feces right in front of their faces. [Hahaha! Made myself laugh with that one.] Instead of building a better future for the next generation, people like this and their progeny are lowering the average IQ of their community, the state, and, unfortunately for the rest of us, the nation. This couple puts paid the adage “Some people shouldn’t breed.” And the sad part is they’ve most likely trained their children to do the same. Thus, since you and I have a vested interest in making this world better, the solution is obvious.

You need to take a Molotov cocktail to their place when they’re sleeping one Saturday night. Now, I say Saturday, because, just like anal sex, I’m going to ask you to take one for the team soon. It’s not great in the moment, but you know the outcome is going to be totally worth it.

The next Friday they invite you over, you need to accept their invitation. Go, have that dinner of expired kibble with the side of dried-up roach wings. Wipe your mouth with the cum-stained sweat socks they offer you as napkins. Excuse yourself for a minute after dinner, and that’s when you and your wife have the most critical task: find and disable all their smoke detectors. It’s not enough just to remove the batteries – you’ve got to get in there and cut the wires. And you’ve got to be good – we don’t want any unfortunate misses on this one.

Then, on Saturday, make sure to call those kids and remind them how much mommy and daddy miss them, want to see them, and really, really, really need them to come home for the night. If you can do that, we’ll all owe you a debt of gratitude. And don’t worry – your conscience will be clear as a forest stream for all the good work you’ve done. Good luck, and happy snipping!

Describe An Eclipse – writing practice

Writing practice from 8/21/2017

Describe An Eclipse…

It begins with a slight darkening. Once you realize that it is not as bright out beside you, you take off your specially-ordered, ISO-whatever-approved, custom-printed glasses and look around. You see shapes becoming crisper. The bushes are not as brilliant on their own. There is a bit of a hush to the crowd. They have also noticed the slight darkening. For all of you, when you look to the heavens, there is almost a spiritual connection. All of you, together in this place, are experiencing this. You have gathered here to sanctify this ground, to bless it with your presence as you see, as you show, as you become one with this unifying force. There is nothing else for you today – no work, no labor, no stress, no headache. You are ready for the connection. You wait for the moon to blacken out the sun; to destroy the God of the sky. To eat away your reason for being, to consume what birthed you and your people. You do not know what is happening; yet, you believed the stories your elders have told you, and you now know they were not simply fairy tales. The tension grows. It builds and builds, a crescendo of hope, fear mixed together. There is a desire – a justified trepidation – that runs through the crowd.

You watch as the moon covers, more and more, of the golden disk. At first it looked like a mouse had nibbled a bite off a cheese wheel. Then as if a dinner party had helped themselves. Then as if a wedding got out of control, and all the guests had attacked the golden disk – tearing out hunks with their hands, leaving only a brilliant crescent balanced against a pure-black sky. The crescent shrinks, narrowing, darkening, until just a small band remains.

And then, that too, is gone. And you remove your glasses to stare up at a hole in the sky- to see an absence, where you used to see presence. To see a void, a tunnel through the vastness of space to the edge of the universe. The brilliant white of the shell, corona, halo, wispy against the still-blue sky, frames it as a terrible, awesome, incredible backdrop, upon which some angels and demons have painted their greatest fears. The backdrop remains, still, unmoving, as you know and fear the end of this spectacle. The countdown resumes, and then the brilliance returns, the sun in its power and authority once more reclaiming its rightful place in the sky.

You wait – we wait – for a few moments, as the cheers of “Hooray!” And “We survived” ring out across the land. We wait a few moments, and watch, with our glasses returned to protect us again, the sliver, the slice, the line, the crescent, grows back again. But the tension has dissolved. Now it is just a curiosity. A past-time. A wonder that was, and has had all of its mystery dissipated. People have left. They continue to leave. And there is no more wonder, no more confusion. No more worry; no more fear. No more anticipation, either. Yet for all that is not, think of all there is. Restoration. – Peace – Joy. – Hope. Renewal. Adventure. Progress.

We see these, we experience, we love them all. And we go forth and live.