Saturday, February 28, 2009

Trying to write...

I write to think. As I subject thoughts to the textual exercise, I'm able to hone down ideas and get to sharp crisp points and shiny bright edges. Until I start writing, I'll get caught in loops and trip over ideas and things stay in a big gloppy mess.

More and more, and perhaps somewhat disturbingly, I write to converse. Is talking to yourself any less ridiculous when you write it down? Actually, even though I might be the only person who ever reads much of what I write, I always assume a greater audience. This isn't just for things published on the internet, but even things I never publish or share. This doesn't necessarily mean it is any less pathological than talking to yourself; when I talk to myself, I also assume a wider audience than just me. I'm not talking about being overheard, but I assume that conversations in my head are between a multitude, not just the back and forth of one mind playing with itself.

But now I've turned down a dark road. Up til now, I've contented myself with writing simply about whatever catches my fancy. I start with something I'm excited about or confused about or pissed off by and then just tear through it. You begin with a framework and each addition builds off that. There is a set territory and you've got only so much space that you have to wriggle around in to make (or find) your point. For some reason I'm leaving this happy countryside and staring at blank pages daring me to write something. Why couldn't I leave well enough alone and leave fiction out of it? I suppose it had to happen sometime. But the blank page is a daunting devil to dance with. Even with a loose idea of what I want to write. I've got concepts and ideas and even a few characters laid out, but how to begin refuses to cooperate. That blank expanse screams and dares me to step in and being the cautious coward that I am, I'd back away quietly if I had a choice. But there is an idea, the seed of a story that seems to have lodged itself in me and it is too late to turn back. I couldn't back away from the blank page and leave well enough alone: it would follow me taunting and daring.

I can't promise that I'll get somewhere beautiful on the other side. What comes of it might not even make it as far as this blog, much less a printed page, but as in all things I don't step into it without grandiose plans. Wish me luck.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

ghost posting...

in an attempt to be two places at once and break my bad habit of glutting this blog with tons of reading and then going through silent droughts, I'm scheduling delayed posting while I out at sea this trip of things which I wrote during the last trip. Hope you enjoy...

More Nashville: the if-we-were-who-would-we-be edition

Most of what I've heard about this movie before is from Kearney, because he is from Nashville and has talked about loving it and growing up with people talking about it and knowing people who were extras in it. He recently told me of being confronted with his early perceptions being a little askew. When he had seen it before, he had associated most closely with Opal, the journalist from the BBC. It was his hometown and he saw the locals as he experienced it: lots of backwardassness and self important people full of shit. Not that different from how many of us judged our hometowns as teenagers back when we knew everything, but perhaps carrying more of his projection than how the movie itself presented the characters. He then saw Opal as this sophisticated outsider moving around through all these local morons. Sharing this with friends, having not seen the movie in years, someone finally pointed out to him that in the movie she is the small-minded idiot, more bitch buffoon than any of the locals. So he rewatched it, and realized that they were right, she was a horrible person. He has been telling people for years that he was this character and only now realizes that he's been self identifying with a jackass the whole time. I of course love shit like this.

This also encouraged me to play the if-we-were-who-would-we-be game. I was already running though my mind, "Well, if he isn't the journalist, then which character is he?" so it was a short leap to trying to peg other friends as other characters. Actually, I really just look forward to telling Kearney that he is the waitress that can't sing. Traditionally, this game was played with me, Mason, Liz, Lisa, and John back in college. We would then suck in anyone around us, and in the heyday usually drew in Dean, Michael, Preot, Vanessa, Brock, and anyone else close enough to tease. According to tradition, John and I were always assigned two polar opposite characters, usually friendly rivals. Which in this case would make me Barbara Jean and him Connie White. Actually, at this point everyone else objects and points out that I have it backwards because I like Barbara Jean more. Which is true. Of these two, I'd be Connie, because I'm always the hussier of the two options and I'd look good in that red dress and be more likely to sing on a stage in a hotel bar with a post in the center of the stage, and it is remarkably easy to imagine him in that white dress (looking at photos friends seem to have dredged up recently to post on Facebook, perhaps i could sport the white dress. Speaking of these terrible pictures, there is actually one of me in red which would complete the set, which thankfully has yet to surface) with ribbons in his hair and he would definitely sing on a stage made to look like the back of a river boat. And I'm the one who would have to ask who that was after being introduced to a famous actress. And he's more likely to be widely beloved and meaninglessly assassinated beneath a giant American flag in front of classical architecture.

All of this is wrong though. John would actually be the sassy Pearl, the older redheaded lady who gets all emotional talking about the Kennedy assassinations. She doesn't have a natural foil, and J. and I aren't really all that much of personal foils anymore, so I'm free to pick someone else. I still don't get to be Barbara Jean. We all know she goes to Mason: lovable sweetheart singer who has just recovered from an accident involving a flaming baton. Which unfortunately makes Kat her husband, who isn't the best character, but the comparison stands only because of the brightly colored bow tie which he wears untied around his neck the whole time. He's at least got flair. Actually, screw that. I can't give Kat a comb-over even if his bowtie is great. She gets to be the blonde chick who runs from her husband who drives the red pickup around. That chick has style (and can fix a truck).

Liz is the British journalist. Why? Not personality reasons, but I could totally see her wearing that hat and probably that dress too. And I can totally see her getting out of a painful conversation by saying, "Oooo, Elliot Gould!" and just getting up and walking away. This means that Stan is the son of the singer who shows her around everywhere.

L.A. Joan is Dean. Outfits, hair, facial expressions. No debate. He is always Shelly Duvall.

I'm always accused of picking people for me just because they are my favorites and trying to twist them into who I would be. This is true (but I am good at it). So of course I want to be Linnea, Lily Tomlin's character. Not exactly classically beautiful but strangely attractive and sporting an odd yet flattering haircut? Most likely to attend a black church and sing in a gospel choir? Ok, so actually Lisa is Linnea. Lisa would also be Lily Tomlin in 9 to 5 (Michael is Jane Fonda, I get to be Dolly Parton. Don't argue with me on this one; not up for debate. John is the boss's nosy assistant who they send to France.).

I was going to do a whole thing with me as Linnea and Ben as Tom (Keith Carradine's character), which was going to cause trouble since they are doomed lovers, but, in my defense, the two with the most chemistry in the film, and Ben is a tall hot blonde dude that always has people throwing themselves at him. But Lisa is Linnea, so I don't know who Tom is. Once upon a time he was Brock (not to Lisa's Linnea, just in general. I mean this as a compliment, not a criticism), but now Brock is the guy running around arranging the big concert for the politician (also a compliment, not a criticism). Or it could be Michael: everyone wants him but no one ever gets as much of him as they want. But it isn't Michael. He is Jeff Goldblum's character, in funky glasses riding around on a giant tricycle, although I'm tempted to make him Linnea's deaf daughter just to give him that mullet.

Well, if Ben and I aren't Linnea and Tom, then I suppose we are Sheila and Patty, The Smokey Mountain Laurels who sing "Oh These Troubled Times". I'm the short bossy one who asks for beers as soon as we finish singing.


I just watched Robert Altman's Nashville. Ok, so everyone else on the planet has seen this movie already, but I have a special knack for not having seen all the things that everyone else has seen. I'm slowly catching up on my quota of pop cultural touchstone movies in my time in floating prisons.

Prior to this, the only Altman movie that I know I've seen (I'm sure somewhere along the way I've seen some others but just don't remember or recognize as his; I'm that kind of opposite of a movie buff) was Prairie Home Companion. I've heard a few people pan that movie; they are morons. Perhaps I could be kinder and say perhaps they didn't get it because they weren't familiar with the radio show the movie was based on. Some of the characters like Guy Noir only really make sense if you know the show, but even if elements of it play better to a familiar audience, the over-all feel of the movie was heart breaking (in a good way). I totally cried when the old fellow died. That movie along with Mean Girls totally forgives anything stupid Lindsay Lohan does for a long time coming. Her interactions with Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin were spot on.

I like Lily Tomlin in anything. How could you not? Out of a cast of 24 characters followed throughout the film, you'd think she could get lost in there somehow, but during the scene where she goes to the club to see Keith Carradine the entire movie becomes about her. She doesn't say a word, but when he sang and she looks on everyone else is knocked out of the picture. He's the hot (and how!) rock star womanizer, singing out to a crowd including at least three other women he's been sleeping with who all to some degree think his song is about them, and I'm sure it was intentionally meant to be ambiguous and in that way not to any of them any more than all of them and every other girl he's chased but watching her, it isn't just about any girl. If it wasn't meant to be before he started singing it, it becomes Lily's character's song in that moment. It becomes their movie, a love story.

And then she breaks his heart. Which we (they) knew would happen. He might have thought it would be the other way around, as he used up and pushed away all the other girls throwing themselves at him (except Shelly Duvall's character, L.A. Joan, who was rude as hell but absolutely unflappable), but he's finally found a woman he can love: one who can't be with him and won't and leaves before he can want her to.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

love is strange.

(This was written on a boat quite some time ago, I believe right before coming back to New York last summer, so it isn't exactly indicative of my current mind set -I am much less melancholy- but I like the ending. I don't think I've posted it before -couldn't find it in a quick search- and thought it might be an appropriate Valentine's Day post. Happy Valentine's Day everyone!)

if any sentence has ever been true, that one is. i'm learning to relax into that truth as i grow older, but it just gets stranger and stranger still. i don't know what i'm doing, and i'm almost ok with that. god knows i've been pretending like i was ok with that all this time but its just a monstrous front. i have NO idea what the fuck i'm doing. there is no future no past; it is all happening right now. i think i've settled this and that and then these ghosts come flying in from all corners. they don't give me any peace and never will. perhaps i like it that way; if i don't i better learn to because i know it won't change.

i don't even know how to conceptualize/imagine it any other way. i can't even get my mind through a short little story that pulls me out of this weird loop. i find myself calling out to old ghosts even as i'm reaching out to hold what is right in front of me right now. why can't it be enough? why do i have to know what i'll miss in it? why must these hobgoblins torture me? how do i survive this?

oh cut the crap, this is the only way i can live. smack in the middle of a swirling complicated world with all the uncertainty and absolute certainties colliding and acting a fool. i have to occasionally sit myself down and remind myself that i am a devil and my part in all this is rapturous laughter and conspiratorial giggles. I'll not let this absurd existence get the better of me. I've said my prayers ("Wow!" and "Thank you."), so enough with time on my knees. I'll stomp out and hold the beautiful as close as I can and dare it to hurt me deep; I can smile deeper. the joy is ecstatic, only the more so because of the pain. a thousand curses upon my name if I lay down and give up, if I break and beg for a stay of the trauma and tragedy, if I trade the joy for the cozy complacency, for a membership in the bleating mass. I've said what prayers I'm allowed already ("Wow!" and "Thank you."), but if I can offer up another... never mind. no new prayers; only new horizons. one day after another, one hallelujah and then another.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Only boring people get bored.

I keep telling this to myself. It is one of those horrible aphorism thrown about by busybody aunts who chide any complaint and encourage guilt, but I might be one of those people kind of people deep down. I don't particularly encourage guilt; I'm more in the camp of perpetual re-analysis for results and reshaping future actions accordingly, but none of the handwringing over episodes that one would rather not repeat. If you repeat them and hate the results again, you should feel stupid, not guilty (sometimes I am stupid, but I try my best not to be). Anyway, I am more prone to chiding complaints than coddling them. Particularly when I am the one complaining.

I am currently bored, and it is stupid. Actually, boredom isn't the right word. Maybe I am more restless. Because I spend so little time on land when I am working, I feel like time on land is valuable and I shouldn't waste the goodness. I like working up here on boats specifically because it gives me time to crawl into my own head and cut myself off from the world and read. And I have my stupidly heavy suitcase full of books that I look forward to reading, so I could just pull one out and get started. But I can do that at sea and I am on land, so I can't sit reading a book without the potential of terra firma nagging me that I should be doing something that I won't be able to do when we finally set sail.

I've been wandering about and enjoying the beauty of the area and rambling around town and enjoying time spent with friends here, but I already do so much alone and on my own time that I kind of don't feel like wandering around by myself at the moment with no partner in crime. I've got a couple of friends in town who are awesome co-troublemakers at night, but who have real jobs and so I've got an expanding series of days with no one to ramble with.

I might get up tomorrow and try to find somewhere to build a snow man or something else fun that you can do in the snow, but even though I'm staying plenty warm and like the white fluffy landscape, I'm really more of a tropical soul. I want to go hiking and swimming and even just lay on a beach or in the grass. I know, wah wah wah. Just feeling a little disjointed and I'll quit my complaining. Don't worry, my moments of self pity are short lived (self pity is something that is mercilessly brutalized and destroyed by the other inhabitants in my head) and I'll get back to normal.

Monday, February 02, 2009

so much I will miss in New York...

...but the best thing about being trapped on a boat is all the books I get to read when there is no phone that can ring, no email that can be checked, no happy hour calling my name.

And I promise to write more this go round.