Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Line Forms over Here

There were few times in your life when you did not at some point have to experience standing in line for something.  Standing in line is related to but a realm apart from having to wait in an office or airport. Working your way through the back alleys and side streets of your memory, it is probable among your first ventures with standing in line was the excruciating wait at the four-spigot water dispenser in grammar school.  Such waits were agony because of the urgent need, having spent your generous allowance of energy on recess play.

Later waits were those long lines for purchase of tickets to the musical and dramatic events you had to see.  In some ways reminiscent of the wait at the water dispenser, such events, be they symphony, ballet, or musical drama, and in one notable case because you believed you were tragically in love with Diane, who wished to become an opera singer, musical drama did not mean Gershwin or Rogers and Hart, it meant opera.  As such things go, you saw the virtue of becoming an usher at the Hollywood Bowl, the Greek Theater, and the Shrine Auditorium, all busy venues of the day, your day, in Los Angeles.  There were even a few usher ventures at the even more rarefied Wilshire-Ebell Theater, where you were drawn to hear string quartets and one-person piano recitals, performed by men and women of notable talent.

Some of your early writing ventures were wound about the armature of waiting in line for tickets to a particular performance.  They were all more or less the same, with you supplying fictionalized versions of interactions with others in line, ahead of or behind you.  In effect they were written versions of street photography, abetted by your own rampant senses of mischief, adventure, curiosity.  Watching the first several minutes of a recently discovered documentary on the incredible street photographer, Joel Meyerowitz, rekindles those long waits at ticket boxes in various parts of the city, you among a diverse demographic, causing you to realize what a lively and up-beat entity a line of people could be.

You were on the cusp of the computerized movement away from having to stand in lines to register for classes at the university, but even so, on those occasions you did need to stand, and wait, you felt an adventurous shimmer of anticipation, much like a group of individuals gathering to become a dragon in a Chinese New Year's celebration.  You find yourself wishing you'd thought to save some of the materials from this time in your writing life.  As those things go, it strikes you that you could revisit such events and circumstances, to which you'd now see fit to add your understandings of story that were notable for not being present, even in your memory.  From what you've watched to date of the Meyerowitz documentary, which you believe was made in the early 1980s, you picked up a great sense of his enthusiasm for what he was doing, taking pictures of people on busy streets, talking about it to a friend, enjoying himself.  You, standing in line, Leica-less, were in your own way enthusiastic about the writer you were hoping to become and, now that you think about it, the writer you have become.

Sometimes these days, when you sit before the enormous twenty-three-inch-diagonal screen given you by Brian Fagan, attached to your modest MacBook, you find yourself standing in another kind of line, where, before you get to the ticket office, you are surrounded by non-writing projects such as class notes, editorial chores, necessary letters to read or write, and a tray of email correspondence, including bill payment.  Sometimes, up ahead of you, are blank spaces, a myriad of non-writer, existential thoughts wanting your attention.  Sometimes, there is even nothing.  At such times, you pause, fingers hovering over your wireless keyboard, grateful when the screen flashes the warning that the keyboard is perilously low on battery and if you don't wish to risk losing the work in progress, you will install new batteries right fucking now.  Even though you have nothing on the screen much less anything in mind, you welcome the distraction.  Surely there will be some connection between removing spent batteries, installing new ones, typing a few tentative keystrokes, there will appear something.

Such moments were always there, you realize that, even in the days of the strange and wonderful typewriters your father brought home for you from bankrupt business he was preparing for auction.  You were not nearly so close to discipline then as you are now, and so you had no awareness of being in line, waiting for those entities ahead of you to reach the box office.  You'd get up and leave, or perhaps read, or perhaps telephone a friend, all of which meant in the long run that there was time you needed to spend in line in order for your own ideas and feelings about story to reach the box office.

One of your long--for they often ran to thirty or forty pages of double-spaced text--vignettes ended with a character not at all unlike you presenting himself to the clerk at the ticket office, and reciting a date.  "Two tickets to 'Lost in the Stars,' please.  Center.  Close to the stage as possible."

Now, it is a different matter.  When you reach the ticket office now, you are no less agreeable than your character, in quest of a perfect experience and the perfect date with whom to share it.  "One short story, please,"  you say.  "And all that goes with it.  Close to the stage as possible."

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