Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The G

When you go through motions of comparing the person you wanted to be with the person you’ve become, you begin to get a glimpse of how remarkable the process of creating a story is.

Forgetting all about some of your preteen flights of career imagination such as being an aeronautical design engineer, a restaurateur, an importer of merchandise from Latin America, and a professional gambler, then focusing on becoming a writer for the pulp magazines, you are more often than not amazed at how it is you ever became any of the things you have or, for that matter have not become.

Stories tend to work out in much the same way.  You begin with a wrinkle in the cosmic rug, try to smooth it down, watch with some amusement as the wrinkle spreads or appears elsewhere, then with some aggression, seems to show deliberation in thwarting your efforts.

You cannot think of a thing you’ve written that has come to completion without having undergone some dramatic transformation, leading you to the uneasy analogy that what you were experiencing when you thought you were maturing was more than mere resting in oak barrels that once contained sherry or bourbon or some fermenting beverage.  If your stories reflect heavy rewriting and revision, your life experiences also reflect unanticipated activity in many categories.

There were times when your visions of the techniques you wished to acquire and the work areas where you hoped to put them to use seemed as remote as possible, leaving you feeling at sea in an existential sea of your own making.  Nor did it help that at the time you spent hours at the farthest reaches of Malibu beaches, where you did not expect to find stories.

You set off on a distraction of following the carnival life for three or four years, thinking this would fill you to the brim with material related to the real, the apparent, and levels of human curiosity.  You got one novel and, if your recollection is accurate, two short stories plus two losses of your heart to women who were in one way or another unavailable.

You thought yourself on to something when a side show performer took you into her dressing room tent in order to show you a sorority pin she claimed was authentic.  Perhaps it was, but her role in the carnival was Bimbo, the Snake Girl.  By the time you met her, everything seemed an illusion.  In one way or another, you’d learned The G or gimmick to all the
amusement concessions, leading you for a time to think all activity, in or out of the carnival, had a G.

Then you moved to the sketchier outer reaches of the world of television, where the carnival seemed less illusory.

Sometimes working on a story reminds you of being between those worlds, where you pack up your words, then move to a new landscape, aware your visions are on hold until there is some surprise explosive force.

One woman who had three booths and an Airstream trailer you admired warned you not to get one because if you did, you’d be so comfortable that you’d never leave the carnival.  Of an evening before a new county fair venue would open, she’d pour you Campari and soda then extend her arm to cover the carnival lot.  She told you we carneys were here because we were uncomfortable and the people who came to us came because they were uncomfortable.  She told you that you didn’t belong with either group, the carneys or the civilians, whom most carneys call marks.  If there were a refill of the Campari, she’d also tell you you didn’t belong with the comfortable people, either, not if you were what you said you were. 

She was right, and you owe her for wanting you not to stay with the carnival, but to remain somewhere among the comfortable and uncomfortable, taking notes.

You do the equivalent of that when the paragraphs do not seem to link together as they did when you first began setting them down in order to see if you could decipher their meaning.

When you were a kid, you were big on maps, no doubt because of your reading of treasure maps.  Gas stations gave maps away with such abandon that even you, as a kid, could ask for and be given them.

Your mother was indulgent up to a point, but when your collection of maps grew, she offered to buy you an atlas.

It all seemed random until you were nearly thirty.  Then it began to make sense.  Stories were starting to make sense.  Maps were beginning to make sense.  Even though they were of the same landscape, they represented different ways.  All you had to do was figure them out.

If you’d had only one vision of you, it would have taken even longer to get here.

Now that you’re here, you need to look for the G every time you find yourself feeling comfortable.

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