Thursday, August 30, 2012

Writing Down Boredom

There is often some resident quality to the weather in and about the city where you live to make it an easy topic of conversation.  Unlike some conversations about weather in places other than where you live, these conversations tend to be lively—even combative.

All of which is prologue to the fact of conversations about weather here not being essentially boring as such conversations could be elsewhere.  This factor is prologue as well.  There is one more leg to the argument, one more step in the incipient syllogism.  The fact that most conversations about weather here are not boring does not preclude boring conversations.  There are, in fact, boring things to say about where you live.  There are boring things to say anywhere and you must be on guard not to say them.

This resolve is part of your plan for time spent within your inner life.  There is also a plan for your outer life, where you are vigilant about allowing any state of mind to flourish in which you say, think, or do things that ay bore another person.  And this stance is predicated on your belief that in order to implement it, you must start with yourself.  You must take pains not to allow yourself to be bored.  Boredom starts from within.  If you are interested in what you are doing, your logic runs, boredom has no chance to establish the merest foothold.

You try to carry sufficient note pads and writing implements with you even on routine trips to grocery stores or gasoline stations.  You are so involved with this and energized by the notion that you recall pants pockets of your youth, in which you carried about the occasional marble, a penknife for sharpening the stubs of Dixon Ticonderoga pencil stubs, the better to make notes on folded sheets of paper, stapled between covers made from cutting the cardboards from your father’s shirts into quarters.

Ideas were not easily come by in those days.  As a result of reading about writers you admired who did carry notebooks and did write things in them, you were often frustrated to the point where you’d write down the license plate numbers of cars you saw parked along Cochran and Dunsmuir Streets.  Your note might read, Saw car 6C7158 parked near Sixth and Cochran.  When this became boring, you’d walk to Wilshire and Cochran or Cloverdale, noting cars without-of-state license plates, thinking there was some greater intrigue in that process.

There were enough out-of-state cars to add some note of concern, but this, too, became ultimately boring.  You longed for things to note, to write about, to observe in some critical or consequential way.  For a long time, you were at an impasse, remaining existentially stuck until Betty Ann Bolger, a neighborhood chum you did not realize you had a crush on, demanded to see one of your notebooks.  You had nothing but some reports of cars parked in the neighborhood.  You reckoned these would demonstrate to Betty Ann how shallow you were.  There were no sudden epiphanies, but you did resolve to write about greater intrigues, thinking these would impress Betty Ann.  Thus, of a gradual wave of inventiveness, neighbors began to look suspicious.  Mr. and Mrs. Knapp began to look like spies; their Wire-hair Terrier, Ginger, a blind for passing information, and Myrna Frank, a willowy girl about two years your senior who had a habit of pushing you into corners and kissing you to see you blush, became a secret keeper of feral cats in the neighborhood empty lot.

Betty Ann was some time in asking to see your more adventurous notebook.  When she did ask, then scan intently, her response was fateful.  The notebooks with the license plate numbers, she said, were infinitely more interesting.  She almost tossed the offending notebook at you.

In that moment, more humiliating than Myrna’s kisses and your blushing, you learned a great lesson which you were not able to articulate for a few more years.  The lesson was that no matter what information notebooks contained, they could be an embarrassment if they fell into the wrong hands. The embarrassment could as easily come from the boring nature of the notes as the material itself.  Even then, you reckoned it was better to be embarrassed by the nature of the contents than by the boredom they generated.

You were desperate to grow up, which meant more than anything that you would have something to write in your notebooks.

From these observations and subsequent ones dealing with teaching young persons, you’ve finally come to see how important it was to get in there and start furnishing your inner spaces so that you could move on beyond neighborhood license plates and the imagined suspicious activities of neighbors to an awareness of the things that to this day keep you from boredom.      

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