Tuesday, March 12, 2013

You've Come a Long Way

In one form or another, you've been keeping some form of written track of yourself since your early 20s.  The record grew much as you did, without a formal program, sometimes suggestive of what you sought to become, other times an indirect indication of what you had become.

The early records were little more than lists, people seen, movies watched, books read, and of course, years and domains of wines drunk, musicians heard in live performance.  You were in effect making pencil marks of a sort on a doorframes of a sort, seeking something even then beyond cultural status, but not being too familiar with words beyond cultured.  As you'd in younger years longed to attain a height of six feet, you saw the new bar of being cultured, whatever that meant, as the new plateau.

In one way or another, you began buying notebooks that allowed more room for observations, which you were only too happy to supply, thus your record became a history of opinion, some of it quite self-conscious about what a young person in his twenties should sound like.

After another passage of time, perhaps into your 30s, you began to tire of all those pronouns "I."  They seemed to cry out to you as warnings that you wished to be recognized, an awareness that led you to consider how you wished another perspective, the perspective of you as you observed yourself in action.  In short order, your notes and entries began to regard you as a "he," rather than an "i," and while you--more about that in a few moments--liked the effect, you still were not pleased with the final result.

A number of these journals have survived.  You can move to the shelf where they are piled, pick one up at random, then see what and who you were on this day in 1999. " JJ wants to meet for coffee at The Cove, just above the Summerland Post Office.  He arrives, gets his latte, then waits while she tells him in so many words that she doesn't understand the dynamics involved but wishes to resume being lovers.

Later in the day, driving along Milpas Street, he sees in front of a restaurant a man wearing a large, whimsical chicken costume, replete with wattles and bright yellow legs, the helmet-like head of the costume pushed back far enough to allow him to place a cell phone next to his ear.  The man is involved in a conversation with someone and appears ti be earnest in his pleadings with the speaker at the other end of the connection.  All of which leads this reader to speculate about a story in which a man takes a job in public relations, which turns out to mean he has to wear this suit.  Doing so, he is seen by someone he knows, who has called him and asked him, WTF."

In a sense, this is a core sampling of what you were, fourteen years ago.  Then, the late, lamented John Sanford suggested you could get even more distance by writing about yourself as you.  After a few days of it, you've never gone back.  You were getting close, writing about yourself in the third person, but this seems to allow a greater sense of presence and honesty.  You browse through some of these you blog essays with a critical eye, realizing any photograph of you will be a picture of a day in the past, one bound to have you thoughtful and not entirely at comfort.  For the moment, the you seems willing to cooperate and does so by supplying you with connections you'd not seemed to have realized before.  Matter of fact, looking through your earlier written history, you find yourself most concerned by things you may not have seen, connections you may not have made at the time.

Now, you're on a roll.

Some weeks ago, students in your memoir class pressed you to read one of these essays.  You've been pleased to notice how, in the past few weeks, a number of them have begun to shift from I to he or she and in a few cases, to you.

Perhaps you can, after all, win in some connective tissue way.

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