Thursday, November 28, 2019

The One-Trick Pony 1

Quite early in your writing career, when you were hopelessly in love with a girl named Riva, and not convinced your love of writing had much future, your awareness of your lack of ability at plotting brought you considerable angst.

The method by which you hoped to earn a living--writing short stories--did not lend itself to your dreams of future, appeared, in fact, to be as beyond reach as Riva, who would at least greet you when you passed in the halls at UCLA, or even sat next to you when you had the same class.

Most of your then versions of story were about events. One of these narratives, which you wish you had now, took place in twenty or so pages that i

Friday, November 8, 2019

Landscapes, Personal Scrapes, and Alien Nations

At one time during your early years, you were known as "California" or "The Kid from California," in full ironic awareness that you were not in California when known as such. When you were in California, where you were born, you were known as "Shorty" or "Four-Eyes," reflective of your appearance.

When you were in California and not, you were also known by a moniker related to internal attitudes that radiated outward. "Wise Guy," comes to mind, also "Mr. Big Ideas." At the risk of sounding self protecting here, you did not consider yourself all that smart (that would come later), all that well-read (that, also to come) or with any connection to ideas of notable attention. You inhabited a state of awareness you now associate with single-mindedness or in-the-moment; you took events as they came. In recollection, this state had the subtext of impatience. You were waiting for new moments to arrive, hopeful they would bring such glorious adventures of the sort you sometimes daydreamed about: trips to remote, dangerous places; vital discovery; excruciating challenges.  

You understood "Shorty." In a stretch, you could manage five four or five five. You knew "Four-Eyes" all to well because you wore glasses, which often caused soreness behind your ears and the sides of your nose because of the necessary weight to accommodate the thickness of lenses required to bring your vision to twenty twenty.

At least three occasions still resonate in your memory of peer associates with whom you sometimes exchanged plans, dreams, penny candy, and books. In each case, you were of each of them being taken to that level of parental exasperation beyond lecture and into spanking. These peers were spanked, told their interests were better served away from "Wise Guy" or "Mr. Big Ideas."  You bore these moments of awareness silently, as indeed your former colleagues bore their spanking. You questioned potential smoking gun incidents, times where you with deliberation incited some form of rebellion or anarchy beyond a parent or teacher's threshold of tolerance.

Nada. Zip. Not so much as a hung jury. Not even when you heard a teacher admonishing a potential friend of yours to remember he was a kid from New Jersey and, thus--emphasis on the thus--not like that "Kid from California."

In time and place, you've been "Back East," "Down South," "Up North," and, of course "Out West." In your all-too-brief role as senior editor for the Los Angeles office of a large Eastern publishing venture, you were once again "The Kid from California," sometime host to those who were from "Back East," and, thus, self-anointed owners of received wisdom and culture.  Indeed, at one point when you were "Up North," without any conscious effort to reflect "Mr. Big Ideas," you reflected enough to cause your peremptory move from your targeted school ranking to an advance of an entire school year. In its way, this promotion brought you troubles in your next venture, "Down South," and your ultimate return "Out West," where you were positioned amid a group of peers ahead of the peer group you'd left. You were not only an alien, once again--"Boys may well wear short pants to school in Florida, but boys do not wear short pants to school in California,"--you were a stranger in a strange land.

The more you reflect on the things you've written, read, edited, and taught, the more you see the absolute notion of personal progress, growth, and comfort zones reflected in characters who saw themselves caught in the swarm of passing traffic while trying to make their way against the surging tide. This became apparent to you one day when you attempted to enter 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. The legendary Flatiron Building. Home at the time of at least two publishers of direct interest to you. Not an easy task, entering a building on Fifth Avenue when a tide of humanity followed the waxing tide swell in the opposite direction.

The more you reflect on the notion of your eight-year-old self being known as "The Kid from California," the more you appreciate the kismet-like focus of dramatic narrative, the awareness of why story matters so much. Without story, life is chaos, random, purposeful only in the most limited way possible.  Some twenty or so years after your moniker of "The Kid from California," one of the closest and dearest associations in your life was with an individual five or six years your senior, well known in one of the many facts of his life as "El Nino de California." Indeed, like you, he began his life in California, ended it there as well. When the time for such rituals of closure come your way, you can think of no better ending for yourself.