Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
An inside look into a modern writing process.
Seeing as how busy I’ve been and how little free-time I have to work on my various works-in-progress-as soon as I received my cousin Kate’s out-of-town wedding invitation, I knew I’d have to fabricate an airtight line of bullshit to fed the whole family as to why my absence was unfortunate but inescapable. So I decided to experiment with some new material; that I had signed on as an understudy for the 2nd chair percussionist at Chicago’s Historic Civic Opera House and, regrettably, had gotten called in as an emergency backup for 3 performances of the Studs Terkel classic, “Working”. And am of course, legally obligated, given my contract, to fulfill. Whew…shameful! A lie so out there it had to pass on weirdness alone... So--After several reassurances that “Kate will understand” and not to feel bad about my “doing what has to be done” and sincere well-wishes on my upcoming performances--I started to feel a bit scum-baggy. But regrets be damned-because in reality I had other pressing engagements.
I’ve made plans with my good buddy and defacto assistant editor, Diego. All the writing I’ve done (particularly the stuff that hasn’t been proof-read or edited) needed some serious “once-overs” and organizational bandaging, that is,if I ever expected them to reach a printer. We’re looking to churn through about a thousand handwritten pages and make some cuts. For purposes of social lubrication; I’ve decided to employ a bottle of Wild Turkey-which will hopefully send us into some kind of wild editing frenzy. Alright…now prepare for “D’s” arrival. This means that certain items must be procured at once to meet his specifications-no compromise allowed. A few of which are: authentic imported Nag Champa incense, fresh (never, ever stale) Marlboro Reds, internet access, and at the very least an 8-lb. bag of ice.
Since the violent demise of my front door buzzer/intercom system (when I, in a Xanax-induced rage, ripped the entire unit out of the drywall in my living room with my bare hands and a drumstick), I’ve been forced to rely on cell phones, punctuality, and often pennies being pitched off the living room window-to gain my guests access into the building. Apparently Diego has just arrived-unless the loose change ricocheting off my 3rd floor window is coming from someone else. I suppose I’ll go let the poor bastard in-who doesn’t even know yet just how doomed his night is. But before we get to diving deep into a 4 ½ ft. pile of yet-to-be proofread writing, I figured the right thing to do is to toast the work at hand with a drink. This fine bottle of Wild Turkey should be just the thing, and I believe D has reached my lobby.
Note to self-Wild Turkey is not a social lubricant. I know this now-and so does my friend, Diego, who departed about an hour ago; a twisted grin on his face; waving goodbye and stumbling frantically away down some North Side back alley-with his one remaining shoe…never the less “klip-klopping” away with a sopping muddy sock at an incredible rate of spend. No doubt, he will make his bus.
My shirt is covered in a thick layer of cool mud with the light smell of Grey Flannel cologne still noticeable. More mud, now dried-on and clumpy, all over my right leg. My hands are scratched up and reek of the distinctive, gag-reflex worthy combination of vomit, whiskey, and cigarettes. One of the times you'd eat Colgate straight from the tube if only you had some. The lucoplacia on my tongue is ¾ of an inch thick and coming loose in chunks. My back and knees ache from a traumatic bout of drunken sprinting to evade two motorcycle cops, with which we succeeded…and I somehow cut my ear. Most likely snagged on branch 'cause their too damn big for my head, or so I was told in grade school…
We can’t be certain, but we believe Chicago’s Finest most likely wanted a word with us after seeing me stumble into the middle of the intersection at Lawrence & Western; and proceed to throw up all over a pizza delivery guy on his bike. A simple case of wrong place/ wrong time for the both of us. Unless I had a new pizza and a fresh change of clothes for this unfortunate fucker, a mere alcohol breath apology would be like pouring salt in a wound-so I decided to spare him the nonsense and just get the hell out of there before two peoples nights were ruined.
To the police, previously unnoticed a couple of cars back at the red light, it must have appeared to be a malicious and intentional act; from a possibly dangerous and deranged pedestrian. A pizza delivery guy, cautiously just crossing the street when some big stumbling freak runs out to greet him…and just pukes all over him-then just turns and runs away. No wonder they hit the sirens. We make a run for it.
“You call that editing?!” Diego screams as we make a mad dash for California Ave. We flee in accordance to D’s precise, seemingly premeditated escape route, through several small alleyways
“Fuck you, Spaniard!” I reply, panting in mid-flight; while we pass through a backyard. “What the fuck were…panting breaths…you doing over…panting breaths…there at the…panting breaths…Statue of Lincoln??”
“Nobody has a problem with me standing over there-the police are after you” D yells back at me.
“Well…panting breaths…fuck you then…panting breaths…because if you hadn’t insisted…panting breaths…on fucking around…panting breaths…on the other side of the street…panting breaths…for 10 minutes…panting , turning left..we would have been inside…still running…Garcia’s having Margaritas…panting breaths…and I could’ve made it…panting and running…to the bathroom…panting still…motherfucker!”
We hopped a fence-right on to the uncharted, dark muddy slope of a ravine--and nearly slid clear into the Chicago River. A close call indeed but we had lost the cops. After I spit out a mouthful of cold mud and wiped my eyes-I noticed Diego hunched over at the bank of the river reaching desperately for his shoe with a stick, but that fucker had already set sail. I didn’t notice much of a current at first, but after watching his show float away at about 10-ft per second- I had to speak my mind.
“You better not go after it, D-that fucking current will suck your drunken ass right down the river. Its pitch black around here and you’ll probably end up downstream in the bowels of some underground water processing dungeon, or hell you might just end up in Wisconsin. Either way-you’ll be in bad shape when they fish your bloated body out of wherever you surface”
D, from what little I could see was horrified, “Not Wisconsin!”, he cried.
“Oh yes sir…Wisconsin…better off that you let it go, huh?” I replied.
He sighed deeply and nodded his head in agreement. “Fine, fine. Gimme a cigarettes-I’m done working on this book for tonight.” He lit the cigarette, “You know your ear is bleeding…”
“FUCK” I mutter as my fingers probe for the source, “Can we just climb back up to the street now, please?”
We slowly make our ascent-still paranoid of cops on the prowl for some vomiting monster who, “disappeared right before our fucking eyes...him and another one-on foot; maybe a Mexican…”
“All this mud and bullshit for FREE, huh?! We should do this again tomorrow night” A visibly frustrated Diego shot out.
“Just chill out little me-ho; we’ll find you another shoe.” I replied.
“It’s not about the fucking shoe, man. Its just that I almost dies out there tonight twice-then nearly got arrested…for evading the police if nothing else.” At this point he starts to shake me violently-“If for nothing else, man!”
I break free, “It’s not my fault...blame the…you can charge all this to that monstrous demon-ale-of-a-whiskey…that’s your god-damned culprit” I say confidently.
“Fuck you and you…all this shit…I’m gonna be soo hung over…I need a bed.”
“We should probably suffer together,” I say “You wanna come by later to work on the book and have a drink?”
“Oh yeah…sure..” D grumbles “I’ll jump on that grenade twice- -at least not in the same day.”
“SEE!” I screech, “That’s what this is al about-TRUST-and it doesn’t seem like you trust my drive…or my work ethic”.
“It’s hard to trust the work ethic principles of a criminally insane, lazy, drug addict, with ADHD-I’ll call you later…I gotta run and catch the Western X49 Bus..see ya, (klip klop-klip klop-klip klop-klip klop….)” And away he goes.
“I’ll give this another shot…tomorrow.” I thought.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
What am I reading right now? I am reading Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahnuik. Truth be told I am not sure I like it. It's not the content, his premise is solid. It is a story about the fashion industry: super models, trannies, flashing cameras, oh my. No, I am digging the plot. It's his style. I am finding the whole damn thing too gimmicky. He is trying too hard, too many tricks. I wish he'd tell the story, I am already dizzy and I have read only 20 pages. So there, no offense Mr. Palahnuik, you're brilliant, I am a huge fan. It's just that the first 20 pages of Invisible Monsters had me reaching for the Gravol. Maybe that's the point. But what is my point? Is this a book review? Heavens no, this is a rant about style.
Style versus substance. I used to write raw, I abhorred the shackles of grammar and structure. I thought them false constraint; I believed my mind and my words were too wild to be caged. Blame Kerouac and his beats. Then thank them for the inspiration. I eventually began to blog, which meant that my words were being 'published' with the potential for all to read. The perfectionism sunk in. I was now playing a writer on the Internet. I had better buck up, edit, edit, spell check, worry. I took it one step further. I enrolled in journalism classes. British journalism classes at that. I wanted my words and the structure of them scrutinized like only the British could. I wanted to be as good as I could get. Style be damned.
Guess what? The words then stopped. It was no longer fun writing. It became a task, something too clean, more akin to washing the dishes than art. I was in a creative funk. The old me- raw, poetic, rebellious vs the new me- polite, structured, tight. I have been writing through that battle now for the last couple of years. The poet versus the journalist. Perhaps I am a new breed of poetic journalist. But I will let Matt comment about that- he is, of course the expert in all things gonzo.
So there. Not a book review, not an attack on Chuck Palahnuik, just some observations on literary style, from a guy still searching for the best belt to match with his literary hat. Now off I waddle to the bathroom on a quest for the next grand subject. Excuse me a moment.