Friday, October 28, 2016

Story (ies) Time

I have been told, by people who would know and have no reason to lie to me, that when they read this dross that I befoul the internet with, that they can hear my voice in their head while they read it. I took, and continue to take this as a huge compliment. Not that I want to be inside anybody's head but my own (and even then sometimes I wish I could exit stage left from it), but that they know me well enough to let me take over the narrative voice that they (and we all) carry around with us. Hopefully, in your head there is only one voice providing the background narration to your life. If there are more than one, then perhaps professional help might be in order.

That narrative voice is important, it might tell you to remember to buy onions for the fantastic soup that you have planned for dinner, or it might tell you to go up to that girl and give it a shot.  Either way it should be your voice doing the narration. A madder than a March hare German philosopher by the name of Schopenhauer claimed that in all of human history there were only about 25 books that people should read. His theory was that when you read a book, you allow the author of that book to take over your narrative voice, and in part your way of thinking, That is a very over simple way to put it, but Schopenhauer was a fucking genius, and me, well not so much. It is that theory of his that I always think about when people tell me that they can hear my voice when they read me. It is a little scary, and a little bit of an ego boost, and gods know I need an ego boost (that ladies and gentlemen is what is otherwise known as sarcasm).

It is also a great responsibility to know that my vast readership of 4, maybe 5 allow me the privilege of taking over the controls, even if it is just for a little while. I don't even have to promise not to break anything. I try to at least entertain these people because of the trust they place in me should not be either abused or misplaced. I am quite certain that I fail more often than I succeed, but I hope at least that the successes are enough to keep my place in their heads. The stories I tell, even as poorly as I tell them, are designed to keep people entertained. I know I can't compete with the multitude of cat videos on YouTube, but I give it my best shot. I understand the occasional attempt to send a cat into space is much more of a draw on one's attention that the ramblings of a semi-literate, mostly drunk, fool with too much time on his hands, but seriously how many cats have to die (never too many) before we realize that jet packs strapped to their backs are a bad idea?

And it is those ramblings, those stories told with (mostly) good intentions that are the point of this blog. There is a fundamental difference between MY story, and my STORY. The former is mine, something that happened in the drudgery that passed for my real life, and with the name changed to protect the guilty, the innocent, and the damned, I relate to the best of my ability. That narration is easy, it follows the semi-logical lines of the actual real life event. Some embellishment is bound to take place, but in the general outline the story is true, or at least true enough to pass muster.  On occasion the story may wander off into semi-fiction, and that can sometimes be attributed to either a faulty memory brought on by took much alcohol, or a desire to spice the story up a bit to make sure people are still paying attention. The MY part of it is the important point. It didn't happen to my mate R______ who is probably under surveillance by all sorts of law enforcement groups (and probably the IRA as well), or my other mate N____, who is dodgy as fuck, or to Ladislaw, who is probably currently waking up and trying to focus blurry vision on the note I left that reads "you were brilliant, not-Alison says hello lover."

The second part is if something is my STORY. Meaning it is made up out of mostly whole cloth. A figment of my imagination, and I do have an imagination. Something that has almost next to nothing in common with the day to day drudgery that masquerades as my real life.  It is something that I try to make original, but struggle with that idea because I wonder if anything is ever truly original. It doesn't star any of my dodgy or not so dodgy (although they are much fewer in number) friends. The setting is not the shit hole town I presently occupy, nor are the names going to be the same (if I bother with names at all).  It is a STORY plain and simple. No real hidden meaning, because I am not that clever, and usually no moral because I am not particularly moral.  These types of stories are truly designed to exercise my imagination, and see if maybe I can move to Paris and slowly starve to death while living the Eric Blair dream of my childhood.

I am no great shakes at writing either type of the above dramas, and I am acutely aware of that shortcoming. It is a painful one to realize, but at least I don't delude myself into thinking I am the second coming of Charles Baudelaire.  However, a recent event has lead me to re-think my (limited) ability. I clearly came to this writing thing late in life, but then again so did Raymond Chandler. Age is not exactly as limiting to writing as it is to playing football, either the American kind or the real kind the rest of the world plays. That event was the reading of another person's attempt to tell a story. I was not exactly the intended audience for the story, nor do I expect the person particularly values my opinion(s) either about literature or anything else. Which is perfect because I don't value their opinion either. It is a relationship based upon mutual indifference with a dash of distaste. It is quite lovely in its own special way.

I obtained my copy of the story this person was trying to tell, and was appalled at the poor quality of the writing. At first glance, I thought that I had missed the first page because the opening paragraph (which is generally important) made no actual sense. I soon realized that wasn't the case, and they had started the story with an very awkward beginning. Awkward beginning are fine if you eventually grow out of them, like your teenage years. Sadly this story did not achieve that desired result. It started somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and proceeded to get worse.  The actual writing, I hesitate to sully the word style by calling it such, seemed to be written by a 12 year old. It was so bad, that I remarked that if a college professor of mine had read it, he would have written "shouldn't this be written in crayon?" at the top of the page next to the giant F and the "poor even for you" that generally graced papers that displeased him. It was abysmal.

That sin was bad enough to warrant this person being shipped to at least the fifth circle of Dante's hell, but it was then compounded even further by the content. Sometimes poor style can be salvaged by good content, it is a bit like the Ugly Duckling child's tale. Sure, the duck is bloody ugly but with a little polish it can be turned into something beautiful, or it possesses an inner beauty that shines through the not so pretty packaging.  This missive compounded poor style with the additional sin of poor content. The content had potential, much in the same way I used to have potential before I settled into the middling career with dodgy friends while living in a shit hole apartment that I currently occupy. It was potential that was sadly so far gone that it was never going to be realized. The poor style and the poor content were finally joined in the "poor" trifecta by the story trying to be something that it was not.  It was told as a "MY story" type of story, but it lacked the one key component that was required. It was full of outright lies.

Not that lying is a hanging offense, as far as I am concerned if you are going to lie you should lie with some degree of aplomb, and a fair amount of extravagance. However, this story was not a blog post, or the opening pages of the great American novel. Its purpose need not concern us here, but it was something that the MY was important to. This person, whom I can not allow myself to call a friend, had mixed up the MY story with the my STORY.  They had told, quite poorly, a STORY something that had not happened to them, but maybe to one of their dodgy friends (if they have friends, dodgy or otherwise).  Or maybe it had happened to some random stranger, and they overheard that person telling the tale of woe and regret on the bus. Making matters worse was the story was really supposed to be true, it wasn't a loan application or anything like that, but it was written in a context and to a group that you really shouldn't lie to (like the IRA).

It boggled my imagination that this person would believe that any right thinking human being would consider their story to be anything but absolute junk. I am not enough of a friend to this person to tell them, gently or otherwise, that what they wrote is donkey shit. We are all a bit touchy about our writing, and I didn't want to come across as just plain mean, but I was truly appalled. Both as a reader, and as, using the term very broadly, a writer. It takes a lot of courage to write certain things down and place them in front of the "world", but it takes a different kind of courage (maybe a more gentle courage) to tell someone who has tried to write a story, that the story is shit, needs to be completely trashed and rewritten, and that you really expected better from them (especially if the qualifications they brag about in the story are true). I can only hope that somewhere, someone (other than me of course) has provided this service for this person. My other hope is that somewhere, someone will do the same for me when I commit the same sin. I only hope they are gentle when they do it. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Upon Ponder Rock

Recent developments in this farce that passes for my life have led me to begin to wear an ass groove into Ponder Rock. Some of these developments are lovely, some are awful, and some are awfully lovely. The exact details of all these developments need not detain us here, they are exactly one person's business, and that person isn't in the mood to detail them to the world, at least not yet. When or if that times comes, it may give rise to a whole series of blog posts. Then again, it may very well not. Only time will tell.

This post was meant to written down (it was already "written" in my head) yesterday, but the combination of poor computer service, and an overall shitty day led it to being postponed by twenty-four hours. Some of it may have leaked out of the fragile eggshell brain of mine, and been lost to the mists of history, but I will try to get the majority of it on paper. It is a common and frequent failing of mine that I have a tendency to spin the beginning of a post in my head, and then either suffer an attack of laziness and don't bother trundling my fat ass to the computer to write it down, or forgetting the damn thing before I am able to make it to a computer. I fear this post may suffer from both of those maladies.

Ponder Rock is not an actual place. There is no large boulder like area with the words Ponder Rock chiseled into the side denoting that here is the place you've been looking for to sort out all the mysteries of the universe, or to try to sort out where all those socks go when they don't survive the holocaust of the dryer. Of course it would be nice to have a specific place overlooking some bucolic setting that eased the mind into the ruminative state necessary for one to figure out their life, and their loves and all the shit in between, but I am not sure it's possible. After all, my Ponder Rock, and your Ponder Rock might not be in the same spot, For me Ponder Rock, if it were an actual rock, would probably be beside some large body of water. I am not sure exactly why this is so, but bodies of water set me to thinking. Perhaps in some previous life I was a sailor (with the sad handicap of being unable to swim), and that is bleeding over into my present consciousness. Other people might have a phobia of wide, open spaces, and place their Ponder Rock somewhere completely different. Some place where they feel at ease, I suspect Ponder Rock, and the toilet get confused quite often. But hey, as long as the thinking takes place, who am I to criticize the location?

In my wanderings, both recent and in the past, I have found several Ponder Rocks. The key to my personal Ponder Rock is a lack of other people. I find them (people) distracting (especially tall girls, but that a different story), and therefore quite an impediment to any sort of serious thinking.  And for me at least Ponder Rock is the place for serious thinking. It is not the place to finally sort out the paper or plastic dilemma that haunts all at the grocery store check out line. No, Ponder Rock while not exactly an exhaustible resource should be reserved for the more thorny problems that plague us. Superman vs Batman is a good thing to sort on the toilet, deciding whether to tell your boss that you've been sleeping with his/her daughter/son is something that may need sorting out on Ponder Rock.  One can contemplate the general mysteries of the universe whilst stuck in traffic in Pigeon Forge (and you will be stuck in traffic in Pigeon Forge), but for a detailed, try to solve the mystery of her think, you need to hie thyself off to Ponder Rock usually sans her.

Not that you are trying to exclude anyone, it is just somethings need to be worked out alone before they are shared with the world. The world might not quite be ready for your jet packs for cats idea, and the cats of the world surely aren't, so it is best to spend some quality Ponder Rock time sorting out the mechanics of it all before you shoot your brave cat through the new cute girl neighbor's window that you are trying to impress with your cleverness. Cleverness is grand, cleverness while standing over yet another corpse of a catonaut is a whole different explanation entirely.  Not that Ponder Rock is as serious as some Yale professor in his study, you can attempt to sort out the perplexing problem of why all of the running backs on your fantasy football team seem cursed with the inability to get out of the bathtub without pulling a hamstring, or you can try to solve the Rubik's cube you brought along for moments just like this. The decision is up to you, after all, it is your Ponder Rock.

Not being a physical place, and sometimes also being a bit of a pain in the ass, Ponder Rock(s) do, on occasion, come to you. You might be walking along minding your own business keeping an eye out for any descending space junk trying to kill you, but not thinking overmuch about anything in particular, when Ponder Rock jumps up like a prairie dog, pokes its head out, and asks some serious life altering question.  It can be quite the awkward moment when you try to explain to some other person that you've been struck with an idea, and their presence needs to quickly become their absence. Depending on the person, the response can vary, and sometimes they are not exactly pleased that you've requested they put on their goddamn pants and exit stage left as quickly as they can manage.

The cloud of mystery that surrounds my own personal Ponder Rock is not exactly the point of this post, but we can at times get lost in the forest and miss the actual trees while writing. The recent developments that have led me to frequent Ponder Rock like a drunk frequents his local, are probably going to be life altering. It has yet to be determined if the alteration will be for the good or the bad, but it will certainly change things in my world. Like playing a game of cat and mouse with your own personal Gestapo, it sets the heart to racing, and the palms to sweating. It makes you wonder what or who is around the next corner, and think that maybe you actually should call your mother and tell her you love her before it is too late, either for her, or for you.  It is not for the faint of heart, or the weak of character, and because other human beings are involved it is going to require telling quite a few half-truths, truths masquerading as lies, and downright lies. Some of these things may be told to people who deserve better, but some of them will be told to the Gestapo, and you have not lived a complete life until you lie to the Gestapo, and have them believe you. It is a wonderful, liberating experience.

Until these recent developments, I would have adhered to the idea that Ponder Rock only has seating for one. It is your Ponder Rock, and therefore it only needs room for you (and maybe a place to set your beer), but I have recently been converted to a new theory. As usual for me, it seems my original theory was flawed, and it took someone else to point that out to me. I am not even sure they realize that they did it, and that is the genius of the whole thing. They were, in many ways, the reason I was occupying Ponder Rock like the Nazis did Austria, I needed the room. That room, as it turns out was needed for reasons that I did not understand at the time. It is room for them on Ponder Rock, for the collective thinking that needs to take place. A solo Ponder Rock is a wonderful thing, it is something you can possess all by yourself, a place to tell the world to go fuck itself while you think in beautiful isolation, It is also, a selfish thing, a thing that once you realize is beautiful, but isolated, needs to be refurbished. After all, two heads are better than one, as they (whomever they are) say, and rocks come in many shapes, styles, and sizes. Eventually Ponder Rock(s) to continue to evolve, and to help you evolve need to be built for two.