Rereading the First 12 Chapters

I’ve written 79, 175 words of my novel Cricket and Grey.  In August I got gastroenteritis and kept writing.  Then I reread what I wrote while I was sick and realized that  being sick makes me write drivel.   I had to trash over 5,000 words of what I can only say was a wishful scene between my two main characters which, if  allowed to remain, would effectively end the whole book.  Because there’d be nothing left to say.

Then I had to get ready for my trip to New York.  I thought I’d do some writing while there.  You know: writer holes up in a seedy hotel and writes, drinks booze, doesn’t shave for days, and maybe there’s some naked typing in there somewhere?  Didn’t happen.  It turns out I can’t write in New York because I can’t shut the noise and the energy out enough to hear my own thoughts.  The best I could do was write notes and save up bits for later.

When I came back I had to work long hours for my job, I was jet lagged, my family missed me and needed me, I was so damn tired from my vacation that I had to rest.  I couldn’t dive back into the book yet.

The problem is that today, as I sit at my desk poised to submerge myself back into the story, I’m feeling drifty.  I’m scared I won’t be able to pick the last thread up.  What if it’s all a pile of crap anyway?  The task right now is to reread the previous 12 chapters but I’m scared to do it.  I’ll want to start rewriting it all today.  But I’ve promised myself not to do any rewriting until I’ve actually finished writing the whole first draft.

I’m going to sit back and read it.  I have to do it.  Then I was thinking I might write a couple random scenes that are floating in my head, little character vignettes, little nothings that don’t even have to find a place in the actual novel if they’re trash, but just a little scene to bring me back into the thick of the story where I lived constantly in June and July.

Part of being a professional writer is being able to step away from a project when you need to and come back to it without a bunch of artistic freak-outs.  This is part of the job.

Onward then.

New York Notes

Possibly the most beautiful woman in the world.  The co-founder of the Weird Girl Writing Guild.  Tara.  (Not my sister, who is the other most beautiful woman in the world.  Why so many gorgeous Taras?  As it happens I’ve met a THIRD gorgeous Tara… and none of them seem to be husband stealers.  Unlike the other Angelinas of the world.)

I took notes while I was in New York.  I will share some of them with you.

New York Notes:

“I’m always surprised that New York accents are real.”

“I think it’s pretty horrid that anyone in this world is named Snookie”

“I’m completely fascinated by the strange relationship between New Jersey and New York.  And why are Jersey people so weird?”

“The single most wonderful thing about New York is the cultural diversity.  Truly phenomenal!  People literally from everywhere in the world, speaking every language, wearing every style.  But it isn’t just that.  It’s also that there are people from every background, of all interests, every sexuality.  I feel like it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that if it isn’t here, it isn’t anywhere.  I’ll bet a lot of New Yorkers think that too.”

“Muggy, damp, hot, foetid, air rising from underground storage.  Bodies, odor, hot gusts of air (full and rich).  Ripe summer city.  Blaring noise, jubilation, high heels, dripping faces (mine), stoic expressions, tans, pain, old friends in new places.”

“Is it worse to call a woman a ‘douche’ or a ‘cunt’?”

“The subway is actually a furnace capable of cooking human beings.”

“New York is everything at once.  Everyone talks about what a melting pot it is, and it is, but it’s also a place where you can smell everything at once.  Lots of people smoke here.  Tara says a regular pack of cigarettes costs $13.00.  So I don’t know how anyone can afford it.  But clearly they do.  I like the smell of cigarettes.  Always have, so I don’t mind.  There’s smoke, perfume, soaps, sweat, dirt, other body odors (!), excrement, old filth smell that plumes up from the underground grates.”

“No one should wear black underwear under white pants.”

“Instant coffee is stupid.”

End of actual notes from travel notes.  I don’t love New York the way a lot of truly creative wonderful people love it.  I’ve been three times now and each time I had the sensation that it would kill me pretty quickly if I lived there.  The energy there is so intense that it vibrates in my blood.  I can’t sleep well, I can’t shut out the perpetual buzz.  A child can get so lost there in seconds, a child can disappear like vapor, invisible.

What I love about it is that when I’m walking around there it’s so inclusive (even though there are tensions everywhere) so that being white or black becomes somewhat meaningless.  Being straight or gay is of no consequence.  The energy that prevents me from living there is the same energy that fills me with an incredible awe for the thick human diversity.

I have been sequestered in this small town in the bible belt of Oregon and going to New York was like communing with nature, in a way.  It was magnificently multicultural.  I am nothing but a piece, and I am comfortable with that.

I sat outside to eat at an Italian restaurant on the east side of Midtown and the flow of people was like slow lava.  It reminded me of dining on the patio of a restaurant in Jerusalem, just outside of the old city.  The heat, the humidity, the light and the international languages being spoken across my salad.  Deja vu.

The real signal that I needed to take a break from blogging was the post where I basically said I hate all human beings.  The truth is I love them.  All of them.  But they frighten me.  They disgust me sometimes.  They are small and wretched.  Yet when they rise above their base instincts and do amazing things my breath is taken away.  I can’t bear a world in which we hate people for the color of their skin or for their economic background or their sexual orientation.

Walking among the yamakas, hijabs, dreadlocks, afros, waspy plastic jobs, gothic regalia, men holding men’s hands, people who’s sexuality is a complete mystery, and ordinary secretarial types… I felt as though everyone belonged, everyone was perfect.

Just as they are.  And doesn’t that reflect on me as well?  I am not a super-model.  I am fat America.  I am imperfection incarnate.  I am dark and viscous.  I am the gum on someone’s shoe.  Still, what I love about New York is that there is room for absolutely everyone.  I’ve never felt less self conscious of who I am.

Okay.  I admit I felt pretty damn self conscious about being pork-chick.  However, I belonged.  I did.  I love that New York is unapologetic.  I would like to be unapologetic too.  That’s what I promised I’d be in 2009.  I may not have truly made the mark but I sure as hell gave it my best shot.

What felt good was to stretch my legs across forty New York blocks a day.  What felt good was to see the details; the trash heaped up double width at the curb stinking thick in the night, the lights obliterating the stars (New York has its own constellation), saying a non-secular prayer for the homeless sleeping on cathedral steps because New York is so unkind in winter I can only hope they all have warmer places to stay when the snow comes, the subway rat waddling under the rail as though so fat from the crumbs of life it couldn’t run.

I couldn’t write while I was there.  I wanted to invoke the rites of all writers: to stay in a hotel all day long with typewriter clacking away, making the windows shiver and the traffic stall, to not get a blow job perhaps, but to chew grit against the sharp skyline and spit words out like black Oregon teeth.

I couldn’t do it.  Nothing.

I took my son to New York with me when he was three and a half.  He remembers the Central Park Zoo.  Barely.  This time I kept thinking of him.  I have this one child.  I want him to appreciate the world.  I want him to NOT grow up to be Glenn Beck.  The whole trip I thought of this young son of mine.  I believe that growing up in Oregon has some benefits and I’m happy for Max to enjoy the quiet of our little town, which he loves dearly.  Yet I would be remiss if I didn’t endeavor to give him more than McMinnville.  I want to take him back to New York City.

I want him to feel comfortable walking amongst yamakas, hajibs, berets, women and women loving each other, men and men loving each other, Dominican Republic people dancing on 6th avenue, transexuals, Russians, French people, Nigerians, hipsters, rappers, hoofers, South Americans, Mexicans, Midwesterners, rockers, artists….

I may never want to live in New York but I will always be comfortable visiting it.

I Shot New York City

Summer is packing up.  Summer always feels like a bad relationship where I am only in it for the produce and it’s only in it to give me skin cancer and the second it starts packing its bags I realize what a shit I’ve been badmouthing it while enjoying fresh tomatoes and crisp sweet cucumbers that I’d never have had if it weren’t for June, July, and August.   And yet…I couldn’t be more excited to shut the door on the long days, the heat, and the unremitting LIGHT.

Meanwhile, the rest of the western hemisphere is begging the bad boyfriend to stay; who cares about the skin cancer he brought?   Isn’t that what doctors are for?  They’re crying in the corners with mascara running they’re so sad they might curl up in a codependent ball and die.  They’re sad their kids are going back to school where the words “I’m bored” become a sad empty echo and they’re  already missing the fat steaks on the grill and the bouts of volleyball with the Smiths who wear speedos and bikinis (because that’s how they “roll”) and worst of all they have no idea how they will fill the vast empty hours of fall.

Autumn feels the pain which is why the hours grow shorter.

I’ve missed you.  (In case you didn’t know.)

I was going to bullet point the summer but in Kung Fu this week my Sifu was counseling me because I was feeling discouraged by the newest setback (a sprained ligament) and he was telling me to remember that Kung Fu is a long journey, a lifelong pursuit.  It isn’t about today or yesterday or tomorrow.  It’s about cumulative progress that shouldn’t be measured in weeks but in months.  He told me to look at all I’ve already achieved this past year of taking Kung Fu.  He told me not to look at this little injury nor allow myself to wallow in the many (constant) set-backs I experience because there’s something much better to see in the broader vista.  He’s right.  If you are like me and tend to get caught up in the  gritty little details then pay attention:

Don’t measure the minutes, the ticking clock today, now.  Look at the last few months and ask yourself what you’ve accomplished.  Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.  Just look at your own barometer and see how far you’ve come.

I’ve come a long way up from the bottom of the lake since January 2010:

  • I’ve lost 20 pounds of flesh from my bones and only have 74 left to go!
  • I progressed from a yellow belt to an orange belt in Kung Fu.
  • My back hasn’t gone out completely in over a year.
  • I’ve increased my physical stamina 100%.
  • I’ve become properly medicated for the first time in several years.
  • I haven’t lost any more friendships.
  • I shot New York City and survived the subway humidity.
  • I may lose my house some time in the next year and I’m not freaking out.
  • I’ve written 79175 words into the first novel I’m going to get published.
  • The seventy nine thousand one hundred and seventy fifth word is: thoughts.
  • I grew 10 pounds of strawberries using no water and no effort.
  • For the first time in my life I watched a brutal boot-camp style workout from the sidelines and wished my foot didn’t hurt so I could go out there on the matt and beat the shit out of a prostrate punching bag.
  • I received my first fat person insult yelled at me on my bicycle from a stupid-ass teen passing me in a car.
  • I shot my first 38 gauge six shooter.
  • I shot my first twelve gauge shotgun.
  • I discovered a person named Glen Beck who is the most asinine puerile simpleton.  I didn’t know they still made them that dangerously stupid.
  • I didn’t get the swine flu this year.
  • I have kept 7,355,980,444 negative thoughts about my fellow man and myself bottled up until I could compost them safely in private.
  • I’ve somehow managed to make my son believe I’m the best mom in the world and that I’m “calm” and “don’t yell” and caused said son to thank me (at nine years old) for not making him feel bad for who he is and for his peculiar quirks like some other people do.
  • I’ve made my first batch of chutney.
  • I managed to walk away from my self-made spotlight long enough to adjust my attitude, get in touch with myself, come clean (sort of) about my love for two Celine Dion songs, and to listen to the ominous quiet.
  • And to remember that the reason I write is because for me the world is a clamorous resinous intensely charged place and there is no way to shut it out or off so the only other option is to write it out and channel its energy back out of my head as quickly as it enters.
  • It’s also exactly the same as breathing.
  • I don’t have life’s answers but this year has brought complete clarity about what I really want, what I’m really about, what really matters, and what race I’m actually running in.
  • I’m very close to overcoming my fear of corkscrew curls.
  • This year, for all the stumbling dark crawl through the pit of the devil’s stomach*, has proved (yet again) to be better than a bullet to the head.

That’s a lot of fucking progress.  If I look at last week all I can see is that I canned some shit and my foot started hurting like I’d broken a small bone in it and I missed two Kung Fu classes and cried like a baby because something’s always wrong with me and it pisses me off.  But when I look at my life’s progress in terms of months I see that this year has brought so much positive change, progress, and adventure that I won’t need to look back in January and wish I’d done anything differently.  We can only ask each of ourselves to move forward valiantly, trusting in time, in the people who love us, and hit the matt like a champion even if it means next week we’re nursing hot water bottles like old ladies.

Right now I think the best thing that’s happened to me all year is to learn to fight with two sticks.  Before this year I couldn’t even fight with one!

*It is important to remind the Glenn Becks out there that when I say “the devil” I don’t literally mean Satan, because Satan is a FICTIONAL figure in the bible which is a metaphorical account of the history of man and woman but not of dinosaurs or evolution or other necessary FACTS of earth.