Ok, listen: I know I have this weird “bitter about the world and all the stupid stuff and dumb ol’ dummies make me mad” persona going on, but here’s the thing — I actually really like some stupid stuff, too. And not in an ironic, “oh let’s watch Honey Boo Boo and laugh at their redneckery and feel better about ourselves” kind of way. (In all honesty, that show, Jersey Shore and the like make me genuinely uncomfortable, and I won’t watch them because I prefer not to be sad about someone else’s life, and I have better things to do with my time. Anyway…)
This weekend, instead of going out and raging like the 22-year old I’m not, the missus and I decided to stay in and watch a movie “On Demand.” After the travesty that was “Snow White and the Huntsmen” (seriously, if you want to waste money on something painful, just give me $5 and I will punch you in the junk a few times.) we decided on some lighter fare, and the previews for “Katy Perry: The Movie - Part of Me” looked like just the sort of brainless fodder we needed for a Saturday night. It would be worth a chuckle or two, and the type of thing that could be taken at face value without judgement or expectation of it being anything more than a silly peek into the world of a silly pop princess.
I guess not having any expectations allowed me to see the film as something a little more interesting, and I actually enjoyed it. I could have done with less songs and concert footage, but overall, the production value was nothing short of amazing, and it did a fantastic job of creating some intimate moments usually reserved for a more poignant documentary.
There was a moment toward the end of the film that captured Perry in an extremely vulnerable and desperate place, and you could almost see her heart break. But instead of letting it get to her, she wiped away her tears and slapped a smile on her face and arose from the depths of the stage, her star mint candy bosom gadgets twirling and her glittery microphone shimmering — just another day at the office.
It wasn’t what I’d call “inspirational” by any means, but the overall view of Perry’s rise to fame and her struggle along the way was a captivating thing, and the film certainly did a nice job of showing the kind of hustle one needs in order to make it in any industry. If anything, I took away a new respect for Katy and her ilk, but I also realized I could incorporate some of her drive into my own life. And of course, remembering that no matter what kind of day you’re having, sometimes you have to just hold up that shimmering microphone that brought you to the stage, slap on a smile, and let your hypnotic candy boobs lead the way.
Not because I want to be the next great American novelist or anything, but in my downtime, I’ve had a chance to read a lot more. Reading, as it tends to do, inspires me to write more, and I want to work that muscle as much as possible. NaNoWriMo is one of the best exercise programs for writers that I can think of. For someone who has been out of school as long as I have been, it helps to have some sort of program to keep me in check and motivated. NaNoWriMo accomplishes this by setting deadlines and peer communication in much of the same way an educational institution might, but without the fear of consequence or repercussion of failure. And failure is always an option with NaNo, but it is something I’ve succeeded in as well, so I know it’s possible. So now, I just have to figure out what to write.
I recently picked up a spotless copy of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, which was a favorite of mine in college. I learned about the book via my first fiction teacher, Nolan Belk (who I just found on Facebook. Hi Nolan!), as he compared a short story of mine to O’Brien’s work.
What I am learning from this reading of the book is less about the content (it’s a Vietnam war novel as seen through the eyes of a group of soldiers) and more about the way the story is structured. Comprised of a series of short stories as told through several voices, The Things They Carried is still a cohesive piece. The stories tell the same tale, but the use of different narrators and situations give a fuller picture of the world O’Brien has created, and that’s something I really admire and would like to harness in my own work.
The other book I recently rediscovered was a favorite from my childhood—perhaps you loved it, too— Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. Again, this is a collection of stories that can stand alone quite nicely, but also make up a comprehensive and cohesive piece of literature when bound together.
I can think of other examples, but these two books coming back into my life around the same time have given me enough to get started on some ideas. I’ll share some things here as I come up with them, because not only do I love writing, I also love writing about writing. Stay tuned, friends.
joestanton asked: WHY HAVE YOU NOT BLOGGED SINCE JUNE
I have, just not on this blog. Still, pathetic I know.
Everywhere I travel, tiny life. Single-serving sugar, single-serving cream, single pat of butter. The microwave Cordon Bleu hobby kit. Shampoo-conditioner combos, sample-packaged mouthwash, tiny bars of soap. The people I meet on each flight? They’re single-serving friends. - Fight Club
After a three day seratonin-draining rock fest in 106 degree heat, it helps to have a night in a hot tub, reeling it all in, feeling your muscles turn to putty and having a good laugh at what a strange and wonderful weekend it was. Of course, this helps, but then there comes the pangs of knowing it is your last night of vacation and you have to go back to reality the next day. And there are things you are ready to return to, things that you need and people you miss.
But you also know that going home means coming home to see what you left behind: laundry, cold air, stubbed toes and bills. And you also know the travel it takes, hours in the car, hugs goodbye, airport security, and the scourge of the overhead compartment.
It was this that almost pushed me to my breaking point. After hustling down the jetway and trying to force my duffel bag into any of the bins remotely close to my seat, I nearly decked a foreign gentlemen after he tried to push me away from moving his precious laptop bag. I managed to find a little bit of space in a bin a few aisles away and squished my bag in. Of course it didn’t fit, but only by an inch.
“Here,” I hear a voice say, “I’ll hold it and you close it.” The guy, older and smaller than me, had done this before. He saw my frustration and helped without even asking. It was comforting and helped me calm down, if only momentarily. I thanked him and made it to my seat by the window. He was seated next to me.
“Sorry about that,” I said, “It’s been a long day.” And it had been. We made idle talk for a few minutes, and he asked me about the movie that would be playing in flight. “Typical Tom Cruise faire,” I said, and plopped in my headphones to try to zone out.
A quarter or so into the movie, my single-serving friend made a comment about my wristband, and I told him about the Coachella festival. I recapped the weekend of half-naked white kids in the desert, all clamoring for a spot closer to Thom Yorke or Snoop Dog. He said it sounded fun, and asked me if there was anyone on mescaline. That it would have been his drug of choice. It seemed a bit assuming for him to say something about drugs right out of the blue, but it also informed the tone of our conversation.
He told me he was 60 and a fitness coach. He told me he had been in Costa Rica, visiting properties he had invested in, and he told me had been seeing his 30 year old girlfriend - one of four.
I asked him what his secret was and he told me it wasn’t a secret at all. He said it was about being special, about being unique to a culture. He told me the women in Costa Rica flocked to American men, no matter how fat or old or lame they were. To them, the Americans were special and interesting. He told me it was that feeling that made him keep running there.
The guy, whose name I still didn’t know, told me the story of how his marriage of 25 years had failed, how he had chased the notion of the American Dream. Go to school, join the military, get a job, meet a wife, have some kids, get a promotion, buy some property, live the dream, etc.
None of it made him too happy, though. I told him about my situation, how I was at a crossroads and wasn’t quite sure what to do with my life, where to go, or where I should start. I told him I was a writer, that I had some experience and I knew how to work hard. I told him I wore my heart on my sleeve, and that sometimes I let my temper get the best of me.
We shared stories of women and times we partied too hard, stories of being left in the dirt and when we dropped the ball on something important. Somewhere in all that, I realized that I was only getting started in my life. Here was a guy, a complete stranger twice my age, who had lived a very full and interesting life, full of ups and downs, and he had never stopped just appreciating life for everything it is, no matter how shitty it got.
Three and a half hours later, we landed in Chicago wiser and stoic. We wished each other luck, and acknowledged the conversation as being important to us both. We listened and learned from each other and knew it. I had the hope I will be as kind and enlightened as this guy when I get to be his age.
“I’m Jeremy,” I said, extending my my hand.
“I’m Rich,” he said, and I believed him.