Listening to: “Everybody Say” – Takka Takka

So I’m driving to Central Square tonight, stopped at the stoplight at the Harvard Ave/Cambridge St intersection. All of sudden, in the purest sense of the word “sudden,” this dude comes running in the direction of my car at high speed. He’s got this crazed, determined look in his eyes. My first thought is that he maybe just stole something and he’s weaving through cars in the street. But he doesn’t dodge my car, he comes straight for it.

Next thing I know, this guy has jumped on my hood, vaulted over my windshield, and then I hear his feet pounding across my roof, the metal buckling. Then he hits the hood, leaps to the pavement, and is off down the street before I’ve hardly had a chance to lay on my horn.

WHAT THE FUCK? Does this happen to other people? In life?

Part of me thinks it’s kind of awesome, but a larger part of me is pissed off about the shiny new dents on my roof. This after my license plate got stolen two weeks ago. Does my car have a giant “Kick Me” sign on it?

……

Other recent weirdnesses:

I was in New York earlier this week for an interview (!) –fingers crossed. Anyway, yesterday I’m sitting at a Starbucks in Midtown, talking to my friend on the phone. There’s a valet guy sitting next to me, marking stuff on cards. I get off the phone, I’m reading some books I fished from the dumpster behind the Strand (By the way–WTF Strand? Throwing away books? Gross.) And the valet guy says, “Excuse me, miss, but do you believe in God?” And I say, simply, “No” and go back to my Collected Yeats. Luckily he didn’t proceed to try to convert me to whatever-the-fuck, but it was one of those weird beginning-of-a-one-act-play type moments.

Then there was the guy in the line for the bathroom, who tried to guess where I was from. “North Carolina. No… North Dakota! No… Kansas! Wait… Alabama! You look like an Alabaman. Am I right?” Apparently I was giving off some kind of Southern/Midwestern vibe?

And finally, tonight in Central Square, the dude standing outside Phoenix Landing blowing bubbles infused with cigarette smoke. When I first saw them, I thought maybe they were starting to freeze in the air because it’s so fucking cold out all of a sudden. Then some college-looking chick popped one, and I saw the smoke dissipate into the air.

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I went to the anti-Prop 8 rally in Government Center last weekend. I hadn’t been to a protest since the antiwar march back in 2003. I worry that protests/rallies/etc. don’t do that much good, but considering the national scope of this one, I feel like it made an impact. I’d say more about Prop 8 and all the shittiness associated with it, but I think the public outcry against it, in cities and towns across America, from all ages, creeds, and sexual preferences, speaks for itself. And besides, whenever I talk about it I just get really really angry to the point of incoherence (One of many reason’s I’ll never go into politics–or PR). For more on the Prop 8 madness, I’d point you to my friend R.’s blog post on the subject, which is much more even-handed and eloquent than I could ever conjure. Anyway, here’s a pic of the goodness at City Hall last weekend:

prop 8 rally

And hey Blogland–if you share my rage on this issue: SIGN THE PETITION

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Been working on “World’s End” again. The weather last week was appropriately apocalyptic to put me in the mood. If anyone has any insider info on working at a CCTV headquarters, it’d be much appreciated. I’m worried the story is getting too introspective. Maybe the first person format isn’t ideal. I say this having recently picked up Salinger’s Nine Stories, which may as well be plays for the way he manages to convey so much interior life without actually going inside any of his characters’ heads. Brilliant.

I’ve also been reading Lonesome Traveler, Kerouac’s quasi-autobiography of his West Coasterly days. He’s not a big fan of periods or commas–we’re talking 2-page long sentences–and I’m pretty sure the original draft (12-foot long typed scroll, that is) of On the Road was a whole lot of really long sentences before his editor got a hold of it. I wonder if a more traditionally punctuated version of Lonesome Traveler wouldn’t net it some more readers. It’s a tempting project, anyway.

T. and I saw Ira Glass do a thing in Northampton last weekend–gawd I love him. He talked a lot about the style and format of This American Life, and how he went about it. Of storytelling, he said: “It’s not about reason, it’s not about logic, it’s about motion.” And my little tattooed heart melted. He also said that Scheherazade from One Thousand and One Nights was “very Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3,” and called otters “puppies of the sea.”

I could just die.

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Alright, time to get back to writing and not drinking any hot beverages, because some landlord-and-National-Grid wank has led to our gas being turned off. Le stove, il ne reviendra jamais, jamais.

You’d probably be able to glean from posts past that I’d be the type who loves This American Life. And I am. There’s something almost primal about the satisfaction you get from hearing a story told aurally, without any visual or textual crutches. (That’s probably be the first and last time anyone will call anything NPR-related “primal.”)

I was just listening to the episode “Poultry Slam” on my iPod while walking Tucker, and I started laughing out loud in the middle of a crowded sidewalk. I’d say people must’ve thought I was a maniac, but everyone’s a maniac in Allston.

I was curious (but also a bit reticent) to see what Ira Glass actually looks like, to put a face with that voice. I found this great video where he talks about storytelling and the power of the anecdote. He’s talking about radio specifically, but I think what he says holds true for any kind of storytelling:

While we’re on the subject of storytelling, I also read this interview with Philip Pullman today (when I was supposed to be working, natch). He’s got some very cool stuff to say about the way writing tells a story versus the way visuals tell a story, and about the different mediums–text, recording, stage play, movie–in which His Dark Materials has been represented.

………………….

In other news, I’m a little morbidly fascinated by the fiasco surrounding Heath Ledger’s death. As I predicted yesterday, the James Dean comparisons are a-flying.

Also, this enigmatic incident: when someone told Jack Nicholson about Ledger’s death, Jack said: “I warned him.”

Warned him of what? That he ought to die before he gets old enough to make a shitshow like The Bucket List?

Listening to: “Fourth Time Around” – Bob Dylan

What is it about fiction that makes it infinitely more interesting than reality? Not just reading/watching/listening to it, but creating it, too?

Maybe it’s that it has a narrative; or that it celebrates the individual, and makes him holy; maybe it’s that there are always new rules to be bent and created; or that it gives one a sense of belonging to something larger; maybe it’s that in fiction, there is undoubtedly an intelligence to it all, the divine guiding hand of the author.

Maybe it’s that it’s after 2am, and I have a zit in my hairline, and it itches, and I’m going to wax philosophical all over your face.

I guess maybe growing up consuming so much fiction–books, plays, movies, TV shows, comics, and what-have-you–I always felt like my own story was bound to take off one day. That I was the protagonist of something, who would be inevitably and inexplicably lifted from the humdrum and given a mission, struck by epic tragedy, or made to believe in something unbelievable.

But no figure has risen to give me a quest, and no one has named me the chosen one, and no coherent narrative has taken shape. This isn’t a complaint, more a realization.

I guess it comes down to this: In fiction, there is a god. In real life, there is not. And if there is, he’s a really shitty writer. Knows nothing about structure.

So for now, I guess I’ll keep on consuming well-crafted fiction, while living out my meandering real life along the way.

Per usual, ol’ Neil Gaiman puts it best:

“Of course, fairy tales are transmissible. You can catch them, or be infected by them. They are the currency that we share with those who walked the world before ever we were here. (Telling stories to my children that I was, in turn, told by my parents and grandparents makes me feel part of something special and odd, part of the continuous stream of life itself.) My daughter Maddy, who was two when I wrote this for her, is eleven, and we still share stories, but they are now on television or films. We read the same books and talk about the, but I no longer read them to her, and even that was a poor replacement for telling her stories out of my head. I believe we owe it to each other to tell stories. It’s as close to a credo as I have or will, I suspect, ever get.”

Or, this from André Malraux:

“The great mystery is not that we should have been thrown down here at random between the profusion of matter and that of the stars; it is that from our very prison we should draw, from our own selves, images powerful enough to deny our nothingness”

Or Tim O’Brien:

“Yet even if it did happen–and maybe it did, anything’s possible–even then you know it can’t be true, because a true war story does not depend upon that kind of truth. Absolute occurence is irrelevant. A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth. For example: Four guys go down a trail. A grenade sails out. One guy jumps on it and takes the blast, but it’s a killer grenade and everybody dies anyway. Before they die, though one of the dead guys says, “The fuck you do that for?” and the jumper says, “Story of my life, man,” and the other guy starts to smile but he’s dead.
That’s a true story that never happened.”

Aw hell, even some J.K. Rowling:

“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”
Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry’s ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

Or how about Italo Calvino:

“If I were only a hand, a severed hand that grasps a pen and writes . . . Who would move this hand? The anonymous throng? The spirit of the times? The collective unconscious? I do not know. It is not in order to be the spokesman for something definable that I would like to erase myself. Only to transmit the writable that waits to be written, the tellable that nobody tells.”

And finally, from Philip Pullman (I’ve been rereading The Subtle Knife recently):

“Stories are the most important thing in the world. Without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all.”

*The above riot of quotations and accompanying author photos brought to you by yours truly’s rampant insomnia.

It’s funny, earlier today (while laid over at the Logan airport) I read in Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things: “We owe it to each other to tell stories.”

Tonight, my parents and I went to visit my grandpa in the nursing home where he’s recuperating from his latest foot infection. I hadn’t seen him since I was last home in July.

But this time when we visited him, on this miserably rainy November night, there was a wildness about him I’d never seen. Almost a joyous desperation. He looked more wasted away than I’d ever seen him, his hands skeletal and purple with blood clots. He almost immediately launched into a vicious bout of tale-telling–about his time as a lieutenant in World War II, about starting his own business after the war.

He seemed almost possessed by his memories. The narratives had little flow as he bounced from boast to unrelated fact to digression. He said he wants me to write a book about his life. I said that I don’t have the wherewithal to write a whole book. What I really meant is, I’m not patient enough to listen. And, that his stories aren’t the most interesting in the world (he spent most of the war in Long Island, after all).

But I (like my grandfather) digress. What I mean to say is, he had seemed to become suddenly and acutely aware of his own mortality. For him, it seems, he needs to tell stories to fling his legacy out into the future, to gather the jumbled threads of 87 years on Earth and weave them into a coherent, lasting something.

My grandfather knows that he is old, very old.

My mom suggested that he get a tape recorder to preserve all these stories–his hands are too arthritic to write–but I don’t think that’s what he wants. I think he wants someone to listen to him. A human thing, there at his knee, to hear what he has to say and to marvel in it as he marvels in himself.

Tonight, for the first time, I really saw grandpa as a person, flesh and blood and soul and not just diatribes and wrinkles. He’s old, and he’s frightened. I can’t imagine how terrifying it must be.

And he wants to tell stories. His stories.