Saturday, August 27, 2022

Process LXVI

Stop Making Sense
Interviewer: What are you going to do next?
David Byrne: A project with songs based on true stories from tabloid newspapers. It's like “60 Minutes” on acid.
Break’s over, back on your heads.

Last year, I regretted (only slightly) taking a summer course because I didn’t appreciate the idea of sixteen weeks of work crammed into six. But my, did I enjoy the time off once that was through.

Having the entire season without any classes, however, I feel mentally out of shape. No reading, no writing -- and that was before my eye procedure. But the days pass as days will and ready or not, school is here and the time is right for dancing in the sheets (of paper).

Fortunately, the last of the gas bubble which was put into my eye (to assist healing) disappeared the same day as the plastic medal band on my wrist, the one warning EMTs not to administer N₂O or to put me on a plane, finally cracked and fell off. Reading was suddenly easier, driving possible. I began running again.

Thursday night the semester began as I drove to Akron for my first class in a course on creative non-fiction. In spite of having autobiographical plays, these did not involve research. I wrote what I thought, from my own point of view. This is not creative fiction. Memoir, perhaps. Not the same thing.

Girlfriend Is Better
Shortly after obtaining an Apple Macintosh SE in 1990, I did what all callow young men do shortly before graduating college, I started to write the Great American Novel. That fall I drank 100 proof Southern Comfort, smoked cigarettes, and banged out my first book.

It was a recollection of a solo road trip I had taken the previous year, when I visited a former girlfriend with whom my relationship was undefined, and also to see my dying grandfather. Heady stuff. Great potential. Unfortunately, it read like a journal, not a novel, and the horrible truth was I wasn’t terribly interested in anything that was going on around me.

I was twenty years old. I was traveling through the deep South, to first reach Panama City, Florida, then onto Clearwater. And yet, I took the interstate, and not any two-lane roads. I ate at chain restaurants in service plazas instead of seeking local cooking. My erstwhile girlfriend was seeing one guy, and had her eyes on another (who would become her life partner) and I was a dull interloper.

When I did visit my grandfather, it was for one long afternoon in which neither of us said very much at all. He was in great pain, and I was terrified of that and of him. It was a pilgrimage I felt I ought to make, though I did not know why.

Road To Nowhere
Most of the narrative included my referring to other, better books, like Blue Highways, Still Life With Woodpecker, even Anne Rice’s Belinda. I quoted song lyrics which weren’t epigrams so much as hopefully evocative phrases taking the place of any original sentiment I was unable to have or create.

Basically, because it happened to me, I thought it was important for others to know about. I guess I’ve always thought that. I like to think I’ve gotten better at deciding which tales to tell, and how to tell them.

So, anyway, we’re not doing that this semester. This time, we’re telling other people’s stories. True stories.

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