Monday, June 3, 2013

Writing Travel: the Sultry Nights, Paltry Days and Bliss of Urban Decay

Introduction: Why here, why now, and the title of this project.

It is not exactly public knowledge yet, but my time here in Portland, OR is limited. I suppose my time on Earth, like everyone's time, is limited. Truth is, no matter how much we'd like to think otherwise, we don't every know exactly how limited our time really is. For me, and I'm not going to tell exactly when, I know precisely how limited my time in Portland really is.

It's with a bit of mixed feelings this eminent parting with Portland. As many of you know, I have lived here on a few different occasions. I was here in the late 1990s and the early 2000s. Janice and I moved up here from Denver in late 2010. All said, Portland has been good to me, the first go around and certainly the second. I like the air here. I like the view out the window. I like how not part of the place I feel here. I would say that no one knows me here, but that is just not true. I know plenty of people. But the people I know here, know me, and they don't. For instance, in the years since I've been here, I have not sought out any creative project with others, and no one has sought me out. Conversely, in Denver, I worked magazines, websites, made film both writing and acting, I participated in rogue art projects. I do not feel bad about either situation. Truth is, I've rather enjoyed my time here and I've rather preferred not being busy in group projects and creative parties.

But, I can't shake the feeling about how much I love Portland, OR. Hell, most of my novels are set here. I know I will miss the place. I cannot imagine the exact feeling I'll have when the place is in my rear view mirror, so to speak.

Travel Stories? Portland, OR?

I think the why here portion of this project is clear enough. I will not be here for much longer. And I want to write a few “travel” pieces before I go because of how fresh it all is in my mind. Anyone who has spent some time here in Oregon gets it. It's weird here, and not because people want it that way. It's just straight up odd. It's an odd collection of people, an odd collection of businesses, and the city itself is, well, odd. So, here we are, here I am.

It's come to my forethought in recent moments, this idea of travel writing. Much of it started with Bruce Chatwin's What Am I Doing Here, and some of it began with my series, Writing Nonfiction Worthy of the Literary Magazine. People travel. People do research before they go to places. Some people don't travel. It doesn't mean too much. After all, writing about a specific place has drawbacks if it's a travel piece or not. In many ways writing a travel piece that involves a specific place is a froze snapshot of that place and that time as seen by a writer. Places change. Cities change. Prices change, restaurants and hotels fold, reopen and fold again. Nothing is static anywhere, especially in a city. And this is to say nothing of the lens of nostalgia a given writer may or may not have. So, there it is.

My background as a writer is fiction. I've written a few screenplays. I write this blog. In recent months I have worked the Nonfiction desk at Umbrella Factory Magazine and this too has given me a few things to think about. I will not claim to be nor have I ever been a writer of nonfiction. I have not really endeavored to do anything other than fiction and dialogue. In fact, as I think about it, I wrote a few travel essays in college, that's good ol' Metro State back in 1996, in a advanced composition class. That's a lot of water. I wrote a few “travel” pieces when we first got to Oregon back in early 2011. The pieces I wrote then were for a project I had then called Catfish Burps. I'm taking this travel writing thing somewhat seriously this time. I've been reading a few articles, a few web pages and watching a YouTube video or two. Now, as I always believe, is as good a time as it will ever be.

Tentatively, Sultry Nights, Paltry Days and Bliss of Urban Decay gets the title of the project because I've been thinking about these things for months. I came to the title back in November. I thought it might be a great title for a collaborative project. Initially, I saw a few writers, a photographer and maybe a filmmaker working on this project together. But, alas, this is me and this Portland, OR. I have been carrying the name and the idea with me for months. And anyone who followed the Short Stories and Snap Shots series will undoubtedly know that I followed these ideas of Sultry Nights, Paltry Days and Bliss of Urban Decay with me and my camera. Also, from that series, I am not afraid to tinker with other genres, or in the case of Short Stories and Snap Shots, other art forms.

Why here? I love it here, and I think it's an odd place. And my time here is limited.
Why now? It's time to stretch and try something new: Travel Writing. And my time here is limited.
The title? My confines.

Let's see what happens.

1-Elements of travel writing
2-Crafting a pieces of literature
3-Vignettes and barroom stories inside a narrative

4-Making something tangible.

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