Monday, March 24, 2014

You don't have to read past the first paragraph

It occurred to me tonight to look through old essays. It occurred to me only because I have not written any content for my blog. It's time to talk about my winter reading list, which is as follows: I read several Philip K. Dick short stories, Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier, L. Baum Frank's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Dale Bridges's Justice Inc. Enough said. It's hardly worth discussing, and I thought an old essay might be fun to post.

There are the dozens of essays, closer to memoir, about my Desert Storm days. They're all about Blue-Six which is really Kenny McGill and Donald Covaleski. I saw Don last night. He and his family spent the night in Denver before they hit the slopes at Steamboat. Don and I don't see one another very often. We drank one beer in a Mexican karaoke bar called Jalapeno on very deep East Colfax. Don ended the night saying; “I could drink with you every night for a week.” I concur. We got to drink every night for weeks on end back in the early 1990s. One night specifically stands out: December 20, 1990. We drank beers, played the slots, watched a movie and had fun. The next day we left for the war. I love Don and Kenny very much because of a specific time in our lives. We were boys during our first war. I was 18, Kenny was 24 and Don was between us.

Last night, in the karaoke bar, Don and I tried to get caught up. Filling in the Facebook gaps is the plague of our times. We talked about kids and work. When I talk about work, it's always something related to my writing. I have a third book in the works with my publisher now. It's what I do. But Don brought up a short story, or a facsimile thereof, that I wrote during the long nights of Desert Storm. I must have read the story aloud to him. It impressed him enough that he brought it up again some 23 years later. Whatever it was that I read to him, I'm almost certain it would embarrass me now. How we change and grow and still remain our worst critic, right?

And tonight, I decided to look through old essays. What fucking mistake.

These are the first paragraphs (titles and dates) of these old essays:

“In the Hands of Fools” Written early 1994/title comes from a Lightning Seeds song

The morning started well before the sun rise. Sgt. McGill and I were in the turret, waiting, and watching. Actually McGill was watching nothing but his eyelids. I looked at him leaning against the brow pad, his two day beard, and the face it was on. He hadn't washed his face for a few days. Already, it looked weather beaten and chapped. The wind and the sand had beaten his face even though he is almost religious in wearing his goggles and scarf. McGill looks peaceful, and relaxed sleeping against the brow pad.

This is the December 21, 1990 entry from my journal, first paragraph.

Well, I spent 13 days in Germany. 13 Drunken and sorrowful and fearful days in Germany. The 747 is about to lift off. The flight attendants are trying so hard to be cheerful. All of the men on the flight are very quiet and absorbed in their own thoughts, including me. It is so hard for me to believe what is happening. I haven't even been out of high school for six months. I don't know any other soldiers in my platoon, except a few names.

“April 3, Day 102” written in mid 1993.

The sun went away for the war. Occasionally it may peak out after sun rise, but it always sets before eight A.M. The sky is so covered with smoke it makes day as black as night. Sometimes scare rain falls to the desert. It rains often really, but never for very long at any one time.

“Coke Cans and Holy Books” written in spring 1997 for a composition class

We later got Army Accommodation Metals for being so destructive.

I really makes me wonder why so many people my age or younger want to write memoir. I think writers of good memoir are able to find a narrative, or at least something of universality quickly. Otherwise all you need is the first paragraph.

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