Monday, July 14, 2014

Writers, Spiders and Glowing Moss

At the end of the century, I lived in the Pacific Northwest. I worked for the Boy Scouts of America. I was a recent college graduate and I had not yet lost the idealism that all young people ought to have. In retrospect, I had every reason to be cynical, angry and a bit befuddled. In 1999, at the time of this story, I was back from the war only 8 years, back in the states for 7. I had graduated from Metro State in 1997, and I had traveled extensively all through the western states, lived in rural Colorado, Mexico City and San Francisco. And in 1999, I moved to Portland for a job. It was to become an antagonistic job too. After all, I had wanted to be a writer, whatever that meant, and working for the Boy Scouts was just not part of my image of what a writer should be.

I struggled with it for most of the year. I struggled to write, I struggled to find time to write. I was not mentally or emotionally prepared to juggle life, work and my internal pursuit of writing. I suppose this is not uncommon for writers or any artistic person for that matter. Rather than staying up all night reading, or writing, I spent my time in bars. Granted, I use that time of my life as a wellspring of material now (Undertakers of Rain and Dysphoric Notions, namely) it was miserable at the time. It was miserable at the time because just the year before, autumn of 1998, I was standing on the corner of 18th and California in downtown Denver with Vance Aandahl as we were discussing who was the writer of the two of us. His words are an inspiration to me now, but in 1999, Portland, Oregon, they were a curse.

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I was in the middle of making plans with some friends of mine to take a trip up to Vancouver, BC for the long weekend. The plan was simple enough, drink, eat, sight see, make new memories. The group of five became a group of three then two then me. In the end, I went to Vancouver alone.

The distance between Portland and Vancouver, BC is not terribly far. It took four or five hours, but that was four or five hours alone in the car. Here I was, in the rain, driving into the deep north late November, 1999. I thought about plenty of things I'm sure. What was predominately eating away at my thoughts was my job at the Boy Scouts, my inability to comply to “real” life and Vance Aandahl's year old statement about me being a writer. I had not written much in 1999, if anything at all. And a small set back just days before my Canada trip proved to be nearly crippling. My handbag was stolen from my car, it had my notebook and a few letters. The letters, of course were important, but the loss of the notebook was debilitating. It had taken me 8 or 9 months to fill half of it. I don't know what was in it, and I never will and I hope there is a special place in hell for the person who took it.

For my entire stay in Vancouver, I carried the replacement notebook with me everywhere I went.

The events of the Vancouver trip are not important. What I did with them is important. I made it back to Portland. I bought enough food for three weeks and I sat at my computer for about 72 hours and composed a novel. Reading it now, I will tell you, is like watching your dog take a shit. It stinks and it's something you gotta pick up all warm and squishy.

The product might be shit, but the process was unbelievable.

When the novel was written, when the trip was over, when the Thanksgiving break was shelved for another year, it was time to go back to work. Somehow in the office the following Monday, I just did not feel the same as when I left. I knew what I would have to become, and as the century came to a close, I didn't quite know how to do.

No comments:

Post a Comment