Chapin City Blues

Writing is writing whether done for duty, profit, or fun.

I’ll Bring the Awkward

August 25, 2015

A few years ago, I watched this gem of a movie called Yes Man. Starring Jim Carrey and the ever-beautiful Zoey Deschanel, the movie follows a divorcee who’s let his life turn to absolute shit. After a chance encounter with an old friend, Carl (Carrey) attends a seminar where he learns the Power of Yes. Good things start happening for Carl when he learns to say yes more.

The movie is inspired by the book by Danny Wallace. Though nothing like the film, Wallace’s memoir follows his life during his year of saying yes. Since watching the movie and reading the book, I mulled the thought of saying yes more. Of stepping out of my comfort zone so long as it doesn’t harm me or others.

Of course another film inspired me to ask myself the ultimate question:

Last week, a coworker asked if I’d be her partner for a dance class we’re having at [redacted]. I turned her down because that’s what I do when it comes to taking a chance. By Friday, after writing a much needed letter of closure—a version of which will appear on the blog—I sent her a message on Facebook:

After agreeing to be her dance partner, I realized that life isn’t about reading the same book over and over because it’s safe. It’s about owning a library and being comfortable in whatever skin you’re cursed or blessed with. And this is a lesson I’m still learning even in my thirties. You bring the moves; I’ll bring the awkward.

I’ll make this post short. I woke up early and my thoughts are backtracking onto something else. Waking up early is part of my new way of life, by the way. I need to schedule time to write. And if losing sleep is the solution, then let it be. This is why coffee exists, anyway. Though at the moment, I’m drinking tea. And not a very strong tea.

Everyone Likes to Pretend

August 19, 2015

You’re out there. Somewhere. Staring at the cursor blinking on the blank page, struggling to string thoughts into words into sentences into paragraphs. Maybe it’s morning, afternoon, midnight. A beer, a whisky, a tumbler of water, or a piping hot tea set to one side of you laptop or desktop computer. Apple of Chromebook or something from HP. Maybe you lost sleep last night, or overslept in the morning. Or you found that perfect set of hours, waking up refreshed and ready to take on the day. You gather textbooks or briefcase or a journal and pen and head off to school, the office, or café. Today is a busy day, or a sabbatical. You beat out a rhythm with a pencil drumstick as you wait for an e-mail to arrive. Or it’s a day at the park. Or one better spent browsing the shelves of your local used bookstore. You scan the titles, zeroing in on the one the cute guy or gal from work or class or the public library spent hours reading during his or her free time. You pick up the novel, the tome, the short collection of stories or poems. It’s something you never read before, or it’s all too familiar. You put it back on the shelf, or reshelf it in the most ridiculous place—like the time you hid that collection of smutty tales in next to the For Her Bibles—or you make your way to the front and buy the copy. You slip away into the crowd, or you head off in the opposite direction in order to avoid running into someone you might have gone to high school with because you hate small talk and you know it’s going to happen when you run into one. Those annoying questions about asking where have you been, what have you been doing, or what do you do these days? Are you still with so-and-so, or the getting the updated news of how a high school sweetheart is married, pregnant, both or deceased. You pace yourself at home, or you avoid eye contact at work.

You’re out there. Somewhere. On a Friday or Saturday night sprawled out on the couch, or lying in bed. A bucket of popcorn rests besides you as you channel surf or scroll through the endless suggestions on Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, or Hulu Plus. You choose to watch a movie, or TV show, or something from you childhood. You turn off the set and the light and just lie in the dark staring at the ceiling as your eyes do their best to adjust. Small explosions erupt in through the black, sending swirls of colors dancing before you. It’s something you want to know if others experience so you reach for your phone to text a close friend or special someone, but stop short because it sets in. While you’re ready to end your day, everyone is just beginning their nights. And while a part of you longs to join the crowd, you know that you don’t belong. All those quirks that make you feel charming leaves an aloof flavor in other people’s mouths. So you think better of it and set the phone back down on the nightstand, on the armrest, or the windowsill. You spend in the night imaging situations, rehearsing lines for Monday when you go back to work, or school, or the bookstore, or park. You practice scripts of dialogue, memorizing all the right words to say when someone asks you about your weekend. You practice your smile, and know it wouldn’t convince anyone but they’ll play along with you because, let’s face it, everyone likes to pretend.

You’re out there. Somewhere. Laughing when you crying would better suit you. Or crying as you remember the laughter you experience in the past, wondering if you can ever reach those days again. You stuff your hands in your pockets and smirk when someone asks you if you’re ok. And you go on a tangent about the origin of the phrase ok and how it’s an abbreviation for a purposefully misspelled variant of all correct. You get on the bus, or behind the wheel, or the passenger or backseat in a carpool. You laugh at all the right jokes. You smile at the right moments. You react the way you’re supposed to. You find yourself in a quiet place at the office, park, bookstore, or café. Take in a deep breath. And pace yourself.

You’re out there. Somewhere.

This isn’t a post.

August 18, 2015

“So I heard through the grapevine you’re something of a good writer,” he tells me. It’s a few minutes past eight and I feel the regret making use of the network of veins. It starts at the arm. Spreads up to the heart. Bursts throughout body. Boils up my neck. Ends at my right eye as I suppress a tick. I needed to sever this grapevine like I’m straight outta Compton.

Instead, I smile. It’s not every morning that I start my day with a compliment, no matter if there’s an obligatory solid embedded deep within. I’m not a good writer, but I write well. I may not follow prudent punctuation rules, and I have a hard on for vernacular and using words and phrases like hard on and vernacular. I’m not newspaper friendly, and I have a bit of a potty mouth when I go off on one of my fun little rants. Since I started working as a cataloger at [redacted], writing press releases have become something of a fourteenth nature. To date, I wrote about ten pieces and only manage to see three published in the newspaper with another online. I don’t count the last one because whoever at [redacted] is responsible for editing gutted the piece and I only recognized the title printed in bold upon the disembodied disappointment.

So in less than half a year, [redacted] managed to do something that not even the most vile college professor could: I hate writing. The sad part is, I feel adolescent when I complain about work. I can hear the clickity-clack of my fingers pounding on the keys of my laptop and all that lies in front of me is the verbal vomit of a high school freshman on the verge of his umpteenth meltdown. No matter how much I remind myself that I took on this job in order to provide a better life for Shaun, it’s hard not to see my grip on reality and sanity loosen with each passing day.

Writing started as a way to break from my introverted shell. It acted like an inexpensive counselor and morphed into something of a passion. Soon writing became an emotional thing. Sometimes, even sexual. I carry my black bible of a journal around with me everywhere I go in case something springs up while I’m out. I feel naked and alone without it. I scribble words down while I watch Shaun play at the train station in Barnes and Noble. I scrawl words down as I act as voyeur in a café. When I’m with my friends, I’ll write something they said down the moment it slips from their lips.

If natural writing is heavy on my mind and mood, imagine what forced writing does to me. Forced writing is the fracking of the writer’s mind. Sure you stand the chance to gain something beautiful and well-crafted, but at what consequence? The depression slips in; the anxiety builds walls around me. There are things I do that keep me focused, and I get smirks, jabs, and snark for them. This turmoil—probably an exaggeration—I find myself in exceeds the emotional state I experience after writing an entry, a post, a poem, a story. The process leaves my mental self weakened, like a Hemlock Grove werewolf changing during a non-full moon. And each time, I feel that part of my creativity slip.

Or maybe I’m just making all this shit up.

This is My Journal; Please (Do Not) Read it When I’m Gone

August 11, 2015

From Journals by Kurt Cobain

From Journals by Kurt Cobain

“What are you doing?” I ask. We’re in the backroom and R begins to thumb through what most people have come to call my bible. I can’t imagine there is anything of interest written on the quad pages, but these are still my thoughts. My summaries to stories I mean to write. Fragmented essays I plan on stringing together one day.

He ignores me. Or he doesn’t hear me. Or both. “What? Are? You? Doing?” I repeat. I snatch the journal from his hand and toss it into my backpack.

 “Oh come on,” R protests. “It’s not like you don’t want people reading it. You go on stage and talk about your penis in front of other people.”

“I’ve never once talked about my penis,” I quip. “I talk about other men’s penises.”

I rode buses to and from Brownsville every weekend for a year. If I boarded a next-to-empty bus, I took whatever available seat I found in the back. Resting my head against the window, I memorized the different routes each bus driver took to reach Brownsville. A few times, I spoke to other passengers. Several of them spoke only Spanish and most of these stories were lost in translation. On these transits, I scribbled down notes and poem journal entries.

There came a day in December when I noticed a few passengers sitting down in front. From McAllen onward, these passengers spoke in whispers to each other. At Harlingen, they walked off into the cold wind and vanished inside the station. Few nights later, on the news, I saw one on TV. The news piece focused on the homeless issues in both the cities of McAllen and Harlingen. Turns out when one city wanted to handle its homeless population, they shipped them over to the next.

“People don’t keep journals for themselves. They keep them for other people, like a secret they don’t want to tell but want everyone to know.” —Marilyn Manson, The Long Hard Road Out of Hell.

My journal consisted of index cards that I left lying around the room. Quotes from books I read or characters I created. Pros-and-cons lists about joining the Peace Corps. Most of these are gone. Thrown away or lost in some bag I carried at the time. As a gift on one of our anniversaries or maybe a birthday present or maybe just an I-love-you-and-trust-you present, I gave Jeanna one of my journals. Unfinished, but I felt there was some sentimental value to the idea.

I’ve read from my journal during a few poetry readings in the past. And I can foresee myself getting on stage and play confessional to an audience of priests.

I found someone’s blog the other night. I didn’t intended on seeking this blog out any more than I would seek out this person’s private journal. Insomnia laid its blanket over me that night, so I took to scrolling through Tumblr. Tag hopping because that’s what I do. When I came upon a tag for some cartoon show that I’ll never watch, but is all the rave on Tumblr. Gif after clip after photo essay after fanfic later, I stumbled upon a familiar username. My midnight mind brushed it off as coincidence. The greater part of me wishes I would have stuck to that conclusion.

I didn’t read the blog because that’s a violation even my curiosity knows not to cross. Reading the description was enough to sate my need to know. I couldn’t keep this secret though, so I mentioned it later via Facebook messenger. I hope this explanation puts to rest any anxieties that I may have created with my little confession. Your secrets are still yours to keep.

I started reading short stories. At the moment, I’m thumbing through Drown by Junot Díaz. This is in hopes that my writing habits return to me. There’s a project that I want to work on, though I don’t have the resources right now. I might enlist the help of local writer friends. There’s still much to suss out.