Chapin City Blues

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

There’s a question I hate and it’s been asked a lot. I’ve mentioned this before. At lunch, I settled down to the stir fry. Made it the night before for lunch in hopes that my bank account will thank me later. So after reheating it, I sit at the table. My copy of M. R. Carey’s …

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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.


April 14, 2015

“Wanna hear how I deal with people like that?” It’s more a statement than a question, but the infliction still escapes my lips as I say it. Force of habit, maybe, but I don’t dwell on it much longer. I have an audience before me and floundering right now means I’ll lose them. Look at me, the persistent orator despite the social anxiety that cripples me on a day to day basis. It’s Friday, and today I’m being cross-trained in circulation. This is another duty stapled to my new position.

My job title hasn’t changed, but I’m no longer a book lord. These days I sit in front of a computer cataloging the tomes as they arrive. I am also a library whore. Catalogers’ primary jobs aren’t important. Everyone in tech services are picked off at a whim. Need help at the reference desk? Let me just put everything down and assist you. A line as long as a Chick-fil-a grand opening? Sure, these books will be here when I get back.

Not that I mind. I need breaks from the monotony. Sitting down is unhealthy. And cataloging is banality exercised.
The girls at circulation cheer me throughout my firsts. My first check-in. My first check-out. First fine. First new library card. First replacement. It wasn’t long before someone says, “Now wait until you get your first annoying patron.”

I scoff at the words. Three years in the library, I’ve had my share of annoying patrons who think the sun shines from their ass. It wasn’t too long ago when I applied for the circulation position. Wasn’t too long ago when they didn’t approve the transfer due to my “inexperience.” My mind laughs at the memory of my last interview. When I’m told that part of my new duties is to cover circulation, I bit down to keep myself from asking, “Are you sure I’m experienced enough?”

Hostility is no stranger to me. People at the stadium lashed at me daily. I stood my ground when a mountain of a baseball player threatened me. And each time I handle it the only way I knew how.
“Just remember that you’re smarter they are.”

Future’s End

Friday, the assistant director approached the circulation desk. I met him years before I applied to the library, so there’s some history there. He starts talking to me about the future of the library and the arts department. The city has granted us two buildings. He assumes, as anyone should, that the arts building will come first. The second building is a new library branch. As he’s talking, I begin writing the press release in my head. There’s a reason for all this chatter, and I’m sure it involves my added duties. He continues talking about the new branch’s location. It’s location is the former location for the city’s library. “The library will come second, I think,” he said. And as an after thought, “You can get your MLS in that time.” He goes on to tell me about the transfers and futures and GRE test scores and the last sixty hours of my undergraduate education and two years working on my masters. And the seeds are planted and the urge returns.

The only problem, of course, is where the money comes from. Loans are there. I could probably look into scholarships and grants. The most obvious path is asking if the library is willing to sponsor me. That’s doubtful, though. And how many of my years am I willing to hand over in return?

The thought of taking on another role scares me. Full time father. Full time employee. And now part-time student? Having to worry about my parental duties while balancing school and thinking about my responsibilities at work isn’t my cup of tea. And let’s face it, the only reason I survived college was because Jeanna was my balance. I may come off as a person who isn’t afraid of a challenge, but that’s just it. To paraphrase Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner, “I’m always afraid.”

Krist, if I wasn’t. Can you imagine all the things I wouldn’t do?

I ordered my GRE test guides Saturday night.

I Just Want to Know You

February 14, 2014

There’s always a jolt of panic before a reading. I’ve done this hundreds of times in different venues, in front of different faces. It never fails that moments before I even set foot inside the venue, I become a lyric from an Eminem song. A blast of anxiety rushes through my head the moment my name is read off the list, and I’m introduced. I approach the podium/mic stand with caution, folder in hand with a collection of writings and musings, blog print outs and random things scrawled out on anything from emergency room brochures to napkins—my greatest hits, as I sometimes jokingly call them. My body moves along with my words, something that could be mistaken for nerves and jitters. But without the dance, the story would fall flat and it’s message lost in anxiety of my voice.

Carol & her uke

Carol & her uke

Tonight wasn’t any different, outside the ceremonial upchucking. The only difference that, for the first time in all my history in poetry readings, I brought someone into the group. And in a sea of strangers—with the exception of Richard Sanchez and Julieta Corpus—I had someone in the crowd that was a familiar face.

Nearly a decade ago, I was a staple in the poets/writers community. I traveled from venue to venue reading my words. And it got easier with time. I carried the nerves with me, but I managed them better. However, something in my life happened and I just dropped out. I declined requests and invitations and friends became strangers. When I started working at [redacted], I attended one poetry reading and had a falling out with the Alpha male poet—a pompous poser who calls himself a mariachi (and that’s all I’ll talk about on the subject)—and I vanished from the scene until Amado returned to host his Nueva Onda readings. And we had a good run until he vanished on us. I can’t say I blame him, though. Sometimes life gets in the way.

Tonight, at the Love & Chocolate reading, I thought about my good friend Amado as I watched Julieta Corpus introduce a somewhat nervous Carol Noe because that was me what feels like a life time ago. I still remember the night that I entered the dimly light Nueva Onda Poets Cafe off McColl and sat down watching the musicians play while the owner, a friend of my then-creative writing professor, Rene Saldana Jr., crouched down beside me and asked if I wanted to read. And after much reluctance, I agreed to place my name on the list. He assured me that it was only if I wanted to. No pressure. And, of course, the man lied through his teeth because it wasn’t but ten minutes later that I sat on the stage peering down at the audience and reading in front of a crowd for the first time.

When the assistant director asked me if I knew the young lady who played guitar last time, I shook my head. While I knew who he was talking about, I hadn’t a clue what her name was or how to contact her and Googling “Female guitarist who wears a hat” was getting me nowhere. And while I conceded to defeat that I’d never find her, I remembered that I met a guitarist a month prior. So I shot Carol a quick text asking if she would be interested in performing and she liked the idea enough to agree.

As she began the opening cords of Taylor Swift’s “Everything Has Changed,” I couldn’t hide my smile. Her voice coming out of the PA filling the meeting room and spilling out through the open door into the rest of the building, she attracted a crowd at the onlookers standing outside the twin doors. “She’s really cute,” my director said. “She’s good.”

Carol, who moments ago said she’d keel over dead and play as a zombie, was killing it at her first appearance at one of the events. And while I’ve never seen her play before, I knew to expect nothing less than a stellar performance. And as Julieta Corpus introduced me for the first time in a long time, I took a breath and spilled the lines. I might have missed up on the poem, but I won the audience with my best-of-piece, “Note to my Twelve-Year-Old Self.”

And after the nerves have resided the only thing I can think of is, when do we get to do this again?

Sometimes I forget other people have feelings. Sometimes that they’re even human. I awoke to the sound this morning. My world shook and I was ripped from my dream. I’m consumed by whatever madness lives within me. The pressures of just smiling weighing me down. I look in the mirror and see the edges cracking. …

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