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Reader

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I’m not a reader.

Now let me explain.

I’m a damn good reader.  No disorders that I know of, comprehension through the roof, the ability to cold read, out loud, in public, strong as it gets.  I’ve been reading since I was a little over a year old, or so they said when I was growing up.

No, I’m just not a reader.

I grew up reading every day.  Prose, mostly, and that, contained in the sports section of the LA Times.  I never read comics, except for the papers on Sunday, and I was never encouraged to pick up a book during my childhood, except by command of teachers, and then, not until high school.  Along the way, I read some things, mostly by accident.  Some Peter Benchley… sharks fascinated me… and some pulp journalism style stuff you could find on the book rack at the grocery store while my mom stood in line to pay.  Besides that, the only two things I read like they meant something were Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, the World Book Encyclopedia, and the 1973 Baseball Encyclopedia.

But none of that is reading.

In the years that I should have been indulging my creative consciousness on everything from Swift to Burroughs and Dickens to Baum, I was memorizing batting averages, the etymology of 19th century English words, and the names the crew gave the mechanical shark in the movie Jaws.  I wasn’t reading, I was collecting… nonsense, mostly.  I read quickly.  I read to absorb, to obtain, and to satisfy curiosity, not for the love of the words themselves.

At least that’s the way reading was explained to me.  That it was a love affair with words, and with the stories that the words would unfold for me, if I would only let it be so.  As you might imagine, school was a nightmare for me.  I got by, barely.  Not by reading, but by listening.  I listened to every word the teachers said, and made copious notes.  Page after page of classroom notes, writing down every meaningless detail of these frustrated storytellers, never once looking inside the textbooks they ordered us to read.  Because of this, obviously, math was a killer.  English was hard because all the questions on tests were neatly tucked away inside the books I didn’t read.  History worked for me, because teachers of history fancy themselves “historians”, and would rather act out the full contents of the books themselves, than leave the interpretation of history to the transcribers of history.  I took notes, and answered the questions from them. 

That didn’t work out so well, in high school, or in college, after.

I gave reading one more shot in my 20s.

The girl I was seeing was a reader of book club selections, and I would read books over her shoulder, at night.  For a while, I became a reader like she was a reader.  Picking novels that sounded interesting based on my already-cultivated curiosities.  Bad sports stories, the occasional adventure, and spooky stuff.  Spooky stuff that would have caused childhood me to keep both hands and both feet inside the covers at night.  Blatty’s Exorcist.  King’s Stand.  A bunch of other crap I barely remember.

In this time, I realized that I read the way a cow eats, deliberately, and not in any hurry.  Not the way a predator hurriedly consumes its prey, but slowly, chewing on words and phrases, taking them all in, and then barfing them back up in the form of re-reading without actually finishing the book first.  It took me forever to read a book this way, but when I was done, I maybe knew the stories better than the authors.  

Then the girl became wife.  The wife stopped reading.  I stopped reading.

Because I’m not a reader.

At this point in this story, I’ll save you the exposition of the next 30-something years.  I’ll just tell you that, while I am not a reader, I am reading again.  I have to.  Something I discovered about the silence that only reading brings.  The silence that, I didn’t know until now, brings healing to a soul that fed on only noise, and a mind that, for most of a lifetime, knew only confusion and pain.  Words and stories that should bring healing, and a minimum of confusion and pain.  From Murakami to Bradbury, Goldman to Gibran.  I will read these, soon.

I’m not a reader, yet.

But I’m going to be.      

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

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Crossroads

crossroads

First note to self: Every road has a crossroad, eventually.

This may be my last blog post.  Then again, it may be the first of another few hundred.  It all depends on what’s coming at the next crossroad.  Once upon a time, in a distant, bordering county to Los Angeles, I thought I knew exactly what the path of my life was.  With a wife and two kids, and a history of changing directions every few years, I believed I was cosmically chosen to move back to the land of my raisings, and begin all over again in the very same zip code my parents had once called home.

So we bought a nice, mid-sized home, half a mile from my old high school, and with plans and late-thirties dreams, we marched blindly ahead into the future.  I started a brick and mortar business.  Our eldest started the 9th grade. My wife stayed home with our youngest.  It was an early chapter in our book of the American Dream.  Now because this is an unread blog post and not an essay in some fine quarterly anthology, I will cut to the chase and tell you that in the years following, the business went bust, our eldest learned how to score meth, our youngest retreated into his own insomnia-fueled exile, and the marriage came to an end. 

And those weren’t necessarily the worst things that happened, just the highlights I felt like sharing.

Basically, it was a ten year stretch along a highway of failure after failure, bad choice after bad choice, crossroad after untaken crossroad.

Second note to self: Every crossroad has crossroad of its own, if you’re looking for it.

When I was younger, I would hear this phrase spoken a lot, “When God closes a door, look for a window”.  Now I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds a lot like breaking and entering.  And God being God, I figure if he closes a door, the least he could do is open another actual door, and I would not be required to carry a crowbar and a flashlight everywhere I go just to get into someplace I actually belonged.  Yeah, metaphors are tricky like that.

So anyway, crossroads. 

About ten years ago, give or take, I began two hardcore pursuits that, combined, still occupy nearly all of my waking hours, and a lot of my sleeping hours, too.  Those things are work and writing.  I know, work doesn’t sound like something you just decide to pick up in your late forties, and it’s not.  And frankly, neither is writing.  But the way I threw myself into them was.  Starting slowly, I forced myself to learn what it was to work.  Long hours of actual physical labor, with no human reward except the food it put in the fridge, the rent it paid, and the endurance it created in me.  And at the very same time, after thirty years of ignoring a calling I first heard in college, I began to write.  Then, after ten years of writing, a first book was born.  As much a tribute to the endurance learned from work as any questionable skill I may possess.

Both the work, and the writing, the result of slowing down long enough to look, and to see, the crossroads.

So now, because I sort of know what to look for, I know I am at the crossroads again.  After ten years of these twin occupations, I have decisions to make with them, and what roads to turn down on my way to something newer, better, and right.  One decision is made, and the other is in the making.  The first, I am quitting the job that is now damn near killing me.  That’s a done deal, even if the boss doesn’t know it yet.  The second has to do with the writing, and not even I know what the questions are, let alone the answers.  But I think the writing may be killing me, too.

You remember that line at the beginning of all this, “This may be my last blog post”? 

Maybe it is, maybe not.  But I know I can’t keep doing both the work and the writing for very much longer without becoming some cliché mashup that a friend of mine had called, Norman Rockwell-Bukowski.  So with that, and because I hate being a cliché, I’m taking a detour off of one of these roads before I have to take the other.  And we’ll see what calling it quits with the job does in keeping me from calling it quits with the writing.

But the truth is, I do not know what in the actual fuck I am doing.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

This Is An Actual Blog Post

nablopomo, nanopoblano

Nano Poblano 2015

 

This Is An Actual Blog Post.

(you’ve been warned)

I became a poet towards the end of the two-thousand-oughts.  It wasn’t by design, but rather, desperation.  I was writing for an online Citizen Journal, enjoying some popularity there, and learning what it meant to contribute regularly with my words to a community of writers.

Some people actually thought I was kinda good at it.

My intention all along was NOT to blog, but rather, to write.  As in real writing, not the self-congratulatory bullshit that passes itself off as writing in the blog world.  Writing, as in script-to-screen or, if I was lucky and could fool the right people, a long-form short story or novel.  Blogging, to my snot-nosed thinking, was what people who could neither do, nor teach, did with their caffeine-addled latte musings.  Writing was what genuinely talented people did to convey their misunderstood genius and get PAID for it.

Like Aaron Sorkin, but without all the rehab.

But like a great lost number of self-described writers, my words became fewer as my problems became greater.  Employment, intended to pay the freight and pave the way for enough income to support my future career, became more and more time-all-consuming, and insensitive to the needs of the future I imagined.  Marriage, once the backbone of my beliefs about existence and God, crumbled, leaving me to spend more hours re-evaluating what I believed and stood for than I had ever spent in the crafting of beautiful strings of my meaningless vocabulary.  Life, for all its infinite beauty, wore a widow’s veil, obscuring my vision while I waited for the exile of mourning in the guise self-pity to pass.

It never did.

Until the day I posted,

“If you don’t love your life… change your life.”

Because employment was not my life.  Marriage was not my life.  And life (for all its infinite beauty) was not my life.  As I looked around at what was passing (and passing away) as my life, I realized that none of those things could any longer define me.  None of those things any longer made me who I was.  A job was just a job.  Expectations and commitments pass away.  And words don’t come neatly packaged for the gifting of them.  Existence is sloppy, but life is beautiful, if you live it beyond the details.  So, in just one moment of time, I wrote, “If you don’t love your life… change your life.”

Which brings us to November 1st, 2015.

Nothing says change quite like swallowing your pride and letting go of your preconceptions, or in my case, BLOGGING.  November 1st is the official first day of Blogging Season.  Having once mocked all the Nano-this, and Poemo-that, today, I give in to change.  This is my first entry in the 30 day rollercoaster of word terror called Nano Poblano, a tiny, less neurotic subdivision of NaBloPoMo.  The month when writer’s lives are ruined for the better.  If you’ve made it all the way down this page, you have just read post number one.  For 30 days, I will be opening myself up to all manner of writer crazies, shared with you in the form of posts, poems, photos, and… lots of other stuff, written on the fly and on deadline.  I’ve been told it’ll be fun.  For you, AND me.  Not sure if I believe that yet, but you’re here and I’m here.  Let’s find out.

Next up, for tomorrow…

Rhyming words that don’t.

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