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Archive for the tag “question”

Movies, Monkeys, and the Music in my Head

 

28 days later

There’s music playing in my head right now.  Not the kind you’d expect.  Not the Sirius XM playlist kind of music that some invisible algorithm picks for you from somewhere in the black bowels of your emo soul.

It’s something more insidious.

When I was 20, I had a job in retail, selling wallpaper and other equally inane home decor products for a nationally known chain of stores owned by an international breakfast cereal conglomerate.  And no, I could not make that shit up if I sat down hard and tried.  Anyway, this nationally known chain of stores, owned by an international breakfast cereal conglomerate did not play well-known music over the ceiling speakers for the customer’s in-store pleasure.  What they played was a six-hour, continuously looped, instrumental audio tape of songs, scientifically created… or so we were told in training… to stimulate the shopper’s brain in such a way as to create in them “an innate desire to purchase” on a purely subconscious level.

Such was the weird science of the early 1980s.

Whether or not these musical cues actually stimulated our customer’s amygdaloidal behavior to the tune of windfall profits was unclear to me then, just as it is to me now.  But what I can recall clearly was how we just-above-minimum wage employees responded to being in the presence of these sounds, day in-day out, for however long each of us worked there.

Did you ever see the film 28 Days Later?  Yes?  Good.  That’ll make this explanation easier.  Remember the opening scene, where the eco-activists broke into the animal testing laboratory to free the captive primates from their cages, but found out, too late, that these primates had been infected with some chemical cocktail “rage virus” while being subjected to image after television image of non-stop human-on-human violence?  Remember what these primates then did to their liberators?  And remember what would become of the world only 28 short days later?

Yeah, I wonder what all that listening to shopper stimulation music ultimately did to those of us who worked for that nationally known chain of stores owned by an international breakfast cereal conglomerate in 1981.

Oh yeah, my actual point.

Remember when I said there’s music playing in my head right now?

I’m not so sure it’s a coincidence I thought of that music while sitting alone in a warehouse and wondering, is it really only two weeks…okay, 14 days, 22 hours, and 19 minutes… till I’m free from this 20,000 square foot chimpanzee enclosure?  And when I’m free, will I react like an adorable rage monkey?  Because, you know, writers can be pretty adorable when they’re raging.  Or will I act like Jim, the smooth-skinned, human in the story, who when awakened from a coma, must face an entire world now completely changed from the one he knew before.

Metaphorically speaking, and if you read me, you know, I’ve been in a type of coma since I started working the graveyard double-shift life last year.  This awakening of sorts that’s happening in June is me, coming to grips not only with my certain past, but my uncertain future as well.  I’m unsure how it’s going to go.

But I have it on reasonably good authority that it’s going to go better for me than it did for those adorable rage monkeys in the movie.

Tick-tock.

I’m about to wake up.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

The Warehouse of Brand New Dreams

Urban Lumberjack 02

In my favorite picture of me, I look like classed-up shit.  Or maybe just shit on the outside, and class, invisible, on the inside.

Either way, it’s me.

I’m told I look skinny.  But I must make up for it in ways not seen by the naked eye.  And get your mind out of the gutter, right now.  My kids could be reading this, after I’m dead, of course.

In the thoughts that went through my mind between that last paragraph and this one, I realize how many things I’ve written that I know won’t see the light of day before I’m gone.  Things I’ve written that are so honest, they even scare me when I consider the possibility of making them public while I’m still around to reap the consequences.  And not things that are acceptable between consenting adults, but things that a lifetime of reinforcement cause me to share only with myself and the blank computer screen.

I do hint at them, in poems, mostly.  Sometimes in song lyrics that only have music playing inside my head as I write.  Regrets about the past.  Fears about the future.  And how many people I’ve hurt from there to here.  As a writer, I know it’s assumed that everything is fair game, especially those things that you’ve lived through and survived.  But most of them are an embarrassment to me, and I will probably keep them locked away for safe keeping, until I have made peace with them in this life, or am at peace in the next.

This evening, I had my daily talk with one of the drivers who come in and out of the warehouse with freight and parcels headed from point of origin to destination every day.  I’ve known him my entire time here. I was the one who spotted the heart attack he was having back in ’09 while he sat in a chair waiting for his truck to be loaded up for another run.  There’s a closeness between folks when one recognizes the looming mortality on the face of the other.  Mortality that could just as easily be your own face as his.  On this day, he was stunned when I told him that in two weeks, when I finally work my last day here, I will be leaving just three weeks short of nine years.  Nine years as, essentially, as a blue-collar temp. 

He’s been here for sixteen.

Today, we talked about all the drivers and warehousemen we’ve known, and how much each one ended up hating the work they did.  The same work he and I have done.  By the end of our conversation, he asked me if I regretted the last nine years, on the road and in the warehouse.  I told him that without those years, which seem to have passed overnight, and taken me through a lifetime’s worth of trials that, without it, I would have learned nothing, had nothing, to show for my fifty-some-odd years on this earth.  That seemingly, all the lessons I’ve learned in my life came to pass in these nine years, doing something I hated, just to survive.

And that in leaving I know, looking back, this was exactly where I needed to be to understand anything about where I’m going.

A couple of days ago, I posted something on social media that went like this,

“I used to call this place The Warehouse of Broken Dreams. No more. From this moment forward, I call it The Warehouse of Brand New Dreams.”

I’ve got two weeks to go until I step out of here and into an unknown future that these last nine years have prepared me for.

And maybe then I won’t be afraid of the all the honesty I’ve kept hidden in this life, while there’s still more life to be lived.

More to follow.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

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

I Raised a Generation

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This is my end.  

I raised a generation,

and now look back upon it. 

I raised a generation,

and the next in line to come;

beautiful,

and free from my spotted past. 

And in seeing,

think only that it is to this generation,

and the next,

that I am tied forever. 

One decision,

made so long ago,

that its beginning seems eternal. 

By one decision,

I am now grounded to this earth,

to this very spot on which I stand,

for the rest of my obligation of days. 

I will go nowhere. 

I will not find pleasure,

as a reward for years spent in hopeless,

loving duty,

but in dedication to my craft,

and to my legacy,

this generation,

and the next in line to come. 

This is my end. 

I raised a generation,

and if I am lucky,

one day,

I will know my place,

beneath this ground on which I stand.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

These People

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I watch a TV show

or a movie,

and I see friends. 

Human beings

who have friends,

friends who have

human beings

who are their friends. 

And I ask myself,

“How did these people

find each other?”

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

Starting and Starting Over

walking backwards png

Starting, and starting over, is not the same thing.  They are as different as walking forward, and walking forward, backwards.  Not as clearly different as starting and stopping.  If it was, then you would have no trouble telling them apart.  But make no mistake; people do have trouble telling them apart.

Starting is that thing we do at the beginning of some something we have not done.  Starting over is that thing we do when some something stops us, but just long enough for us to think that maybe we have not really stopped at all.

It is understandable when those who have never really started a something, and seen it to its end, don’t know.  Most books don’t teach it, and most folks have never lived it.  It’s a mystery, on the lines of accepted but incomprehensible things like the laws of gravity, and thermodynamics.  But whether or not someone knows what those names are names for, ask them if a satellite or even a shooting star could fall to earth, and they nod and say, of course those things are true.

And this is where I say that, because those laws say that a body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest, the very same thing can be equally true about the path of a human life, lived in this human world, often at the mercy of the most human of circumstances.

Speed bumps are formed.  Detours are made.  Shit happens.  And sometimes, those obstacles stop the beautiful movement of a body in motion, until it becomes a body at unintended rest.

Have you ever tried to give a falling star a shove to get it back on its course through the heavens?  It’s not as easy as it sounds.  In fact, it’s damn fucking impossible.  Yet when a very human body, with all its complexities of motion and emotion, loses its path through the glory of this world, it is no more easily shoved back on course than the star that fell from the sky.

But we still ask of those who lost all their momentum, sometimes well-intentioned, sometimes with a critical intent, why can’t you just start over?

Maybe it’s in the way they’re walking.  And maybe you’ve been fooled, because you haven’t noticed that they’re walking forward, backwards.  And maybe in walking backwards, they are slowed by looking at the past that was; their past, lost to the speed bumps, the detours, and the shit of something that no longer is, and not the new that waits behind their back, right over their shoulder.  Not in starting over, but in turning around and starting brand new.

So in the same way you would look into the night sky and at the stars within it, look closely at the shining stars before you, and understand.  Because starting over is never easy, and they are doing the best that they can.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

If a Tree Falls

tree falls png

I have never been a successful writer.  I’ve never won a single award for writing.  I’ve never been a best-seller on any list, anywhere.  I have fewer than a thousand followers of my blog.  I don’t drive dollars, pageviews, or likes.  My words have never been found on a shelf in any library.  As writers go, I have not been quoted in another book; I’ve not spoken at a conference, or given a talk that was recorded for play on anyone’s YouTube channel.

If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone know I’m a writer?

I once asked someone who knows me well, “What if I just stopped writing?”  They answered, “Better chance of you becoming a woman.”  Okay, if that’s true, what prompted me to ask that question?  Then I remembered I also once asked this person, “Can’t I just be a posthumous success?” 

And no, I didn’t like their answer to that question, either.

Pausing as I write this, I remind myself that only 20 to 30 people will ever read these words.  But I’m still writing them.  I just don’t know why.  I’m hoping that one day, before I stop for good, I will.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

The Captain

the captain

The Captain retired

around the twenty-sixth of February

that year. 

He had lived a long life

of public,

and very private,

service to his favorite causes,

among which were rescue,

search and rescue,

and search and rescue

and rejection. 

Upon the announcement

of his retirement,

the Captain was asked what

he would do with his

remaining years on this earth. 

After much thought,

he answered,

“Better.”

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

The Interview

interview

 

Question:

“Why do you write?”

Answer:

“So people will cry.  Because, see… I don’t cry.  About anything.  A tear.  Maybe.  The kind that gets caught in the corner of your eye, and never escapes.  I write so others can feel what I can’t.”

 

© Copyright 2016 William S. Friday

 

*for the full text of “The Interview” click here to visit the wonderful blog from David Ellis, Too Full to Write.

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