I’m free. I’m already free?
Every time a white, able bodied, English-speaking person has an “adventure”, a kitten loses a toe.
I’m thinking of the writers of the “beat” generation, white men who said “fuck it all” and set off to be free. Leaving behind families, of course. Wives who had to raise children all by themselves. And all the copycats who came after them, falling away through the decades. Wealthy, able-bodied young white man rejects privilege, has adventure.
I keep writing, and what itches me is this- Who gives a fuck about my story? Isn’t that me, one of the assholes? Privileged, running around in my own personal sandbox, which happens to be the wealthiest nation on earth?
God I’m such an asshole.
Heavenly father, my ego is flagging.
My life: I keep sleeping late, going to bed late, waking up at night and coughing, coughing for an hour. It’s a respiratory infection that keeps coming back, it’s been coming and going for four months, ever since I got caught in the rain on that fateful North Dakota freight train last fall. My friend’s house where I live now is awesome and there’s no mold to speak of, nothing to be allergic to. So I don’t know why I cough, and I have no money to run to my natropath in Sellwood where there are cob benches and broken wine-bottle mosaics on the streetcorners and have her cure me with a tender hand on my chest, listening to my lungs.
I wake late and feel a dull sort of bummer. I miss the mornings. I bike in the cold wet mist as far as I reasonably can and then hole up and poke at my novel in its glowing box that grows more buggy with each passing day, I bought this cheap dammed thing one year ago with a one year warranty and what with planned obsolescence I think that my coach is turning into a pumpkin, with all my hopes and dreams shrunken down inside. My dreams are pumpkin seeds.
And I don’t know anything about computers. I wish Lark was here.
It just crashes now, when I try to do stuff like upload photos to myspace or make nice art out of my stories at wordle.
I sit in a hard chair and eat cold beans (not from a can, cooked myself, transported in a Tupperware) and poke at my story and my ego starts to flag like an old helium balloon without any good bright sunshine. But it’s not the sunshine, at least for me. It’s something like boredom, something wrong with my brain where it misinterprets boredom for some sort of tragedy and starts dropping little seed-ideas in the overgrown lots of my brain that I used to use to do shit jobs and the seeds grow into full-blown ideas about moving to Florida or New Mexico, even though I’ve thumbed that choose-your-own-adventure book with TRAVEL written on the spine until the cover fell off and there were no corners left and I know that there’s nowhere else I want to go. Because I’ve fucking checked, is why.
This is where I want to be. I KNOW that. So why can’t I just CHILL OUT for a few goddam months or maybe a year now and then?
What really happened is that I took the helium balloon of my ego by the string and the two of us interspersed working on my novel with long stints reading chapters from my new Guide To Literary Agents where it tells you that the world is hell and publishing is satan incarnate and nothing is sacred and your art is not your own unless you want to starve to death and how can you make art if you’re starving to death and it was like the one time I was hitch-hiking to Alaska sleeping in a tent in the muskeg and I figured it’d be a good idea to only read books of bear attack stories.
NOT A GOOD IDEA.
By the time I shut that book today in the warm florescent halls of a university I will never go to, my heart had broken. I could feel the helium balloon shrinking like a bike tire after you’d run over one two many broken beer bottles in the bike lane.
I NEEDED that ego to carry me through to the end. Keeping it up was exhausting, I had to carry a foot pump under my stonewash denim jacket and work it all day long.
I NEEDED those delusions of grandeur.
It’s the only way to be a writer. But god, keeping up an ego like that is exhausting.
I don’t know how hiphop stars do it. Maybe I should do cocaine? But won’t that mess up my perfect precious wonderful sleep? Maybe I should wear diamonds? Magic sparkling crystals of power?
Where would I get diamonds?
Truth is, in the cold light of afternoon I feel like the beat poet runaway-and-be-free god-the-road-is-crazy let-me-tell-you-about-this-one-time horse has been beat to death for about fifty years now. That’s how I feel.
And I feel like my stories are just stories, just as good as they are, stupid dumb stories about my stupid dumb first-person life that’s not a revolution. It’s just me dancing around on a lot of littler people I can’t see.
This is why only some people write books. This is the secret Last Test, where you stand between the tall stone pillars and the stone gargoyles way up high may open their eyes all the way and shoot you with lasers, or they may not. And if they do shoot you with lasers your ego is gone forever, Poof! Just like that! And you end up as a teacher. (no offense to teachers. They were the only parents I ever had.)
My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Robinson, at Baxter Elementary in Anchorage, AK, in 1991 (does she still exist? Can I use the powers of Google to summon her to this blog, just by typing her name? Do old people google themselves?): What do you want to be when you grow up?
Me, stacking chairs for her after school so she’ll give me candy: I want to be a writer.
Mrs. Robinson, handing me a piece of candy: I wanted to be a writer too. But I became a teacher instead.
I eat the candy.
Mrs. Robinson, looking at me, very serious: Be a writer. Don’t be a teacher. NEVER ever become a teacher.
Me, filing away for all eternity: Ok.
What do I do.