â€œWhat really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.â€ â€• J.D. Salinger
Our waitress brings two large beers and a flat bread pizza the menu calls an appetizer but probably should be considered a meal. We raise our glasses, toast to each other’s good health and dig in.
She sees me watching the ballgame on an overhead television and asks me if I know she is there. I tell her I always know when she is around and when she isn’t and offer to describe her entire outfit, complete with undergarments.
The smile on her face makes it clear that I don’t need to take the eye roll seriously and I remind her that I look at everything around me because I hear and see stories everywhere I go.
“You should write about them more. You don’t write as much as you used to.”
“I probably write more than ever before, but I don’t update the blogs like I once did. Sometimes I miss the old days. Remember when we both used to be bloggers and how different it was.’
“You are a natural writer. It is hard for me and I hated trying to keep up with all of the comments.”
It makes me laugh to hear that. So many bloggers want to be in that position but she found it to be a task. The thing is, I know she isn’t trying to brag and means what she says. It is probably tied into why she quit.
â€œif you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.â€â€• Stephen King, On Writing
Halfway through my beer I am looking around again and pointing out some of the other patrons. I am making up stories about who they are and why they are there.
Secret lovers, old married couples, high school boys trying to fool college age waitresses into bringing them beer, spies, business people and ranchers who tired of eating from the chuck wagon.
“How do you come up with so many stories? You are such a bullshit artist.”
I smile and thank her for the compliment.
“You know I don’t mean it that way.”
I nod my head and tell her I know.
“You know how you love math and how the numbers just make sense to you. The way you see numerical patterns and logic? Well that is what I see in my head except instead of numbers I see letters. It is like giant puzzle where I just put the pieces where they should go.”
The waitress interrupts my explanation and asks if we want another beer and I laugh.
“I am unfiltered without any help.”
She gives me the kind of smile that is reserved for drunks who don’t recognize they aren’t making sense anymore. I am tempted to tell her that I am not even buzzed, let alone drunk but there really isn’t any point.
“You are old enough to be her father. She is not going to pay any attention to you.”
It makes me snort and this time I roll my eyes.
“I have no interest in her. I am here with you and let’s not forget that if I were here father I would have been lucky to have been 14 when she was born. Come to think of it at 14 I would have loved to have said I was doing the kind of thing that would make a baby, but I wasn’t one of the cool boys.
â€œA great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.â€ â€• William Styron, Conversations with William Styron
I haven’t read any of Styron’s books but I agree with him. Maybe it is because I seem to naturally pepper many of my stories with layers upon layers of tale or maybe just because it makes sense.
Doesn’t really matter much why it resonates with me because I am a believer in following whatever inspires you. If you can’t put passion and personality into your work it won’t matter because the plate you serve will be too dry for consumption.
It makes me think about the television shows that I have been watching and the movies that have grabbed my attention. The antiheroes who don’t always do the right thing capture my eye.
I watch them move from outlaws who do dark deeds to men who fight to protect and provide for their families and think about how much more interesting it is to see them than to watch a guy save the day and do so without ever stepping outside the law.
It makes me smile thinking about the shades of gray because it feels more honest. That black cowboy hat I like to wear fits me in more than one way.
Sometimes I wear it and wonder if people think me a poseur but and then wonder if real outlaws ever worry about what others think. The ones I watch on the screen do but if they didn’t it would be harder for the average Joe to relate to them.
â€œNo tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.â€ â€• Robert Frost
“You know what scare me? My best writing almost always seems to spring from strong emotion. Anger, sadness, happiness– they all make it easy to tap into the words. Sometimes I worry that I can’t write without that. I wonder if that is why writers drink.”
My eyes don’t leave hers because I want to see if she really believes what she says.
“I have seen you write. It is effortless and it is not always from that place you describe. I am not always there when you write. Are you drinking more than I know?”
“No. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t. The joy of a dysfunctional digestive system makes it hard. Drink too much and I visit my other office.”
She smiles at me and we move on to other topics. There is never a lack of things to talk about and never enough time.
Later that night I get lost in thought about having intentionally left the highway to ride down the road not taken. Â The woods I wander through are still lovely, dark and deep and I keep going with or without the moonlight.
Ask me if I miss old fashioned blogging and I’ll nod my head, might even say ‘aye’ with my best imitation of an Irish brogue. The best days of blogging have always been those spent telling and reading stories.
Sometimes I think they are gone and sometimes I read or write something that reminds me that the magic may not be as obvious as it once was but if you know where to look you can still find great gobs of it leaking like syrup from maple trees.