Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The UnGoogleable World

How your grandmother sashayed into the room when all the family was together.

One pink mitten, greyed from boots and tires, at the intersection of Cherry and Grant streets.

The layer cake of your childhood, in particular how you felt when Heather rolled her eyes at having to include you in her group for the science project on erosion.

How big the sky seemed as you lay on your back in the grass with your friend. Limitless. There was no time.

The wild, and not-so-wild, sexual exploits of your early adulthood. You hope.

The peachy beer scent of the shag rug in your first apartment.

The night you waited for a boyfriend and saw that there was a man watching you from the bushes, his eyes like fire darts.

Any evidence that you ever had a bad haircut. Not really. Sorry. That’s out there.

The menu from your engagement dinner.

Stories the dying shared with you from their beds at home, or in the nursing home with the pastel artwork of empty chairs.

All live performances, seen live, and the way you rolled up the playbill, and kept it for awhile in your desk drawer with all the other programs.

Rows of typewriters at the shop on Main Street in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where two older men repair and sell, and know everything there is to know about platen rollers.

Every cootie catcher you folded with your daughter, laughing at the chance silliness inside them, every origami boat.

The callus you developed on your middle finger from holding the pen like a vice. It is a vice.

Indigo inhale of a newly mimeographed sheet of paper.

Cut to the scene where your husband helps your mother step up to the casket of her favorite uncle so she can place the carnation and say one last goodbye.

The center of the dream you had where you reached the top of the ladder made of pipe, and the wind you felt as you shifted all of your weight to reach the door.

All those backyard circuses with your sister and the neighbors.

The old neighbors you can’t name, you only recall their striped shirts or arrows of blonde hair.

That five year diary with the gold stamped cover you wrote in for three days, and then lost the flimsy key.

The snowflake hiccups of your daughter in utero.

The unfolding expanse of the lake bottom you walked around in as a kid, uprooted trees like Dostoevsky's gnarled fists.

Rat scuttle sounds from the curtains of the movie theatre.

The lost submarine feeling of all that vodka that one time.

Apologies whispered to the love of your life.

Your father’s laughter. The way he would put his hand on his chest when it was a really good laugh, and his eyes would water.

The blackened thumb of the snowman mitten you sucked on your way to Kindergarten.

That feeling you get when you know you’re leaving something out, all that matters, but you stop anyway because nothing goes on forever.

Dostoyevsky’s hands. Not available in closeup after an image search. Lucky him.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Creativity, the Internet, and the Lost Art of Being Wrong in the Right Way

Can I be honest here?  I’m horrible at everything. According to the internet, I’m doing absolutely everything wrong. Yesterday I read an article about how I have been cutting fruit incorrectly all my life. My method of cutting an apple in half, then slicing the core out, is not only wasteful, it’s bordering on Neanderthal. I’ve also been drinking from a straw with inefficient technique, and spending too much time on slicing cherry tomatoes one by one.

Life hacks let me know about all sorts of things I’ve been failing at during my lifetime. Helpful internet articles seem to fill a basic human need for their authors: To be right. Sticky sweet self-righteousness.

One of the things I’m trying to work on this year is to be ok with being wrong. Because I am wrong a lot.

When I was a kid, I did everything wrong and it was delightful! I tried to glue ice together once. That didn't work, but it wasn't a failure of learning. I was allowed to be wrong. As an adult, I should know better.

Scrolling through newsfeeds just makes me feel like a huge disappointment to the world. I am once again in my seventh grade classroom where we were discussing the spread of Christianity, hand proudly raised at the question: “Who here isn’t Christian?” I said I was Protestant. I wasn’t even Protestant. I don’t know why I said it. Maybe I wanted to be the only hand raised in the room? Was I just winging it to see what would happen? The teacher sighed and put his head in his hands when I answered, and it is an indelible memory.

Oh the tyranny of finding yourself in a place where you are so afraid of saying the wrong thing you say nothing at all! I am right there when I spend too much time on the internet, on Facebook specifically. I try to make it a more creative conversation by asking thoughtful questions, or creating projects, sharing memories, bits of poetry.

My art suffers for reading online because I silence myself. I question as I create. I wonder if every pose, each turn, each word, even if my own voice is genuine or borrowed. I wonder if the message I am sending is ok to express. Am I the only hand raised in the classroom again? Is this right in its wrongness, or is it just offensive? Worse, is it just bad art?

In improv, I can say or do anything and it becomes an accepted reality. What's wrong suddenly becomes right, and not only right, but everyone on the team plays along and adds to the world. There are rules, sure, but it's a playground of inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness. Sometimes it turns into bad art, but it’s fun art because there’s freedom in it.

And I guess that's what I am getting at by writing this. I see too much exclusivity online (and off), too much of a desire to prove that being a introvert is the best way to be, or that you must be constantly moving in order to call yourself a dancer, or if you screw up even once with your possessives in an essay you’re not a real writer. That’s not freedom. It’s restriction. It’s a desire to be right all the time.

It's exhausting. It's a tiresome, uncreative space. It's a place where I feel trapped and unable to spark, like I'm trying to light a match in a swimming pool. It makes me want to shut it all off, get a landline, and start using my typewriter again.

I'm just going to keep making mistakes in 2015 and beyond, and try to quiet the Greek Chorus that is telling me everything I do is horrible. A complete relief. Now pardon me while I go peel an apple with a butter knife.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Night Script for the Gifted Dead

The gifted dead send up a hot air balloon from the graveyard,
long since erased from education’s sparse picnic of projects
for the curious, grateful for the tests to finally be over, no more
prickly graphs of progress. Free to experiment with choice, to just
rock back and forth in a damp tire swing, no longer pinned to a board
as an exotic, the geisha of the classroom, the magnolia. Not special.
Normal, but dead. That’s ok, progress even, in its oddness, to join
the rank and file of root and earth in a voiceless thunder, to be surprised
by the leisure of the soul. So eager to haunt, so hospitable.