Writer's Group Exercise 31/03/2014
We begin with the basic twitch:
Slow, slow, quick, quick.
Slow, slow, quick, quick.
Index , index, ring, ring.
The left hand of Demi Sargis has been performing the foxtrot ever since it was run over by a red Ford Festiva back in the summer of ‘08. She remembers perching on a PVC covered gurney, doctor pointing out the obvious, variations on darkness and shadow, bones splintered and frayed like wet matchsticks.
Her, thinking, “those aren’t marriageable fingers”.
Thinking, “no man going to wanna put a Harry Winston on that”.
Thinking, “that’s another goddamn flaw Imma have to learn to disguise”.
Along with untannable legs.
Along with the absence of thigh gap.
Along with being 3 inches shorter than the shortest supermodel.
The ******* burden of being female.
The doctor says, “you should regain the majority of the dexterity you had prior to the accident, over time, with a good physiotherapist.”
“…You don’t play an instrument do you?”
The physiotherapist is a fundamentalist optimist.
“It’s not until you injure your body that you truly appreciate how it works. We are all miracles.”
“Yes. Absolutely. A miracle.”
“Don’t get Jesus on me. There is no miracle here, just metacarrot - metacootie - metacaramel damage – check the referral.”
“That’s what I said.”
Regis Square. 9pm. Bathed in a waterfall of KFC neon…
At the crossroads of the nightclub district.
Demi Sargis. Shiny, black patent three-inch pumps, now the same height as the shortest supermodel. Flanked by Sal (single) and Terri (attached, but open to negotiation). All eyes on the divining hand.
Slow, slow, quick, quick.
Slow, slow, quick, quick.
Index, index, ring, ring.
YOLO Bar or Club Isis. Left or right. Which finger ending the cycle of the twitch, sealing their night’s destination. Standing undefeated at a one-hundred percent hit rate. Follow the hand, find a man (see Fig.1):
Fig. 1 'Navigating Attraction within Mundane Scenarios to Avoid Missed Connections'
Yes. Just follow the hand, to find a man.
Tonight it’s Mission Sal.
Suppressing a smirk and raising an eyebrow towards YOLO, she concedes…
Turns out, some of us are miracles.
Manicure Image from:
Who wants to read some rough-as-guts-writing? Me, me, me! You, you, you? GREAT. I'm a founding member of a local Write Night (writer's group) and I need to choose one of my past exercises to re-write and/or extend.
If someone is incredibly bored and doesn't mind reading some unedited work, then check out the below and tell me which one to re-write, in other words, the one you'd like to read more of, because I'm torn between the three.
The Regular (Format: For the page)
Punts is a pub just down from the Nandos on the corner of Windsor and Kitts. It’s the red, white and blue affair, a palette that belongs as much to the heyday of the British Commonwealth as it does to the Land of the Free.
The owner, Leeds born Dagesse, bought the joint six years ago after finalising a divorce to a lady I know only as “the blazing inferno”. Whether that nickname has something to with hair colour, temperament or menopausal flushes, I’m not brave enough to ask- there is a permanent happy hour discount at stake and, more importantly, Dagesse is descended from Rhonda Valley mining stock, those men are as hard as the rock they grafted.
As far as I’m aware, the only woman in his life these days is Mary Bennett, a fox terrier whom whenever I see her, imbues me with a sudden sense of nostalgia and desire to dig out my late Grandfather’s HMV vinyl collection (a record label whose logo features a dog of the same breed).
Last Christmas I gifted Dagesse a 1962 Gene Pitney record from that collection so he could share in the reference. I’ve since seen he has thoroughly embraced it.
He’s framed the record and hung it over the dog bowl.
Unfortunately it’s at jowl level; so a mixture of coagulated spit and fragments of Hill’s Canine Ultra-Allergen Free have escaped digestion and partially obliterated the song title. What was once “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” has evolved into the gender flip, “a…ho…shot…bert…”.
Sometimes when it’s quiet Dagesse will join me for a Fosters, we’ll talk about José Mourinho's return to Chelsea, the shitty exchange rate and Cameron’s “millionaire’s tax cuts”- which (if we’re honest) we’d probably embrace, if we were in fact millionaires.
But we’re just two men drinking cheap beer, entertaining dreams of grandeur, in shoes we’d rather scuff than polish, in a pub called Punts.
Three Years to Go
Monologue: Character - Lisbeth, 32.
By the time I’m 35 I’ll either be dead or married.
Dead because what happens is that each time I get my heart broken, I leave.
And when I say leave…
I mean, I leave the country.
I leave everything behind.
Dead because I cast myself deeper and deeper into unknown lands and inhospitable landscapes; in the hope that Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Need’ will kick in and I’ll be so busy just trying to survive, that eventually I’ll never have to deal with anything. In between navigating unsealed roads on a 6th-hand Uralmoto to filtering water through the remains of a checkered keffiyeh, there’d be no time to process the petty. No time to wonder what went wrong, why they did what they did, why I did what I did and why I still do it.
Some questions are too difficult to ask.
Or perhaps it’s more, that the answers are too difficult to hear.
the Wadi Rum
Dead because my passport is a collage of stamps from countries people forbade me to visit, from my Mother to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But I never listened to them before, and can't see myself changing now.
Dead because, that'll eventually catch up with me.
In my absence, in the layer of silence I wear like a qiviut, I leave those I left behind with little but mystery, confusion, and a few megabytes of photos displaying a past they now question the authenticity of.
Ade, Leon, Vin, perhaps Daamin, they will monitor my social networks for the post of a song of shared significance or some subtle cry of despair that I can’t function in life without them.
The truth is I don’t. My lovers follow me like ghosts. Our histories, arguments and sweet words, knitted together, dragging behind me like a Bride’s train. From time to time, taking unexpected form, stealing my breath when I perform an archived e-mail search, or stumble across someone with a similar arch in their brows or slouch in their walk.
My disappointment when I register it's not one of them only serves to remind me there is another life out there. One I am simultaneously drawn to and run from.
And married, well...
Married because, it's always the unexpected which happens. Married because, it's so ridiculous it just might work. Married because, someone might finally convince me life is about more than just myself.
The Sale of Central Park (Format: For the page)
Everything is for sale. At the right price, in the right climate; especially in times of panic or greed. Where farcical suggestions, that on a normal day, would be dismissed on the scrap heap of incomprehension, suddenly become the beacon of hope - not because we think they are good ones, but because no one else proposes a solution.
Rising crime rates.
People are desperate. And if yours is the only voice speaking, then that is the one we will follow.
And so it came, that on this day Molly and I stood and watched the sun rise over the last hours of a national landmark. We were to witness history made by history lost.
Nothing lasts forever.
Not the things you grew up with.
Not the things you grow to care about.
Certainly not the things you love.
Molly has pockets stuffed with tulips and daffodils. She made a $50 donation to the Conservancy three years ago, she said she was only taking back what was hers.
I have a pry bar in my left hand, and my right, my right is protectively wrapped around an iron florette. It is attached to the arm of a bench I’ve “salvaged”. I think I can up-cycle the piece, and sell it on to a collector – once I re-stain the wood and remove the rusted donor plaque: “"C'est Lui Pour Moi, Moi Pour Lui, Dans La Vie" (in life, there is only him for me, and me for him).
She runs her finger over the brass inscription, with a longing I’ve come to recognise but learnt to ignore. That’s Molly. She thinks that somehow, as if, just by touching, she can transfer the passion of a past long gone and inject it into a hopeless present.
I wish I was a more willing subject.
I don’t know what happened.
I wonder if our relationship will endure much longer than the flowers suffocating in the depths of her polyester blazer. It seems a cruel and drawn out death.
A man behind me touts the virtues of the site’s future plans to a confused tourist with an old city map. I silently refute each point:
“…the proposed construction will create jobs” (temporarily)
“…and include a set of residential buildings” (for the rich)
“…plus, without a central meeting point, it will decrease crime in the inner city” (pushing it out to the suburbs)
But the tourist nods, believing him to be true. Most would. He has a voice of a politician, steady and even. He has conviction. Me? I say nothing, as is my way.
The man examines the out-dated map and points the tourist in the direction of the Museum of Modern Art.
Molly takes ten paces to the left and tilts her head towards the growl of diesel motors, her dark eyes searching.
“This is it” she says needlessly, as if I can’t see what’s right in front of me.
Who are you if you walk away from everything you know? The daily rituals you've come to depend on, the rungs on the ladder you've climbed, the day-to-day social network(s) you've acquired over a number of years, with no idea when or if you'll be back, and if not, where to from here.
For me it was the only way I was really going to see what I was made of.
Would there be anything left?
No knowledge of past achievements or past glories.
Just another face on the street.
And I knew I would only really find out if I did it alone.
Everyone should have an opportunity at some point to draw on themselves as their only emotional support. Yourself as your back-up, your best friend, your life coach, your Zen Master General. On the point of solitude though I am well qualified, as I have done most reckless things in my life on my own.
It is a dishonest life, in my opinion, when you do not push yourself, when you do not test and challenge your boundaries. Because, in what other life are you planning to take risks?
In some way or another I've been running towards fear for a number of years. If it scares me, I'm going to go over and pat it on the head, shake hands with it, sit down and talk to it.
Fear and I. We are good friends.
When I was little, birthdays used to be a thing.
SNAPSHOT EIGHT YEARS OLD:
- Dunedin, New Zealand.
- Invitations and RSVPs
- Pretty dress, patent shoes
- Hair tied back with a ribbon
- Infamous birthday cake (one year I had a swimming pool, the next a horse's head)
- Orange wedge jelly boats and fairy bread
- 10 other little girls running up and the down the hallway screeching and popping balloons.
- Pass-the-Parcel and Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey
SNAPSHOT FOURTEEN YEARS OLD:
- Dunedin, New Zealand.
- I'm too cool for birthdays and have decided it's something other people celebrate but not me.
- My friends throw me a surprise sleepover birthday party anyway.
SNAPSHOT 29 YEARS OLD:
- Gwangju, South Korea.
- I slipped over in my apartment and have bruises all down my left arm.
- Almost forgot my birthday.
- I buy a candle from Paris Baguette.
- A slice of cake from Starbucks.
- Light the candle, eat the cake, by myself, in my apartment.
- I watch five episodes of The Office (US) on my laptop (which sounds like a lawnmover because the fans are broken).
- Then write my favourite Great Gatsby quotes over all my dinner ware.
At some point during my life I lost the point of celebrating my birthday. My question became: Yes, it's my birthday - but why are we celebrating it? All I've done is complete another revolution around the sun, a feat which I'm definitely not alone in.
I am also extremely uncomfortable with days which have social expectation and celebration attached to them or me as the focus. Think Birthdays, Christmas, Graduations, Weddings, Valentines etc... there is an expectation they are supposed to be happy-happy-dance-around-the-maypole type gigs. I spend the entire day holding my breath waiting for the one thing to go wrong and break the illusion, because in my experience 99% of the time it always happens. In many ways it's easier to not participate in the illusion at all than have it fail and disappoint.
Back to birthdays: So I decided to downplay my birthday as much as possible and my rule became I'll only REALLY celebrate when something cool happens. 'Cool' usually meant I won a writing award or something like that. But when that happened I didn't celebrate properly then either because I thought, I'll celebrate next time - when I climb another rung up the ladder.
And now? I haven't written anything of note in a while. So if that was my rule for celebrating then my life has become one unbroken nothingness devoid of celebration.
Maybe I need my birthday celebrations back again just to break up the nothingness.
These days when my birthday rolls around I make a goal - something concrete I can achieve which doesn't rely on anyone else (otherwise the goal is potentially impossible).
In 2012 my goal was to be in a different country by the time I turned 29. GOAL: ACHIEVED. I am in South Korea and although from time to time it can be isolating and has the expected frustrations of living in a non-English speaking country, I genuinely like my life here.
But 2014... I think my goal might simply be to celebrate my birthday again. Properly. As much as that idea makes me feel uncomfortable, it's probably time to bite the bullet and get over myself.
In an earlier blog post I advocated 1960's Stax Record classic: "Hold on, I'm Comin' " as the theme tune for the sun coming up.
The lyrics work. In the context of the sunrise it's a bit like: "Everyone calm the f**k down, I've got this. Hold on, I'm comin.'" In case you were worried tomorrow wasn't coming, the sweet sounds of soul duo Sam & Dave will serenade you daily with the promise that it is.
But forget the sunrise for a moment.
It's not what this song is about. Dig a little deeper and you find out it was inspired by songwriter/producer David Porter's trip to the toilet to relieve himself after drinking copious amounts of coffee and suffering through an unproductive day of future hit making with songwriting partner Isaac Hayes.
As the story goes, Hayes yelled at David to hurry up and finish peeing so they could get back to work and actually write something to which Porter replied: "Hold on man, I'm coming." As soon as the words were out of his mouth Porter knew they'd be a killer name for a song.
Of course this evolved from it's humble porcelain throne beginnings to a song about a man being safe harbour for his lover. Although all bets are off on the bridge lyrics which could be argued to mean something completely different. I'll let you muse on that.
"Lemme hear ya'll
You talk to me
For satisfaction, oh, hold on
Call my name, oh, call my name yeah for quick reaction
Yeah yeah yeah yeah"
But it wasn't even that bridge that the conservative radio stations at the time had a problem with. It was the song title itself, it was too suggestive. So it was re-titled on all the US original vinyls to 'Hold on, I'm A-Comin', which I don't think is any better really? Minds will make the leap anyway. Conservatives probably more frequently than their counterparts.
The origins of the song however aren't what I really wanted talk about though. It's the album artwork. The turtle. Sam and Dave on the turtle. The great, big, gaudy cartoon turtle. I've been looking at it. And I've been trying to figure it out.
And I must have been one of the only people that has wondered about that bloody turtle because there is damn near no information on it on the Internet.
What I do know is that the cover was designed by Ronnie "Angel" Stoots who was behind the iconic Stax Records logo and artwork for musical releases by Eddie Floyd* and Otis Redding:
Unfortunately Stoot's passed away about a month ago so we'll never be able to ask him about the significance of the turtle on Sam & Dave's hit record. So we are only left with speculation.
Here are my theories:
1. The turtle is a characteristically slow animal. So they're not in a hurry to get wherever they're going if they're choosing the turtle over a cheetah or a hare. Therefore it could be a bit of a swag statement "Hey baby, I'm here for you - but in my own sweet time yeah". Making the song a bit of a backhanded promise. And soul, it's so much about the swag.
2. Stoots drew something he dreamt.
3. Stoots is from Memphis Tennessee and the Stax record label was born out of that scene. Guess what the native reptile of Tennessee is? The Box Turtle.
3.1 So we have the Box Turtle. But let's take it one step further and get Freudian on this. If you've read any Freudian case histories like the infamous Dora and her subsequent dream interpretation in which she had to save her jewellery box from the burning fire, you'll know Freud believes the 'box' is an allegory for the female reproductive system. Soul is as much about swag as it is about seduction, so it's not entirely without foundation.
But who knows really?
Stoots' has taken this musical mystery to his grave and therefore we can only look upon this vinyl artwork with an eternal: Why?, Perhaps and ...
*Why does Eddie Floyd have an axe? If he's knocking on wood I feel like he should have a hammer.
Now I'm back on Fakebook I've noticed a lot of trends this year, and I've come to the rather delayed realization that this is because it is our generation's time.*
Our generation's time to buy their first house.
Our generation's time to get engaged and get married.
Our generation's time to have their first or second child.
Our generation's time to climb the next rung on the career ladder now we’re no longer new graduates.
I would have realised this without Fakebook but Fakebook sure does amplify it.
I HEAR YOU FAKEBOOK. I HEAR YOU. BUT I STILL HAVEN’T EVEN FIGURED OUT HOW TO WALK IN HIGHHEELS YET.
Hit your late twenties and I tell you what everyone suddenly seems to be in a hurry to do THINGS.
I think I missed the THINGS memo.
Oh, no that’s right – I did get the memo. I just spilt tea over it. And then I left it on the table and then the ink started to run and then by the time summer rolled around the Eastern sun had faded it, and I couldn't quite decipher what it said.
Honestly: Part of me did feel momentarily sorry for myself that I seemed to have failed on all four of these normative milestones vs. years I've been on the planet, but when I broke it down – let's see how I actually fared.
Our generation’s time to buy their first house.
My argument against failure:
I don’t know where I want to live yet. What country, what city. I'm waiting to find a place to get me in the gut where I instinctively go: THIS IS IT FOLKS. THIS IS WHERE I WILL BUILD MY
TINY TUMBLEWEED or ECO Perch.
Our generation’s time to get engaged and get married.
My argument against failure:
Even if I was currently in a relationship, I just don't have a rampant desire to get married. I think a lot of people get married for the wrong reasons (not everyone of course before you start ripping me to shreds).
But for example, here are some commonly misguided reasons why some people do get married:
- We've been going out so long it would be a waste of all those years if we didn't get married.
- I don't think anyone else will put up with me.
- I'm scared of the possibility of facing life on my own.
- I'm not getting any younger.
- I don’t want the hassle and potential rejection of finding someone new.
- Everyone else is doing it.
- I want a Wedding damn it. But actually you just want the photos.
And because of that it has somewhat tarnished my opinion of it.
I just don’t think you need to be married to love someone. I probably would only get married if it was important to the other person AND EVEN THEN I’d probably skip the Wedding part and just elope. AND EVEN THEN probably end up wearing something ridiculous and unceremonial and devoid of tradition as possible.
Our generation’s time to have their first or second child.
My argument against failure:
I'm not going to lie that from a genetic perspective a mini-Kate would be very interesting, although if myself as a child is anything to go by, I’d probably end up having a kid that looked like an extra from The Village of the Damned…
But biological curiosity isn't a good enough reason to have a kid and I can somewhat satiate biological curiosity by using the MorphThing website which generates what your offspring would look like.
Yeah. I bet you’re all going to see what your kids would look like with Ryan Gosling now, right?
Or that hot guy from Prometheus.
Seriously though, kids are expensive. The responsibility is massive and I just can’t imagine not being able to up and travel somewhere at the drop of a hat, which you can't do if you have a kid.
Maybe I’m just too independent.
Anyway, this is a hypothetical conversation for my mid 30’s – not for right now.
Slow down everyone you move too fast.
Our generation’s time to climb the next rung on the career ladder now we’re no longer new graduates.
My argument against failure:
I keep changing ladders and the only constant is writing – for which there is none
(just a repeated kick in the shins).
In review, I'm feeling pretty good about my set of decisions. I have no regrets (apart from the subject of my undergraduate major). So, if you are like me and haven’t ticked off any of those milestones. It’s OK. DON’T PANIC. Everyone in their own time.
And even better? Write your own list or let things unfold organically. Who knows what's around the corner? Maybe you don't buy a house – maybe you buy a boat! A Tiny Tumbleweed that floats. Now there’s a thought.
*Kids of the 80’s.
Village of the Damned Photo taken from the Celluloid Moon blog.
Wolf Head Picture taken from here: CLICK ME.