Monday, August 24, 2009

The Adventures of Billy the Incredibly Average Boy


Billy picked at the last little piece of gum stuck in the crack of his shoe. I wonder if there's a toothpick around here somewhere, he thought, but I don't know why there would be. But maybe there is.


Billy bought another notebook so he could start journaling again, wrote on the first two pages and then it sat in his backpack for the next two and a half years.

Billy set the alarm on his cell phone. "Whoops," he said, and changed it from 7PM to 7AM, "that would have sucked."

Billy double clicked his new favorite song on iTunes but it didn't play. Hmm, he thought, and turned up the volume on his laptop. Oh, he laughed, it's muted, and then played it.

Hmm, Billy thought as he read the expiration date. Hmm, Billy thought as he opened the cap and smelled the inside of the carton. Hmm, Billy thought as he poured the milk into the glass, then brought it to his nose and smelled it. Hmm, Billy thought as he took a sip.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Free Write

I will not try to imitate the writing style of whatever author I'm currently reading. I will not try to imitate the writing style of whatever author I'm currently reading. I will not try to imitate the writing style of whatever author I'm currently reading. I will not try to imitate the writing style of whatever author I'm currently reading.

Okay, with that out of the way. When's the last time I really sat down and just wrote about nothing? Those were always the best. I stumbled upon an old writing from high school of me talking about different brands of Girl Scout cookies. That was brilliant. It was everything but self-indulgent. I think I got it all wrong when I started writing for people other than myself, even if it (sometimes) got me girls' attention, and even if it (rarely) got me any action. But eeevery once in a while they would say I am brilliant, which was good enough for my ego at least. Because then I could be even more disappointed the next time around and write something even BETTER, which would feed my ego and set me up for being disappointed the next time around, and writing something even BETTER, which would... wait, what was that I was saying about being self-indulgent?

Now that I think about it, there were things that mattered to me as a young adolescent that I could write about for pages that I wouldn't even think twice about saying or writing today. For example, bowls. Bowls are something that have always confused me because there alway seemed to be an obvious and universal preference to deep, cereal-friendly bowls. But more than half the time I went into my kitchen - or to my friends' houses' kitchen - the only bowls I ever seemed to find were the really shallow ones. And the ones that have the little deck-like extension around the top of the rim. Maybe, now that I think about it, the reason I always only found those bowls was because all the good ones were dirty. Either way, I always went back into the room with my cereal, or whatever, and my friend would be like
"Dude, why'd you grab that bowl?" and I'd say "They were the only ones you had," and he'd say "Which cupboard did you check?" and I'd say "I dunno, the one with the coffee mugs in it," and he'd say "Oh, dude, you checked the wrong one," "Oh, lame" I'd say, and he'd continue, "It's the one next to the microwave," and I'd say "I checked that one but there were none in there," and he'd say "Oh, okay... Shit, I thought there were some in there." Then, maybe 10 minutes later, he'd go get a bowl of ceral and come back with a nice, deep bowl. And the first thing he'd say after reading my expression is "Dude, I don't know what you're talking about. There were, like, three of them in there." At this point I would usually feel stupid and hate myself for a second, and then give up entirely because now I have a new set of problems: The goddamn deck around the top of my shitty shallow bowl has been collecting Lucky Charms, and they are impossible to get with the spoon. Not just that, but they are quickly approaching the point of being too soggy to care. Not too dissimilar from this semi-imaginary story, now that I think about it.

Cereal shenanigans aside, the reason I wrote about these things is because I was convinced that I must've been the only person in the world who could possibly relate. I thought I was the first person in the world to not just think these brilliant things about bowls (or whatever), but the first person to ever write them down. I don't think it was until my senior year of high school that I realized that not only has it all been thought, but it's all been written, and it's all been written better. I guess when you put down the bong everything that's magical and funny about staying at your friend's house and ransacking the cupboard for the alpha cereal bowl becomes mundane. Maybe that's why I started writing about myself. And maybe that's why, no matter who the writer/artist/musician is, it always seems to spring back to the only thing we know we know more than anything else, which is ourselves. .. Or maybe it really is all about just getting some action.

Why is it every time I write down something I think is funny it reads as a hyper-cynical forced observation?

... . . . . . God damnit, Ms. Monroe. God damnit, Mom and Dad. God damnit, Ms. Wahl. God damnit, Scott Lacy. God damnit, Miss Crawford.
Why did you all plant these things in my head as a kid? Why did you tell me I was smart and going to grow up and be successful and famous? Why did you tell me I was a great writer, and a talented this-and-that-or-whatever? My ego became so inflated, I had no choice but to become self-deprecating. How else was I supposed to like myself? Why couldn't you emotionally maroon me and tell me I was worthless or something? I could have been smart and grown up to be successful and famous! I could have become a great writer, and a talented this-and-that-or-whatever. I could have become an egomaniac!
... not to say that writing all that isn't egomaniacal...

There seems to be a recurring theme here.

If I were at the Ranch and said all that, my therapist (whose voice is consistently echoing in the back of my head) probably would have said

"Well, David, why is it you feel entitled to a deep bowl?"

And I would probably go on a long explanation of how I was just trying to talk about something simple and avoid self-deprecation and ego and all that young-adult junk that everybody gets tired of reading and hearing about anyway. My therapist would probably say, after all that,

"It isn't your house in the first place. What would you say if I suggested that maybe you be grateful you even get a bowl in the first place?"

I would probably not say anything to this (in my mind) accusation, and think in my head how my therapist was right and that not only should I be grateful for the bowl, but be grateful for the cereal, and that my friend lives in a house, the company that manufactured the bowls, and that I even have a friend in the first place. And my therapist would be able to tell that I was thinking about all there is to be grateful for. What my therapist wouldn't be able to tell is that I could tell that he could tell that I was thinking about all there is to be grateful for, and because of that made me feel self-deprecating and egotistical.

Anyway. We all get the idea. I used to write like this for hours. Literally. Yeah - I would LITERALLY write. Isn't that crazy? No, I meant for hours. The literal part I mean.

Hmm. Now I think I remember why I stopped.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Tonight I sat in Coffee Exchange and read the rest of Steppenwolf. I looked at the four girls sitting in the corner. I thought that maybe one of them was smiling at me. I smirked to myself about the one in the front right corner who was reading a comic book and had a pink thing in her hair. I was overwhelmed with the beauty and intricacy of Hesse's words and wanted to yell in passion to myself "O Rosa! O departed youth! O Goeth! O Mozart!"

Tonight I sat in Coffee Exchange and drank a chocolate milk. Before finishing Steppenwolf, I decided to ride my bike home. I rather impulsively and out-of-character decided to take a side street home and listen to music and bask in the city I was born in. The moon reflected on to the clouds and, for a moment, I was more happy than I had been in weeks. A Mercury hatchback pulled up to the side of me and in a second's mistake I was shot and left to die on the corner of Blacklidge and Cherry.

Tonight I sat in Coffee Exchange and didn't know why I had ended up there. I sat awkwardly in the corner and couldn't muster the attention to read the rest of Steppenwolf. In a submerged burst of guilt I got in my car and drove away. I cried and cried and cried. There is something wrong with me, I told myself. I began to feel the pressure of the culture pushing against me from all directions. I thought about talking to my mom earlier that day and it all began to come back to me. I remembered how easily I’d forgotten how robbed I’ve felt from a childhood. How I'd forgotten that I spent the better part of my adolescence sitting in front of a monitor chatting on IRC, gaining imaginary positions of imaginary power. I had forgotten why I cried when I first listened to "Rhapsody in Blue" in full at the Ranch. The simply beauty of being alone and watching the colors change in the sky had become so far diluted in my complacency of today that I felt I’d forgotten everything I loved about being human. I told my mom how much I envied her younger self for being able to find refuge in school and art and music. I thought about how everything makes me sad. How I get sad on the computer. How I hate the life the thing sucks out of me. How I want to leave this town so bad and find a new. How I want to say hi to people on the street, want to go to the beach on a weekend. I want to make a mixtape for someone I’ve never met. I began to cry, and cry, and cry and I thought about how Kyle is dead, and it’s just not fair. And Danny is dead, and it’s just not fair. I thought about Matt and how beautiful and intricate of a writer he was and how he struggled to form a coherent sentence only a year later. I woke up in my car driving to find that I had once again been looking at my life, however intently, through a magnifying glass and again missed the big picture. My rent and my car and my degree. I got on the computer that day hoping that girl from middle school had written me back, while I sickeningly thought about sex and death wondered why I was sitting in that awful room. I told myself I shouldn’t have had coffee that day, I told myself I shouldn’t have turned on the computer, I told myself I should have gone for that run, I told myself I should have talked to that girl in the coffee shop who I thought was smiling at me. I told myself to be grateful because my childhood is dead or dying and I've had it so much better than the rest. I got home and sat in the garage for a few minutes. I walked though the living room and told Alex I was fine and tired and had a long day and that I was going to bed, Goodnight.

Tonight I sat in Coffee Exchange and was only a few pages away from finishing Steppenwolf when I ran into Kelly, a girl from middle school who I had written to on Facebook but had never written me back. She told me how she never cared too much for online messaging, which I admired and envied. She told her friends she'd catch up with them in a few and we talked about life since our adolescence. We laughed at the time we were both too drunk to take her home, and I had to call my friend Lloyd to sneak out the back of my house and drive my car to take her home. How embarrassing for her, that we left her at her doorstep. We laughed and I no longer held my year-older superiority over her head. We liked the same music and I rather impulsively and out-of-character asked if she wanted to go to a park I knew about in a neighborhood near Blacklidge and Cherry. As we walked we took a side street and talked about old friends and basked in the city we were born in. She asked me about Kyle, who was dead, I told her it wasn't fair and she agreed. Turns out she also knew Matt, but never of how beautiful and intricate of a writer he was. We got to the park and, at least in my mind, somewhat ironically sat on the curb surrounding it. I met Matt at the Ranch, I said, and I told her a short conversation we had on a camping trip outside of Douglas, which I for some reason remember very vividly:
"I want to visit all those stars," Matt said to me, "and go a google miles per hour," and paused, "in the Millenium Falcon."
I laughed at the reference and said "Yeah, but... you'd probably explode, or get liquefied by a supernova or something."
"That's science! Screw science," he said to me, "science is the only thing keeping us from reaching those stars."

I knew Kelly wasn't affected by the the story the way I was, but she chuckled all the same. We walked back to Coffee Exchange. I offered to drive her to her friends but she declined, but we exchanged phone numbers and I went home feeling sad and accomplished.

Tonight I sat in Coffee Exchange and turned on my computer but it wouldn't connect to the WiFi. I laughed at myself and my pathetic modernness, and in an attempt to justify my trip bought a chocolate milk. I sat and read the ending of Steppenwolf. As I shut the book to the table, Kyle walked in spastically as he always did, our eyes caught and he sat down at my table. He asked me how I was. I told him fine, except that I got a flat tire at the corner of Blacklidge and Cherry and had to walk myself here. He was as kindhearted and well-mannered as he'd always been. I confessed to him the beauty and intricacy of Hesse and Matt's writing. I told him how I was sorry that after the Ranch I had never talked to him as a friend again, and that I still felt some slivers of guilt for not attempting to save him before he died. He forgave me, and smirked and told me the girl in the corner was smiling at me. He said how he's since had the chance to find refuge in school and art and music and thinks I should do the same. Alex texted me, concerned, asking where I was and I told him I was fine but tired and would soon be going to bed, Goodnight. Kyle and I laughed about my adolescent obsession with "Rhapsody in Blue," and I told how he was one of only three friends of mine who was there the one time I played it in full. Before he left I told him I wanted to share something he reminded me of because we'd both grown up in the same city. It was the very end of a poem I wrote in my journal from the Ranch on a camping trip outside of Douglas. I told him it wasn't the best but one of the more honest things I felt I'd written to myself. I said to him:
tucson, arizona and orange twilight
stars and coronas in the muggy desert night
this is the place i dream and dread: home
land of the gleams of sad and dead tones

I knew Kyle wasn't affected by the the poem the way I was, but he chuckled all the same. I told him I was sorry about everything, walked my bike home, and basked in the city I was born in.