Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On Blog Time

I keep having this recurring vision of a crawling baby churning her way into a lush, dark forest alone. Light has followed rain and lifted everything, given the forest a static singing spirit just beyond human perception, what the angels' voices would do if the light were manifest in sound. The baby is vulnerable, a peach, achingly bare except for a cloth diaper that’s wet and half falling off. Something shiny has attracted her, dust motes in stripes of white sun maybe, and she has shot off like an arrow to find it. She sits to rest sometimes, babbling nonsense and hiccoughing in blissful ignorance of what could lie ahead. Then she continues her hunt. Something is in there somewhere; she saw it. She has no word for "sure" to form the feeling on her tongue, but she is sure. Something is there.

I can’t scoop her up so I remind myself it’s a good thing babies have that bizarro skin on their knees, that lets them slice through polypropylene fiber or forest floors without suffering the nasty rash known as “rug burn.” This infant is years away from finding out what that is, the hard way.

The baby is me. The forest is the blogosphere. And if I am not careful, I may find myself raised up by wolves.

* * *

Part of me, the grownup me that is, wishes I could re-form the image to have more broad appeal, that I was not so damned Classic Cancer, the sign of mother and moon  --  but I’m working on Blog Time here. Tick tick. This is the obligatory Blog About Blogging. Birds gotta fly; fish gotta swim; eventually, all writers gotta write about writing. Plays will be made about making plays; there will be television sitcoms about making television sitcoms.

A long Facebook thread begun by a friend made it impossible for me to ignore the topic any longer. Most everyone in the thread is or was a blogger, real deals, with strong media backgrounds and quality products, from what I saw  --  I looked at others' blogs for the very first time. These friends were, essentially, crying in their beers over the already declared dead blogosphere, and I was the newbie "just hired on," taking it easy on the beer as the new kid should. By the end of the discussion I had backed up in time to the aforementioned baby.

Here’s what this writer with precisely zero experience with blogs prior to now learned. The blogosphere is big. It is complicated to do it correctly. It breaks hearts. No kidding, someone said that  --  "it will break your heart."

I think I understand where they're coming from, when they express pain about it. For one, it may have provided brief hope of actually making a living by writing, as many of these friends once did. And we with print journalism backgrounds were used to counting readers in the tens of thousands once  --  even if you worked at the smallest of newspapers and correctly supposed only a fraction of the readership laid eyes on your work, the numbers probably were still in the tens of thousands. (Young whippersnappers. Remember few other media devices were distracting subscribers, once upon a time.)

Admittedly, I had done the briefest internet homework on the topic before I started writing here, to figure out what it was I was "supposed to do." Learn how to "ping" for one thing, whatever that is. Write short pieces, the shorter the better. And absolutely  --  it's a rule buddy  --  allow comments.

What? Since when do writers engage the conversation, beyond putting their best effort into beginning one, and then having the courage to let their complete work stand on its own? I'm not so much of a babe in the woods that I don't know  --  I would look at those comments, maybe get into the fray. They would affect my work, shift the course of future work. That's crazy talk, man, the antithesis of what writing is for.

Ah, the biggest heartbreak of all:  the loss of the complete thought, of writers who can have one, of readers who can wait for one and then just take it and think about it. Without mass discussion, without argument before the "thinking" part. These losses are worth crying in your beer over.
But in my final analysis, I find I am so glad I was that baby who keeps popping into my head, when I began this writing again, in earnest. I am glad for the wonder. I am having so much fun, reaching for something so luminously beautiful, whether I successfully catch it or not. Words  --  dust motes in stripes of white sun. With no other expectation, my skin is plenty thick enough, for that particular kind of journey into the forest.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dare We Dream Now, of Strip Malls and Bars?

A short work of fiction, based on a writing prompt, with thanks to the contributor.

"Let's blow this joint," you said. "I can't look at pale green and yellow another minute." We were juvenile as spit balls coming out of the foreign land of our own nursery. Driving down Highway 41 with no place in mind, your swan-like hands folded over the baby inside. Minutes turned into hours, until I noticed you had grown quiet for a long, long time. "You OK?" I said.

You laughed. "Well, I gotta pee."

"Like you're-going-to-wet-yourself pee?"

"No, but  --  well it sort of hurts right now." You wrinkled your nose.

We crested the hill and there it was: the gargantuan sign that said Girls Girls Girls! My foot came off the pedal. "Here? It's almost empty." You bit your lip and thought. "Let's go a few more miles. If that doesn't work I'll pee on the side of the road." I sniggered  --  like you're going to squat in your condition?  -- and you punched me.

Moments later:  the strip mall, seething with ant-people. We fought the clot of SUVs and found ourselves on the wrong side of the parking lot. You waddled to the building. That look of pain on your face  --  I opened the door that said "Administration only" and pushed you through. The concrete corridor smelled of vomit, and you looked like you might be sick, too. A moment later we were in the executive offices, and after that, you were in the executive toilet. The executive secretary looked dead behind bug-eye sunglasses, maybe seizing in the electric pulse of fluorescent light. I went in with you. You washed your hands afterward, held them up dripping, a surgeon preparing for clean cuts. Finally you saw the towels on a chair, laundered, folded, and stacked on the seat. A wet butt-print in the rough of the cloth. Instead of drying your hands you took thumb and forefinger like chopsticks and opened the lidded basket beside the chair. And there they were, just as you had known they would be: soft rubbery sex toys of every shape and color. "Hmm," you said  --  "Cherry Red. Come-In-Me Pearl White. Relieve-Your-Balls Berry Blue"  --  and dropped the lid askew.

We had to pass a group of mall rats smoking a joint as we left, stoned-blind to the security camera over their heads. "Ooo what's this?" some dumb shit said, Harley Davidson wings tattooed where his eyebrows were supposed to be. He stepped toward you, and for once I didn't let you handle yourself. I stepped between you and him, and he shrank away like the worm that he was.

"I want a drink," I said without thinking.

"I want you to have it," you said.

We looked back at the strip mall, wondering, but then walked on to the car. I turned for the strip club.

"Crown and coke," I said.

"Water," you said.

The waitress did not ask if that was a basketball under your shirt. The two of us curled together into the booth. You slept for a few minutes in that place devoid of judgment, in the crook of my shoulder. In that strange walking dream that was between then and now. The Girls Girls Girls! made disinterested love to their poles for no one.

I studied what the baby gave you even as it seemed to be displacing you, and us, from the inside out. The fall of glorious curls that framed your face. Softest sighs, comfort like music in the night. Swellings at your breasts and thighs, that whispered come hither to some part of me the present surroundings could not touch.