Monday, July 20, 2009

A piece of me

This blog is really growing on me, Grandtots. It's nice to have a place to get all the words and ideas in my head out and into a format that is lasting and durable. It's nice knowing that we can talk to one another, through time and space. Letters and words, written, allow me to talk to you in a way that could never happen otherwise; who I am now won't be around when we finally meet. This person writing will be a stranger to me - an old friend that I knew so well once but that I'd lost touch with. It's nice knowing something of that optimistic, thoughtful fellow is still around.

It really is a piece of me that I'm leaving here with these words. And the reason why I know is because of how the words make me feel. I was writing an entry here for your consideration a few days ago. I was on a computer that wasn't my own and the browser was unfamiliar to me, so the AutoSave feature of the blog page wasn't working. This I did not know. I'd written about 2,000 or so words when my attention was diverted and I closed the browser window to attend to a more pressing matter. And when I returned to the entry, I returned to a blank page.

I'm trying to put into words what it felt like knowing those words were gone. There were, of course, those few, frantic, futile moments that I spent trying to retrieve what I'd lost and there was eventual acceptance. But between those two points, I felt this debilitating fury -- this anguish slash sadness slash rage slash despair slash balled fist slash mouth dry slash heart beating slash blood red - that gripped me like never before, I've been angry like that maybe 5 times in all my life. I wanted to throw the monitor, I wanted to put my foot through the computer, I wanted to destroy everything nearby, lay waste, wreak havoc, I wanted not to care about anything. I've failed tests, had my heart broken, let myself down, let my parents down. I've experienced so many things in my life that should have angered me more than losing those words, but they didn't.

What if those words were gone forever? What if they really did leave my brain when I wrote them down? What if those combinations of thoughts and phrases and words and letters could never be formed the same way again? It felt like I'd lost a piece of me.

Eventually, I calmed down enough to see things clearly. I was impatient, I took the autosave for granted and I learned a lesson. I slowly tried to retrace the lines of thought -- the turns of phrase -- that made up the entry. It wasn't quite as good as it had been before, when it was fashioned without the frustration and confusion that filled me now, but it was a passing facsimile. And with time it would eventually be as true a piece of me as it had been before.

I was watching an episode of Californication a few weeks earlier. Its protagonist, David Duchovny as the inscrutable Hank Moody, is that irresistible farce: a writer with persistent writer's block. After a series of unlikely events capped off by the death of his father, Hank's writer's block finally lifts and, over the course of two weeks, he produces his first serious piece in years, a novella. He carries the lone unedited manuscript back to Los Angeles to be read first by his sweetheart. But in the course of his travels he's carjacked at gunpoint, with the manuscript resting in the backseat of the vehicle. He makes to reach for it but is thwarted by his assailants and watches as that massive, irreplaceable piece of himself speeds away. They're driving away in his $100,000 Porsche. And all he wants is the 200 or so sheaves of paper sitting on the backseat. He lights a cigarette and walks home.

I feel your pain, Hank. I feel your pain.


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