Strater did not remember what they talked about – just “painting and writing” – Ernest, sitting by the window in the good light, and Mike on a stool to rest his bum ankle, and the two talking and Ernest walking around to see himself forming on the canvas. The first one with the grey background he said looked too much like H.G. Wells, so Mike painted another with a red background and a tougher face like a boxer. A painter could do that – change the light, alter the line, shift the color of reality until it suited his purpose. So could a writer, Ernest realized: reality was not art and realism was not photography. Once he knew his purpose, all that mattered was telling the story right; if the light needed to fade or the image needed to shift to make his point, then, like the painter, he changed what he knew and what he heard of reality to meet art’s necessity. He came to understand what Ezra told him: fiction and painting were both based on selection. Mike did not put everything into the painting, and what he left out was still invisibly present if he did it right.
And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the “natives,” and so in every crisis he has got to do what the “natives” expect of him.
I spilled all this ink on this page and it’s a poem now, I know it’s such a mess. It means something to me that you know that it was no accident that the words fell out of my mouth the way they did - like you couldn’t have planned it the way they moved so rhythmically - back and forth, iambic, and weak then strong, five feet, stepping one after the other, dancing freely over the blank versed black puddle that assembled itself into the garden of adjectives I hung on the pronouns of you of whom I want to take by blessed hands and do every good action in all the sweet ways of living.
Oh, darling I spilled all this ink and I don’t think I’ll clean it up. Let these words stain the floor of the ship that is our relation. Let us feel these words carved deep and into the wood beneath the soles of our feet. Oh, darling may I trek the words I spilled about you - everywhere, leaving an indelible trail of who you are to me that marks the path I walk for as long as I tread this earth.
I found myself writing again, jumping back and forth around the exact timeline in which these events have occurred. I suppose it reflects real life. Memories come on their own time, you can’t force them.
Advice To Younger Me | #2
11. Singing is cool and fun. It’s okay to do it - even in front of your friends. It won’t make you any less of a young man. Don’t wait until you’re 16 to start. The girls are into it.
12. Read more. The notion that books are long is not true. Right now you have all the time in the world to master whatever you like. Become a well read individual, you’ll like it. Hemingway is great. Wish I’d known about him earlier. You’re welcome.
13. You don’t have bills right now. I say again, read more books.
14. The fact that you have what can only questionably be called a “relationship” with that pretty girl in the other 6th grade class should not deter you from the fact that it’s really not nice to kiss a girl other than the one you’re “dating” even if you are only 11. This type of stuff will come up many times in your life. Avoid it now. The songs aren’t worth it.
15. Kenny didn’t deserve you getting so angry at him during the great neighborhood guava war of 1999 where you banned him from ever coming to your culdesac again. Forgive quickly. You guys didn’t have to wait until 18 to make amends.
16. Keep riding your bicycle everywhere. It’s good for you. Also, jump on the trampoline all the time and do crazy stuff on it. You’re young, your bones will heal.
17. That whole being the first guy to walk across the dance floor and ask Tiana to look foolish with you to Smash Mouth at the Valentines Day Dance in 6th grade was badass. Do that again.
18. Ask your dad to let you play soccer earlier than 5th grade. You’re not bad at it. Lightning will become one of your favorite nicknames. They’ll stop using it when you quit.
19. Someone is going to win at the 5th and 6th science fairs. You’re more than capable. Do it.
20. Ask your dad to tell you more stories. His memory is still good.
Life is actually really crazy and fantastical. The thing is that nobody wants to tell stories because they’re afraid that they’ll sound insane. But every once in a while you get a person bold enough to tell their story and that is when you have to accept the wonder of the world.
My cousin Dina visited my brother Cabell and I in Boston for Thanksgiving this week. It was wonderful having her over. She looks so much like our mom, her being with us was like homesick medication. Before taking her to the airport this morning we stopped into Thinking Cup on the Boston Common for a quick couple cups of coffee. Whilst sipping away Dina and I played a literary game of air hockey with my phone and wrote this short story.
Me: The sun rose
Dina: A girl woke up
M: To music from Chopin on the radio
D: The coffee in the table was hot
M: And her windows were open
D: She likes the mornings but not this morning
M: But the sound of the ocean floating in on a cool breeze eases her mind
D: And Remains her home , but this wasn't her home
M: And then, the accident
D: The car , the crash and the silence
M: The pain in her legs every morning
D: And scars in her heart, still bleeding
M: Knowing that he is no longer there
D: And she will never see him again
M: : There is a knock at the door
D: She don't want to answer
M: Knock, knock, knock, knock
D: Who is this? And what they want? She wondered
M: A voice through the window "It's your mother, I know you're home"
D: The sound of her voice makes her relax and think that everything will be ok ... Someday
M: The End.
Certain things God makes blatantly obvious: Things equivalent to being placed in an empty room with one large canvas, brushes, paints, and ample time. In the face of some situations in life where our overarching trajectories lead toward undeniable places ‘What to do?’ becomes a foolish question.
When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.
The kind old man I met this morning on my flight from Portland to Phoenix could have been my grandfather.
I feel as though somewhere over northern Nevada he struck up our conversation - in the way that clever kind old men do, with stories that make the young men curious for rabbit trail details.
He told me stories of his rotor balancing business and the way he was excited to be passing down his company to his children. How he stayed competitive with his company by only buying Western hemisphere supplies, and being at the top of his field. We talked about politics, china, the gulf, and the world view, and when I spoke about my thoughts on things he listened intently and waited for me to finish, never cutting in. I cut in quite a bit, and as I write - realize that I have much to learn about how to be an old man, should by God’s grace I someday become one.
We talked about sailing. He told me about how in 1981 he had spent a week in the Caribbean on a 55 foot schooner with some of his friends but he didn’t enjoy it because everyone knew how to man the boat except for him. All he could do was drink cocktails and beer, so since he resolved not to be useless - after his trip he picked up racing motor boats.
42, that’s how many cars he has. He told me that he had just bought his last one and that his son had been on his case about having so many. I asked him where he kept them all and which was his favorite, The GT he just bought was his favorite “Why?” “Because the price was right.” “What was it?” “19 thousand for the car, 421 for the work.” “Deal, Did you send it to china or what?” “No, I sent it to my guy down the street from the ranch.” “Fair.” “Yeah it was totaled, I fixed it.”
His wife sometimes hosted pool parties for her dog and the dogs of her friends. He didn’t seem to mind and said of them that the parties were just excuses to sip wine and drink cocktails.
Our pilot cut in over the intercom announcing the planes descent, our conversation slowed. We started to talk intermittently about how his friend wanted him to buy some 700 thousand dollar house on the edge of a golf course with an olympic sized swimming pool and two bungalows - he told her he would have bought it but he didn’t live in the state. “You know there are a lot of people in Arizona that dress just like me and you - got more money in their front pockets than most people make in a lifetime.” I listened on.
At the terminal the flight doors opened to a chorus of people eagerly getting up out of faux leather seats, letting fly overhead bins, and crowding into the intimate airplane walkway. We sat there waiting, knowing it was of no use to rush. I turned to my new old friend: “Manasseh,” “Oh!” he shook my hand “Ralph.” his hand was a lot bigger than mine “it’s nice meeting you Ralph.” he smiled.
After that we were quiet, eventually rows exited and ours became open, upon grabbing my bag overhead I turned to Ralph and said goodbye, he nodded, and I walked off the plane without looking back.
That’s the thing with getting your watch fixed, they don’t really know what if anything is wrong with it straight off the assembly line, but then it breaks, so you send it in - you get it back, and all of the sudden, it’s water proof.