“Our house it has a crowd/There's always something happening/And it's usually quite loud/Our mum, she's so house-proud/Nothing ever slows her down/And a mess is not allowed/Our house, in the middle of our street/Our house, in the middle of our…” Our House - Madness
So I’m going through this book all about writing and writing better. Good book so far; it’s called Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach. My friend and partner in crime at the newspaper, Cindi, and I saw Roorbach at a seminar at the local community college awhile ago and we were both intrigued by some of his ideas – intrigued enough to buy his book, anyway.
I was sitting on a plane to Dallas a few days ago. I’d packed Roorbach’s book, determined I was going to get through some of it, and I did. I didn’t know there were going to be exercises along the way, though in retrospect I probably should have – this is a book about writing better, after all.
I got to the first exercise: draw a map of the first place you remember growing up. As is often the case with me, I was unprepared, so I flagged down the airline attendant and asked for a couple of extra napkins (I had a few pens but inexplicably I’d put my notebook in my checked luggage) and began sketching out my family’s first home that I remembered in Fort Dix, NJ.
As the memories came flooding back, my pen set to whirling. Over here, some friends and I found the biggest, most dead sewer rat I’d ever seen (this being New Jersey, it didn’t occur to me then that the rat might have been my legislator). To this day I still remember the putrid smell emanating from that drain pipe where we found the rat and I still remember the bloated, blackened body.