Watching my brain at work is like watching a ping-pong match between me and somebody named “you” who isn’t actually there but has a mean backhand and beats me every time. Those who read me seriously know to keep their eye on the ball; they expect it to fly out the window on the second shot and they’re willing to chase it down the block because, sometimes, right before it rolls into the sewer, there’s a point.
In real life, I am a ball chaser; but when I write, I’m serving.
I write because it’s better than living. Less work, better outcomes. And as I age I’m rediscovering old memories I forgot I had. They keep appearing, perfectly formed, durable as pearls, and more interesting than whatever’s going on now.
Few memories are perfectly clear. Some are distant as a whiff; others breathe down our necks for years unabated. Some are like peering through old glass. As we grow older we can keep looking back on these old movies with newer and newer eyes, each time seeing something gigantic we missed before simply because we were too young to understand it.
My brother and I, for example, have clear memories of throwing water balloons and firecrackers on the neighbor’s lawn, but we didn’t understand at the time that the balloons were Trojans, or that the firecrackers were Tampax, and it took decades for it to sink in that perhaps the reason our neighbors were so hostile had something to do with the implications of whatever message they thought we were sending.
I’m 10, helping my dad with the lawn on a warm summer afternoon. Jack Brickhouse is on the Silvertone radio. The Cubs are on WGN. We’re talking; he’s got a Hamm’s, The Beer Refreshing. I want a sip; he says no.
It’s one of those blessedly rare times when you’re standing there talking to your dad and it’s okay. It’s not “about” anything. Just two guys leaving each other alone. Talking.
I want to know how much he makes. I figured he owes me something for raking. He’s not going to tell me that. Why? Because! People don’t talk about that stuff. It’s nobody’s business. I try a different angle. Do you make more than … the Johnson’s? It’s easy. One shrug is a confirmation and we’re off! Up and down the block I’m naming people, he’s assessing, one by one he’s knocking them down until finally I had to run and get him another beer.
There was an enormous subtext to this nonmoment moment. It was confirmation that we were moving, which was my topmost fear. I have a sharp image of being called downstairs in our pj’s. On the dining room table was a large scroll, rolled loose, the size of a drain pipe. Spread out, it was a blueprint; on it, a house. I saw what was going on here. I put myself into the picture. It was like diving from a helicopter into the ocean, until I came to rest in an undersea world that I would inhabit for as long as I could hold my breath.
It was only an image in my mind but it was powerful enough to become a memory of how it would be in the future, a memory of a projection of a future that never happened. We moved, but it was only a few blocks away. The house was great. Everything was great. No story here.
Today I realize that this is why I write so weird. It’s my brain, shedding.
I’ve been told I don’t know how to blog and I’m quite sure this is true. I’m pneu. Perhaps blogging does require some kind of training or probation period or standardized test or dues. A driver’s license. Maybe the hazing thing is a good idea, I don’t know. I’m quite sure though, as I learn, that I’ve had it wrong from the start. Blogging, to me, sounded almost onomatopoetic — the sound of expelling mental phlegm. He turned his head, coughed, and blogged on the doctor’s shoe.
I’m told a blog should link links to links and that this interlinking system is like a gigantic piece of chain mail draped around the globe; that once I tap into its vast power I will be intimately interconnected with all peoples everywhere simultaneously, but that meanwhile, back here on earth my body will eventually be unplugged.
While I wait for this blessed unplugging I wander this vast internet landscape, rubbing shoulders with the greats and not-so-greats, learning from the best when they’re at their worst; from the worst when they’re at their best, and daily I come to the same conclusion. I’m not a blogger by nature, not in the sense it has come to be defined, and the harder I try to fit with the format, I fail.
It is very hard work to be somebody else.
Okay, now get the ball, please.