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How Brains Grow

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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.

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About CW Fisher

  • Shark

    CW, you ain’t a blogger; you’re a writer. A good one. Anybody can ‘blog’; very few can ‘write.’

    re: “…a blog should link links to links and that this interlinking system is like a gigantic piece of…”


    Marshall McLuhan’s meets Dante’s Inferno.
    The Circled Streets of Hell as en eternally self-replicating pop-up window.
    Internet space is curved, and if you click long enough, you get to click on yer own ass from behind.
    Sniff the “information” that pours forth—and watch out for viruses.

    We’re all ‘six degrees of separation’ from disinformation.

    xxoo, (platonic, of course)

  • …this interlinking system is like a gigantic piece of… …shit.” Thanks. You’re right, Shark, I need an editor.

    I like this “Marshall McLuhan meets Dante’s Inferno” angle. Get Pixar teamed up with the LOTR people, do a family version of the rapture, with songs and dancing, lots of violence, beautifully rendered.

    “The Circled Streets of Hell as an eternally self-replicating pop-up window. …Internet space is curved, and if you click long enough, you get to click on yer own ass from behind.”

    This is so true! Seeing my name come up number one on Google, for example, was a classic good news/bad news story to a lifelong privacy fanatic such as myself. For all anybody knew I could have been JD Salinger. That’s over with.

    Thanks for your encouragement, Shark. Can I blame you? Later, I mean, if things get out of hand?

  • Shedding? Ping-pong balls? Bloggers don’t use metaphors. We don’t need no stinking metaphors.

    Dude, you need to pimp your blog out. Hey, I’ll link your blog to my blog if you do the same for me? Whores! I appreciate what you have written. Please don’t sell out. The shedding, the ping-pong ball analogy, the onomatopoetic idea–I truly liked it. And you managed to get me to see condoms and tampons in a way that I have never seen them before. Wow! Although, that ball chaser line could be misinterpreted (not that there is anything wrong with that sort of thing).

  • Dirtgrain, you’ve made my day. I’m smiling from ear to ear. I look like I had a horrible shaving accident. I do appreciate your kindness — no joke. It is heaven to be read by other writers. I DO read you, I will blogroll you, and I like it when you call me Whore.

  • Eric Olsen

    CW, This is tingly-beautiful writing, though the Dennis-Miller-in-a-blender free association can befuddle. But there is no such thing as a “blogger,” just different kinds of writers who use some kind of cheater’s software to publish their thoughts on … stuff.

    The last time I had Hamm’s I was 15 and working for a multimillionaire’s groundskeeper, who one sunny day decided we were going to shoot raccoons out of trees on the property because they were annoying the Cat of the House. We (not me) got about five of them and it was traumatic as hell, with these creatures falling out of trees and twitching on the ground.

    The groundskeeper decided we all (two other teenage laborers) needed beers after that. I had nightmares.

  • Thank you, Eric. I’m tingling myself, and just as befuddled. I am praying for you now, after learning of your raccoon experience. The idea of a millionaire granting beers to teens for having killed a family of critters that were “annoying” a pet cat… well, it just makes me want to have a nightmare right along with you. As you know, I’ve already got a fear of dead birds. I tried my best to foment panic among the masses but they must have been watching American Idol. Now to see that you live with this every day… raccoons, you say? Falling right out of the trees? Yeah, that’s bad. Especially since they’re so dang easy to catch. Just put a beer in a cage and they’ll be there.

    “From the land of sky blue wa-a-ters…
    Comes the beer refreshing…
    Hamm’s, the beer refreshing
    Hamm’s, the beer refreshing”