Saturday, October 29, 2005


It is rare that my writing gets flattered. I was flattered twice in the last 24 hours. What are the odds? The best I can say till now is that when I’ve read my poetry at open mikes (like the Stone Soup Poets) invariably some unshaven, bluejeaned holdover from the 1970’s comes up to me and says, “Hey man, I like your stuff.” Stuff isn’t the right word but why get offensive so soon.

I used to write a political polemic every two weeks for the Belmont Citizen. The column was a commentary on local politics. It is sadly amusing to see what fully-grown fetuses (that’s a fancy way of saying adults) do to stroke their egos when placed in “political” situations. By that I mean Selectmen, members of haughty elected and appointed boards as well as politically appointed police and fire chiefs. I gave it up when, even by my standards, they got way out of control and over the top.

Every week I got more and more outrageous but no one ever complained or bothered to send a letter, pro or con, to the editor. The closest anyone ever came to telling me what they thought of my writing was a woman in the local Rotary Club who made it a point of telling me that she knew “what the people of Belmont thought.” I just smiled and nodded as if to acknowledge her great insight.  I probably rolled my eyes too but she was to busy with her self-congratulation to notice.

What made me quit was this: There was a cop diddling little boys and everyone knew about it, from the Police Chief to the Board of Selectmen and no one said a word for years. Those Selectmen and the Police Chief (as well as the offensive cop) are all history now. Then there was the great tax giveaway where McLeans Hospital leaned on the town to limit their tax exposure … in perpetuity. What were they going to do, leave town? The final straw came when the Mormons ran roughshod over the town said they would build their temple any damn way they pleased and did. It’s something like 200 feet tall on the highest point in town for all to see. The town retaliated by going wet for the first time in 100 years and giving liquor licenses to just about anyone that asked. I had hoped that the town would have gone one step further and declare the property all around the temple an “adult entertainment district.” It would have served the Mormons right. I have no use for supercilious cults and that includes the Mormons, the Scientologists, and even the poor old Swedenborgians (not many of them left) not to mention the Christian Scientists as well as the Roman Catholic Church and, from what I can tell, most if not all, of Islam and anyone else that pretends to possess the exclusive truth. If I haven’t offended you by now you’re probably just an artificially intelligent robot crawler (Hello Google).

Anyway, getting back to my point. I was flattered twice in 24 hours. Last night I stopped at a very shi-shi French restaurant a town or so over (in my town there is one blue collar beer joint and a Chinese restaurant with a liquor license) and planted myself at the bar. The fellow next to me remembered me and started gushing about the stuff I wrote. I remembered him as a techie so I thought he liked my gonzo tech writing (yes it can be done) but NO! He liked my unfinished novel, War Stories. I might just go back and finish now that it’s been reviewed.

This morning I got an email from a guy I never met named Bill Singleton from Algonquin IL, who said he’s read everything I’ve written from brochures to political articles to this blog. The poor man must have had insomnia, his email was posted at 2:59 A.M. … I’m sure I put him to sleep. Well Bill, if you are still up this one is for you.

… and thank you for your support.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

My first Journal

Back in 1970 I decided that I wanted to be a writer. OK, I thought, “this is just a mind hand coordination problem. I can tell stories and I have a vivid imagination the only thing I can’t do is write.” I’d choke up as soon as I had a pen in my hand. This is a common problem with every “wantabe” writer. My solution to the “wantabe” writer problem was to write. That should be an obvious solution but it isn’t really. Just because someone can’t write the great American Novel in 3 days of attempting to write isn’t reason enough to quit. I figured that writing, like an athletic event, required practice.

If you want to run a marathon the first thing you have to do is get up from the sofa, turn off the TV and start to walk. Once you get the hang of that try running around the block then work yourself up to being able to run 30 or 40 miles on demand. You may find out that you are not a marathoner but a darn good sprinter. That’s OK too.

In my case I got a journal and started to write. No mater how painful it felt I was going to write to write at least one paragraph every day. Within a week or so I got to writing a page or more a day and pretty soon I was writing four, five, ten or more pages a day. I started with one of those cardboard covered journals, the ones with the marbled paper on the cover with a name and subject field. I’ll have to go back and look but I think that first journal had about 100 pages in it. I think it took me over a year to fill that first volume. After that I went to the nicely bound mock leather journals that they sell in fancy stationary stores. They come in a couple of different sizes ranging up to over 400 pages.

Eventually I filled over 16 volumes of those paper journals. I still have them in my attic. I once calculated that I wrote, longhand, over 1,00,000 words. It occurred to me that I had written far more than Samuel Pepys, that brilliant journalist of the 17th century. Pepsey wrote only between the years 1660 and 1669. I kept my paper diaries from 1971 through 1990. I did write some more but over the years I found I could type far better than I could write longhand and thus largely gave it up the longhand journal. I have sporadically attempted to replace those journals with bound, typed journals but the process did not excite me. This may be a similar attempt to record my life in vane. Time will tell.

I may be pessimistic but I wonder if these electronic, ephemeral, recordings will outlive the written (on paper) works. Will we see another dark age because Google went broke and the servers that have so wonderfully recorded the last 10 years went dark? Could the Roman Empire have failed for some similar reason? An interesting thought.