Posts Tagged ‘writing’

The experiment continues…

For new readers, I am going through old notebooks and posting old writings, some as old as 15 years.

Why?

I don’t recall…I am sure it seemed like a good reason at the time, and now I am just trying to follow through.

The piece below is a poem I wrote when I was 19 and in first year university.

Posting poetry is especially hard, since, like many I am not comfortable with it.

I spent a few years experimenting. Much more while I was in school, since I was reading a lot of it.

I continue to read poetry as I come across it, but haven’t written anything in over ten years. I never produced anything I was particularly proud of.

The poem below was inspired by a man I saw everyday on the Toronto subway. He was always there, no matter the day or time. I decided that, that was how he spent his day, just continually going around the loop, like a modern day hobo riding the rails.

Here it is, for better or worse in its original form, unedited.

Oh, and slightly unrelated, my favorite poem: T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I still believe the line “Do I dare to eat a peach?”. Is one of the best lines I have ever read, for its simple imagery and complex meaning.

Now speaking of inadequacy….On to my poem…


The Circulation of the Dead

 

The wanderer

drifting the streets,

never going forward,

hacking and smoking,

asking for more.

 

He scratches where the hair used to be.

Same jacket for eight years;

Shoes for twelve.

The yellow coat balances;

the shoes are the streets.

 

He is everywhere, looking.

For pity.

The pity they gave to the guy at 7/11.

Sorry, fresh out.

He’ll try again tomorrow.

 

He keeps circling by,

a never ending trip,

smoking his poisoned lungs.

There is no help,

he is already dead.

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I have written stories since I could hold a crayon and string an amusing thought together. 

At 17 I was given a notebook to contain my lunatic rambling, self described profound thoughts, and ideas the usually should be left as such. I have kept one ever since.

I have had many types over the last 15 years. Moleskin was always my favorite. Maybe it was the history of them, which is convienently provided with every books sold. It could have been the elastic holding it all together, or the ribbon marking my most recent transgression. Most importantly it was how it felt in my hands, and how it seemed to make the silliest of ideas seem like something more substantial.

I have saved them all, for reference, or more often if I am feeling the need to be humbled. Most entries are downright embarrassing. 

Ah, youthful exuberance.

I once read that James Joyce was terrible when he first started out. He would then go on to write Ulyesses (Which I still hate, but heard that it did alright).

Reading through these old stories, notes and poems is at times horrifying, sometimes funny, usually insightful and always an interesting window to the past. 

While I thought these old pages would stay buried, thankfully never seeing the light of day. I have recently decided it might be a fun, humbling and cathartic  experience to share some of these tales.

Over the next while I will be posting them here, unedited, full of flaws and misused, well intentioned literary devices.

No one may read them, but at least I can see I wasn’t afraid to throw myself out there at my ignorant worst.

Come back and enjoy. Try to laugh with me. However, I will forgive you if you end up laughing at me.

Thanks for reading.

– Jason 

Follow on twitter – @FredThePeacock

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Did you ever end a day thinking, ‘gee, that’s really not how I thought today was going to go’. I had one of those days recently. One of those life altering events happened to me. You know the kind, the ones that always happen to someone else, but never to you. Not as serious as cancer or getting hit by a bus full of choir students doing there best rendition of Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World. Yes, it wasn’t that bad, but it was worse than farting in a library or calling out the wrong name during sex. So what is left on the list of things that always happen to someone else…how about “being let go”…Yes, I have recently found myself unemployed, by no fault of my own mind you. Apparently I was expendable (and not the cool Stallone badass kind). Now, I have a point of contention with this, as I find myself quite pendable. Though of course, I was not consulted on the decision. You think I would have a say…nope. So after I heard the news,had a few drinks, smoked a few cigarettes (and I was doing so well….) told my wife, had a few more drinks….I sat on the edge of my bed and thought to myself…’gee, that’s really not how I thought today was going to go’.

I now find myself in an interesting position. I find myself in the long line of people who have found themselves unemployed over the last couple years. Everyday previous, I got up kissed my wife and daughter goodbye and left for work. Would you like to know what I did the day after my employment status was deemed expendable? Nothing….Or as close to it as humanly possible (turns out if you actually do nothing, you actually die). I resided myself not to think about the previous days events, and enjoy a nice, relaxing day with my family. It wasn’t easy, and in retrospect I probably failed miserably, but I did my best to let the rage and sadness go, if only for a few hours. I sat on the edge of my bed that night and thought to myself… ‘gee, today was a lot better than yesterday.’

Do you know what I did the day after my nothing day? I freaked the fuck out. I don’t have a job. You know a job…? The thing that keeps lights on, paid for the laptop that is writing this, fed the dog and daughter, (the former who could actually stand to lose a few pounds). The job that gave me somewhere to go everyday, made me responsible for something outside my family and established me as a functional member of the community. Most importantly it was the job that allowed my wife to stay home and do the much more difficult job or raising our child. All those things that were seemingly fine yesterday, are now in jeopardy, because of the job….Or lack thereof.

You know what the really funny thing is…I mean besides the thought of me walking into a dark, decrepit basement doubling as a black market hospital, carrying my own kidney in a styrofoam cooler with a six-pack on top to keep it cold…The REALLY funny thing is I didn’t even like the job to begin with. Actually I hated it. Actually I thought it was sucking out my soul through a crazy straw. But I did it for years. And I did it well. I did it for all the reasons above. It did it because it gave me the ability to take care of the things that were really important. I don’t regret that one bit, it was worth it. If circumstances were different I would still be there, because what it afforded me far outweighed what it took from me.

The circumstances aren’t different. My life has changed, and all elements affected due to the decision of someone I probably have never met.Now what? Another job, that’s the easy answer. Work my way back up. The problem is I tend to take jobs I can do well, but don’t necessarily want to do. That’s life I suppose. I am sure the majority doesn’t get to do what they really want. And I am sure a great number of people do jobs they hate, simply because it is necessary. My problem is that I don’t really know what I want and my fear is there isn’t something I really want. I feel that my professional life will be filled with jobs of necessity rather than personal gratification. That being said, I like to believe that a capable, driven person with reasonable goals can achieve them through will and tenacity. Coming up with the goal is the hard part…Ok maybe the ‘reasonable’ goal is the hard part. I am guessing that a world revered cat burglar with a high moral code, quick wit and a dashing smile is unreasonable? Do you have a better suggestion? I would settle if someone would pay me to do this, but that doesn’t seem to be happening either…Unless you are reading this and you want to pay me to write self indulging, occasional funny, often repetitive dribble…In that case, may I ask, how do you take your coffee?

Maybe I should get used to that question.

I don’t really know where I am going. Remember back in school when they asked you what you wanted to do? Teacher, doctor, lawyer, lion tamer….none of them really seem to fit. I’m 31, I got some time to figure it out…Worst case scenario we can learn to read by candle light…And kids don’t need to eat everyday right? God knows the dog could skip a meal.

 

Thanks for the therapy….the cheque might bounce though.

 

 – Jason

Follow @FredThePeacock 

 

Have you ever dared go back and read what you wrote, oh so many years ago? Ever dust of that journal, try and stick the old faithful 2.5 inch disk into the nonexistent drive, or crack open that old school exercise booklet? You are cringing aren’t you? I can feel the gut punch and the always descriptive groan. But…there is a but…If there wasn’t this would be a fairly short, pointless and downright mean post. If you have the courage to grab that bankers box down off the top shelf in the closet, the one hidden by old sweaters, Anne Rice paperbacks and that hat you bought that was in style long enough for you to drive home from the store. Bring that that box down, and breathe in. You know what that is you are breathing? Dust mites…and humility. One of those can be a very good thing.

Humility is that precious little gift that keeps us all from being ignorant little pricks and pretentious little snobs. It is a vital component in what makes up a decent human being. It is what lets us know that at one point we all… sucked. It is important for our overall growth and definition of our character that we as people sucked at one point in our life, and recognize that we will most likely suck again. Oh, and if you are that person reading this now saying “Nope, not me”. Well…then you are in that point right now. Of course I am talking about writing, since that is what I know and what I have been doing in one form or another for twenty five years. However, you can apply this to anything. A good friend of mine is a very successful competitive runner, guess what? He used to fall down…a lot. It is important, and it gives us perspective to know that everyone was terrible at some point. Accepting that is what makes us better, and lets us grow.

Do you want to know what was in my metaphorical “box on the shelf”? There were some real gems. The first few are illegible. Not because I had such terrible penmanship, but because they are literally just squiggly lines…As I recall, we kept a daily journal in grade one. Our teacher had instructed us that if we didn’t know a word, just put a squiggly line. When we were done we would go over it with her and she would help us with the words we didn’t know. Of course when I walked up with all squiggly lines, and the teacher asks me, “Well, what do they mean?”…My obvious answer is… “I dunno, they just look like a bunch of squiggly lines…” Lesson learned: Don’t depend on the memory / attention span of a five year old.

Let’s skip a few years down the road, to my fondness writing memory…Not my best, but my fondness. In grade five or six (can’t remember…damn glue addiction) I had a teacher who would give me exercise booklets, the ones with the dotted lines between the two solid lines, for students to practices cursive (do they still do that? I can’t remember the last time I saw a kid write cursive? I guess they can just choose whatever font they want on their macbook…). He would give me these books, because he knew I liked to write stories. I remember this time with a smile on my face. When I wrote in those silly little books, I didn’t write for attention, praise, money, or to argue a point…I did it simply to entertain myself. I wasn’t concerned about being original. I just wanted more stories from my favorite characters. When I ran out of things to read, and still wanted more Garfield or Carmen Sandiego, I would just write my own stories about them. It made perfect sense. I didn’t occur to me that for most people the story ended when they put down the book. I saw no reason for endings….I wrote long nonsensical stories starring my favorite characters and filled countless exercise books. I think it may be part of the reason I did well in school at that age. I knew if I did a good job, and got my work done early I would be awarded with more books to write in. Again, reading these stories today, they make no sense. But they are pure and came from the heart and head of a kid who just liked to tell stories.

It is from those heartfelt tells that I stumble across a journal from my university days when I flip to a page containing a drunken manifesto on the beauty and purity of masturbation. Here is the stage where the cringing really starts. Not that it was that bad, but that I thought it was that good. I still remember finishing it and gleefully running out of my dorm room and down the hall. I burst into the room two girls who had known me for a total of two weeks, proclaiming: “You gotta read this!” Their looks should have told me all I would ever need to know. This was me at my pretentious, narcissistic best. University was a great time for writing in theory. I was surrounded by other artistic people trying desperately to find their place. Looking back now, we were all trying too hard. It was here that I entered my “pained artist” stage. Everything was so self-loathing and filled with anguish. It was the self-indulgent bullshit every twenty year old writes, because they have a profound understanding of the world, that the rest of us couldn’t begin to fathom. This is the stage I like the least. I tried too hard to be something I wasn’t, because I didn’t know how to be who I really wanted. I didn’t realize then that I just had to wait.

Then came the drunken writing phase. Like the grade one phase, all works from this period are completely illegible.

Once I realized I could write without booze, I spend about seven years trying to figure out if it was possible to be happy and still write. For the most part it was hard. With considerable effort some good things came out. Eventually I produced something of substance; something I was pleased with (well, almost pleased with). I did this (mostly) sober, but definitely happy. But….there is that but again….It felt like work. I guess it was…I was doing it more because of something I wanted, and less because I actually wanted to do it. At this point, it seemed that I wanted to be a writer more than I actually wanted to write. This “forced” work began to bleed through on the page and I needed a change if I was going to move forward. I looked to the past, because… well, you can’t see the future. For me, lifting the lid of the “box” and dredging through utter embarrassment was insightful. I saw the kid who wrote with a pencil just for the sake of moving it on the page, who just a few years later, was making up stories simply to entertain himself. I want to write like that kid again.

Sometimes I lay awake at night, reliving those painful memories of bad decisions or the awkward moments that always accompany youth. What I take away from those moments now is not the pain, but the intentions; the intentions were always pure and natural.

Dig through your past, you’ll find some cringe worthy things, that I do not doubt. If you look a little deeper at the things you have hidden in the shadows, you might just see something else; something you have been missing. We all sucked…And are better for it.

Think of a picture of yourself you hate from your childhood. A picture you would hide away in a closet or bury in a box. You were ashamed of for how awkward you were. It was always that picture that your parents showed off as your face turned red with rage and you wondered why that we do something as horrible as display that picture. I’ll tell you why, because of what they saw in it. All of the best parts of you now, the things that define and inspire you, were already there in that picture. Take another look.

Thanks for indulging me yet again.

Jason.

Follow – @FredThePeacock

I have that fantastic urge to write something. Yet, I have no idea what I want to write about. Zilch….. What an odd word…Zilch..Hmmm. What is the etymology of the world ‘zilch’? Let’s find out together…..Here I come Google…..

zilch (n.)
“nothing,” 1966, from earlier sense of “meaningless speech” (1960), originally Mr. Zilch (1931), comic character in the magazine “Ballyhoo.” Perhaps from U.S. college slang (early 1900s) Joe Zilsch “an insignificant person.” Probably a nonsense syllable, but Zilch is an actual German surname of Slavic origin.

You know what? I am no better for having known that. I am zilch better than I was 1 minute ago.

I believe the previous few sentences may be among the worst things I have ever written. That is including the stapled together pieces of construction paper that held my first novels….The Adventures of Mr.Bear….They were classics. Check them out on Amazon…..Nevermind I just checked, must be sold out. Printing and binding construction paper with staples is hard, hard labour.

This is sad….I really have nothing to say. You would think I would stop now, but you are not so lucky dear reader….It does beg a question though…I know why I am still writing, but why are you still reading?? You must have something better to do…Perhaps refinishing that old bed side table you keep telling everyone in your family not to throw out, because you are “getting to it”. (Even though you know it looks worse the more work you put into it, but damn it! You said you would finish it, and finish it you shall!) Or watching a Degrassi Junior High marathon (Because you are holding out hope that this time Shane won’t take the acid and do a swan dive off the bridge)….Oh I know, you could read some of those books on your shelf you have been telling people you read back in college. (The Wikipedia ending of The Grapes of Wrath is waaaaayyy better). Wait…I got it…Have you had a good cry recently? Maybe it is time you realize that you have three fingers pointing back at you. It might just be time for some you time. Light some candles, put on the best of Sade CD, light some incense and get down on your knees in the middle of the living room and wait for the water to start flowing……It is ok, let it all out. Sob to your heart’s content. Those really deep hard ones that hurt your chest, that’s what you want. Don’t forget to breath. Oh wait…Shit! Someone is home. Yah you really shouldn’t have done that. You really should have checked first. How am I supposed to know if someone is home at your house?? Oh now they think you are crazy. You managed to survive the time you stabbed them in the thigh with a fork…But this is too much. They are gone. They will be back for their stuff later. You say you will be out, but you won’t be will you. Nope, you will scare the shit out of them when they come in and find you sitting in the dark, smoking a cigarette at the kitchen table, drinking straight vodka and methodically tapping the fork on the table.

See?? There is a plethora of fun-filled productive activities you could be doing rather than reading this…

Ok, so now that you are sad, alone and watched your fill of poorly produced yet effective Canadian melodrama, I can tell you why I am still writing when obviously I have nothing to say. I am writing because it is the only known cure to writer’s block. You want to write something, but don’t know what? Don’t over think it. Just write…It doesn’t matter if it is dogshit. It doesn’t matter if it is nonsensical dribble (see paragraph above). The sheer act of writing will help you get over that seemingly impassable mound. You will most likely throw out every word you wrote (or you will publish it online). But maybe, just maybe there is an idea, one line, even a perfectly worded phrase that somehow escaped the rest of the literary bile that spattered over your page. It is now your job to cut the fat. Clean off those few precious words and run with them. It might lead to something great….Or nothing at all. But maybe you will take even more from the next piece. Just keep going. You will never, ever write anything worthwhile by sitting around trying to think up something to write. In the most ideal of circumstances it just comes to you…In the worst of times you have to work for it. Which means you have to write, and really is that not the whole point anyway??

As for me…Well I am off to explore the literary wonders of love scorned, fork wielding serial killers.

Check ya Later,
Jason – @gskewedview