Perhaps it's because I redacted a lot of documents during the week. Or maybe it's just because I'm a lazy reader. Whatever the cause-- I only read what I want to read even if what I'm reading isn't what's really on the page to be read. Confused? Let me illustrate.
Take for example this little flier that Brent brought over to me last night while we were having a night cap at The Pilsner Inn. He handed it to me and said, "You'll think this is funny." And I did-- not for what the actual flier reads but what I thought it read. Notice in this example the red redacted boxes I've added obscuring the true message:
To Brent: Does this really say Bar AIDS? Does it really say 'the success of the event depends on you!'?
Walking to get some lunch all of these things occured on the same street in the span of twenty minutes:
1) Two blond hair and blue eyed adults with four blond hair and blue eyed children. Obviously a husband and wife. The kids are all under the age of twelve and from what I can tell their birth order is boy, girl ,boy, girl. All of them are conservatively dressed. They are standing in front of Leather Etc on Folsom at 8th looking into the window. As I approach I hear a collective "Ewww" from the kids.
Father: Some people like to incorporate leather goods into their sexual activities
Eldest son: Like gay people?
Mother: Like gay people.
The round the corner and the father points out a leather cod piece.
Father: Some people wear things like this.
Eldest daughter: Like gay girls?
Mother: Like gay girls.
2) A white woman is on the corner of 8th at Howard walking her French Bulldog. She's stopped talking to a black man and black woman.
Black man: What is that?
White woman: He's a French Bulldog
Black woman: A dog? That ain't no dog.
Black man: That ain't no dog. It's a... it's a...
Black woman: A grem? A gremlin!
Black man: Or a teddy bear.
3) Disheveled man with a comb over, hobbling down 8th Street. He's wearing Bermuda shorts and a button up shirt that's too small for his ample belly. He's wearing a white plastic cross around his neck. I'm pretty sure it glows-in-the-dark. To everyone he passes he asks "Is it Friday?" A line of people are ahead of me, each one says no. Still he asks the next person he comes across. Now it's my turn to be asked.
"Is it Friday?"
4) A man, who's left arm is missing is frantically pacing on 8th Street yelling "Have you seen my arm? Have you seen my arm?"
5) Asian man pulling a flier off his Acura SUV. He looks at it and wads it up and throws it on the ground. A black homeless man who's walking by says to him "This ain't China you slant-eyed foo'! Don't litter here!" as the black man wads up a Burger King wrapper and throws it onto the ground.
6) A black BMW pulls out of the Shell Station onto 8th Street and heads North-- against one way traffic. Two motorcycle cops are idling at the red light. One says to the other "Stupid tourists." But neither of them turn on their lights or even attempt to pull the vehicle over.
A friend hired me to design an invitation for his upcoming BBQ. I'm notorious for not doing commissioned work because I don't like having to do multiple proofs or listen to input. But seeing that he's a friend I made an exception. Originally I tried to construct the graphic using a drawing program. But it kept coming out wrong and I couldn't manage the colors correctly. I ended up taking out some paper, some watercolor pencils and paints and having a go. The colors came out much better and Stewie ended up looking more like Stewie than a furry blob. I imported it into Photoshop, did a little clean-up and this was the end result.
Nan Talese, of Doubleday Books, published James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. The book would become infamous in January of 2006 after reporters started a feeding frenzy to find out if the events Frey chronicled were wholly accurate. This was only after Oprah Winfrey had chosen to feature the memoir as part of her book club-- the first memoir of the book club which had enjoyed several years of popularity featuring fiction novels. If you remember there was a delayed outrage, I'd even say fake outrage, when readers of Oprah's Book Club found out parts of the story were fabricated. People felt they'd been gypped-- most likely because someone else-- a reporter, or, later Oprah-- told them to think they were bamboozled.
As a writer-- one who focuses most of my craft on Fourth Genre, Creative-Nonfiction and memoir pieces-- I was peeved over the situation. When James Frey made an appearance on "Larry King Live" he endured relentless questions about the authenticity of his work. Oprah called in to give her support to the author telling the American public the reports on whether the memoir was totally truthful was "much ado about nothing."
Hear-hear Oprah! I thought to myself. However, soon Oprah rescinded her support and publicly flogged James Frey on her talk show.
I should mention I never read A Million Little Pieces. Honestly-- and maybe this is because my not so distant Hipster past-- once a book attains an Oprah Book Club stamp of approval it falls of my to-read list. But that doesn't matter as far as this post is concerned. Having read hundreds of memoirs over the years, and I'm mean hundreds, I've found myself sometimes wondering if events truly happened as they were presented. But at the end of the book it never mattered. Why? Simply, because it was written by a person whose memory is fallible. Also, my knowledge of writing as a craft takes into account the necessity for composite characters, blending of events and the flow of the written word. The tweaking of the story to make it tell-able and memorable.
So why am I bring this up well over a year and a half later?
Trickybrit sent me a youtube link of Nan Telese speaking at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Writers Conference in Grapevine, Texas, where she makes a remark about Oprah and A Million Little Pieces. Her anecdote reminded Tricky of the letter I wrote to Oprah (I had a lot of time on my hands) about her 180 degree turn on author James Frey.
Here is my letter:
For the last few weeks I have followed the controversy over author Jonathan Frey and his memoir A Million Little Pieces. When you called in to "Larry King Live" I was glad to hear that you thought all the debates regarding the validity of Mr. Frey's memoir to be "much ado about nothing." After all, most memoirists employ a writing technique known as "creative nonfiction" which allows them to be reporters, novelists, poets and essayists all in one story. Truths are stretched, people are made into composites, and the concept of time is altered -- not in an attempt to cheat the reader, but in order to make the story flow and heighten the message the author is trying convey. All that matters in the end -- or at least, all that should matter -- is whether or not the story has affected you.
Imagine my surprise and disappointment, then, when I later tuned in to a follow up show you did with the author only to see you turn on him -- apologizing to the public for your previous stance and desperately trying to back pedal out of the comments you made on "Larry King Live" by acting like you were now some kind of inspired seeker of "truth". The Oprah that I -- and millions -- had admired for her steadfast dedication to generosity, strength and genuine concern of others, was now replaced by yet another American public figure retracting her opinion in order to save face and cater to an audience that has shown itself to hold tremendous spending power.
If anyone should feel "duped" about anything it should be we the public; after all, which is more offensive: an author who stretches "truth" for the sake of art, or, an iconic brand of mainstream media that exploits people's emotions and checking accounts under the guise of self-help?
And here is the enlightening video of Ms. Telese at the conference:
A few weeks ago I found myself driving aggressively into work; honking my horn at everyone who crossed my path and somehow infringed on my space: a jay walking pedestrian, a bicyclist taking up the middle lane of traffic and someone who made an illegal left hand turn crossing my path. On the radio I was listening to a morning show where the DJ was in a sour mood. He was lamenting on everything from the state of American pop culture to local politics. And while his observations may very well be valid-- he was being overly contentious and completely humorless. By the time I had gotten to my office I was peeved and seething. Nothing seemed to be going right and I spent the entire day brooding and feeling miserable.
Today while driving into work I was listening to an interview with Joan Rivers. She was plugging her two week gig at the Magic Theater and her nightly performances at The Plush Room. Now I admit sometimes I think Joan's humor can be a bit stale but I still love her one-liners. As a kid I'd come home from school every day and watch The Joan Rivers Show. She's always made me laugh. Keeping with tradition she was so hilarious this morning, after I had parked, I stayed in my truck just to hear her finish the interview. This is something I never do. After parking I get out of my vehicle within seconds regardless of what's on the radio. Seriously, there could be someone revealing the winning lotto numbers for an upcoming drawing, giving me a chance to win millions, but if I had already parked, I would turn off the truck without ever hearing the numbers.
My walk into work was blissful. Literally joyous. I chuckled at everything from pigeons being pigeons to a guy trying to change his tire at a gas station only to get soaked by the sprinklers that automatically came on to water the lawn (ah, schadenfreude). Even after getting into the office I was happy. The general manager popped by my office and we cracked jokes for a good ten minutes. It then dawned on me: I don't need caffeine in the morning, I need comedy.
I'm pretty much a sponge. I'm easily affected by the conditions in my environment-- soaking up the prevailing mood and releasing little bits of it throughout the day. If I listen to sad news on NPR or a DJ being a turd-- I'm going to be melancholy or downright contentious all day long. However if I listen to a funny story or hear a comic tell some jokes-- I'm going to feel enlivened. I'm going to make others happy (and myself) by being funny.
While I haven't worked this epiphany out to a logical conclusion I already have irrational fears about getting a morning comedic fix: when am I going to get my next one? Will I eventually run out of comedy? What will the withdrawals be like? Are my veins going to be itching for chuckles? Is there any turning back? Is there even a reason to turn back?
Answers to these questions will be forthcoming, I'm certain.