I have a memory, if it can be called that, a moving image that bubbles up when I’m writing.
It is of a stretch of road called Marine Drive, connecting North and West Vancouver. It’s a thoroughfare, three lanes each way, thick with strip malls and autobody shops on each side.
Nothing happened there that I can remember. I just have to make a U turn. That’s the memory. I have to get back to something. Not a place, but a person, someone I left on the side of the road. And I am waiting to make that turn.
But I never make the turn because the light doesn’t change. I just wait and look at the orange and white sign for the autobody shop across the way.
And so now, to right this wrong, I present additional Supersets from that era and the prizes they deserve:
Superset I/Greatest Super Short Songs: Paranoid (Black Sabbath) 2:48, Come On Get Happy (Partridge Family) 1:06, And The Gods Made Love (Jim Hendrix) 1:23, But I Might Die Tonight (Cat Stevens) 1:54 Prize: Six Pack of Molson Diamond Beer
Superset II/Greatest Bad Songs:Let the Lizard Loose (Goddo), Ridin’ High (Moxy), Strutter (Kiss), Joker (Babe Ruth) Prize: Pinkish Pimp Hat
Superset III/Music to Think/Remember/Die By: The Heavenly Music Corporation (Fripp & Eno), The Heavenly Music CorporationReversed (Fripp & Eno), The Heavenly Music CorporationHalf Speed (Fripp & Eno) Prize: Enlightenment
Non-fiction demands something in the middle, not a information dump nor the author doing cartwheels but something that does the story justice through clear prose and content.
Two books I have read of late fit this bill. Nathanial Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea probes costs of survival at sea while Don Starkell’s remarkable Paddle to the Amazon documents the remarkable story of a 12,000 mile canoe trip, both taking the reader on a journey they will not soon forget.
A close friend recently texted me: Write what you know. It’s good advice, like Keep It Simple Stupid or Seize the Day. Then again, what if I stay in bed too long? Make it slightly complicated? And I just don’t know?
I’m writing a speculative trilogy about going to another planet, which is something that I know nothing about. But I do know about promise and failure. I know I think of my flaws as attributes. I know that there is a fine line between when to choose the sensible thing and the brave. I know that I am as self centered and mean spirited as the rest. And I know that I will be alone in the end.
And so it becomes jumbled. Yes, I know what I know. But I think I know too much of that. It might come clear in my dreams, but who wants to hear about that? I’ll tell you about my mother. Actually I think I already did.
So here’s the story: Guy writes a blog for eight years and then writes that one true thing that gets shared to every corner of the galaxy and becomes the soothsayer for all. Share that!
I spend a lot of time digging into my memories. I look at pictures of me as a boy – fishing on the dock, beside the Christmas Tree, with our dog Celeste – trying to access that momentous time. I have also tried to searched out childhood things like Checkerboard Ice Cream and Pantry cookies, both of which I cherished in those days and both of which have vanished.
It seems somehow possible that if I could just taste them again, I would rediscover a key note to my uncluttered mind, like the magic of holding the tin or the feeling of my bare legs against the kitchen linoleum. But I have not been able to find either.
I collected these stickers from the Loblaws grocery store, furiously opening strip after strip to fill the booklet, trading for missing stamps, finding out who had found the un-find-able ones. There were dozens of Larry Carriere and Walt McKechnie and so few of Guy Lambert and Don Awry. It was impossible to find those.
And then Doug Crosby, a rich and somewhat simple boy in my class, bought the completed book from Edward Etchells for $50. The class bully Andy McAlpine mocked him. “You idiot! That’s not how it’s done!”
I realize that the whole thing was about the experience of collecting things, but why not do it Doug Crosby’s way? Why go through all of the hassle of bartering for the rare stickers when you could just buy the whole thing in one shot? As much as Doug seemed to have missed the point, Andy totally misses it. It’s not about scamming the system but learning from the experiences of the thing, be that finding Don Awry or eating Checkerboard Ice Cream.
I am stuck on a scene in my book, Anori. There needs to be something there, but I don’t know what. It begins like this: Dee and Tommy are on the coast of Maine (with Dee’s exotic cat) where they talk about the end of their relationship. A park ranger arrives and tells Dee that exotic animals are not permitted in the state park. The exchange is cordial and the ranger leaves.
But then what? I have a tentative scene of three poachers appearing with a dead moose in the bed of their pickup. The ranger returns and says nothing. The contradiction is the aim. The ranger does nothing because he knows the poachers and will receive compensation. I like the premise of this but don’t know what should happen in the end. It seems that the stakes will have to be raised – Tommy proving himself with bravado or Dee challenging them – but I don’t want this scene to detract from the arc of the novel.
To put into context, the following scene is this: Dee and Tommy return to New York City the next day with Apollo. They spend another night together, and there are moments of hope. Dee begins to reconsider her perspective. But Tommy vanishes early the next morning. Dee is saddened and yet relieved. She returns to her work in Greenland.
Options include: a) Dee and Tommy see the poachers from a distance and leave. (Missed opportunity?) b) Tommy shoots one of them in the foot. And then…they race off to NYC? (Stakes too high?) c) Dee records their confrontation on her phone and threaten to expose the ranger’s corruption. (Convoluted and heavy handed?)
Presently, I am thinking a combination of b) & c). Tommy threatens the poachers and then he and Dee leave the park in a hurry. No one follows. I like the idea, but is it obtuse?
Young Chronicles is my record of a 1983 Cross-Canada hitchhiking trip. This section details my first few days in Newfoundland.
June 11-13, 1983 St. John’s
Stayed at Will and Helen’s house. (Will was my ride into St. John’s.) They insisted that I sleep in their son’s room who moved into the living room. Sat in the kitchen as Helen rolled cigarettes with a small machine and Will did the crossword. Incredibly friendly people who left me on my own during the day and had dinner with me every night. Treated me to fish and chips on my final night.
Went to Signal Hill where I photographed an iceberg and mused: The massive shiny white behemoth silently watches the land as its turquoise blood seeps ever so slowly into the sea. It knows its time is limited yet continues its silent vigil with its very own evaporation. Its powers is incredible, its size immense, yet it is unable to combat the pleasant rays of the sun. The beast sinks to its mother. A gull glides past and defecates upon its melting brow. The mortal evaporative wisdom of an iceberg, never understood, yet always cursed. The giant melts, and I do not. Does the shining beast acknowledge my presence? I say nay. (Yes, indeed, I really did write all of that.)
June 14 St. John’s to Marystown
Ride One: To Trans Canada Highway. Mother and young girl
Ride Two: To Kelce Goose Turnoff. Brown Rabbit. Old guy. Hair all over back seat.
Ride Three: To Argentia Turnoff. Military man from Maine. No talk by his request.
Ride Four: To Marystown Turnoff. Red LTD. Cool Scottish guy with wife and kid. “Watch yourself down there. It’s backwood-sy.”
Ride Five: To Swift Current. Three guys. Quiet times.
Ride Six: To Marystown. Avis Rental. Money-minded Oil jerk.
Ride Seven: 45 Kilometers short of Fortune. Silver car. “If you don’t get a ride, drop out.”
Ride Eight: 30 kilometers short of Fortune. Chrome pickup. Local who loved Red Rider.
Ride Nine: 10 kilometers short of Fortune. Red car. Man named Schneider; hates Toronto.
Ride Ten: Fortune. Young couple from Toronto.
Stayed in Seaview Lounge and Motel. A dump. Cheap curtains, chipped walls, ugly lamps, semi-intact luggage rack and rude inhospitable staff. Went to see the capelin run where many were out with buckets to catch them on the beach. “Hey, kids, out of the water. Let ’em come in!” A number of teenaged boys approached me. One thought I was an undercover cop. He was a bootlegger who dealt acid. Another boy, Corry, was formal. “When you address him, do it politely.”
The ferry to St. Pierre/Miquelon, France was cancelled. I tried to get a ride with a fishing boat but they left without me. Cold and foggy. I went to camp in the bog the second night but was too cold and freaked out by all the bog noises. Went back to Seaview Lounge and Motel and watched Butterflies are Free with Goldie Hawn.
What is wrong with this story is that it is not a true story. Men have in their minds a picture of how the world will be. How they will be in that world. The world may be many different ways for them but there is one world that will never be and that is the world they dream of. Do you believe that? (From Cormac McCarthy’s Cities of the Plains)