Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My First Books

When I was younger, I do believe that I had less shame. Not that I can feel myself drowning in any shame-mires now, but I really didn't have any shame 15 years ago. I used to write from a place that was exceedingly indulgent, and--I think, anyway--surprisingly truthful for my age. And then I would type up my favorite entries from journals, bind them into little booklets, and give them out to friends and family at Christmas.

It's a little cringe-worthy now, to read through these books. I shared everything. Reports of drunken nights and make-out sessions, sappy feelings and attempts at rage. I recall my aunt asking me one Christmas morning, did you have to use the F-word on the very first page? And you know what, I did.

To me, being a true writer meant telling the story, regardless of who was going to read it, even (and especially) if it was embarrassing. I didn't base my picks for each booklet on what was most presentable to the greatest number of people. I picked the stories and journal entries and poems I thought were best. And then I just held my breath and handed them out. It always surprised me to learn that people actually read them. I'm still convinced that the booklets were read in a gossipy way, so people could see if they "appeared" in an entry. Or to guess who it was I was dreaming about.

When I was about 24, I stopped writing for a while. I must say, I don't think this was necessarily the right choice, but I don't think it was the wrong choice either. The reason I stopped writing is because I felt like all of my topics were drivel. Half-baked. Youthful, but in a whiny way. Undeveloped. One-dimensional (one-and-a-half dimensional on a good day.) How many times can one write about smoking a cigarette on a rooftop in San Francisco? And so I stopped until I was 28, and the booklets stopped with them. It's sad, really. I guess you could say that I crushed my own spirit. Or at least, I gave myself a mandate: grow up, and then let's see what you have to say. Ruin your life; it's the gateway to the other dimensions. Just be quiet for a bit; trust that you'll still be in there when you're ready.

But oh, I'm so glad I have this record of younger times. It's funny, my syntax has stayed much the same. All of these years, and I'm still breathing the words the same way. (Isn't the placement of a comma just like taking a breath? In my opinion, where you choose to put a comma is optional, and depends entirely on how you breathe.)

Of course, there are entries throughout that are utterly embarrassing. Lousy metaphors, over-worked analogies, and sometimes no sense of irony whatsoever. There's even one dreadful story in the first volume called "Beanstalk, Jack Beanstalk," with instructions to be read in a subtle Brooklyn accent. (Ugh!)

Icy Fingers, Mistaken Embraces (what a terrible title) was the first of the group. It was 1996 and I was 19 years old--my first year of college. My English teacher had the class end the semester by compiling what she called a "chapbook"--a collection of work we had written (hence the terrible Beanstalk story). OK, there is nothing redeemable about this collection except the cover art--my friend Dave Mason drew this picture of me in all of ten minutes out in the quad of Moorpark College, and to this day, I am in awe of what he was able to sketch so quickly. It is, literally, the only piece of talent that came from this booklet.

But! Icy Fingers Mistaken Embraces gave me the idea to do more booklets, this time using stories and journal entries I actually cared about.
Duomo Circus came next--named, of course, after the slip of paper that a very good-looking man in Florence gave to me that read "Do you can came with me tomorrow in Duomo Circus for a drink." 1997 was my first real year of traveling ever in my life. I went on a 3-week trip to Europe with my girlfriends--a trip that to this day is probably one of the most epic adventures of my life--and I also visited New York City for the first time and fell in love with it. And so this booklet contained all of my journal entries from my travels, opening with a favorite Jack Kerouac quote and an earnest declaration that I would go to Europe "without a boyfriend, without a husband, carrying only my youth and a promise..." (hee dramatic!) And of course, wouldn't you know, I only have one coffee-stained copy leftover of this one.
100 Degrees Below 100 came next (1998)...
...Followed by Molly's Soliloquy (1999). This one, I think, was my favorite. All of that yummy English major reading I was doing in college--Ulysses and Paradise Lost and Salman Rushdie--it all soaked in and came through here. When I think of myself writing, I think of this year. The poemy thing I wrote called The Odyssey (above) was one of my favorites.
The last one I wrote was El Elegante. I was 23 years old and obsessed with Anais Nin. I had just moved to San Francisco. The World Trade Center had just been destroyed. I guess you could say that change was in the air. It's funny, though, that this was the end of the road for the suddenly stop doing something that had become such a ritual. And I had just switched over to color-printing technology!
In the spirit of considering change, I particularly liked this entry called Teething, which I wrote on the eve of my 21st birthday. And in the spirit of considering change, perhaps this is the year that I make my next booklet. I've followed my own rules, after all, and have grown older, so (as you know), I am giving myself permission to write again. I'm curious to see what my grown-up booklet would look like, what I would have to say. And, of course, how I would feel about it 15 years from now.


Seems strange and altogether stupid to mourn a year when another day will greet you just like any other. My last hour, and I am so melodramatic.

But tonight I drove home and realized that fifteen was six years ago and I cried and cried because that was when I met Matt and Chad, and that was when youth seemed eternal and then one day you hear Matt's getting married in June and that seems far away to him. So nonchalant. And they will get married and there's no reason why they shouldn't.

Late bloomer. I will not marry for a while because I am not mature enough to want that kind of life.

Late bloomer. I was not ready to move out until now, and even now I feel a pang seeing mail show up at this address.

Late bloomer.  I thought my sunflower on the kitchen table was a late bloomer, but it only closed up and died. Not I.

Late bloomer, that may not publish a novel or a story till far past twenty-one. But that is all right. Like many women before me, that is all right. Like my sisters who bite their tongues until they have no more, until evolution just started making women without them. But I believe in regeneration. Like sharks teeth, my words will grow out of my experience and nights like tonight, crying on the 405 because I became an adult in one day. I should have seen it coming. I had it on the calendar. It is a simple math equation--every 365 days.

But I don't quite fit this suit yet and I wonder if sharks cry when they teethe.


1 comment:

  1. It was because of these damn books that you got an awesome pen every Christmas and I got, like, a stapler.

    But I'm glad you're starting again! Or thinking about it. I don't think it's bad that you took a break. I think your body/mind/soul/whatever needed it, even if you didn't know it. To quote someone wise: "Just be quiet for a bit; trust that you'll still be in there when you're ready."

    When I get home tonight I'm going to try to find all of these again. I loved reading them, every year. I can't remember if I told you that. (And yes, I always did look for myself, heh.)