Finding and becoming, sorta simultaneously, who I was

Will Leitch praised three people he knew in their pre-success days. He quotes something as saying how your adult life is shaped by choices you made as a teenager—well, sure, but I don’t feel I was blindly holding on, in years after, to some dream I had as a teen. I feel more like I was becoming—well, finding and becoming, sorta simultaneously—who I was, and sure, I write, as I did in high school, but not the same thing, nor the same way. But somehow I wasn’t jealous of these people Will praised—even if he almost seemed like he was jealous, his praise too effusive.

Journal 310, page 3, 5 Okt. 2019

Anyway, yeah, this notebook’s paper definitely isn’t as thick (or ready for water color) as the 130-lb. paper of previous journal. But that’s OK, too. I went really light on the water today, too, and still it seeped into page below.

Will’s formulation that these three he praised kept going when others fall away from their early plans seems a little facile, I’d say.

I walked dog to park on this chill morning—we left here about 7:40, breeze from east, I had my C____ coat on and put hood up. And I got a little upset in my own mind about a dude—the owner of ___ …, letting his dog off leash (as I’ve seen him do before), and I saw his dog poop in northeast corner of park as dude walked ahead, not picking up the poop nor even seeming to see it.

And I’m venting here in journal rather than yelling at dude in real life. And I could let this whole thing go, but let me say this: I talked myself down from being upset. What worked best was to note that I felt upset and not try to say I was wrong. I was bothered by the thoughtlessness—others use this park, too, buddy—and the unfairness—I pick up my dog’s poop—everyone should do his and her part.

But I didn’t really wanna cause a scene. We all live together. I don’t want to dread seeing him in park in future. Also, my yelling at him—or even any gentle correction of him—wouldn’t likely improve his behavior. So, yeah, I debated this as I walked the last 2/3 of the trail. On the first third, I’d picked up (in a bag already containing some Sam poop) some small-dog-asshole-gauge poops. And I started thinking I was a good person for picking up after that neglectful dog walker. But I told myself to do the good deed (if you choose to do it, do it) without condemning (mentally to myself) the person who did the wrong thing.

[From journal of Sat., 5 Oktober 2019, Journal 310, pages 4-5]

Heard a knock at faculty men’s room metal door

Heard a knock at faculty men’s room metal door just after I’d sat to poop. And I said, “YES?” in a way a little, but not quite, like the unctuous salesman says, “Yes? YAYSS!” on Simpsons.

I suspect the knocker was ___, who probably thinks my answer ridiculous, but I also think his knock ridiculous—it expects an answer. When I’m outside that bathroom wanting in, I just try my key without asking first. Maybe __ thinks that rude.

[From school journal of Fri., 26 Oktober 2018, first hour, Journal 289, page 133]

I was waiting, partly/mostly, to want to do something

Even this paper can’t quite convey what it was, what my experience was, as I lay there in library—I was waiting, partly/mostly, to want to do something, to feel I wanted to do something—even to feel what I want to eat (I had a vague idea of that but it wasn’t grasped—something like maybe Brussels sprouts and sushi—a sushi made of B-sprouts? I wasn’t sure—and I don’t really know what dish that would be, or where to get it).

But I’m here, I’m alive. That’s good. This is where I’d return if I were rich and famous and went off to do rich and famous things—I’d return to a place where people don’t care about my mythic origin story or my public image. Let’s say I was friends with Norman Mailer’s grandson or granddaughter. I’m not sure why he came to mind, but I’d also been thinking how dude had many wives and probably affairs and he was probably a scoundrel (what’s the Charlie Harper term—a “rascal”?). Hell, he even stabbed his wife! But he got away with all this bad behavior, or, he seemed to get away with it in court of public opinion (which isn’t a court at all—it’s just whether certain producers and publishers and talk-show bookers think people in the general audience would want to see a person and would want to pay for an actor’s movie or an author’s book).

But of course those close to the person know the person behind the B.S. persona, and the family members did get hurt by their famous person’s f**king other people and ignoring his kids.  (C__ made some connection between E. Hemingway and some H-way descendant who’s on Fox News. I was thinking of how little care H-way gave his kids while he was off fishing or reporting from war zones or whatever).

(M’s playing something, I assume, as I hear clapping and chanting, audio from what sounds like a political speech, maybe Sanders’ last night. But why haven’t we gotten beyond the rally and the protest in our political-acting?)

So if I were friends with a grandson/daughter of Mailer’s, that’d be fun to know, and then we wouldn’t talk about it much, though, of course, it’s the kind of thing I might use to introduce that friend to my other friends. It’s a thing by which we’d know him/her, which is a label, a tag, but also meaningless. But perhaps so much of what we do and say socially is meaningless?

[From journal of Sun., 23 Feb. 2020, Journal 318, pages 70-2]

I don’t want to get angry—that would change the whole dynamic of the class

My modeling doesn’t seem to work. I don’t want to get angry—that would change the whole dynamic of the class, and I just don’t want to do that. But then, this leaves unresolved such a class as this. How would I handle such a class in the future—a class of kids who aren’t disrespectful but also are talkative and not workative. Maybe there’s just not much to do about that. Just chalk it up to the mix of kids. Or maybe I just get a bit more serious on them, with them, these last few weeks. Many of them do have work to do—like S__, like A__—maybe have a little chat with them Monday, get just a bit more seriuous with them.

[From journal of Sat., 24 April 2010, Journal 126, page 94-5]

He came back from literary fest seeming rather down

He came back from literary fest seeming rather down. His poem didn’t win a prize, and [my teacher-colleague] said he was pouting. She said she had a talk, or needed to, with him about showing character when you lose. But some other kids’ poems got honorable mentions, she said. So this judge [seemed] more amenable to my students’ types of poems than last years’ judges were—not that it matters much.

[From journal of Sat., 24 April 2010, Journal 126, pages 89]

Very dramatic skies to the north—painted roughly, with wide brushes—bruise-blue and white

Well, hot yesterday afternoon, humid. Dinner at Olive Garden because I didn’t know what to make and the thought of sitting in kitchen to make it was no good. And so, there we were, Olive Garden, then Office Max, and when we came out of there about 7:10, very dramatic skies to the north—painted roughly, with wide brushes—bruise-blue and white, etc.

My elbow aches a bit—too much writing? It’s OK to rest it when need be. So, anyway, the clouds came eventually over Stillman. They were coming from the west, moving toward northeast, the news at 5 said, and so we got rain here at 8:30–9. I had walked Gracie briefly because it was already lightning in the distance. When I got home at 8—bed at 9—forgot her pills, though.

Oh, well, I needed the sleep. So here we are, ya know. New journal—it doesn’t say “acid-free,” maybe it isn’t, but oh, well. So, I’ve got some papers to grade quickly this morning. I didn’t feel much like grading yesterday during study hall or 10th hour prep or after school, so I’ll do it this morning, before school and during Morning Pages [writing time in class]. And so, there you are.

I’ve been tired last two days, not sleeping so well, but I slept well last night. We watched TV 8–8:30, but then satellite started going out at 8:30, so from 8:40 ’til almost 9, I just sat here, in this chair at this table, watching the skies light up. Didn’t see many strokes of lightning, but whole-sky stuff. I’ve probably taken some risks in walking dog, etc., when there’s been lightning out. You don’t think about a lightning strike being a real possibility, but then L___’s dad—she was a student last semester—her dad was killed by lightning., and now I’ve got her brother T___ in study hall …

So there you go. Anyway, there we are—two storms last night, 8:30–9, then another one about 2:30, with closer lightning. So 1.75″ of rain in gauge out by the garden, which may or may not include the 1/4″ yesterday. And I watched a couple minutes of morning TV, local. They said there could be more rain, same pattern as last night, tonight. Already the second wettest month on record (since 1906) in Rockford—the wettest month on record in Madison, 11″+ in Madison, and still a week to go! Rain seems so commonplace now when two years ago we hardly ever saw it.

So, I’m writing in this new journal—maybe I’ll only get to three pages today. I started later than I did last two days. I got up 5:20 last two days, but today, dog came by my bed at 5:31 on clock, two minutes before alarm. She’s good at her timing, that dog, and she had to pee right away, out by peonies. And there’s the Grace dog.

[From journal of Thurs., 23 August 2007, 6:09 a.m., Journal 89, pages 1-2]

We made good time down Michigan Avenue, parked in Grant Park North garage

We made good time down Michigan Avenue, parked in Grant Park North garage under the street and got up the stairs at about 3:30 at 30 N. Michigan. The Writers’ Museum (nope, no possessive) is at 180 N. Michigan, 2nd floor. We paid $12 each to get in. It was OK. The best parts were the typewriters. M had conversation with a law student over the typewriters while I communed with Kerouac’s scroll: I noticed places where it seemed he adjusted the scroll so it didn’t go off the—so typing didn’t go off the paper. And edges were ragged in spots and there were handwritten corrections and also—

what—I’m not sure I have any deep thing to say. I’m feeling a little tired now as I write. I could go nap. Cat’s on back of dark-blue couch. He was lying on my hi-viz vest (“Ogle County tuxedo”) and I put the blue blanket under him, and he settled in, and later I folded blanket over him, leaving his head and a strip of his back visible.

And the scroll—I guess I don’t have any deep thoughts there. Maybe just that I was seeing the creation of these stories, this story that became mythic. I was seeing the foundational layer between his experiences and published book.

Back with a third round of tea. I’m not quite sure what it means to say a “foundational layer,” except maybe that this was the first putting-down of Kerouac’s thoughts into words.

The old advice about writing—show, don’t tell—but my journaling voice shows by telling—and Kerouac, too—his narration is a big part of the fun, the joy, of On The Road.  I recall now seeing “OTR”—over the road—on trucking mags at Petro and wishing these things were more hip to Kerouac. Of course, what do trade publications care of personal narrative? I’m trying to imagine my mind then—a mind that would want that kind of, of what, society-wide awareness of Kerouac? Or just some cultural writing? I’m not sure—things that get popular tend to get dumbed down. Not all people get them as I do in my way. But now that I’ve been a teacher, I’ve seen how I can’t expect others to be what I want—others have very little interest in doing what I want them to do.

M said she’s proud of me to being open. After Writers Museum (the typewriters and the typed pages hung on wall clips, and a [fill-in-blanks game] computer screen and a Magpo screen), we ate at Noodles & Co. (is name correct?) next door, walked south. We were met by a lot of people crossing Michigan—I thought how rural types need to see this city-humanity richness.

We walked over east but not alla way to lake, over the twisty bridge over Columbus, and back and sat at the Grant Park MusicFest orchestra concert. [end of page 45]

Journal 257, page 46

Journal 257, page 47

[page 46] This page is one article—it (and the earlier one about restaurants) reminds me of how a city has so many cool places—and I underlined pieces here as an erasure-type poem—read just the underlined parts—there’s the poem (quasi-poem, anyway)—

[Underlined phrases conjoined:

Take grown-ups only. Try to cool yourself down.

Nothing says “1950s” like Honor the Midwest.

Keep it Heavy.

Is there such a thing as Joy credit?

Nostalgia makes for a visit. Take your notch, recently opened.

You can also add.

No dairy necessary for a regular, and boy, do they. Trust us on this one. Dabble with pecan. You can keep creative.

If your’e OK sharing your experience with a flood fudge, staple flavors like Raspberry. You haven’t lived.

Did we mention there’s a top?

Nobody puts a corner. This local killer count out Options.

What pairs better with a window: hole-less?]

[Page 45’s text continues onto page 48]

I’m just gonna leave those previous two pages with minimal additions by me, word-wise.

So we left after two songs—a Rimsky-Korsakov [Overture: The Tsar’s Bride] and [another song, unnamed]. Left garage about 7:30 or 7:40. Minimal traffic. Got to Woodman’s at Algonquin at 8:30.

[From journals of Sat., 12 August 2017, Journal 257, page 42-8]

Write in the summer about calm things

My overall thought was: continue the advance on many fronts (try many things), and also just sit down and start typing in a variety of materials: old pocket pages, random journals—significant journals, notes from In-School, etc. Once it’s typed in, it could be blogged, but more importantly, it could be included in a book or books. I mean, maybe don’t plan too much out. But do get engaged with the text.

And maybe don’t fret too much right now (or at any time when you’re not engaged in editing) what to do to get to a book or books. Maybe I truly don’t have many ideas when I’m not teaching. Maybe my summer-mind doesn’t confront as many problems (with teaching, with texts I teach, with writing, with students, and with colleagues), so there’s not as much to write. Of course, even now, as soon as I write that, I’m thinking.

(I hear the insecty “chucking” sound—repeated—insecty like a cicada—of a sprinkler over at S___haus.)

Text mom to find exact dates of Minnesota trip. I’ll go text her now. I did and am back at 8:10.

I’m thinking, after writing the above, that conflict/problems don’t always need to be what writing is about (though maybe I was saying above that conflict gives rise to new ideas). I ought to be able to write in the summer about calm things. Descriptions, observations—the summer journals could be more expansive than school-year ones.

[From journal of Sabado, 24 Junio 2017, Journal 253, page 162-4]

You’re following the life you’ve been given, learning who you are

Mostly what I remember of that wedding is how I brought two outdoor chairs wrapped—unstylishly, awkwardly, ugli-ly wrapped—in plastic bags. Not smooth, Matt. But, eh, it’s clearly not what I was thinking about at that time.

Just start reading through your journals from 20 years ago? In order? Is it possible that, if I can look past my awkwardness, my embarrassment of my past self, that the writing was decent? Not all of my writings from then, of course, but …

I’m not so sure I want to go to this reunion, this 20th high school reunion. I mean, sh!t, last night I started thinking how the people who don’t see Rochelle every day, how they might be eager to come back, but me, eh. I was starting last night to think those thoughts, the same ones as before: That I should’ve left Rochelle, that these others’ lives are better than my own, etc.

But then I caught myself and said to self, you don’t have to come up with these “I hate my life”-type excuses. Your life is what it is; you are not in control, you’re following the life you’ve been given, learning who you are (as I say in less-negative moments). So, I don’t want to dwell on those thoughts—though it seems easy to do, especially lately—and instead I can just say (I was writing the last couple of lines with kitty on my lap. He purred, then leapt off. Before that, he’d been play—and is now again—playing inside my shirt that’s hanging over back of chair) instead (I paused here to hold Sam from barking at meter-reader lady), you can just say, “eh, maybe I just don’t feel excited about the reunion.” You don’t have to justify or build on/from those feelings.

[From journal of Fri., 3 August 2012, Journal 163, page 94-5]

Speculative nonfiction: “Silence 104—We play nothing, all the time”

Came home. Read some. M and I were up ’til about midnight—then there were what sounded like firecrackers outside. Dog panted by side of my bed. About 12:34, we got dog onto the bed and I kinda hugged him, spoon-style, and M said I fell sleep before Sam left.

Old Man Show’s back on [the radio]—he said #1 on 26 December 1942 was “White Christmas.”

Had an idea while outside: how if I quit [my subscription to newspaper] RRStar (“I don’t give a sh!t. It’s not like I ever read it,” M said just now, at 11:10, when I asked her if she’d mind me canceling RRStar), I’ll be out of that conversation.

How people get excited to see people they know on TV (Mom even used the term “Tebowing” to mean going down on one knee—I was surprised she knew and used that term.)

M and I joked about a radio station without talk or songs: “Silence 104—We play nothing, all the time” and “We’ll be back with more silence after these words from our sponsors.”

We joked at Copy Center counter about “Fiction on Demand.”

20 years—”Enter Sandman.” I heard that on way to New Year’s party. It’s been out 20+ years, that song. I played it at my graduation party 20 years ago.

Mom: there’s less pressure now on young people to get married than there was in her time.

Me: I don’t like life, being alive, well enough to bring someone else into it? My life’s not so great that I need to bring others to life. Mom: We don’t give life, we force it on people. Me: Maybe people don’t think about it this way? Maybe they just selfishly want kids, or didn’t want kids but had them.

Mom: Having kids is wonderful, but fraught—worry, disappointment. One invests in other humans, but bad things happen. Being a parent can be wonderful, but it can also be the opposite of wonderful.

People growing up to do their people-things.

The wrong beast: M said she was talking sweetly to Sam as I held him, and I fell asleep first—the wrong beast fell asleep.

Mom: “I love learning things—new ways of looking at things.” She said this when she was telling example of perspective, how an artist told about how important things in Eastern art are larger in depiction—a mountain is top or bigger (not distant as in Western art).

M liked “speculative nonfiction” as a term. (It helps explain stuff her parents say.) M said all nonfiction is an argument. Nonfiction makes a claim for truth, so fiction either claims falseness, or makes no claim. Every nonfiction statement about the future is B.S. (as Wendell Berry said, the future doesn’t exist), whether it’s an expert’s prediction or an idiot’s. It’s just that some predictions are less likely than others.

I was saying last night that the possum we almost hit in Chana at railroad crossing a couple years ago—the possum I advised to “pick a direction”—was maybe a “hobo possum,” ridin’ the rails. M said, see, you make up things all the time—why not write fiction?

[From journal of Sun., 1 Jan. 2012, Journal 152, page 16-8]