The sea was angry that day, my friends.
Over and over, in my head. Like a stuck song. George telling Jerry and Elaine, ďThe sea was angry that day, my friends.Ē I think Kramer was in that scene, too.
Only itís not even a song. Itís just a guy on TV saying some words. Which is even worse.
The other day it was a loop from ďAre You Experienced?Ē That was a little more tolerable.
WME Radio. All me, all the time.
So anyway, picture this: I pull up in front of the Grab ín Scram and get out of my car. It was blustery. Not typical November weather. It was more like March.
Now Iím locking the car, slightly bent at the waist. Hereís the background music playing behind this scene:
ďThe sea was angry that day, my friends.Ē
Now Iím straightening up and turning toward the entrance to the Grab ín Scram. Iím here on a mission. Iím here to buy a notebook.
See, this afternoon I got an idea for a book on the way to the post office to mail a long overdue letter to a dear friend. Thatís how these books of mine get started. I could be anywhere when it strikes, doing anything. Dropping my pants off at the laundry. Eating a bowl of oyster stew. It begins suddenly, with no warning, like deja vu. Pow. All of a sudden Iím writing a book. It can be the tiniest idea that kicks it off, an inkling of a storyline. Or less. One sentence.
One of my books started, ďI had no idea it was a CIA kite, or that it had anything to do with the CIA.Ē A line like that is kindling. Once ignited, it can start a raging, booklength forest fire. There I was minding my own business, walking down the street. All of a sudden Iím writing ďThe CIA Kite.Ē
This one hit me in the car. I had just turned onto Andrew Jackson Street. ďThe sea was angry that day, my friendsĒ had been playing non-stop on WME for a couple of days now, driving me crazy. ďYouíre listening to WME Radio. All ĎThe sea was angry that day, my friends,í all the time.Ē
Thenís when it hit me. A vision of an Incan woman standing on a cliff overlooking an angry sea when she sights the billowing sails of Spanish Conquistadors on the horizon. In 3000 years, nothing like that had ever been seen by her people. Hers were the first Incan retinas ever to be hit by light reflected from anything European. She sees them, but she has no idea what she's looking at.
I know this must sound trite, but thatís how I get the ideas for these little books I write. The ones that are worth a damn, anyway. I donít know exactly how to describe it. When Iím not in the zone, it all seems mysterious. How did I ever write anything any good? How can I ever do it again? But then something clicks and it all seems easy. Itís not as if I decide to write one, rather one just starts being written.
I knew if I went straight home right then and sat out in the back yard under that big pecan tree and enjoyed the blustery weather, I could just start rambling and digressing like crazy and eventually turn it into one of those books that I donít care if anybody else can tolerate because itís just me entertaining me. Sometimes I wonder if those are the ones I may well be most revered for when my genius gets truly discovered (probably shortly after I depart this vale of tears).
Forget about the post office. To hell with the dear friend. Iím going home. Iíve got a book to write.
IF, that is, I had a notebook to write it in.
Which I donít. Iíve run out. Thatís why I stopped by the Grab ín Scram. And thatís where I am now, walking down Aisle 4, looking for the school supplies section, hoping Iíll still have this elusive seedling of a book in hand when I get home. I have to capture these things quickly.
There they are. Notebooks. Right around the corner. I can smell 'em.
I love picking out a new notebook. Over a hundred pages of pure potential, spiral bound with a little wire. All those white sheets with all those light blue lines (and that one pink line running down the side), waiting for me to fill Ďem up with junk.
I want a red one. A fat one. One subject.
Now Iím picking up a notebook and running my fingertips lightly across the paper. Theyíve started using cheap paper in some notebooks. Rough, scratchy. Itís hard to find a good notebook anymore, as good as the ones they used to make.
Ah. This one will do just fine. Itís red. Now to whiz by the checkout and Iím outaóoh, mannn! The lottery! It must be, like, 200 million this week. And itís Thursday, too. Payday. Now here I am waiting in line behind a bunch of people eager to turn over their scant, hard-earned wages on the infinitesimal hope of a better life. And itís such a serious and rational decision. ďGive me, uh... two more Powerballs and a Big Game. No, waitómake that TWO Big Games.Ē
What the heck difference does it make, lady?
I could start my book right here, but I'd have to get out of line to get a pen--I'd risk losing my place. Iím not taking any chances. Iím starting the book in my head. Iíll commit it to memory, word by word. When I get home Iíll sit down and write it all down, as best I can recall.
So the words you are reading now, the story of the Grab ín Scram, have been merely laid down by a stenographer. Namely, the future me. The me that exists 20 minutes from now. A mute scribe, dutifully logging the thoughts of the real author (the now me), while sitting under the pecan tree enjoying the blustery day. Even if my scribe thinks of a better way to turn a phrase, his mission is to write down, ver betim, the words Iím dictating right now as I stand here in this lottery line silently composing the beginning of a novel.
I am well aware that, theoretically, I could go home and find something to write in other than a notebook. But thatís not how I roll. Not with this book anyway. What I want to doóand Iíve been wanting to do this for some timeóis take a nice, fresh notebook, a big, fat hundred-and-twenty sheeter, and write an entire novella in it...without ever changing or marking out a single word.
Sure, itís always better after you edit and re-write the heck out of it (either that or you destroy any vestige of its original sponteniety), but the goal here is not simply to use the notebook as a scratch pad to figure out words that will later be typed into a computer, rather to create the finished physical book simultaneously with the unfolding of the story itself (or lack thereof). A form of live writing. Like having a conversation. I mean, when you engage in a casual conversation with a friend, you donít say, ďWait, Iíve got a rewrite!Ē (Well, I do occasionally, but the average normal person doesnít). Once each word is said, itís SAID.
And what better way to kick it off than describing to you the purchase of the very notebook you are holding in your hands?
OK, hereís the plan: Iíll remember everything Iíve written (i.e. thought) so far standing here in this lottery line, then go home and write it down. Thatíll be the preface, a detailed account of me buying this notebook. Then itíll go into the thing about the Incan woman. She can't tell anybody in her village about what she saw. Not because she's afraid but because there simply does not exist in her reality a pigeonhole in which to file this incoming data. All that'll be Chapter One. After that, Iíll write about the fate of this Incan woman. Will she be persecuted? Will she be heralded as a visionary? Maybe one day she'll be played by Kate Winslet. (No, wait: Maggie Gyllenhaal!) The book'll write itself. Iíll listen to it while Iím writing it, like listening to a story on the radio.
Hold everything, I just remembered something! I donít need no stinkiní notebook after all, I still have one that Harry and Darlene gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago. (They came right out and asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I told them either a whole bunch of notebooks or a big bag of white socksóthe two staples I continually run out of.) Itís a fat one, with smooth paper, just like I like. In fact, I think itís red.
Buh buh Grab ín Scram!
Now Iím sitting here in the back yard under the pecan tree, notebook and pen in hand. I have now become that future stenographer, trying to remember the words my lord and master dictated 20 minutes ago in the Grab ín Scram. Letís see:
The sea was angry that day, my friends....
WME Radio, all me all the time...
The lottery line, yada yadaÖ
Yeah, I can remember all that.