Friday, November 13, 2009

DINOSAURS

I say dinosaurs a lot in this. What this is: a timed writing exercise based on a prompt. I'll post my favorites here, and the first one is about dinosaurs.

1
Dinosaurs don’t write books. Imagine, if you will, a tyrannosaurus Rex straining his tiny insufficient arms to manipulate the functions of a typewriter (because if dinosaurs did write books, which they don’t, they would use typewriters, not computers or laptops, because they’re old school). What would a dinosaur write about? A: boring things like food supply and the bright orb in the big open (for that is what the sky is, at its most basic being). They might discuss the new babies that hatched in the spring, and how big they’ve got to be. I’m glad that I’m not a dinosaur. Opposable thumbs, for one thing. But if I was a dinosaur, I wouldn’t know what opposable thumbs are in the first place, so I wouldn’t have known to miss them. Nor would I want to be part of one of the generations around when the major life forms on this planet went extinct. The terrifying prospect that in a few years, everyone I know might be dead. Well, that could happen to anyone, and if I was dead, too, that wouldn’t be so bad. But I doubt that’s what dinosaurs thought about. Odds are it was more about survival, just keep walking until the group finds water. Stick together to not get picked off by the predators. Just… keep… going. A lot of people are like dinosaurs, then, if you think about it that way. Living to the next paycheck, the next oasis. Another reason I don’t want to be a dinosaur. (Got stuck) This started out kind of lighthearted, even funny, and got very morbid very quickly. That usually happens when I write things. Well, to be fair, the subject of this entry went extinct suddenly and no one knows for dead-sure why. Ha, dead-sure. No more puns, I promise. Part of me can’t get over that these get read aloud. My actor brain gets all toney and stuff. It doesn’t feel as pure.
I wish there was a machine that could record a person’s dreams, to be rewound and studied. The closest I can do is set up a camera while I sleep and hit “record” all night. I talk in my sleep, you see. I’ve always been very curious to know what I say. Part of me is scared, and I’m not sure if I want to know that much about myself.

2
Affection. I love affection, which is I guess the point. Since there are babies everywhere, let’s go with that. I can’t remember where I heard this, probably in a play, but one of the characters was staying pregnant so she could have someone to love her unconditionally. Sadly, when I’ve thought about having kids, that’s one of the “reasons” that have crossed my mind. More than once. But it doesn’t work like that. Sure, the baby loves the mother, has to, or it will die. But after a little while all sorts of things could stir the rebellion of mistrust and fear that lead to loathing. But for a little while, that baby loves you in the most selfish and adorable way it can, by demanding you attention in every way it can think of.
My cousin’s girlfriend is pregnant. I can’t make the baby shower (the first one I’ve ever been invited to) and I’m almost glad. She’s my age. My mom got pregnant with my sister when she was 19, and she got pregnant with my first nephew when she was 20. That scares the crap out of me. Since I was in the 8th grade I’ve always told myself I didn’t want to get married until I was thirty. Eighth grade. That’s a little early to start my life plan. When I was in eighth grade I started writing. My journals from then have what I called “fantasies”, little short stories about meeting cute boys at movie theaters or dances where I know just what to say, and he kisses my cheek before slipping me his phone number. Of course, they were always very unlikely situations. I’ve never met anyone at a movie theater. I’ve just moved on to meeting people at coffee shops, and that’s the height of clich├ęs. Of course, the last person I met at a coffee shop turned out to be an arrogant douche bag, but that’s what you’d expect at a coffee shop. Coffee snobs are some of the most arrogant people on the planet, especially ones with ponytails.
To bring this back to babies, how am I supposed to find someone I’d be okay with making a baby with? One thing I hope I never have to say with derision: “You’re just like your father,” or, “she gets it from you, you know.” That doesn’t inspire affection much, does it?

3
Casper sat in bumper to bumper traffic, releasing and compressing the break pedal. He looked forward to the magical time where he might—oh, just might-get to accelerate. The benefits of the graveyard shift presented themselves to him for the first time. No rush hour. Casper fiddled with his power windows and time to the song of the week on the radio. He used to love driving. The first few years with his license had been full of road trips up and down the coast and aimless wandering. He only worked enough to keep his gas tank full. Driving at night was best, speeding down the freeway at 90 miles an hour. That was freedom. God, he hadn’t done that in years. Here he was, sitting in his hot car, work shirt stuck to his back with sweat. His tie and briefcase lay discarded in the back seat. When he was a teenager only assassins and lawyers carried briefcases. Turns out they’re just glorified backpacks. Casper scoffed and tried to look at the driver in the car next to his without him noticing he was being watched. He needn’t have worried. The other man was yammering away into a Bluetooth. “Douche bag,” Casper muttered. He hated those little blinking earpieces. They reminded him of those anklets that prisoners wear. In prison. He shook his head at the poor sap. “He’s too far sucked into the system,” he thought. The nearly irresistible urge to burst out of his car and run naked between the lanes overtook him. “Would certainly change my evening plans. Ha, what plans?” he thought sadly. Nothing was waiting for him but his laptop and a microwave dinner. Not even a potted plant.
This was not what Casper imagined when he had answered that stupid interview question: Where do you see yourself in five years? He always preferred to “see” himself doing something cool, like wrestling bears, or… something.
He sighed. This was his life. He looked out the other window. A young woman with purple hair winked at him. He straightened in his seat, and then jumped as the car behind him honked. Traffic was moving forward. Finally. Acceleration.

4
I went to the beach recently. The ocean is so big to my mind, there’s really no way I can think of it in any way that comes close to describing it’s girth and richness. Mostly the first thing I think about is how cold it is, and the fact that sharks don’t like to eat people, but we look deceptively like seals when we “ride the waves”. Needless to say, I prefer to stay on the sand. At most I’ll roll up my jeans and get my legs wet up to my knees. When the bottoms of the rolled up material gets wet, unrolling it is like discovering temporary tie-dye full of sand and saltwater.
I don’t like how winder the shore is, most of the time. When my hair was shorter, there was no way to keep it out of my face. Now that it’s longer I love the feel of it flowing behind me (like in British romance novels centered around the Cliffs of Dover).
But the thing I love most about the beach is the illusion of the curve of the earth. Only recently did I really figure out that the curve is created only by my perspective of looking out to as far as I can see, not as I believed for years by the grand curve of the planet we live on. It’s really a beautiful thing, and it catches me breathless every time.
Countless poems have done their best to capture the beauty of the waves. Just today I read a quote from Oscar Wilde’s, The Picture of Dorian Gray: “Beauty is beyond explanation and cannot be denied.” Well, it was basically that. That made me think of the waves. I could spend hours at the beach wrapped in a blanket and squinting at the blurred line of the horizon. That reminds me of the edge of the world, as the ancients knew it. What must that be like? Falling into… nothing? Until the fabled End of Days. That’s not necessarily death.
In any case, the waves are beautiful. Overcast days are the best. On sunny days everything is too clear. When it’s cloudy, lines blur and fuzz together, almost like a dream. And then the sand on the wind slaps you in the face and you remember—the metaphorical you—I remembered that this is life. This is living, and I love it. The rest of it is living too, but I remembered it then. Ha, that’s a funny thought. People get so wrapped up in “living in the now” that they begin to take it for granted, no, that’s not write. It’s like becoming so intent on thinking outside the box that you build up walls to keep the box out, all while making your own around you.
Again, the metaphorical you. Just so everyone feels included. How inflammatory. Everyone everywhere connected by the metaphorical you.

5
The written word. Yesterday I was amazed (the phrase I used at the time was “You just broke my brain”) to discover electronic books. An iPod of literature rather than music. That is the future. The future is now. No, now is now. Or, if the future is now, so is the past. Time turners from Harry Potter come to mind effortlessly. Back to the books. Used bookstores have a great smell; that is, unless you’re allergic to cats. Do you ever open a book in the middle just to breathe in the papery must? Oh, I like that. E-books may be the future—push a button to turn the page—but you can’t put a post-it in an e-book page. Apple is probably already developing the application for some such thing Ever a solution from the mind of science. Ugh. Let it go. Open a book. Write in the margin. Highlight. Underline. That’s one of the great things about used books. Turning in a used book that you’ve written in is like reaching out to an invisible friend you don’t have yet. “Hey, I thought this was a cool quote, what do you think?” I can remember once while in high school, I blacked out a phrase that just angered me so much. I could refer back to it and remember it word for word. Try doing that to a screen.
Perhaps further in the future books will die out to be replaced entirely by knowledge machines. But not in my lifetime. Thank God for that. I can picture an old man in a big red leather armchair, surrounded by bookcases with volumes upon volumes in stacks everywhere. In the background is a window with the shades drawn. To protect the delicate pages from the harmful light. Habit, by now. He really need not bother. The smog and dust outside are filter enough for his antiques, his precious books. I hope there will be enough people like the old man in his library of historical gold. The word “library” would become synonymous with “museum”. He lives, nay, clings to the past, with the skin of his teeth, whatever that means.
There is a charm that is lost in pixels. Ink and paper is my preferred method of passing on pieces of myself.
Is writing like what nice people say about giving? The more you write, the more you know? Sure. That makes me feel a lot better about things in general.
But who says you have to know anything to write? Well, you don’t have to, but we can’t help it.

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