I am the Teller and the Tale
I believe in the transformative power of storytelling. Since humans began to speak, storytelling has been how we discover, how we learn, how we understand, how we create and transcend. It’s how we construct our world and our selves.
We remember the stories we tell about our lives; we invent our lives in the remembering. We make the stories. We are the stories. I am the teller and the tale.
Here I give you a small sampling of my writing. Pieces of stories … works in progress. A character whose story builds itself around him … a short conversation that grows into a full-ﬂedged drama … a ﬂight of fancy that takes wing to create a whole new hybrid work of art.
New York November 2015
I spent all afternoon tryin’ to get this goddam thing to run. Man says “Good as new! Just
tweak ‘er a little, she’ll purr like a goddam kitten”. Kitten my ass! Thing sounds more like a goddam lion with laryngitis. An’ it shakes like Uncle Louie when he’s off his meds.
How the hell am I s’posed to go pick up Jolene in this piece o’ shit? She wouldn’t even get in. Hell, she’d hear me comin’
two blocks away and then she’d pretend she didn’t even know me. Turn her back when I drove up, keep talkin’ to her girlfriends like I wasn’t even there. Hell, I wouldn’t get in if I was her. A guy’s gotta have a decent car if he expects to get a decent girl. Like Jolene.
It’s too late to fix it even if I could. Goddam carburetor. Shoulda been taken out an’ run over by a tank. Hell, it prob’ly was. I spent the whole afternoon in this hot, hell-hole of a cat-pee smellin’ garage
for nothing. I prob’ly smell like cat pee now too. I’m a total failure as a man. I might as well forget about ever gettin’ a decent girlfriend.
The P. I.
A slug of gin. A slug in the mouth. Either way it’s the same to me.
You wake up in an alley somewhere smelling like the inside of a dumpster, your head pounding like a Sousa march and a sour day-old taste at the back of your throat.
That was me last Thursday…the morning after I crossed paths with Bang Bang Tommy and his little gang of assassins. Did I say assassins? I meant “businessmen”. But if you ever find yourself doing business with them, take my advice: hang up the Gone Fishin’ sign and take yourself on a nice, long vacation.
I didn’t even have to open my eyes to tell where I was. The butt end of Jakarta has a fragrance all its own…a mixture of curry, rotting fish, excrement and broken dreams. I took one whiff and I knew exactly where they’d dumped me.
It really didn’t matter how I got here. The big question was, why was I here at all? Why was I still alive. It’s not like Tommy or his associates to leave something half done. The only reason could be that I was more valuable to them alive. What did I know?
The question nagged at me like a jealous wife as I picked my way between the stagnant pools of sewage and refuse. The remnants of last night’s festivities were playing havoc with my stomach. So I bought a bowl of noodles from a street vendor –– a squirrely little woman with bad teeth and an attitude to match.
As I slurped down the soupy mess, the question came back again. What did I know? What did Tommy want with me? I knew that I’d better find the answer pretty damn fast. Or that sorry bowl of gelatinous noodles might just be my last meal.
Frankly darling, if you want to know the naked, wretched truth of it, I wake up every morning shocked to find that I’m still here. At all. That I actually managed to make it this far. That I didn’t run off a cliff or burst into flames or just expire from plain old stupidity. And darling let me tell you, in those days there was plenty of stupid to go around. Enough for everybody and then some.
And even though — I’ll be honest — there were more than a few times over the years I thought well why not. Why not just go out in a blaze of glory. Why not make a spectacular end to it all because what in life could possibly top that. And how sad and pathetic would it be to live a lesser life. To become a diminished version of myself.
But for one reason or another I just didn’t and it’s a good thing because here’s another juicy little secret I’ll let you in on — and I’ll tell you, it’s like the biggest in-joke ever. I know it’s hard to believe, but only lately have I come to realize how much more interesting I am now than I ever was back then! I know! Crazy, right? When I think back to how vacuous we were — and I mean that in the nicest possible way — it makes me laugh. Almost makes me cry sometimes.
We were like empty vessels waiting to be filled up. Like those endless of glasses of Veuve Cliquot we used to consume en masse. I still love them, I confess. The bubbles, that is. There’s absolutely nothing a crystal flute of sparkling deliciousness won’t make better. That’s not a bad metaphor, actually, if you’re looking for one, for our lives back then. Like a glass of champagne bubbles — glorious but ephemeral. That really is rather clever, isn’t it?
These days, people use the word ‘diva’ about me. Don’t tut tut, darling! I know they do. Toss it around like a little velvet throw pillow with tassels on the corners. Well, maybe it applies, I don’t know. But honestly, don’t you think the word has worn itself out already? So overused, and on people who absolutely don’t deserve it! Let me tell you, you have to earn that title! It takes years and it takes miles. And I’ve got both. Personally, I prefer ‘doyenne’ myself. But I can’t choose the things people write about me.
And guess what? Now comes the payoff for all those years and all those miles. And all those tears too, darling. Who knew? I’m bigger and better than ever! People keep telling me how amazing I am. A legend! Who could have imagined! I’m telling you darling, it’s the biggest in-joke ever. Of course nobody gets it except me.
After collecting dust for a while, the Writing Desk is getting dusted off and polished up. An original occupant here, Pattern Recognition, has grown and developed from a brief conversation into a full-fledged scenario… in fact, into a whole play. You can read the original here and you’ll find a sample of the new iteration on the new Pattern Recognition page.
We hear seagulls, the whoosh of waves on the shore, maybe sand crunching underfoot. A moment or two before they talk.
Artwork courtesy of the extraordinary David Walls
Contact David by email.
Other things will appear here from time to time. Or the same things in different forms. You will (if you have the interest and the patience to follow any of this) see evolving versions of these fragments as they grow and change over time.
That’s the thing about stories — they tend to take on a life of their own. And they never really end.
Questions? Comments? You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org