I’m not particularly clumsy, which
is a fact I both realise and appreciate. I attribute this gift to being in the middle period of my life. A couple months ago I built a wall of bookshelves. During the project I cut myself once, strained a shoulder muscle into a debilitating spasm, but I never fell off the ladder. I might not have fared as well 25 years ago, taking chances beyond survival as I recall. And I surely won’t fare as well 25 years hence, a hobbled old fella shouting at the peeling paint on the door jamb by then.
It’s a Tuesday and I’m scouring the city for pants. Wouldn’t you know: when I find a good price they don’t have my size; when I find my size it’s out of my price range (and polyester hideousness is unpurchase-able.) You see, I have a job interview tomorrow and I want to appear, at least vaguely, as though I belong in public, rather than my usual triangulation of Fred C. Dobbs, Cool Hand Luke, and Indiana Jones, none of whom are particularly suited to stable office work.
And here I sit on a ferry between the peninsula where I live, which so happens to be a popular holiday destination, and the big city, where they sell lots of pants. Here I am on a ferry full of tourists and I’m comparing myself to fiction while looking for tidy trousers. Funny world I’ve gotten myself into.
Over-editing in one’s head, prior to writing, is an occupational hazard to an academically trained wordsmith, which is what I am, by the way, if I’m anything.
Philosophical writing tells no tales. No plot. No characters. Neither rising nor falling action. Bereft of narrative structure of any recognisable sort. To some readers, these features render philosophical writing tremendously dull. To others, namely academic readers, these features must all be present in a publishable manuscript. Philosophical writing is, essentially, a belaboured effort to show dissenters of this style that they are absolutely wrong — that whatever concoction of premises they’ve adduced (as though they had attempted any such thing!) is nothing but an insipid mash of fallacy and flaw, rife with inconsistency. But such a thing is about as welcome as oregano on ice cream.
(I don’t expect I’ll ever publish another academic piece. Certainly not after that paragraph.)
Sure, it’s been a while since I’ve produced an essay around here. But don’t let that fool you into thinking I haven’t been writing. In fact, I’ve been working on an essay rather obsessively. The essay might never see the light of day, because it’s probably horribly over-edited, too stylised, too dark, too far removed from anyone’s reality. That’s fine. Not every piece of writing should see the light of day. Back when I was writing a lot of philosophy, I had about a quarter million words in the can. 50,000 became a dissertation. That’s a couple hundred thousand in a scrap heap — literally. I had a ream of scrap paper that Charlie’d paint and scribble on before I chucked it all and moved to New Zealand, four years ago today.
So I figure, let’s break out of this obsessive and dark editing cycle. I figured I’d crank out my version of my friend Jack’s style. I reckon he’s a man who’s never had writer’s block, and long may it last.
Before I sat down to type this, I was working on Charlie’s epic Hot Wheels drag race track, which we’ll use at his birthday party next week. It’s an old sheet of Formica that was leftover in our garage when we moved in. I used the circular saw my neighbour gave me to slice it into six strips. I’ve been lining those strips with smaller strips of plywood, making edges to try to keep the cars from flipping out. It’s been an engineering disaster, with respect to Hot Wheels anyway.
Yesterday we were testing the thing down the big hill at the park and Charlie rolled a roll of masking tape down the track, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t roll perfectly, right in the track, and jumped off the end and rolled another fifty metres across the park before coming to a stop under a tree. Looks like we’ve got a new kind of drag race on our hands.
So I came in and opened the laptop, which is a new Acer Chromebook c730 running Ubuntu Linux through Crouton. My trusty old MacBook Air died in my hands Saturday morning. It was about to turn six. Anyway, when I sat down at the table, a cloud of sawdust shook out of my hair.
I’m reminded that Charlie has had a glop of pine sap in his hair for about a month now. He’s got another thirty five years of that kind of clumsiness left in him before he ages into this sweet spot I’m in. For now, I’m keeping him away from ladders.