Writing Experiment: Part 2

Well….

I experimented yesterday with writing something.  Putting words after words, as it were.  In some sort of syntactical arrangement, and, at this moment, I am unable to reach any conclusion about the therapeutic effects, if any, thereof…  I guess it was OK.  I didn’t hurt too much in the doing of it, and that is one of the rules I have made for myself.  Don’t write if it causes anxiety.  So, well, OK, it was a little anxiety producing…when I started writing about my cluttered garage and the cleaning up we had to do after our parents died.

And then reading over what I wrote yesterday, I had to do some cleaning up.  That was anxiety producing.  I always had to do some cleaning up after I wrote, but not like now, not like today.  I remember a colleague who was a really good writer who started sending out memos with all sorts of mistakes.  Words left out, for example, that sort of thing, indicating a failure of concentration.  And I remember thinking, so that’s what happens when you are 65 for she was 65. You are in the middle of a sentence, and suddenly, you can’t remember the name for the device that has your music on it, and you lose concentration and leave out a word.   And it’s like you have tripped on your shoe lace and you are stumbling down a step.

Of course, I know…it’s not as bad as that.  You aren’t going to break your ankle or anything, but it is alarming, and a consistent and persistent reminder that your brain is not what it was.  I guess your brain never is, as you age, exactly what it was.  I remember back in college I would hear a new word, I would write it down in my notebook and look it up later and wham! It would just stick in memory.  No effort at all, no repetition or anything like that.  And other words I picked up without even that little effort.  But when I reached 35…that just stopped.  I may have added a dozen words to my vocabulary since then.  Anodyne…I added that word in the last year.  Though, as I was looking it up, it seemed to me that I had known it at one time, but I had forgotten.

So just writing a sentence can plunge one into the pits of anxiety, as you remember and forget, and forget what you have remembered.  It’s a bit like when I get out of bed, and first walk across the room, and I hear this concatenation of snaps, crackles, and pops in my knees.  And sure I get across the room, but all this noise, in the very effort of doing so, puts me in mind of the day…when I won’t be able to get across that room.  So—to sum up—I guess this writing experiment is fraught with all sorts of potential for anxiety…

A Writing Experiment

Well…  I think I will try to devote a few minutes per day—20 or more—to writing something.  I don’t know why I would bother to do this since I have nothing significant to say and have done or experienced nothing worth reporting.  I continue to exist mostly, and perhaps, at 72 years of age, that is something to report.  Not everybody lives till they are 72.  I note in the daily obits that many people have failed to live till 72.  Though I am not so sure that living to 72 means that one has been successful at anything.  Except existing, that is.

So I continue to exist at least at the moment, though tomorrow I may not.  Perhaps I could be doing something better with the little time I have remaining than this experiment with daily writing.  But I am not sure what that would be.  Eating?  Well, that is always worth doing.  But there’s a fixed limit to that.  One cannot eat continually.  Well, I suppose one could, and probably some people have, but I wouldn’t want to do it.  And doing something else would probably require more energy than I have at the moment.

But the question remains, why should I expend the little energy I do have, when I could be taking a nap, on this writing experiment?  I think a nap might be better.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I have read things that suggest the elderly benefit from creative activity, like taking a class in water colors, or something to that effect.  The theory appears to be that “creative” activity soothes the soul in some manner.  And writing, at least in the past, has served me to some degree and in some instances (not all my any means) this function.  The soothing or straightening out function, I mean.

I saw an ad for a book on this subject: the therapeutic effects, as it were, of neatening and straightening one’s stuff.  I should read it.  But I can’t remember where I saw the ad.  In any case, I know what they mean.  Neatening and straightening can make one feel an iota better.  And at my age and in my current horrible condition, I am looking for iotas.  An iota here and there, damn it, is what I need to get through the day.  At the moment though I don’t have the energy or a sense of purpose sufficient for me to do an actual, in reality, straightening and neatening, as in, imagine: the garage.

That garage is an albatross around my neck.  Every time I open that automatic door and look in, my heart contracts. Junk and crap about to tumble from overfull shelves.  Twenty years of indecision and neglect all piled in one place.  Overflowing with dust, and dirt, and grime.  And I feel a kind of responsibility to clean that place up before I go.  I mean I don’t want somebody else, probably my wife, to have to sort through that junk after I die as my brothers and I had to do through our parents crap: old clothes, napkins, pieces of metal, pictures and adult diapers.

Tacoma?

Where the heck am I?

Tacoma, Washington.  We are here for a wedding.

CIMG1306.JPGView of old downtown Tacoma from our hotel window.

indian.jpgStatue of  indigenous person.

river.jpg

A river runs through it.  Once highly contaminated, now not so much.  Lots of water in Washington.

train.jpg

Train…about a half mile long.  Wonder what is in those container cars?

Last Class Ever

Well, yesterday, Thursday, March 14, 2013, I taught my last class ever at UCSB.  Could well be my last class period.  Been teaching writing since 1973.  Can’t imagine not doing it.  But having used up my call back time, I am officially done.  Oh, wait.  I still have the last batch of papers to grade.  And then I am done.

Below find pics of my last class ever.  A good group, very quiet, though willing and very good natured:
CIMG3471.JPGCIMG3473.JPG Thumbnail image for CIMG3472.JPGBye Guys!

Broken Hearted Melodies: Liner Notes


Though the title might not suggest
it, I had wanted to end “The Tingles,” as we had begun it (Lighthouse
of Love), on a slightly more upbeat note. 
Now looking back, I can’t say where exactly I located that note, the
more upbeat one.  But I think it’s in the
last line of the refrain, “You can lean on me if I can lean
you.”  True, it’s hardly The
Youngbloods calling on us all to smile on each other, but at least there’s a
hint of an exchange of human warmth, though perhaps significantly qualified by
that “if.”  You can lean on me
IF I can lean on you.  I could have
written:  You can lean on me AND I can
lean on you.  But I didn’t because
“and” seems to presume to much, and honestly, you can lean on me only
if I am allowed to do the same.

So that’s the upbeat note as best I can locate it.

As for the rest of the refrain, I must insist on the
pessimism:

“Nothing now anyone can do
Just have to buckle down and try to see it through.”

Sometimes that’s just how things are.  It–whatever it might be (someone dying;
dreams gone up in flames; words spoken that can’t be taken back; really bad
mistakes made)–simply cannot be undone or fixed up or glossed over.  All that you can do–if that–is try to get
though it with whatever dignity you can muster.

The last stanza is perhaps a bit too existential (in the
existentialism sense).  But I just can’t
get Sartre and Heidegger out of my head…with their idea of our having been
flung into a world we did not make.

Somebody’s Body: Liner Notes


Death again.  This
time about dying anonymously, as it were. 
A body pops up in the lake with no I.D. or identifying marks and then
gets buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave. 
That’s a downer.  But maybe
too–given how noisy the song is–it’s about making a joyful noise, in spite
of everything: as in the line:

Somebody’s body
Rise on angel’s wings
Somebody’s body
Sing, Sing, Sing

Maybe, in relation to the whole, we all die
anonymously.  Sure, we all have a smaller
social circle.  But just beyond that the
circle spreads out to those other people we may even share a few moments but pass
by generally in our daily rounds.  I
noticed, one day, at this place where I worked out, that an older guy, who was
usually there all the time, had not been there for some time.  So I asked another guy if he knew anything
about that guy.  “That guy,”
because I couldn’t remember that guy’s name. 
I indicated where that guy usually sat and said that I thought he was
from Wisconsin and had worked for Sears. 
And the guy says, “Oh that guy. 
He died I think.”

So I worked for a while on a song called “That
Guy.  You know, that guy.”  But I never finished it.

Heaven Bound: Liner Notes


 This is Brother Dan’s song from top to bottom.  He plays all the guitars and percussion and
sings it.   I do a little back up.  He also wrote it, some time ago, back in the
80’s, when he and his wife, Kim, had a punk band.  I don’t know what they were calling
themselves at the time.  Goodbye Blue
Monday?  Mr. Pleasant?  I don’t know, as I said, but I always liked
the song from the first I heard it.  And
it mixes well with the overall malaise of the CD.  It’s about a suicide, I think.

3 AM: Liner Notes


If “Around Once” was lugubrious, this one is at
least maudlin.


It’s about insomnia, about suddenly being wide awake at 3 AM
and not being able to get back to sleep again, knowing that you have a long
hard day ahead, and will need every bit of energy you have to get through it,
yet here you are at 3 AM wide awake with the minutes slipping by.  No rest for the wicked, eh?


I hate it.  I have
been insomniac for years.  At one point,
years ago, I used as my soporific cheap wine and was for some time in effect a
situational alcoholic.  But that proved
counter-productive, and  anyway, I
discovered prescription meds.  Before I
couldn’t get to sleep at all.  With the
meds, I got off to sleep OK but started waking up at aberrant hours, like 3
AM.  Now apparently, as a senior citizen,
according to what I have read, I am likely to have only “fragmented”
sleep the rest of my days.


I don’t know why exactly but the song makes me think of a
bit from Freud’s essay on Narcissism:


We should then say:  the sick man withdraws his libidinal
cathexes  back upon his own soul, and
sends them out again when he recovers. 
‘Concentrated is his soul’, says Wilhelm Busch of the poet suffering
from toothache, ‘in his molar’s narrow hole.’


I was aware of something like this, I think.  The first two parts of this song are very much
concentrated in my molar’s narrow hole. 
I tried to break out of the narrow hole in the last part by suggesting
there are other people–poets, lovers, soldiers–doing other things at 3
AM.  But true to form, I return in the
last line to narcissistic grandiosity claiming that, as I lie there, I hear the
world turning round.

Around Once: Liner Notes


This is one lugubrious sucker.

Everybody dies. 
We all get to go around just once. 
What’s the big deal?  I don’t
know.  But I think it is.

As I wrote I thought it was in the genre of the
stages of life poem.

But the song didn’t turn out like that. 
The first stanza is sort of about what life looks like when you start
out.  Much potential seems to lie
ahead.  Things look different in the
middle stage; mostly regrets at things not done and sadness at how quickly time
has passed.  And the last stanza is about
how things look right at the end: pretty bleak.

Unrelieved lugubriousness.

 

The emotional key to the song for me is the line, “And
you ain’t got time to unpack your trunk.” The psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut
tries to differentiate the classical theory (Freud) of man [sic] as suffering
from guilt from what he calls “tragic” man [sic].  The former he says:

 

…cannot illuminate the sense of fractured, enfeebled,
discontinuous human existence; it cannot explain the essence of the
schizophrenic’s fragmentation, the struggle of the patient who suffers from a
narcissistic personality disorder to reassemble himself, the despair–the
guiltless despair, I stress–of those who in late middle age discover that the
basic patterns of their self as laid down in their nuclear ambitions and ideals
have not been realized.

 

That’s a long way of saying: and you ain’t got time to
unpack your trunk.

Is Busy Dying