Monday, July 28, 2008

scott & phil


Clouds of smoke billow in the air illuminated by the strategically placed neon lights around the room of Dallas’ West End Pub. The jukebox drowns out the sounds of the mostly male patrons telling the tales of their life while sipping on brew. Sitting at the [insert fancy type of wood here] bar a man comes up and asks the pony-tailed, bearded bartender for change from a twenty. The man is tall with hair and eyebrows that would blend into his pale skin if it weren’t sun burned. His words are hardly recognizable through his thick accent. I’m fairly certain the only way the bartender knew what he was asking was because the man was handing him a twenty-dollar bill and the words “change” and “one-dollar” came from the man’s mouth.

What they came to see were cowboys in 10-gallon hats roaming the streets, what they saw were empty streets with the occasional rude passer-by. “They” are 34-year-old Scott Anderson, a slim guy with a shaved head and tattoos from London and 28-year-old Phil Corney of New Zealand. Phil made some sort of comment about life not being fair at the mention of his last name. Both are traveling through America by means of Greyhound or as they would say, “America’s shame.” They have known each other eight days and met in Memphis at a bar where they noticed each other’s accents and their common Dallas destination.

“What made you come to Dallas?” I asked.

“Good question, bloody good question,” replied Phil.

They have both visited many cities in America and have developed some particularly strong opinions, especially of Dallas.

“With the exception of probably Dallas, everyone is really friendly.” Phil said.

“Really?” I asked, somewhat taken back.

“Yeah, Dallas people are rude.”

There was a lady on the bus that could not control her giggling, she would ask them to say something and then giggle at their response. They also mention that the few people on the street seem to have no interest in helping them with directions. To add to their distaste, Scott can’t figure out where all the 3 million people that supposedly live here actually are.

“Look, [he points outside] there’s no one on the streets there. There’s 3 million people in this city, where are they? They’re nowhere…I think it’s very odd, I think it’s very weird city.”

Scott and Phil haven’t been entirely disappointed, both were quite impressed with Fort Worth, I’m assuming because there very well may have been some real cowboys roaming around. The JFK museum was also a highlight of their stay, but for the most part these two traveling nomads were done with Dallas. Scott and Phil ended up at West End Pub, quite literally by accident.

“We’re lost, so we can find anything we’re not looking for,” Phil said.

I spent a good portion of our conversation trying to relay some places I thought they might be interested in, but it seems I may have been too late as this is there last night here. Scott is off to Vegas and Phil is heading to Mexico.

“I only wish we had met you sooner.”

Me too, Phil, me too. I can’t help but feeling sorrowful that these two foreigners are leaving thinking of Dallas as a city of rude people with nothing to do. Well, I guess they will always have their memories of “The World’s Largest Hooters.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

the beast

The scream of the brakes is deafening as the semi comes to the crossroads. For a brief moment there is silence, until the engine revs and the gears switch on the semi struggling to regain speed, and again the silence, grinding of gears, and the straining crescendo of the engine.

Conversations are halted as the menacing noises pass in front of us.  We sit in the iron rocking chairs on the large, patio-like porch of our hotel that overlooks the public library and the lone cafe.  Our view and much anticipated phone calls are entirely disrupted.  With a look of disgust our faces turn and watch the disturbance disappear in the distance.

I know the man perched high in the cab of that black beast.  He is my father and his father before. The screaming of the brakes means the 7-year-old me can run out the front door and await his emergence from that high perch on which he spends most of his days.  I await the gush of wind that escapes as he puts the beast still. This sound triggers my feet to run to the driver's side door where my head barely reaches the top of the steps.  My eyes point up and finally the door swings open and a man covered in dirt carefully limps out of the truck.  His brown hair is disheveled and his eyes are glazed from the road.  He looks down at me and a wide smile stretches across his hard face displaying the gap between his two front teeth.  I smile too and my eyes dance at the sight of him.

"Hi Daddy!"

He gives a hearty chuckle and wraps me in a bear hug.  His large belly serves as a pillow for my head and he says, "hi tooty-bug."  Then he kisses my forehead and starts limping across the yard as I walk closely beside. Whenever I see daddy walk I am reminded how much it must have hurt to have that fork-lift come down on him and sever the ball of his left foot from the heel. 

"Daddy, when do you have to go back?"

"Oh, tomorrow, tooty-bug."

And when the time comes, I will stand and wave from the porch as the smoke bellows out of the horns of that black beast taking my father, and his father before, away. He will turn his head and look at me through the window and wave.  I will put my arm out in the shape of an "L" with my hand in a fist and frantically and repeatedly pull my fist up and down.  Daddy will oblige and over the roar of the engine's increasing speed I will delight in the song that the beast sings. I will watch and listen until the beast becomes a bug.

i am currently in a remote town in west texas with my literary non-fiction class.  this town is so remote that not even the atomic clock works here as all of our cell phones will display that it is for instance, 4 o'clock in the afternoon when we've only just woken up.  it is such a treat to come to such a remote and iconic part of the southwest.  this is the birthplace of larry mcmurtry (author of lonesome dove among some 30+ other novels).  our class is staying at the historic spur hotel where parts of "the last picture show" was filmed.  anyhow, we are given various writing assignments and above is my interpretation of one.  i hope you've enjoyed it.  i felt i should explain as i may be posting more of them in the near future as a writer's greatest joy is having their work read.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

my mentor is a fictional character

as i mentioned in my previous post, i have had to write a bio and here is the finished (well right now anyway) product:

I walked through the bright red door of my future when I was 16 and a junior in high school. That red door was the entrance to a white-walled classroom bustling with sounds from noisy teenagers, the electronic hum of a number of old-school Macintosh computers, and the twangy sounds of the local country station on the radio. We sat on table tops as opposed to chairs and were given free reign of the town during that glorious hour before lunch. We were the staff of the Demon Pitchfork, a 16 page, award-winning paper with full color front and back pages that we produced twice a month. There was reporting to be done, ads to sell, stories to write, and coke breaks to be had. Mind you, that would be the kind of coke you drink.

In my first year on staff I was a lowly staff writer and along with everyone, a copy editor. But, in my second year, my best friend and I were chosen to be the Opinion page editors. Oh, the joy! We could layout the page and write our very own column in every issue. It was groundbreaking stuff. One column in particular was about prom and how we knew everyone would remember it because police officers equipped with breathalyzers would be manning the doors.

That year the classroom walls began to take on new life as we began covering them with the front pages of the Demon Pitchfork, thus leaving our legacy. In my senior year, my friend and I must have won upwards of a dozen of those monthly awards for page layout and opinion column writing. But my greatest achievement that year, rivaling actually graduating, was my student Marshal-Gregory award in Single News Reporting for a story I wrote about the local grade schools with a whopping 13 sources. While the newspaper was fun it was time to be serious and something that fun I could not consider to be serious.

So, I moved on and I got a little lost in my first year of college. It took HBO’s series Sex and the City and it’s star character, Carrie Bradshaw to get me back on the right road. The summer after my freshman year, a college friend was instrumental in my addiction to the show. We would sit in her Mary Engelbreit decorated apartment in silence for those fabulous thirty minutes on Sunday nights. There were no phone calls and no interruptions and during that half hour our lives were intertwined with the lives of Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha. When the credits rolled we’d make our way outside and light up a Marlboro light only to rehash the entire episode. We’d discuss the witty commentary, the fashion, the drama…everything. I had to know everything I could about this show and this writer, so I rented every single season. In between episodes I’d step outside to smoke and think. I began to dream of strutting into Vogue wearing four inch heels and a pencil skirt walking straight to my editor’s office to discuss my latest story. I am sad to say but Carrie Bradshaw was the first writer I had seen making writing fun, fashionable, and witty. I mean, I could see myself in her, she was addicted to shoes and so was I! I’m pretty sure this is when I began drinking Cosmopolitan’s as well. By the end of the summer, I had made up my mind and a change of major was in order.

That first semester as a Mass Communication major was a rocky one and after my first writing class I emerged with a bruised ego and a C. Even still, New York City and those glossy magazines were where I was headed and Carrie Bradshaw was there to inspire whenever I felt otherwise. I can recall one moment of weakness after a poor grade on a paper where I actually considered putting up my pen. Er…computer? I was standing in the office of one of the most frustrating professors I have ever known and close to tears. He gave me the normal speech about why teachers were hard on students, but he concluded by commenting about how driven and determined I was. I knew I was driven, but he noticed too.

I’ve driven down many roads since then. I was in Corporate America for a couple of years. There I learned that no matter how crazy the task may seem you still have to figure out how to do it, and probably within an hour. I had a stint in a Speech Pathology master’s program where I discovered that conducting a speech therapy session makes me physically ill. Ultimately, I have come back to journalism, my greatest love and my greatest fear. I’m a grad student at UNT this time, where I’ve learned that everything I ever thought I knew about writing is, well, crap.

So, here I am, young, headstrong, driven and ready to write. Thanks Carrie.

Friday, July 11, 2008

in an time when everyone is a writer...

... is there any room for writers anymore?  i was reading some blogs tonight, friends (here and here), people i don't even know (here) and they tell their own stories so beautifully, i wonder if a professional writer could even do it justice?

this worries me as writing is what i have spent the last 8 years of my life trying to do and the past year of my life really trying to do.  am i entering a dying field?  well sure there's always news reporting, but who really wants to do that?  it's the people and their intrinsic and beautiful stories that i want to tell.

but i can't even tell my own!  i've been presented with the opportunity to possibly have an unpaid internship with the dallas observer (which i love, btw).  freak out now.  what a dream, to work (for free) for such a cutting edge publication by village voice media!  and now, i have to write a bio...about me.  panic.  i like to write and read about other people, they are much more interesting then myself.  

what the hell has happened in my life that is worthy of sharing or for that matter has led me to a career in writing.  i'll tell you-- nothing.  i don't know how i arrived here.  actually i do, it was hbo's sex and the city.  but, can i seriously write a bio about myself using carrie bradshaw in sex and the city as my inspiration?!

i'm taking a class right now and the first assignment was to write about a writing mentor.  well sadly, i don't have one of those, unless of course you think a fictional character would do.  so, what could i do but write about my high school youth minister?  and i did.  

can i succeed without inspiration, direction or a mentor?  freak out again... here's to hoping they all come along soon!