Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's Monday Already???

I drove up to Chicago and back this weekend, visiting a friend from my AmeriCorps days, her husband, and her young (13mos) daughter. It was a short trip, but I made the plans at the last minute. And even though I spent more hours driving than I did hanging out with my friend, I'm glad I went. Actually, I love driving. The driver's seat is much more preferable than the passenger seat, and I'm not speaking metaphorically here. In most situations, when a driver is needed, I eagerly volunteer (although my two-door compact car sometimes limits me). Especially when I'm driving by myself, I'm captive to my thoughts and free from other distractions.

On my way there, I listened to a playlist I had created of my favorite songs from my favorite cds. No themes, just favorites - or so I thought. I had just gotten through Indianapolis (which carried its own mind associations for me) and realized that I had been listening to really depressing music the entire trip. It was just one sad song after the next, and after a while, I noticed they were actually affecting my thoughts. I indulged the melancholy until I hit the tolls; at that point, I went radio silent.

On they way back, knowing that I didn't have to concentrate so much on the directions, I listened to some podcasts I had downloaded, including some readings of short stories. The first was an Anton Chekhov story about an encounter on a train; the second was a story by an Irish writer called, "Brother"; the third was a lovely story by Tobias Wolff, called "Awaiting Orders"; and finally, my favorite of the bunch, a story by Mary Gordon called "Storytelling." The main character in that story is a middle-aged writer who's lost her passion for writing. She visits her brother in Florida where she meets a French man who admits to never having read a novel in his life. But he's still a masterful storyteller. By the end of the story, she's regained her passion for telling stories.

Now, these types of stories are almost cliched - writers writing about writers, struggling for some kind of voice. Writers struggling for ideas, for words, and finding those ideas and words by the end. I think of S.E. Hinton's "The Outsiders" as a prime example, with the end of the book being the beginning of the book. There are many of these books, just as there are many movies about the struggling writer, the struggling filmmaker. We're all just finding new ways of talking about ourselves, right? But nevermind that: I loved "The Outsiders" and "The Wonder Boys." And "Storytelling" was so compact and interesting--I was surprised that parts of it surprised me!--that I can't fault it for being cliched.

The rest of the way home, once I passed Indianapolis again and my eyes drooped more, I put my iPod on shuffle and skipped those depressing tunes in favor of upbeat ones (the Shins! Dandy Warhol! The Killers!) Through most of the drive home, I wished I were able to write and drive at the same time: ideas and thoughts kept popping into my head that I wanted to record. I had a really interesting conversation with my friend's husband, born and educated in India; I'll see if I can return to that another time.

(It's Monday already??? So much to do, so little time!)

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