I keep a folder on my desktop that contains the trimmings, dead ends and other bits that didn’t, for whatever reason, make the sausage casing of this column. I call it “Lost Lines,” though clicking through it, as I am occasionally wont to do, often leads me to believe it’s a more accurate depiction of my psyche than even my occasional forays into dreaded journaling. Someday, a prosecutor might aptly call this file “Exhibit A.” So, before it’s requisitioned by the court, let’s go through it, shall we?
Here’s one from the file: “Time machines — they get old fast.” This was an offhand remark made by a young illustrator who used to sit across from me at a writing gig I did last year. I love it because it’s a bit like taking a sip from a Klein bottle. According one manufacturer, whose sales copy I also jotted, “With its circle of singularities, an Acme Klein Bottle can be said to exist inside of itself — especially handy during time-reversals.” Enough said. And that’s Kline with a “k,” not “c.” A sip from a bottle of Cline is an entirely different experience, though some aging (with or without a time machine) is recommended.
For me, writing is a kind of madness born from an orgy of complexes that include, but are not limited to, narcissism, compulsive lying, hoarding and a dire need to feel relevant to someone, somewhere for at least 10 minutes a week. If your coffee’s gone cold while reading one of these columns that means you’ve either stopped to look something up, just stopped or, through some mystic calculus of chaos and contrivance, you were cornered into a satisfying bout of contemplation. Those are the best moments. Though, admittedly, results may vary. Shake well. And always keep your thumb on the cork.
This writing business is a bit like confessing into a megaphone. I whisper novelties and notions into some phantom machine and out it comes writ large in 10 point Times on doorsteps and desktops scattered here and there.
It’s a pleasure to do and I’m grateful for the space but damn it’s a narrow stroll between being maudlin or mundane — twin sins that come at you like a couple of pugs with a grudge. This is especially true when, like now, I’m past deadline, half drunk and fending off an Irish ache in my bones that makes me sentimental. Emphasis on the “mental.” This is when I’m most likely to turn to the file.
I keep a Portage brand reporter’s notebook in my coat pocket at all times. When they issue my action figure, a miniature version will come as an accessory (unless, of course, I become a brand ambassador for Moleskin!). In it, I scribble details and doodads to jog my short-term memory. Yes, it would be a lot more productive if I could read my own handwriting but that’s why I’m a writer not a calligrapher.
I was able to glean this odd note from it: “Woman to girlfriend says, ‘So I met the best man. Otter. Yeah, it was your Otter. So, his date has great bone structure. And feet.’” I overheard these lines at Cole Coffee in Rockridge and like the true Joan Didion acolyte that I am, I dutifully scrawled them into the notebook. Then I transcribed them into the Lost Lines folder when I thought I could make something of it. Nothing worked, so they went back into the folder.